What Women Really Eat

Diet is such a big part of our daily lives, but when it comes to healthy attitudes, which nationality has got it nailed? We sit down to dinner with eight UAE residents to find out...
Tuesday , 25 October 2011
Anastasiya Zuikova, 27, is a sales executive
Anastasiya Zuikova, 27, is a sales executive
Senem Akman, 27, from Turkey, is a financial adviser
Senem Akman, 27, from Turkey, is a financial adviser
Joanna Agnew, 30, is an account director
Joanna Agnew, 30, is an account director
Sarita Rai is a 32 year-old business developer
Sarita Rai is a 32 year-old business developer
Ana Mahalang, 36, is an events assistant
Ana Mahalang, 36, is an events assistant
Evelin Costa, 36, is a marketing manager
Evelin Costa, 36, is a marketing manager
Lashley Pulsipher, 35, is a PR director and pilates instructor
Lashley Pulsipher, 35, is a PR director and pilates instructor
Zam Zam Mohammed Albalooshi, 34, is an Emirati who grew up in Dubai. She works in HR
Zam Zam Mohammed Albalooshi, 34, is an Emirati who grew up in Dubai. She works in HR

Anastasiya Zuikova, 27, is a sales executive from Russia

“Most people joke that they can’t cook, but I really can’t! I grew up with a father who loved to be in the kitchen and who took pride in being able to provide a good meal for our family. That’s not the norm in Russia, but it was an extension of his love for us. What has stayed with me from childhood is my love of potatoes. We are big on chicken and potatoes, meat and potatoes, mashed potato, fries… every meal comes with them! I have a relaxed attitude towards food; if I eat too much one day, I know I have to eat less the next, and whilst I do look at the calorie content on the produce I buy, it doesn’t really affect my decision. I think that when I reach 30 I will need to make more of an effort to eat better. Because I’m terrible in the kitchen, I’m always happier going out to eat and it’s a big part of my life here in Dubai. It does have its down sides though – I put on weight when I first moved here and then had to work hard to lose 20kg by minimising my portions, exercising and having body wraps. I don’t think there are quick fixes where weight loss is concerned; you have to lower your food intake and increase the amount you exercise. It’s as simple as that.”

Senem Akman, 27, from Turkey, is a financial adviser 

“I have more time to cook since moving to Dubai. Back home in Turkey I used to work 12-hour days, so finding the time or the motivation to cook was hard. Here, I can take my time to try out new recipes and cook exactly what I like. If I’m cooking for myself then I tend to eat salads and seafood, but my husband likes to have a proper dinner, which means that my routine changes and I eat much later. Although I’m not a meat-eater myself I’ll cook chicken or lamb dishes for him – eating together is important as it means we can sit down and spend some quality time with each other. While I enjoy cooking I still like to eat out and we’ll go out a few times over the weekend. Dubai is great for restaurants. I have definitely become more adventurous with food as I’ve got older; now If I go to a new restaurant, I’ll always find something on the menu that I’ve never tried before. I’m probably more aware of health issues regarding diet now than when I was younger, and I know the importance of eating well. I do make a concerted effort to take care of myself and exercise regularly, although not being a meat fan, when I tried the Dukkan Diet I only lasted a day!”

Joanna Agnew, 30, is an account director from England

 “In the UK I was quite an unhealthy eater but I managed to keep the weight off as I did so much walking. However, in Dubai I drive everywhere, so I need to watch what I put on my plate a lot more. I’ve tried lots of diets (including Atkins which just left me weak and angry at the world!) but, although I lose my appetite if I am stressed or upset, I’m a foodie at heart. I take time to cook most evenings and I’ll always try to make too much so I can have the leftovers for my lunch the next day. Because I work in a demanding job, I look forward to coming home and relaxing with nice home-cooked food. During the week I tend to be quite healthy, eating mostly salads, lean meats and fruit, but that tends to slip on the weekends and I’ll often succumb to fast food. I find that I eat out far more than I did when I was living in London – around three times a week – and generally at the weekend. Of course, there are times when I need to reach for some comfort food, and I’ll always opt for something savoury. Although I might be biased – as a Somerset girl, I don’t think that you can beat a bit of English cheddar!”

Sarita Rai is a 32 year-old business developer from India. She moved to Dubai two years ago

 “When it comes to diet, Indian women are very conscious of what they eat because Indian food always comes with oil and spice – these days they’ll avoid bad foods because they’re more health conscious. People should be aware of what they’re consuming, especially today with issues like genetically modified goods. When I was younger I was obese and looked like a football! It was just in my genes, but I was called names at school. The weight came off naturally eventually but it made me self-conscious and more aware of what I ate, perhaps more than other girls my age. Consequently I’ve been on many diets. One was Atkins-based where I ate nothing but cottage cheese; another involved me eating only watermelon! None of them were successful though; eating a sensible and balanced diet is the only thing that works. I am so health-aware that in 2009 I co-founded the group Meveg (Middle East Vegetarian Group). We hold monthly meetings on healthy eating awareness and we send out newsletters to over 500 members. The more we spread the word, the healthier we all will be.” Visit meveg.info.

Ana Mahalang, 36, is an events assistant from the Phillipines

“I come from a region called Pampanga, where we are known to be great cooks with a passion for eating – we love food and we enjoy it. We are rice people. Rice is not an enemy – it’s what you have to accompany it that causes the trouble! Fillipino society don’t eat exotic food but leans more towards simple curried dishes and we love Chinese food. I’m a meat lover and adore our local delicacies like pork and beef soup. When I first moved to Dubai three years ago I loved experimenting with Arabic breakfasts and Lebenese and Iranian dishes – I was very thin when I arrived and now I’m double the size! I try not to overeat though and stay away from greasy food. I’ve always cooked from scratch and I try to cook different dishes to keep my diet varied. At work I share the food I’ve cooked with my Filipino colleague – my British colleagues will eat salads and sandwiches for lunch, so we sneak off and eat alone because they’re so healthy and we’re not! While I watch my diet I couldn’t eat salad all the time!”

Evelin Costa, 36, is a marketing manager from Brazil

“I grew up in São Paulo and within our culture meal times are a very big thing – they’re seen as a happy time with everybody screaming and laughing. When I was growing up, food was always related to fun and pleasure. In comparison to other nationalities, the Brazilian attitude to food is quite good – everyone sits at the table together and the mum will always say ‘Eat everything up!’. It’s sad that some countries don’t have that sense of union. My eating habits changed when I came to Dubai in 2006. Here, I eat a lot more grilled food like kebabs and I’m very healthconscious and aware of what I put into my body. I try to eat little and often every three hours, and I avoid carbs after 5pm. I do allow myself chocolate and I drink alcohol but I refuse to feel guilty – I know that I’ll make up for it the next day at the gym. When I had my son five years ago it made me even more health-conscious because your children really copy what you do; if you’re eating greens they think ‘Okay, mummy’s eating greens so I will, even though I don’t like them!’ At the end of the day, it’s up to us to pass good eating habits on to future generations.”

Lashley Pulsipher, 35, is a PR director and pilates instructor from America

 “I try to follow a vegan diet, although I’m not super-strict. I’m very focused on ensuring I only eat fresh, non-processed and healthy foods and watching what I put into my body. It’s actually very easy; you just have to enjoy cooking and be able to plan ahead. The supermarkets in Dubai have excellent ranges and there are always plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables at hand. I became a vegan a few years ago. It was partly due to ethical and environmental reasons, but I also wanted to see what following this diet would do for me. The results have been amazing; for a start, I no longer get that infamous sugar crash at 3pm, never suffer from jetlag and that Dubai illness that everyone gets a couple of times a year has so far evaded me. I’ve always been a bit of a foodie; my mum was a fantastic cook and never bought processed or ready-made meals, so this certainly influenced me. I come and slim down. I used to be much heavier, which really upset me – I’d feel tired, lethargic and it would make me really sad. But now I’ve lost 20kg and I feel much happier, lighter, and better about myself.” from a big family and so began helping out with dinner from an early age, which certainly developed my love of cooking and experimenting. I live by myself, which definitely makes following my diet far easier, and while I do enjoy going out to eat, I take great pleasure in cooking a delicious homemade meal for myself. I definitely view food as a luxury and it’s very much a social thing, in spite of my diet. I’m extremely health-conscious which might have something to with the culture in the U.S where women strive to be as thin as possible. There is a lot of pressure to have a great figure and to look a certain way and health and diet is very prominent - I do find myself analysing my body whenever I return to visit. Having said that, your emotions are linked to your eating habits and I am only human, so if I’ve had a bad day then you might find me at Fatburger having a milkshake! I know it’s not vegan-friendly, but it definitely cures all ills!”

Zam Zam Mohammed Albalooshi, 34, is an Emirati who grew up in Dubai. She works in HR

“I think that Emirati women are more balanced about eating food than other nationalities – they don’t see it as the enemy – it brings people together. Eating is a huge part of our culture. We like big, wholesome meals where the family all comes together and our dinner – eaten mostly late in the evening – is a big, hustley-bustley affair at the end of a hard day. If we didn’t eat together we’d just come home, go to our rooms and close the door! I have always loved food and to cook. I remember when I was small I’d try to help my mother in the kitchen and she’d say, ‘Don’t cook, you don’t know what to do,’ but when my family were sleeping I’d creep downstairs in the middle of the night and make samboosa (mini meat pies) and bread! I knew it was naughty but I wanted to do it! Emirati women tend to like cooking, and we want to know how to do it properly because when we get married, it’s traditional that we cook for our husbands. I have lots of recipe books and am always concocting new dishes. The problem is, my husband likes my cooking too much – he doesn’t like to eat out! My husband doesn’t like to cook but he helps me out in the kitchen – he cuts the onions and makes omelettes and we dig in every night with our three year old daughter, Eleyazia. Being a mum changes how you see food – I make a conscious effort to give Eleyazia more healthy food like vegetables and fruit. I don’t want her to be like me, battling with my size. People say to me ‘You’re not eating right’ but it’s not because of my diet; I have a thyroid problem which is affecting my weight. I’m currently on a diet because of it and my doctor has given me medicine to help me try and slim down. I used to be much heavier, which really upset me – I’d feel tired, lethargic and it would make me really sad. But now I’ve lost 20kg and I feel much happier, lighter, and better about myself.”

 

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