Aisha-Al-ZabinMy whole life, I have had a love/hate relationship with food. I loved it while I was eating it, but hated myself after. That hate translated to me scolding myself: “You are disgusting. You are worthless. You have no control..”

When I was a little kid, food was always there. The freezer always had ice cream, the fridge always had chocolate milk and sugary juice boxes, the pantry “secret hiding place” was filled with chips, candy and chocolate. Not to mention the kitchen table always had sugary biscuits lying around. My mom desperately tried to force us to eat fruit and veggies. But by that point we were too addicted to sugar that the idea of tasteless veggies seemed like a joke. Food was used as a reward. “If you do this you will get candy, if you behave you get ice cream.”

As I grew up and began to earn my own allowance, I would buy my own junk food. I would eat bar after bar of chocolate in front of the TV. My skin was horrible, my hair fell out, and I was fat. It took me 31 years of my life to finally realize that a healthy lifestyle is simply building a new habit. Instead of being in the habit of starting my day with sugary coffee and biscuits, and ending it with a bag of chips and a chocolate bar, I would get into the habit of starting my day with lemon water and a papaya, and ending it with a tub of Greek yogurt and fruit.

After three weeks of no processed, sugary, salty, greasy food, my taste buds changed. I no longer had a craving for junk food. My body adapted to a new norm, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, complex carbohydrates and water. Instead of the usual candy bar in my purse I kept dates in case I got hypoglycemic while shopping or craved a caramel frappuccino. I remember after a month on my new lifestyle I was at a family gathering. Out of habit, I poured myself a cup of tea and added a lump of sugar. Having not had sugar for a month I took a sip and spit it out. It tasted horrible! Like nothing but sugar and water. I was shocked that this was something I used to drink in high quantities.

Now I’m not saying I never eat any cake or biscuits anymore. But I would much rather enjoy the fruit. On some occasions I will have the slice of birthday cake and I will enjoy it to the fullest and I will not guilt myself afterwards. “I had the cake, now back to eating fresh yummy whole food.” This is what helps me control my eating habits and reach a point where I’m literally in love with the food that I’m putting into my body, because it’s healthy, nourishing and refreshing. It also tastes yummy. Now instead of scolding myself I praise myself: “You are awesome! You are beautiful! You are glowing.” I am now the happiest I’ve ever been. Trust me, if you change your eating habits and not think this is a diet of restriction but in fact it’s a lifestyle of abundance, you too will learn to love yourself and the food you are putting into your body.


Skinny Kunafa

250 g kunafa dough
1/4 cup melted ghee
250 g akawi cheese
1 tbsp blossom water
1 tsp butter
1/4 tsp kunafa stain
For the syrup:
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 tbsp blossom water

• Cut the akawi cheese into small cubes and soak in cold water for 6 hours, changing the water every hour until all the salt is removed.
• Mix the crust ingredients together and rub the dough between your fingers to ensure even mixing.
• Preheat the oven to 200ºC with the bottom heat setting.
• Mix the butter and kunafa stain together and spread onto the bottom of the pan.
• Press the dough into the bottom of the pan.
• Meanwhile, strain the akawi cheese and blot it dry with a kitchen towel.
• Mash the cheese with the blossom water.
• Spread the cheese on top of the crust.
• Bake the kunafa in the oven for 45 minutes.
• Loosen the edges of the kunafa and flip onto a serving plate.
• Mix the agave with the 1 tbsp blossom water and pour it over the hot kunafa.

By Aisha Al Zabin