Yesterday, I had dinner and drinks with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. He’d left Hong Kong to be by his mother’s side in Manilla while she recovered from stress and exhaustion. You don’t have to be Demi Moore to have a diva moment. When he commented that I looked thinner, I said, “Oh yeah, it’s because I’ve gone vegan this past week.”

He did one of those Madonna Vogue motions, sucked in his cheeks and said, “You look thin from your face”.

“What!? Are you saying I was fat before!!!??”

“No, you look thinner from the face.”

This is my cross to bear. Some people gain it in the ass. Some in the gut. Others in the legs. I once saw this woman with a very small upper body and these enormous, tree trunk like legs. Poor woman looked like a dowdy, English tyrannosaurus rex. But me? I gain it in the face, my cheeks to be exact.

I could run my ass off like I’ve been doing lately. I could limit my food intake, closely monitor my portion control, skip booze at brunch. I could do all these things and the last part of my body that would reward me physically, and yes even emotionally, would be my cheeks. Ever since I was a little kid and my Tia Margie would grab my cheeks with both her hands and tell me how cute I was, I’ve been cursed with these round, holding your breath underwater cheeks. And the cheeks don’t lie.

So from time to time, for a few days usually mid week so as to not effect my partner, I go vegan. My partner has had to put up with my vegetarianism from day one. But can you imagine having dinner out on a Friday night in Hong Kong and trying to stay vegan? That’s tough. And don’t give me that mock meat Chinese vegetarian restaurant crap. I love those places at lunch but not on a Friday night. That’s red wine time. You can’t have red wine at a communal ma and pa place with everyone’s face halfway into their soup bowls.

Last weekend, my parter flew to London for work. Seven days apart meant seven days to go vegan. I prepared ahead of time. Vegan mayonnaise (I love this stuff), avocados, brown rice, black beans, hard tofu, corn tortillas, heirloom tomatoes, etc. Basically, going vegan means I can eat what I usually eat minus the Sunday eggs florentine, nightly dark chocolate and occasional pesto pasta or quesadillas. I don’t drink milk anymore. I’ve gone soy milk for several years now. Love it. The idea of drinking real milk is kind of disturbing to me now. We’re the only mammals that drink another mammal’s milk. And that’s just beyond weird.

I’ve learned to prepare a number of vegan dishes at home. In fact, my partner and I have two or three vegan dinners at home a week even when I’m not going vegan. My mouth is watering just thinking about the Indian chickpeas in garlic, ginger and all those yummy authentic Indian spices one of my best friends gave me–she’s Indian. The braised tofu cacciatore that makes me lick my lips as I type. The spicy black bean tacos with fresh guacamole and lime.

You see, going vegan isn’t that hard. It’s only the first day that’s tough. After that, as long as you maintain your exercise schedule, you’ll lose weight without even trying. I swear. It’s how I get lean before a beach vacation. My partner has to go to Sydney for work soon and I’m tagging along. Me with a margarita by the hotel pool. Me holding a bottle of beer by the beech. Me swilling a martini at some jazz club. Me inhaling cheese nachos. Me making love to an ice cream sundae. Me scarfing down a chocolate chip cookie. See? Going vegan pays off in the end.

And now, as my partner is in a taxi somewhere between the Hong Kong airport and our apartment after a week away, I’m hoping he opens the door and says more than his usual, “I missed you so much, Babe”. I want him to say, “I missed you so much, Babe. And your cheeks! What would I do without you?”

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