In the abillionveg Spotlight Series, we’re getting the inside scoop on the people who believe in abillionveg’s mission and who are doing incredible things for sustainability. Meet Aly Rauff - yogi, vegan, and always first in the room to smile. Her Australian accent reveals her years spent studying in Melbourne, which is where her plant-based journey began.
Avocado pizza and shakshuka breakfast tacos from Brambles in Dubai. Image: Aly Rauff
It was as an observer and supportive friend that Aly encountered veganism. She wasn’t vegetarian and never considered it - but when she saw how a plant-based diet was positively impacting the health of her best friend to heal serious, chronic ailments, the question of nutrition began to surface.
As a yoga instructor and fitness professional, the body’s well-being is an important part of the profession. How mobile are your muscles and joints? How’s your energy level? How many physical demands can you place upon your body? The answers depend greatly on how you’re fueling it.
So when Aly spent 3 weeks with this friend, eating entirely vegan, she noticed a drastic change in how much better she felt, overall. Prior to that, she admits, “I kinda just ate whatever I liked at the time. It’s really easy for people to have a story like mine: before going vegan, they were extremely unhealthy. I would want to have KFC with cheese fries and bubble tea. Whether you eat meat or not - that’s a horrible meal!”
Enjoying sweet potato fries at Veganburg in Singapore.
“I wouldn’t even think about what I’m putting into my body. This tastes great, and I’m not dying - that’s what a lot of us get taught, that it doesn’t matter what I eat so long as I’m okay. But when I say now that I feel so much better and I know what’s going into my body, and I want to give myself good stuff like whole foods and not meat or animal products; people don’t get it because their normal is to always feel how they feel. It’s not worth feeling how I did before, when I’ve realized how much better I can feel now.”
It holds true that our bodies are our temples, and works of art, with the right nourishment.
Yoga & vegan ice cream from Mad Pops Bali
Besides feeling good, there’s also a visible persona of being vegan that Aly has come to own in her physical and social media presence.
“You know, because I’m a yoga teacher, and I’m into health and fitness, and I work at a gym, and I’m also vegan, I’m very stereotypical. I fit a profile, and I probably sound pretentious! But it’s part of the yogi lifestyle - you shouldn’t eat meat if you want to practice yoga.”
Presenting oneself as all of these things means that people will view you with their own preconceptions. “Veganism is more mainstream now, and people have opinions about it before they even meet anyone,” Aly affirms.
“I used to try really hard and be between stages of: I don’t want to eat here vs. being the happy vegan (which means I’m left eating just a salad and that’s a-okay) vs. now, I’m in between.” Remaining mindful of her own diet, while taking into consideration how other people will react if she tells them she would prefer not to watch them eat chicken, sums up how Aly maneuvers the stereotype to avoid falling into “the stereotype of the annoying vegan who wants to push their views on you,” she says.
Aly cleverly experiments with the preconceptions of the word ‘vegan’ by avoiding it altogether sometimes. Instead, she tells people she’s just vegetarian, lactose intolerant, and doesn’t like eggs. Put together, that’s vegan.
“People don’t bat an eyelid when I say that, and they respond so much better. So that’s where I’m at. It’s easier if people have that view of me so when I say something or respond to it, ‘That’s just Aly,’ and not a stereotyped vegan,” she says. “I didn’t miss meat, so for me it wasn’t tough, but everyone’s on a different journey. I’m happy if someone comes up to me and says, ‘I used to eat meat three times a day but now only once.’ I would say that’s great, keep doing it.”
The early days living her best plant-based life. Image: Aly Rauff
While Aly was the first in her family to go fully plant-based, she may not be the last. Bringing the concept of veganism into the household has been key in her little brother (age 13) and sister’s (age 23) decisions to stop eating red meat. “My little brother wants to be vegan. The base of it comes through in things that kids care about, which would upset you when you know how things work. But as adults, we just move on.”
Having lived and traveled extensively as a vegan, I ask Aly where she found her best meal - Australia.
“It’s because of the effort people put into vegan food, they’re loud and proud about it. Not in an aggressive way, but people won’t patronize certain restaurants if they’re not vegan. Not a lot of other places have that attitude and every country is different.”
The Nourish Bowl (veganized) from the Glass Den in Melbourne. Image: Aly Rauff
Her best meal was in Melbourne at the Glass Den. The veganized Nourish Bowl is a brilliant bowl of dark blue, indigo rice made with butterfly pea flower, and topped with a vegan chicken that won Aly over due to its texture. “So much of mock meat is processed and junk, but this was done so well and cooked with a sesame crust and teriyaki sauce. I enjoyed that meal so much I would happily go back and order the same thing.”
Aly uses abillionveg to post her fitness bars on the go, her coffees, her elegant dine-in meals, and everything else in between. I ask her: How do you feel about using another platform for posting food pictures on top of Instagram?