Meet Healthy LAdy: Farial Awan
Making friends in LA can be hard, especially ones that are genuine, with similar interests.
When I first moved here, I met a lot of gals who just wanted to party. Nightclubs, after hours In-N-Out, and sleeping till 3 p.m. was what our quality female bonding time consisted of.
Now that my old bones can’t take that kind of non-stop action — and I’ve developed more positive hobbies — I seek out friends that support my healthy living goals.
Farial Amber Awan is one of those friends, and the next gal I’m putting in the hot seat for the second installment of LDLA’s Healthy LAdy Series.
I met Farial a couple of years ago while working in the entertainment business.
Not only is she fun, funny, and extremely outgoing, she’s also a huge inspiration to me health-wise.
Despite the fact that Farial is out on the town several nights a week for work, she doesn’t let her diet and fitness habits fall by the wayside. She sticks to a consistent exercise schedule and maintains a vegan diet — even when tempted by mouth-watering, meaty apps at Hollywood events.
Today Farial is sharing with us how she stays healthy, and some tips for anyone interested in exploring a vegan lifestyle.
Q&A w/ Healthy LAdy Farial Awan
Q: How does your career effect your lifestyle, in terms of staying healthy?
As a publicist, I spend most of my days sitting in a chair. I can sometimes get stuck working late, or have events after office hours, so I have to rally to work out in the morning.
I usually get up around 6:15 a.m. and am at the gym, on a Pilates reformer, or on a spin bike by 7 a.m. I have to sweat at least three times a week or I feel awful. It helps me stay sharp, wake up and make healthier choices!
We also have stability balls around the office, so I try to sit on those at least a couple of times a week.
Q: When did you decide to go vegan, and why?
I decided to go vegan in March of 2011. At age 12, I stopped eating meat after I attended a friend’s birthday party at a place in my hometown of Pittsburgh called Buffalo Blues. The bones on the chicken wings totally freaked me out, and I went vegetarian from 12-25.
When I moved to LA at 22, I received two cooking classes to an amazing cooking school called Spork Foods for a birthday present. I fell in love with the teachers, Jenny Engel & Heather Goldberg, and started to learn about what it really meant to be vegan.
I realized as a vegetarian, I was eating a lot of useless foods – grilled cheese to name one guilty pleasure! I wasn’t fueling my body in the right way. I took about six classes at Spork Foods, and read the book The China Study by Colin Campbell in early 2011 and decided to try going vegan. It stuck!
I became a more adventurous eater as a vegan, and started trying to eat things I thought I didn’t like, such as mushrooms.
Q: Did you notice any mental or physical changes after you went vegan?
I have always had a LOT of energy. A lot. So that stayed about the same.
When I went vegan though, I noticed I rarely got that overly-stuffed, sick feeling. I believe that’s a feeling caused by over-eating dairy. Also, my hangovers were SERIOUSLY intensified.
I don’t think I lost any weight, but I felt better overall. Eating a vegan diet, heavy in vegetables, fruits & whole grains really works for my body and lifestyle.
Q: Some people think that all vegan food is automatically healthy, but obviously that’s not true. What are your tips to maintaining a healthy vegan diet? Are there certain foods you avoid?
I would say, eat as plant-based as possible. If it came from the ground or a tree, it’s probably healthy.
I definitely try to avoid overly-processed food, like fake meats. Even when I was vegetarian, I had an aversion to things that looked, tasted or smelled like meat. I avoid eating the fake chicken and fake burgers, unless I’m at a Gardein sponsored event. The only fake meat I love is Soyrizo, aka fake chorizo. I allow myself to eat about twice yearly because it is not good for you!
Also, I try to be careful with carbs, which I love —I’m half Italian! Carbs are one of the few things that make me feel very full, so I usually need a piece of bread or some crackers with my salad for lunch. I always select whole-grain bread or brown rice, but it’s the portion size that’s my biggest challenge.
Q: Who’s your celebrity fitspo and your favorite celebrity vegan?
Vanessa Hudgens has been crushing it lately. Have you seen those abs!? I love Karina Hodgson & Karena Dawn from Tone It Up. My downstairs neighbors definitely don’t like it when do their Beach Babe II DVD workouts at the crack of dawn, but I love those two ladies and want to be their best friend.
My favorite celebrity vegan is probably Stella McCartney. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for making vegan clothing & accessories that are actually fashionable. To me, the hardest part about being vegan isn’t the diet, it’s the fashion!
Q: Favorite vegan restaurants in Los Angeles?
Shojin. Vegan sushi in Downtown LA and Culver City. It’s the only place I’ll eat seaweed. I love their Spicy Kelp Noodle Salad with Tempeh, the Pirates of the Crunchy Roll (yes that’s really it’s name!) and the Dynamite Roll. Everything is vegan, and 90% of the menu is gluten-free, too. I also love Gjelina, Real Food Daily, Seed, A Votre Sante and M Café.
Q: Favorite vegan food brands?
I. Love. Hummus.
My current favorite is Majestic Raw Sprouted Hummus, which is a small fortune at $6 a container at Whole Foods, but I love it. It’s sesame free and has such a unique flavor.
I also love Eden Foods (especially their beans), Earth Balance (please, someone send me their new vegan cheddar squares!), Enjoy Life has the best soy, nut and dairy-free chocolate chips and Dave’s Killer Bread — which I called “ex-con bread” because it was developed by a prisoner.
Q: What are your tips for people interested in going vegan?
Start with a Meatless Vegan Monday! Just one day a week, eat vegan and keep it simple.
Fruit, a smoothie or a juice for breakfast, hummus for a snack, a salad for lunch and a nice quinoa bowl with steamed veggies for dinner. You can get amazing vegan recipe ideas from my favorite blogs – Kathy Patalsky’s Healthy Happy Life and Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows.
Or, come over my house for dinner one night. I always make too much food for one!
Q: Speaking of your cooking, how about you hook us up with one of your amazing recipes? I’m always drooling over your Instagram photos!
I love to cook! Growing up, my mom made dinner every night, and as I mentioned I’m half Italian so it’s in my blood.
I’m totally obsessed with my spiralizer and I love to make zucchini noodles and top them with a different homemade sauce. Another thing I love to make that’s quick and easy is Cumin Spiced Lentils with Spinach (recipe below).
Q: What’s your favorite way to stay fit in L.A.?
I am a member at Equinox, and I love their spin and yoga classes. I find their classes challenging, fun and who can say no to the cold eucalyptus towels after a thorough workout?!
Angela Moore Rubin is one of my favorite spin instructors, and I love Jennifer Pastiloff’s yoga classes. Jen’s classes are a great mix of yoga’s core values (each class has a different theme, such a happiness, balance or gratitude) and athleticism.
I also LOVE Pilates Platinum. I usually go to the Santa Monica or Venice Studios, and Lindsay Whitley and Jamie Ullman are my favorite instructors.
I live in Venice, so I often take a nice 3-or-5-mile loop along the strand and down to the Marina Del Rey Jetty to get some outside activity in there.
Q: Favorite fitness fashion brands?
I’m a Lululemon girl. I live in my cropped, black Wunder Under pants. I also really love the website Carbon38.com – their workout gear is so chic and wearable from the gym to brunch afterwards.
Q: What are your current health/fitness goals?
I’m really trying to tone it up. I have a lot of weddings to attend (and be in) this year, so toning my arms is very important.
My biggest problem area is my thighs. I tell myself that they are big because they are strong. Ha!
Recently, I’ve been trying to have a positive outlook on my body. I work hard for it, and am thankful that I can walk/run/spin/lunge every day. I suffered from a stress fracture when I was training for a full marathon back in 2009, and it sidelined me for over 2 months. I know how lucky I am to have been injury-free for several years now, and I’m grateful every day for that.
Q: Have you ever felt pressure to lose weight or look a certain way, due to our extremely body conscious culture here in LA?
It’s bikini season year-round in LA — which is a bit scary — but I don’t think I ever felt pressure to look a certain way.
I’ve been fortune enough to not really have any weight problems thus far in my life (let’s hope I just didn’t jinx myself). However, I have seen changes in my body over the past few years. Your body really does change in your late 20’s, so in order to curb that, I’ve tried to incorporate more weight training and yoga into my routine. I see quick results with Pilates & yoga – both exercises do my body good!
Q: What’s your healthy living motto?
Always show up for your body and do what works for your body. You only get one!
Farial’s Cumin Spiced Lentils
1 package cooked lentils (the pre-cooked ones from trader joes in the refrigerated section are a great time saver)
2+ cups of spinach
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1T cumin (more or less depending on your palette)
Salt and pepper
1/2 T EVOO
1. Heat the olive oil in a sautéed pan. Add the onion and sautéed until they begin to soften and lightly brown. Really cook those bad boys – this is a vegan recipe it needs some flavor!! Add in the garlic and cook for a minute, making sure it doesn’t burn!
2. Add in the lentils and tomatoes and stir carefully. Try not to smash the lentils.
3. Once incorporated, add the cumin, salt and pepper to taste and let it heat for a couple minutes, uncovered.
4. Add the spinach and carefully incorporate it until it wilts. If it gets dry, add a tablespoon or two of water, stir and cover to help steam the spinach.
5. Once the entire dish is heated through, adjust seasonings accordingly and enjoy!
This dish is best served hot or room temperature. Definitely makes enough for a side dish for a dinner party, or dinner and lunch leftovers for a very hungry vegan.
A big thanks to Farial for sharing her healthy living tips and this delicious recipe. I know what I’ll be noshing on this Meatless Monday!