The Accidental Pescatarian: 30-Day Diet Challenge

They say only wealthy people get allergies. Of course, I took enough science classes and read enough medical articles to know this is a misconception. My sister who is exposed to the farm life and yet suffers from allergic rhinitis is a prime example.

But when I developed allergic reaction to chicken in Maldives, I was extremely baffled, to say the least. Our hometown's provincial setting spoils us with the tastiest native chicken whenever we want, so does my farmer Dad. I was a fan of Cebu's Tagala's, chicken proven stalls, Sr Pedro, and obviously, Chickenjoy.

It was so absurd to get allergies but I decided to avoid chicken for a month to be comfortable.

A week after, I realized I have eaten nothing but just fish and vegetables. My "meal mates" didn't cook beef that week so this was totally not intended. Accidentally, I had become a pescatarian. And I decided to stay that way for a month.

Lemon Shrimp on Chickpeas from Gloria Jean's

Grilled Fish and Chips


It's the Maldives, so you might think seafood options are not limited, right? Unfortunately, the wet market here only sells fish. I mean you can't find crabs, shrimps, clams, seaweed or any other non-fish seafood in there. They also close at 6:30 p.m. which means most of the good stock are already sold out an hour before; I usually arrive from office 10 minutes before they close.

Vegetables are a different struggle. Almost everything here is imported so you're not really assured of the freshness. Knowledge on produce will come in handy.

Ensaladang Okra


Going back to seafood, I've turned to the frozen option. Most of the locals also choose frozen over fish from the fish market because they're assured of the cleanliness and safety. Usually, market vendors would take their fish out from the freezer to display, then freeze them again if not sold. The next day, they would take them out again and then put them back in again. We all know this process is not hygienic.

MIFCO and Enzi are the top 2 brands with food safety and export quality certificates. You can get frozen fish (usually tuna), whether whole, flaked, or cuts from these two stores. If you want more varieties like prawns, cuttlefish, octopus, seafood cocktail, and many more, Amagi is your best bet.

SO, HOW DID IT GO?

1. I stayed at average 52.5 kgs. The scale didn't reflect any change but it's more because I don't have any to lose. However,

2. An inch and a half were shed off from my waistline. What used to be 29” has gone to 27.5. A prime factor could also be the HIIT I've been doing simultaneously with this challenge.

3. For the first time in 2 years, I felt healthy and will live long. (haha seriously!) It could be a psychological response because my brain is aware of the change in my diet and I was mindful of what I eat.

Among the practices that made me feel that way is when every time I sucked in my stomach, it really goes in deep which means I was not bloated which, in turn, means I have a healthy gut.

4. Definitely, I lost my appetite for chicken. I thought I will crave for the next familiar meat available – beef – but, surprisingly, I didn’t. There are so many kinds of seafood and greens out there that I still maintained the sense of variety.


Homemade tuna burgers


5. My most favorite result: healthier skin! Tiny bumps that can’t be categorized as pimples used to haunt my face and chest. Two weeks into the pescatarian diet, I noticed my skin cleared up. Week 3 onwards, I can confidently take selfies without the use of my phone’s beauty filter.

I can't show a before photo because all of them have beauty filters 😔, but I can show you my latest face and chest update. No filters, no edits, just look at the natural glow! There's a tiny buildup on my forehead but that can be removed by exfoliating.

No concealer, no filter!

6. Cooking has become a delightful hobby. If my meal mates cook something I can’t eat, then I had to step up and fend for myself. I got obsessed with learning how to properly cook fish (don’t overcook unless you want it dry!), and discovered the basic kitchen lessons like cutting vegetables to right sizes or the correct way of thawing. My mother would be so proud.

Breaded fish fingers with carrots

7. Geared with the basic kitchen knowledge, I started to explore different ways to cook my meals. The creative juices were flowing! Incorporating seafood and veggies into Filipino recipes that primarily use red meat was challenging but fulfilling.

My version of tuna sisig
My so called “bird food” was among the experiments that I really loved. It was a simple 10-minute step of mixing cereal bar, almond milk, fruits, nuts, and soaking chia seeds into the mixture. This has become a favorite; it made me look forward to breakfast every morning. The high fiber in my “bird food” solved most of my gut concerns.

Bird food basics

8. Lastly, but most importantly, the pescatarian diet is budget-friendly! Veggies and fish are less expensive than red meat, and they are the cheap options when eating out. And since I truly enjoyed and even got obsessed with the pesce journey, I found joy in visiting the market for newly-arrived produce and cooking at home instead of indulging at restaurants. My wallet thanked me for it, for sure!


Ensaladang talong

ONE-TIME SLIP-UP

One evening, I went home to the aroma of a steaming pot of chicken sinigang. It’s common knowledge among peers that I’m a sucker for sinigang. Before you judge me, I didn’t eat chicken! Right after I swallowed preventive anti-histamine, I asked for just the broth and some kangkong. And like all forms of cheating, it was only good during the moment and sucked afterwards.

LET’S TALK SUSTAINABILITY

Although I really enjoyed being pescatarian for 30 days and would want to stick to it, I’m pretty sure I will have many slip-ups in the future.

Among my father’s happiness is spoiling us with organic lechon and chicken so I can’t fail him. Imagine his reaction after setting up a feast for my homecoming, only to be told that her daughter will not eat the lechon he lovingly prepared.

But while I’m in Maldives, a pescatarian diet will be priority in every meal decision unless social setting compels me to adjust. In that case, the accurate label for me would be a FLEXITARIAN.

Bird food!




💗Did you enjoy the pesce diet, too? I'd love to hear your journey! 💗



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