As a woman, being bombarded by media-driven body ideals becomes all too familiar. New rumors, fad diets and false information find their ways into our ears and onto our computer screens every day. That’s why when I heard about the ketogenic diet I was skeptical but instantly curious. Afterall, who would believe you can lose weight eating all the bacon and butter you want? It’s not exactly that simple, but not that far from the truth either! How did the ketogenic diet lead me down the path of becoming a work-from-home, avid traveler and entrepreneur so quickly anyway?
A short background on the ketogenic diet is in order. The ketogenic diet was first discovered as a weight loss tool when patients with epilepsy who were following the diet ended up losing weight quite efficiently. The keto diet was tested against the traditionally “healthy” low-fat diet, and it was discovered to be more effective for weight loss 1-6. It involves limiting your carb intake and getting most of your energy through fat and protein. In fact, only about 5 percent of your daily calories would be coming from carbs. The standard American diet (SAD, as it is so appropriately abbreviated) usually consists of about 300 grams of carbs or more per day; the keto diet, only 25-50 grams daily.
Keto’s benefits branch beyond those of just weight loss. It’s been shown to reduce risk and reverse Type 2 Diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and more7-13. Losing weight doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy, we all know that. Restricting your calories to nearly nothing just to see those numbers on the scale decrease is a dangerous way for women and girls to eat. The keto diet stresses enjoying real food. None of that low-fat, chemically-laden garbage. I’m talking about organic meat (red and white), fish and eggs, full-fat dairy and cheeses, nuts, real, low carb vegetables, etc. and in high quantities! We don’t limit calories; we limit certain types of calories.
Photo Courtesy of Live Love Fruit
My research and self-experimentation using the ketogenic diet as an aid started in 2014. I saw results almost immediately, not only in my weight but my mood, hair, skin, nails, appetite, cravings, energy, sleep, you name it! The PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) I had been battling with cleared up nicely too. Goodbye, raging hormones! The keto diet got me into the kitchen cooking my own meals more and got my creative juices flowing. Making food wasn’t challenging per se, but to continue enjoying the food I so loved (like chocolate desserts) I had to make some changes and learn to incorporate new ingredients into the mix.
I no longer had (or have) any of the following in my kitchen/pantry: pasta, potatoes, bread, cereal, rice and any grains, beans, flour, sugar, honey, candy, basically anything in the dessert category. Before you run for the hills, I can tell you I eat better than ever and made it my business to show people how to do it themselves. There are ways of recreating all your favorite foods, especially desserts, using low carb ingredients and pairing them with keto-friendly foods to help you lose weight and feel all-around healthier and happier.
To help people start feeling this way, I started Tasteaholics.com, with my partner, Rami Abramov in 2015 and now find ourselves full-time bloggers and entrepreneurs in the health and diet industry. Tasteaholics has grown to be one of the leading resources for low carb and ketogenic diet information and recipes, and we did it all from our own home and for just a $12 investment. We quit our day jobs a long time ago and never looked back.
Food blogs are popular, to say the least. The low carb niche is gaining popularity, and it feels like we got in at a very opportune time. We started from humble beginnings: with a domain name, a simple theme and lots of content to be written. From diet basics to “how-to” guides and recipes, we wrote up anything and everything we knew about the keto diet. After our website was full of information, it was time to start networking and meeting the peers in our industry. We offered recipes for their sites, help with social media shoutouts and even starting creating recipes and videos for a few sites. Slowly, we grew our brand and made keto our day jobs.
Today, a typical day in the life of a Tasteaholic starts with lots of correspondence and maintenance. I answer blog comments, emails and social media replies every day - it’s usually my morning warm-up! I move on to working on the several blog posts I have in the works at any time.
It’s important for me to be able to take a break from one project and move on to the next, if only for a few minutes. It keeps things fresh and moving!
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Mike Diet
Beyond imagining and testing new, low carb recipes, I’m also managing the company’s entire social media presence, ebook and physical cookbook productions, and video shooting and editing. All these things, of course, done from home!
That’s not to say we have to stay at home. As long as our laptops are fully charged, we can do our jobs from anywhere in the world. And we have! Last year, we lived abroad in 8 different countries in 6 months, working and exploring all at the same time. We got busy in our Airbnb kitchens in-between touring new cities and seeing the world with our own eyes. I’m happy to report our business is still afloat, even though we weren’t “in the office” in 6 months.
Tasteaholics is now a successful company pulling in more revenue than I ever would have seen with that Speech Sciences degree of mine laying around somewhere. It seems like an ever-changing environment that’s so fun to keep up with. We’ve got projects in the works in all directions. Cookbooks, both digital and physical, a free Android app that’s soon to be available for iOS, and an Amazon store where we’re starting to sell our own line of low carb products!
After years of tolerating a college major I cared nothing about and trudging along in a dead-end job, what I’ve learned from Tasteaholics was that passion stirs everything! Without it, work feels like just that: work. It’s cliche to say, but I never feel like what I do is work, because I enjoy it so much. I found a way to turn my passion for health, cooking and photography into something I can grow and learn from. Tasteaholics can help people begin their journey into wellness and improve their lives and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.