Turning vegan I lost weight and gained a business

Ever wondered if a vegan lifestyle is for you? Merrick Life asked the founder of Glow By Emma, Emma Blake, to take us through why she made the change and how it inspired her to launch a business.


Tell us about your business Glow by Emma?

Glow is a plant-based catering company based in Hadfield, Derbyshire delivering tasty, nutritious and cruelty-free lunches, ready meals, energy snacks and traybakes in and around the North West of England.
Glow By Emma was set up in January 2017 by me, Emma Blake, mum to Beau and Skye, wife to Matt and a fully fledged vegan convert!

Why did you set it up?

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2009, it’s a form of bowel disease which initially I kept under control with medication.
Fast forward to 2015 and I was diagnosed with pan ulcerative colitis meaning the disease was now throughout my entire large bowel and I was flaring terribly. I became housebound and no longer able to work as a forensic science lecturer, a job I adored.
My consultant put me on biological drug treatment whereby I had to self inject weekly. After a while it was clear the injections alone were not fully working.

After trying many different diets I adopted a plant-based lifestyle. The combination of ditching the dairy and meat and my new medication worked. I got my life back, I lost weight, I could go out with my family again and even dared to go on holiday.
However I had lost my job. I decided to go for it and thought what better way to earn a living than to work doing something I love…and I love food! So Glow was born.

What’s the response been like since you started?

The response has been phenomenal. I have such a mixture of customers, many are vegan or vegetarian but many are meat eaters who are aiming to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products a few days each week.
I deliver my meals to customers’ homes and also have stock in a health food shop called Glossop Wholefoods and also The Yoga Lounge – Glossop.

Why do people turn to veganism or plant-based diets?

At the start I was totally in it for myself, I wanted to be well, that’s all I cared about.  The more I became absorbed in vegan groups on Facebook, making new vegan friends, learning about animal agriculture I knew I could never go back.
I have switched products, clothes and I am now also the proud ‘owner’ of two vegan children and an almost there husband. I have started to get involved with activism by attending Pig Save events and have started a blog aimed at parents and families looking at ways to live cruelty-free, kinder lives, it’s called Kind Kids (https://www.facebook.com/groups/326451537877850/).

Veganism is not a diet, it is a lifestyle where we avoid all products that either contain animal products or have been tested on animals. It has changed my life for the better in so many ways.

What are the health benefits?

A well balanced vegan diet contains all the nutrients we need and is suitable for all age ranges. It can help you drop excess weight and lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function. It can also help to protect against certain cancers, one reason for this being that a vegan diet does not include any processed meats which have been linked to different types of cancer including prostate, colon and breast cancer. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23497300).

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and fibre which are staples of the vegan diet helps to protect against heart disease.
I found when I cut out dairy it left me feeling much more energetic and I noticed my skin started to clear up really quickly. I had terrible skin after being on steroids for such a long time.

Does a vegan/plant-based diet cost more than one containing meat?

If you buy a lot of vegan processed foods like the fake meats and cheeses then, yes, you may pay a little more for these items. However, a whole foods, plant-based diet where you avoid processed foods is really cost effective and you can make many plant-based meals for far cheaper (and tastier) than their meat-based counterparts, for example chillis, curries and stews.

I have been eating plant based for two years now, with my children following my lead at the start of 2017 and I can honestly say we have definitely saved money. Our supermarket shops are cheaper, we tend to eat fewer takeaways and when we eat out at restaurants the veggie/vegan options tend to be cheaper than the meat options.

Can it help those who might want to shed a few pounds?

Most definitely! So far I have lost just over three stone. I have another three to go. I lost weight quickly initially and then I found out about all the tasty vegan junk food out there and went a little off track. Now I am avoiding processed foods again so the weight is coming back off steadily.

Isn’t it a bit boring?

Hand on heart, NO! I love being vegan. I don’t miss anything as I have learned I simply don’t need it, there are alternatives to everything. Over the last two years I have eaten the best food of my life, I have visited vegan restaurants offering the most amazing, creative food and I have learned to cook in an entirely different way. There are so many recipes, blogs and restaurants out there it means there is no excuse to get bored!

What would you say to someone who was contemplating making a vegan lifestyle but wasn’t sure about the first step?

I would encourage them to sign up to Challenge 22 (https://www.challenge22.com/challenge22/). You get daily messages of support, videos and recipes to inspire and encourage you.

I would also encourage people to watch some documentaries like ‘What the Health’, ‘Forks over Knives’, ‘Earthlings’ ‘Dominion’ and ‘Cowspiracy’ watching shows like this firmed up my decision to change to a vegan lifestyle.

What’s your best-selling meal?

It has to be my Derbyshire Hotpot which is a hearty, root vegetable stew with mushrooms and lentils with garlic and balsamic roasted potatoes topped with caramelised shallots.

My most popular pudding at the moment is my Chocolate Hobnob Cheesecake. This is just pure chocolate indulgence and every bit as tasty as traditional dairy cheesecakes.

What’s next for Glow by Emma?

I am working on getting Glow meals into kitchens a little further afield than the North West of England. We are working very hard on ways to achieve this and have a few ideas being tested at the moment.

For now though we aim to grow our customer base in and around Glossop, Tameside and Manchester with a view to offering more delivery drops throughout the week.

And here’s one delicious recipe for you to try at home

Chocolate Oreo Brownie


250g plain flour
175g caster sugar
60g brown sugar
70g plain cocoa powder
250ml vegetable oil
250ml plant-based milk (I use oat or soya)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 packet of Oreos
A pinch of salt
50g dark chocolate (optional)


Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl, add the sugar, salt and baking powder to the bowl.

Add the veg oil, vanilla extract and plant-based milk to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Break up ½ the pack of Oreos and fold into the batter, decant into a lined baking tray.

Decorate the top with the remaining Oreos, you can break them up or keep whole. It’s also nice to add broken pieces of dark chocolate here too.

Bake on the middle shelf of an oven preheated to 180℃ for approx 30-35 minutes.  The cake should be firm to touch but still with a little clag when tested with a skewer.

Allow to cool fully at room temperature and then place in the fridge before eating. Refrigeration helps the your brownie to stay claggy!

Serve with dairy free cream, custard or ice cream, here are a few I can personally vouch for!

Swedish Glace Ice Cream – vanilla
Food Heaven – Heavenly Whipped Squirty Cream – I found mine in ASDA for £1.99 and its gorgeous!
Alpro Custard

No need to stick to Oreo brownie! Why not try…

Adding Bourbon biscuits

Spoon half the batter into the tray then line with bourbons. Pour the remaining batter over the top and you have a lovely hidden biscuit centre.

Adding a swirl of Lotus Biscoff spread and sprinkled broken Lotus biscuits

I know I couldn’t believe these were vegan either!

Adding Pecans and dried fruits

Cherries and raisins are good.