Reclaim your diet

IMG_1918Nutrition advice should empower us –
but does it?

As a nutritional therapist I offer dietary advice to clients with the intension that it will allow them to take control of their health. The information is meant as a guide, which individuals can experiment with to see if it is right for them. This means they have to listen to the feedback of their body. In doing so they can observe whether or not they feel better when they eat differently. This might include being aware of any changes to their energy, digestion, menstrual cycle, mood or skin.

Lets look at an example. Last week a patient came to see me for a follow-up appointment. She originally consulted me because she had been suffering from bloating, abdominal cramps and diarrhea on and off for the past year. In her first session we discussed her diet, which was generally good, and alongside other changes I advised that she experimented with being gluten-free. For many people a period without gluten can be hugely beneficial for digestive health and symptoms rapidly improve. However, when this lady came for her follow-up appointment she reported that going gluten-free had made no difference to her symptoms.

It is hugely important as a therapist to listen and respond to each person’s individual experiences. Diet advice that is right for one person is not necessarily right for the next, even if they present with the same symptoms. Therefore after listening to my patient’s observations I advised her to re-introduce gluten back into her diet. A gluten-free diet was clearly not improving her symptoms, so I had no reason to advise her to continue. Instead I ordered her a comprehensive stool analysis so that we could identify other underlying causes for her symptoms.

The test results showed that her digestive enzymes were low, as well as her beneficial bacteria. When we corrected this through diet and supplements her bloating, cramps and diarrhea disappeared. It took one month on a targeted protocol for her symptoms to completely clear up. This feedback from her body was proof that the protocol was working and her system was coming back into balance. She felt empowered that the diet changes she had made were right for her because her health had improved and she felt fantastic.

The problem with nutrition information is that if we follow it blindly and don’t also listen to the feedback of our body it disempowers us. We give our power away to someone else to tell us what to eat. In doing so we disconnect from our innate wisdom, we can become unnecessarily fearful about eating certain food groups, and worse still create new health problems. Nobody else knows your body better than you do and it is constantly communicating. If you honour it and listen within you will know whether or not specific dietary advice is right for you.

Your diet does not need a name or a label. It only needs to nourish you. And your dietary needs are as unique as you are. So if you have given your power away by always eating what other people think you should eat, now is the time to reclaim your diet. A nourishing diet is one that makes you feel radiant, is joyful and flexible. It allows you to respond to the needs of your body, which are constantly changing. So turn your attention inwards and listen to what your body is asking for. This is the compassionate approach and it is empowering.

A Christmas cake conundrum

Do we need to eat Christmas confectionery to feel part of the festive celebration?

In the supermarket last weekend Christmas was everywhere. The mince pies, cakes and chocolate snowmen were beautifully displayed and alluring. I wanted to feel festive and to laden my trolley with Christmas treats. But, by the time I got to the checkout my only token of Christmas was a bag of satsumas and some walnuts. I felt torn. Part of me wanted to buy-in to Christmas like the other shoppers, but I also knew that I didn’t want to eat what was on offer. I liked the idea of sweet treats, the associations, the tradition, but I didn’t actually want to eat them.

Making food choices is complex. We have so many associations and emotions linked to food, which are both conscious and subconscious. How often do we eat something because we like the idea of it? Or because it reminds us of a particular occasion? Even when we don’t actually want the food?

What about eating a particular food because everyone else is? After all food unites us. Throughout history food has been used to bring people together and is shared at times of celebrations. Today, however, so many of us have different dietary requirements that we often don’t all share the same meal. We have different options that are dairy-free, gluten-free, raw, to name just a few. But how does this make us feel? If sharing the same food unites us, then does eating different food isolates us?

That was certainly my experience at the supermarket. I felt different for not buying and sharing the mince pies and chocolate snowmen, and I wanted to feel united and to join the festive spirit.

So how are we to feel united through food again when we have so many different requirements? I don’t believe we need to eat foods that we don’t want to eat, but we do need to have alternatives. When we follow a different diet or lifestyle we need to be the ones that extend ourselves and unite with others. We have a responsibility to share what we have learnt and to make food that we can eat and share with others. Even if friends and guests don’t have specific dietary requirements, the chances are that they will love trying something new and won’t even know that it is ‘free-from’ (unless you tell them). Sharing alternative foods helps to open us to new ideas, different flavours and a new way of eating, and most importantly we can be united through food again and all feel part of the same celebration.

So, here is my contribution, which I think is a fantastic alternative to a classic mince-pie and what is even better is it doesn’t contain raisins…so my husband will eat them too!

Goji berry and almond mince-pie cookies

Goji berry & almond christmas cookiesFor the base
2 cups of almonds
Coconut oil and maple syrup (or honey)

For the fruit mix
1 orange, chopped
1 apple, chopped
12 dates, chopped
½ cup of goji berries
1 tbsp of coconut oil
½ tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp ginger powder

• Place the almonds in a coffee grinder or blender and process until fine
• Melt a couple of spoons of coconut oil and maple syrup and mix into the almonds until you have a dough-like consistency
• Place the fruit mix ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a soft puree
• Take a pinch of the almond dough and make into a ball and press flat
• Put a spoonful of the fruit mixture onto each circle of dough and decorate with any remaining goji berries
• Place in the fridge to chill and set
• Delicious served on their own or with a little Coyo coconut yoghurt. Enjoy!