Nutritional therapist Amelia Freer on how good food choices can transform your health
With celebrity clients including Victoria Beckham, Sam Smith and Boy George and three books to her name, Amelia Freer has certainly made her mark on the foodie scene. She trained to become a nutritional therapist 13 years ago after seeing how good food choices helped to resolve her own health issues and decided to help others along the same path.
The 41-year-old has a non-restrictive attitude to food, and is keen to change the idea that healthy eating goes hand in hand with deprivation. Her latest book: Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan is a step-by-step guide to making good food choices and the aim is that it will give individuals the knowhow to change the way they cook and eat longterm – far beyond the 10 days featured.
I first started to become interested in health and wellbeing after a friend suggested that some of the health issues I had been experiencing might be down to my food choices. She encouraged me to see a nutritional therapist, and as soon as I felt the effects of great nutrition, movement and stress management first-hand, it inspired me so much that I left my job as a PA and trained as a nutritional therapist too. That was over a decade ago now, and I am still continuing to learn more every day.
A ‘typical’ day doesn’t really exist for me, as every day it is slightly different, depending on what’s in the diary. But generally, it will start by taking the dogs out for a walk, followed by a good breakfast. And then I will spend some time catching up with emails, seeing clients, team meetings, researching or writing. After lunch the story is pretty similar, and then there may also be an evening event to go to or present. I love the variety and the flexibility of my job – there is always something interesting going on!
Everyone comes to me with a completely different set of challenges with their diet and lifestyle. I work very closely with each individual to really try to understand their unique lives, stress, medical history and mindset. And while it may look like there are some common themes amongst clients – an excessive reliance on sugar, for example, the underlying drivers of this are usually hugely different. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in good nutrition.
My new book, Nourish and Glow: The 10-Day Plan, came about because my team and I started to notice a real separation between two extremes regarding nutrition. On the one hand was the rise in orthorexia and high anxiety around healthy foods and ‘clean eating’ – while on the other hand was a rising obesity problem and its associated chronic diseases. We felt very strongly that there needed to be a more central ground, with sensible healthy eating advice, focused mainly on what you should eat (rather than on what you ‘shouldn’t’). From this starting point, we developed the concept of positive nutrition, which then over time and with lots of research, grew into the comprehensive guidebook it is now.
I wanted the meal plan to really just be the ‘icing on the cake’ for readers – not an obligatory process. The most important messages are found in the foundations of good nutrition that the preceding few chapters discuss in detail. But for those who want to, the 10-day meal plan allows you the opportunity to really feel what it is like to plan, shop, cook and eat well. For those (like me!) who don’t really enjoy following a set plan, you can still get a huge amount from the book, and then simply use the plan as a set of new recipes to dip in and out of as you wish.
My number one piece of advice for those who want to start eating well is to take things slowly. We have all learned to associate ‘eating well’ with ‘dieting’ – but they are definitely not the same thing. Eating well is something we should aim to do for the rest of our lives, so there is no need to rush and therefore risk giving up. It is far better to take things one step at a time (starting very small and very easy – having one portion of fresh fruit a day, for example), gradually shifting our habits in an enjoyable and sustainable way over the long term.
I think this is a really exciting time for nutritional science. There has been a big increase in good quality nutrition research in the last few years, but so far there hasn’t been much communication of these findings to mainstream medicine. Things are starting to change though, and increasingly doctors and the NHS are waking up to the power of sensible, evidence-informed nutrition to help manage and even reverse a wide range of chronic disease. Watch this space!
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