What does it mean to be healthy?
Being healthy for me is simple – it means taking care of yourself in a way that enables you to thrive and make the most out of this life. When you are healthy, you are eating, moving and thinking well, so that you spring out of bed in the morning and feel endlessly happy and energetic until you fall asleep at night.
“Being healthy for me is simple – it means taking care of yourself in a way that enables you to thrive and make the most out of this life.”
Do you follow any specific way of eating?
I eat a high-raw vegan diet, which means I stick to plant foods that are mostly uncooked. Four years ago, I tried eating vegan for a month and felt so amazing that I never looked back. I slept better than ever and never felt low or moody.
Since then, I have experimented within the realm of vegan food and am convinced that making fresh fruits and vegetables the cornerstone of your diet is the only way to truly thrive, whether you are an omnivore, paleo, vegan, or anything in between.
Why is it important for you to feel (and look) healthy?
I struggled with acne, candida and hormonal imbalances from the age of 16 and no pill, cream or prescription solved the problem. I finally saw a nutritionist who put me on an elimination diet – no wheat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, red meat, fizzy drinks or junk food of any kind. At this point I was 18 years old and eating all of those things with abandon, so to go cold turkey was tough.
I did it for a year and a half, and it really worked – all my symptoms went away and I felt so much better. The kinds of foods she prescribed were often bland and uninspiring, though, so I now make sure to always keep food colourful and fun when working with my nutrition clients. I fully believe that most ailments we suffer from can be cured with improved nutrition – but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be delicious.
“The longer you eat well, the more you’ll see your health improve in the most unexpected ways.”
The longer you eat well, the more you’ll see your health improve in the most unexpected ways. I used to suffer from terrible hay fever, and every year it became less and less severe until it disappeared altogether. I know it’s definitely down to eating well because when I don’t eat well, my symptoms come straight back.
What foods or groups of foods (if any) do you avoid?
Being vegan means that I don’t eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy, or any animal products. In addition, I avoid processed and fried foods. Gluten doesn’t really feature in my everyday diet, but I leave a little leeway in there for an amazing pasta in Italy or a few slices of baguette in France.
I believe enjoying these kinds of treats once in a while really doesn’t affect your overall health – it’s the way you eat 90 per cent of the time that leaves an impact.
Do you cook every day?
Making food for myself is very easy because I keep it simple. I make a large (about 1/2 to 3/4 litres) green smoothie in the mornings, have a big bowl of fruit for lunch, sliced veggies in the afternoon and a large salad for dinner. I also snack on kale chips, fruit or some popcorn if I get hungry in between. I’m pretty much always eating, yet spend very little time preparing food.
What do you think are the most nutritious foods?
Whilst I think superfoods all have a useful part to play in our diets, I think it’s important not to get wrapped up in the hype of ‘it’ foods of the moment – be they goji berries, oily fish, or kale, which have all had their moment in the spotlight. True health comes from eating a myriad of healthy foods, which work in synergy to give you optimal health.
The science of nutrition is so new; we only know the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nutrients in the foods we eat – so it’s useless to be reductionist about one food or one antioxidant.
What is your optimal breakfast?
Our digestive fire is strongest in the morning, so it’s a good idea to make breakfast your most nutritious meal – I like to pack leafy greens, herbs and fruits into a big smoothie. Much like fresh juice, the goodness from fresh produce in a smoothie is easily assimilated, but a smoothie has the added benefit of still providing fibre for your system.
“Our digestive fire is strongest in the morning, so it’s a good idea to make breakfast your most nutritious meal.”
Sometimes I’ll add spirulina or chlorella, but aside from that I keep it simple. Fruits and greens pass so quickly through our digestive system that it’s best not to combine them with anything else like protein powders or milks.
How do you try and stay on track when you travel?
I know a lot of health professionals who travel with powders and supplements and even a blender whenever they’re away from home. Whatever works for you individually is great, and I definitely don’t judge those people, but for me staying healthy has to be easy.
I can almost always find fresh fruit and orange juice to have for breakfast, and order a salad with every lunch and dinner. If I end up eating quite a basic (read: boring) meal once in a while because I’m out having a good time and experiencing new things, that’s OK with me.
Some plain rice and vegetables isn’t the most delicious thing on the planet, but that’s not what I remember when I look back on travelling anyway. I’ve got to a point where I’m not so worried any more about maintaining ‘perfection’ for every meal of my life. So if that rice has to be white once in a while, I don’t sweat it.
What is the hardest part of the day for you to avoid temptation?
Temptation is not really something I avoid per se – when you eat in a way that really suits you, your body has a way of self-regulating cravings. So instead of constantly waiting for my next treat, I trust my body to tell me what it wants. The more healthily I eat, the more it wants to carry on eating those things.
When I was caught in this trap of seeing foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, I let the ‘bad’ ones have this hold over me that meant it was just a matter of time before I caved in to them, and felt like I had ‘failed’ at eating well. For me, this is the most important mindset to rid yourself of when getting healthy.
How do you treat yourself in terms of food?
I eat dark chocolate as a treat almost every day – it’s my favourite sweet food and I indulge daily. It’s important to eat 90 per cent for the body and 10 per cent for the soul. Maintaining this approach stops us from binging mindlessly because we feel so constantly deprived.
“It’s important to eat 90 per cent for the body and 10 per cent for the soul.”
Have you ever tried a diet or detox that worked for you?
I’m not a big fan of eating in any way that you couldn’t maintain for the rest of your life. I also don’t believe in taking any measures to ‘undo’ indulgence. That kind of switching between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ eating is not only unhealthy for your mind, it causes unnecessary stress hormones to fire off in your body. And stress hormones equals fat storage!
If you are eating a standard diet, staying away from wheat, sugar, dairy and alcohol for a week is a great rest for your body, and will be much more effective for you than taking up a juice cleanse. Eating steak one day and only green juice the next is of no long-term benefit to your body whatsoever.
“Eating steak one day and only green juice the next is of no long-term benefit to your body whatsoever.”
Having said that, I think a juice feast is a great health boost, if done occasionally (one to three times a year), because they help give your entire system a break. Not eating solid foods for a few days allows your body to focus on repairing and ‘cleaning house’, which is a great help given the many toxins that surround us daily, even if we are as healthy as can be.
I am against administering detoxes for weight loss though, because if you have any significant amount of weight to lose, you need to learn new eating habits that will last you a lifetime. A juice cleanse will just make you feel deprived unless your body is already very clean.
What’s your exercise routine/schedule?
In a week, I’ll usually take three to four classes at TenPilates and about two dance classes at DanceWorks. I have so much fun doing these classes, which is why I stick with them. I can’t stand gym environments so I stay away.
Do you power up for exercise with specific foods?
I created the SportsBites (available to purchase from upcakes.co.uk) as an ideal pre-, post-, or mid-workout snack because I was sick of the other workout snacks on the market. I like a little energy boost when I’m exercising hard, but I don’t necessarily want to eat a huge 200-calorie bar which will weigh me down while I’m moving around, and nor do I want my snack to be filled with protein isolates and other nasty lab-made ingredients.
My SportsBites are just a few bites’ worth of simple ingredients – almonds, apricots, hemp seeds, coconut oil and vanilla essence. They give you that little pep in your step that you sometimes need in the afternoon, and are also great for kids’ lunchboxes.
What do you wear to work out?
I have to confess that I actually hate workout gear. I’ll usually wear cropped sweats with a tank and hi-tops to work out in. But I do make sure to wear a sports bra – the Ta Ta Tamer by Lululemon is by far the best on the market, especially if you wear a bigger cup size. I keep four on rotation and even wear them during the day when I’m running around delivering Upcakes to my retailers.
How do you fit exercise around your work schedule?
I work out first thing in the morning because it revs me up for the day and puts me in a good mood. I’ll do that from Monday to Thursday, then on Friday I’ll take a class at night because it gives me a burst of energy for the weekend ahead. I also figure that at around 7.30pm on a Friday, I wouldn’t be doing anything else productive with my time anyway.
I then give my body a rest on the weekends as far as conventional exercise goes. I like to hit the dancefloor hard, which definitely counts as an accidental workout!