WRITTEN BY AMY DOWNES
It’s almost three weeks since the government allowed hospitality businesses to welcome customers back into their gardens and we’ve all been enjoying a return to freshly pulled pints and dinner out.
But what does that mean for our diets? Will all those promises to be healthy during lockdown now fly out of the window? We spoke to Nutritionist Lizzi Owiredu to find out how she is helping families to stay on track with their health goals.
Do you remember social media this time last year? It was filled with friends and family making a commitment to do more home cooking, bake banana bread and make the most of their ‘one exercise a day’.
I remember determinedly starting the Couch 2 5k training and knowing that this was a great chance to finally complete it (I’m up to Week 4 Run 3) and we swore we’d stop ordering takeaways to try and save money (this weekend we had 4 takeaways in 4 days). Whoops.
Lizzi Owiredu, AKA Nutri-Coach-Mumma, looks back on that time and explains why she thinks there was this nationwide health kick:
‘Since the first lockdown’, the mum of one tells us, ‘people have been more open to trying things like batch cooking, because they’ve actually had the time. They haven’t been out all day at work, so in the evening they don’t mind doing a bit of cooking, checking whether they’ve got room in the freezer.’
Some of her clients even had a kitchen-focused spring clean, allowing them to start from scratch with their health habits and work towards having a better diet. Clearing out the cupboards made room for them to add in items that would be better for them, to change up their old habits.
‘Normally, when people come to me, they have a ‘weight loss’ goal in mind. But I found that people were more open to looking at things like mindfulness and introducing intuitive eating into their lives. I think people did a lot of reflection and that allowed me to work with people through their actual eating behaviours, food education and relationships with it.’
Lockdown has increased the problems those with eating disorders face
Lizzi is keen to stress that she doesn’t want to tell people what they can or can’t eat, because she believes that can have a negative impact and the science backs this up too!
‘I would never say: don’t order a takeaway because I believe in ‘everything in moderation’ and that the more you restrict something, the more you want something.’
‘Lockdown has made people think more about what they’re doing with their intake and that’s had a knock-on effect: some people have been feeling quite guilty about eating the wrong things, they’ve beaten themselves up about it.’
Sadly, the link between lockdown and our health has not been an entirely positive story, when former Big Brother star Nikki Grahame passed away recently, the link between isolation and eating disorders was highlighted.
Her mother’s harrowing words have really hit home for us here at Sparkle Up North and we were shocked to learn that this is something Lizzi has come across a lot in her line of work:
‘I know from talking with other people and different Nutritionists from the industry that there has been an increase in eating disorders due to lockdown.’
So, as we come out of lockdown and have access to much more variety, let alone fat and sugar, it seems like this is a good time to examine our eating behaviours. This is a big part of what Lizzie does and she says how you view food can be influenced by events as long ago as your childhood:
‘Babies are born as intuitive eaters, it’s something that’s biologically formed within us. But gradually, as we grow older, we’re given mixed messages, for example: ‘Oh, you must finish your plate or you’ve got to eat this thing you don’t like.’
‘When children get to the age of two to four, they suddenly have the power to say no to something, often something they’ve had yesterday and loved and now refuse to touch it! We often actually need to take ourselves right back to the beginning stages and learning to trust how we feel.’
Listening to your body
It’s this theory of following what your body is telling you to do that Lizzi focuses on when she supports clients.
‘My methods are all around intuitive eating: So, that means learning to listen to what the body is telling you, rather than going on a strict diet plan and having lots of restrictions. I’m more likely to recommend additions to people’s diets, than take things away.’
Lizzi works with a wide variety of clients, including mums-to-be or women who are trying to get pregnant and she will stay with them right until when the child is weaning. She also works with clients who have different conditions, like diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome.
And to allow her to help even more women, she works with brands as a Nutritionist, to advice on their products.
At the moment, I’m working with some Yorkshire-based brands, I put together a blog post for them, but also look at their product to explain things like what it does when it’s cooked, how it can react in your body and so on.’
Small steps to a healthier lifestyle
What we love most about Lizzi’s work is that she’s all about making small changes to your life, something we can all benefit from as busy, working women.
‘I look at a client’s current habits: where they normally shop and what their budget is, but also what they’re eating at the moment. It’s not like I’m suggesting something completely out of the ordinary, it’s just small changes that we could make.’
‘I will looking at introducing steps that are simple, so stuff like ‘cupboard staples’. ‘freezer staples’ that you can grab easily but will have an overall positive impact on nutrition.’
This is definitely a philosophy we can get on board and we hope that by sharing Lizzi’s advice we can help our readers consider their own relationship with food, something Lizzi works hard at doing too.
‘Being a Nutritionist is never just about food. For me, it’s about looking at people as a whole. One thing I would say is to work on listening to your body, not being influenced by what you see on your social media feed.’
‘If your body’s telling you that you’re hungry even though you’ve just eaten, have a little bit more. If your body’s telling you’ve got this massive plate of food in front of you and you’re feeling full, take a break.’
‘It’s all about what you and your journey.’
12 months on, we’re returning to some kind of normal for what will hopefully be the last time and the excitement of having someone else cook our meals and being able to drink a cold glass of wine in our favourite beer gardens is taking hold.
If you’d like some help creating and sticking to a healthy eating plan, Lizzie plans to release a new, online course very soon which you can access at a time that suits you.
‘It’s going to be really practical, it’ll have things like recipes and advice broken down into simple steps. It will be applicable for the whole family in terms of looking at eating relationships and behaviours and working on ‘fussy eating’.’
‘It’s all about changing those foods, beverages, and making life easier for the whole family.’
Lizzi is also available for 121 Nutrition coaching sessions which can be booked via her website or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also catch-up with her life as a Mum on the socials @nutricoachmumma
If you, or someone you know, are struggling with your relationship with food or an eating disorder, here is some more information that may help you.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Lizzi for sharing her story with Sparkle Up North and wish her the very best of luck in 2021.