A food lover's guide to well-being

I wrote this article for Cuisine Magazine ~ A food lover's guide to well-being

If you’re just as food-crazy as me – I’m that girl who, while eating breakfast, is already thinking about lunch – you too might believe you can’t possibly be healthy without giving up all the things you love.

Before I got into the field of nutrition, I’d give myself strict rules around which foods were allowed – and the no-nos. But, as soon as mid-afternoon rolled around, the ‘biscuit bell’ would sound, and I’d find myself hip-deep in the Tim Tams… another day blown. Better start tomorrow instead.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve all been in search of that perfect diet for so long, we’ve forgotten that food is something to be enjoyed and thankful for. Food is also meant to make us feel really good and stay healthy. Eating healthily can and should be delicious. And I believe that allowing some favourite ‘naughty’ foods into your world is OK. We all need a little bit of naughty; the key is to get the balance right and never, ever to feel guilty.

Some people are surprised when they find out I am a nutritionist who loves to eat chocolate but, as an extremely passionate functional nutritionist (aka mega-geeky science girl), I’ve been on a mission to uncover every tip and trick for keeping healthy while also keeping it real and achievable. Sharing my research is hugely rewarding.

We all have stories – whether that’s struggling to cope with stress, or fatigue, or haphazard hormones and moods. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to nutrition and wellness; tuning into the body is a way of gathering the clues that relate to your individual needs. For example, you might need more magnesium or more B vitamins to help with energy. All types of stress eat up B vitamins and magnesium, and can also compromise the digestive system.

If your mood is low, it’s hard to be motivated to make any changes. Two of the most common neurotransmitters that I see at low levels are serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone) and dopamine (pleasure and reward). Low serotonin levels can cause feelings of being overwhelmed, over-thinking, self-criticism, insomnia, perfectionism and anxiety. Not enough dopamine is often associated with a lack of focus, low motivation, boredom, depression and cravings – and it’s also a driver of addictive behaviours.

If this sounds like you, some simple solutions might help. First, take a good look at the causes of stress in your life and do your best to minimise or remove them. If stress is having a limiting effect on your well-being, speak to your doctor. They may recommend a blood test to check that your B12 and folate levels are optimal for your age and stage. Next, ensure you have good sources of tryptophan and tyrosine in your diet. These amino acids support the production of serotonin and dopamine, respectively, and are best sourced by eating oats, nuts and seeds, eggs, meat, chicken and fish.

We are all unique and all have different health goals, so while our starting point might be different, the common factor in a step towards well-being is… actually starting. This might be as simple as increasing your water intake or adding some target veges or extra protein into your diet. Later, as you build on these small first steps, you may want to dig a little deeper. Genetic testing and targeted blood work can be helpful tools in formulating a strategy to solve your individual health puzzle. They take the guesswork out of the equation.

So let’s be sensible and strategic in our well-being goals. Let’s not diet. Instead, let’s choose good food that our body and mind will thank us for. Everyone has the absolute right to feel good. One step at a time gorgeous people.

Think ~ Eat ~ Heal