Nutritional needs should be on our mind daily, as what we eat and drink fuels our bodies and enhances our daily capabilities, yet many of us have a love/hate relationship with food, stemming from habits formed in our childhood, which follow us into adulthood. So in order to dispel some myths and answer many pressing questions at the time when one of the most overused words in our lexicon is ‘detox’ The Juicery in Marylebone, led by its founder Cindy Palusamy, hosted one of UK’s top nutritionists Amelia Freer. With bloggers and journalists, as well as the hotel’s staff listening in, Amelia talked in detail about what she does, what’s good for us and what changes we might consider gradually implementing into our daily diet. Later I was also fortunate enough to sit down with Amelia and ask her even more questions, on nutrition.
The first thing I noticed about Amelia when I walked in was how glowing her skin was and how happy and welcoming she was to everyone who was in the room. As I came in slightly late due to earlier commitments, I started listening in on Amelia’s talk when the subject of gluten was discussed. Amelia mentioned that for her the moment of truth on the subject came when she listened to the lecture of Dr. Tom O’Ryan and learnt that gluten, unlike in Biblical times, now causes gut inflammation in many men and women. Gluten is a protein composite that gives dough its ability to rise and is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. We seem to be consuming more and more of it, indulging in pizzas, pasta, bread etc. not realising that consequences can occur in 10-15 years, when the first symptoms might start emerging and then multiplying. Amelia always works together with her clients and when she started educating herself on the subject of gluten, she tried making her own bread, which by her own admission was a disaster. Unless you are symptomatic, you don’t have to deprive yourself of gluten, instead just start eating brown rice and pasta, rather than traditional white varieties, which are better for you as they give you slow releasing energy ( when Amelia travels, it’s not uncommon for her to pack some of the foods into her luggage, when she knows they would be nearly impossible to source at her destination – Biona products are one of her favourites ).
A major obstacle to proper nutrition in our day and age, with supposed bigger transparency, is the fact that manufacturers can’t really be trusted, with many of them intent on jumping on the popular bandwagon-no sugar, no GMO – so in order to form an opinion you must make it a rule to read a list of ingredients before making a purchase. Amelia herself is sensitive to dairy ( when we chat later she is drinking a black cup of coffee, while I am sipping on Juicery’s signature Maca blend. Amelia actually worked with the Juicery on their juices and smoothies menu and if you haven’t ‘drunk’ through it already, I would highly recommend this delicious journey of discovery ) but isn’t against meat ( it depends on what kind of meat you are eating, preferably aim for organic lean cuts and don’t ever eat charred meat ) but she reminded her audience of the ‘good vegan proteins’ found in hemp, chia or pea proteins which are much easier to digest by our bodies.
How did Amelia become a nutritional therapist? Well, when she was young, she was eating a lot of junk food, so her body rebelled against it and she became ill. According to Amelia, her skin looked horrific, she had chronic IBS and once the flood gates of problems started, they didn’t want to stop. Doctors weren’t helpful, so Amelia decided to look into nutritional aspects of food, as the doctors that she saw told her to give up all the foods that she loved. Maybe it is one of the reasons why Amelia comes across as not just practical with her advice, but very grounded and empathetic.
In her 20s, Amelia studied for four years at The Institute of Optimum Nutrition ( she did it part-time ) but as she was nervous about the path she was taking, she didn’t tell many people about it. Innately it felt like she belonged on that path and everything that happened developed organically. Amelia’s health and well-being vastly improved, as did her skin, so when I asked her what was her ‘dietary model’, she replied that ‘the model is not to have a model’. She didn’t advertise once she started her practise but the word about her started spreading, bringing in new clients and collaborations. Amelia says that about 60% of her clients are women, the other 40% are men.
What’s the difference between the nutritionist and the nutritionist therapist? Well, according to Amelia there are four aspects to it:
– nutrition ( cleaning up your diet & embracing the right kind of supplements ),
– emotional health ( which plays a big part, and which unfortunately is often underestimated or misunderstood; a nutritional therapist considers how people relate to themselves, among other things. Every person is unique, so nutritional therapist, like a good psychiatrist, needs to be able to ‘read’ people and relate to them ),
– functional lab training,
– movement ( you can’t be well if you don’t move, hence the importance of daily exercise, whatever shape or form it takes, from running to walking instead of taking the bus ).
Another subject that has been gathering headlines since the end of last year is of course ‘sugar‘ but you have to remember that not all sugars are made equal and in actual fact our brains need sugar to function. Amelia advises being in tune with yourself and never ‘forbidding’ yourself foods – if you ‘forbid’ anything it makes you crave the thing even more! Sugar from fruit can be beneficial, just try to give priority to let’s say red and purple berries, which are also full of antioxidants, apricots, pears, apples and eat less of bananas or grapes which are more ‘sugary’ in its content. Dark chocolate also does you good in moderation-again, try to choose a good quality one. Wave goodbye to white sugar but starting to substituting it for brown sugar, then coconut one or date syrup and see how you and your body feel about it.
My next question to Amelia concerned taking supplements ( Amelia often uses & recommends supplements from the US, as she says that their research seems to be ahead of the curve ) without doing the blood tests first. Amelia acknowledges that blood tests can be expensive, so she would never recommend having them unnecessarily. She starts assessing her patient as they meet, looking at things like the condition of their skin, hair, eyes and then recommending the blood tests that her client truly needs. Before you take a supplement it’s important to know if you have an underlying medical condition, as it might be a contraindicated to taking some supplements as their ‘fusion’ might cancel the effect of the medication you might be already taking.
Before Amelia sees a client for the first time she also asks them to fill in a very detailed questionnaire, covering a variety of subjects, from medical history to a three-day food diary and later marks the answer with an assortment of coloured pens. What this questionnaire does is not just help Amelia to understand her client and tailor make the plan, it also makes her clients think about their health and what they eat, how the food makes them feel from the energy point of view and how their lifestyle makes an impact on their health. Consider for a moment that what we eat affects our metabolism, our fertility or even our predisposition for certain diseases, like high blood pressure or diabetes.
Amelia is a big advocate of weekly massages or at least regular massage and would refer you to a chiropractor/osteopath or acupuncturist, if she feels that you will benefit from it. When we eat the right way for our body and have an appropriate support network in terms of advice we can trust, we thrive and change in a way that might possibly extend our life-span. One day you might even have a light bulb moment that sugary snacks or airplane food hardly has any nutritional value for you and will start packing your own food or snacks to take on board.
I breached the subject of ‘eating in season’ and Amelia surprised me by saying that before her first book comes out in print in January 2015 ( you heard it here first folks, keep an eye on the Harper Collins hardback ), 13th of February will see the launch of her first seasonal food e-book. With February on the calendar list and some of us already feeling disappointed because of the apparent failure of their new year resolutions, this might be a good incentive to get you back on track of lasting changes or as Amelia puts it ‘let’s use the rest of the year to be good’. Words like ‘diet’ and ‘no’ can be quite damaging to our mental health in actual fact. Our ancestors ate in season, when the fruit and vegetables were bursting with flavour and vitamins, moved around, instead of taking a bus or driving a car and stressed less, thus extending in some ways their longevity.
What then of the ‘detox‘ ? Should one do it in winter or shouldn’t? Amelia’s view is that press tends to overuse the word and have changed the emphasis that should be put on this word. Detox means you should try to avoid the foods that are bad for you or that you body struggles to digest. Try to cut half the food that you know you eat too much of, thus giving your body a welcome healing break and see how it affects your mental attitude as well. It can be dairy, sugar, alcohol, coffee. Amelia believes in making January an alcohol free month and while it shouldn’t mean that you should go overboard the other 11 months of the year, doing this will certainly benefit your liver. Try sourcing your food locally if possible ( there are lots of farmers markets dotted around during the week or the weekend, so go and meet the producers, make connections and start really tasting the food and appreciating its flavours ). If your food is being transported from around the world, think about what has to be done to it in order to keep it fresh by the time you see it on the supermarket shelf and how it affects its nutritional content.
Amelia is a member of several organisations like The Institute of Functional Medicine, BANT ( British Association of Applied Nutrition ) & Nutritional Therapy and she not only loves what she does, she also has to abide by many rules and constantly continue her learning in order to keep her qualifications-as far as she is concerned her work carries a lot of responsibilities and she can’t dish our advice lightly, without thinking it over first. When she works with clients she helps them sort our their relationship with food and to identify who they truly are, thus helping them achieve true balance – ‘in order to be a good practitioner, you have to be accepting’. Amelia regularly updates her website and creates new recipes in her kitchen, so her social life is taking a back-seat, as working with people takes a lot of energy and Amelia admits to needing moments of quietness and peaceful reflection. ‘Me time’ is very important to any human being but women have a guilt complex attached to this sentiment. We share & give ourselves constantly, yet still feel guilty about taking the time to do something that relaxes us. Well, a happy you makes for a happier personal relationships, motherhood and workplace.
For the time being Amelia’s client list is closed because there are only that many hours in the day for her to do her job thoroughly but she is happy to refer people to other practitioners because she ‘cares deeply about people’ and lives what she ‘preaches’.
Talking with Amelia you can’t help but relax and feel at ease, because she is a natural at what she does. She listens with attention and even when the time is running out, she glances at her watch in a way that is very diplomatic. Her advice is practical and makes perfect sense when you think about it, for example ‘we don’t need to eat as much as we do’ or ‘if you eat the ‘right’ kind of food for you, you don’t actually go hungry’. When it comes to her own eating habits, Amelia eats three times a day, without grazing in-between and favours produce like leafy greens, chia seeds and coconut oil. She regularly consults Nutri-Link Limited and reads in order to keep up with he constant professional development curve that is expected of her. On top of that she works with brands like JaxCoco, ESPA Spa at Corinthia Hotel, O-Food and SP&Co gym ( that offers not just fitness, but nutritional support and beauty treatments ), In:Spa team & Brown’s Hotel and yet she appears calm, centered and genuinely engaged. Not hyper but actively serene, in balance with herself and the world. As we part, I ponder if I should really make more of an effort with my diet and try to eat less on the run during the day. Something tells me that the right seeds have just been sawn.