Interview

Dr Hazel Wallace: “I want to offer solid, evidence-based advice”

May 5th 2017 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 0 comment

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Photography by Susan Bell

Seeking to bridge the gap between mainstream medicine and nutrition in her new book, we caught up with Dr Hazel Wallace aka The Food Medic, to find out how her medical training and own sickness and grief helped shape her outlook

Stressful life events can take their toll on our minds, our bodies and often, our relationships with food. Causing us to either under or over-eat, grief in particular can have a significant impact - a situation that Doctor Hazel Wallace, aka The Food Medic, knows only too well, having experienced it first-hand after losing her father when she was 15 years old. “I lost myself in sadness and grief, and turned into a very hopeless and underweight young girl,” she shares with us.

An extremely difficult time, her turning point came via her doctor. “When I was very underweight, my GP turned to me and explained that if I could not manage to put weight on, I would require hospitalisation and feeding via a drip. It was at that point that I realised just how bad things had gotten and I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t let that happen. I found a dietitian and asked her to help me get back to a healthy weight. We had weekly weigh-ins to keep me motivated to gain weight and after three months, I had gotten back to a healthy weight and was discharged from her care. I never looked back.”

Knowledge fuelled her and now as a qualified junior doctor, she wants to share it in order to help others strengthen body and mind through what they eat too. “That experience has given me a huge appreciation and understanding of how food has the potential to make us both physically and mentally strong,” she says. “My mission is to share that message and to encourage people to maximise their health through food.”

Her ethos is practical and pragmatic, with her new book bourne out of a desire to bridge the gap between mainstream medicine and nutrition. Broken into four key areas (the heart, the brain, the gut and skin), her aim is to provide clear and non-faddy advice on how to build a healthy diet using her own personal journey and her professional training in the medical sphere as key influences.

We caught up with Dr Wallace to talk all things wellness and nutrition, her personal relationship with food and the key pieces of advice she hopes to share in her new book.

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GTG: What was the inspiration behind your book?

HW: This book is inspired by my own personal journey through sickness and health and my training as a doctor. I wrote it to educate others on how to maximise their health so that they can look and feel amazing. I want to debunk the myths that are out there surrounding dieting and instead offer solid, evidence-based advice.

GTG: What would you say differentiates it from others out there?

HW: I guess what makes it different is that it was written by me - a qualified doctor, a personal trainer, and a girl who has turned her life around, and her health, through nutrition. I'm not trying to sell you any quick fix or secret. They don't exist. My intention is to help you find a happy, healthy relationship with food. To learn that food has the potential to improve your health, both psychically and mentally. To show you that you don't need to do anything drastic, or cut things out, in order to have a 'healthy' lifestyle. Is sugar the enemy? Will fat make me fat? What are the best sources of protein for a vegetarian? What foods will improve my gut health? - it's questions like these that I answer, not to mention the 70 recipes and workout section that's in there too! I promise you that you will never buy another ‘diet’ book again.

GTG: Could you tell us about your background and training in nutrition?

HW: I’m not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but I am a doctor with a special interest in nutrition. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Sciences, and as part of that, studied a module in nutrition, but I still wouldn’t call it a robust nutritional qualification. I have a degree in Medicine (MBBCH) which means I practice as a medical doctor. Finally I have a qualification as a personal trainer. So all of my qualifications cover nutrition to some extent, but the biggest advantage of having a scientific qualification is that I have the ability to read and analyse scientific papers and offer evidence-based advice on the current research.

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GTG: How would you say that you bridge the gap between mainstream medicine and nutrition?

HW: There are nutritionists and dietitians, and there are doctors, but there is no in-between and I think that’s what is missing. I firmly believe that doctors should have more training at medical school in nutrition in order to offer patients even very basic nutritional advice. In this day and age we deal with a lot of ‘lifestyle’ diseases, so things like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Through dietary intervention we can help reduce, and even reverse, some of these diseases and that’s something which we can all do at home, starting with what we put on our plate.

And now for our quick-fire GTG quiz…

In three words, I’m….

Strong, hard-working, and honest.

My last health check was…

Probably my last smear test! I’m a doctor so I tend not to stress too much about my own health!

Healthy to me means…

Loving your body by giving it the food and movement that it needs in order to live your most fulfilling, happiest life.

The workout that works is…

The one that YOU enjoy! What works for me is lifting heavy weights and getting my heart rate up with HIIT training.

I sleep…

Starfished across the bed.

My secret to staying sane is…

The gym.

I got my big break by…

My article in The Times newspaper.

My best budget beauty buy is…

Rosehip oil.

My biggest health or beauty spend is…

My gym membership.

The toughest thing I’ve ever had to cope with is…

Losing my dad.

Complete this sentence, money is…

Not the answer to happiness.

If I gave myself a performance review…

I would be brutally honest and too harsh on myself!

What I do before breakfast…

I wake up at 5:00 and make a coffee. I grab my gym bag, my lunchbox and a protein shake and head to the gym for a 45 minute workout before work. After my session, I have a quick shower and gobble down my overnight oats from my tupperware box before dashing off to work for my ward round at 7:30am.

If you came by for lunch I’d make…

A goats cheese frittata.

I always say yes to…

Chocolate.

I always say no to…

Cigarettes.

The Food Medic: Recipes & Fitness for a Healthier, Happier You by Dr Hazel Wallace is available now, (Yellow Kite, £20). Buy online here.

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