Could your eating habits do with a dose of ‘Positive Nutrition?’ We caught up with Amelia Freer to discuss the inspiration behind her new book and how to take the fear out of food for good
“Focus not on what you can’t eat, but on what you can and should eat,” says nutritional therapist Amelia Freer in her new book, Nourish & Glow: The 10-day Plan - words that are certain to resonate with anyone who’s associated healthy eating with deprivation. It’s an all too common mindset and one which Amelia, who has seen its damaging effects first-hand in her nutrition practice, is determined to change.
‘Positive Nutrition’ lies at the heart of her new book, out tomorrow (read our review of Amelia's new book here ). It’s the culmination of a decade of work as a nutritional therapist and her passion for helping clients to develop a lifetime of balanced eating unique to them. It’s less about weight loss, more about giving the body the vital nutrition to function properly on a daily basis. Her most comprehensive book yet, her aim is to equip readers with an increased awareness of what and why we eat and to change the way we shop for food, cook and eat long-term.
So what is Positive Nutrition, is there such a thing as negative nutrition and what are Amelia’s thoughts on the recent clean eating backlash? We caught up with her to find out.
Get The Gloss: Your new book is all about ‘Positive Nutrition’ - what is it?
Amelia Freer: Over the last few years, people have become much more familiar with healthy eating. However, there are many who still struggle with that on and off again, ‘good‘ and ‘bad’ mentality when it comes to food. It’s what I spend a lot of time working with my clients on and I wanted to find a way to stop people falling into this trap on a wider scale. People have been trying to diet and restrict their calories for the last 40 years and it just doesn’t work - we wouldn't be in the public health crisis we're in today if they did. What's worse though, is that now people don't enjoy food. There's guilt attached. There are more eating disorders, more hang-ups and more deprivation and misery associated with food than ever before and it's getting worse. Diets have got to stop.
This is where Positive Nutrition comes in. I've observed that the average person considers that if they've eaten less in a day, that's a good day. It's a mentality that’s been completely drummed into us, with many still focusing on calories as opposed to the quality of the nutrition in the food they eat. This isn’t how we should be thinking about it and it's certainly not what I've been recommending to my clients. Positive Nutrition is about giving people permission to eat again. The book is about creating the right foundations and the right habits - looking at what your relationship with food is like, what your support community is like, what your habits are and how you’re telling yourself you should be around food.
GTG: Is there such a thing as negative nutrition?
AF: Removing food groups without knowing why, feeling afraid of food or feeling anxiety around food and not being able to enjoy food because of a certain weight goal.
GTG: The Positive Nutrition Pyramid lies at the heart of the plan in terms of showing the ratios of what to eat. What is the rationale behind it?
AF: The Positive Nutrition Pyramid is loosely based around the Mediterranean diet and the studies and research we have on what the human body thrives on getting each day. The Positive Nutrition Pyramid provides a framework of what you should work towards eating every day. You've got eight glasses of water in it, six portions of vegetables (three being green) and three portions of fruit. You’ve got three portions of protein and also healthy fats and complex carbohydrates for those who are active because it's different for everyone and trying to say that one diet fits all is just ridiculous.
If you want to have a croissant or a glass of red wine on top of that, that's fine - I'm not telling you what you can and can't do. However, the aim is to make sure that you're achieving what’s in the Pyramid and to use it as a series of tick boxes.
GTG: Why ten days?
AF: I think anyone can do anything for ten days. Secondly, I think a lot of people like to be shown what they should actually be doing. I wanted to demonstrate how Positive Nutrition and The Positive Nutrition Pyramid translate into real life - what it feels like to shop, cook, live and eat that way and see the incredible benefits. 10 days is just long enough for people to start to see and feel a difference.
There are some people out there who need very specific instruction and they'd probably struggle a bit with the book because it does give quite a lot of flexibility. Ultimately though, flexibility is the main aim. I don't want people to be obsessive and need to be spoon-fed by me. I want people to be liberated and be able to make decisions about their own diets and their own way of eating. I wanted it to be a positive experience, as opposed to following some kind of super strict diet.
GTG: Many people often associate the word 'plan' with weight loss. How is this book different?
AF: I don't want people to focus just on weight loss because I always look at the bigger picture. This is about being healthy. There is too much of a focus on a certain size and fitting into a certain size of clothing being markers for success. We now know because of social media that there are very many people who are skinny and look good and exercise their arses off, but are maybe not very happy, don’t really enjoy life and perhaps don't have the most positive relationship with food. So I want to move it away from weight. I think when we eat well and when we're healthy, our bodies find their natural weight.
Positive Nutrition is about giving people permission to eat again
GTG: Healthy plans can sometimes be more time-consuming and expensive. What would be your advice to those who have those worries?
AF: I empathise that obviously there are big challenges for everyone. I've tried in this book to use the most normal basic ingredients. Buying fresh food doesn't have to be that much more expensive if you're just buying real protein, fruits and vegetables, which is what the majority of the plan consists of. Maybe the nuts and olive oil make things a bit more expensive, but it’s a sensible and basic way of eating with any extra expense hopefully made up for by omitting the extras we often buy like on the daily coffee run.
In terms of time, yes it does require a bit more initially. However, in the book I give people permission to not do it perfectly. I encourage everyone to have a go and maybe for the really busy person, it's just a case of starting with ticking off the water boxes on the Pyramid first and then the following week, ticking off the vegetable boxes. Just doing it slowly and making it fit your budget.
GTG: You have an issue with ‘everything in moderation…’
AF: I think people have lost their way when it comes to ‘everything in moderation.’ It's too vague and it's too ambiguous. People don't really understand what it means and so they can be eating a packet of crisps and a bar of chocolate every day and still think that they're eating moderately. I think it’s important to be much more considered about the terms that we're using nowadays when it comes to dieting, healthy eating, health and wellbeing.
GTG: ‘Clean eating' being a case in point. Where do you stand on the subject?
AF: When it was first coined, I think that it was just meant as another term for healthy eating and avoiding chemicals, preservatives and processed food. That's certainly what I took it to mean. Due to social media, it very quickly attracted probably some quite vulnerable people and also many who didn’t have any qualifications or knowledge in the area but just sort of jumped on it. Maybe some did it very innocently and were well-intentioned, but it very quickly became the opposite of what it was meant to mean. I think I can speak on behalf of all the nutritional therapy community when I say that it's highly frustrating that something we're educated in and care deeply about has been turned into such a negative and faddy movement. I don't consider myself part of that because I'm trained in spotting the red flags and I don't give that kind of unhealthy advice. That said, I've made some mistakes. In my last cookbook, I called chocolate cake ‘dirty,’ like a dirty martini or a Mississippi mud cake. Of course there were no negative and dangerous meanings in my mind to write something like that - but have I been told about it! We're all learning though. Everybody out there has a responsibility to be much more considered and much more careful and that includes me and any nutritional therapist.
Nourish & Glow: The 10-Day Plan by Amelia Freer is published by Michael Joseph, £16.99, and is available to buy online here .