Is your diet really healthy?

[This is not a sponsored post. The consultation with Dr Vidhi Patel was a gifted experience.]

I hate the word ‘diet’. What was once an innocent word to describe a crucial part of our everyday lifestyle has been weaponised and turned against us, to the point where most people would rather stick their fingers in their ears and chant “lalalalala” than listen to people telling them what they should and shouldn’t eat. And who can blame them? Tell me what to do and I’ll do the opposite – it’s natural. How many of us would sneak out and drink beer on the park with friends when we were 16 because there was a ‘danger’ surrounding it, and because we were told not to? #GuiltyAsCharged

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Egg Benedict, pancakes and syrup, fruit juice and strong, black coffee – now that’s a breakfast!

But strip it right back and the fatal flaw is easy to see. We started to use ‘diet’ as a verb instead of a noun. It shouldn’t be a doing word – “You need to diet!!” – but rather an everyday occurrence. So in the modern sense, I don’t diet, and I think changing up your entire relationship with food and drink for a short period of time – whether it’s to lose weight or shape up for a holiday – is ultimately going to do more harm than good. It’s like coming off drugs only to relapse… pointless!

Instead of making radical, infrequent changes, however, I try to be consistent with the things I eat – good and bad – and make decisions based on a) what I want to eat and b) what my body’s telling me it needs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no dietician, but so many times we’re told what we should and shouldn’t do, eat, think, when really our bodies know.

What happened when I saw a nutritionist

That all sounds a bit hippie, I know, and I used to think the same. So when I was offered a consultation with Dr. Vidhi Patel, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists, at Gold Collagen Labs, I was terrified about what she was going to say and find. But the experience turned out to be such a revelation, when she told me that all of my levels were good, and my diet was giving my body everything I needed. Why was I surprised? Well, I never think of my diet as being overly healthy – I aint going to be sharing the majority of my meals on Instagram, let’s put it that way – and I kind of eat what I want, when I want. I’m also partial to a glass of wine (or three), don’t exercise nearly enough, and don’t take supplements or vitamins.

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“Everything in moderation – including moderation” – Spot the pretzels, wine, beer, bread and Haribo…

But according to Vidhi, being in tune with your body is the most important thing. “Food is the first medicine,” she told me, dismissing the extensive number of supplements available on the market as “unnecessarily used” and “expensive pee.” “There’s so much marketing polluting us,” she adds. And what I found even more interesting were her views on some of the issues and complaints that affect our lives on a regular basis – bloating, eczema, acne, for example. Not only are they the body’s way of telling us something’s wrong and that we need to make a long-term change, but some of the short-term quick fixes (over the counter products) will make them worse. Antibiotics, for example, will fix one problem, but could cause another, like bloating, which people then try to fix another way.

So, “lifestyle choices and food combinations” are key, she says. When I asked her about some of the common complaints she encounters, she told me: “Stress-induced diabetes, stress-induced cholesterol. Eczema. Eczema is not something that is going to transmit by touching.” And that’s so true. I remember once doing a health kick/juice cleanse kind of deal, and I didn’t even enjoy the benefits because my body needed more fuel – so afterwards, I ate, and immediately started to bloat. It’s a vicious circle.

On the amount of people suffering psychological problems, she’d guess 50%. So, although I don’t diet, I make sure my relationship with food – both good and bad – is healthy. I think it’s key to learn the basics – different food groups, which nutrients come from which foods, etc. – and to make sure you’re getting roughly the right amount every day. I know not everyone can afford to see a nutritionist, and I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had the consultation offer, but the session was an eye-opener. The lesson: Listen to your body, it knows best!

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