How working with a nutritionist helped me stop using food as a reward
What's the healthiest way to change your relationship with food? Amanda Cassidy weighs in.
I’m a grown woman. I know that I should drink more water, eat more vegetables and move more to lose weight. Why would I need anyone to tell me that? And while I’m not a slave to my appearance, at 40 the creep had begun — that slow-forming midriff bulge that never really went away after my third child.
Despite my regular yoga, walks with friends and attempts to eat healthier, there didn’t seem to be anything that would budge this unwelcome mass. I noticed that my clothes were becoming more of an exercise in disguising-the-lumps than a creative form of expression. In short, my version of healthy eating didn’t seem to be working.
That’s when I found Kim Pearson, celebrity nutritionist, healthy-lifestyle champion, saviour of Amanda.
“I work with many high-profile women, those with incredible careers, really smart women who know the difference between ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy food’.
”After a few weeks of implementing a plan tailored to their nutritional needs and creating a better structure around their eating habits, they really are so much better off,” she explains.
Kim is calm, softly-spoken and extremely easy to confide in. Within minutes, we’d figured out the problem.
“A lot of my clients give so much of themselves to others throughout the day, their colleagues, their children, their careers… that they feel depleted. It is really common for people to focus on food as something that they can do to give back to themselves,” explains Kim.
This resonates with me. The need to feel a surge of fullness, the elaborate meals I prepare in the evenings after running on empty all day — grabbing a bite here and there. Once the children are settled, my evening meal is my gift to myself and I go all out.
Kim starts my bespoke programme by running blood tests to see what areas I might need attention. I could do with more iron and Vitamin D but nothing else flags. Her focus is initially on getting me into a good routine.
After discussing my options, we decide I will go Protéifine –a medical diet specifically formulated to promote weight loss. It can only be sourced through a nutritionist or doctor and is meticulously nutritionally balanced to get my body into ketosis in order to aid weight-loss.
I have a goal weight in mind that was healthy and realistic. I thought perhaps you had to be dangerously over-weight to be permitted to go on the diet, but I was a size 12 pushing 14 (and ended up as a small size 10). This is about recalibrating your eating.
Kim explained that she works with women of all shapes and sizes, from those who only want to lose a few pounds, to those who need to lose half their body weight to be within a healthy range. Together we decide I will start on the most rapid weight loss phase – phase one.
This means Protéifine products (with vegetables and olive oil) for a month, and then on phase two, she will start to reintroduce a balanced diet that will create structure in my life and give me all the nutrition I need. I was on the road to balanced eating – whatever that meant.
I’d never heard of Protéifine before reading an article about someone else’s weight-loss journey. I was instantly intrigued. It’s made by Ysonut Laboratories and is based around our chronobiological rhythms. It is a protein-based, low carb programme that helps you lose weight while maintaining lean body mass.
The products provided cover my macro-nutritional and micro-nutritional needs and the weight loss management part is achieved through reducing carbohydrates while providing optimal intake of high biological value protein. It is also very popular among French women.
I described it to friends as the closest thing to space food that you can find. The products are GMO-free and contain all the essential amino acids and protein to make sure you maintain muscle and bone mass, neatly wrapped in dummy-proof sized portions. You eat them alongside fresh vegetables you prepare yourself at home.
It would be fair to say that I was cynical about all of this.
Kim was keen to point out that this clinician-monitored, bespoke diet was nothing remotely like sugary weight-loss milkshakes or other faddy diets we’ve all heard about/tried in the past. She describes Protéifine as “an effective way to not only facilitate fast but healthy fat-loss but also as an opportunity to reset and reprogramme eating behaviours. To enable a fresh start.”
Kim and I go through the menu options and settle on various products that include lemon biscuits, rosemary breadsticks, tomato crackers, chocolate mousse, soups, omelettes and crepes. All are low in carbohydrates (including sugars) and made from natural proteins. The choices are vast and the box of products arrives two days later.
After a conversation about my daily routine, Kim gives me an easy-to-follow structure for mealtimes that work around my day.
Breakfast at 8.30, a snack at 11, lunch at 1.30, a snack at 4 and dinner at 6.30. I have to drink a lot more water so I opted instead for peppermint tea for hydration. We speak about the importance of sleep when it comes to cravings so I commit to an 11 pm bedtime where possible, and I up my exercise by one weights class and an extra 30-minute walk per week.
It would be fair to say that I was cynical about all of this. I was aiming for one stone in weight loss over the course of the next few months and I was doing it to feel more like my old self again.
It was something I’d been working towards for many years and felt stuck. My own methods were redundant. A feeling of failure was starting to settle. I was determined to stick to this new diet to see if it really worked.
The products were filling. The reduction in caffeine was the first real change that I saw. Caffeine isn’t restricted on the diet, but because milk is, I tended to cut back to having one in the morning with my breakfast rather than four throughout the day. Also, I didn’t feel I needed it as much.
I no longer powered down at 6.30pm
The second big difference was the improvement in my sleep. I’ve never been a close-my-eyes-and-it’s-morning kind of person. That changed pretty much overnight and it was a joy that continues today.
Kim explained to me that it was partly because of the two ‘snack’ products I was consuming each day. The one at 11 am was called Dynovance which contains the natural amino acid tyrosine which helps produce dopamine and noradrenaline. These positively influence mood and behaviour through the day and gives you a noticeable pep in your step.
I no longer powered down at 6.30 pm.
My 4pm snack was a Serovance product that contained the amino acid tryptophan which helps produce serotonin and melatonin. They bring calm and relaxation and help prepare the body for sleep without making you feel drowsy.
After a few days of experimenting over which products worked best for me, I settled into a routine.
At 8.30 am, I’d have a portion of the Protéifine biscuits with a black coffee and all my vitamins (I used the amazing Better You brand of spray iron and vitamin D to top up my low levels) along with Omega 3, multivitamins and a mineral supplement designed especially for the diet.
My Dynovance product at 11 was a shake. At lunchtime, I’d have some of the rosemary breadsticks with as many vegetables from a list as possible and olive oil.
This list included broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, and many more low carb vegetables. No fruit was allowed on phase one.
At 4 pm I’d have a Serovance product which was a very welcome dark chocolate bar, and then dinner was another Protéifine product like the mousse after another plate of grilled veggies.
My initial light bulb moment came quickly. I realised that for the first time in a long time, I was finally putting myself first when it came to preparing my meals and giving myself permission to take time over them. I was structuring the meals around other things rather than vice-versa.
I planned ahead (something I’d rarely done before) and made sure I had the right vegetables to accompany my meals. The second revelation was that I am a grab-and-go-person so the crackers and biscuit products suited me much better than the soups or other Protéifine products that needed preparing.
Another day I had an unfortunate incident with my mouth and some irresistible mashed potatoes
A week in and I’d lost a lot of water weight. I was officially in ‘ketosis’ (Ketosis is a metabolic state in which fat provides most of the fuel for the body). I had no cravings and was enjoying the luxury of not having to think about my meals. They’d all been nutritionally balanced for me.
Of course, lifestyle is different for everyone. Kim has a lot of clients (she is based in Harley Street in London) who have varying social events which means a lot of eating out. She explained to me some of the substitutions you can make if you are dining out which include a palm-sized portion of protein with as many of the allowed veggies as you like.
I had a work-dinner out and opted for chicken and asked for a side of broccoli and asparagus. Felt smug. But another day I had an unfortunate incident with my mouth and some irresistible mashed potatoes. Luckily I didn’t slip out of ketosis. Mostly though I was curious about if this would work or not so I wanted to do all the correct steps.
Each week at the same time, Kim would video call me to check on my progress, answer any questions, generally boost morale and plan for the week ahead. I think without this I would have gone back to my usual habits where I’d have tweaked things to suit my mood and convinced myself that it would work out.
My other concern was the portion sizes. One of my main problems was that I needed to get that really full ‘hit’ after a meal. When I put this to her, Kim got psychological.
“You need to ask yourself if you are hungry and if so, eat. Otherwise, ask yourself why you feel that urge to eat? Can you identify the emotional driver?”
We came up with the idea of going for a quick walk if I was feeling like this, or to pick up whatever book I was reading at the time to give back something to myself. “Any other representation of something that makes you feel you are doing something for yourself is key,” she explained.
I now understood why people turn to nutritionists for help.
Don’t deny yourself that treat you have your eye on but be mindful about it, plan ahead.
Another fear of mine was that I was relying so much on the Protéifine products that I’d ‘slip’ back to my old eating habits when I’d finished the month.
In fact, I wanted to continue a few more weeks on the products because of this fear. But Kim assured me that I’d have a different mindset, new habits and that together we’d come up with a plan that would work to maintain my weight but also to enjoy eating!
Now came phase 2, reintroducing balanced meals
“We can enjoy delicious food too,” she pointed out sensibly. “We are rebels at heart so you just will want to rally against it all if you are too restrictive with your food. Don’t deny yourself that treat you have your eye on but be mindful about it, plan it ahead so you are still always in control. Keep it as a treat.”
One month later, I was only two pounds off my goal weight. I’d lost just under a stone in weight and although thrilled with the results, I was very preoccupied with the fear that I’d just put it straight back on once I was off the Protéifine products. I’d been here before.
In other words, I didn’t trust myself yet.
But my habits had changed. (And now two months since I first started those new health habits remain).
Kim transitioned me off the products by substituting one meal a day without the Protefine products for two days and then two meals a day.
She came up with a plan tailored to my needs as a busy mum, working from home, who has a lot of meals out and who isn’t the world’s greatest cook.
My time doing Protéifine meant that I understand the balance between the protein, vegetables and the healthy fats aka balanced eating — that means-nothing-and-everything phrase.
I am not in ketosis anymore so weight loss slowed but I am still losing weight, just more gradually and I am happy to maintain this as my current weight.
Now I have a two-egg omelette for breakfast (my protein) with half an avocado (my healthy fat) and I bulk it out with as many mushrooms or tomatoes/spinach (my veg) that I like so I’m not hungry before lunch.
I don’t eat between meals — something I’d been given conflicting advice about in the past. Kim believes that allowing your body a break from digestion between meals is a better idea than constant grazing.
I needed to go through the process to arrive at where I am.
My lunch is a palm-sized piece of protein – fish or chicken or beef with veggies. I now eat two pieces of fruit a day (usually an apple with a spoon of nut butter) and my dinner is pretty similar to lunch but recipes I use are much more varied – high-quality minced beef with tomatoes rolled in lettuce leaves, chicken with green curry paste in coconut milk, salmon with pesto and cauliflower steaks.
My plates have never been more colourful. My after-dinner treat is a Coyo – coconut milk yogurt (which I adore) along with a handful of raspberries or almonds. I avoid regularly eating starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, rice and pasta.
And I feel amazing. I feel healthier. I realised that although it was my initial goal, the weight loss was actually a byproduct of this project. The overall result was that I was looking after myself in a better way. I needed to go through the process to arrive at where I am.
Hopefully, I can continue to give myself the right types of self-love, not to eat my feelings.
I now feel more rested, more structured, my hair looks better, my body is responding to all the right balance of nutrients in my food. My shape is changing and I’m dressing for fun rather than camouflage. I’m not as exhausted or stressed. I’m definitely more productive. And I’m proud of myself.
I’m proud that I went about this the right way, the healthy way and hopefully, I can continue to give myself the right types of self-love, not to eat my feelings and keep up the exercise that is also boosting my mood. And I don’t feel deprived. I still plan my indulgent takeaway or piece of cake. Kim gave me the tools to create that structure. Protéifine allowed me the time to evolve my habits.
We are all a sucker for a faddy diet. Whether we like it or not there are existing pressures in our society for us to look a certain way. For me, it was about feeling like my old self again. It was about taking back control. About making better food choices.
And while there is no quick fix when it comes to our relationship with food, a tailor-made diet like this, with a qualified nutritionist, was my game-changer.