Amelia Freer is a nutritional therapist and the author of EAT. NOURISH. GLOW, an international bestselling book about how what we eat can transform our lives. In the book, Amelia guides you gently through her 10 steps: how to detox your pantry and restock with alternatives, how to understand the differences between good and bad fats, and the dangers of hidden sugar in the food we eat.
Spotlight Interview: Amelia Freer
THE BODY BOOK (TBB): In Eat. Nourish. Glow., you suggest that the first step to a healthy lifestyle should be a kitchen detox. How should a person begin such a process?
AMELIA FREER (AF): I think its best to start with a clean slate and really remove all of the naughty foods that may tempt us in busy or dark moments. So start with removing all processed foods & foods with refined sugars (cereals, biscuits, cakes, sweets, pre-made salad dressings, sauces, ketchup, margarine). Do this in both your cupboards and fridge and really be ruthless – it’s amazing how many out of date jars lurk there.
Restock with real foods like nuts, seeds, grains (if you eat them) such as quinoa and brown rice, pulses such as lentils and chickpeas. And then good oils like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Then flavours such as dried herbs and spices, sea salt, black pepper and organic vinegars. For the fridge, I have a shelf for fresh proteins such as eggs, organic chicken, wild fish and some meat such as lamb or beef, which I eat occasionally. And then a section for your fresh vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs. That is the basis of all you need to prepare healthy meals from scratch.
- TBB: Once you’ve cleared out your pantry at home you suggest doing a ‘desk detox’ at the office as well?
AF: If snacks are on hand it is inevitable that you will reach for them in times of stress, boredom or when you just need a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up. I think it’s best to remove foods from the work area so that eating and working can be separated. I suggest having a jug or bottle of water on your desk – if you are hydrated you are less likely to feel peckish and/or tired. And having a tidy organized desk in general helps us to be more focused.
- TBB: Sugar can have such a negative impact on our health, but it can be difficult to give up. You explain that giving up sugar is ultimately about breaking our associations with it. Could you talk a bit about this or give a few words of advice?
AF: So many of us have a complex relationship with food, and even more so with sugar. Sugar is seen as a treat, a reward and a pick-me-up dating back to a time when it was rare and expensive. The average child has eaten more sugar in their pre-school years than an adult would have eaten in a whole lifetime half-a-century ago. Sugar is cheap now and so readily available as well as added to all sorts of things (including savoury foods). Too much sugar (in any form) can have detrimental effects on our health but I think people really need to connect with how and why they overuse it in order to break any dependency. We know that sugar can encourage the release of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters and so there is a very real physiological response, as temporary as it may be, but that is one of the reasons why it can become so addictive as people want to feel good all of the time. Ultimately no food can cure an emotional state such as boredom, stress or loneliness even though we may think it can in the immediate moment. So I encourage my clients to really explore what they are feeling in the moment that they want a quick fix and allow that feeling to be heard. And we discuss what other new habits they can create to fill a void left by food – so eventually they feast on life, not on food. There is a mild amount of suffering involved in ‘de-toxing’ from sugar but it doesn’t last long and the positive effects are soon noticeable.
- TBB: Do you have any advice for someone who would like to fit cooking into their weekly routine, but thinks they don’t have the time?
AF: I think it goes back to having a well-stocked fridge and committing to planning for the week ahead. Then when you do cook, cook in bulk so that you can freeze some for lazier or busier days. Soups, curries and stews are great for this. An omelette with salad or some vegetables with a piece of fish really takes no time and does not have to taste dull and boring if you add good flavours such as chilli flakes or lots of fresh lemon juice and basil. I think it’s helpful to memorize a few good and quick dishes to start off with.
- TBB: When you go out to dinner, how do you navigate the menu? What are your tips for healthy eating in restaurants?
I rarely have a starter but if I do I go for a salad or some simple fish. I don’t eat the bread or dessert. For a main I’ll order some protein with vegetables. However, I’m a believer in being consistent not perfect so when eating out I allow myself to indulge and enjoy foods that I may not cook at home. I do love wine and I love fries, which are something I’d never cook at home so I’ll choose one or the other, but not both. I don’t like to over eat or feel heavy and full so for me, it’s a dialogue with my body.
- TBB: Describe your relationship with your body. Have you always been so nurturing to yourself?
AF: No, that’s the reason I became a Nutritional Therapist. I suffered terribly in my teens and twenties with digestive issues, bad skin and low energy. A visit to a nutritional therapist turned my life around and took me on a long journey with my health and learning how food impacted it. I used to make absolutely no connection with what I ate and how I felt, and I mostly ate convenience food. It took time but I now live a gluten, dairy and refined sugar free life and I rarely eat grains, which is what has worked for me. I tried being vegetarian and raw but that really did not suit me or help my health at all – my skin became terrible again. We are all unique and I never say that there is only one way any person should eat. I studied Nutritional Therapy as a mature student for four years to really learn the depth of how the human body functions and how to apply the science of food but it has been learning about the interaction with our emotional health since I started my practice that has really enhanced my own health as well as that of my clients.
- TBB: Did you grow with strong women role models?
AF: I grew up in a divorced home and so my mother raised my brothers and me by herself. She worked hard but always cooked us a homemade meal in the evenings. So yes, I’d consider her a strong roll model. I also had and have a group of female friends who are inspiring, bright and hard working – the message to me as a child was that woman can be independent and highly capable.
TBB: What do you love about your body, as it exists right now?
AF: I love that I no longer have acne! That I am free of symptoms and that my weight doesn’t fluctuate, I have natural energy, I’m rarely ill and I sleep well. My body feels peaceful and content, like we are a good team (most of the time, I can’t pretend that I don’t get anxious or feel the effects of stress from time to time but that is something I still work on).
- TBB: Ultimately, how we feel every day is a reflection of our habits. If you could choose one habit to pass on to our readers, what would it be?
AF: I think it has to be preparing food from scratch – get back to cooking instead of being brain washed by convenience food.
- TBB: Could you tell us about your next book? Where did the inspiration for it come from?
AF: The inspiration for ‘Cook. Nourish. Glow.’ came from the readers of my first book ‘Eat. Nourish. Glow.’ who got in touch to ask for more recipes. My first book shared what my clients and I have found to be the most important steps to address when changing their food and health habits and now Cook. Nourish. Glow. is the follow on book, using the principles from the first book but helping people to take that actual step and get confident in their kitchens and cooking all of their own food. I hope that there is something for everyone no matter what his or her cooking skill.
Thank you, Amelia! Her new book Cook. Nourish. Glow. is available for preorder now. Below, check out her video and recipe for the Super Quick Pear and Almond Smoothie. I could listen to her talk all day!