Interview: Dietitian Nutritionist, Emily Leeming

We met up with Dietitian Nutritionist, Emily Leeming to talk about why you can’t have health without a positive relationship with food, what exactly "gut-health" is and why it's okay to eat that cookie. 

1. Hi Emily, you beautiful human! Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

 Hi there! I’m a virtual dietitian, feminist, plant-lover, anxiety-suffer and general life enthusiast.

2. We’ve seen you mention “food peace”. What does this mean?

 So often I see clients struggling with feelings of guilt and anxiety around certain foods. Often they’ll categorise foods as ‘good’, or ‘bad’ and they’ll have this mental backlash after eating ‘bad’ foods. The stress of this backlash can be really detrimental for our health. The stress of eating a cookie is worse for our health than the cookie itself! What’s important is the overall picture of your diet in the long run, eating that cookie isn’t really significant. So when we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat all foods without judgement, that’s when we make peace with food. And it’s when we make peace with those ‘bad’ foods, that we stop feeling batshit crazy out of control around them. It’s part of stopping the restrict-binge cycle as well – and putting your body in charge of what it needs. It’s an element of intuitive eating, which is the approach I use to help clients improve their health and their relationship with food.
3. What is “Gut Health”?
In a nutshell, gut health tends to encompass different gut issues like IBS, coeliac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease but it’s used a lot at the moment in reference to the gut microbiota. The gut microbiota, or gut microbiome, is a collection of bacteria, yeast and viruses that live in our lower intestine. They’ve been suggested to be the ‘second brain’, with lots of new exciting research linking
it with our immune system, different health and disease states and even our mood! Definitely watch this space. I’ve actually just started a PhD investigating how our food choices effect the gut microbiota.
4. Why do you mention that you are “anti-diet”?

 

There’s so much pressure to change our bodies, to look a certain way. The diet industry is worth billions of dollars worldwide, and they’re selling the perfect product really. When else will customers’ buy into their product, watch it fail, blame themselves for the failure, and still come back for more? There isn’t one randomized control trial in the scientific literature that shows that 95% of people can keep the weight they’ve lost off in the long-term. In fact, the act of dieting itself, is a predictor of weight gain. Our bodies aren’t able to understand that by going on a diet we’re wanting to lose weight. All it knows is that it’s in famine – which means it’ll try and do anything to preserve its weight by slowing your metabolism right down. Biology kicks in to override your willpower, so that you will ‘fall off the bandwagon’, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s self-preservation at its finest. Anti-diet means anti – striving for weight-loss. Instead I move the focus away from weight, and look at other health behaviours like nutrition, movement (for joy), stress and sleep. I also do a lot of body image work – 70% of women in the UK are unhappy with how they look. That’s the real issue here. It shouldn’t be about changing our body to fit some impossible ideal promoted by the diet and advertising industry, but feeling good in our bones, in the skin we’re in. Rocking our here-and-now body.

5. Do you believe what we eat can affect our sleep and sleeping patterns?

Everyone is unique, so it depends on that person. I find stress can hugely impact on people’s sleep, so I like to look at different ways to help people wind down that aren’t always food related. There’s some evidence around the calming properties of lavender oil and orange essence oil that can be helpful for some. Limiting screen-time before bed, and doing some form of movement in the day can also improve sleep quality. Mindfulness is a really powerful tool, even 10 minutes a day.  

6. Help us out in the kitchen. What is your absolute favorite meal to cook?

 I don’t think I have one favourite meal…that’s a tough one! It depends on what I feel like eating, what’s going to truly satiate me in that moment. Can be anything from a goat’s cheese salad with seeded sourdough, to a freshly baked doughnut – though I’ll get that from a bakery. I love cooking big feasts for friends to come around with a mish-mash of different bits and bobs so that everyone can have a bit of what they fancy.

7. Any last words of wisdom for us?

Listen to your body, schedule time to relax and do the things you love. And if you need any help, please reach out to a professional. Life is too short to struggle through symptoms on your own.

Emily is available for 1:1 online coaching. You can find more details on her instagram @f.o.o.d.c.u.e website: www.foodcue.co.uk email inquiries: hello@foodcue.co.uk