A couple of weeks ago I had an appointment with nutritionist Caroline Farrell. It was so inspiring and full of useful information that I asked Caroline to share her wisdom on here as part of my Meet the Experts section. If you have any concerns re nutrition or would like great, unbiased advice that never uses the word 'diet', Caroline is your woman. (Also: great name.)
How did you end up as a nutritionist? Was it something you always wanted to do and therefore a straightforward path? Or something you discovered you loved almost by accident?
I have always been fascinated by the effect the food we eat can have on our health. However, the key turning point for me was in my early twenties when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol. Having lost my Dad to heart disease at a young age, I was acutely aware of the risks. I was advised that I would need to take medication for the rest of my life. However, I was keen to find an alternative. So, I developed my own nutrition programme aimed at lowering my cholesterol naturally. After just six weeks my cholesterol was back to normal. This reinforced my belief in the power of nutrition. I wanted to share this experience with others. I took the decision to quit my marketing career and retrain as a nutritionist.
I receive a lot of queries about training – some of them seem to be asking for the quickest route to a qualification. Where did you train and how important do you think the basic level of training is?
I did a 3 year Nutritional Therapy Foundation Degree at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. I chose this course as it is internationally renowned as the market-leading course for Nutritional Therapists. It was also the first course of its kind to be fully accredited by the Nutritional Therapy Council.
The training provided me with practical clinic skills. It also taught me to understand and evaluate scientific literature so that I can make effective evidence-based recommendations.
Which do you think is more valuable? Experience or training?
While training is essential, I feel my clients are my best teachers. Through working with them I learn what is practical and effective. I also regularly attend seminars and lectures to ensure my knowledge is kept up to date, and to meet continuing professional development requirements.
What is your favourite part of what you do?
Nutrition is all about giving your body the tools to enable it to heal itself. This is much more effective and sustainable than simply addressing your symptoms. I am still amazed by the difference it can make – clear skin, successful pregnancies, weight loss, improved energy and lots more. The most rewarding parts of the job for me are the success stories where I have made a real difference to someone’s life.
What would you recommend to anyone trying to break into the industry?
To succeed you need to be very passionate about food and nutrition. You also need to have a genuine desire to help others. Make sure you chose a course that is accredited by the Nutritional Therapy Council. Be prepared for hard work and study. It’s a tough course and building up a successful practice takes time and commitment. However, I can honestly say there that I have never regretted my decision to change career. There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing!
What are your Top 3 tips for healthy living?
1) Eat real food. This means eating food that is as close to nature as possible – butter over margarine, sugar over artificial sweeteners, whole grains over refined carbohydrates.
2) Ditch the diet foods. We've become a fat-phobic society. This has led us to opt for low-calorie foods, which are often filled with hidden sugars. These sugars are one of the key causes of weight gain and diabetes.
3) Enjoy your food. I tell my clients to adopt the 80:20 rule. Eat healthy foods 80% of the time, and allow yourself to indulge in your favourite treats the other 20%.
And your favourite 3 supplements?
I prioritise food first but there are often instances where supplementation is beneficial. The three supplements I most often recommend are Vitamin D3, Omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics.
1) Vitamin D3. Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D in the winter. This is because vitamin D is synthesised in our skin on exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D has been shown to protect against several chronic diseases including cancer, depression, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, and skin conditions.
2) Omega 3 fatty acids. Good levels are critical for glowing skin, a healthy metabolism and overall health. However, it is hard to achieve optimal levels purely through our diet.
3) Probiotics. Our bodies are inhabited by a kilo of healthy bacteria. These bacteria can be depleted by diarrhoea, antibiotics or a high-sugar diet. This allows bad bacteria to take over, promoting bloating and digestive problems. You can boost your levels of healthy bacteria by taking a probiotic.
More information on consultations with Caroline can be found at Essential Nutrition.co.uk.
I highly, highly recommend her.
Caroline has very kindly offered one reader the chance to win a Skype consultation with her in 2014. To enter, simply leave a comment below. This is open internationally due to the fabulous nature of Skype. :)
Appointment must be taken between Jan-Jun 2014. Giveaway closes 3pm on 5th December.