Karen is an experienced Nutritional Therapist; her training has educated her to use a scientific and functional medicine approach.
She is conscientious and highly focused with a flexible and adaptable approach to her clients.
She is highly qualified and has extensive knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for helping others and improving their wellbeing through diet and lifestyle.
Particular interests are stress management, endocrine disharmony and employee wellbeing.
I am so very grateful for Karen's passion, for it has pushed me to be a more conscientious practitioner, to always be able to prove my point with current research, and be better organised; and for sharing her own personal views on stress and how it can affect your life, as it did hers.
1. Before you became a nutritionist you were working in a very demanding environment, working long hours and little time to eat – seating down in front of a healthy home cooked meal not reality. Were you at the time aware you were under loads of stress, as much physical as emotional? Did you, at any time, experience stress-related symptoms due to stress?
Before I was a Nutritional Therapist I ran three pubs, 1 in East London and 2 in Cornwall after 5 yrs of working 100hr weeks, I moved across the world and ran a 160 seater restaurant in Perth Western Australia. I came back to the UK, started an office role alongside studying for my Diploma and Bachelors Degree in Nutritional Science. Initially I had no idea what I was doing to my body until I became friends with a few australians who had a lot more understanding of work/life balance. Once I started to study I became very aware what I had done but still in a stressful situation juggling work and study with little life balance.
My realisation came when I suffered adrenal fatigue in 2009, I felt as if I was trying to walk through treacle just to do normal tasks. The worst day was when I was trying to get out of bed, my head moved but the rest of my body didn’t, that day it took about 30 mins just to get out of the bed.
I also realised that stressing about the small stuff really does you no favours at all, hence why I’m quite chilled now!
2. The human body being so resilient – an unbelievable "machine" capable to adapt for the sake of survival –, you have experienced head first Adrenal Fatigue. Despite signs of fatigue showing, you still kept on pushing. You then reached a point of no return: Adrenal Exhaustion. Was this condition diagnosed by a medical doctor? What was the allopathic treatment offered? How long did it take you to recover?
By then I was at college and I decided to see a Naturopath. She asked me to do an adrenal stress test - the results are commonly known as flat line, i.e. next too no cortisol in the morning and little throughout the day.
I didn’t bother with the GP. It took about 1 year to feel normal and another to fully recover thanks to her and other practitioners I saw.
3. Today you are now a qualified Nutritionist. Was this change of carrier the result of years of struggle to reach optimum health?
I wanted to change career when I returned from Australia, I didn’t want to go back working 80-100 hour weeks and Nutritional Therapy was an area I had started to get to know so I enrolled at CNM and my life has changed slowly but surely since that moment of the first lecture.
My health is much better now but I still have to be careful.
4. Are you relieved now that you have many tools at hand allowing you to understand and listen to your body and help other people do so?
I have a lot more knowledge regarding what I should do and what I can do, I am much more in tune with my body and have reaped the benefits, but I am a human and occasionally I do slip up.
5. What advise would you give to people whom just keep on going, despite all the signs showing that their body is just barely coping? What would be the usual signs to look for? Would reaching for stimulants (e.g. caffeine, sugary snacks) be a sign?
I would ask yourself what is driving you to keep going, if you keep going will you be able to continue and if not recheck your goal(s), are they really unachievable (or have they changed) therefore are you harming yourself for nothing.
I would make a list of foods eaten, if they are bland, brown or white you are eating too many refined foods and therefore sugar. If your regime includes lots of colour and the odd amount of sugar gets in thats okay. But the sign really comes when you have what I call “food amnesia”. Many people forget that have consumed chocolate, cakes etc and only remember their meals, its then when you really have to take stock and look at why you are using foods.
6. It seems that you are able to deal with stress very easily, in a way that you can actually choose not to ‘bother’ if necessary. What would be your personal tip(s) to help people recognise that they may (or their body) be under stress; how to deal with stress, find balance, and reach a healthy state?
First of all you really want to ask yourself do I want to continue this way, once you can answer no this is a big step.
Secondly define what or how you will know you are healthy - I ask this question because everybody is different and my healthy is different to a body builder or a mum.
Write down what you are eating and be truthful about it, if you don’t see rainbow colour’s then your probably using sugar and stimulants to get you through the day.
Re-evaluate what is worth stressing about and what isn’t. (i know, I can hear you!, much easier to say than do)
If in doubt go and see a Nutritional Therapist who can give you many more tips and information about eating.
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Olivier is a Michelin-Star trained chef, also a student in Nutrition and Naturopathy, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating. He should graduate July 2016.