First of all, can you tell us a little about you and your specialist areas?

I am 54 and live in a small village in Kent.  I divide my working life between London and Kent.  I see clients via Skype or Zoom, particularly over the last few months, but I always prefer to see clients face to face to get a real feel for where they are at.

My priorities in life are my family. I take the roles of wife, mother, grandmother and sister very seriously. These roles represent the most important people in my world and their welfare and happiness are key to how I function at my best.  Professionally I qualified as a counsellor over 20 years ago, but I found some of the constraints of what that entailed very limiting.  I always felt that if a client came to me they should leave with an action plan.  I wanted to be able to give them the tools to get themselves from A to B.  I couldn’t relate to just listening with the occasional “how does that make you feel?” approach.  I found myself more comfortable in more of a coaching role. 

I came to nutrition late in life. I had always had an interest but took that further and qualified in 2016.  All three roles, counsellor, coach and nutritionist combine into supporting clients to become the best version of themselves. I look at the whole picture and normally find the most successful outcomes are via a multi-faceted approach. I’m passionate about helping build confidence and self-esteem. To me, to see this happen, is my greatest achievement.

I am particularly interested in mental health, gut health, inflammation and menopause. 

What can we expect with a nutritional consultation?

When I first meet a new client for a consultation, it’s about developing a working relationship where there is a genuine connection between myself and that client. With nutrition there is ‘no one size fits all’. Everyone is different.  It’s essential that I achieve a clear picture of their health history, medical issues and lifestyle.  I need to know what they eat and what factors affect their eating.  We also discuss what they are looking to achieve by working with me.  Some clients see me for just one consultation but most usually work with me for a longer period.

What is the relationship between nutrition and our overall general health and wellbeing?

It sounds very clichéd but to a certain extent ‘you are what you eat’. 

Good Nutrition is one of the most important contributors to human health.  In addition to managing blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, a nutritious and balanced diet can help prevent and manage many diseases.  I know from personal experience just how all aspects of my life can be affected by what I put into my body. I can feel my energy levels decrease rapidly if I have eaten something that contains hidden sugars that I am not aware of.  It feels a bit like putting diesel in a petrol engine!

Are there certain foods or food groups that we should all definitely avoid?

There is a lot of talk about removing entire food groups from what we eat. Obviously someone with a medical condition, for example coeliac disease where there is a reaction to gluten, removal of food groups is necessary.  I encourage getting a balance in what we eat so removing an entire food group can feel very restrictive.   Personally, I keep sugar to a minimum in my diet and that of my family.

We read so much more now about good and bad bacteria in our gut – can you explain a little about what this means?

The term ‘gut microbiome’ refers specifically to the microorganisms living in the intestines.  There are between 300-500 different species of bacteria living in our digestive tract.  While some are harmful to our health, many are beneficial and necessary to keeping healthy.  Many facets of modern-day life, such as high stress levels, too little sleep, eating processed and high-sugar foods and taking antibiotics, can all damage our gut microbiome. To keep our guts healthy we should aim to lower our stress levels, get good sleep, eat slowly and stay hydrated.  Adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet is a good way to improve the health of your gut. Prebiotics provide the ‘food’ meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria.

Is there a link between what we eat and our mental health and wellbeing?

There is absolutely a link between what we eat and our mental health. I consider what I eat just as important for my mental health as it is for my physical health. In brief, the key is to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. When blood glucose rises and falls rapidly (spikes), it can have an impact on our mood, making you feel irritable, low and in some cases triggering anxiety.  Slow energy release foods like oats, nuts, seeds and protein snacks little and often will help. Fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 are essential for our brains to function efficiently. Healthy fats can be found in oily fish, poultry, avocados, nuts, seeds, dairy products and eggs.

A troubled gut will send signals to the brain just as a troubled brain will send signals to the gut!

What are some of the most effective methods we can use to make healthy lifestyle changes?

Nourish yourself! There is a big difference between being well fed and well nourished! Make getting good nights’ sleep a priority so practice good sleep hygiene. Move more – just try getting out for a walk, even if it is just 20 minutes a day.  Try to manage your stress – write down and list your worries; getting them out of your head and onto a piece of paper can really help. Reduce your alcohol intake – boring but it really does help. Most importantly take the opportunity to have a laugh with friends!

Can nutritional changes benefit women who are going through the menopause and alleviate some of the debilitating symptoms?

The fall in oestrogen levels during the menopause can really cause certain life limiting symptoms in some women.  Reducing refined carbohydrates and sugars along with saturated fat is always helpful, and making sure your diet is full of good quality protein, healthy fats, high fibre and wholegrain foods.  Nutritional supplements can be useful – vitamin D and Calcium in particular.

What advice would you give to midlife women who want to control their weight safely?

Diets do not work long term!  Weight is such a complex issue and everyone is individual so I would suggest removing all processed food, refined carbohydrates and sugars from your shopping trolley. Replace them with protein, good fats and plenty of vegetables.  Look at the labels on food products. You will be amazed the amount of hidden sugars in some of them.  Some form of exercise, even just a brisk walk, will help a great deal.

Can you tell us about Ketones – what they are and why it is important to understand them?

Exogenous ketones are amazing. They have changed my life!

 Ketones are produced by the liver when it breaks down fat.  Your body uses ketones for energy during periods of fasting, long periods of exercise or when you do not eat enough carbohydrates. Ketones force the body to change its energy source from burning sugar to burning fat.  The keto diet is currently the most googled diet on the internet. In my opinion it is harsh and unsustainable.  It can take days to reach ketosis and you can feel rough. There is no doubt that once you reach ketosis you feel great but one wrong food choice and you will be straight out of ketosis.  I was introduced to exogenous ketones about three months ago. They come in flavoured sachets and are bio-identical to the ketones your own body produces. Once taken, you get to a state of ketosis within 60 minutes. One drink a day has made a big difference to me and many of my clients.   I am full of energy, motivated, no brain fog, fully focused and I have no sweet cravings.  I have great sleep quality and I have lost body fat that had previously outsmarted any healthy nutrition plan.  This product has given some real relief to my clients who suffer menopause symptoms and works well in conditions where inflammation is an underlying issue. Although exogenous ketones are considered safe, I always suggest checking with a GP before using them, especially if you have an underlying health issue.

What is your personal approach? How do you take care of yourself?

Whatever I am doing, working or not, there are five products I take every day without fail – flaxseeds, bone broth, apple cider vinegar, turmeric and ketones. I try to walk for an hour every day. Walking is my ‘time out’ and I listen to podcasts or just let my mind chill. This time is key for my mental health. I have been known to get up at 5am to fit a walk into a busy day ahead. My family know better than to ask if they can walk with me!

Finally, what is your favourite quote?

I have a few but this one comes to mind: “Be good to yourself at least once a day”

Instagram: vanessa_lang_nutrition

Grace Fodor – PRO AGE warrior, Beauty Expert & Founder of Studio10. Passionate about challenging outdated stereotypes, anti-ageing and ageism to celebrate age. Providing education on how to apply makeup for older women.

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