How my nutrition changed when I moved to the UK

Map on the United Kingdom with a suitcase with the Union Jack placed over it

As you probably know, I moved back to the UK around October, which means I’ve now been here for about 6 months now! Time flies when you’re looking for a place to live, starting up your business again and getting used to a new life!

Anyway, now that I’m settled in and the clinic is up and running smoothly, I think I should use this opportunity to stop and reflect on some of the things that have changed in my life.  And sure the transition has been a whole roller coaster, but I want to focus in on what matters most to me – health! These are things that I noticed in retrospect, which I believe are factors which affected my health, but could be affecting your health too…

I moved over from the middle east, where it’s hot, and the food traditions are very different indeed! It’s certainly been interesting to try and put my finger on some of the things that happened when I got here.

1. I stopped drinking water

I’m used to drinking a minimum of 2 litres of water daily. As I said, middle east is hot, and dehydration is not fun. I normally have a minimum of two litres of water every single day, and that’s not including all the tea I drink or any of the fluids I get through fruit and vegetables.

The cold weather really affected my thirst and suddenly I found myself struggling to drink, and it could become the afternoon without me finishing a glass of water. This is honestly unheard of for me. I started noticing that I was feeling weaker, got dizzy often, and had this general sense of discomfort in my body.

I had to start setting goals for myself: drink this much water with breakfast. Must finish 4 pint glasses of water by dinner. Make sure you don’t go out for a long period of time without taking a bottle of water.

These small changes led to huge difference in how I felt.

I talk a lot about the importance of drinking water, and how even very slight levels of dehydration affect our brains, and getting to see live how I was able to feel more motivated and focused when I got myself drinking again has been pretty eye opening for me.I always spoke about it in theory, and now I can in practice too. Drinking more water is vital for vibrant health.

2. I stopped eating fresh vegetables

Normally, my lunch would consist of a large, freshly cut salad, sometimes along some source of fat or protein (like avocado or tahini, maybe an egg or some cheese). When I got here, and I was so cold, the first thing that changed was my desire to have a freshly cut salad, it appeared heaps less appealing to me all of a sudden.

And as I switched to having cooked lunches, I found that I no longer had room for salads, I wasn’t quite sure how to make them work. I was eating a lot less vegetables. Sure, there were still some veggies in my meals, but I went from probably 10 a day to half that much – that’s a big difference.

Not only did my digestive system feel the difference, but also I fully felt the loss of all the vibrant colours on my plate! I know to some of you this may sound odd, but I believe the colours make us happy. I know my grandma who was a painter instilled in me the love of a beautiful plate, she’d never have let me serve up something monochrome. She was a wise lady!

It took me a while to learn how to properly enjoy a side salad, and how to make sure that I get enough of a variety of vegetables on every plate I serve, and I’m doing much better with this now, though there’s still room for improvement.

3. I was a lot hungrier than I’m used to

As I mentioned, the cold weather hit me hard… And my body required a lot more energy to sustain my body temperature. That meant that my appetite went up significantly, and from being the person who eats very frequent very small portions, suddenly I was eating what felt like huge portions.

It took time for me to learn how to create a new balance in my macro-nutrients, to provide my body with everything it needed in order to stay happy and energetic, and not find myself shivering while everyone around me looks at me a little funny.

I needed to increase my intake of healthy fats – these offer the body with slow burning energy, so I added nuts and seeds to my granola, I also added at least half an avocado a day. I focused on protein on a daily basis, adding beans and lentils every day, and even slightly increasing my intake of eggs and yoghurt. I made sure I was eating slow burning complex carbohydrates like oats and whole grains, and focused on using herbs and spices to keep me warm like ginger and chilli peppers.

4. My snacks got worse

This was the toughest one for me to admit to! I have never objected to eating biscuits – as all my patients know, but I found that all I was snacking on were these chocolate covered biscuits! SO yummy, but not really helpful from a health point of view. I went from snacking on fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, dark chocolate and biscuits, to literally just biscuits.

Not great! It took me a while to get used to the fact that fruit here tastes a little different, and that I couldn’t find my favourite seasonal fruit. Also I admit to maybe being a little fussy, and not loving having to buy the majority of my produce wrapped and not getting to pick the ones I want. I couldn’t find an equivalent to the dark chocolate with nuts that I was used to enjoying when I wanted something sweet – so I switched to dairy chocolate which has significantly more sugar and less nutrition.

I think I’m better now, and I’ve set up a fruit bowl on the table that’s constantly stacked with my favourites. I discovered that the fact that I could get nectarines here even though it’s winter helped A LOT! And I’m back to having a relatively wide variety of fruit on a regular basis, which helps me feel a lot better.

I still have to figure out where to get fresh nuts as the ones I’ve found so far are a lot less fresh than I’m used to but I’m sure I’ll get there too.

Now I’ve reintroduced a healthy nutrition plan, with fruit, vegetables, water and healthy snacking…

I’m back to feeling as healthy as I was before I moved, which is great news for me! I hope that this pretty steep learning curb also means I am far better prepared to manage some of the health struggles around here. From the patients I’ve got here I’m leaning more every day, and I love being able to take some of the habits I learned in my time living in different countries to help bring new insights into how and why we act, eat, and live the way we do.

I still have to learn how to exercise more regularly in the cold – though I have started running again along the beach which honestly makes me so happy, and I only have people laughing at me occasionally for how freezing I look WHILE RUNNING now, which is an improvement!

If you’re also struggling with identifying the habits which require adjusting in order to get you back to your ideal health, do contact me and let’s work it out together!

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