London-based nutritionist Tabitha Roth works with clients to tailor diet and
Wallpaper*: What advice do you have for people looking to create a healthy summer diet plan?
Tabitha Roth: Do not listen to anyone who encourages you to go on a strict diet that is difficult to follow, or says you need to go on the latest fad diet. My advice if you feel you need to lose weight but want to do it in a healthy and sustainable way is to go and see a registered nutritional therapist. It is worth seeing a professional for a short amount of time rather than perpetually getting stuck in the dieting cycle. Food should never be anything but enjoyable and something to value.
W*: Which foods do you recommend keeping stocked in the kitchen throughout summer? Any foods to avoid?
TR: Keeping your pantry stocked is incredibly important for keeping your daily food intake as nourishing and supportive as possible. Tinned legumes such as lentils and chickpeas can be quickly thrown into meals which are lacking a protein source; nuts and steel-cut oats can be quickly put together for a fibre and protein-rich breakfast or snack; tinned soups [are good] for quick meals when there is nothing else to grab; and a tub or jar of nut butter is my go-to protein source to keep my blood sugar stable when [it comes to] snacks and breakfast.
Don’t forget to use your freezer, make a little more dinner, and freeze some for a quick meal when you don’t feel like cooking. Store vegetables such as spinach, kale, peas, etc, so that you can quickly add more nutrients to your meals.
W*: What are the biggest nutritional or summer diet mistakes you see people making?
TR: Counting calories. We are not a perfect calorie machine – we all need different amounts of energy to keep our weight stable and this also varies from day to day. It depends on our age, height, weight, gender, lifestyle, and many other factors – even if two people were the exact same height, weight, and age they may have different calorie needs. Calories are not a perfect measurement system, and calories from different sources do not always behave the same way inside the body. Calories from fat are used completely differently to those from protein or carbohydrates, and we need all of them in our diets. It is more successful to focus on balancing our blood sugar during the day.
Another common mistake is replacing full-fat products with low-fat products. Low-fat products tend to be less flavourful, so often have higher levels of sugar to improve their taste, but without having the protective fat content for stabilising our blood sugar, this may lead to weight gain. Full-fat leaves us feeling fuller longer and, if it has fewer added sugars, is usually the better option.
W*: Do you have any advice for avoiding negative or obsessive thoughts about losing weight around this season?
TR: Restriction in any form is the biggest mistake we can make when it comes to trying to lose weight. I often point to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment conducted by Ancel Keys [in 1944] to understand why. When we restrict food, either by ignoring our hunger levels and limiting how much we eat or by restricting or making certain foods ‘off limits’, this can lead to a preoccupation with food, binge eating, shame, and guilt. Just imagine telling a child that they cannot play with a certain toy; that toy will become the only one they want to play with – the same goes for adults.
Fad diets that restrict foods, juice cleanses, and significantly reducing our food intake can all lead to obsessive and negative thoughts and keep us in the cycle of dieting: restrictive diet; break the rules and regain the weight; feelings of guilt and disgust of your body; try another diet. Even people that appear to be in a healthy weight range can still experience a negative relationship with food long after they stop these restrictive diets.
We are letting a multimillion-dollar industry tell us that ‘this one diet works’ and that anyone can do it if they ‘have the right willpower’ – when the research proves this is not the case. A recent poll of 2,000 participants found the average person will embark on at least two fad diets a year. In truth, the evidence tells us that these fad diets fundamentally don’t work, people on average ditch their new diet by around day six, and most people gain back more weight than before they put themselves on the diet.
I encourage my clients to allow all foods, nourish their body, and don’t starve themselves. It doesn’t have to hurt to work.
One tip for allowing all food is to focus on blood sugar balance. For example, incorporating some protein with higher glucose foods can significantly reduce a spike in glucose and ultimately lead to protection against weight gain as there is a reduction in the secretion of the fat-storing hormone insulin. An example of this is by having dessert at the end of a high protein meal or adding nut butter on top of your favourite chocolate bar.
W*: Can nutrition help with any of the skin issues people often experience during summer – sunburn, acne from sweat- and sunscreen-clogged pores, increased dryness? If so, how?
TR: While there is no one cure-all for skin issues, nutrient deficiencies can cause imbalances that contribute to skin issues. A simple trick to remember is that each colour you see on your plate represents a different type of nutrient. Orange, like in carrots, represents beta-carotene and vitamin C; purple in cabbage and red in tomatoes represents anthocyanins and resveratrol; green foods contain folate, vitamin K, folic acid, potassium and more. It is important to eat a rainbow of foods to increase the variety of nutrients you are eating. We want to add to your diet, not take away. For specific conditions like acne and dryness, these can have deeper root causes and are best discussed with a registered nutritional therapist who can help get to the bottom of it. And wear sunscreen!
W*: Beyond a summer diet, any other recommendations for staying healthy this season?
Get outside. Studies have shown that forest bathing, or being in nature and connecting to your surroundings can significantly reduce your stress levels. It can kickstart your parasympathetic nervous system, allowing your stress hormone cortisol to drop, which may help to improve your essential involuntary processes, such as digestion. So get out and enjoy your summer!