Happy Monday friends! After what has been the craziest 'snow week' here in London, I'm looking forward to being able to hop on a train tomorrow and actually be able to commute to class tomorrow. I'm currently halfway through a module focused on molecular nutrition, and will be learning a bit more about epigenetics, bioinformatics, the role of molecular nutrition in relation to health and disease. Even though I'm learning a whole lot in this MSc course, I often feel like I haven't got a clue what I'm doing! But hey, we all learn as we go.
Anyway, I'm getting distracted here. It's been a couple of months since I last shared a #gamechangers post here on Taste & See, but I have quite a few fun and exciting posts that'll be coming up in the near future, starting off with this one. I'd like to introduce you to one of my classmates, and an absolute gem of a person. She is super smart, enthusiastic about health and nutrition, and eager to help others find joy in their relationship with food and their body. Without further ado, I'd like you to meet Emma...
So, can you tell us a bit about who you are?
My name is Emma (potentially obvious by now!), I am 23 and I am currently living at home in Surrey whilst I am at uni. I am English born and bred but I lived in Chicago from the age of 11 until I was 19 so I can be a bit of a hybrid at times! I am the creator of Essentially Emma and I have been blogging there and instagramming since July of 2017.
What was the catalyst for your personal journey with food, health, and finding healing through more natural means?
That is quite a complicated one for me, I was a gymnast growing up and so I was always very aware of my body and what I was eating - leotards are possibly the worst thing to make a girl wear while she is going through puberty. I had issues with my appearance from a young age and I remember counting calories around the age of 14. I also had set rules about what “good” and “bad” foods were from a young age. Things went downhill when I started university as I suddenly had complete control over what I ate. That, combined with the high-stress environment and a rigorous training schedule on the cheerleading team quickly led to me intensively restricting my eating. I went through periods of eating 1000 kcal a day, periods of counting my macros and periods of just “clean eating”.
At the time I thought I was just being healthy but looking back I realise how damaged and obsessive my relationship with food and my body was. I have always been petite (I am 5’1”) but I went through cycles of being very thin and having no energy whatsoever. My skin was all over the place, as were my hormones and so I finally started to truly learn about nutrition and that led to me picking nutrition as a career path. I already knew a fair bit, but I started immersing myself in books, podcasts and reading online and realised that nutrition and eating to nourish, not restrict was the way forward. I started healing from there and I am happy to say that for the most part I now have a very positive relationship with food.
How have you got to where you are today in your career/studies?
I have always loved science and known that I wanted to work in healthcare as I am a massive people person and I just love to chat, as you can see from that essay above! I originally wanted to study medicine and become an obstetrician but after doing some work experience I realised it wasn’t for me. So I went to the University of Bristol and studied human physiology, just knowing that I wanted to learn about the human body. It was the beginning of my third year of uni that I had the turning point mentioned above and I decided to become a nutritionist. I quickly applied and was accepted on to a master’s degree course at the University of Surrey for human nutrition which I am due to finish in September this year. At the end of that I will be a registered associate nutritionist (aNutr). Career-wise, my blog has been an amazing way to promote myself and gain a few freelance roles and I also did an internship with a healthy food startup last summer that was invaluable.
Has your journey to where you are today inspired you to do anything you never thought you’d be brave enough to do?
Start a blog!! I wanted to start Essentially Emma for a couple of years before I finally did but I was nervous that people would judge me and my struggles with food had been mostly private at that point. All I can say is I am so happy I did and I wish I had done it years ago!
How do you approach nutrition and wellness? And how has that approach changed over time?
As I mentioned earlier, I used to think that being healthy was restricting yourself and eating as clean as possible. I realise now how wrong that is, I truly think it is about balance and incorporating the things you love. Food is such a joy and is a social bond for me so I think it is about cooking delicious, nutrient-packed food and sharing it with others. Filling yourself with lots of nutritious food rather than restricting!
What are your top tips for staying healthy?
Physically: Moving in a way that you enjoy. I used to punish myself in the gym but that is so not healthy! Any movement is beneficial so just find something you love and do it when you truly want to do it, not when you feel like you should. For me that is pilates.
Emotionally: Surrounding yourself with people and content that inspire you, rather than making you feel jealous or self-conscious. A support network and you being willing to talk to people about your problems is key.
Mentally: Self-care is where it is at. I spend at least an hour a day doing things that I love and not focusing on work or school and that keeps me sane.
What is your favourite go-to meal after a busy day?
That would definitely have to be sitting down to a cozy meal such as a big bowl of pasta of some sort, I am all about the comfort food! My Kale & Brazil nut pesto sauce with some pappardelle, topped with roasted peppers and tomatoes is just perfect. Indulgent, but still packed with nutrients! Another comfort food favourite is my Buckwheat Banana Bread, a slice of this warm with peanut butter will relax me instantly.
What is your favourite thing to do to wind down and relax?
I love doing pilates classes in the evening, they are such a lovely combo of exercise, stretching and relaxation. My other favourite is to put a face mask on, sit in the bath and read a book and then hop into bed with some fresh sheets and pyjamas – this is my routine every Sunday evening and it leaves me feeling so refreshed.
What can we expect from Essentially Emma in future?
Hopefully lots of exciting things! I qualify as a registered associate nutritionist in September so I am planning to set up my own private practice and turn Essentially Emma into a full business. I can’t wait to start seeing clients and I will be using an intuitive eating approach with no restriction or guilt in sight, so I hope to really make a difference to some people’s relationships with food. I also hope to continue blogging and I am planning to start putting out some recipe videos to change things up a bit so keep your eyes peeled!
Where you can find Emma: