Background and Experience
I qualified as a doctor in 1999, having graduated from Cambridge University, England, and Queen’s University, Belfast. From 2000 until 2015 I worked in paediatric medicine in Northern Ireland, obtaining further qualifications in paediatrics and becoming a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. In 2011 I became a consultant paediatrician and developed an interest in paediatric allergy. However, in 2010 I also began to develop an interest in how diet and lifestyle factors contribute to health and disease patterns. This gradually converted into a more holistic approach to care, and I became less reliant on the use of medications in the management of chronic conditions.
I applied some of the principles from diet and lifestyle medicine to my own and my patients’ health at a time when no other paediatricians were interested in this approach in Northern Ireland. Often this resulted in unexpectedly good results. There were however some limitations in applying this approach in an NHS setting, particularly in relation to time constraints imposed by clinic time slots, not being able to follow up patients as frequently as I would have liked, and it was sometimes very difficult to convince patients and their parents to embark on making changes.
Despite this I was often impressed, and quite frankly amazed, that so many families were motivated to seek out and adopt dietary and lifestyle changes, and then to implement them with only a little guidance from me. However, the successful families needed to go on a quest to discover the majority of the information on their own, buying books and searching for useful articles on the internet. They also had to make changes on their own with only basic pointers from me. If this strikes you as being a bit of an undertaking and really rather daunting you would be correct. So I was always thrilled whenever families were able to implement changes and then reap the rewards in terms of improved health, energy and weight management.
Having said this, I am certain that the support of a good Health Coach and Nutritionist would have made this process considerably easier and less stressful, and would have increased the success rates for families who struggled to make dietary and lifestyle changes. If Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaches had been available on the NHS they could have offered important supports to those families who struggled because of difficulty understanding exactly what I wanted them to do, or because they were put off initiating changes that appeared too daunting or were perceived to result in deprivation, or because they simply could not identify adequate reasons to change and so were not motivated.
Training in coaching recognises that change is difficult, and focuses on identifying ways to motivate and support clients. Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaches act as an ally in helping people achieve optimum health and wellness.
My own personal struggles with illness meant that I had to step away from paediatrics in 2015 and reevaluate how I could regain a healthy work-life balance. My interest in the power of diet and lifestyle as a means to help optimise the health and wellness of individuals, families, communities and even at a national level spurred me to study Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching at an institution with similar philosophies to my own. An institute where scientific evidence underpins teaching, Functional Medicine and Health and Wellness Coaching principles are used, and where accredited qualifications are offered. I have been awarded the Crossfields Institute UK Level 4 Diploma in Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching, which is regulated by Ofqual, having studied at the internationally recognised Institute of Health Sciences, Dublin.
Why the phoenix?
Why is there a tree incorporated in the logo?
The tree symbolises enduring strength and protection. Ancient trees stand tall and witness the passage of time, trends and even civilisations. With its roots anchoring it deep into the earth, the tree lifts its leaves to the heavens. It symbolises nurturing and vitality with its leaves releasing life-giving oxygen, and it can produce fruits or nuts which nourish. Trees also symbolise recovery from illness. A single tree can provide shelter and food for a community of animals, while a forest can support an ecosystem.
Why The Food Phoenix?
Having passed through trials and experienced loss and sacrifice myself, the mysticism of the phoenix resonated with me. When I experienced challenges regarding my own health I was able to improve things to an extent through dietary and lifestyle changes. I was able to greatly improve my acne, reduce the visibility of stretch marks, improve digestive symptoms, manage anxiety and depression, improve pain in lots of places including headaches, joint and muscle pains, have a much more normal menstrual cycle and manage my weight. Previously I had used medications for many of these problems, but this felt like it was putting a band-aid on things to hide them, and never really got to the root cause. I was pretty shocked when diet, lifestyle and supplements could improve symptoms more effectively than the medications I had taken for years.
However, eventually I was to discover that my health challenges were mostly related to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a genetic condition for which there is no cure. Heavy metal poisoning from gadolinium and other toxic elements also did not help matters. I had made paediatrics my career and life, but had to face the fact that the job that I loved also contributed to my ill health in many ways. I tried every way I could imagine to claw my way back towards health, but with great sadness I realised that that part of my life was over.
Fortunately I had the support of family and friends and a renewed desire to find solutions not just for myself, but others in similar situations. I dedicated myself to learning more about health, wellness, nutrition and lifestyle, and now, forged by adversity, I feel ready to reemerge and begin a new chapter.
Food was the first step on my journey of discovery, but is only one element necessary for living a vibrant and healthy life. Lifestyle aspects, such as stress management, exercise, sleep and being part of a community, are also important and, for some people, arguably more so. But I enjoy the onomatopoeia of the Food Phoenix, so that is who I have become.