Category Archives: Nutrition Education

Low Carb Diets

Today has been all about carbohydrates as a new study was published in the Lancet. I’ve spoken on ITV new  and Wave 105 radio about it and  video/audio clips are at the end.

So what’s the low down?  This is a controversial topic as low carb diets have become popular. I’m not against this, but I do think it needs to be properly thought through and planned out. Low carb diets are used by some dietitians clinically for diabetes control, weight loss and for some metabolic disorders. However there is a way to do it right. Let’s break the latest study down:

👉 This was an observational study and it used food frequency questionnaires, so not the best data as this is self reported after the event. It is easy to forget what you eat or under/over-estimate. However the study  was followed over 25 yrs  with over 15,000 people taking part.

👉 A U-shaped relationship was found with increased mortality on a high carb or low carb diet. Low carb being <30% calories coming from carbohydrates. High carb being >60% calories coming from carbohydrates.

👉Eating moderate carbs (50-55% of total calories) was shown to be best. This is what our UK guidlines are based on so we already advise this. 

👉 Swapping carbs for plant based fats and proteins has better outcomes compared to animal products. So if you reduce your carbs it does matter what you replace them with.

👉 This study didn’t look at the type of carbs eaten. We want to be eating #wholegrains and reducing refined carbs (unless you have a medical reason to eat a low fibre diet).

👉 Eating lower carb may help weight loss and with diabetic control but it’s all about balance. Not overdoing it and taking all carbs out. Choose sensible sized portions of wholegrain carbs with meals.

👉 Everyone is individual. If you are more active you may need more carbs. If you are recovering from an eating disorder you may need more carbs. If you on a special diet you may need less carbs. If any of that applies to you then seek advice from a #Dietitan or #registerednutritionist.

One big issue that comes out of all of this is we keep on focusing on individual nutrients. It is not helpful to break food down and count the grams you are eating or the calories from each nutrient and could be triggering for an eating disorder. Food is complex, it is made up of many nutrients some of which we can’t even give a precise measure of. So once again we come back to common sense nutrition, eating sensible portions of balanced meals and listening to your internal cues of hunger/fullness.

 

Foods for Gut Health

Gut issues are something that plague a lot, if not all of us at some stage of life. Whether it is travellers diarrhoea, a tummy bug, IBS or something more serious, our gut plays a key role in our overall health and it’s pretty complicated science. So here is a little overview of top gut health foods and some science that I think is pretty fascinating.

Gut-Brain Cross Talk 

We all know that our brain send signals to our guts. When you are hungry or about to eat, the brain sends signals so the gut can get ready and start the necessary secretions.

However the gut also has an impact on the brain and a control centre of it’s own.  This is known as a the Gut-brain axis. You will know that if you feel anxious or stressed it can have an impact on your tummy. You may feel this as butterflies or have an upset tummy before a job interview for example. Or have a gut feeling on something – this isn’t made up! Some people can be more sensitive to their guts than others, but in terms of health conditions there are some foods that we can eat to help our guts. 

Research has shown that stress, anxiety and disease states affect the balance of bacteria and microbes in the gut.  This could be an illness or something like a job stress or family event.  For some this will not be lasting, but for some it is. As an example my boy had a stomach bug and this led to lactose intolerance which is usually transient and passes after a few weeks, for him it has lasted but I hope as he grows older it will pass. 

Some people seem more resilient than others. Having a health gut microbiome could help with this, we don’t currently know but research is being conducted on this. It makes sense though that eating well is a logical step.

What is the Microbiome?

Microbiome – collect of bacteria, fungi, viruses and microbes plus their genetic material that are inside the intestines. The microbiome contains 10x more microbial cells than all the humans cells in the body. 

Good Gut Foods:

A top tip I heard recently from Dr Megan Rossi is to aim to eat 30 plant based foods a week. This includes wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. I counted mine up and I think I’m hitting 20 different types so have some work to do! If like me, you aren’t at the 30 mark then try adding in one new plant based food a week. Whenever you shop you could take a look at something different in the veggie aisle you don’t usually buy. I’ve started growing different veggies to make us used them and try new recipes. You want different colours and different types to get the range of prebiotics, fibres and antioxidants too. 

Fermented Foods:

I’ve been working on incorporating these into my own diet more as I’ve have a gut condition and when it is flared up it usually reminds me to attend to my gut microbiome. 

Foods that I try to make at home are live yoghurt, sometimes kefir and sourdough bread (if I am in a baking mood as it takes a while). Right now I’m in yoghurt mode. I heat the milk until I can just keep my finger in for 30 seconds. Then let it cool for a couple of minutes, stir in 3 tbsps of live yoghurt and leave it in a thermos flask (I have this one – but I don’t use their sachets) or somewhere warm for 8-12 hours. I like mine thick so leave it 12 hours.  I used to make yoghurt years ago as a student using a pyrex jug, leaving it covered with a tea cosy on the parcel shelf of my car in the sun! You can also buy Kefir in a lot of places and there are plenty of other fermented foods to try.

Fermented Foods
Kefir
Kombucha
Live yoghurt
Sauerkraut
Kimchi
Dry fermented sausage
Miso
Pickled foods

Probiotics:

Theses are the beneficial microbes that can help health benefits and alter your microbiome. They are known as  live cultures in foods. For example live yoghurt. Now whilst they can be bought as a supplement the problem is unless you know exactly which ones you need in your body you don’t know which ones to take. There is a probiotic guides that show the strains used in research studies that give benefits in different conditions, which can be useful when you need an idea of what to take, the amount and for how long. But we definitely need more research to enable us to be more specific. 

Prebiotics:

These are foods for the gut bacteria. Fibre, polyphenols and inulin being examples of the nutrients that help. There are loads of prebiotic foods and it is likely you are already eating some. They are the plant based foods – so increase these in your diet and you will be helping your gut. Examples include Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion, asparagus, legumes, leeks, bananas, apples, oats, barley, flaxseeds and even seaweed.

If you want to read a more in depth article that I have written for a nutrition magazine on this topic then do take a look here:

Issue 126 fermented foods IBS and microbiome

 

 

Eggs, a natural sleep aid?

There has been some chatter this week about eggs helping you sleep better. As a nation we are certainly not sleeping enough and not getting enough decent sleep. So can an egg help?

Personally I think eggs are amazing and underlooked. They are packed with nutrition in such a small space. Eggs are around 60-78kcals depending on their size. They are great protein source and also contain a whole range of micronutrients. With vitamin D to help top up those sunshine vitamin levels, Iron and zinc which specifically can be low in teenage girls and young women. Then B vitamins for energy release (we all need that). Thinking about brain development, pre-conception nutrition and pregnancy they contain folate, selenium and iodine too. So they are definitely something to be eating regularly, even daily.

Eggs are low in terms of glycaemic index so can help stabilise your blood sugars too. Back to the sleep. Eggs contain tryptophan which is an essential amino acid that acts as a natural sedative. The body can use it to make melatonin and serotonin, these aid our sleep.  The synthesis of serotonin from tryptophan derives from a two-step process with the rate of serotonin synthesis dependent on tryptophan concentrations in the brain. Because serotonin is involved in the regulation of mood and anxiety, eating eggs  may contribute to helping with anxiety and depression as well as sleep. 

Eating an egg along with carbohydrate help to decrease the other competing amino acids in the bloodstream due to the increase of insulin that occurs. So a great way to have your egg would be with a slice of wholemeal toast. 

Further Reading:

Eggs are good: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27126575

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-5993327/Dietitian-reveals-one-sleep-aid-eat-dinnertime-quality-shut-eye.html

A great review on diet and sleep: http://www.michaelgrandner.com/files/papers/grandnerjackson2013-dietsxs.pdf

 

 

Body Confidence for the next generation

I’m passionate about raising my kids to love their bodies, to be confident, body positive and to know how truly beautiful they are inside and out. 

A recent post I shared on facebook showed how many others are also passionate about this and how as parents we play such a major role in shaping our children’s thinking. It’s a hugely responsible role and probably not one I am going to get 100% right, but I’m going to try. 

As a child I was brought up knowing I was 100% capable. I believed in myself and knew I could do something if I set my mind to it and put the work in. That has stuck with me. So therefore how we talk about our bodies and our childrens bodies will also stick with them.

Little comments stick. Whether it is commenting on a body part or the way you talk about clothes no longer fitting it counts. I had the luxury of a loving set of parents who didn’t talk much about diets and bodies (thanks parentals – you rock). However still other influences from close family friends and family members meant I had some phrases that stuck with me and undoubtedly shaped some of my views on myself. I’ve shaken those off now. Getting older has it’s perks 😉 

So how should we be talking to our children? I’m no expert but here are my thoughts and those of my 7 year old – Miss K

  1. Always be positive about your body. If there are parts you are not keen on don’t make it into a big deal in front of your children. 
  2. Talk to your children about body sizes and shapes. How we are all different and that is ok. How it is health that counts and not looks. How there is no ideal body shape and that many toys are not real-life. (BTW Barbies are not welcome in my house we have Lottie dolls instead).
  3. I love the phrase radical acceptance. All people are accepted at the size and shaoe they are. Look beyond to see the actual person, their character, their postives, their dreams and encourage that,
  4. Keep away from diets, intense exercise for weight loss purposes and weight loss aids/supplements in front of children, they will pick up on these things.
  5. Try not to weigh people in your house – is it really needed? The scales do not show much apart from a number. That number is affected by some many factors other than just what we eat. I have scales for work purposes and the children do play with them now and again but there is no judgement, just genuine interest. 
  6. Focus on character and traits instead of physcial size/shape. Let your kids know what they are great at and how that is what defines them. 
  7. Role model a good relationship with food. All foods are allowed, there is no good/bad. If your and food need some work, then perhaps now is the time to seek out help with that. Someone like myself who can support you and take you on a journey to improve your relationship and show your kids a great way forward. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts too…

Childrens Yoghurts – how to choose a good one

Yoghurt is one of those confusing foods. You want your children to be eating it and getting in their calcium, but so often yoghurts can be laden with sugar. Personally I encourage my children to eat yoghurt daily, it is our go-to dessert after our evening meal. To help you, I’ve come up with a ranking of children’s yoghurts and give my verdict on those to have in the fridge everyday and those to leave for occasional consumption.

Why the confusion? Well firstly the choice is overwhelming. Walk down the yoghurt aisle and you are bombarded with brands, health claims, cartoon characters, pots, tubs, pouches. What should you choose and how do you know?

Let’s talk about sugar. Yoghurt contains lactose which is a naturally occuring sugar and not one children need to cut down on. However you cannot easily differentiate between these sugars and the added free sugars. A general rule of thumb is the first 5g per 100g of total sugars is lactose. The sugars to keep an eye on are the free sugars. These are any sugars added to food/drink. These could be written as sugar, honey, syrup, agave, fruit juice for example. If you look at a yoghurt label and it is 8.5g total sugars then you can estimate about 5g is lactose and so 3.5g is added sugars.

In this blog we are focusing on children. Children aged 4-6 should have no more than 19g free sugars a day and 7-10yrs no more than 24g free sugars a day. For children under 4 yrs there is no guideline figure, it’s just keeping added sugar low and avoiding it where possible.

Labelling reading:

You can rank a food as high/low in total sugar using this guide:

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So in the instance of Full Fat Greek Yoghurt you can see that there are actually no added sugars in this. The sugar in it is all coming from the lactose and there is no sugar mentioned in the ingredients list confirming our thoughts. 

Compared it to this children’s yoghurt which definitely has added sugar. The label shows it as 13.2g total sugars per 100g, so thats around 8.2g added sugars (almost half the recommended amount for a child aged 4-7yrs). The label confirms this showing is has added sugar and the raspberry juice is also added sugar.

So it definitely pays to look at the label when buying yoghurts. If you are comparing several yoghurts it is best to compare them per 100g, Scroll down to see a table with a range of common children’s yoghurt in that have the sugar content per 100g with a quick ranking  done for you.

My Top Picks:

  1. Greek Style Yoghurts or Greek Yoghurt. For growing children I would always pick a full fat option, I eat the full fat version myself in fact. It may seem boring compared to other choices but you can add your own toppings at home – low sugar granola, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, frozen berries,
  2. Natural Yoghurt is also a winner.
  3. Skyr is a low sugar yoghurt due to the way it is made, even the flavoured ones are low in sugar so these are good options if you want a flavoured yoghurt.

The Worst Offenders:

 Anything with chocolate, added crunch, pureed fruit and most of the squeezy pouches. This of course does not meant you cannot ever give these to your children but it is about the balance. I’m not in favour of cutting foods out or saying a blanket no. However I would recommend keeping these yoghurts as occasional choices. Think about where else they get added sugars from in their diet? Also check the portion size as some of these products are very large portions and you could halve them, thus halving the sugar too. In our house we keep diferent yoghurts as an occasional change or we mix our yoghurt and add something sweeter to the Greek yoghurt. 

Name Portion Size in grams (g) Sugarsper 100g in grams (g) Ranking 1(best)-5(worst)
Greek Yoghurt

100

5.4

1

Yeo Valley Natural Yoghurt

150

5.6

1

Arla Natural Skyr Yoghurt

150

4

1

Petits Filous My First Vanilla Fromage Frais

47

4.8

1

Arla Raspberry Skyr Yoghurt

150

8.3

2

Petits Filous Organic Variety Fromage Frais

50

8.8

2

Tesco Strawberry Yogurt Drink

100

9.1

2

Petits Filous Strawberry Raspberry Fromage Frais

85

9.9g

2

Peppa Pig Strawberry Fromage Frais

45

10

2

Paw Patrol Strawberry Fromage Frais

45

9.9

2

Petits Filous Magic Squares Raspberry Vanilla Yogurt

80

10.8

2

Frubes Variety Yogurt Pack

40

10.9

2

Munch Bunch Fruit Fromage Frais

42

12.7

3

Wildlife Choobs Strawberry Raspberry And Apricot Yogurt

40

12.8

3

Munch Bunch Squashums Limited Edition

60

12.1

3

Petits Filous Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt

100

12.2

3

Munch Bunch Squashum Strawberry Yogurt Drink

90

12.7

3

Actimel Multifruit Yogurt Drink

100

12.2

3

Munch Bunch Double Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt

85

12.5

3

Munch Bunch Double Up Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt

85

12.5

3

Frubes Strawberry And Raspberry Yogurt Pouches

70

13.2

4

Star Wars Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt Pouch

70

13.2

4

Smarties Split Pot Yogurt

120

15

4

Muller Corner Banana Yogurt Crunch Yogurt

135

16.7

5

Muller Corner Strawberry Crunch Yogurt

135

17.1

5

Muller Corner Vanilla Chocolate Balls Yogurt

135

17.7

5

Muller Corner Toffee Chocolate Hoops Yogurt

135

18.4

5

Milkybar Little Treats

60

21.1

5

Nestle Rolo Dessert

70

25.4

5

Cadbury Dairy Milk Pots Of Joy Caramel Dessert

70

26

5

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Breastfeeding and the Microbiome

Breastfeeding is something I am quite passionate about, partially because I’ve breastfed 3 children, for a total of 4.5 years. That’s a lot of feeds and little sleep 😉 however totally worth it in terms of the impact on their long term health. 

Now this is totally not meant to be a dig at anyone who cannot breastfed or who chooses not to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is blimming hard work. I’ve been through mastitis, blocked ducts, nursing strikes, bleeding nipples, tongue ties x 3, nursing strikes, expressing (such a faff!) and babies who just want to feed forever. So I totally get that how you feed your baby is your choice and for many combination feeding or formula feeding is the way forward. I planned to only breastfeed my first for 6 weeks, then 3 months, then till weaning. Small goals and steps helped me. However I also have ladies in my postnatal pilates classes who just cannot get on with breastfeeding and for them using formula saves their sanity. 

Ultimately we all know breastmilk is amazing stuff, so if you can breastfeed I heartily recommend you do it. Here I’m sharing an article I wrote for Network Health Digest on how breastmilk affects the microbiome of the infant. Fascinating stuff. 

Issue 135 breastfeeding and the microbiome

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Eating to boost your brain.

There is a huge connection between diet and brain function, how we eat can literally improve our cognitive function, our thinking, our mood, our memory. Which is fantastic news, as it doesn’t have to be expensive or too complicated. 

Here I review some of the evidence on the diets that improve our brain health and give some simple top tips of foods to eat more.

© Andrey KiselevID 7721961 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Brain Positive Diets:

  1. Mediterannean diet – this is known to be a good way to eat for heart health, but did you know that eating for your heart health will also help your brain function? A study on 447 adults over 4 years looked at mediterranean diet (fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish and lean protein with moderate red wine) plus 1 litre a week of olive oil and 30g mixed nuts per day. When compared to a control group there was better performance in cognitive tests. 
  2. Mind Diet – this is a tweaked version on the Med diet, with a greater emphasis on berries and leafy greens. Following the diet has been linked to a reduction in cognitive age of 7.5yrs and a reduction in Alzhiemers risk.

The Brain Positive Foods:

Oily Fish – those all important omega-3’s are key for cognitive function. Studies have shown a link between eat  fish slowing cognitve decline.  Yes you can get some of these from plant based foods but the conversion rate is not as good so if you do eat fish, this is the better option. Other foods that contain omega 3’s are shellfish, algae and caviar.

Nuts – at least 5 servings of 30g per week seems to be the key. Some research suggests a positive affect with mixed nuts and other research focuses on walnuts.

Wholegrains  – these usually have a more beneficial effect on blood sugars giving more consitent glucose levels for the brain. They also contain B vitamins which may help slow brain shrinkage and improve cognitive function. 

Beans, pulses and meat – these contain good levels of the B vitamins which are thought to help brain function. Organ meats contain a good level of Vitamin B12 which has been shown to be correlated to a reduced dementia risk.

Fruit and Veggies – oxidative stress is one of the primary mechanisms of age related brain decline. The brain is vulnerable to free radical damage and so eating food with a good mix and level of antioxidants will help. There are numerous studies looking at the correlation between eating more fruit and veg and brain function. Folate is another key nutrient for brain health and is found in those leafy greens. Vitamin E in seeds, nuts and avocado is a key antioxidant.

Berries – Some small scale but interesting studies suggest a link where having berry juice or more berries in the diet may improve your memory.  It’s definitely worth a try!

Flavanoids – these powerful micronutrients are found in red wine, green and berries. There is an indication that maybe flavanoids could help reduce dementia and cognitive decline.

Green Tea – again these are small scale studies but 2 cups a day may help your brain function.

Top 10 brain foods to eat:

  1. Leafy Green and fruit and veg in general.
  2. Nuts, especially walnuts.
  3. Berries.
  4. Beans and Pulses.
  5. Wholegrains.
  6. Oily fish, seafood, caviar and seaweed.
  7. Lean meat, poulty and organ meat.
  8. Seeds and avocado
  9. Moderate Red wine and Green Tea.
  10. Dark chocolate in small amounts.

So you can see that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, with wholegrains plus some oily fish and lean meat is a positive way to eat for your brain. Add in regular nuts, seeds, beans and pulses then smaller amounts of red wine, green tea and dark chocolate and you are onto a winner. It’s a no-brainer 😉 

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A “handy” portion guide.

Portion Sizes can be tricky to get right and yet they are key to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.

Here is a little video I did with BBC Food a few months ago, shot in the most gorgeous kitchen (it’s not mine!).

Using your hand as a general guide can be a great way of judging portions and it also means it works well for children and adults.

I’d love to know your thoughts. How do you judge your portions? Other great way to do this are to create your own measuring cup. Using a mug weigh out the standard serving and then place it in a mug, mark a line for that food (rice, pasta, cereals). Or for carbohydrates there is a lovely carb spoon that I actually use myself at home.

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You can still eat a jacket potato, here’s how.

So the news on the street is a jacket potato contains 19 sugar cubes. More than a can of coke. Now whilst this may be true on the one level there is a lot more going on here than just the sugar and it is not to say you cannot eat a baked spud.
 
Photo taken from the Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/6452643/potatoes-obesity-crisis-sugar-baked-potato/
Sugar in food is modified by several factors it is not something that can just be measured by sugar lumps alone. That potato has fibre, potassium (more than a banana), B6 and Vitamin C for starters. The can of coke – well I don’t think we can claim that has much else.
 
There is a system that ranks the effects that feeds have on blood sugars. This is the glycaemic index (GI), it looks at how rapidly a carbohydrate is digested and released as glucose into the blood stream. A food  with a high GI food is one that increases the blood sugars faster, leading to a potential blood sugar spike. Using this ranking  a jacket potato would be high (85) and something like chickpeas would be low (28). This is a really useful system but it has it flaws. If you use it alone you could live off chocolate and ice-cream as these are low GI!  Also this system does not account for the carbohydrate in food and it uses 100 g of food, rather than looking at portion sizes. However it is still a useful way to compare foods and I’d highly recommend you focus on eating more low GI foods. But remember we do  not eat these foods in 100g servings or in isolation. Read on to hear more about this.
 
 
Another good ranking system for those concerned about blood sugar control is glycaemic load. This looks at the effect of food per portion and it does take into account carbohydrates. So for example foods that have a glycaemic index of less than 10 have a low or little impact on bloodsugars, GL of 10 to 20 is moderate and 20+ is high. Again another useful system to keep in mind, but it has it’s flaws (doesn’t everything!). We don’t eat these foods in isolation, so other factors come into play.
 
So let’s think about the nutrients and factors that affect glycaemic index and glycaemic load…
 
These are general rules, there are always exceptions:
 
1. Fibre is something that slows the rate of digestion and therefore stops blood sugars from increasing as fast.
 
2. Protein also has this effect on the body a food that is higher in protein will be a food that doesn’t increase your blood sugar as fast.
 
3. Fat also slows down the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream, that is why something like chocolate may seem like it will be a food that will increase your bloodsugars fast, but actually that’s not always the case as the fat slows down the digestion.
 
4. Cooking method and processing also affect food, as does the variety of the food. For example, the impact on bloodsugars from a ripe banana will be much higher than in unripe one and it’s the same with a potato. With our baked potato the impact on bloodsugars is higher than when you eat new boiled potato or sweet potato.
 
Now this is where it gets complicated because we can’t just rank certain foods as good and others as bad! So where to go from here? Well these systems of GI/GL give us really good principles that we can use when planning a healthy balanced diet. However that doesn’t mean that we need to be living our lives by a set of tables and numbers (see tables in the links below). Who wants to be doing that? It does mean you could look at the foods you eat regularly and think about making some swaps or improving meals by adding protein, fibre or plant foods.  It doesn’t mean you only have to eat foods that are low in GI or low in GL. What it does mean is it is helpful for blood sugar control to eat more of these foods and to adapt some of your meals that include higher GI/GL items. So for example let’s take the humble baked potato. Now yes it is high in GI (50) and GL (33) but by adding tuna to your jacket potato it will change this from a meal that had a large impact on your blood sugar levels to a more moderate one. Add a bean salad and some veggies in and it gets even lower.
 
Here is my dinner from the other night. A potato the size of my fist, with tuna and sweetcorn (protein), salad and cheese (fat). 
 
 
It’s once again, all about the balance.

Links:

Glycaemic Load Table.

Glycaemic Index Table.

 

 

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Priya gives top nutrition tips on Rachel’s podcast

So a complete pleasure to take part in this podcast with Rachel Holmes. Take a listen for super nutrition tips, it’s an action packed podcast, no chitter-chatter but just full on content and at just over 30 minutes it’s a great length too.

Totally love to hear your thoughts!

We cover:

Is there a best diet to be on?

Hunger/fullness signals.

Feeding your kids – what to do and what not to do.

Tips to take away and use today.

Weight loss advice.

Should we be going gluten/dairy free?

Emotional messages.

Feeding your toddlers!

My struggle with feeding my kids.

Rachel is a fitness entrepreneur, a presenter and a trainer. She is inspiration in her energy levels and all she achieves. I’ve followed her and been to her course as a fitness instructor for many years.

 

 

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