THE concept of health has become so centred around ‘skinny’, that women fail to recognise any positive progress they are making that does not centre around the scales.
That’s according to Clonakilty woman Aoife Morrison who works with women who are uncomfortable in their bodies and are looking to achieve improved health and weight loss, without restrictive diets.
Aoife moved to Australia in November 2010 and is mum of two girls, Willow, seven and Ivy, three.
She has a BA in English and History from UCC, a certificate in Psychology from NUI and retrained in the area of nutrition after her own personal experiences.
‘I had injured my knee before I fell pregnant with Willow and gone from the fittest I had been, to gaining weight due to immobility. After a very negative experience at a gym, where a personal trainer told me to simply go to bed hungry every night, I decided there had to be a better way to lose the weight,’ she recalls.
‘So I started to walk, and make some tweaks to my eating habits. Slowly, the weight started to go and after about a year I felt like a different woman. I realised that so many new mums were probably getting such unhelpful and damaging advice and I decided to retrain and completed a Bachelors of Food and Nutrition from LaTrobe University, Melbourne.’
She studied through raising a daughter, a miscarriage, fertility treatment, getting pregnant again and having Ivy.
‘Through lockdowns and raising kids, I started an Instagram page that, after a few name changes, became Mums for Nutrition.’
Aoife, who has clients in Ireland, America and Australia, never encourages stepping on the scales. Instead the focus is on how her clients feel. Do they have more energy? Do their clothes fit better? Are they more motivated?
‘The biggest reason a lot of people do not lose weight, and find themselves binging on chocolate etc, is actually because they do not eat enough! It seems counter-intuitive, and many struggle with the concept at first, but my first point is to evaluate a client’s food diary, and encourage them to increase their food intake. I have a very “focus on what you can add, not take away” approach. By focusing on what we can add to our meals, we can ensure we are satiated and satisfied.’
Aoife, who returned to Clonakilty last November when her marriage ended, feels that the diet industry offers quick fixes that are completely unsustainable.
‘The narrative being that restriction and willpower are all that a woman is lacking to succeed. As a result, so many engage in eating habits that are simply unsustainable. This leads to an unhealthy relationship with food, binge eating type behaviour, and a complete loss of confidence in ourselves and our bodies.’
This, she feels is especially true when women have given birth.
‘After children, women are expected to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes straight away and that is an unrealistic and unfair expectation. For many of us, our bodies will never be the same again and we need to start accepting that that is normal. So many mums I work with have a goal weight in mind when they first see me. But I try to discourage this. In many cases, the weight we want to be, and the weight our body wants to be, will not match up. And it is not the magic fix people believe it to be. If we cannot achieve positivity around our body, and only focus on the negative, weight loss will not miraculously fix that.’
Nutrition is not, and should not, be a one-size-fits-all approach, she feels.
‘Everybody is different and will respond differently. And that is why working with a professional can be a huge benefit.’
AOIFE’S TIPS TO GET STARTED
• STOP trying to change everything at once. Pick one thing and focus on that until it becomes part of your normal routine. Then move to something else. No more ‘the diet starts on Monday’ - for the majority, it won’t last.
• Slow down when you are eating. Remove distractions and focus on what you are eating. It can take up to 20 minutes for our brain to realise we are full so give it a chance to catch up with your stomach!
• Prep snacks in advance. Often categorised as the cause of weight gain, having well-balanced snacks ready for the day will ensure you do not get too hungry. This will help stop binging on everything in the cupboard when you get home. Or eating half a packet of biscuits on your tea-break.
• Stop restricting food. All foods have a place in balanced eating habits. By telling yourself chocolate is bad, or you are bad for eating it, you are attaching a moral value to that food. Food has no moral value! You crave it because you restrict it. It is not a food addiction or a lack of willpower, but instead years of dieting that have warped your perception of food.
• Follow mums.for.nutrition on Instagram, or Mums for Nutrition on Facebook or email [email protected]