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06 April 2021 in Company
Clarissa Lenherr is a London-based registered nutritionist (mBANT) and leading workplace wellbeing consultant. Specialising in gut health, autoimmune conditions and weight management, Clarissa has helped hundreds of people take control of their health through nutrition.
Now, she joins the Healthily team as a nutrition expert. We caught up with Clarissa to find out what makes her tick – inside and outside of her work as a nutritionist. Plus, she shares her favourite family-friendly dish, go-to snack hacks and more.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a nutritionist.
After graduating, I started working in property marketing and very quickly noticed that the people around me were unwell – there were very low energy levels and high stress levels in that corporate environment.
In terms of my own health, for years I’d been struggling with digestive problems. From the age of about 15, I’d seen 12 different dieticians, gastroenterologists, doctors, mental health practitioners… nothing worked.
I managed to heal myself through lots of research and discovering the FODMAP diet on online forums. It’s a restricted diet that helps with IBS and I was nearly symptom-free within a month, after 8 years of struggling.
But then I started that first job and I became ill again. I was also working in an industry I didn’t like. I talked to my boyfriend (now husband) about it and he suggested I go back to studying to become a nutritionist. I trained for 3 years part-time while working full-time and graduated in 2017. I’ve never looked back.
Why should we care more about what we eat?
There’s a saying that ‘you are what you eat’. I prefer to say ‘you are what you absorb’.
Our gut breaks down our food and is at the centre of all the nutrients we absorb. But it isn’t just playing a role in our digestive function – it also contributes to our mood, hormonal balance, energy output, weight, brain function, inflammation and immune system function.
We can regulate all those different responses and systems in our bodies just through what we do and don’t put in our gut.
In your experience, what’s the most common challenge for people when it comes to nutrition?
I think accountability is a problem for many people. You can see a nutritionist for a one-off consultation, read information online, try eating in different ways, but there’s no one to keep you on track.
I also think it’s very easy for stress, life, kids and work to hijack even the healthiest habits.
What’s one tip you would give someone if they wanted to improve their diet and nutrition?
Being intuitive is one of the most important things you can do. Listen to your body. Once you start listening to your body, you can start to differentiate between what’s a symptom and what’s not, what’s a hunger cue and what’s an emotionally led cue. You’re more empowered to make change because you’ve felt and know those triggers.
What’s your go-to healthy snack when all you’re craving is something salty or sweet?
With sweet stuff, I’m a dark chocolate lover. The flavonoids, antioxidants, little bit of caffeine and lower sugar levels give you that extra oomph in the afternoon. I like 70%+ dark chocolate and I normally have it with almond butter or almonds – the fat slows the absorption of the sugar that’s in the chocolate.
On the salty side, I love roasted, crunchy chickpeas. I might be slightly obsessed.
Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand. How do you like to work out?
I love cardio. Spinning is my thing – I find it to be a real stress buster. I try to blend 3 cardio workouts a week with slow movement workouts like yoga and Pilates.
What’s your favourite family-friendly dinner recipe?
I think homemade pizzas can be healthy. They’re so easy to make and tend to be quite cost-effective, and they’re quick and versatile too.
You can make your own base with wholemeal flour, water and a little bit of yeast, or just buy a wholemeal tortilla wrap. As a sauce, use passata and then chuck on loads of different colours with fruit and veg. Add some protein like chicken, prawns or tempeh.
What foods or drinks do you start and end your day with?
I always start with a glass of water. Then I have a decaf cappuccino with almond milk. I religiously end my day with a tulsi tea – it’s an adaptogen that’s good for relaxation (it’s also delicious). I take it everywhere I go.
What’s a non-negotiable in your own diet?
Plants. At every meal, half my plate has to be colourful fruit and vegetables.
How can healthy eating be more sustainable and achievable?
I think a lot of the time people look at healthy eating as a complete overhaul of their lifestyle. Just picking the low-hanging fruit can make a difference.
For example, you can swap out white carbohydrates for wholegrain options. It’s a swap – you’re replacing a habit with a habit, rather than introducing a whole new habit. I think these kinds of things are really sustainable.
It’s also important to see healthy eating as a lifestyle, not as a diet. You’re choosing to eat for your body 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time, you’re eating for your soul.
What does living healthily mean to you?
I think it’s the 80:20 rule. So, 80% of the time I eat well, exercise, take the right supplements, don’t have too much alcohol, caffeine or sugar and eat enough protein. The other 20% of the time, I have whatever I want. That way I don’t feel guilty, restricted or deprived and I know that I’m looking after my body.
What do you like to do outside of your work as a nutritionist?
I love to be creative. I love colouring in, drawing, doing puzzles. I really like logic games like chess. The past 12 months have been tough as I love to travel and immerse myself in different cultures and ways of eating. For me, experience is worth more than any asset. So travel for me is my other true life love and passion.
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