Model Sarah Macklin could have gone down the Insta-nutritionist route, but instead, she chose to spend five years training to be a qualified nutritionist alongside her day job. She says that when she's not at photo shoots, she works out of a clinic on Harley Street.
What inspired Macklin to train as a nutritionist was that she could see firsthand how models weren't looking after themselves and weren't necessarily being cared for by the agencies that employed them. To coincide with London Fashion Week, she has launched the Be Well Collective, an initiative to promote and provide physical and mental support during fashion month. Macklin held an event where over 100 models and their agents pitched up to learn about how to take care of themselves. What she realised from the event was that while it helped the models, the agents found the advice incredibly useful too. "That's when I realised that the Be Well Collective can relate to everyone," Macklin says.
Below she has shared five tips from the event that everyone who leads a busy life can benefit from. They're not faddy, either—they're sensible pieces of good advice that we could all benefit from.
"Nutrition doesn't start with counting calories, but with looking at nutrient-rich ingredients while including all food groups," says Macklin. "During stressful periods, such as LFW, you want to go low on refined sugars (tempting as they are at those times) and go big on omega-3s. Not only are these good for skin, but studies have shown that groups of people who eat foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression. Omega-3s lower the release of stress hormones."
So while omega-3s like mackerel and salmon have more calories, they're far better for you than loading up on nutritionally vacuous foods like sweets and fizzy drinks.
"When we're not taking on enough water, our blood volume level drops and the heart has to work harder to keep us awake,” says Macklin. "If you were tired before, you'll be making matters worse without water. If you're thirsty, you're already two per cent dehydrated, so always avoid getting to that point."
"Exercise can significantly impact mental health and plays a part in how you manage stress. However, if you already have a healthy regime, don't try and match your normal volume of exercise during busy and stressful periods. Overtraining can compromise your immune system, so use it as a means to de-stress, nothing more," she says.
"The sleep hormone, melatonin, rises at night but drops with stimulation. Avoid caffeine in the evenings—even decaf tea, which can still contain 30 per cent reduced caffeine. Look for teas that contain oat flower, valerian and lime flower.
"Avoid sources of blue light, which can impact your circadian rhythm. Set your smartphone to 'night mode' and, if you're using a computer in the evenings (not in your bedroom, ideally), download F.lux, the free software that warms up your computer display. Your body temperature is also important. If you're too hot, your body can slow the release of melatonin, so avoid eating spicy food in the evenings and having hot showers or baths before bed. Instead, try a cooler bath or foot soak with flakes of magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant," says Macklin.
"Low GI foods—also known as complex carbs like whole grains, beans and vegetables—can help aid the release of serotonin, so combine these into evening meals, they will also help to manage your blood glucose levels," she says.
Ditch the sugar
"We have no biological requirement for sugar. Sugar causes inflammation, affects our blood glucose levels, causes mood swings (studies have shown countries with a high sugar consumption have higher rates of depression), crashes our energy levels and leads to weight gain. Swap the chocolate and Diet Coke for foods that are rich in fats and proteins such as nuts, avocado and oily fish. This switch will help you avoid blood sugar crashes and steady your moods and food cravings," says Macklin.
"Drops in energy lead to binging and then overeating. The more you deprive your body of energy, the more fat storage it will essentially create. Bloating and digestive problems are caused by increased secretion of gastric acid in your stomach from long periods of not eating. This also causes the stress hormone cortisol to rise.
"Always take a prepared meal in your bag or snacks in case you do not have the chance to get food when out. Nuts, protein balls, boiled eggs, avocado and oatcakes. Prepping is key!" says Macklin.