As an author, speaker, and practicing nutritional therapist for more than two decades, Kate Cook is passionate about helping people eat better, sleep better, and enjoy life more. Her fresh and practical easy-to-do’s offer up simple lifestyle choices that can have astounding impact. I spoke with Kate from her home in the UK where she just launched another new adventure—BeSensationalat60.com, because hey, we’re all about that too!
What brings you joy in your days?
Laughter fills me with joy. I like finding things that make me laugh. And it can be anything—I’m always on the hunt, so it might be an observational thing. In today’s world it’s hard for a lot of people, and it’s certainly not all a bundle of laughs, but I think it’s about finding focus. Finding what’s good, as opposed to looking for what’s bad, is very helpful for me.
Like most of us, I’ve tried my assortment of “quick fix” diets and the latest trends, but my results were never sustainable. As a lifestyle nutritionist you offer a holistic view to healthy eating. What makes your approach so different?
To me, it’s more of a systems problem—it’s not all about the calories. Most of us are looking for how and what we need to do to achieve the desired aesthetic look, without really putting in place the structures that allow us to do that. With structural change we can ask ourselves why it is that we want to be better, healthier, or more dynamic. There needs to be a service element in your why so it’s not all about you. In our age group there’s wisdom in recognizing that we need our energy and our health. We can’t be the change we want to see in the world by participating from the sidelines. We need to have that dynamism so we don’t just curl up our toes or put our slippers on, but actually go out and contribute with a purpose.
That’s how I view it really. It’s less about the calories because the calories are all about me, and you become massively unconscious, counting calories all the time. Plus, it doesn’t really work. You end up living within this internal struggle, missing the amazing possibility of coming outside yourself and contributing—having worked out your why by putting systems in place that change things up to support a lifestyle of success. And BTW, when you feel better, you look better too!
What was the ‘why’ that led you to become a lifestyle nutritionist?
We’re kind of like health detectives, getting to the bottom of health problems through the functional medicine of food. But I’ve never really been militant about the nutrition aspect because I feel it lacks the soul that we need from food. My love of food came from my stepmother, who was an extremely good cook. She cultivated a garden near our home in the southern part of England and we would gather up all the vegetables. I remember sitting on the countertop to watch her cook while we shared in these wonderful conversations that were just magical.
My curiosities lead me toward self-development because I lost most of my relatives too early, and it was such a snuffing out of talent. They were stressed, smoked and drank, and loved the convenience of fast food. I didn’t want to be restricted in that way. I came to realize that it’s a lot about how people relate to food—what you can do for the food, and what the food can do for you.
I think what’s really confusing about nutrition is the tribalism attached to it. We get mixed messages about what system is best – from keto to paleo, and high fiber and low carb, and the recent trend of intermittent fasting. It can be overwhelming. Of course there are some rules of food that help keep you on a path to wellness. The path is the rules of food. And of course, in life there’s times we can go off and explore and climb the mountain, and then come back and return to the path.
How does one embark on the path of eating for energy and optimum health? It’s often so hard to take the first step, especially if we’ve been unsuccessful before.
When we speak of systems, there are some common rules of food that apply to everything, and every system—the story of insulin. We look at blood sugar balance as the spine that holds any story together. It’s really about controlling insulin, a very important hormone in the body, which stores fat, but also controls sugar in the blood.
Without getting hung up on the systems, you need to find out what works for you. We’re looking for foods that burn slowly in our bodies, without massively increasing the sugar in our blood, and using lots of hormones to control the reaction. It’s a balance of insulin versus food.
Three Food Rules For An Energetic Life
As a lifestyle nutritionist, can you speak to how stress impacts our health?
Stress is a key factor in health because it affects how we process our food, regardless of the actual food itself, if that makes sense. Stress basically shuts down the digestive process. And as we age, our digestive power diminishes, so it’s much more difficult to draw out nutrients from the food we’re eating.
With chronic stress we’re in a constant state of “fight or flight,” during which our blood is diverted into our limbs so we can run away. Chemically, our bodies react like we’re about to be eaten by a hungry tiger. Digesting our previous meal isn’t the first priority.
In fight mode, our cortisol and stress hormones kick in to give us more strength—very powerful when needed under the right circumstances—but there’s a debit credit on that relationship that’s destructive if it’s a constant. We’re depleting our adrenal glands, where our stress hormones come from, and it can disrupt the thyroid. Then we develop problems with things like weight gain, constipation, or feeling the cold, along with a host of other things.
With awareness, we can help keep ourselves gain balance so that everything works the way it’s supposed to.
Stress Relieving Tips
“Friendly” Foods With Benefits
What lifestyle choices should we make sure we are not overlooking that are of particular importance to us in this chapter of our lives?
We need more protein as we get older, because our muscles tend to weaken. So adding things like collagen powders can help us from getting that “baggy skin” look. Plus, it’s also good for our gut.
Also our metabolism slows down so we want to make sure we are optimizing our digestion by eating “real” foods to help balance our blood sugar.
But perhaps most important in all this is our attitude. When we stay curious and are open to trying new things, it can be fun to tweak a few lifestyle aspects to elevate our energy so we can keep growing. I love it when I learn something new about myself because then I get to share it, and my new website is my latest expression of that.
Kate’s message to fellow Intentfuls