Month: April 2014

This time last week….

This time last week I was achieving one of my life goals; running in the London Marathon

This week I’m surrounded by books and journal articles busily researching Cystic Fibrosis(CF) for a case study I am doing for my Nutrition and Health Degree.

Reading nutrition at University and getting a degree are a couple of my other life goals, along with going to a yoga retreat and owning a cottage with fabulous countryside views!

As student we are encourage to spend time reflecting on what we have learned. I’ve now had time to reflect on my achievement of last week and the results have been profound. Before I did the marathon I sort of thought anything was possible, but after completing it, within my goal time, I now ‘know’ I can do anything! For some reason it’s taken me a long time to realize that, but now I do, it’s a great feeling and one that is very calming.


Self development and learning have always been important to me and when I started this CF case study I knew very little about this lethal genetic disorder and wasn’t aware of any nutritional implications. I just knew that the symptoms included a mucous cough, chest infections and lots of physio. Having carried out some research I now understand the increased energy requirements, the problems with pancreatic enzyme insufficiency and fat / micronutrient malabsorption. I’m not going to cover these here today but if you would like more information there is a really informative website :

The pressure is really on now for students across the country to get their heads down and make the final push to the end of the academic year, and I’m no exception.  I am however more confident that my effort will be rewarded and that it will all be worth it.

Who would have thought running 26.2 miles can change the way you think, I thought it was just running but it was much, much more than that.


London Marathon 2014

I had such a brilliant day on Sunday running in my first ever marathon; the prestigious Virgin London Marathon.
I’ve completed many 5k’s, 10k’s, triathlons and half marathons over the last 10 years but have never had the opportunity to have a bash at a marathon. I’m so pleased that I took the training seriously as it definitely paid off on the day. I managed to run the whole 26.2 miles without stopping, which wasn’t easy with the unusually warm weather for April in the UK. My goal was to complete in under 5 hours and I actually managed it in 4:54:50 which I’m delighted with.


Val running for Starlight 13.4.14

The crowds were marvellous from start to finish, cheering and encouraging us especially when we were flagging. In an earlier post (Hydration, hydration, hydration!) I covered the importance of drinking sufficient fluid and in the heat this was even more important. As a nutritionist generally if I want something sweet I eat fruit, if I want something really sweet I eat pineapple, when running a marathon however it’s jelly babies, lots, and lots of jelly babies.

My charity is the Starlight Children’s Foundation who grant wishes for seriously and terminally ill children. I’ve raised nearly £800 so far and if you would like to support this great cause you can sponsor me via the following link:

The organisation of the event was second to none, with bottled water available almost every mile and sports drinks and gels available too. I enjoyed every minute and running the last few hundred metres passed Buckingham Palace to the finish was very special, made even more so with my sister, niece and Starlight supporters all cheering me on.

After the race I met up with all my lovely family at the Starlight ‘after marathon party’ and was treated to a massage which was a real bonus. The whole day was amazing, I felt a great sense of achievement having completed such a physical challenge, was thankful to all those who sponsored me, and I loved being part of such a special charity. The lovely emails, texts and Facebook messages I received really added something special to the occasion.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going rest, and take some time out to relax and decide on my next big challenge!

You can find out more about how I managed my time in the run up to the London Marathon via the following link:,London-Marathon


Food Poverty Conference

It was great to see so many people at the ‘Food Poverty Conference’ on Wednesday at Sefton Park in Liverpool.

The event was lively, delivered by passionate speakers giving their perspective on food poverty issues, some controversial, but all very interesting.


Here is an overview of the day:

Communiversity Drama Group – The event kicked off with a short play ‘highlighting the financial and emotional pressures facing many families in the UK today, including those claiming benefits and working with zero hours contracts.

Dean Paton – Archaeologist: Outlined that despite the UK having enough land to feed the entire population ten times over, food poverty is on the increase. Dean advocated education and exercising the right to vote as possible solutions, along with limiting meat consumption.

Martin Caraher – Professor of food and health policy: Highlighted the scale of the problem, stating that many people are living below the poverty line and many of those going hungry are actually overweight. Martin called for city wide policies, to be implemented by local groups working together.

Robbie Davidson – Director of Can Cook: Launched the ‘Food We Need’ campaign aimed at ending food poverty in Merseyside by 2017. Robbie provided details of the work undertaken to assess the nutritional content of Food Bank parcels, which he said were found “not to be fit for purpose”. As part of the new campaign, prospective donors will be given a shopping list detailing precise foods required to sustain a family of 4. These donations will be used to provide fresh healthy food parcels to make nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

To close the event Robbie thanked everyone for attending and stressed the importance of working collaboratively together to deal with the crisis, and address underlying food poverty issues.


For more information on the work of ‘Can Cook’ see the following link:

Examples of current and future food parcels were on display at the event, these are attached below for information.



Nutrition across the lifespan

I’m in the middle of an assignment for my module ‘Nutrition across the Lifespan’ and am finding out some really interesting information that I wanted to share.

One area I am considering is what determines how healthy we are.

There is strong evidence that our health is shaped by events that happen throughout our life course, from the point of conception to the moment of death. Nutrition is a key factor and there is strong evidence that suboptimal nutrition leads to a range of non communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

The dietary choices made at each life stage can have a positive or negative impact on our health.

  • A poor maternal diet can have detrimental impact on the developing foetus,
  • Protective effects can be seen from breastfeeding
  • Positive energy balance can lead to obesity in children
  • Adolescents who make poor nutritional choices can harm natural growth and development.
  • Risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure may be diagnosed, modified and treated in adulthood.
  • Low vitamin D intake can lead to poor absorption of calcium and weaker bones in older adults

Lifestyle choices we make also have an impact and there is evidence of the following:

  • Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index reduces your likelihood of diseases such as type 2 diabetes
  • Eating fruit and vegetables helps protect against illness and disease
  • The more affluent you are the more fruit and vegetables you eat
  • Smokers have a higher intake of meat and saturated fat and lower fibre diet
  • Older adults gravitate to softer foods high in sugar and fat due to oral sensitivities
  • Adults in the UK eat too much fat
  • A diet high in fat can clog up your arteries and cause heart disease (see image illustrating blocked arteries)
  • Resource deprived communities may have less access to healthier food choices
  • Habits formed in childhood are carried through to adult hood
  • Those who join a new social circle will adopt the habits of the new one
  • Body composition changes is older adults (65+) and energy requirements are lower 
  • Adopting a Mediterranean diet can help prevent obesity, at all ages
  • Image

I’m having a great time reading the many journal articles on the subject but reading is not enough I need to share my findings and encourage others to make changes. So next time you choose a packet of crisps or sugary drink, over a healthier alternative, think the health implications are long lasting and may catch up with you later in life. Switching to healthier meals and snacks, increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables,  or having a cool drink of water will improve your health status now and you’ll reap the benefits into old age.