From Student to Nutritionist

Taking early retirement from the Civil Service at the end of May 2016 to pursue my passion for nutrition was definately the right decision.


What I didn’t expect to happen from day one, was to be dealing first hand with the massive nutritional challenges faced by a head & neck cancer patient in my own home.

My husband says “everyone diagnosed with cancer should have their own live-in nutritionist” – Personally I think that might be a step too far!


In reality it has given me a purpose and something to focus on.  The Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) feeding tube doesn’t phase me and I’m now a bit of an expert on the nutritional value of an Ensure Plus.

With such lovely family and friends who could be miserable, reading everyones lovely messages on Facebook has also given me a lift.

At Uni we studied how a poor diet can cause some cancers and how quickly malnutrition can take hold with those undergoing cancer treatment such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Having said that unless you’ve lived through it you can’t understand how bad this disease and the treatment is. We can’t praise everyone at Cancer Clatterbridge Centre highly enough, they are all so committed and caring, you know you are in safe hands.  The BBC series ‘The Big C and me‘  was brilliant, real people just getting on with it, very inspirational.


It’s now ten days after treatment ended and hubby is starting to feel a little bit better.

The last three months have not been all doom and gloom, we eventually managed to laugh at his new footballer haircut and our trip to watch Andy Murray win in the Wimbledon final was truly amazing.  We’ve stayed up most nights being inspired by our fabulous GB athletes in the Olympics and have had loads of time to read and plan for the future.

Very much looking forward to celebrating when he gets the all clear.

I’ve not posted on my blog for a while, but this is the first of many following my progress as a nutritionist rather than a student. I went back to Uni on Saturday to do some research and loved it.  I’ve found lots of interesting research to share, so watch this space…….

Val x


A moment on the lips…….

Did you know that the average woman consumes approximately 6 lb of lipstick in her lifetime?   With tempting lipstick names such as Truly Toffee, Raisin Hell, Triple Chocolate Parfait and Vaseline’s latest product ‘Sugar Coated’ lip balm, it’s hardly surprising.


sugar lips

One study analysed more than 1,700 lipstick names from 52 manufacturers.

The study found that:

  • 24% of the lipsticks reviewed were named after food.
  • 97% of women age 18 – 24 wear lip colour.
  • Lipsticks are the most shoplifted cosmetic! (Not recommended)
  • This is a multi million pound industry, just for women.

There is also some evidence that lipstick sales have an inverse relationship with national calamity and economic downturn. 

The study also reported that:

  • During the Great Depression when food and other necessities were scarce, women still found money to buy lipstick to boost their morale.
  • Following the September 11th tragedy sales of lipstick increased by 13% in quarter four.
  • During periods of economic downturn lipstick sales have been seen to rise by nearly 12%.


When manufacturers use names like Raspberry Soufflé or Triple Peach Pie to sell lipsticks they are trying to stimulate the palate in addition to the eye or ear, which is a phenomenon called synesthesia. I experienced this yesterday when I just had to buy the pink tin promising sugar coated lips! 

From a nutrition perspective I think a little bit of what you fancy does you good and no food should be forbidden, but I do like the idea of buying a Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie lipstick instead of an actual chocolate brownie.

Girls whatever your age, put your lippy on and a smile.


Merskin, D. (2007)  Truly Toffee and Raisin Hell: A Textural Analysis of Lipstick.







Read the email that made my day! Student Volunteering Week 23 February – 1 March 2015

I received a lovely email this morning telling me I’d been nominated for the Student Volunteer of the Year Award by Skelmersdale Community Food Initiative (SCFI). Although I wasn’t shortlisted it was a great surprise and brilliant that they took the time to prepare a nomination especially when I know how busy they are.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 15.46.18I

Since I started volunteering with SCFI l’ve met some lovely people, improved my knowledge (especially of social media) and attended a marketing training course specifically targeted at charities. I can definitely recommend volunteering and whether you’re a student or not, there are loads of opportunities available to use the skills you already have, to gain new ones, or to help others and just have fun.

Good luck to the five shortlisted finalists; Conor, Gary, Harriette, Henry and Simon.

If you are thinking of volunteering and live in West Lancashire, don’t hesitate, contact: (who helped me) or elsewhere in the UK


…………………..Here is the email that made my day!.………………..

Hello Valerie,

Congratulations! You were nominated for the Student Volunteer of the Year Award! The Award is run by Student Volunteering Week, an annual, nationwide campaign that celebrates students like you all over the country and inspires many more students to get involved in social action.

Unfortunately you were not selected by our panel of judges to be shortlisted for the Award, although being nominated is a fantastic achievement and a sign that you deserve to be recognised for your commitment to making a positive impact in your community. We’ve included your nomination at the end of this email so that you can find out who nominated you and why they thought you deserved to be recognised.

We’ll be presenting the Award to the winner today at a special Parliamentary Celebration in the House of Commons in London. 

Congratulations again on your nomination, and all the best as your social action journey continues!

The Student Volunteering Week team


  • Please describe the nominee’s volunteering activity. How have they demonstrated passion and commitment? Who has benefitted from their volunteering? Describe their positive social impact.
    “Val has committed herself to working with us in terms of developing a cohesive approach to our social media. As a small charity her commitment to us is invaluable as she brings with her not only passion and enthusiasm but real skills both in nutrition and social media knowledge. I cannot praise her commitment to us enough.”
  • Please tell us what you think makes this student an inspiring volunteer.
    “Val is giving her time freely and without any cost to us either on a monetary or time basis to us. Val comes prepared for every interaction she has with staff and fellow volunteers and we have found her extremely efficient in her dealings with us. She has worked autonomously and with great purpose in her own time

Nominator: Skelmersdale Community Food Initiative

Nutrition Society – Dietary Assessment Methods Workshop coming to Edge Hill – can’t wait!

When Sue Crompton, Nutrition & Health student at Edge Hill University sent a message to ‘The Nutrition Society’, on Facebook, asking them to bring one of its prestigious events ‘Up North’ she didn’t think they actually would.  Well they have! 

Sue & Val already looking forward to the Nutrition Society event

The event coming to Edge Hill is the ‘Dietary Assessment Workshop’ which will be taking place on 26th March 2015. (Book by 5th Feb to take advantage of the early bird booking fee of £200).

  • Sue has had a lifelong interest in nutrition and exercise and says she’s really looking forward to the day and is delighted to be helping organise the event along with Kathleen Mooney our Senior Lecturer. 

The workshop will bring together current knowledge and practice on dietary assessment methods, with a particular focus on choosing correct assessment techniques for optimising dietary intake data measurement.

The practical, guided sessions will enable delegates to trial computational analysis of dietary data and include one-to-one drop-in discussions with experts in the field.

The workshop is open for all with a Bsc level of knowledge in dietary assessment methods.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 18.37.42

As for me, I’m really looking forward finding out about the new approaches to dietary assessment. This is a great skill to have and it’s brilliant that it’s on our doorstep.

Well done Sue, you did great!


Sue -Nutrition Society - local organiser

Sue – Nut Soc Local Organiser

Registration fees:

All prices to attend are inclusive of training materials, lunch, refreshments, wi-fi and use of computer.

  • The cost for early bird booking is £200 (inc. VAT) valid until 5 February 2015.

From 6th Feb the cost will be:

  • Members of the Nutrition Society: £260 (inc. VAT)
  • Non-members: £330 (inc. VAT) Valid from 6 February 2015
    You can book this workshop online

Aims and objectives:

  • Select appropriate dietary assessment methods to address research aims
  • Understand how to minimise data collection error whilst estimating portion sizes
  • Understand limitations about food composition databases
  • Learn about new approaches in dietary assessment methods
  • Familiarise themselves with energy adjustment in nutrition surveys
  • Appreciate the application of dietary pattern methodology in nutrition surveys

Continue Professional Development (CPD) credits

This event has received Association for Nutrition (AfN) CPD Endorsement.
– See more at: See more at:

Edge Hill - University of the year 2015

Edge Hill – University of the year 2015

Coronary Heart Disease

I’ve just submitted my assignment for my module ‘Therapeutic Approaches to Nutrition’ and wanted to share some of my findings.  We were asked to choose a topic ourselves, so I chose one that was close to my heart ❤ – Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Now that’s a subject literally close to my heart, (and the rest of my family), as my father died prematurely of a myocardial infarction at the age of 52 (when I was only 10).

Syl, Val, Pam & Alf

Syl, Val, Pam & Alf

Only now do I understand the biochemical and physiological processes that cause this condition which is one that develops over time, often with no symptoms. Here are some of my findings:

  • Fatty material and cholesterol called plaque builds up in the walls of the coronary arteries.
  • This condition is called atherosclerosis and the fatty material is called atheroma.
  • This narrows or blocks them, limiting or stopping oxygenated blood to the heart.
  • This plaque becomes covered by a fibrous cap which may rupture and cause blood clots which can be fatal (Thomas 2001).
  • Smoking is the major risk factor as it increases permeability of the artery walls contributing to plaque formation (Clancy & McVicar 2009).
  • being overweight, obese, physically inactive, having diabetes and a family history of heart disease, increases your risk.
  • Too much sodium(from eating salt) in the blood impairs the kidneys ability to remove water and extra fluid causes higher blood pressure and if left untreated can severely damage the arteries and kidneys.
  • Eating more fruit and vegetables increases intake of antioxidant vitamins which protect against free radicals.

Here are some practical steps to help reduce the risk of developing CHD.

Steps to reduce saturated fat intake
  • Select lower-fat dairy products
  • Grate cheese instead of slicing it
  • Eat chicken without the skin
  • Select leaner cuts of meat or trim the fat off
  • Use turkey mince instead of beef or lamb mince
  • Compare labels and choose the one with less saturated fat
  • Use sunflower or olive oil instead of butter or lard
  • Eat less pastry, cakes and biscuits
  • Switch from whole milk to semi skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk
  • Eat healthier snacks like fruit
Food Standards Agency (2009)
Cardio-protective Diet Features
  • Eat 2 or more portions of fish weekly, 1 portion should be oily
  • Eat at least 5 portions of a mixture of fruit and vegetables each day
  • Replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat (e.g.rapeseed or olive oil)
  • Replace some dietary fat energy by increasing complex carbohydrate intake
  • Divide fat intake between at least 3 regular daily meals
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake – 3 or less units a day for women & 4 or less for men
  • Limit salt intake.
Reproduced from Daniels L. (2002) Diet and coronary heart disease: advice on a cardioprotective diet. British Journal of Community Nursing. 7, 7.


Me and my Dad X

Me and my Dad X

There are also lots of studies recommending the `Mediterranean diet’ to help prevent CHD – you can find out more via my previous post

More information is available via The British Heart Foundation.

Approximately 46,500 men and just under 34,000 women died of this disease in the UK, in 2010, sad, shocking, preventable!


Love you Alfred Booth X



Happy New Year 2015

I love new years day! It’s a time for new beginnings, for looking forward, for planning how to get healthier, for packing away your party shoes and putting your new running shoes on, or at least thinking about putting them on!

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 20.49.15My healthier steps include:

  • Dryathlon – I had my last glass of fizz just before midnight and won’t be touching another drop for at least a month.
  • I’ve registered for a 10k run at Tatton Park on 1st March with my friend Janet (it’s her first 10k) so need to get training.
  • My sons gave me the Good Housekeeping Super Soups; sumptuous soups for every day’ book for Christmas. It has lovely recipes so I’m going to work my way through that. Thanks Tom & Matt
  • I’m doing research into mindful eating (thanks Dinah for the info) – fascinating subject, will post here when I know more.
  • Practicing my yoga poses, ready for my yoga retreat! (nothing booked yet – Geraldine get yourself a yoga mat!)
  • I’ve also bought my work colleagues a new year present – a pedometer each!! I do hope they like them.


This year I need to be fitter and healthier than ever as this is a big year from me, as I finish my Nutrition and Health degree and make some life changing career decisions. I’d really love to hear what your healthy plans are for the new year.

Here’s to a healthy, happy 2015.

Cheers (toasting you with a champagne glass full of fizzy water topped with a fresh raspberry).

Val X

Merry Christmas and Happy Anniversary!

Merry Christmas everyone! Today (26.12.14) is extra special for me because I’m celebrating the anniversary of my first blog post on

Over the last 12 months I’ve uploaded 86 posts, had 3,626 views from 79 countries and have nearly 100 followers.  I also won a scholarship award for my blog and had an amazing time at the award ceremony on 5th December where I meet a hero of mine Dr Tanya Byron who presented my award.

Nutrition & Health Degree Award Winners with Edge Hill Chancellor Dr Tanya Byron

BSc (Hons)Nutrition & Health Degree Award Winners  (Val, Nathan & Laura) with Edge Hill Chancellor Dr Tanya Byron


Another highlight of the event was meeting the other ICT & Enterprise award winners Lindsey who has set up her own candy buffet business called ‘Sweet Dreams’, and Greg Anderton for “Leafy Lytham’ his garden retail product business. Stats: stats


I have really enjoyed writing my blog and have learned  new technical skills and a great deal about social media. It takes time, patience and commitment to keep a blog going for 12 months with many closing after just a few months, but it seems that every day I learn something new that I am just desperate to share..

My Edge Hill University Scholarship Award has allowed me to attend a number of excellent nutrition events and to share my experiences with other students who weren’t able to attend, for one reason or another. For me it’s a great record of what CPD activity I have undertaken.

Hayley, Greg and Val ICT & Enterprise Excellence Award Winners

Hayley, Greg and Val ICT & Enterprise Excellence Award Winners

Most of all over the last 12 months I’ve met some really interesting and lovely people who have all been very supportive about my blog and encouraged my passion for the subject of nutrition.  I’m looking forward to blogging over the next 12 months, sharing knowledge and continuing to find my social media voice.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year from


Greg Anderton with his Leafy Lytham stall at Edge Hill.

Greg Anderton with his Leafy Lytham stall at Edge Hill.

Nutrition Society Winter Meeting – Loved it!

This years Nutrition Society Winter Meeting on ‘Nutrition and age-related muscle loss, sarcopenia and cachexia’, was every bit as good as last years event. The two day symposium organised by the Royal College of Medicine and the Nutrition Society was packed full of interesting speakers, poster presentations and opportunities to network.

You can see me in the bottom left photo doing  a bit of networking !

Twitter feed from the Nutrition Society showing me networking!

The event helped me to understand the role skeletal muscle plays in maintaining health and wellbeing and the importance of nutrition in preventing sarcopenia (the loss of mass, strength and function) and cachexia (involuntary rapid loss of body weight and muscle mass).

The lectures, oral presentations and poster sessions provided information from a clinical perspective and findings from current research. I found the biochemistry and physiology fascinating and although as a nutrition student I’m certainly no expert, the presentations really helped me understand how bodily functions and chemical processes change with age.

photo 3 wm

Everyone I met was so passionate about their subject and it was great to chat with those who had just presented their research findings, and those like me, who are studying and may present at the event in future.

I met many interesting people including:

  • a Dietitian I follow on Twitter (Dr Sarah Bath)
  • a Psychiatrist who had worked in eating disorder clinics,
  • a nutrition student who has applied for a studentship in Hong Kong,
  • a Dietitian who has an amazing career as a freelance,
  • a member of the Royal College of Medicine.

I also spent time chatting to Research Dietitian (Eva Grace) from Kings College London who presented finding from a longitudinal cohort study she has undertaken into the ‘persistence and development of malnutrition in patients with upper-gastrointestinal cancer’.

Eva’s lecture was fascinating and introduced me to the Patient Generated Subjective Global Assessment (PG-SGA) they used which is a nutritional assessment considered to be the gold standard that has been validated in the oncology setting.  I discovered that this was more in-depth and reliable than the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) more widely used to assess patients in a clinical setting as it consists of only four simple steps.

photo 2 wm











I really enjoyed the whole event and loved spending a couple of days in London.  On the way back from the meeting, to the hotel after day one I called in to Selfridge’s Department Store and ended up watching ‘Paddington Bear’ in the Everyman cinema on the lower ground floor. The cinema was lovely: very plush, sofas, comfy chairs and a bar! Had a great time – a brilliant two days from start to finish.

I would recommend all nutrition students attend events run by the Nutrition Society they really do bring a subject to life.


Paddington Bear Selfridges window display was amazing

Paddington Bear Selfridges window display was amazing

Busy month of CPD activity – November

The busy month started with a day at the Countess of Chester Hospital where I met the most amazing group of dietitians from different specialisms and finished with a day at the Association for Nutrition Regional Networking Meeting in Manchester, where I met some really lovely people all very enthusiastic about their dissertations and PHD’s.

CPD is defined by the Health Care Professions Council (2014) as:

  • “the way professionals continue to learn and develop throughout their careers so they keep their skills and knowledge up to date and are able to work safely, legally and effectively”

I also managed to deliver a presentation for my Personal Career Development Module, spent a day job shadowing at Public Health England and submitted my application to Chester University for a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics. Phew!!

December is a bit quieter, I’m attending the Edge Hill Scholarship Awards on Friday and then off to London again for the Nutrition Society Winter Meeting. Val

Val's November CPD Activity

Val’s November CPD Activity

3rd Year Edge Hill Nutrition Students at the Association for Nutrition Regional Meeting

3rd Year Edge Hill Nutrition Students at the Association for Nutrition Regional Meeting

Royal Liverpool Hospital Food and Nutrition event - Joyce and Margi

Royal Liverpool Hospital Food and Nutrition event – Joyce and Margi

‘Food Matters Live’ event – Brilliant!

This week I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in London at ‘Food Matters Live’ the new annual cross-sector forum bringing together professionals from nutrition, health, government, food manufacturing, retail and food service.

Great fun meeting up with Geraldine

Great fun meeting up with Geraldine

The event endorsed by the Association for Nutrition as a CPD activity was buzzing with over 200 exhibitors, all with interesting stories to tell or new products to try.  Some of the new products I sampled were:

  • Cricket fudge – Containing protein rich edible insects available from
  • Birch tree sap – This Eastern European sweet drink, is said to have an array of health benefits
  • Natural colouring for food – Great idea, nothing artificial just fruit & veg
  • Coconut water – All sorts of flavours and brands were on offer
  • Baobab and moringa – Drinks and energy bars made from these African ‘super-ingredients’ – tasty

With over eighty seminars and a busy schedule of conference sessions I was in my element. Janet Street Porter and Michael Mosley were good value and Jay Raynor was over the top as ever!

Food Matters Live 18-20.11.14

Food Matters Live 18-20.11.14

I attended seminars on allergy and intolerance, nano-technology, packaging, health and wellbeing and conference sessions on tackling childhood obesity and the future of nutrition in a resource constrained world and the role of media in marketing.

Getting to ask a panel of experts a question linked to my dissertation was my personal highlight.

My question:

Do you think people have a good level of knowledge of the link between diet and disease across the socioeconomic gradient

The panel said:

“they were not aware of any studies measuring this but there was evidence that people don’t make the link between diet and disease especially at the lower end of the socioeconomic gradient. In reality the panel thought people were concerned with meeting basic hunger needs rather than thinking about the consequences of what they are eating. As to whether people ever considered that the cheeseburger they were eating would cause heart disease or breast cancer for example – the panel thought not!’


The distinguished panel who answered my dissertation question:Dr Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health in the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, The University of Oxford and Chair of The Department of Health Food Network Partington, Director General, British Soft Drinks Association (Host) Samira Ahmed, Broadcaster, Journalist and Writer Dr David Haslam, GP & Senior Partner & Chair of National Obesity Forum Dr Angela Donkin, Senior Advisor, UCL, Institute of Health Equity

The distinguished panel who answered my dissertation question:Dr Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health in the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, The University of Oxford & Chair of The Department of Health Food Network
Gavin Partington, Director General, British Soft Drinks Association
(Host) Samira Ahmed, Broadcaster, Journalist and Writer
Dr David Haslam, GP & Senior Partner & Chair of National Obesity Forum
Dr Angela Donkin, Senior Advisor, UCL, Institute of Health Equity 

I had a really great time and as a nutrition student the breadth of topics discussed were amazing. I thought getting everyone together at one event was a brilliant idea! Chatting with like-minded people, listening to the conference speakers and finding out about new developments in the food, nutrition and health arena over the 3 day period gave me a broader view of this dynamic industry – definitely time well spent.

I was only able to attend because of my Edge Hill Scholarship Award so will be eternally grateful.