We're delighted to introduce you to Zoë Kirby, our nutrition expert on the Nourish app!
Before we get into the main subject, nutrition, can you tell us a bit about you?
I was born in London, so I’m a city girl at heart, but we moved to the countryside near Cambridge 10 years ago, when I had 2 small boys, to get more space and fresh air. I still love my city fix but then I also love coming back home to the fields and big skies, which have been a godsend this past year. I now have 3 children, aged 15, 12 and 10, who keep me busy and entertained between my nutrition work and yoga teaching. I am fascinated by psychology, which was my first degree, how the mind works and how that relates to our habits, choices and beliefs around food. I also love photography, art, live music and theatre, so I can’t wait to get back to some of these later in the year.
We know how many people put up a perfect image of themselves on instagram, especially when you work in health. So we'd love to know, what does a "normal day" actually look like for you?
Yes, I think it’s really important to be authentic on social media, so I tend to share posts that I hope will interest and inspire people, then more of the day-to-day stuff on Stories - nobody wants to see perfection! I generally start the day with some movement – either yoga or a workout - if I don’t do it first thing, I know it won’t happen! Then I eat breakfast around 9am, after the kids have gone to school. I’m normally at my desk for a few hours in the morning, seeing clients over Zoom or working on my online courses and newsletter. I take a proper break for lunch, with my husband if we’re both working at home, then go for a walk outside – one of our lockdown habits I’m determined to keep. Then I’ll start to prepare food for dinner, before going to pick the kids up from school. After school is the usual juggle of homework, clubs and cooking, then collapse! I’m trying to be disciplined with turning off phones and social media after 9pm and making more time to read in the evenings, which is lovely when it happens!
It's time to hear about your number one passion, nutrition. Tell us what inspired you to become a nutritionist?
Basically, I have always just loved food! But in terms of turning it into a job, my sister was very unwell with M.E. as a child, and made an amazing recovery after seeing a nutritionist, so the power that food and nutrition has to transform our health really stayed with me, and when I was disillusioned with corporate life in my 20s, I decided to follow my passion and retrain as a Nutritional Therapist. My children were the inspiration for my current area of expertise in family nutrition – I know first-hand the stress of dealing with allergies, fussy eating and the monotony of mealtimes, on top of the work-life juggle. It is so easy for healthy eating to fall to the bottom of the list, especially these days when we are surrounded by ultra-processed, convenience food everywhere we look. So my passion is to inspire and educate families about reconnecting with real food, and learning to love mealtimes again.
How would you describe your particular approach to nutrition?
I have a very practical approach – I love sharing the educational side of nutrition with my clients, but often it’s the putting it into practice that is a hurdle too far for busy families, so I combine the education with practical tips that are realistic and achievable for busy lives. I see eating well as a long-term lifestyle choice, so I don’t believe in quick fixes or fad diets, I am much more keen to see people adding in more foods to their diet rather than removing or restricting them. I am a big advocate of the 80-20 approach – eating a wide variety of healthy, nutritious food 80% of the time, and the other 20% eating what you like, whether that be cake, chocolate or ice cream (or all 3 in my case!) and crucially without any guilt. I believe it is the little things we do every day that make the most difference to our health, so I encourage my clients to take small steps to build healthy habits that will last a lifetime, rather than making huge changes that might not last.
As Nourish is all about mums supporting mums, would you be willing to share a few anecdotes about emotions or challenges that you met along the way in your journey with motherhood?
Motherhood is such a huge transition for all of us - nothing can prepare you for it - and I definitely didn’t feel prepared for the loss of identity I experienced as a new mum, and just the all-consuming forever-ness of it all. My first baby had reflux and didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time, so I used to think I must be doing something wrong and who were all these other babies having 2-hour naps and sleeping through the night?! It was so easy to fall into a pit of comparison, and social media didn’t even exist back then! Then, because I had already trained as a nutritionist, I found dealing with fussy eating very stressful, as I was so concerned he wasn’t eating properly, and I’m sure my anxiety added to the problem. So this is an area I love helping families with now, as I know the stress and misery it can cause at mealtimes, which should be such joyful occasions.
As you know, we are champions of self-care for mums! Self-care looks so different from person to person and can be something very simple and easy. What does self-care look like for you?
I think there is a tendency, especially for mums, to feel guilty about doing something for themselves, but it’s SO important! One of my favourite quotes is ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’ so I have to remind myself to top mine up throughout the day, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I realised in lockdown that exercising in the morning really helped me cope with the rest of the day, so I make it a non-negotiable priority now, and it’s made such a difference to my ability to manage stress. I think we really need to shift the focus of exercise towards benefiting our mental rather than physical health. I also love yoga, and walking outside in nature, taking some deep breaths of fresh air, has an amazingly calming effect. I also find cooking quite mindful and calming, whilst listening to an inspirational podcast, and then making time to read in the evenings.
About the author
Zoë Kirby is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and Yoga teacher with a special interest in women's and children's health. She is a mother of 3 and is passionate about educating families about the benefits of good nutrition, through workshops and private consultations.
Download the Nourish App for free to access tips and recipe ideas from Zoe.
You can also sign up to Zoe's monthly newsletter The Pulse and find her on Instagram @zoekirbynutrition.