Managing Director, Bite The Sun
Executive Coordinator, Alliance for Natural Health International
When did you first become interested in nutrition and health?
I’ve always been a very intuitive person – I can sense things and see things in people. There’s an energy where people’s emotional blocks are and I can put my hands on someone and massage where they have a problem. I’ve done a lot of hands-on work, with guided journeys through regression and meditation. I believe that you can’t focus physically if you’re not right mentally so emotions are a good place to start.
You’ve been through some serious health issues yourself. You developed an autoimmune condition called Grave’s Disease (overactive thyroid) at 17 and had to have your thyroid gland removed. How has this shaped the way you approach nutrition?
When I was trying to heal myself, nutrition wasn’t the first place I went. I had to deal with the emotional aspect of it first and my own peace of mind.
Many illnesses have a trauma behind them. Take something like an eating disorder, for example; there is a huge trauma behind that which needs to be addressed before you can work on the nutritional aspects.
Tissue has a memory, even when the injury can’t be found anymore. If we don’t work to clear that, we don’t get through all the trauma. Cleaning the slate emotionally takes away some of the challenge.
It’s no coincidence that happier people tend to be healthier. When people are first in love, for example, they are less prone to illness, their skin is clearer, they eat less and they feel healthier – it’s synchronicity.
You were told by doctors that without a thyroid gland losing weight would be impossible but you were determined to prove them wrong. How did you go about it?
When I was told that, I knew that I just couldn’t live another moment in that body. I had to fix it and I did. It’s just a shame that it took me 25 years to do it. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.
Tell us a bit about your educational background.
I had always been quite touchy-feely and an advocate of hands-on healing and getting in touch with your emotions but when I discovered psychoneuroimmunology it integrated all the work I had been doing up until that point and everything just clicked into place.
I always believed that health and wellbeing was about much more than just straight up nutrition and I’d always naturally put emotions at the centre of everything. Psychoneuroimmunology looks at how our entire lifestyle, and things like stress, can affect our immune system.
You are a practicing clinical psychoneuroimmunologist, a functional medicine practitioner and a certified Metabolic Balance coach. You also worked as a lecturer in colleges. What areas did you cover?
I began lecturing in a sports rehabilitation course in St. Mary’s University, where I took a holistic approach, combining emotional aromatherapy with client handling skills. The massages worked deeply on the tissue memory and the aromatherapy focused on the emotional side. I took a much more hands-on, touchy feely approach, which was very people-focused and quite different from mainstream approaches.
You joined Robert Verkerk PhD at the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANHI) in 2005 and set up the consultancy arm of the organisation. Tell us about the work you do there.
The ANHI was founded in 2002 and is the leading organisation of its kind globally. We work to protect and promote natural and sustainable approaches to healthcare and campaign on a range of issues like promoting the use of micronutrients and natural products in healthcare, ending water fluoridation and GM foods and vaccine safety.
It is not in the interests of many pharma and big food groups to have healthy, disease-free society. They are the Goliath to our David. David needs to have a lot of strategy and be very targeted to take them on.
The ANH website puts across the facts of these issues very clearly and allows people to process the information themselves and draw their own conclusions. Do you think it’s important to be neutral?
It is very important to present unbiased views. We’re working to create a level playing field. We present people with all the information they need to make an informed choice. It’s a very one-sided world at the moment. When people are diagnosed with an illness by their doctor, we would like them to be given a booklet with all the treatments on offer. People need to regain some power over their health.
We also do a lot behind the scenes for practitioners, much of which is not in the public domain, but we are working away to support them in many ways.
You set up “Bite the Sun”, an online health and nutrition programme, which helps people to get fit and healthy through a combination of diet, activity and rest. How did Bite The Sun come about?
It is very important to have a natural health NGO that is an educational resource, as well as a lobbying and advocacy force. While the two are separate organisations, Bite The Sun is the consumer outreach arm of the ANHI and promotes the same messages in a more accessible way.
Where does the name come from?
It’s all about leading a life so vital and energetic that you feel powerful enough to “bite the sun”.
It has been described as “the gateway to the Holy Grail of vital health”, so what’s it all about?
We need to recognise that our health and wellbeing is deeply rooted in evolutionary biology. We are dealing with an ancient genome that is more suited to our hunter-gatherer days than to modern life.
Bite The Sun unites people who share the same goal of wanting to lead healthier lives and allows them to share the journey. It provides all the information they’re searching for in an easily accessible format and gives them the tools and resources they need to help them to achieve their goals.
You can choose a monthly membership, which gives you access to all the content and 4 bonus reports or you can choose an annual membership, which provides you with “ShapeShifting” food plans, based on your body shape. We start by using your body measurements to determine your current body shape and we assess your level of metabolic risk based on that. You can choose to “shape retain” if you’re healthy and happy with your current shape or “shape shift” if you want to make a change.
We need to find a deeper level of self-awareness and self-development in order to achieve optimal health so we also include “The Journey”, which is a spiritual exploration of what makes us tick. Some people are happier to look at things from a more straightforward neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) standpoint and that’s fine too but the spiritual side is there for anyone who wants it.
In your introductory video you say that “most of us only really feel good halfway through a holiday and that’s not right.” That’s so true. Why do you think this is and what can we do to change it?
Well, we need to be more aware of the work-life balance. “Me time” is pretty essential. We have so many pressures and distractions in our lives and in this digital age we are never off, with work emails at all hours and our phones on all night. Our brains need space; our immune systems need space.
Men and women need different types of space. Men need “cave time”, with no distractions. Men are naturally more active so they need diverted action and stillness when they get home from work. Women need “me time”, time to be themselves and to pamper themselves. It could be a walk or a candle-lit bath or just 30 minutes in the day to call your own.
You might think that you don’t have time for this but you need to take breaks multiple times during the day. Feeling grateful and giving thanks are very powerful things. If you just take a one-minute pause 3 or 4 times a day to appreciate the things that are good in your life it can let in more positive energy. You need to bring your heart rhythm into synch with the Earth’s rhythm. There is time in our lives that we’re missing – the “not doing” time is actually the most useful time of all.
“Rest” is not something that most health programmes incorporate. What kind of rest do you recommend?
Sleep is hugely important to our overall wellbeing, both in terms of quantity and quality. We look at “sleep hygiene”, which includes things that help people to sleep well on a regular basis.
There is a community aspect built into Bite The Sun. You’ve been described as “the social media platform for the health empowered”. How does this work and why do you think this element is so important?
We want to bring together a group of people who want health and want to maintain it. The people who use our site are all on different stages in their journey to health. Those who are already there tend to shop differently and think differently – they look at labels and understand ingredients and processes. We want them to bring their gifts, talents and services to the community. We have created a forum where people can share their health stories and practitioners can advertise themselves and their services.
We want to start a global conversation. People can also use the site to meet up with like-minded people in their own local areas. Mums can meet other mums with similar health interests.
The site is connected to “Bite Hub”, our social media site, which is linked with Facebook. We include members’ blogs and encourage people to share their stories. We also include our own stories – we’ve been there, we’ve done it ourselves, we’ve walked the walk so it’s important to share our experiences. Many people on our site have come through things that they never thought they could, like health challenges and fitness challenges and this is really inspiring and motivating for others. Your story can really help someone else.
Essentially, we’ve created a platform to try to “heal the world”. It will only work if people are inspired by it. It is designed for people who want the best health advice but can’t afford to see practitioners all the time. We want to strengthen local communities by bringing people together and create a movement that helps people to get out and meet like-minded people. Sometimes, when you’re trying to make a lifestyle change, your peers aren’t the most supportive. If your social life revolves around going to the pub every night, you might need to find a new circle of friends to get healthy.
We also want companies to become “strategic partners” and we will endorse their products. We want to help practitioners to expand their businesses. We have incorporated “geographical tags” to help them to grow a group quickly in their own local areas, with people who are interested in what they do and who they can communicate with on a regular basis.
How much does it cost?
A monthly subscription costs £3.65 and an annual membership costs £35. The subscription aspect is largely to make sure that those who join are committed to and have the same standpoint as the group. We need people to sign up to a code of conduct that’s about supporting each other within the group to make it a positive experience for everyone.
10% of the membership fee goes to environmental and humanitarian causes. Do you think it’s important to give back?
People who care about the planet can care about themselves so we think that it is important to give something back.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to live a healthier life?
Eat 3 meals a day, with no snacking in between. Eating little and often is not part of our evolutionary makeup. We were created for famine, not for feast. Make sure that at least once a week you do something that really makes your heart sing.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in the area of health or nutrition?
Working in the area of health and nutrition can be very fulfilling but make sure you don’t become a “wounded healer”. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. It can be hard work dealing with people’s emotional pain and suffering. You need to be in a very centred, balanced place yourself.
What do you think the future holds for herbal medicine and nutrition?
The future is bright. Awareness is growing and more and more people are really waking up to the call coming from deep within their genes for a more natural way of life. As practitioners, we need to keep our own house in order, know our science and keep up to speed with the latest developments and regulations.
For more information check out bitethesun.org
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