Alice Mackintosh is London’s leading nutrition consultant. She gained a First Class Honours degree in Nutritional Therapy, at the renowned Centre for Nutrition Education in the UK, and now advises on all aspects of nutrition at the prestigious Food Doctor clinic on Harley Street.
Alice is known for her infectious flair and passion for nutrition, which helps to motivate her clients to make positive and meaningful changes to their health without being dull or overly restrictive. As well as seeing clients on a one-to-one basis, Alice regularly writes for magazines and newspapers; and is often invited to comment on a host of nutritional matters on BBC World News and BBC Radio 4. She is also an author, and has been asked edit and contribute to an array of nutrition and health related books.
Meet Alice Mackintosh.
What led to you decide not to qualify as a medical doctor and become a nutritionist instead?
It was a combination of factors. I worked very hard to secure my place at medical school but when it came down to it I decided that it wasn’t quite the right route for me at that time. I was still adamant that I wanted to help others overcome illness but was more focussed on trying to work out exactly what was going wrong internally to manifest the disease in the first place. Nutrition works to this philosophy whilst adhering to the functional medicine model; once I had discovered this I knew with certainty that it was where I wanted to go.
I have no doubt that had I done medicine, I would have gone on to study nutrition and use the two together.
What do you see as the biggest challenges with diet in today’s world?
This challenge will have undoubtedly have evolved over time, but with communication and media playing such an enormous role in modern life, misinformation seems to me to be a major hindrance for a lot of people. You can find someone telling you to do almost anything you want online and we live in a world that bombards us with information about what to eat, when, how and why. It has become so complicated that it is no wonder that people we are so confused!
One of the biggest obstacles that stands between us and health is being able to separate the fact from the fiction; however with increasing prevalence being placed on nutrition, this is only likely to get more tricky.
Beauty is not skin deep
Nutritional Therapy, what’s it all about?
Contrary to belief, it is about far more than simply telling people what to eat. Essentially the aim is always to work out what makes the person in front of you tick. What are the underlying imbalances and what triggers are contributing to their issue? Of course what they eat is crucial to this, but your job as a therapist is to really make a detailed assessment of their health; how their unique requirements and circumstances have brought them to where they are and what strategy can be best incorporated to help get them past it.
The real trick is to then get them to do it – but that’s a whole other story!
Helping people is really inherent to nutritional therapy – it defines its purpose. Exactly how I help someone and to what extent will be very much dependent on their objectives but also their level of commitment and determination – essentially I help them to help themselves. The buck stops with them.
How have your own experiences influenced your work?
Like so many, I used to think I ate well but was in fact getting it very wrong! As soon as I changed, my hair, skin and nails made an immediate and visible transformation and this was a major factor for wanting to show others how they could do the same. I am lucky to be continually amazed by my job which always spurs me on to continue learning more.
How can nutrition help skin regeneration?
As the largest organ in the body, the skin is incredibly complex and is under the influence of many other body systems. Immunity, liver function, hormones and digestion are but a few that will impact on its health and thus, its appearance.
Given that healthy glowing skin is so strongly determined by what lies beneath, it is a reliable barometer of the health of the body and can tell us a lot about what is going on internally. Undesirable symptoms often suggest imbalances in any one or more of the body’s systems and nutrition can be an incredibly powerful way of tapping into the body and fine tuning it’s function.
How did you find the Hip and Healthy 10 day sugar detox last year? Is sugar the greatest evil of our time?
To be honest my daily sugar intake is very limited already… I did struggle without any fruit, dark chocolate and the odd glass of wine but overall it wasn’t too tricky for me. We had a lot of people giving great feedback and I think doing programme like that is a great way to recalibrate your eating habits.
That being said, I don’t think one thing is necessarily the root of all-evil – we cannot simply generalise in that way. There is absolutely no doubt that the fact that we eat far too much sugar is a problem and it is likely a major contributor to many of the epidemic health conditions facing the population. It isn’t single-handedly taking the world down though.
Stress, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, saturated fat, Nicolas Cage – what about all these things?!
What is your message to cynics, sceptics, and the intrigued?
When I tell people that my job is based on the premise that food can alter the way our bodies function, some respond with intrigue and belief; whilst others say that they eat a lot of junk and are ‘perfectly healthy’. Whilst I would always be delighted if that were the case, upon further questioning it seems as though it rarely is. Monthly PMS, headaches, low energy, blemish prone skin, disturbed sleep and excruciating hangovers (that somehow reach the two-day mark) seem now to be considered a normal part of day-to-day life. In fact, these things can be a sign that the body is not working at full capacity. It is my belief that many people have forgotten what it feels like to be truly healthy, and experience has shown that when people change the way they eat and start supplying the body with the types of fuels it needs to flourish, they often find that niggling symptoms start to diminish.
I hasten to add that I rarely try to convince people who I can sense aren’t, or never will be, interested – if it isn’t your thing then so be it, whatever works for you.
Finally, what are your top tips for self-love?
Learn how to listen to your instincts and have the strength to follow them – they are normally telling you what is right. Even if it’s not what you want to hear, listen and learn.
Do more of what you love – if it makes you feel good, do it. Perhaps if that thing isn’t especially good for you then don’t do it to excess but remember, YOLO!
Stress less and stop worrying… it is rarely of much consequence. I will admit that I can really relate to people who struggle with this as I find it next to impossible to switch off but you have to find a way. Sometimes it helps to put the worry into perspective – it is rarely memorable a week or even a day later. Massage, acupuncture, sex, manicures, Harvey Spectre – whatever releases the tension!
Look after your health, because the moment you lose it, you and your family will think of nothing else but getting it back.
Gratitude – it’s so much rewarding than negativity and self-pity. Get into the habit of actively listing the things you are grateful for and you will see the list grow and grow as time goes by.
There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle, or you can live as if everything is a miracle. ~ Albert Einstein
First Published 2014/06/22