Megan Hallett, aka the Plant Based Londoner, author, nutrition coach, recipe developer and wellness enthusiast. We talk about the importance food has on hormone health and how Megan tackled her own PCOS through nourishing her body with food, which eventually lead to her writing the book 'The Happy Balance' full of hormone balancing recipes.
Q1. Megan, for anyone who doesn’t know you, what would you love to tell them about yourself?
I am a very, very hungry girl and my love of good food borders on obsessive most of the time.
I also have a real fascination around what food and decent nutrition can do for our bodies. I try to set myself apart from others in the industry by really focusing on creating food that isn’t your typical “healthy-food-trying-its hardest-not-to-appear-so” (I don’t think I can take another healthy mac and cheese recipe, if you want mac and cheese, please eat up) but real, delicious food that is healthy in its fundamentals. I eat kale because I like kale, not just because it's healthy, and I think this is the key to both mental and physical long-term health.
Q2. What inspired you to start developing recipes and set up your blog?
My teenage years saw a long, painful puberty filled with acne, hair loss and dangerously irregular cycles. I was diagnosed with PCOS, told to lose weight and handed a prescription for the pill (AKA, a big fat plaster to mask my symptoms). I over-exercised, under-ate and developed a very unhealthy relationship with food, ultimately making things a hundred times worse for myself in the long run. Gradually, I took the power back and laid the groundwork for healing my hormones naturally, all whilst being determined to help other women in the same boat.
Q3. How did this progress into publishing your first book? (Huge congratulations!!!)
Eeek! Thank you! I was very lucky, I must say. My publishing house had a feeling that hormone health was going to be the hot topic this year and wanted someone with a very holistic, healthy approach to tackle writing a book on it. Everything I posted, either via my own blog or on Instagram, had discussed not just what to eat for optimal hormone health, but also how to go about it in the most delicious way, working with the incredible seasonal produce we are so very blessed with here in the UK.
Q4. Please can you tell us more about hormone health and how food plays a part in it?
The book is split up into sections, each addressing a different aspect of how to support your endocrine system into maintaining homeostasis. This includes stabilizing blood sugar, supporting your bodies systems of elimination (the gut and liver), nurturing your adrenals and tackling any environmental toxins which act and endocrine disruptors. Getting a hold on what’s on your plate is paramount for the first three. How you’re building your meals, omitting sugar and overly processed carbohydrates is the first step to creating a stable blood sugar curve, which has a knock-on effect on the rest of your hormones.
We can also actively support our gut and liver health so that these two masters of elimination can sufficiently do their job and get rid of all your used hormones that you really don’t want lurking around once they have done their job. For your liver, load up on your B-vitamins, packing in dark, leafy greens, drink water as if your life depends on it and avoid the distractors – coffee, sugar and alcohol. For your gut, fibre is your best friend (hence why all the recipes in the book are plant-based!), get to grips with fermented foods and slow down when you eat. Going to the loo regularly, as glamorous as it may sound, is essential in preventing build-up.
Q6. For anyone who is totally new to how hormone health, what are common symptoms of a hormone imbalance? What would be the next steps they could take to help this?
Hormonal imbalance presents in so many ways and differs woman to woman. Agonising PMS is a common symptom that we seem to write off as normal, as is hormonal acne, mood swings, painful breasts, bloating, water retention and unexplained weight gain are a number of the most common everyday symptoms. Hormonal imbalance can go as far as hair loss or excessive hair growth in places you do not want it to grow. It can cause anxiety, depression, long or very short cycles and even amenorrhea (loss of a period completely). The latter symptoms can be signs of an endocrine disorder such as PCOS, thyroid dysfunction, endometriosis, hypothalamic amenorrhea or fibroids. If this sounds like you, having a full hormone panel done is essential in getting to the root cause. If you’re just experiencing a few annoying symptoms at different times throughout your cycle, then seed cycling or cycle syncing your food and movement can be really helpful to help ease them.
Q7. When you feel stressed, overwhelmed or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
Emotionally speaking, I get outside or I talk to a friend. A lot of my anxiety stems from simply just being in my head too much, especially as the world of freelancing can be lonely at times. If I feel overwhelmed, I like to sit in a bookshop for a few hours, camp out next to a pile of books and just read. In terms of our hormone health, mental wellbeing can play a huge role in how our body’s major functions behave, so it’s paramount you tackle stress as if it’s your job!
Q8. Do you have any habits that form your daily routine that you swear by?
I’m a sucker for a full fat, protein-rich smoothie to start my day. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last when I go to sleep. Does that make me sound really sad? I don’t care – breakfast is important! The right combination of protein, fat and fibre in your breakfast really does set you up for the day ahead and prevents dips in bloody sugar and thus, dips in energy. My current favourite is a combination of frozen avocado, frozen spinach, plant-based milk, cacao, chia seeds, plant-based protein powder and a power blend of medicinal mushrooms for adrenal and immune support.
Q9. The nutrition industry is such a busy space, with so much information on offer, it can be overwhelming! What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession?
Broad and one-sided claims. We are all SO different; especially when it comes to the way our hormones behave in our bodies. Yes, intermittent fasting and keto diets can be beneficial for some, but if you’re struggling with hypothalamic amenoria, for example, it’s the absolute worst thing you can do for your body. Figure out what works for you and stick to it, don’t let any fads or success stories from your friends (who have a completely different genetic makeup to you anyway) lead you astray.
Q10. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
Without a doubt, education. I would spend the rest of my life in school, if only I could afford it! My photography degree acts as an aesthetic vehicle to initially attract attention, whilst my Nutritional Therapist qualification provides credibility. The skills combined allow me to build nutritionally sound recipes, talk about them and photograph.
Q11. What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt on your journey so far?
Stability and consistency. We love to jump on the latest fad or health trend, regardless of if it is the best thing for our bodies or not and I am definitely guilty of this too! I wish I could tell my younger self to simply trust the non-linear process of healing and that the healthiest diet is one that it's stable and consistent.
Q12. If you had a giant billboard that you could write anything on for everyone to see, what would it say?
“Life is long”. I think it’s a quote from The Mindy Project (my happy show), but it speaks so much truth. Millennials seem to be rushing through life right now and so much anxiety comes from not being exactly where we think we should be.
I am constantly comparing what I know to someone who had been in the industry for say, 10 years longer than I have. We throw “life is short” around at every chance we get, as an excuse to go out and grab exactly what we want, and yes, I agree. But life is also long - so slow down and enjoy it. Eat for longevity, not a hot bod. There are so many paths leading to your dream job, so don’t feel pressure to take the fastest route.
If you want to know more about Megan, make sure you check out her socials and give her some support!
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