Conversations Episode #1

hey and welcome to episode one of conversations between Sensera and the Nutri Guy! 

I’m a counsellor and G is a nutritionist and we found that we were always having conversations about our fields of interest which are mental health and nutrition and so we thought, why not start doing a podcast about what we talk about.  So this one is our first one it’s just mainly introductions, so G do you want to talk about how you come to be doing what you’re doing?

 Yes okay, so excited about this.  As Cathee said, I’m a nutritionist therapist my name is Genesis aka the Nutri Guy and my area of specialism is nutrition.  I have been qualified in nutrition coming up to 9/ 10 years now and yes, I absolutely love the world of nutrition. It’s so much broader than the average person may assume.  As soon as people hear the word nutrition, they just assume weight management but as we will find over the next few episodes, we’re going to explore specifically the link between nutrition and mental health.  For me it’s most definitely a subject I’m very passionate about it.  In terms of the actual link between nutrition and mental health I feel like the two can’t really be separated, they do impact each other in many ways.  Of course, having Cathee as well to share with me the other side hopefully.  What these few episodes coming up in the future will do is just hopefully help enlighten everybody as to that that connection is. Me and Cathee been discussing how in the world that we’re currently living in right now it’s probably more vital now than ever for this type of subject to be addressed and bridging the gap between our two worlds.   Would you say that’s fair to say?  

Yeah definitely.  As a Counsellor my journey has been a long one.   I become a counsellor in my 20s, I’m in my 40s now, so a good 20 years.   This hasn’t been a consistent service, I first got into it originally from my own journey with mental health.  As a young person I experimented in typical risky behaviour and I was in and out of counselling.  I developed an interest.  At university I did a degree in literature life and thought and for me that was just the chance to liberate loads of voices in books.  They all had a story to tell that needed to be understood and I just become really interested in humans.  Having needed to have my own voice particularly.  I started a counselling course and that was good.   A lot of it was person-centred, so it was a lot of focus on self-awareness and self-reflection.  I really enjoyed it.

A lot of self-development there by the sounds of it!

Yes totally, and I loved it all.  I loved that it inspired me in my life.  How I was living my life and everything.   I got a job straight away in counselling and very soon worked up to a full-time position as a manager, supervisor, counsellor and play therapist.   I did play therapy as well.   I then had my children and had a break and then recently I’ve started Sensera counselling

So, hey so you’re back in the game now?

Yes, and so excited to meet you G because you just completely inspire me.  I know you’ve had your own journey with an interest in mental health and we have so many things we bounce off each other that it just seemed the right time to be doing this.

I mean this is exciting, and straight away I can honestly say I didn’t even realise how long you’d been a counsellor.  Clearly you know you just said you love hearing people, you have obviously heard a multitude of stories and obviously coupled with your own personal life experience I can only imagine the wealth of knowledge that you have. So, I’m equally inspired and look forward to picking your brain over the next few weeks or months to come. 

Oh, that’s cool thanks G.

I also like the way that you explained your journey.  It was quite more thorough than me.   I mean obviously you’ve explained in terms of counselling, but you also had a personal sort of experience with it yourself as well.  For me I suppose with nutrition it was always more about general health and well-being and I think it’s only in the latter years that I’ve started to want to focus more specifically on the link between nutrition and mental health.  That’s why this is an exciting opportunity.  So, thank you.  I mean the link between nutrition and mental health is so underrated.   You know people know there’s a link, but I don’t think they necessarily take it seriously.   What do you think?

 No, definitely. 

I mean, if we put it down to the simplest thing like, you know like eating junk food; processed food that impacts your mental health.  Most people only first think about how that affects their waistline but not actually necessarily attribute it to their mental health.

So true.   I think it’s really interesting you say that because I’ve been thinking in terms of a mind-body-spirit balance, how it’s so easy to neglect the body.    I think for me anyway.  On my journey the body has often come last.  I was reading the philosopher Ken Wilbur; he was someone I used to study at university.  He talks about how we live in our heads.  People say’ we have a body’ you know, like it’s a possession.  We are in our heads; we don’t holistically associate all the time with our body and see how important it is.  It’s like it’s an inconvenience that we must travel around in.

The Nutri Guy is all about a guide to health and happiness and obviously we’re talking about health and well-being.  When we talk about those three faculties mind body and spirit, I find that for example, the gym person will work more on body, maybe a bit of mind but not so much on spirit.  Then say maybe you might get the intellectual, the philosopher he works more in his mind not so much in the body not so much in the spirit.  Then you get the avid Christian, you know super religious whose focus is spirit not so much mind, not so much body.  I think there’s quite clearly an imbalance in those three examples that I’ve given.  I think really, it’s about finding the balance between addressing all three.

I love that G, that different people experience different aspects of the mind body spirit experience.  Yes, it’s the balance that seems to lack. 

Of course. Personally, I can tell you throughout my journey there has been points where you know, I might be focused a little bit more on the spirit than the other two and then you know it does ebb and flow, but I think that balance is the thing that I’m talking about.  I mean if you reflect on yourself would you say that’s how its panned out?

 On my journey? oh my god with health and diet? Yeah, I mean the body’s been the one I’ve neglected sugar, smoking, alcohol you know and worse when younger.  I’ve also gone to the other extreme and been a vegan and vegetarian.   I’ve exercised, I’ve not exercised, I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained weight.  I’m doing quite well now, I’m doing Veganuary now!  I’ve also totally limited my alcohol intake.  I read something ages ago.   I used to love this quote it was from a poem called The Newborn.  It said in it, ‘don’t worry so much about your body god sewed that robe leave it as it is be more deeply courageous change your soul’.  I’ve gone off that completely now! It doesn’t serve me anymore, it served me for a while.  It also worked to my detriment; do you know what I mean?  Because it was almost like ‘don’t worry, I’ll be more interested in my soul!’  do you know what I mean?  don’t worry about the body? so I’ve gone off that one completely!

Yeah, that statement is exactly what I initially said about this lack of balance.   It is effectively telling you ‘don’t worry about the body the body is good you know god gave you that it’s perfect’.  So, you just focus on the other things, but the truth of the matter is, like I said, they all must be absolutely balanced.  I think also technically speaking, my area specialism focuses primarily on the body and yours primarily on the mind if you like, but they all still feed into each other don’t they, would that be fair to say?

And that’s what I’ve found.  So as part of Sensera Counselling I’ve developed the SensERA model which is about:

  • ‘E’xplore through counselling
  •  ‘R’ealise your own power through journaling.  I give all my clients a free journal, so for homework they do journaling activities to realise ‘their own power to change’.  I won’t be with them forever, finding their inner counsellor can help with their growth process.
  •  ‘A’waken through mindfulness.  This is the real game changer.  The mindfulness approach, part of which is nutrition.

I think that’s awesome it’s literally like a holistic approach to counselling if you like.  I take a holistic approach to health and well-being.  It is holistic, because a lot of the time I think with counselling there is a weird stigma.  You know, the typical ‘I’m not going to see a shrink because I’m just going to sit on a chair and just talk.’  But, when you break it down like that, it makes the whole journey sound completely different.  Me personally I hate when people say, ‘mental health’ because everyone has ‘mental health’.   It’s kind of like diets right!   Everyone’s on a diet.  Diet is just that you know the type of food that you’re consuming.  Just like mental health, everybody has mental health if you’ve got a brain you’ve got mental health.  Really, what we’re talking about is ‘ill mental health’.  For me I suppose that’s where I can bring my story into this.   This is all about introductions and I think for me the link with nutrition and mental health really kicked off primarily because my mother took her life and my brother’s life seven years ago and it was done in a very tragic way and quite clearly you know it was not something that somebody would do in their right mind and I concluded it was obvious that there was ‘ill mental health’, and then also for myself then after the tragic event.   I then seeked counselling.  The story is twofold; what happened and how I dealt with it.  But for now, I’m just going to jump forward to the ‘how I dealt with it’.  It took me three counsellors before I found somebody that worked.  I think you need to have a connection with the person.  The first two people that I saw, we just didn’t connect.  Whether it was subconscious or because I intellectualised things.    Interestingly, the one person that did help me, I’ll never forget her, she’s moved to New Zealand now.  She must have probably been maybe 55-60.   The two previous counsellors I’d seen were much younger than her.  I don’t know whether maybe it was because of her age subconsciously.   It was that older person I feel I connected with.   Also, because I was born in Africa, culturally I have elements to myself that the western person might not always necessarily understand, in terms of etiquette when it comes to bereavement and things like that.   She kind of helped me to explore and to realise what was going on.  As a by-product of that process with her, I then did awaken to certain elements of my journey.  So that’s why I like the model that you’re following.

 I think you’ve touched on some important points their G.  I think the most important thing is the relationship.  The relationship can be so healing but the counsellor must be prepared to go with you where you need to go so that you can heal.   For some people it’s too much and then you know it’s the wrong counsellor.   They might not be able to go to with you to them places.  They need to be able to travel with you into that abyss so that the ideas the thoughts the feelings can come up and they’re not scared of it.  They must let you explore, so you can find your own solutions and reconnect with you.  The other issue you touched on is the idea of the cultural differences with counselling.   I mean that’s big and I think overall, generally the whole approach to psychology in the western world is fuelled by the dominant culture so there’s very limited understanding of African cultures, or other cultures.  So, when you think who designed the models of psychology that you might be following, you know be it a Freudian theory or something, it doesn’t consider some of those cultural differences.

 No totally

It’s almost like some of the values of other cultures are undervalued in the West or seen as crazy because different cultures have different approaches to healing, and they’re not recognized in psychology.  I can understand how you may feel like you’re not getting recognized or understood perhaps.

Most definitely.  I mean coming from a BAME community myself, I can honestly tell you regarding therapy and things like that; well, nobody’s got time for that. Like I said, ‘what you’re just going to sit and talk to a stranger about all sorts of things that are private and intimate about yourself and your family?!’  ‘How the hell is that going to help me?!’  Like I said, that’s exacerbated by the lack of understanding about the cultural side.   And when you link that with nutrition as well, you know in terms of diet and weight, this impacts mental health as well.   If we stick on the BAME side of things as well, normally you know most BAME communities are known to usually have a very high fatty diet, very processed food diet etcetera.   That’s also something that I think links quite well, you know in terms of sugar consumption, high sugary foods etc. 

 I think that’s something that’s not really addressed.   I can honestly say I don’t know many people that really link nutrition and mental health directly.

Well, it’s funny you said that G, because I was reading on your website your blog about how certain foods can make you happy.  It was so interesting.   You were saying about bananas as a source of tryptophan which converts to 5 htp which converts to serotonin and melatonin.   I didn’t even know that!  And serotonin of course being so important for stabilizing our mood and feeling of well-being.

it really goes so so deep, because a lot of deficiencies end up causing depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.  As I mentioned earlier if your diet is heavily processed, heavily sugar-based, then you’re not getting the full spectrum of your vitamins and minerals which are all very much needed to make sure your mental aptitude is functioning at its most optimal. 

And something as simple as a banana like you said.  I like that you remembered about bananas being a good source!   Some people might take for example, a supplement of 5 htp.  It’s obvious as it becomes serotonin.  You can buy 5 htp over the counter, but also you could have it as banana!

I mean god right now, with everything going in the world I think it’s quite fair to say that a lot of people in the world are feeling really depressed aren’t they with the current situation and the way things are?

Definitely.  I think half the problem is that people can’t access things they would have that would help them deal with everyday depression and stress.  Obviously, depression and stress are on a spectrum.  It’s normal to feel degrees of depression and stress and anxiety You can talk about generalized anxiety or you can talk about an anxiety disorder.  But at the end of the day whatever kind of level of stress, anxiety, depression you’re dealing with you still need a way to manage it.  With the situation at the minute and current lockdown, people can’t access the resources; they can’t get outside; they can’t get to their gyms they can’t access whatever it is they need.   

They can’t.  I think maybe next week we might just have to dedicate the episode to ‘nutrition mental health and COVID-19’.  I do think in this one, we’re just trying to give everybody a feel for all the different type of stuff that we’re going to be talking about over the next few weeks.  We will focus on specific areas be it, aspects of counselling, certain foods that make you happy, even things like your gut health and immunity.  I’m going to touch on that next week because there’s a strong relationship between the gut and the brain.  That’s something that a lot of people are not aware of.  Most diseases you will find will be connected to your gut.  A lot of your ‘feel good’ hormones are produced in your gut 

My mother-in-law has given me a book it’s on my bookshelf. It’s about the relationship between the gut and the brain.  I will be reading that in preparation for you!

It’s important and it also connects to the vagus nerve; in terms of how we communicate.

Seventy percent of your immune system is made in your gut. Seventy percent! That is a lot, so you can imagine if for example you have a low mood, you usually find that there’s some sort of issue going on with their gut.  That’s something that has been absolutely proven.  Certain deficiencies have been linked to ill mental health.  Sometimes even if you are eating well, you could have issues in terms of malabsorption; where you’re not absorbing nutrients; then you’re going to end up deficient.   The result being, you’re not producing those hormones – serotonin etc Precursors aren’t being formed.  Then guess what, you end up low a lot of the time. People end up saying things like ‘why is he such a moody person?’.  Well, it could just be as simple as something within their diet.  Their behaviour is persistent and ongoing, so it now actually become a trait.   

All these things just really affect your stress tolerance.  Body physique and your ability to manage stress.  We think it’s in the mind, but that is just part of the story.

The worst part is, it’s not even that complicated in terms of trying to really rebalance these things.  I was just watching a program today about diets and which diets work best.  Because it’s January right now, everybody’s on the ‘new year new me’ hype.  Everybody wants to try this diet or that diet.

However, a study basically confirmed, with seven or eight scientists all categorically agreeing; diets don’t work.   They don’t work they absolutely don’t work.  I think it’s just all about balance and I think maybe over the next few weeks I hope we will be able to educate people on a few fundamentals regarding how to look after your health as well as know what to eat and what supplements you should be taking.  What lifestyle factors you should know.   Mindfulness: help you understand this mind body spirit triad and how to really get that in check because I think as you mentioned, stress is not necessarily a bad thing just like depression is not.  I was talking to my wife about this.  Where I’m from in Africa, depression is not really given the same amount of energy as it is in the West.  As I see it. depression is an inevitable part of life.  If anything, depression is nothing but your soul or something telling you within yourself that ‘I’m not satisfied with the way I’m living my life, please can we make a change?’.  That’s not a bad thing is it really? If you really think about it.  But oh no, in the West as soon as you mention that word ‘depression’, got to go get a little magic tablet because god forbid, I feel this way.   It’s just a part of existence and like you say it’s the same with stress.  A good life is a busy life.  If we are sitting around doing nothing, procrastinating, you know we’re not as happy.  However, with a busy life comes a degree of stress.  You must recognize that that is normal. 

The example I always give with stress is, you go to the gym, you lift the weight, you rip muscle.  That is stress.  Stress on that muscle.   It doesn’t mean you never go back to the gym again.  No, it’s just there’s a threshold when it comes to stress and most of the time, we’re living beyond that. It’s the same with inflammation.  Inflammation is necessary, but you know the word inflammation in Greek actual translates to ‘fire’.  Inflammation is good because it signals your white blood cells.  It signals your body to go and fix what’s wrong.  So, inflammation is not actually bad by definition; just like stress is not bad.  It’s being ‘over inflamed’ or being ‘overly stressed’. 

I think that’s it, not being ‘overly depressed’.  I think that’s where the issue is really, ‘balance’ again.   

I’m going to have so many questions for you as we go on G.  Like on supplements and stuff like that.  As I said before I’m doing Veganuary.  I got one of the Bosch! cookbooks and it’s easy, it’s straightforward and it’s simple.  I stocked up my cupboards, I was well prepared!  Not having too much cholesterol.  I’m getting the good fats inside me, and not the bad.  I’m looking at food differently.   it has been a real behavioural change.

What you’re going to be finding is now you’re obviously giving your body those vitamins, those minerals that it needs to do what we said in terms of hormone production that is required to make you feel good about yourself.   It’s something so subtle but has such a major effect on your overall health.

I’m not feeling sluggish and that is massive for mental health.  Not feeling ‘I’ll just have another little rest’.  Instead, I keep going and I think ‘oh I don’t feel tired yet’.  Because that’s when I feel a change in my mood and energy.

 This is it; a lot of people suffer from lethargy badly.  With lethargy comes a lot of stress because you’re constantly forcing yourself to keep pushing and pushing and this raises your cortisol.   When your cortisol is up it’s going to negatively impact your overall health.  Literally right down to putting on weight around the waist.  You see how the knock-on impact is?

It’s quite common really isn’t it, how it can all spiral out of control.  Therefore, I am absolutely looking forward to the next few weeks in terms of all the amazing subjects that we’re going to be talking about.  Hopefully this has given people a bit of a flavor because I feel like we’ve been firing quite a lot of different subjects.

I’ve really enjoyed it G, it’s been good thank you.

No thank you.  II think this was a good taster as to what’s to come and I don’t know, did we miss anything?  I mean in one sentence why would you say you were passionate about nutrition or mental health or the link between the two?

 Because of what we’re saying about the mind-body-spirit balance and linking it to ‘purpose’.   But I’m getting onto another subject!  But just feeling ‘alive’.  For me waking up in the morning with a big smile on my face; that is like ‘I’ve won’, ‘I’ve won on the day’. When I wake up and open my eyes and I’m like, ‘I’m awake!’  I know that sounds cheesy, but I’ve woken up before in the past and thought ‘oh no got to get out of bed, oh it’s another day’.   You know I hate that feeling.  But now I wake up and I’m buzzing already.  This is all helped by diet and just general well-being.   I think that’s why I’m interested in all this G. What about you?

 That’s a big deal.  I agree with a lot of what you said.   Also, I think the biggest thing with nutrition and mental health for me, like I said, is finding that balance between mind body and spirit.   Also, I think it’s difficult to really live or feel fulfilled, in terms of being connected with the world.  Not everybody knows what their purpose is.  So, the next best thing is to explore this world and try different things. However, if your mental health is not at optimal, the likelihood of those things happening is pretty much slim to none.  I think get your mind right, get your body right and then you’re more likely to really know what you want; really connect with your purpose.  Or at the very least enjoy this existence to a point whereby you wake up every morning before your feet touch the floor.  You know you’re grateful, you’re excited, you’re happy.  How many people right now do you think are dreading tomorrow morning absolutely dreading it; because they’re going to wake up and go to a really shitty job.   They must log into a computer to do a job that they absolutely despise that’s sad and they probably feel low on energy and just mentally they’re like oh my god I just hate this, can’t believe I’m going to have to do this again tomorrow.

I genuinely think you know really eating well and looking after your mind gives you a more interesting life experience.   It may not be perfect.  Challenges will still happen.   But I’ll tell you one thing, you would take it all on the chin with a smile on.

We ask if anyone’s got anything, they’d like us to cover to write in the comments.

Yeah, that would be a good idea because we’ll try and share this on all different platforms Facebook, LinkedIn, all that stuff.  So please, in terms of any anything that links nutrition/mental health.  Any questions you might have? any topics that you might want us to cover?

Hopefully from what we’ve discussed we’ve given you a good flavor of the different areas and stuff we can really touch on in relation to health and well-being so yeah it would be great share any questions you might have anything. 

We’ll have a conversation off air about what we’re going to talk about next week, but I really think nutrition mental health and COVID-19 would be really a great place to start.  Keep it relevant.  Keep it relevant to the world and what’s going on right now.   That can be our gift to the world right.

Thank you that sounds good.   We’ve been going for a good 35 minutes 

This has been conversations with Sensera and the Nutri Guy.  This was our first episode. Nice little intro gives you a little flavor of all the different topics we’re going to be talking about.

If there’s anything you want us to cover specifically or discuss or any thoughts you may have on the conversation, we had today please drop us a comment or DM, whatever you feel more comfortable with. Other than that, make sure you’re eating well, look after your mental health.  When it comes to mental health, remember people like to ‘work out’ but let’s not forget to ‘work in’ as well.

 Very good!  I look forward to the next one. Other than that, I hope everybody has a good evening and a fantastic week ahead and we’ll catch you next week same time so Sunday evenings at 7 30 is when we do our session.  It should hopefully be up within the evening, and yeah thank you Cathee, bye take care.