Qualified clinical nutritionist and naturopath

I get a lot of questions from people about how they can maintain more balance in their diet and lifestyle and if it’s possible to indulge sometimes and still stay healthy and in shape. Here are my answers…

Maintaining Balance

Do you believe in a regular cheat day?

This totally depends on your personality. I know people who say that a cheat day works for them, but usually it’s because they are on a pretty strict diet the rest of the week. I know others who prefer to eat what they like on weekends when they’re socialising more and stick to a healthy diet in the week when they have more control over what they’re eating. Other people, “the rebels”, who thrive with less structure & fewer rules, often prefer to stick to a 30% 70% balance throughout the week, picking and choosing when and where they are “naughty” as they go.

Do you follow a kind of 80/20 rule or how do you maintain balance?

Yes, I do, because I’m both a rebel and a realist. Trying to be too strict never works out. I’ve seen first hand how unhealthy obsessing about food and healthy eating is. Too much control, guilt and shame around food (and your body) leads to over restriction and/or emotionally driven binge eating which in turn leads to a range of health issues including digestive problems.

Do you believe restriction can lead to overeating and bingeing?

Yes, I know that it can. It happens so often that people go on a very strict diet (low in calories and nutrients) and then fall off the wagon in spectacular style by binge eating all the things they love and were denying themselves. In the process they gain back all the weight they lost, and then some, in a short period of time. It’s human nature that as soon as something is “forbidden” it becomes so much more appealing. Also, restricting calories too much so that you’re always feeling hungry and deprived, can lead to unhealthy binge eating. Typically, when people are trying to lose weight they eat a really small breakfast and a light lunch and then they get absolutely ravenous in the afternoon, when their blood sugar crashes, and end up eating unhealthy snacks like cakes or biscuits or going home and raiding the entire contents of their fridge late in the evening. This is far worse for weight gain than if they had just eaten more, and the right balance of nutrients, earlier in the day.

How do you eat/workout/plan your day when you know you have a big dinner ahead of you?

Usually I eat normally (in a balanced way) and workout that day but I usually eat less the following day because I listen to my body. I don’t usually feel as hungry the next day when I’ve had a big dinner the night before. A lot of people eat out of habit, not because they are genuinely hungry.

Do you believe alcohol can affect fitness?

There’s no doubt it can. No one performs well physically on a hangover! Have you ever tried doing Bird of Paradise yoga pose when hungover?! Booze also makes you lose your motivation to workout.

Is it possible to stay in shape and drink alcohol? What are your top tips?

Yes it is, but it’s all about the type of alcohol you’re drinking and the amount you’re drinking. Beer is notorious for causing weight gain around the waist, so if you want a toned stomach it’s better not to drink it very often.

Our liver is our most important fat burning organ and it needs a couple of days in a row with no alcohol to recover and repair and be able to perform its job properly, so spacing out your drinking is key The liver is quickly overloaded in times of indulgence, drinking a large amount of alcohol over just a few days can cause a build up of fat in liver cells impairing the liver’s ability to function normally and limiting its ability to process toxins. Symptoms of an overtaxed liver include weight gain, headaches, digestive problems, allergies, fatigue and itchy skin.

Be mindful of limiting other things that stress and overburden the liver too such as hydrogenated fats, sugar, dairy, caffeine, red meat and food additives.

Taking a natural liver support formula containing milk thistle, such as Solgar’s Milk Thistle Vegetable Capsules or A. Vogel’s Milk Thistle Complex can really help. The active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, has been shown in clinical studies to help rejuvenate and repair damage to the liver. Eating a wide variety of fresh plant foods including bitter foods including rocket, chicory and watercress and including beetroot, turmeric, garlic, apple cider vinegar and green tea in your diet also helps support liver health.

Do you take any supplements to help keep you balanced?

Yes, I tend change up my supplements depending on my bodies needs at the time. As I travel a lot, I take different things depending on where I am in the world, the types of exercise I’m doing there and how I’m feeling. Right now I’m in Bali, so I’m taking probiotics and the herbs Andrographis and Neem to boost my immune system, support my gut health and help my body defend itself against mosquito-bourne diseases.

When you are feeling overindulged (after the weekend, a holiday etc) how do you get back on track?  

I often have a wheatgrass shot with my coffee and breakfast in the morning and have green juice, coconut water and plenty of water through the day. I eat loads of vegetables, quality proteins and good fats. I workout and I steer clear of refined sugar and fried food.

Do you think about calories when it comes to food over quality or vice versa? 

Honestly I never think about calories. For me, it’s about food quality every. single. time. Focusing on calories is putting your attention in completely the wrong place. Not all calories are created equal, some build muscle, others build body fat. Instead try to think in terms of how nutritious what you’re eating is. Is it providing you with energy? Does it contain the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals you need to thrive, to be full of energy, to have a balanced mood and for your metabolism to work optimally? If you turn your focus to eating nutritious wholefoods and good fats, you will feel satiated and nourished and won’t over-consume calories.

Anything else or your top tip for maintaining balance?

A lot of diet and lifestyle imbalances actually stem from emotional imbalances, so practicing meditation can help with maintaining a balanced diet by making you more aware of how you are feeling moment to moment. It can enable you to observe and process feelings in a more detached way rather than using food or substances to avoid them.

Thanks to Zoë, I have rebooted my life. Dropped 30 pounds, lots more energy and much more happiness. She has precise, actionable strategies for long term benefits

Tom Magnuson - CEO Magnuson Worldwide

Zoe has worked wonders with me; I started seeing her a few months prior to my wedding. She re-educated me in terms of food and eating, and taught me how I can eat more food, and be healthier than my current low fat diet was allowing me and still lose weight

Victoria Bailes

Zoe's extensive nutritional and lifestyle knowledge greatly helped me to affect tangible heath improvements. Zoe's diet and supplement program provided structure and direction to tackling my health concerns and directly led to a significant reduction in cholesterol. I now feel generally much more alert, healthy and energetic and have a regime that really works for me

Steven Farag

Zoë Palmer–Wright ND, BA (Hons), Ad Dip Nut, Ad Dip Hrb Med
Health and nutrition lecturer @ The College of Naturopathic Medicine in London - 2009-2014
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Disclaimer: All information and advice I share is based upon my own clinical experience, professional training and research. Recommendations are not intended to diagnose or treat any medical conditions. I would always advise going to see a medical professional if you’re concerned about your health.