Graduate Story

We chat to Amanda Swaine, Nutritional Therapist, author and ION graduate, about how her struggles with stress and weight gain led her to intermittent fasting, and a career revolving around it

What was your life like before studying at ION?

“Before ION I was lucky enough to work on advertising campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world at some of the best-known advertising agencies. I met some great people and learnt a lot but realised it wasn’t the right fit for me long term. One contributing factor was that I often found myself working on accounts where we were selling people things that I felt could potentially undermine their health.

“At around the same time, my own health was starting to suffer. Reaching for caffeine and sugary snacks to hit deadlines was pretty standard back then and I was managing stress with bouts of intense exercise. Eventually all the classic signs of adrenal fatigue started to show up: I found it hard to get up in the morning, felt lethargic all the time, dizzy on standing, felt low, needed lots of salt and leaned on sugar and caffeine to get me through the day. I was trying everything I could to get better without medication. It was around that time that I started to experience the transformative power of food for health.”

What made you decide to study nutritional therapy?

“Facing with my own health challenges, I knew it was time for a career change. I had always wanted to have my own business and I knew it had to be centred on something I was passionate about to give it the best chance of success. I kept circling back to nutrition and studying Nutritional Therapy felt like a good fit. By then I’d devoured several of Patrick Holford’s books so when a friend suggested the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, I decided that was the course for me.”

What drew you to intermittent fasting?

“Throughout my studies and post-graduation, my areas of interest were stress and ageing. I had recovered from adrenal fatigue, but felt my energy wasn’t what it once was. I also couldn’t shift the weight I’d gained over the past few years. Everything I was reading and researching kept pointing to intermittent fasting as the solution, so I decided to give it a go.

“When I started, I felt like the world’s worst faster. I had all the knowledge and science telling me that this was the right thing to do, and yet on a day-to-day basis I struggled. I became familiar with feeling hungry and tired on fasting days, and the 4pm grey sheen that appeared on my face was a favourite that no amount of make-up could hide.

“The science stacked up but the daily reality of sticking with my plan didn’t and I wondered how everyone else was coping. I had some stress-related insulin resistance to work through and was holding some extra weight, but I knew others would be starting from further back. So I made it my mission to “fix” fasting so more people could experience the benefits and as a result, I set up Nutritionist’s Blend.

“After two years of research and discussions with some of the leading professors in the field, I developed FASTING+ sticks. These little fasting sticks are made of healthy fat and ingredients containing specific polyphenols. They work with how the body naturally fasts, so you can get the benefits of fasting without the unpleasant side effects. Plus, you get something to eat during your fasting time, which many people appreciate.”

What is intermittent fasting?

“Intermittent fasting is the umbrella term for regimes that alternate between periods of eating and not eating, without malnutrition. Plans vary by the length of time you fast and when you eat and broadly fall into two categories, Periodic Fasts and Time Restricted Eating.”

Could you tell us more about periodic fasts?

“Periodic fasts are fasts where you go through periods of eating normally and then fast for a set period. Sometimes a calorie allowance is included during the fasting time as part of the core plan and this is referred to as a modified fast. Popular periodic fasts include water fasts (of varying lengths), Alternate Day Fasts (eat normally one day, fast the next and repeat) and modified fasts such as the 5:2 regime (eat normally 5 days a week and eat up to 800 kcal, ideally in one sitting, on the other 2 days) and the Alternate Day Modified Fast (eat normally one day, restrict calories the next and repeat).”

Could you explain time restricted eating?

“The second group of fasts are called Time Restricted Eating and restrict the times you eat each day to set times. For example, 12:12 is when you eat all your meals within 12 hours and fast for the other 12 such as from 8am to 8pm. The most popular regime in this group is 16:8 where you eat all your meals in 8 hours such as from midday to 8pm. One Meal a Day (OMAD) also fits into this group.

“As a general rule, the longer your fasting window or period of fasting, the more pronounced the benefits of weight loss, improved energy, and healthier aging will be. But do keep in mind that fasting is a mild stressor so going too hard too quickly will not elicit the benefits you are seeking.”

What is some of the science behind intermittent fasting?

“The science around fasting stems from how we evolved to benefit from sometimes feasting and sometimes fasting due to the reality of our ancestor’s environment. Intermittent fasting is simply a way of tapping into those evolutionary advantages without having to endure extended fasts.

“During the growth (eating) phase, the body burns sources of glucose for energy and focuses on growing, for example new muscles and cells. During the repair (fasting) phase, the body uses fat for energy and repairs itself, for example by removing and recycling broken or old bits of cells, a process called autophagy. Both phases are important to our health.

“Most of us spend too much time in the growth phase, burning sugar, and not enough time in the repair phase, burning fat. This is due to a combination of modern eating and sleeping habits, severe stress, and longer life spans. Low energy, brain fog, feeling older than your chronological age, and being overweight are a few indicators that you may be spending too much time in the growth phase.

Could you help us to understand a bit about the science behind intermittent fasting?

“All intermittent fasting plans allow the body to start depleting the various stores of glucose and gradually switch over to using fatty acids for fuel either directly or by transforming them into ketones. Meanwhile, the body senses this drop in available nutrients, especially the fall in amino acids and to a lesser degree carbohydrates and switches off mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) moving from investing lots of energy into growth and hunkering down to focus on recycling and repair. These shifts in gear then trigger complementary mechanisms affecting a wide range of actions from gene expression to immune response and more.

“In addition, the time-restricted eating regimes or by limiting eating hours to the daytime, helps to sync eating habits with your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycle) to optimise how efficiently you process and utilise food and perform other regular functions across the body.”

How has intermittent fasting impacted your life?

“Intermittent Fasting has given me back my energy, both physically and mentally. Gone are sugar cravings, the old snacking habit and the cortisol tummy. I still find some days harder and lock down definitely hasn’t helped but that’s ok as I have my fasting sticks.

More importantly, it has given me lots of job satisfaction. Supporting clients and customers with their intermittent fasting goals through guidance and with fasting sticks has been incredibly rewarding. Learning what challenges they are facing and seeing them overcome them to achieve goals that had previously eluded them has been the best bit by far.”

Visit Amanda's website or follow her on Instagram @Nutritionistsblend

ION is a leading provider of accredited nutritional therapy training, established in 1984. ION’s BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy is validated by the University of Portsmouth. Be part of a growing community of nutritional therapists and build a rewarding, flexible career helping others to make positive lifestyle changes. Start your journey today and find out more about studying nutritional therapy here.

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