How I wish I'd known a nutritionist when I was growing up in Canada. As a junior skating champion I had a top pair of skates, a top coach and top parents who unwaveringly woke up before sunrise to drive me to daily practice sessions. But I also had the energy dips, the light-headedness and the lethargy that people experience when they miss out on a good night's sleep and consume a diet of fast food and fizzy drinks. My career as a sportswoman began to falter, so I hung up my skates at eighteen.
It was on a working holiday in Australia in my early twenties that I really began to appreciate good food. I especially loved the wide variety of cuisines on offer in the restaurants of Sydney. There I met David - my future husband - and together we fell in love with the spicy tastes of Thailand, China and India, and the Mediterranean flavours of France, Italy and Greece.
David and I married in Poole in the UK in 1993 and then ventured east to teach English in Japan. We intended to stay no more than two years, but we quickly embraced the culture, we were mesmerised by the mountains, parks, temples and shrines of our chosen new hometown, Nara, and we were dazzled by the delicious, delicate flavours of Japanese food. I became friends with a lady called Kiyoe, who owned one of Nara's top restaurants and proudly taught me some of the secrets of Japanese cooking in exchange for English lessons.
I was amazed at how energised I felt eating the Japanese way. The food was light and tasty, with small portions of protein - particularly fish - and a wide variety of vegetables. I was struck by the vibrancy of the population, especially the longevity and energy of the elderly and the physical fitness of younger folk. Keen to explore the link between the Japanese diet and the nation's comparatively low levels of obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes, I embarked on a distance-learning degree, specialising in nutrition.
We left Japan in 2003, returning to the UK with two little daughters, nine years of wonderful memories and one big mission: to pass on our knowledge of nutrition. At first I ran a clinic from our home in Poole, but I found myself spending so much time writing meal plans for my clients that it made sense to actually make the meals and deliver them direct to people's doors. So, in 2004, we rented an industrial unit, bought a van, hired a chef and founded Nutrichef - a healthy meal delivery company providing Japanese health benefits, but in meals that appealed to western tastes.
We ran Nutrichef for 11 years, growing it from a local enterprise to a national operation catering to over a hundred clients a day throughout the UK. I enjoyed being asked to give talks to large companies, I loved meeting celebrity clients and I was honoured to be awarded the national title of Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 by the British Chambers of Commerce. But, what meant most to me was making such a positive difference to people's lives - the overweight clients whose weight loss gave them renewed confidence and happiness; those suffering from illness, whose energy levels returned and symptoms disappeared; the company owners and employees with increased vitality and mental sharpness; and the sportsmen and women with new-found stamina.
Since relinquishing the Nutrichef reins in March 2015 I have a lot more time to focus on consultancy. As well as advising individual clients, I support the nutritional needs of sports clubs and healthcare brands, and I provide training to companies looking to improve the productivity of their staff. I've also been busy co-writing a book, Rainbow Recipes, which provides practical advice and dozens of recipes for people wanting to improve their long-term health.
If you need some practical advice and inspiration to improve your own diet, or if you run a business and want to inspire your staff or clients to enjoy the benefits of eating healthily, just send me a message and I'll be in touch!