Corpore Sano: the fuel needed for strong and healthy living
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Photo by Dominic Nazeri
Cascãd’s Champion Mindset is rooted in positive energy and its creation is a holistic process: a physical, emotional and psychological well-being. The interview below focusses on the physical aspect and the fuel needed to create and sustain this Champion Mindset.
Loren Grant has been my nutritionist for 10 years and her expertise has been crucial to my well-being and energy. Her passion is helping clients rediscover the joys of eating real food and making the best food choices, based on a better understanding of their individual needs. Louis Lunts has a demanding job as an Account Director in a global Advertising agency. His passions include cycling…including London to Istanbul… triathlons and theatre, all physically challenging activities. He is also my son and has been involved with Cascãd since its inception.
1. What sparked your interest in nutrition?
Louis: Bonking! As every cyclist knows, there is a peculiar rite of passage in the sport that takes many names. It’s a unique feeling of complete helplessness the moment your body very suddenly and dramatically runs out of energy. Some call it ‘hitting the wall’, others call it ‘burnout’; I always knew it as ‘bonking’.
A lot of things happen when you bonk. Your legs stop turning the pedals, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Physically, you feel floppy and weak. Mentally, you feel slow and confused. Emotionally, you feel hopeless and lost.
Learning how to avoid the bonk – and how to dig myself out of it – first opened my eyes to the importance of nutrition. On cycling adventures I noticed that food didn’t just fuel my body; it shaped my state of mind. Feeling depressed, desperate or homesick on the bike? Leave the self-help books at home and pick up a flapjack.
This opened my eyes to the idea that your physical health is the root of everything you experience. In the developed world, we too often treat our bodies like vehicles for our brains, requiring the minimum maintenance necessary to transport our overlord minds from meeting to meeting. Surely the opposite is true. Our brains, being complex physical organs, rely entirely on our bodies to function at their peak.
Physicality isn’t everything in life, but everything in life relies on it. You can’t live, dance or love without a functioning body to see, hear and feel. Bonking taught me that the right food keeps my legs pedaling, and all of me living.
Loren: It was only about 10 years ago when I decided on a fairly dramatic change of direction but I think interest in food and nutrition has always been there like a golden thread from early on. The roots of it lie in the shock of my first exposure to English food, coming to the UK as child in the 1960s from India, where I was used to my grandmother’s beautiful spicy, flavourful, homemade south Indian curries, and as dessert guavas and mangoes straight from the tree. Suddenly, I was faced with school dinners of grey mince, lumpy mashed potatoes and - the worst thing - stewed gooseberries with custard!
Until then I hadn’t really thought about food. I just took it for granted that it was delicious and nourishing. Being confronted with a very different food culture was an early lesson in how not all food is the same and is not always a pleasure. Since then, several sparks were blown together to create the passion which I now have for all things food and nutrition. These, like my childhood experiences, enriched my understanding on how food is so interwoven with culture. And I knew that in the great and ancient civilisations of India, China and Greece, food was medicine and medicine was food, while here in the West, when we fell ill, we reached for a pill. That started to feel very wrong to me. Another trigger was my own ill health which I now know was mostly caused by diet but unfortunately for me it took decades to find out!
The mid-80s was a game changer for nutrition in many ways: the government introduced ‘healthy eating’ guidelines, following in the footsteps of the USA which had introduced them in the late 1970s. We now know that in both cases they were hastily introduced with no scientific basis, but partly for political reasons and partly because it was felt ‘something had to be done’ about heart disease. We also know now that these guidelines, basing our meals on starchy food such as bread, potatoes and pasta and limiting our intake of animal fats, have produced a major public health disaster on both sides of the Atlantic.
Like millions of other people, not knowing any better, I dutifully and trustingly did my best to follow these. As time went on, I steadily gained weight, was tired and irritable, and, looking around me, it was easy to see that I was not alone. Obesity and diabetes rates started to climb in the UK mirroring what was happening in the USA, although about 10 years behind. By the time I was approaching 50 I was very overweight and unhealthy and yet couldn’t believe it was anything to do with my ‘healthy’ almost vegetarian diet - whole grains and low fat. I tried to be active with the gym, swimming, dancing, yoga. So could my condition really be down to gluttony and sloth or did I just have to accept that middle aged spread and exhaustion were simply a natural part of ageing?
The Atkins Diet was undergoing a revival in the early noughties and I decided to investigate it. I read as much as I could and the science seemed to make sense. I’d also seen some real life examples of colleagues transformed. So I tried it, and to my amazement, the weight dropped off and it was easy. I wasn’t hungry like on other diets, I enjoyed the luxury of butter again, felt great and was full of energy. But something didn’t add up - I was eating in a way that medical advice was telling me was unhealthy and would give me a heart attack and here I was, the healthiest I’d been for decades! I wanted to spread the word and help others but in order to do so I felt I needed a solid scientific understanding of the issues. In a major change of direction. I went part-time at my job and funded myself to do an MSc in Public Health Nutrition at university. To my utter astonishment I fell in love with biochemistry and it was absolutely key to helping me understand why our official dietary guidelines were not based on good science and, in my opinion, making so many of us fat and sick.
I was also able to start researching and learning about where our dietary guidelines came from and why we seem to be in the mess we’re in. It’s been a revelation: I feel as though I have been peeling away layers of misunderstanding and the misinformation we have been subjected to. This is probably why I’m still so passionately curious about nutrition. It’s a fast-evolving field and there is still so much more to explore. We may have started uncovering some of the mistakes of the past but that doesn't mean we now have all the right answers. As a starting point, I encourage people to aim for the kind of diet which humans have thrived on for at least two million years and is therefore tried and tested: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, nuts and fruit, as unprocessed as possible. Many people who have diet-related problems find their health improves if they base their diet on these elements and avoid most grains and dairy products.
2. Why is nutrition such a big issue now?
Louis: As Yuval Harari has noted, a unique phenomenon of our time is that more people now die from obesity than starvation. On a generational timescale, it hasn’t been long since famine was a very real and haunting specter. As a species, we have drastically overcorrected. As with so many of the last century’s developments, our leaps forward far outpaced our ability to self-regulate. This triggered an unfamiliar challenge to the human experience: how to live well in a world of plenty.
The explosive proliferation of health, fitness and nutrition over the last 30-odd years is the market’s response to that challenge. The global wellness industry was valued at $3.7 trillion in 2015 and continues to grow by 10% every year. That’s almost half the total value of the global food and agricultural industry (valued at $8 trillion).
Food scarcity is already a remote concept for most of us and it will soon be absent from mainstream living memory. Small wonder that the next mountain to climb is nutrition. With all the food we could ever eat, how do we truly nourish ourselves?
Loren: Previous generations worried more about getting enough food because there was never a secure food supply and governments worried about ensuring that men of fighting age were nourished enough to be able to go to war. Probably for the first time in history our worry now is about access to too much food! It looks like the result of a ‘perfect storm’ of bad science, politics and a breakdown of trust in our food and food systems.
In the last four or five decades, obesity has grown to epidemic proportions across the globe. Developing countries are catching up fast with Western nations, with one in three of us being overweight or obese. Chronic diseases linked to diet and lifestyle are now the major cause of ill health. Not just obesity but diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia. Food is our most intimate connection with our environment. It becomes us so of course people are interested.
3. Would you comment on the connection between nutrition and energy, crucial for our fast-paced, high achieving lives?
Loren: We need top quality fuel to run our amazing bodies, evolved over millions of years. One of those fuels is ketones. A dietary approach which has taken off in the last two or three years is Keto. When people are in ketosis some of the benefits they have reported, apart from weight loss, are soaring energy levels, mental clarity and mood stabilisation.
There is some really exciting cutting edge research going on into the Keto diet, which is showing some spectacular results for weight loss and reversing diabetes which we’ve been told for a long time is irreversible. In fact it’s not a ‘new diet’ - it was the treatment of choice for diabetes before insulin was discovered in the 1920s. This approach is also showing encouraging signs of being helpful for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and multiple sclerosis and dementia.
Louis: The nutrition discourse spawns a lot of toxic rhetoric, usually along the lines of “eat less to lose weight”. This has been perversely justified by a naïve and mind-numbingly simplistic understanding of the “calories in vs. calories out” myth. I once came across a friend having a litre of Diet Coke and a Snickers for their lunch. Turns out they were on a diet, and they felt this meal was truly justified by the calories in/out dogma.
The dogma is wrong. Food is life fuel. To live you need to think and move. In my experience, to think and move you need to eat well and eat lots.
4. How do you sustain a healthy lifestyle without being too self-denying i.e. without setting yourself up to fail or being obsessive?
Louis: I really do struggle with this. I know what food will nourish me, and it’s not always the food I want. In the past, I’ve had tendencies to swing in and out of periods of puritanical self-control, followed by gleeful periods of letting my hair down.
On reflection, I’m happy with that fluctuation as long as it comes from a place of self-love and not self-flagellation. At its worst, nutrition becomes another rod with which we beat ourselves. We often personify nutritional awareness as the critical parent, either denying us pleasure when we eat healthily or disapproving of our abandon when we treat ourselves.
Nutrition shouldn’t ever limit us. It arms us with knowledge, and more knowledge means more choice, not less.
5. What advice would you give someone who wants to start eating healthily?
Louis: Despite the best efforts of a multi-trillion-dollar industry to convince you otherwise, there’s no silver bullet to healthy nutrition. Searching for the holy grail of dieting is counter-productive, not least because everyone’s physical and psychological relationship to food is different.
That said, I think there are two golden rules every nutrition-seeker should stick to:
1. Hunger is not your friend.
Eating less will not help you. Eat well and eat enough to fuel your energy.
2. Don’t punish yourself.
Accept that indulgences are part and parcel of your healthy diet. If you see them as the end of the world, you’ll lose the battle in the mind, open the flood-gates and binge.
For more information on nutrition go to Loren Grant’s website: http://foodwiser.net/