The gut-specialist dietitian, nutritionist and mum-to-be explains the power of sleep, nature and a varied diet
My morning ritual is… I spend about 15 minutes doing a mindfulness activity, such as Headspace or my gut-directed yoga flow (you can find it in my book, Eat Yourself Healthy). After that, I take my Boston terrier puppy, Pistachio, for a walk. If you struggle with regular bowel movements, quiet time followed by movement really does set up the bowel for, yes, pooing.
My bedtime routine is… going for a walk after dinner with my husband, Thomas, to wind down. At 9.15pm my alarm goes off to remind me to switch off all my tech. I’m 31 weeks pregnant, and I’m usually in bed by 10pm because I need at least nine hours. I keep a notepad beside my bed, too, so if my head is whirling around, I jot down my thoughts and a to-do list to give myself mental space. Gut health and sleep also go hand in hand, as sleep allows our gut to rejuvenate and grow.
I always tell my loved ones to… eat 30 different types of food every week from all six plant-based food groups, including whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, beans and pulses, and herbs and spices, to help nourish the gut. It’s all about getting variety. This diversity feeds different bacteria in your gut, and when your gut’s more in balance, you don’t just have a stronger immune system. It’s also good news for your skin, heart and brain.
My favourite mantra is… inclusion, not restriction. It’s about what you add to your diet for better health instead of what you cut out. You can absolutely still have your favourite foods, it’s just a case of adding in some plants to go with it for that fibre goodness.
I love to cook… simply. Something like a stir-fry with mixed vegetables and grains. On Sundays, I do a tray-bake of different types of roast vegetables, which I’ll cut up and put in a salad or sandwich the following days.
My favourite way of relaxing is… getting out in nature and practising breathing exercises – also called ‘forest bathing’. It’s shown to relieve everyday stress and anxiety and lower blood pressure. I live in north London, and twice a week, come rain, hail or shine, we go for two-hour walks in Highgate Forest and Queen’s Wood. It’s just beautiful.
Exercise to me involves… whatever fits in with my schedule! I’ll do YouTube workouts, and before I was pregnant, I’d go for a jog. At the weekend, my husband, puppy, and I will go adventuring through the forest.
My biggest turn on is… honesty, authenticity and not being afraid to be your true self. I find that really attractive in a person, and it makes me personally happy to be like that. Also, not taking things too seriously. We’ve got enough sadness going on in the world, so being able to laugh at yourself is important! I also love caring people. My husband is a GP, so it’s attractive seeing him put others first.
The bad habit I’m glad I’ve kicked is… playing with my phone. I used to always check my emails and social media just before bed, but I was doing my sleep a disservice. Having 30-45 minutes before bed without it increases sleep quality, and since doing that, I feel so much more refreshed.
I inject positivity into my life by… doing one thing every day that makes me smile, whether it’s calling my mum back in Australia or taking my puppy for a walk. So there’s at least one smile in among all the stress of the day.
No.1 on my gratitude list is…The Gut Health Doctor community – the hundreds of thousands of people who are really on board and appreciate the power of their gut. They’re so supportive, engaged and interested, and they inspire me to keep working. Gut health, we’re finding out, is so important for our immune system, which people are thinking about more than ever due to Covid-19. I first got into gut health over a decade ago, when it wasn’t a hot topic, so it’s empowering to see that other people are appreciating how exciting this landmark discovery is.
Megan has partnered with Poo-Pourri to celebrate the launch of its hero scent, Poo-Pourri Original Citrus Before-You-Go Toilet Spray at Boots stores nationwide and online.