When a friend told me about the Dubai-based nutritionist, Laura Holland, five years ago, I was struggling with what to eat and how I felt, which was not great.
The Dh500 I paid for a consultation with Holland was some of the best money I have ever spent. Not only did I learn that I had to slow down and chew – one of her catchphrases is “your stomach doesn’t have teeth” – she counseled me to cast aside all thoughts of restrictive diets and calorie-counting plans. She taught me to listen to my body and respond to its cues by choosing to nourish myself with natural, whole foods that made me feel great immediately and long after. That consultation was a game-changer for me. Through her guidance, my digestion massively improved. I found it much easier to maintain a steady weight and I felt more confident about how I should be eating.
Having a healthy relationship with food and one’s body – something that looks different for everyone – is primary to Holland’s work and philosophy. The desire to pen an antidote to the barrage of conflicting nutritional information, restrictive eating plans and rampant self-criticism led to her first book, Your BeUtiful Body: A Guide to Eating and Loving Your Body Light. It came out earlier this year.
“To be honest, my philosophy around nutrition, BeU, was born from me working here,” she says. “Because all my clients were of so many different nationalities, the locals, to Western, to Asian, it really showed me very early on that you can’t textbook this. Everyone is different and you have to listen to your own body.”
The book contains an eight-week guided experience to help the reader unravel years of diet drama and begin to uncover and understand their body’s own wisdom.
“We’re eating food the body cannot process, because it’s not natural,” she says. “And so it creates imbalance, upsets digestion, totally distorts our system. That’s what creates either heaviness, diabetes, high blood pressure, all these other things that are born from giving your body stuff that it doesn’t know what to do with.”
When I tell Holland that I get sad when I hear people embarking on calorie-restricted diets that are destined to fail, she agrees.
“Well, it doesn’t work,” she said. “It’s complete madness. If you are counting calories to lose weight, you’d eat a cheeseburger before you’d eat an avocado. So there’s something not quite right in that equation. And I was an economist – I love equations. I’m telling you the calorie one is flawed.”
While some of Holland’s advice would seem to fly in the face of what others in her field are saying – rather than reading food labels for calories, sugar and carbs, she advises just looking for real ingredients that the body can process naturally – her whole goal is to make peace with your body, so it can function optimally, the way it was designed to.
“We have to find a way of choosing what to eat that is inspired not by a diet book and what everyone else is doing, but following our own inner guidance,” she says. “So many people ignore that. They think it’s normal to eat something and feel bloated and heavy. It’s not. It’s your body telling you something that you need to listen to. So all I’m trying to do is tell people how to listen to that.”
Laura Holland’s Your BeUtiful Body: A Guide to Eating and Loving Your Body Light is Dh73 and out now on Amazon.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.