Nutrition Superstars: Kirstin Kadé
Hey guys! I am starting a new series here on the blog called Nutrition Superstars, these posts will be chatty interviews with people in the nutrition field who are an inspiration and who are absolutely killing it at what they do. I always find it fascinating to learn about people's paths in life and how they fell in to what they do as it often isn't what you expect! I am starting things off with a bang today by talking to the lovely Kirstin of Taste & See blog. She is a friend, coursemate, blogger and fellow soon-to-be nutritionist who has the most amazing approach to nutrition and the coolest South African accent. Kirstin also recently interviewed me over on her blog so feel free to check that out and be sure to have a look around her beautiful site! Now let's hear from Kirstin herself.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself, where are you from and what was your relationship with food like growing up?
Hello! My name is Kirstin Kadé, a born and bred South African now living in the UK. I was a very fussy kid growing up, and for years I think my diet consisted of spaghetti bolognese, cucumber, toasted cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and breakfast cereal. My parents tried their best to encourage me eat fruits and veggies, but I know that it was a struggle for them! Thankfully as the years went by I became less fussy and slowly but surely fell in love with vegetables. I think that the I really started to understand and think about the food I ate and my body when I began to swim competitively during high school. Just like any competitive sport swimming places a huge emphasis on being strong, fit, thin, and toned, and involves a lot of time dedicated to training (2-3 hours a day at least 6 days a week) and a focus food for optimal performance. In my final year of high school I realised that I had lost a love for the sport and decided to stop swimming, and needless to say my body started to change slightly when I stopped training intensely.
I have always been a ‘small’ person, and although looking back my weight and size didn’t change drastically during the months that followed, the changes that my body went through really concerned me. I think that’s where my body image issues stemmed from. I have always struggled with IBS, which has varied in severity throughout my life, and really struggled to get help and advice from my GP that actually worked. I think that at the time IBS was largely misunderstood, which is a far cry from the amazing research that has been done since then. At the time I took things into my own hands and did all that I could to find a solution online. I fell right into the hands of what was at the time the rising trend of the gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, everything is toxic, ‘clean eating’ trend. Although caring more about being ‘healthy’ encouraged me to eat more veggies, grains, and other wholefoods, food largely became a source of anxiety for me. Before I studied nutrition I didn’t ever stop to think that the IBS symptoms that I suffered from were often triggered more by my anxiety and stress around food rather than foods themselves.
In my first year of university I lost a significant amount of weight in a very short space of time, partly due to restriction and over exercising and partly due to the fact that I had moved to a new town far away from home, with the added stress of having to adjust to university life, make new friends, and perform academically. With this change came compliments, comments, and concerns from people I encountered back home during my first university holiday, which I believe were not helpful in establishing a good relationship with my body in the years that followed. I can’t say that I’ve ever suffered from an eating disorder, but I sure have suffered from a terribly disordered relationship with food, exercise, and my body.
Studying nutrition has allowed me to learn more about how restriction and over-exercising is not conducive to a happy and healthy life, and that food is about more than just calories. I have been lucky enough to marry a man with a very ‘normal’ relationship with food, who cares about and loves me for reasons that extend beyond what my body looks like. And although there are days where those old critical thoughts and rules around food return, I have found ways to combat them through kindness and have largely found freedom in my relationship with food and my body.
2. What inspired you to start Taste & See?
I was inspired to start my blog, Taste & See, when I first stumbled across McKel Hill’s blog Nutrition Stripped (it remains a favourite blog of mine to this day). She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist that has created the most amazing brand and business around her interest in nutrition, healthy food, and evidence-based information. I was in my final year of my undergraduate BSc Food Science degree and had applied to study Dietetics & Nutrition in the following year, and thought that starting a blog would be a fun way to share evidence-based information as I learnt more about nutrition. I also thought that it would be a wonderful creative outlet apart from my academic work, a great space where I could practice my writing and photography skills. Over the past two years it has become just that. Although it has evolved over time as I have learnt more about food, nutrition, and health (which are far more complex than I thought before), it has become an great space through which I have been able to meet other likeminded individuals, share information and my thoughts as my philosophy around food and health has changed, and have built it up to become a ‘portfolio’ that will hopefully be useful when I enter the nutrition practice space in years to come.
3. What made you want to study nutrition and tell me a bit about your education journey?
I studied a 4-year undergraduate BSc Food Science degree at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and graduated in December 2015. My desire to study nutrition was sparked in my third year, where we completed a semester-long nutrition module that covered the bare basics of nutrition (macronutrients, micronutrients, deficiency diseases, and heart disease). I thoroughly enjoyed the module but was slightly surprised that it was the only nutrition knowledge that my food science colleagues and I received before graduating. I understand that the role of a food scientist is to ensure food quality, safety, and large-scale food production to ensure that food is accessible to all of us consumers, but just felt a bit concerned that the nutritional quality of food often comes second to profit in large-scale food production.
Luckily for me my parents were supportive of my decision to apply to study a new undergraduate degree, a bachelor’s of dietetics at the University of Pretoria which started at the beginning of 2016. Over the course of that year I completed a number of undergraduate modules that I didn’t cover in my food science degree – physiology, anatomy, medical microbiology, food and hospitality, health psychology and sociology, pharmacology, and advanced biochemistry. Fast-forward a year and a half later and my husband and I had an opportunity to move to the UK for him to work and for me to study. Although it was a difficult decision to make, either taking another 3 ½ years to finish my dietetics course or move overseas and complete a 1-year MSc Human Nutrition, we decided to make the most of this opportunity moved to London in September 2017. I am now 6 months into my MSc Human Nutrition course at the University of Surrey, and am loving every minute of it. The opportunity has opened up some amazing doors for me, has introduced me to some amazing researchers that are experts in their fields of interest, and has challenged me more than I ever expected.
4. What is your approach to nutrition and health? (Has that changed and why?)
Over the years I have come to realise that no food is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and that despite all of the misinformation and fads out there claiming to be the ‘right’ way of eating and living there is no one size fits all approach to health and wellbeing. I used to be very narrow-minded in my approach to nutrition and health, and largely viewed food and exercise just as a calories in, calories out exercise.
Over the past year I have learnt more about and have come to embrace the Intuitive Eating approach, which Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch discuss in their book with the same title. It has brought so much freedom and joy in my relationship with food and my body where previously fear and anxiety reigned. I suppose I could summarise my approach to nutrition and health in one of my favourite quotes by Michael Pollan – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants”.
5. What is your favourite area of nutrition? (Gut health, hormones etc.)
I am such a nerd when it comes to nutrition, so much so that I often jump between favourite areas of research and practice. Some of my favourite subject areas include:
- Gut health – I have written about this very interesting area of research on my blog before, so won’t go into too much detail about it here.
- Cardiovascular health – I am very interested in the role that different dietary fats have to play in cardiovascular health, particularly with all the confusion that exists within the academic, medical, and general population at the moment. My dissertation will be focusing on dietary saturated fats and how our responses to varying amounts of saturated fat in the diet are very individualised and not quite as black and white as we previously thought.
- Women’s hormonal health – I first encountered this area of research through a dear friend of mine who shared her story on my blog about a year ago. Since then I have enjoyed learning more about the role that nutrition, stress, sleep, and physical activity play in general hormonal health as well as conditions like hypothalamic amenorrhoea and polycystic ovarian syndrome (Robyn Nohling’s blog The Real Life RD is a great resource if you’re interested in this).
6. What are your career aspirations and what message do you hope to spread?
The big dream is to be able to consult privately one-on-one with clients when and if I get the chance to start my own practice. I would love to be able to work with people who are struggling to just balance and freedom with food and their body. It would be amazing to learn more about women’s hormonal health in future, and to work alongside other healthcare professionals and health coaches to help women who are struggling in this area. I would also love to do more research in future and possibly pursue a PhD when the time is right, but who knows? There are so many possibilities, so I am just trusting for the right doors to open in good time.
7. What are your favourite ways to relax or exercise?
Exercise – I love to run. Although this form of exercise became a bit of an obsession a few years ago, turning into more of a chore than something I enjoyed, I have slowly but surely restored my relationship with running and find that it’s a great way to move my body and clear my head. I live right near a nice, big, beautiful park in London, so I’m quite lucky to have a wide open space with lots of greenery where I can jog in such a busy city. I don’t love the gym environment, and much prefer doing HIIT workouts at home. I have also slowly but surely realised the importance of taking time to stretch and rest my body on days when it needs a break.
Relax – There’s nothing quite like curling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea. I try to get off from social media and put my phone away for a full day once a week just to switch off a bit. I find that it’s very difficult to completely relax when you’re constantly checking your phone. Enjoying a good facemask also goes a long way when I really need to take a break.
8. What is your favourite comfort food dish?
I have taken such a long time to think through this question, and it might be a crazy answer but I don’t have a specific go-to comfort food. One of my favourite things to eat at the moment, especially on a Friday evening when the last thing I feel like doing is spending lots of time in the kitchen, is a really basic bowl of pesto pasta. I have a yummy recipe that I shared recently here on my blog.
9. What are your thoughts on orthorexia and the rise of the clean eating craze?
I think that ‘clean eating’ started out innocently enough as a different way of approaching food and health, and that it has definitely had some positive impacts, such as encouraging the consumption of more fruits and vegetables and fewer highly processed foods. However, it is concerning how ‘eating clean’ can so easily trigger negative behaviours and disordered eating in many individuals (myself included). With increased use of social media platforms such as Instagram has come the rise of social media influencers, many of which don’t have the expertise or qualifications to be giving out nutrition and health-related advice. Although not all of these people want to impose their lifestyle on others, I do think that many of them give out ‘clean eating’ advice without realising the implications thereof.
There are an infinite number of books, blogs, and online programmes designed by unqualified (and even qualified) individuals which prescribe strict rules for eating, categorising most foods as either good/bad, allowed/not allowed, or clean/’unclean’. Although having these rules can provide a feeling of control that is often needed in this crazy world, they also promote anxiety and an obsession with a perfect lifestyle and diet that is often not affordable or sustainable for most of us. I have hope though, and believe that the publication of some amazing books written by qualified health professionals such as Rhiannon Lambert, Pixie Turner, Jessica Sepel, and McKell Hill, will have a positive impact in promoting truth and evidence-based information in the wellness space, where so much misinformation exists.
10. Do you have anything exciting in store for 2018?
At this point my main priority is to work hard at doing as well as I can in my MSc. I will be starting my dissertation project at the beginning of May, and will be finishing it off in August/September. I’m hoping that between now and then I will have more clarity with regards to ‘what comes next’, once my dissertation is handed in and my degree is finished. There are so many possibilities, and so for now all I can say is that I’m looking forward to whatever doors open up in the next couple of months. Aside from the academic work , I am looking forward to travelling a bit throughout Europe with my husband on the odd long weekend when we’re able and have a few exciting holidays planned for the year ahead – Marseilles, Florence, and a trip to Croatia with my family later in summer.
Be sure to check out the lovely Kirstin on her social media accounts!
Blog – Taste & See
Instagram – @tasteandseeblog
Facebook – @tasteandseeblogpage