Yesterday we introduced you to Navneeta, a thriving member of Span and now a health mentor.
As a busy mum of two beautiful children, she knows how challenging it is to take care of your health through motherhood.
Today we take a deep dive into her health journey and glean wisdom from her experience.
In Conversation with Navneeta
Did you try to reach your goals previously?
This is a really interesting question. In secondary school, I remember developing dark patches on my elbows but couldn’t fathom why. Now, I understand that this may have been an early indication of diabetes as it is a common symptom of insulin resistance. Thankfully, I no longer have these dark patches, which is a great sign for my overall health.
I tried diets and intense exercise regimes, but they were unsustainable and didn't improve overall health as they were just focused on weight and calories or high protein Atkins style diets.
Then in 2019, I developed gestational diabetes and the education classes with the maternity nurses were based on pairing foods to ‘balance sugars’. I think the nurses didn’t wish to scare any pregnant women (understandably) but a lot of the conversations surrounded what appeared to be a fact...
"your gestational diabetes will most likely go away after you have the baby so you won’t ever need your blood sugar monitor again!"
I had no idea about the reality of the situation. I had insulin resistance. I didn’t want to manage this by balancing sugars, I wanted to improve my insulin sensitivity and stay within a normal, healthy range!
Gestational diabetes is a sign you are already insulin resistant which can lead to diabetes. But — honestly it was a difficult time for me as I was having my baby and going to appointments at the same hospital that my father was staying in, at the time, towards the end of his life, and I was not mentally in a position to really educate myself. I was simply in a state of ‘survival’ and going about my blood sugars day to day.
Did you have an "aha moment", when you knew things needed to change?
In the midst of everything, I chose to take part in the diabetic teams’ ‘goddess study’, which was quite life changing. They looked at your behaviours, emotions, ways of stress management as well as asking you quite hard questions that made you think about your current health state and how you would want to change things for your future self. It was here that I learnt that ladies with gestational diabetes are 5 times more likely to develop diabetes 5 years after GD. This was one of those moments that can change a persons life.
My father developed type 2 after taking statins which also caused a muscle wasting disease called dermatomyasitis. He had CVD and towards the later stages of his life developed kidney failure. All of these things (whilst initially caused by statins) had one thing in common — inflammation and insulin resistance. I’m a pretty strong woman but after seeing my father go through type 2, I knew I had to do something to change, and I needed to do this for me, my health and my longevity.
How did you reach your health goals and then become a mentor?
I embarked on a journey of knowledge to educate myself and take control.
I found Span in 2019 and it was life changing. I introduced my sister and mother to it too as and with a little nudge, they also had their HBa1cs’ tested and they too were pre-diabetic!
I have now actually begun my own instagram account to embark on my own accountability, the online community is wonderful for support and a great learning tool.
One day, I may just turn my passion into a career and become a nutritionist! I know I can certainly relate to people within this industry who have overcome a health battle or who are on a similar journey! One can dream big!
There are a lot of people out there who were/are in the same position as me so we can root each other along and I can provide tips and it’s another positive step towards creating daily habits.
I’ve always had an interest in nutrition and I think when you truly understand that food is medicine and what you put in your body can heal you, only then can you help heal with that knowledge under your belt.
When I was in my teens, I actually remember my father telling us what nutrients were inside the foods we were eating at family dinner time! Growing up with parents who were GP Doctors, I always felt that if I hadn’t have become a lawyer, I would have gone into the medical profession somehow!
What was your biggest obstacle for reaching your health goals?
Me. I am only accountable to myself. I love my family but you can only make changes for you. You can’t heal a body you don’t love. It might just be the only energy you have and I actually recommend focusing on one thing at a time. I know the times when I’m not true to myself, or emotionally eat but now I create new habits to try and control it. I am my biggest supporter! Controlling blood sugars have helped cravings and hormone balance!
What was your diet like before?
I would say that it was based on carbohydrates, low fat and a lot of protein. I used to have dairy quite a bit but perhaps not the best full fat or grass fed options. I now know that high protein and high carbohydrates create insulin spikes! I had my gallbladder taken out many years prior and was always told to stay away from fat — we are fed by the media and the health sector to stay away from fat but I wasn’t satisfying my body’s need for good, healthy fats!
What is the one food that you felt you couldn't live without?
Chocolate — it’s is now a love of dark chocolate but I do make efforts to be mindful of my cravings and why I want certain things. Now that I have lowered my a1c to healthy levels- I’m aware that one bite/a few bites, won’t hinder the great work I’ve put in to get this far. I have actually learnt that chocolate is one of the only things that humans have made that naturally triggers the brain to want more, it is akin to nature’s breast milk due to the fat content! Unprocessed fat is never the enemy!
What's the most surprising thing you've discovered though your health journey?
My determination and the power of creating habits daily! I am worthy, strong and capable.
How has your health improved to date.
At that start of this journey my HBa1c was 5.9. At 6.0, my GP would have classed me as pre-diabetic and on the road to type 2. I couldn’t get help from the NHS so I had to educate myself! My a1c is now 5.2 (normal) and I’ve lost about 6 stone in weight in 2 years! It’s also worth noting my inflammation ESR blood results were high in 2016 but today I have no inflammation too!
On a typical day, what do you normally eat?
I aim to eat seasonal whole foods and good quality proteins and fat so actually no day is the same. I believe variety is the key to good gut health. I love my greens so tend to have Chinese cabbage, kale and savoy at the moment. Bok choi is another favourite and being diary free I try to take in as much calcium as possible through whole food, plant based options. I do love a pork crackling joint and fresh seafood as well courgetti pasta dishes!
Have your food preferences changed?
Yes, I adore healthy fats! Especially, cooking in animal fat — I found Italian lardo the other day in a local deli and I was over the moon!
Do you have any health rituals or mantras?
Whenever I have a moment for a hot drink I do take a moment to reflect and be present. I don’t often get time to myself with two wonderful kids under 5, but it’s important to give yourself a lot of positive thoughts and time!
I take pleasure in little, simple things —like a hot drink — I do like the saying ‘get shit done’ and actually have a board up in my en-suite that has a picture of a postcard with those words on, a picture of a card my daughter wanted to buy me with a heart on (which crazily is something that I had been meaning to buy for the board so it was so special when she had found something naturally she wanted for me on her own accord- perfect!) and a picture of me and my daddy in good times!
Sometimes it’s worth having a little prompt that you can visually see to help with habits!
You are an inspirational mentor in the health space. Do you think the majority of people are taking care of their health?
I think we all do our best. Even in 2016, I enjoyed a wide variety, of what I thought was healthy foods, but because my hormones were not balanced, I kept gaining weight. Which I now know is a sign of insulin resistance.
I think we all get rushed day to day with work, chores etc and we should take a step back, try and get a moment to yourself to evaluate where you are in life and set new goals. I have a 5 year goal to be in remission and am planning on a big trip abroad...maybe the Maldives. Check back with me then?!
What would be your advice for anyone starting out?
Think about why you are doing it. What is the change for? What could happen if I don’t change? Education is key.
Do it for yourself first and then, in turn you will also be healthy and present for others. Don’t rely on others to help you. I took charge of the family shop and I also now cook more which I also think has been a great simple step!
Think about achievable goals and speak to a nutritionist! Rachel, at Span has supported me every step of the way — she has a genuine passion and cares enough to truly help. She is like a dear friend to me and I will always be indebted.
Get your blood work done every 6 months at first to see how you are getting on! You may need to make some further changes.
As a busy mum of two, I’m sure you’re faced with many challenges in making lifestyle changes. What advice do you have for other parents?
You are also a priority! You need the guts to take the first step. I am lucky that I have a pretty hands on husband, make sure you can take sometime for yourself, even if it’s half an hour on a weekend.
Read a book, go to a coffee shop, meet that friend for a glass of wine- whatever it is. You are worthy and you need to take care of yourself to be able take of others! Be compassionate to yourself — you can’t do it all. Every little change you make day-to-day will make a big difference in the long term.
If you have a craving, then please do go with it, listen to your body and honour it! Don’t deprive yourself, create swaps that you enjoy and feel satisfied with!
Curious to know more about Navneeta?
Navneeta is a thriving member and partner of Span. She champions mindfulness, modified keto diet, a low inflammation lifestyle and breast feeding. This influential woman is a powerhouse of knowledge and experience with a lot of pearls of wisdom to share. If you're looking for support, motivation or inspiration, get in touch with her at Let's Eat Better Together.
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Take care 👋