Q&A with nutritionist and bestselling author Amanda Hamilton famous for her glamorous detox retreats and best selling book Eat, Slim, Fast - plus her fantastic smoothie recipes in the latest issue of Wellness.
What led you to setting up juice fasting and detox retreats?
"I’ve always been sporty, but when I was at university, I had all the classic unhealthy lifestyle symptoms – IBS, skin issues – plus I couldn’t shift the stubborn 10lbs I needed for a healthy body weight. When I studied to be a nutritionist it was a bit of a lightbulb moment. I changed my diet and noticed huge improvements. Then I went to India on a yoga retreat and studied Ayurveda, which uses Intermittent Fasting (IF) in healing. I tried it and not only finally dropped the 10lbs but also felt amazing! It was a life-changing experience. I came home and pieced everything together, set up fasting retreats, wrote my book Eat, Slim, Fast and the rest is history!"
Why is intermittent fasting (IF) good for us?
"Research has shown that it leads to accelerated healing - if you think about it, when you’re ill, your natural response is to eat less, maybe have a bowl of soup: it’s totally instinctual. Research also seems to show that, unlike calorie restriciton, IF increases your metabolism, and it triggers the release of growth hormone, which encourages the body to seek fuel from other sources instead of attacking your muscle stores. This is why IF is popular with athletes as well as models."
How long do you have to fast to see the benefits?
"In Eat, Slim, Fast I outline my 16:8 approach, which is basically fast for 16 hours (including sleep) and eat healthily for 8. Very simply, it means dropping breakfast or dinner and making sure you support your body nutritionally, so you don’t have to obsess over dieting or counting calories. What’s important is what you do eat when you’re not fasting. Meals with a high GI, high in fibre and protein metabolise slowly and will help see you through the fasting hours."
It must be SO hard to do though…
"Not in ways you’d expect. Psychologically, it’s hard to let go of the idea of endless consumption. Most of us are emotional eaters and use food as a crutch. When you take away the crutch it’s scary – but then liberating. And you feel amazing! But physically, you don’t get hungry because you’re supported nutritionally – if your body has everything it needs you won’t have cravings. On a retreat, it helps that you’re in a beautiful place with locally sourced food and spa treatments, plus you get individual guidance and support. I love working with people intensively over a short period of time and seeing the huge impact it can have. You really do go home transformed!"
How does spa help?
"The spa is an essential part of the retreat. It is very relaxing and helps the process. Steaming and saunas are great for circulation, weight loss and detoxing, and we support that with a wheatgrass fizzy hydration drink. A good massage is great everywhere, but for me the product is essential. I’m a big fan of Ishga because it’s Scottish, organic, and with active marine ingredients that produce results. Also, I prefer the small boutique ranges."
You’ve set up detox retreats in sun spots all over the world – France, Ibiza, Turkey and lately Marbella. What made you decided to do one in Scotland?
"It’s my home, it’s where my family base is: it’s where I choose to be. It’s such a gorgeous part of the country, I want people to see it and enjoy it. The East Lothian coastline is unbeatable and there’s a really relaxed vibe. Plus the local produce is outstanding. We do more food on the Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa in North Berwickshire, but it’s balanced with lots of healthy outdoor activity so you still lose the same amount of weight."
How does your regime go down at home?
"My husband does a lot of sport, so he eats healthily anyway, and huge amounts because he needs the fuel. My children have been brought up on the natural approach: they’ve never had antibiotics, they have balanced, healthy diets. I’m not overly restrictive: my only rule is that it has to be real food. I don’t stop them if they go to friend’s houses, but I must have done something right as they don’t want crisps or sweets. Once they begged me for some fast food, so I caved and went to a drive-thru. My son, who is used to eating good quality meat, said: “Mum, it tastes dirty.” They never asked me again!"
Do you have any lapses?
"I am a big coffee drinker, but as a nutritionist I recognise the health benefits of caffeine, even when it went out of favour. I’m not a massive alcohol drinker, but I am partial to a glass of wine or G&T. I’m not into crisps or sweets, but I’ll never say no to a slice of homemade gingerbread."