talkhealth meets...TH+ resident dietitian Sophie Medlin

Consultant dietitian and Chair of the British Dietetic Association for London, Sophie Medlin, is a gastrointestinal and colorectal expert. Oh, and she's also our new resident dietitian! Let’s meet her, shall we?

Why did you decide to become a Dietitian?

I decided to become a dietitian when I was just 15. I was interested in food and science and decided that it would be a good career for me. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a nutritionist or a dietitian and when I looked into it, I decided to do Nutrition and Dietetics so I could work in the NHS as well as other sectors. 

Could you tell us a little about your professional background?

As with most dietitians, I worked in the NHS for the first seven years of my career. I specialised in complex nutrition support (tube feeding and intravenous feeding) and the nutritional consequences of bowel conditions and bowel surgery. 

I was then invited to apply for a lectureship at Plymouth University which I did for two years before moving for a lectureship in Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London where I undertook research into the nutritional consequences of living with a stoma. 

In 2019, I left my academic position to run my business full-time. I run a company called CityDietitians. We are a team of highly specialist dietitians offering nutrition consultancy to individuals, companies and the media. 

I still have a busy caseload of patients with complex bowel conditions and I also design vitamins and other supplements in my consultancy work. 

What common food-based mistakes do you see lots of us making?

The most important thing to protect with your diet is your relationship with food.

When people get too caught up in worrying about what they should and shouldn’t eat and what other people are eating or not eating, that’s when things come unstuck. Rigid rules around food should only be put in place if you have allergies, intolerances or medical problems. 

Otherwise, the most important thing is to listen to your body and learn what foods make you feel the best.

Do you believe in cutting food groups out?

Never without good reason. Cutting out food groups should only ever be done if you have a strong ethical aversion or there is a medical reason to do so. Cutting out any food group has nutritional consequences so doing so without supervision can lead to long and short-term harm. 

Where do you stand on weight loss and diets?

I feel very strongly that ‘diets’ in the traditional sense don’t work. We know this to be true because there is a new one every week and we are still struggling with obesity rates.

We all know what roughly constitutes a healthy diet and which foods we’re eating that might make us gain weight. The way to work on managing your weight successfully is to explore WHY you’re eating.

Next time you’re eating something when you’re not physically hungry, try to explore why. You may be stressed or bored or lonely. If you’re using food to distract yourself from those emotions, you need to work on the emotions. Someone telling you not to eat, or you beating yourself up for eating will only make these things worse. 

They say that ‘food is medicine’. Can you explain a little about what that means in your practice?

‘Food is medicine’ is a controversial statement in my world. Many of my patients have chronic health conditions that no amount of plant-based eating or ’superfoods’ will help with but they’re told day-in-day-out that if they ate better the food would be their medicine.

The truth is, food is an EXCELLENT adjunct to medicine for many conditions but for the most part, it can’t replace lifesaving medical treatments. 

What are your three golden rules when it comes to nutrition?

1. Understand WHY you’re eating

2. Worry less, listen more to your body

3. Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables 

Describe your dream breakfast.

I don’t like to eat breakfast normally but a cafe near me does this amazing mushroom omelette with hash browns which I LOVE. I always have it with a berry smoothie, an Americano with cold milk and a sparkling water - and I always eat it with someone I love. 

Do you believe in intermittent fasting and if so, is there a basic formula that works for most people?

If you’re someone who wakes up and isn’t hungry until later then skipping breakfast can be a really useful way to manage weight - as long as you don’t eat everything in the fridge as soon as the clock strikes 12:00!  If you’re waking up hungry and getting headaches or struggling to concentrate because you haven’t eaten, then fasting isn’t for you.

We’re all different and there are hundreds of different methods you can use to manage your weight. It’s about finding something that works for you. There is no evidence that fasting for longer than 16 hours and there are no proven health benefits beyond weight management, despite what they have shown in rate studies. 

And lastly - and most importantly: Quavers or quinoa? 

Both, please! 

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 6 November 2020
Next review: 6 November 2020