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I am the first to hold my hands up and admit that when it comes to nutrition I am a bit clueless, well not clueless but confused. I often think I have cracked it in terms of finding a way of eating that suits my lifestyle and my running and then after a few weeks I slip back into old habits and am convinced its me that has got it all wrong, and perhaps I am never destined to have a healthy relationship with food.

I often hear the same kind of things from you guys on our Facebook page and through our online challenges, which is why for months now I have been searching for a professional to help us out, and guess what? I’ve found the perfect person in the for of dietitian Fiona Pring, so lets find out a bit more about her.

fionaSo tell us a bit about your self Fiona? I am Fiona Pring, 47 from Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. I have three children aged between 21 and 27, so all grown up. I’m enjoying the calm before the grand-children!

How did you find The Fat Girls Guide to Running, and what is it about the campaign that interested you? I became aware of The Fat Girls Guide to Running through a post on Facebook and it immediately caught my attention. I often hear patients telling me that they find it too intimidating to take part in activities such as running, swimming, going to the gym or even just going for a walk through fear of the comments that they get due to their size so this campaign really struck a chord with me. Here was a lady who had the balls to stick two fingers up and show the world that anyone can run whatever their size.

How did you get into being a dietician? My journey into dietetics came quite late really. I decided at the age of 38 to quit smoking! I needed to give myself a challenge to take my mind off the cravings so I started running! I used to run in my teens although back then I was sprinter. The thought of running any distance frightened the life out of me but I’m a stubborn cow and once I’d set my mind to it there was no stopping me. Through my running I developed an interest in nutrition and quickly made the decision to study it in-depth. A friend of mine suggested that I apply to train as a dietitian, so after some research I signed up for an Access to Science course at my local college and to my surprise was accepted to study on the four-year Nutrition and Dietetics course at Surrey University. Following that I went on to study Applied Sports Nutrition at St. Mary’s University. I started working as a specialist weight management dietitian in the private sector alongside working with endurance athletes on performance nutrition.

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Tell us a bit about your company, and why you set it up? I set up Southwood Nutrition last year for a number of reasons really. Primarily, I wanted to offer a non-weight focused approach to health and well-being. This was an approach I was introduced to back at Uni and following continued training in this area I believe that attitudes and beliefs around fatness are generally not best addressed by the pursuit of weight loss. There is mounting evidence to show that weight itself is not a good indicator of health and that actually the pursuit of weight loss can indeed be detrimental to health. Factors such as activity, nutrition and weight stigma have been shown to have far more of an impact on health than weight itself. I wanted to combine this with my sports nutrition work and have a bit more time to spend at home with my family.

Have you ever struggled with your weight? I’ve always been quite slim which is probably down to my genetics. I have to say that the only time my weight increased (apart from when I was pregnant) was when I gave up smoking and I gained about a stone. Funnily enough, this also coincided with the time in my life when I was at my fittest.

What does your diet look like? I love food! I can’t say there are many foods that I dislike. My diet is fairly balanced and I do try to keep my intake of ‘convenience’ foods to a minimum. I like to have lots of veg but to be honest I eat pretty much what I want. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m satisfied and certainly don’t deny myself anything.

Do you run? Yes I do, although not quite as regularly now as I used to. I have run marathons in the past but tend to stick to shorter distances now. I love how energised it makes me feel and find it helps to clear my mind.

What do you think the government should be doing to tackle rising obesity levels? In my opinion obesity itself is not a disease, it’s the attitude that society has towards larger people that’s the disease. How the government tackles that – to be honest I’m not entirely sure but campaigns like The Fat Girls Guide to Running highlight the fact that ‘fat’ does not necessarily mean ‘unhealthy’. Telling people to ‘lose weight’ is not the answer. Studies have shown that 98% of people who lose weight through dieting will regain that weight and generally a bit more within two years. This in itself impacts negatively both psychologically and physically on health. Attitudes towards fat people needs to change. Maybe then the health of our nation will start to improve.

Do you think plus sized athletes have specific needs that are different to other types of athletes? In terms of nutrition I would say the basis of any athletes diet whatever size should be a balanced one. So a mix of starchy foods, protein, plenty of fruit and veg, fats and some dairy foods for calcium and of course fluids. Hydration is important for any athlete but larger athletes do tend to sweat more which may increase the risk of becoming dehydrated. Make sure you are well hydrated before beginning any exercise. You can judge hydration by the colour of your urine – pale straw colour indicates you are well hydrated. The amount of fluid you lose will obviously be determined by the length and intensity of your run but try to sip fluids regularly and rehydrate slowly once your run is over.

How do you think you might be able to help our members? I’m happy to address any nutritional queries your members may have whether that be nutrition for running or their relationship with food in general. As I’ve mentioned I adopt a non-weight focused approach to health and well-being which may be a new concept to some of your members. As a dietitian my advice is evidence based and I’m currently developing both online and face-to-face packages which may be of interest. These can be accessed through my website www.southwoodnutrition.co.uk. I’ll be blogging here though from time to time on the main site on various aspects of both these topics and would welcome any suggestions on titles that your members may have.

I hope you guys are as excited as I am to have Fiona on board. She will be writing the occasional blog post for us here at The Fat Girls Guide to Running and more importantly providing group support to our Clubhouse Members, so just another reason to sign up hey?

The Clubhouse

Finally ladies, just to give us an idea of what your biggest food and nutrition issues are, please leave us a comment below as we would love to help if we can.

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