Live and let diet

02nd Dec

You won’t find her listed in the credits, but Juliet O’Sullivan is the woman behind the lean looks of an array of superstar actors in a list of Hollywood blockbusters. And some productions that didn’t quite make it.
“It started with a TV-on-demand series, Da Vinci’s Demons,” she said. “Because our work was a success I started to get some bigger movies.”
The movie commissions may have dried up this year, but the restrictions on so many aspects of life have handed Juliet the opportunity to focus on a growing part of her work, and to take inspiration from a significant episode in her personal life.
Her corporate client base was expanding nicely as the first lockdown hit in March and she is now adapting what she does to offer her services online. The arrival of baby Johanna in May then alerted Juliet to another opportunity, meeting the demand for support to parents seeking new ideas for feeding children.
Things may have moved on since Juliet launched her Life & Fork business more than 10 years ago, but wellbeing is still at the heart of everything.
“Wellness in the workplace is massive,” she said, adding that the managing director of a prominent Hull-based business had recruited her to talk to his staff.
“They have instilled a wellbeing initiative and it’s more about mental health, but nutrition is supporting that and looking at energy at work and the impact of stress at work. We were doing that in groups from 20 to 200.
“Lockdown obviously put an abrupt stop to that but we have discussed the possibility of moving to an online platform. I firmly believe we have to adapt along with all the other industries that find themselves operating in a completely new manner, and online webinars and live Q&As are something I’m now working on.”
Juliet was ahead of the game when she launched Life & Fork as a food delivery business with daughter Lolly, now 11, just a baby and joining the trips to drop off daily bags of nourishment.
“There’s been a massive influx of prepped food to people’s doors and that would have been a huge help in 2008 when I was driving around west Hull at six in the morning. One of Lolly’s first words was ‘deliveries’ because that’s what we always did!
“I was cooking for local business people and other clients, and I was stocking a fridge at a gym. At one point I was using a restaurant kitchen in the early hours of the morning, paying for that and the deliveries, but I couldn’t operate at the scale to make it worthwhile.”
One turning point came when ex-husband Glen, father of Lolly and 10-year-old Tommy, developed links with the film industry through his personal training business, and Juliet found demand for the skills that came from completing a body composition course.
Another opportunity was the discovery of the work of Martin McDonald and his evidence-based approach to nutrition, which reinforced Juliet’s awareness as she completed his Mac-Nutrition Uni course.
She said: “The connection between mental health and nutrition is enormous. There are so many links with binge-eating disorder, or orthorexia where people think that certain foods are clean and others are dirty and which itself can become an unhealthy obsession.”
Juliet’s interest in health and wellbeing has been lifelong, with a couple of lapses. She grew up visiting Hull Ionians where her brother Tom played, Tommy is in the mini section and partner Luke is in the first team. Juliet played hockey at county level but lost interest and fitness after going to university and again after travelling.
She said: “I stopped the hockey when I went to university and I didn’t pick up a stick again until I watched Team GB women in the 2016 Olympics. When I went travelling I didn’t do any exercise. I defy anybody not to be the size of a bus after three months going round the States on a train!”
But Juliet also started to read nutrition text books which, coupled with Glen’s work, helped her shape her business ideas: “I had foresight in the sense that everybody was into training but nobody was into nutrition and I could see what was to come.”
The Mac-Nutrition Uni course helped Juliet to develop her approach of putting people first.
She said: “The course teaches us to understand humans. It’s not just sitting in front of people and telling them to eat less. Do they have a support network, a family who can help them or is someone feeding them or are there socio-economic issues?”
That need for support was amplified as Juliet considered the impact on other parents in her situation, spending inordinate amounts of time at home with a young family in a stop-start-stop year.
She said: “The initial novelty of making banana bread and cupcakes has subsided and there are parents all over the country stuck in with their children with no idea what to feed them, or how to deal with the sudden lack of movement these kids are experiencing through no fault of their own. It’s hard.
“I’ve been documenting my weaning journey with Johanna so that I can make it into a resource for new mums and I’m in the process of developing recipes that fundamentally make a wholesome adults’ meal, but with ingredients which can be isolated and used to create a ‘fusspot’ equivalent and can also be scaled down for a toddler-friendly dish. It’s no mean feat but I’m really enjoying fathoming it out.”
Whether working with corporates or kids, Juliet aims for a realistic approach that explodes a few myths and anticipates and accommodates weaknesses, sharing her ideas on Instagram at life_and_fork.
She said: “One client was eating breakfast even though she doesn’t like breakfast. It’s quite acceptable not to eat breakfast so we stopped it and she had those calories to eat at night. The rules of ‘never’, ‘don’t’ and ‘always’ are usually the signs of a fad diet.
“Fussy eaters are completely normal, kids not naturally wanting to eat veg is completely normal and being too tired to cook tea is also completely normal. It’s these parents I want to reach out to and make them realise that if you’re tired on a Friday night and you give your kids beans on toast, you haven’t failed them… you’ve actually boosted their fibre intake more than you realised! Win-win!
“This year has made me realise the importance of community and made me want to create exactly that, so watch this space.”

BusinessWorks Hull and East Yorkshire spring 2021

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