Hi. I’m James Belbin, Nutritionist and Type 2 Diabetes mentor. Founder of Your Nutritional Blueprint and the lead coach in our Diabetes Food Academy.
I like to think of myself as a healthy lifestyle architect, mostly because that description neatly describes what I hold dearly, a positive mindset approach to life.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Oh, no!!
I’ve spent at least 15+ years NOT being able to lose weight. NOT living the life I wanted. Basically trying every fad diet and exercise routine I could find and basically getting it wrong.
I have been on some kind of diet for almost my entire adult life.
For probably 20 years i have fought and lost at beating obesity.
So why does that make me the perfect coach for YOU?
I can honestly say I am now in a place of happiness, where eating no longer holds the traumatic associations it used to.
The purpose of this post is to give you some additional background into why I chose to become a nutrition coach and if your goal is weight-loss, weight-gain, lifestyle improvement through healthier habits then I know I have exactly the skills you need to succeed.
I came to nutrition coaching the hard way.
Found myself in a complex situation where the only options I had were to learn about nutrition to help myself first.
For 20 years I lived and worked in Central London as a successful sales person. I worked on many multi-million blue chip accounts generating sales of over £100million.
I lived, worked and played hard.
And with this came some detrimental health issues.
But before I get to that….
I don’t want your initial experience of me to be “oh, he’s just an ego maniac that blames everyone else but himself.” or “he was a party animal whose health improved the minute he slowed down, go figure…”
I’m not like that, this isn’t a ego trip, sob story or a cry for attention, however I think telling you my story will help you understand how I can help you. I am not selling any kind of quick weight loss package. Flog and run. I don’t sell supplements or photocopied meal plans that a sports nutritionist once created. Nope. Not me.
I do this as I believe I can make a difference. My value in this is for the right reasons. We can solve obesity if we change our focus and look inwards at our motivations and our behaviours, and not simply focus on “good or bad” foods. That simply DOES NOT work.
If you are just a few pounds overweight, I might have some tips I can share with you that will help you get beach body fit. Email me and I’ll get you started. However I’m not really looking to help you.
I am looking to support people that have been overweight for long periods of their life? Perhaps even having lost weight successfully previously, but through one thing and another its crept back on. People that can’t quite work out what they are doing wrong, why their progress isn’t working.
I am talking to you. I get you. I understand you.
I have pretty much tried and failed at every imaginable diet plan ever created. And then some.
Some of the plans i have tried at:-
- Calorie Counting
- Men’s Health style Meal planners
- Low Fat/High Carb
- High Fat/Low Carb/Ketogenic Diet
- South Beach Diet
- Weight-watchers/Slimming World/Cambridge Diet
To name but a few. I’ve also tried most protocols such as intermittent fasting, juice fasting, complete fasting, no carbs after 8pm, 5:2 etc etc.
And here is the thing. They ALL work….
…to an extent. For short periods of time. And then they don’t….
..and then comes the inevitable weight gain, time and time again. Frustrating right?
And this is why i am well placed to help YOU! I’ve been there before. I know the pitfalls. I know when it gets tough.
I’m not fresh out of university with zero experience of the world or of clients. I’m not a gym bunny weight trainer or physique expert obsessed with looks over reality. I’m not an instagram poser with slick lines and genetics that provide me with a lean physique.
What I am, or what I was, was a stressed out, comfort eater that drove myself to disordered eating behaviours because I was constantly chasing weight-loss without really understanding how I worked, What I needed to thrive.
I was a man, who had tons of misplaced motivation that needed me to change more than just what i ate to solve the problem.
I am realistic that life gets in the way of best intentions. My expertise is grounded in getting it wrong. Time after time, year after year. I was the classic yo-yo & fad dieter. You name it and I’ve been sucked in. Bought the books paid the fees, joined the cult. Succeeded for a while, then failed. Each time feeling a little bit worse about it than the last.
And then i realised it probably wasn’t just the food I ate or the diets I tried. It was more than that.
So my mission is to help shine a light on things you can improve, no matter where in life you you currently are.
Knowing why I do this, will help you make positive changes to YOUR life.
I didn’t chose to be a salesman, I kind of fell into it. I didn’t study the topic at university or ever remember growing up aspiring to a good salesman. It was my first proper job and I was good at it, and my career evolved from there. This provided me with a highly stressful lifestyle, long working hours, sat cowering over a laptop and phone in artificially lit offices, pounding the streets of London in terrible shoes, exercising only when I could, and usually in a hurry. I networked like a rockstar and I won significant deals. I kept the precious egos of sales directors at arms length whilst keeping a wide range of clients entertained. My career just leapt from one opportunity to another. Things just flowed, I bought an apartment in the city of London and instantly my life was getting more complicated.
All this pressure, stress and poor time management led to comfort eating. I ate as and when I could to fit in my busy diary. I chewed food poring over deals, i celebrated wins (and losses) with food.
And so as i approached 40 I had an ever expanding waistline (42 inches), I was continually on the go. If i wasn’t working you would find me in London nightclubs, on snowboarding holidays, competing in jungle adventures or drinking like a trooper on stag-dos. I partied hard Monday to Sunday. Productive and focused. I exercised a lot and believed I ate well. I was fit (at 20 stone I could run a 10km race in sub 1hr), but I was still morbidly obese, and at routine check ups with the doctor, it regularly showed that I was high risk for all the normal ailments.
- Coronary heart disease,
- Type II diabetes,
- fatty liver disease
- impaired kidneys. etc etc.
All scary stuff.
Adding to a long list of minor illnesses that i already suffered from, like gout, heartburn, IBS, food allergies, itchy & dry skin and arthritis.
I had to make a decision get healthy or potentially do long term damage.
Obviously the first step was to balance work and my nutrition, eat less and exercise more. It was the obvious thing to do,
But I was surprised how hard this was. Impossible. The more I tried to cardio, the more I felt like the weight stayed on. The less I ate the more tired I felt. I was lost. Confused and exhausted. I burned out. I had no idea why, every diet I tried promised great results if I stuck to it. I had super willpower. I could do this.
My GP offered support at the time, referring me to a dietician. In my sessions she told me to swap wholemeal bread, pasta and rice for the current white versions. Whilst this seemed obvious it didn’t appear to work very well, Symptoms didn’t improve and nor did my weight. Over the next 6 months, I got faster and stronger but fatter and older. At the worst point I weighed nearly 130kg.
They always looked so puzzled. Whilst I understand they have lots of training and science behind them, they always appeared to follow the same department of health advice. Eat carbs, with little meat and some vegetables. All foods I struggled to make and consume. Did they have actually have time to care about my preferences?
So instead, I turned to the other aspect of health. The gym. I paid for a personal trainer once a week. A 50kg Tae-kwondo expert. Nice guy. He also wanted me on a 1500 calorie per day diet on top of my daily work routine and their “fat-burning” classes. I did three spin classes a week, but struggled to climb stairs in the office without being out of breath or sweating profusely on the Tube.
To cut a long story short I fell into every trap imaginable. My goals were always moving to suit my personality and my commitment always waned after a few weeks as I found a new fad to follow. I wasn’t honest with myself and I struggled to come to terms with my comfort eating.
I decided that I wasn’t going to get the correct support through the NHS or by exercising my body into the ground. I did some research and I found a podcast called Fat Burning Man (FBM). One of Americas top podcasts, the FBM interviewed key people in the alternative health and fitness world. He used to be a management consultant in the food industry and was starting to get sick himself, so he started a podcast and a blog that at the time became one of the most downloaded in the world.
Listening to this podcast for a couple of months, started to help me find a different approach to nutrition. He introduced a number of concepts, namely the Paleolithic lifestyle and the Wild Diet. Basically everything was counter to what the nutritional information I had previously found. Back to front nutrition. I tried some of these diets, with some positives, I felt better but I still lacked real weight-loss.
All this led to me to find Precision Nutrition. Personalised Nutrition.
In one interview he spoke to the CEO of Precision Nutrition. (http://fatburningman.com/tag/dr-john-berardi/) What he had to say really struck a chord with where I was at that point.
He introduced the concept that all nutrition needed to be tailored for the individual’s lifestyle, skill level and knowledge.
“Not a one-size fits all that the media and health service try to promote”
I saw their website offered year-long online body change programs and decided to give it a go. I had nothing else to lose. It was expensive but I felt it had more going for it than anything else I had tried until that point. Pretty quickly it appeared that eating less wasn’t always the solution. Getting to understand your eating behaviours in the context of your routine was far more important.
And this was the key change for me. Understanding how my relationships with food, people, my job and my social life ALL affected how I ate. I was already aware I was a comfort eater, but I had no idea to what extent. The gentle non-intrusive coaching helped me identify when, how and more importantly why I was over-eating.
For the first time in years I felt confident about by body. This helped me change my relationships with everyone and everything around me.
Game. Changed. Forever.
It started to dawn on me that years of poor eating habits, and relying on terrible gout remedies (Voltarol in particular), mixed in with added stress and lack of sleep had caused more damage to my gut health than could simply be addressed by small changes in daily food habits.
I felt lost, again, cut adrift from medical support. Losing contact with friends who simply didn’t understand, I realised I had to go deeper, I had to investigate more about the relationship between MY gut and MY brain. Something wasn’t working correctly and I needed to find out what.
Via Ben Coomber’s podcast (another wonderful nutritionist) I found a functional medicine practitioner (Alex Manos) who ran some tests and found some startling information. I had zero bacteria in my stomach. It was a wasteland. He gave me a course of strong probiotics and almost immediately I felt better. Within 6 months I started to feel “normal” again. I had less reactions to food, and those vegetables could return. What the GP had identified as just “deal with it” IBS, now had a solution. He also felt that I had a bug in my stomach, called h.pylori and asked me to get my GP to investigate further.
He opened my mind to nutrition. He reinforced how there can be so much more to it than just diet and exercise. He called it Functional Medicine. Getting to the root of the problem rather than trying to fix it with a remedy.
And with a bit of a struggle (keeping the pressure on the NHS) i fought to get the biopsy that Alex requested. Three weeks after the test, my GP rung me to say that the biopsy had revealed that i did indeed have h.pylori. I began a short course of strong antibiotics which had an immediate effect. My gastro-paresis disappeared overnight and in the space of a few short weeks I hadn’t had a single reaction to any foods.
I simply could not believe it. Its an emotional time when you have had to fight for years to understand how and why you are who you are. Had i always had this bug? Certainly i could remember having some of these symptoms for years. Did the stress of my career in my 30s make me vulnerable to infections? Were they simply the by-product of a hedonistic twenties? I was also an anxious teenager. How far back do you go? Who knows? I’ll probably never know the answer. I don’t think it matters now.
So, what is the moral of my story and how does this help YOU?
I personally feel more comfortable in my own body than i ever have done. I have lost 16kg (35pounds) so far and I know i will lose another 10 as my body regulates itself towards its ideal weight. I don’t worry about my weight anymore. The main difference is these losses are from changes in behaviour, lifestyle and attitude. No more time-wasted worrying about what I should or shouldn’t eat. I am happy with my body, my eating habits and my relationships around me. It might have taken me a long time to get here, but all the same I have made the changes I have needed to make in a way that suited my personality and my lifestyle. I have compromised things to get here, but ultimately I am leading a life more valued, more interesting and now I have a new career.
One based on helping others and being more involved in the community.
I am trained to build your confidence with the foundations of good nutrition.
The best piece of advice I can give, is start at YOUR beginning. Work on what you CAN do. What you DO like and do MORE of that. Get the basics right first. Follow a structured process and give it time. One of my problems was commitment to the cause. Constantly changing around the “system” doesn’t work. If you limit your calorie intake without understanding your minimum requirements your weight-loss wont be forever. Don’t keep chopping and changing every month to the latest fad media diet. It won’t help. In fact it can be damaging to your metabolism and as you get older, it gets harder to make any changes that work. Especially if you have lost and gained weight multiple times.
I can make a big statement here, if you need to lose more than 10kg in weight and you are over 35 then its highly likely that what you are eating isn’t making you fat. Its your relationships with food and the world around you. Consistently bad sleep patterns, stress management, poor lifestyle choices, mental health are all huge contributing factors to weight gain and are generally massively overlooked in favour of quick fix dieting. We can help you identify and improve these behaviours very quickly, but it needs to start at the beginning.
Its a simple premise. We will build your nutrition around you. We have the advanced toolset created by global nutrition leaders Precision Nutrition to help us support you. The point of sharing my story is to explain that the solution may not be where you think it is. You will have your thoughts and ideas might be about what is holding you back, so we will help you focus your attentions on your current behaviours, habits and lifestyle. This is where the media is mis-leading you. It will take a coach to help guide you through a short process of understanding your current lifestyle and then gently guide you through some really simple new habits….
…And i think this is crucial….
I have failed in my objectives so many times in the past, but i think these failures give me the best training in how to help you.
I get ‘you’. As I said above, I’ve been where you are at some point in my past. I’ve tried and failed with modern dieting so I empathise with you, I’ve been through a huge number of the ups and downs we experience and I can help guide you which way to turn.
It’s important to highlight, that Precision Nutrition isn’t a cult, its not weight watchers or a slim-fast program, its nutrition coaching. They don’t sell any products or supplements, or even meet up. It’s not a pyramid or multi-level marketing scheme, and there is no affiliate program. I’m not incentivised in anyway to promote their company. They simply developed great coaching practices to help people make changes themselves.
We can guarantee there is no cynical approach to their business. Quite the opposite, if you are highly motivated you can find everything you need on their website for free. Check out their fantastic Instagram account. As a coach I am here to guide you on YOUR journey with that information. We give out huge amounts of free advice on our social media channels. How to improve your meal-prep, how to stay fit and healthy when you are busy are two of our most downloaded infographic bundles.
Get involved and we will show you the way to get started on your own. Then, and only then, if you want some assistance, join our presale list for our next program.
I am passionate about helping people deal with obesity and living a happy life….A big part of my journey was education. It enabled me to understand that a highly stressful lifestyle combined with fad dieting are not the best environments for weight loss, no matter how motivated I was to succeed.
I had to empower myself with the basic knowledge of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and build on what I was good at, what I could achieve before moving on to the next skill. In my case having a lack of healthy gut bacteria was always going to undermine anything I did with food. Adding stress to that melting pot was always going to be a losing battle. Feeling like an imposter in my career just added comfort eating to that list of no-win scenarios.
So thats my story, I also wanted to share some things that I believe got me to where I can eat and exercise intuitively and trust my instincts more. I don’t propose that everyone has to change their career in order to be healthy, but I do urge everyone to ask themselves,
“What is the why?” , “Why are you doing this diet?”, “why are you embarking on this latest exercise routine?” Why?, why?, why?
The answer to these questions, will be the basis of your journey going forward.
Back to today, January 2021 and I am now successfully coaching clients in a number of different ways:- Through our Diabetes Food Academy Programs, via MoveGB and personalised nutrition consultations. With Tumble Tots we are helping children get more active at an early age and we also support local and online trainers with their skills and confidence around taking their clients online.
I have a wonderful partner Nini who supports me in my journey and two beautiful children called Tallulah and Max. We are looking forward to spending a lot of time on the road over the next few years in our campervan Rizza!
Hopefully you will join us along the way??
- Good healthy food does taste amazing. You might have to retrain your taste buds to get this though….
- You eat with your eyes, this is ultra important, make your meals LOOK good.
- Nutrition is so much more than what goes in your mouth.
- Eating well can be done on ANY budget.
- ‘Sports nutrition’ or marketed ‘health’ foods are simply awful and must be avoided.
- Eating only when hungry takes some time to perfect.
- Modern media is causing more harm than good. You cant reduce good nutrition down into headline friendly soundbites.
- Express supermarkets are not the place to buy food from.
- Focus attention on doing more ‘good’ things, than removing ‘bad’ things.
- Convenience foods need to be treated with respect.