Constantly on the road? Trying to lose weight but lack energy? Can’t sleep? Nutritionist Suzi Green has worked in the music bizz and knows all about it. These are her top tips for healthy living in an industry that’s go go go.
Suzi worked in the music industry for over 15 years from being a promoter to tour managing up to 300 artists at festivals.
Now, she is a Naturopathic Nutritionist practising in North London, specialising in dietary solutions for busy lifestyles and the not so saintly!
1.What was life like working in the music business?
There was lots of thinking on my feet, lots of sleepless nights, lots of stress and overall a need to adapt fast to ever changing situations. Do that for a long time and it would take its toll on anyone’s health and wellbeing!
2. How did you learn to cope with the pressures?
It was definitely a learning curve on many levels.
When I first started I think I was desperate to prove myself,particularly with tour managing, as even as little as 10 years ago it was often a male dominated role. I’ve lost count of the times I’d show up at a venue and the local crew would tell me later that when I stepped off the tourbus and started lugging flightcases with everyone else, they’d be surprised as they thought I was someone’s girlfriend!
I put my all in, worked 24/7, and you can only sustain that for so long.
Touring particularly, and with any job where you are working away for long stretches of time, it’s hard to step away and find time for yourself.
I noticed little things at first. I was more tired, was feeling low and lacked energy, and it took me longer to bounce back.
I’m a strong believer in your body tells you what it needs and if you ignore it, it will shout louder and louder until it gets your attention!
There was one particular tour I came home from and felt so utterly exhausted on every level, I decided then that something had to give.
Change rarely happens overnight and I started thinking long term about my lifestyle. I also saw a homeopath and a nutritionist, had some tests done that showed I was suffering from adrenal fatigue (a type of burnout) and a borderline thyroid problem, and that got me thinking as to what I could do to support myself when I was away for long periods.
I guess the seed was sown there and then and that was the start of my journey. It was definitely baby steps at first!
3. Enjoying the journey
What are your top tips for those working long hours and often on the road?
Some of the things I incorporated to survive those 20 hour days were sneaking in mini sleeps. Oh, the magical power of the disco naps!
Sometimes even 10 minutes away to shut your eyes can help restore you.
I also learnt to meditate and had some ingenious methods for getting 15 minutes away at least once a day.
I’ve meditated in toilets, backs of vans, even a cupboard! There’s some amazing research behind meditation as to how it helps keep your head in a state of equilibrium and is beneficial for physical health as well.
And of course, it goes without saying almost, eat as best you can.
This is easier said than done when you’re on the move and takes some pre-planning depending on your situation.
When I was away on tourbuses, we were lucky enough to have some kitchen facilities, extremely minimal, but a fridge to keep things in and some space for my potions.One time a bus driver did throw out my bag of spirulina as he thought it looked ‘dodgy’. Quite what he thought it was I’m not sure!
On our rider I started including less of the blue M&Ms and more of a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. Some of the people I was working with were more keen on this than others!!
I found an ingenious way to start getting everyone to sneak in some of the fruit, even the doubtful. I brought along a small blender and would make up jugs of fruit smoothies aka Suzi’s ‘Green Stuff’ with that aforementioned spirulina (everything it touches turns green), plus bee pollen, live yoghurt, manuka honey etc. Anything I could think of I’d chuck it in to keep everyone’s immune systems going and energy levels up.
When you’re working and living closely together, if one person gets ill, everyone gets it, so keeping everyone as healthy as I could became really important.
Also, it’s important to say, everyone loved it! Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re being looked after and doing something good for themselves?!
4. Lunch box favourites
Yogurt coated raisins are delicious, but sneakily full of sugar – which are the best foods for on the go, that provide energy, but are not full of any of the nasty stuff?
Food marketing has become ever cleverer and more seductive in persuading us to buy so called healthy foods which are anything but.
Best snacks of all are the ones you put together yourself and that have some protein to keep your energy steady.
Low GI fruit and a few nuts are a great quick snack.
GI is the Glycaemic Index that food is categorized by and the ideal is to keep the GI as low as you can to keep your energy steady. Higher GI spikes your blood sugar and whilst it may give you a quick boost, it doesn’t sustain for long and makes you more tired and craving more sugar in the long run.
So low GI fruit are the less sweet ones meaning choose apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and other berries, rather than pineapples, grapes and mangoes which tend to be over sweet.
I’m not a huge fan of dried fruit either as it’s very concentrated and sweet and easy to eat too much of.
Oatcakes are also good as they come in small packets and last for ages stashed in pockets and drawers.
Have them with a little humus or tahini or nut butter for protein. Nut butters come in an amazing variety- cashew, almond, hazelnut – and they last for ages and don’t need refridgerating.
5. Perfect fridge fillers
Schedules can often be irregular when working in the media, making it hard to stock a fridge with fresh and healthy goodies but actually have the time to eat them before they go off – what are your favourite fridge fillers?
Easiest quick mini meals are smoothies as they take a minute to make and require little thought or preparation.
My favourite easy recipe is a small cup of coconut milk, a scoop of whey protein powder or a small handful of nuts, a spoonful of ground flax seeds (you can buy them ready ground in health shops) or flax seed oil for mood boosting Omega 3, add fruit and blend!
Coconut is great for you as its antibacterial and antiviral and is full of the healthy type of fats.
Canned coconut milk is one source, dilute it with some water, or try Kara coconut milk which is thinner and more like a traditional milk, or even coconut water which has become very popular lately and is full of electrolytes so great for restoring energy.
You can buy a small blender for £20 and they’re very portable, but if that’s too much to manage if you’re living out of small bag, you can use a shaker cup, easy to find in sports and health shops and just stick with the protein powder and the coconut milk or water and eat the fruit.
6. The truth behind the 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet and its alternatives appear to have become the next big craze – Is this really a long term solution for those trying to lose weight and live healthily in this unstable industry?
I’m yet to meet someone who is successfully accomplishing the 5:2 diet.
In principle it sounds doable, but my experience has found many people have had issues with overcompensating on the 5 days and eating much more than they ordinarily would do as they’ve just made it through a day of deprivation!
Also, the 5:2 diet isn’t such a great choice if you have blood sugar issues as it can lead to energy ups and downs.
You’re a blood sugary type if you’re the sort of person who starts going a bit mad if deprived of food for too long and you may start feeling faint, confused and even angry. I’d fit into that category! So better if you’ve this tendency to aim to eat every 3 hours or so and be mindful of portion size and what you’re eating.
7. Move over carbs!
Many people I know are trying to give up carbs (specifically grains and potatoes) – what alternatives would you suggest?
Actually, as a method of weight control, I heartily recommend cutting down on grains and potatoes!
We tend to load up on too many of the starchier carbohydrates which can lead to weight gain. Current studies are also showing that the increase in diabetes and obesity may well be down to too much processed carbohydrate, and less about saturated fat which is different to what was once thought.
It’s far healthier to fill up on a variety of vegetables, particularly the leafy greens and good quality animal or vegetable protein, a little fruit and nuts and seeds – in short a caveman type diet in the way to go!
8. Time to beat insomnia
Quite a few trainee journalists have told me that they suffer from insomnia due to not being able to stop their minds from thinking and worrying about their work load – what advice would you suggest?
If you’re having problems sleeping, try and establish a sleep routine before bedtime.
Have at least an hour technology free prior to bed, so no laptops, social media and no TV if you can manage it, or at the very least no tense thrillers or anything to stimulating. Instead, look on the last hour before bedtime as a time to wind down and relax.
Tryptophan snacks can be helpful.
Tryptophan is an amino acid which is the precursor to melatonin which helps us sleep. It’s also an ingredient of seratonin, the happy hormone. Turkey, almonds, bananas, soya, tuna, pumpkin seeds and cheese are all good sources, so try and include some in the latter half of the day.
A cup of hot almond milk with a square of dark chocolate melted into it can be a nice tryptophan bed time drink! Chocolate is rich in magnesium which is also relaxing.
If you’re the blood sugary type, a small snack half hour before bed can be helpful too, contrary to what we’ve been told. The reason is it helps regulate your blood sugar whilst you’re asleep, so if your blood sugar drops, it can wake you up.
Alcohol at night also messes with blood sugar, and that together with the dehydration that accompanies drinking booze can also mean you don’t sleep so well.
Other things- make sure your room is really dark, keep electrical items out of the bedroom and try a herbal tea before bed including some of the sleep inducing herbs such as lemon balm, valerian and chamomile.