Q&A with Matilda Brown

When I met my wife she was a pescatarian and hadn’t eaten meat for about 15 years. She has told me many times over the years we’ve been together how my way of eating (which has become her way of eating) has changed her life in positive ways. I thought it would be good to ask her some questions about this, as I never really weighed in on her diet and have never health coached her, but I guess considering we live together and share most meals, my way of eating has rubbed off on her. So, I sent her a few questions and she has very generously, between breastfeeding our newborn and working, taking the time to answer them.  

Scott: We talk about health a lot in our home and you’ve spoken to me a lot over the years about your struggle with diets, weight fluctuations, eating disorders and your love/hate relationship with your body and food. Without going into it too much, what do you think was the major thing missing in the life that you now have, which has ultimately given you a better relationship with your body and food? 

Matilda: Without a doubt, what I have now that I didn’t back then, is an understanding of nutrition. I grew up with no understanding of it, except that I was supposed to look a certain way. When I got boobs and hips, my mum encouraged me to go on a diet and for the next ten years, I was consumed with new ways to try and lose weight. I tried them all: Atkins, Fat flush, no carbs after 5, vegetarian, vegan etc… until eventually at 25 I became a shadow of myself, ate way too little, ran 5kms every day and was very underweight. I was consumed by how I looked. And deep down very unhappy because I was starving. I only ever understood food on a very superficial level. You eat to put on weight, you fast to lose it. But I had no idea how my basically all carb, high sugar diet was affecting my hormones, my skin, my hair, my mind and my mood. Enter Scott… and Scott’s slow-cooked lamb, which was the first meat I’d eaten in 15 years, and I was suddenly aware of what my body was missing. I had been starving myself of good fats and a meat protein for so long I had no idea how GOOD I could feel. I remember before we met I was eating fruit and iceberg lettuce and wondering why I was sitting at this weight (about 5kgs heavier than I am now) that I couldn’t shift. It took about 2 years (of eating your way) for my body to reboot, and my hormones to even out. Looking back at my diet and lifestyle pre-Scott, it was all over the place because I didn’t understand food the way I do now. Through watching you cook and picking your brain over the years, it’s given me a HUGE awareness of what I’m putting into my body and how it affects me, that I didn’t have before. So I feel not only SO much more energy, focus, and satiety, but also, a lot more in control. That was the hardest thing for all those years I think, feeling like nothing I did was right because I was just guessing, and always feeling like I’d failed. My relationship with my body now is so much healthier. I NEVER starve myself, I embrace good fats whereas before I was scared of them, and I love to eat high quality, ethical, grass-fed meats. 

SCOTT: You’re incredibly busy with work and a young family – how do you prioritise your health? Does it come easy or hard?

MATILDA: Well you know me. I’m not nearly as disciplined as you. But I try. For those reading, I’ve just had my second baby (two weeks ago) so I’m not back into exercising yet. But generally, Scott and I will do a 20-30 minute workout on the balcony together with Zan (our nearly 2yr old) running around us. I missed working out during my second pregnancy. I had low iron so I had no energy. But I try and find at least 30 minutes in the day to move my body, be it a run, a walk, or a strength training session. I aim for 4/5 times a week but I don’t chastise myself anymore if I don’t. Life is crazy busy at the moment. Eating well is my priority and I think the biggest mover of the needle when it comes to health and feeling good. I always allow myself a treat. Some quality chocolate or berries and yoghurt. The occasional pizza. But generally, I’m gluten-free and low sugar. That includes fruits. I know I can easily become addicted to sugar so I try not to have too much of it in the fridge. It’s easier to prioritise my health when you live with a health guru. I think if I didn’t I would need someone to inspire me. A friend. Or a health coach. It’s a lot harder to prioritise health when you live with unhealthy people or are dating someone who is a couch potato and a big drinker. I can remember times when I’ve had people around me who don’t prioritise their health and it’s a slippery slope for me. Much harder to stick to your guns. So I have Scott to thank for my health these days I think.

SCOTT: What was diet/lifestyle/mental health like 5 years ago?

MATILDA: I thought I was healthy but I was addicted to fruit and not eating much protein, so very high carb. I would try to fill up on salads but there was nothing substantial in them so inevitably I would spend my day going back and forth to the fridge trying to get satiated. I would run but have very little energy so it would feel like I was running through wet cement. I was probably 5kgs heavier than I am now. Also in a relationship with a guy who didn’t make me feel good about myself which only makes matters worse, as I’m sure we can all relate to. I used to turn to food for emotional support then feel terrible for over-eating. So it was a vicious cycle. I wish I knew about nutrition the way I do now. It also helps to have a husband who thinks you’re a massive babe. 😉 

SCOTT: What have you noticed since eating differently than 5 years ago?

MATILDA: More focus, energy, self-love, more stable weight, easier to exercise. Easier to bounce back after being pregnant. I think eating the way I do has helped so much during pregnancy. I didn’t put any weight on and didn’t get swollen joints. 

 SCOTT: Can you identify any areas in which you could improve?

MATILDA: For sure. But then I wouldn’t be enjoying my life as much as I do. I think balance is the most important thing. And I feel I’m at a nice balance between being healthy but not obsessive. I’ve been obsessive and it didn’t make me happy, so I know better. 

SCOTT: Any tips for keeping fit and healthy with a young family?

MATILDA: Buddy up. Find a friend/partner or health coach to keep you accountable and help motivate you. I’m lucky because I have Scott 24/7. He’s the best kind of motivator because he doesn’t ever judge, he just supports. Find someone who it’s fun to work out with or someone who has similar aged kids or likes the same kind of food and movement as you. Make it enjoyable. And don’t over exhaust yourself. Just stick with it. Make it consistent and make it a life long commitment, not a two-week commitment. Get into cooking delicious healthy food. There’s no excuse not to, seeing as you’re reading this from Scott’s website which has ENDLESS free healthy recipes. Take advantage of it! 

SCOTT: What advice would you give to your younger self around health, body image and exercise?

MATILDA: This question almost makes me cry. I feel so sad for my younger self. I hated my body for most of my teen years and well into my 20s. I would tell her to learn about the value of food, understand the food system and where her food comes from. Understand nutrition. Understand energy in and energy out. Learn about inflammatory foods and foods that are healing and replenishing your cells not depleting them. Be kind to yourself and your body. Growing and birthing two babies have given me such appreciation of myself. I’ve never been happier in my skin, but I also recognise that I’m at a place where I can be. I have a husband who adores me and also thanks to him, I know what makes me feel and look my best.