My story is an expression of love, passion and purpose
Before passion, there was love. It started in childhood and grew.
It grew into an expression of creativity. It became a mindful meditation; a respite from the busyness and overwhelm. It was a place of peace where the mind could absorb itself and just, be, present.
It grew into a passion. A calling to leave behind all that was familiar and step into the unknown and learn the magic of time-honoured food alchemy and understand the gold of its powerful, healing medicine.
Slowly, a purpose emerged: to inspire, to teach, to help others seek out the gold.
A passion and a purpose to uncover traditional but forgotten food, health and lifestyle wisdom, relinquished for speed and immediacy, but now re-discovered by emerging science.
Our witness to growing material prosperity, yet declining health, unhappiness, disconnection and intolerance, is speaking loudly. It’s telling us we need to go back.
Not back to the quaint nostalgia of a ‘yesteryear’. But back, to the future.
A future of food wisdom, of better living and of making the rest of our life, the best of our life.
Although my friends know me as Isabel, my given name is Izabella. My mum, Antonina, always cooked from scratch.
She was a natural cook whose food transported us to the far-away places and ‘world’ cuisines she had experienced.
As I grew up, I absorbed Mum’s passion for food and feeding people and cooking became a way of expressing my own creativity and love for family and friends.
Cooking was the one thing in which I could absorb myself at the end of a long day in a challenging academic and corporate career; I found respite in the kitchen – here was my healing, ‘mindful meditation’.
Every meal became an expression of love.
My mum left me a legacy and every day I thank her for my love for food.
From Love – to Passion and Purpose
I started professional life as a Research Psychologist in a Medical School; then a Programme Manager for the NHS Training Division; and finally the Director of a Management Consultancy. Working at a senior level in the corporate world was challenging and intellectually stimulating; but my passion eventually took me out of the corporate world and put me into the hands of Darina and Rachel Allen at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork, Ireland to train as a Professional Chef. The experience changed my life.
Darina instilled in us a deep respect for clean, organic soil and its products and we were privileged to be taught using the best that can be grown or sourced, with the emphasis on seasonality, locality and sustainability.
The experience took me back to my roots – awakening instincts and memories of the food Mum put on the table. I wanted everyone to know and experience the difference between truly nutritious organic, local or homegrown produce (be it fruit, veg, fish, meat, eggs, dairy) and the industrially processed, messed up, convenient ‘products’ that we’ve come to call ‘food.’
Freshly qualified and equipped with classic culinary techniques and traditional ‘forgotten’ skills, I embarked on a brand new chapter and a unique opportunity. As a Personal Chef to the Dugdale family at their beautiful north Warwickshire seat, I found myself ‘living the dream’ in Food Heaven. With a free hand on a beautiful organic estate, a fabulous kitchen garden, I was creating menus and meals for a family whose eclectic tastes were right on my page!
But failing health was to cut short the dream: I’d developed osteoarthritis in my late twenties, and as the years went by, the deterioration in my joints was accelerating alarmingly – to the point where I’d had to undertake my chef’s training after the second round of bi-lateral knee surgery, strapped into knee braces and ice packs to reduce the swelling.
Outwardly optimistic, but struggling inside, I was becoming increasingly despondent and frightened for my future. The rheumatologists and orthopaedic surgeons who’d been treating me could offer me only more surgery and stronger medication and I was no longer able to continue working as a chef. Finally, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder – Psoriatic Arthritis – and I left my final consultation with the rheumatologist with a prescription for methotrexate, a chemotherapy agent and immune system suppressant, used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases.
It was then that I decided to stop the clock. I knew I had to search for answers outside ‘conventional’ medicine. I was about to discover the power of food-as-medicine.
When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when diet is correct, medicine is of no need
My research background led me to discover the traditional foods movement and the research and writings of Dr Weston A Price and Weston A Price Foundation – a nutritional research and traditional foods education foundation.
Learning, learning, learning…
The more I learned, the more I knew I had to continue learning. I learned about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and then the Gut & Psychology/Physiology Syndrome, focusing on the digestive tract as a pathway to healing. My research and self-directed reading opened up a vast body of sound, established research and emerging science and confirmed much of the traditional wisdom which over the years, had carelessly been dismissed as ‘old-wives-tales’.
The more I learned, the more I was convinced that by changing my diet and my lifestyle, I could heal my body. Slowly, I began to make changes to my diet and before long I was in less pain, had more flexibility, and no further deterioration.
When I was able to stop all medication I knew I was healing my body with food. And I knew I could help others do the same.
The Kitchen at Once Upon a Cook / System Reset
So my passion became my purpose and I founded ‘Once Upon a Cook … Food Wisdom, Culinary Medicine’ – an information website and small educational cookery school – to inspire people to reclaim the kitchen as the centre of their health and food as the foundation of well-being.
Inspired by reclaiming my own health, I co-founded SYSTEM RESET – Heal with Food with Kirsty Da Silva, to show others struggling with chronic health issues, how to make food and lifestyle changes that restore their energy, vitality and health.
It takes me by surprise that I’ve been in the health space for over 30 years!
Nursing 7 yrs; BSc Psychology 3 yrs; MRC Associate Research Psychologist 3 yrs; NHS & DH Programme Manager/ Consultant 9 yrs; Nutritional Chef/GAPS Practitioner/Health Coach 8 yrs!
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot. As an older (wiser?!) busy, professional woman, a partner, a mum (and grand-mum!) and a friend, two things stand out:
1. Women hold the family – and the world – in the palm of their hand and it’s a very heavy responsibility. The struggle with overwhelm, fatigue and the feeling that we need to do more, be more and care more haunts us daily. Our health and happiness are suffering – and so is our ability to hold it together.
2. Our inspiration never dies – one’s purpose and mission isn’t a destination – it’s a wonderful journey with twists, turns and surprises…
And so with a renewed sense of purpose, with Izabella Natrins – Food | Health | Lifestyle I set out on a journey of information, education, inspiration and coaching programmes and support to help women make the rest of their life, the BEST of their life.
After gaining a Diploma in Nutrition and Lifestyle Health Coaching with the Institute of Health Sciences (Dublin), my own journey continues with roles as a founder member of The Birmingham Function Forum and Lifestyle Medicine Group, Steering Group member and Campaign Manager for the British Association for Holistic Medicine and Health Care’s (BHMA) Real Food Campaign-UK, author of THE REAL FOOD SOLUTION (dedicated to supporting the work of the Real Food Campaign UK, a Director of Fordhall Organic Farm’s Community Land Initiative, the Professional Standards and Development Director at the UK Health Coaches Association for the UK & Ireland – the first professional body for health and wellness coaching in the world – and in November 2020 was appointed as the Chief Executive.
When will the journey end?
It’s never over ’till the fat lady sings!