Zara Prowse: Nutrition and my journey through Teaching

Do you find yourself grabbing whatever food you can when you’re feeling hungry, tired and short of time? Do you eat at your desk? Are your food choices mostly high in calories and low in nutrients? Do you have mood swings and little energy? That was me, right before I hit a brick wall and became very poorly. Here is my story and how I have turned that negative time in my career and life, into a positive mindset and a great future.

I started my teaching journey in 2008 at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, completing an Initial Teacher Training in Science course. This led to enrolment onto the BSc Secondary Science Education with QTS. I was so excited about finally getting the chance to become a graduate and start life as a Teacher. It was by no means easy, juggling childcare and study however, I had ambition, drive and passion that I hadn’t experienced since my time as a gymnast and I was loving every minute.

I struggled to find work in the first term after graduation but then in the spring term, I started at a school teaching GCSE Science intervention. This developed into a full time, fixed term post and I was thankful to be able to finally have my own classes. I had several challenging classes, don’t we all but, things ticked over and I settled into life as a Teacher and all that went with it. Having completed my fixed-term contract, I found work at a school in Anfield on a full-time permanent contract. On my first day the opening talk went something like this “This is a challenging place to work in an area of high deprivation, last month there were three shootings just down the road, but the kids are amazing and the team are super supportive”, what was I going to be confronted with on my first day of teaching?

The kids were amazing, that was true, but I never thought I would experience such negative treatment, which I am unable to discuss due to a NDA, by line and senior managers. I was a single parent, in school at 7am every weekday, leaving my 14-year-old to get herself up, have breakfast and get herself off to school. I was often the last teacher to leave the department in the evening, around 6pm. I worked every Sunday and managed to have a Saturday off to spend with my Daughter, but I always felt guilty and stressed, knowing that I had a ton of work to complete for school. I had hardly any time to eat, sleep well and exercise, neglecting my own health. After 18 months in post I had a breakdown. I woke up one morning, got ready for school and had a strange feeling that I find hard to explain. It was a gut-wrenching fear and doom mixed with a pinch of anxiety and a spoonful of brain fog. I remember getting into my car but didn’t remember my journey. I didn’t drive to work, I ended up in a car park at a local sports centre and froze, not in the cold sense but my body just seemed to switch off and there was nothing I could do. I just sat there, not moving just staring.

When I look back now, I’m really shocked at what I had become. My partner remembers me looking like a zombie with nothing inside, no feeling, no emotions, just an empty thin pale shell of my previous self. My Doctor said I was exhausted due to over work, lack of sleep, poor diet and stress. I was signed off for a whole term. During this time, I battled with depression and really didn’t know how I was going to recover. I started to look into ways I could help myself out of this dark pit. I realised that diet and exercise were my way out. I have a background in exercise, so I found that easy to implement but I never really knew much about eating, in a way that could be sustainable and make me feel better. I spoke to a few friends in the fitness industry and asked for suggestions on the best diet for health. The suggestions I got back were a mixed bag of danger; clean eating, paleo, 5:2 diet, cleanses and intermittent fasting. I think I tried them all but felt super stressed about sticking to them and punishing myself when I fell off the wagon. I was obsessed in an unhealthy way, I did not want to go back into my pit and every minute of every day, I would obsess over doing enough training, sticking to the chosen diet and constantly weighing myself. This is known as orthorexia, an absolute need to be completely healthy.

I eventually had to return to work and decided to do supply. It was a completely different job; no meetings, no stress, no stopping until 4.30pm and no more working at weekends. I enjoyed supply but there were several sticking points. The amount of money the agency was making from me and the school, made me so annoyed and frustrated. How businesses could make such a huge profit from schools, when budgets were tight, and schools could not afford teaching assistants and basic teaching resources. I finally made the choice to leave teaching and retrain in a different career. I enrolled onto a MSc in Public Health Nutrition and graduated in July 2018. It was life changing, learning all about diet, metabolism, disease, behaviour change psychology and food policy. I am now able to understand the damage I was doing to my short- and long-term health, learning ways to improve my health and that of others.

Life is now a healthy, sustainable balance. Working for Supplywell sits very well with me. They don’t take huge amounts of money away from schools when supplying teaching staff and their whole ethical approach to supply and the wellbeing of those that work with/for them is refreshing. I work one day a week in school and lecture for BioGrad, through Supplywell, on their A-Level Biology course. All this fits around my Nutrition Consultancy business, working with individuals, athletes and coaches, enabling me to grow and develop new services. I educate people on how to manage their lifestyles, using simple behaviour change techniques such as COM-B. If you would like to have a free discovery call to see how I can help you, go to my website www.zaraprowsenutrition.com  Also, look out for future blogs on optimising your diet to reduce stress and decrease the risk of non-communicable diseases.

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Zara Prowse

Zara Prowse

Zara is a teacher and qualified nutritionist. Check out her services at www.zaraprowsenutrition.com

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