Dr Libby Weaver | Profile Magazine
High fat, low carb; low fat, high carb; high protein, low carb. Leading nutritional biochemist, Dr Libby Weaver, whittles through the white noise to dish up real, raw and honest advice on how to make a healthy change. And it all starts with you.
“I didn’t plan any of it, I’m not a planner, life just unfolds,” Dr Libby Weaver says candidly of her now-successful career in nutritional biochemistry.
Growing up in Tamworth, New South Wales, where there were chickens in the backyard and fresh vegetable plantains, Libby learnt about healthy living from a young age.
“I had parents who would teach me about the benefits of healthy soil and plenty of nutrients in the soil creating healthy food,” she says, “but my mum, for example, never talked to me about calories or anything like that, she would say, ‘An orange is a good source of vitamin C and that’s really good for your immune system and that helps you to not get a many colds’. So right from a young age, it wasn’t a big deal, but they were conversation points.”
Wanting to formalise her learnings, Libby studied nutrition at University of Newcastle, and not long after entering the workforce post-degree, she went back to uni to complete a PHD in biochemistry and explored the logical, microbiological, biochemical and nutritional factors in children with autism.
“So I was at uni for 14 years, but I loved learning very much and I still do,” she says.
What’s been particularly interesting is witnessing the changing tides of nutritional advice served to the public over the years
“When I was educated, it was very much the low fat, high carbohydrate era and it’s really interesting for me today that there are still people who are stuck in that and believe that fat is the enemy when it’s not,” says Libby.
“Nutrition information moves in around 30-year cycles, so when we're in a particular recommendation it’s always going to move on. The high protein era was around in the 1970s, but went out of fashion and the low fat era came in and then high protein came back around again. So now people can be pretty confused whether high fat, low carb is good; high protein, low carb; or low fat, high carb.
“Regardless of the fad of the day, my message has always been to get people back in touch with their own hunger signals and to mostly choose whole and real food, nature gets it right and it’s essentially human intervention that can get it wrong when it comes to food.”
With so many contradicting messages being pushed down our throats, how can we have a healthy relationship with food?
“The first thing is to pay attention,” Libby says, “our body doesn't have a voice, it can’t say your stomach is bloated because of something that’s in your lunch, so the body will give us symptoms to let us know whether it’s happy or not and it’s up to us to decipher what the body is communicating back to us.
“When it’s unhappy it’s always asking us to make different choices, usually along the lines of asking us to eat, drink, move, think, breathe, believe or perceive in a new way, so if we can see frustrations with our body, whether that’s fat on our thighs or congested skin, rather than getting upset or saddened by it, see it as a message from the body suggesting we make a different choice.”
Libby also advocates the identification of energy as the “real currency” of health.
“For too long it’s been weight, the way people assess themselves each day or each week is to weigh themselves and I think, for women especially, you just weigh your self esteem,” she says.
“The feminine essence responds to praise, whereas the masculine essence responds to challenge. So when a man’s not the weight he wants to be, he just thinks, I’ll work harder, whereas for a woman, it deflates her, it usually doesn’t uplift, energise and inspire her.”
Libby says, when we are tired everything is more difficult – it impacts the food we choose, whether we get off the couch and go for a walk, the jobs we would apply for, the friends we would make, our self talk and the way we speak to the people we love most in the world.
“The ripple effect of tiredness and lousy energy is massive,” she says.
But education and accurate information alone isn’t enough to make a positive change, Libby says until you believe you’re worth taking care of you’ll never implement it.
“All my work has three pillars to it, the biochemical, the nutritional and the emotional,” she says, “because it’s not a lack of education that leads to someone polishing off a packet of biscuits after dinner, it’s nearly always emotional and I try to help people get back in touch with how precious life itself is and how precious they are, and then to treat themselves accordingly, which part of that is making whole real food choices.”
Originally published in Profile Magazine