10 MINUTE COFFEE BREAKS: TABBI EATS

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Meet Dr Mahtab Chenevix-Trench! She’s a mumma, healthy food consultant, a beast in the kitchen and has a PhD in Genetics. In today’s 10 Minute Coffee Break, we sat down with Mahtab to discuss, her love for science, the birth of Tabbi Eats and how her mother inspired her to break gender norms in a male dominated industry.

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Born in Persia and raised in London, Mahtab represents true culture, vibrancy and flavour. Her Instagram feed does not disappoint either, as it’s a portfolio of yumminess. Mahtab is a self-taught chef, who has pulled inspiration from the various countries, cities and people that she has encountered across her travels. In fact, her culinary training all started with her Grandmother and Mother. Her skills were further refined when she joined Leiths School of Food and Wine, in London. So, her love for food began in the kitchen, but what about her love for science?

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Photo credits: @Tabbieats

“The study of Genetics has always meant a lot to me. I initially graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science. I specialised in anatomy during my final year and I loved it. The love that I had soon led me into research. My topic was on the development of teeth. It was really then that I was opened to a whole new world of science, on a molecular level. I was fascinated. My Research Leader soon went on to ask me if I wanted to develop my project into a PhD and I knew that it was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I was absolutely buzzing!”

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It’s a well-known fact that women are heavily underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology. Engineering and Mathematic) occupations. Recent UCAS data has shown that only 35% of STEM students in higher education are women. We wanted to find out what empowered Mahtab to push against the gender norms. Mahtab noted, “My father was a Professor and my mother had a PhD in Electronics, a very male dominated profession. For myself, to get a PhD in Genetics, was very challenging, but my family got me through it. However, it was my mother who gave me the drive to break barriers. She was a strong female role model in my life. She demonstrated to me what a woman could really do when she puts her minds to it. It was truly inspiring to see.”

In fact, Mahtab’s mother not only inspired her to break barriers, but she also, inadvertently, assisted Mahtab to discover a link between the food that we consume and its effects on the body. “Whilst studying at Leiths School of Food and Wine, we were given an assignment to create a meal plan for a friend/family member. I chose my mum. My mum suffered from an autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s Syndrome. This syndrome causes the body’s immune system to attack various glands, for my mum, it was her salivary gland, making her mouth extremely dry. Her consultant had told us that only way to treat the disorder was through medication. However, there was no mention of her diet and the role it could possibly be playing on her condition. I decided to do my own research and found 10 studies that supported my theory. People were able to combat Sjögren’s, maintain a healthy lifestyle and live a life medication free, all by changing their diet! This was the ultimate marriage of science and nutrition. It occurred to me that food consumed could actually be the cure and cause of many aliments…That’s not to say that traditional medicine isn’t useful, because it can be, but I do believe that alternative medicine should be sought after by healthcare professionals, alongside traditional medicine. They should be complementary to each other. This is why I created my healthy eating consultancy, Tabbi Eats. I wanted to bring both worlds together. I really love what I do.”

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Photo credits: @Tabbieats

Studies have found that those who consume more well-rounded and balanced diets experience happier lives and feelings of increased wellbeing. We wanted to find out just how important nutrition is to a person’s mental health and wellbeing, Mahtab gave us the tea! “The connection between what a person eats and how they feel is huge! The saying goes, “the better you eat, the better you feel”. When you consume nutrient rich foods, it changes you on a molecular level. It gives your body fuel and helps cells to develop and flourish. Balanced eating is hugely important, particularly for women. From hormone changes to monthly periods, it’s important that we keep these processes in check. This is something that a nutrient rich diet can assist with.”

“It is also important to note that restrictive diets can be counterproductive. They can bring about negative feelings of shame, failure and guilt, if you’re unable to stick to them. Our diets should be balanced. I teach my clients the 80%/20% rule, 80% healthy and 20% “treat yo self”. Satisfaction from a treat, every now and then, can also help to promote feelings of happiness and wellbeing. When you practice eating restrictive diets, it’s easy to fall out of love with food. I believe that the world would be a much happier place if we could all fall in love with food again. When introducing my 10-month-old to solids for the first time, I could see the childlike wonder in his eyes as he tried fruit for the first time. Seeing this made me love food all over again. Healthy food can sometimes be associated with lack of flavour. Actually, my husband was a huge sceptic at first, but I managed to turn him around – Ha!”

For more information on what Mahtab is up to, the services that she provides, new recipes, and upcoming workshops, head over to https://tabbieats.com/ and @Tabbieats, on Instagram.

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