At ZOE, we’ve run a randomized controlled trial to show that our program works. But what does this look like in day-to-day life?
Michelle Somerston is a grandmother of five living in London. She joined ZOE in November 2022 after years of looking for an approach to nutrition that worked for her.
We asked Michelle to tell us what her journey has been like. How has life changed, and how does she approach eating out with friends?
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How did you feel health-wise before ZOE?
Before my ZOE journey, I would say I was tired. I was sluggish. I felt bloated. I knew something wasn't quite right. But I couldn't put my finger on what wasn't working for me.
I had horrific acid reflux. My weight was going up, and I couldn't understand why, when I was sort of eating the same.
I was confused about which diet to follow. And when I ate what the supermarket told me was healthy, I would feel worse.
I found going out to eat with friends really difficult because I constantly had symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after eating.
So, I knew I had to do something, but I wasn't sure what, and I couldn’t find what I needed.
What made you want to try ZOE?
I used the ZOE health app during COVID. I enjoyed logging my symptoms, and it made me focus on myself far more: How am I feeling? What am I feeling? What's going on in my world?
And in the ZOE health app, there was a link to a podcast at the bottom, and I thought, “Oh, what's this?”
I just happened to listen to a podcast about intermittent fasting, and it piqued my interest. I thought perhaps I could feel as good as this by only eating during a 10-hour window every day.
I'm not a radical person. I'm just a normal person who lives in North London. I just thought, “If it works for all of these people, it could work for me.”
And from there, I saw another podcast about ZOE. And I thought, “Well, I know nothing about ZOE.” So I clicked on the link.
I thought to myself, “I've tried everything else. This must be the answer. This has got science behind it. There have been positive effects.” I had nothing to lose by trying it.
What did you think of ZOE's advice to begin with?
Following the advice was quite shocking for me.
After many years of serial dieting, I found it unbelievable. I was absolutely in awe, and I thought, “There's no way this could actually work.”
But I loved the idea of eating the rainbow. It became a passion of mine. How colorful can I make my meals?
Before, I was very much a beige eater. And all of a sudden, my beige eating turned into this wonderful array of different foods.
I found it easy because I wanted to accept a change. I knew if you only do what you've always done, you'll only get what you've always got — nothing changes.
The lessons were incredible, learning about different ways of eating. Mindful eating, learning about how to fill your plate, learning about protein, learning about carbs ...
It was just completely eye-opening for me. It was like nothing I'd ever done before in the way of nutrition.
I had a lot of “aha!” moments, and moments when I thought, “Oh my word, I can't believe that.”
I had believed all the marketing stuff about what was good for you to eat.
How has 1 year of ZOE impacted your life?
I feel absolutely free around food. I don’t have to worry: “Am I eating the wrong foods? Have I had too many fat calories today?”
Not having guilt after eating is incredible. I absolutely adore trying new foods. In fact, I embrace it.
My body is still fabulous. I’ve lost over 15% of my body weight, which is pretty cool.
For a woman of my age to be what I weighed when I was 18 — my body confidence is higher than it's ever been.
My acid reflux went within 2 weeks. My IBS disappeared in less than that. I had no bloating.
One of the biggest areas is my skin. I “de-aged.” I can't explain why, but I look fresher and brighter.
I also started to have proper deep sleep. I sleep with a smartwatch, and the change is incredible. My deep sleep has almost doubled since I've been doing ZOE.
The biggest thing that comes back to me from people is, “How can I possibly feel better eating this amount of that?”
I think the food industry has a lot to answer for.
What was most surprising after starting ZOE?
I think the most surprising thing was that I just felt amazing. There's no other word for it. I suddenly felt reenergized.
It just made me think, “If I can try this with ZOE, what else can I try in my life?” It gives you such confidence.
Most people know that I didn't eat certain foods because they affected me. My friends would say: “Oh, you don't eat this. You don't eat that.” But now I eat it all. I'm the one who's most surprised.
I have black coffee. I mean, who am I to like coffee? I used to have weak tea with two sweeteners.
I have dark chocolate. I couldn't even think of eating a chocolate button. Why would I, when I've got really good-quality, gorgeous dark chocolate to eat? Sometimes I don't know who I am!
How have you fit ZOE into your lifestyle?
You have to plan. But when you love the food you're eating, it's not a chore.
Fitting it into my lifestyle was just a case of being a little bit more organized — making space in my food cupboard for more food that I would never have purchased before.
Going out, anyone would think I'm Mary Poppins. I walk around with a bag of seeds. I usually walk around with a couple of satsumas. I might walk around with a couple of squares of chocolate, and I’ve been known to take little pots of my own hummus and carrots in a bag.
If a restaurant hasn't got what I need, I just bring out my carrots. And nobody has yet complained!
Going to a restaurant I've never been to before, I look at the menu to see what they've got available and then look at what it is I’d like to eat. Very often, I’ll phone the restaurant and say, “I'm coming but I don't eat this ingredient; would you be able to use something else?”
I’ve asked Italian restaurants if they can use whole wheat pasta. They don't love that! But I'll say: “What if I bring my own? Will you boil it for me and put your sauce on it?” And they have.
But with ZOE, it doesn't really matter if you have a day off. It makes no difference. You still feel great. So I've just learned to adapt to what I need.
I’ve got five grandchildren. And when it comes to birthdays, why would I not have a piece of birthday cake?
Do I live with guilt afterwards? Absolutely not.
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Any tips for someone just starting ZOE?
There is some point when the magic happens. It’s like a switch where suddenly your body understands what you're doing.
For anybody who starts it, I always say, “Don't expect miracles immediately.” Your body's getting used to something so new, and so different, and so exciting. It's basically confused.
My advice? Believe in the process. Follow the lessons. Read the information in the app. Log your food. Embrace it.
If you embrace it, you will feel so much better. Your body will thank you, without a doubt.
If you want to learn more about how ZOE works, start by taking our free quiz.
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