Julie Cooper – mixing nutrition with classical music!

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

Ruba sat down with new Indie Oxford member Julie Cooper recently, to find out all about her nutrition business, including how she got there after being a classical singer for decades. >>

Julie Cooper Nutritionist and Singer

Nutritionist, soprano and vocal coach aren’t the usual trio of labels we see in one profession – can you tell me more about how you balance music and nutrition?

“Nutritionist and classical singer don’t always go hand in hand, that’s for sure!

I’ve been a professional classical soprano for over 30 years, all of my working life. A freelance life is all I know. I’ve sung on hundreds of recordings, performed in opera houses and concert halls, and toured all over the world. It’s ever so occasionally glamourous, but often not, yet the thrill of live performance is exhilarating.

But I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis aged 29, when I was pregnant with my first child. I bumbled along for several years, desperately trying to hide my symptoms and cope with work. My singing started to become difficult and strained, and after a visit to an ENT consultant, I found out that the arthritis has damaged my vocal cords. Nutrition became my way of coping and trying to carve out some control over the adverse symptoms of my disease. Food and lifestyle were my way of supporting all of the medical procedures and interventions.

A moment arrived where I thought I might never sing again, and I knew I had to find something else. I was fascinated by the science behind nutrition and decided to retrain as a Nutritional Therapist.

I studied during the pandemic – I worked every day from 0400 to 0730 as it was the only time I could be uninterrupted (I was home-schooling 3 children and teaching singing online).

I qualified as a Nutritional Therapist in 2021 and have been running my own online clinic ever since.

Incidentally, my voice recovered well after all, and I continue to sing all over the world, for which I feel unendingly grateful.”

Julie Cooper Nutritionist and Singer

Can you tell me more about what nutritional therapy is exactly? And I’m curious about what Vocal Nutrition is too!

“Nutritional therapy is an evidence-informed, whole-body approach to nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Addressing potential underlying causes of ill health, rather than focusing on symptoms, it is used to promote health through nutrition and lifestyle support.

Practitioners may use a wide range of tools to assess individual health status and to identify potential nutritional imbalances that may be contributing to symptoms. The focus is always on the individual because many chronic conditions, as well as day-to-day fluctuations in health and wellbeing, can be linked to individual nutrition and lifestyle.

Nutritional therapy practitioners do not diagnose or treat diseases, however they often work alongside other healthcare professionals in supporting individuals with a wide range of health concerns.

Vocal Nutrition encompasses any condition or symptom that adversely affects the voice, such as acid reflux and hoarseness, or IBS-type symptoms that negatively impact stage performance. Currently I’m supporting several opera singers who are trying to improve their vocal stamina and be as healthy as possible for singing the most demanding operatic roles.”

With your nutrition clients, do you see a specific group or problem more frequently?

“At the start of my business, I worked mostly with musicians, as that was my world. But since then, I’ve diversified and will treat anyone who wishes to improve their optimal health. I have a particular interest in women’s hormones, and pre and post-menopause. It’s my age and stage of life too, and there is so much you can do from a nutritional and lifestyle angle to improve how you feel through menopause. Things have changed so much in the last few years, and I’m very very happy to be part of the ongoing conversation about menopause. This year, I’ve started working with companies who are keen to support their menopausal workforce and educate their entire company, regardless of gender. Although access to informed education and knowledge is improving, there is still so much more to be done.”

Julie Cooper Nutritionist and Singer

What does a typical day look like in meal form for you? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks?

“I don’t pretend to be perfect. Far from it. But I do try hard to eat a balanced and thoughtful diet, particularly if my arthritis is grumbling.

As a freelancer, no two weeks are the same. I can be working in clinic at home for two days, then teaching singing in London, followed by a concert in the Netherlands. If I’m at home, I always try to have an excellent breakfast, so that I know I’ve started the day well. I usually have Greek yogurt with homemade granola, berries, seeds and a spoon of nut butter – always with a strong coffee. Lunch might be soup, rye bread and colourful salad. Supper will always depend on who’s at home and who needs ferrying around, but I love anything spicy, full of ginger and chilli with lots of dark green leafy vegetables. I’m very careful with my diet at home as when I’m away singing, it’s so much harder to eat well. I always have a glass of wine after a gig, and I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 approach: make good choices for 80% of the time and live your life for the other 20%. I love an occasional delicious burger from the Rusty Bicycle or a cinnamon bun from Hamblin!

Given that the Covid-19 lockdowns made headline news for affecting many people’s lives, both mentally and physically, have you seen this impact in your nutritional work too?

“As hard as the pandemic was for many people, I do feel as if there is a better trend in people seeking help and wanting to be as healthy as possible. There is much sense in trying to reduce risk factors and comorbidities for viruses, pathogens and diseases. I see clients all the time who want to lose weight as they’ve been told they’re pre-diabetic, or who want to reduce their cardiac disease risk, or who just want to feel more able to deal with stress and anxiety at work. This is all to the good. There is constant media coverage about what you should eat, or what you shouldn’t eat, and quite frankly, it can be overwhelming. People can end up in a muddle, restricting food groups and becoming anxious about food and their health. This is where I can help. I aim to make dietary and lifestyle changes that are manageable, practical and meaningful for my clients.”

So, what’s next?

“What I love most about being a nutritionist in Oxford, is of course helping clients feel better and discover new ways to expand my business. I’ve just held my first online group program: a 9 day ‘RESET’ designed to support the immune system and detoxification. Working with a group of clients all at the same time was wonderful. There were educational webinars, meal plans, recipes and a very lively WhatsApp group full of mutual support. I’m planning more of these as we speak.  But I also love being part of the community of other independent businesses. There is so much collaboration – far more than I’d imagined. My goal in 2024 is to reach out to more people, deliver workshops and talks in person and make more like-minded connections. And keep talking about the Menopause.”

Julie Cooper Nutritionist and Singer
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