FOR­GET EV­ERY­THING YOU KNEW ABOUT DI­ET­ING

Meet GABRIELA PEA­COCK, the game-chang­ing nutri­tion­ist rip­ping up the weight-loss rule book

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - FRONT PAGE - IN­TER­VIEW: JU­LIA LLEWELLYN SMITH MAIN PHO­TO­GRAPH: STEPHANIE VOLPATO

I’m a bit ner­vous that Gabriela Pea­cock is go­ing to dis­pense loads of woo-woo ad­vice such as cut­ting out all foods be­gin­ning with B, main­lin­ing kale and only eat­ing carbs when Venus is ret­ro­grade. After all, former model Gabriela is the nutri­tion­ist roy­als and A-lis­ters have on speed-dial. A close friend of Princess Beatrice, Gabriela is ru­moured to be the power be­hind both Prince Harry’s and Princess Eu­ge­nie’s glow at their re­spec­tive wed­dings (she was a guest at both). Other clients in­clude El­lie Gould­ing, Kather­ine Jenk­ins, Piers Mor­gan, James Blunt, Jodie Kidd, Donna Air and Anna Friel.

Yet, in fact, 40-year-old Czech-born Gabriela, mother of Maia, nine, and twins Iris and Cas­par, three, couldn’t be more down to earth in her ad­vice. She ad­mits she’s par­tial to the odd Nando’s and is fine with clients drink­ing wine (in mod­er­a­tion) and eat­ing (dark) choco­late. ‘Well, I do, so I can hardly tell them not to! Stress hor­mones can be far more dam­ag­ing to your body than a cou­ple of glasses of red wine. Peo­ple need to live their lives – there’s no judg­ment from me!’ she says, laugh­ing.

‘When I started study­ing nutri­tion [15 years ago] there was very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion out there. Now there’s al­most too much. Ev­ery­one’s con­fused and feel­ing the pres­sure to eat per­fectly. But how many smooth­ies can you make in a day? We worry, “Am I a ter­ri­ble mother if I don’t cook all meals from scratch with or­ganic in­gre­di­ents?” But no one can do that. I feed my chil­dren lots of ready meals. We need to give our­selves a break.’

After months of scoff­ing Mag­nums as a ‘lock­down treat’, I’m hop­ing she will say it’s fine to have piled on the pounds. Yet her mes­sage is the op­po­site. Gabriela stresses this isn’t about look­ing per­fect in a bikini: ex­cess weight can shorten your life. This be­came abun­dantly clear re­cently when stud­ies showed that 73 per cent of crit­i­cally ill pa­tients with Covid-19 in Italy,

Spain, Swe­den, Switzer­land and the Nether­lands were obese.

How­ever, de­spite the health risks, it has be­come harder for health pro­fes­sion­als to dis­cuss weight with pa­tients for fear of be­ing ac­cused of fat-sham­ing. Gabriela says, ‘Ev­ery­body is so scared to talk about weight, but this ter­ri­ble virus has opened the dis­cus­sion on how car­ry­ing ex­tra pounds isn’t just about the way peo­ple look on their In­sta­gram: obe­sity pro­vokes in­flam­ma­tion, which leads to cancer and di­a­betes and many other chronic con­di­tions.

‘Around 90 per cent of my pa­tients see me for weight-loss rea­sons. They un­der­stand they need to be lighter to be healthy and feel good about them­selves – but we can’t talk about it.’

To kick-start a pro­gramme, Gabriela favours a two-week 4:3 plan (see page 17) when peo­ple al­ter­nate days where they ‘fast’ – women eat 500 calo­ries and men 600 – with days when they eat healthily. Day seven is the ‘magic’

‘CAR­RY­ING EX­TRA POUNDS ISN’T JUST ABOUT THE WAY PEO­PLE LOOK ON IN­STA­GRAM – IT CAUSES CHRONIC ILL­NESS’

day when they can eat any­thing they like (within rea­son). ‘Hav­ing that day to look for­ward to helps keep things achiev­able,’ she says.

Gabriela be­came fas­ci­nated by food and the ef­fect it has on our bod­ies while work­ing as a teenage model. ‘I saw so many food is­sues in the mod­el­ling world, es­pe­cially in Paris – mod­els were do­ing things such as eat­ing cot­ton wool soaked in or­ange juice. It wasn’t pretty but it in­trigued me. I wanted to know more about how the body worked,’ she says.

Warm, funny and self-dep­re­cat­ing, Gabriela is talk­ing to me from the fam­ily’s hol­i­day home in Ra­mat­uelle in the South of France, where she’s spend­ing time with her hus­band, hedge-fund man­ager David Pea­cock, 46, to mark their tenth wed­ding an­niver­sary.

Nor­mally based in Not­ting Hill in West Lon­don, Gabriela’s life now couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from her ‘very happy’ child­hood, grow­ing up in an apart­ment in a town out­side Prague in the dy­ing days of Com­mu­nism. Her fa­ther had a con­struc­tion com­pany, her ‘won­der­ful but slightly pushy’ mother was a kinder­garten teacher who had her daugh­ter mod­el­ling in cat­a­logues from the age of four. When she was 15 she beat thousands of girls to win a mod­el­ling con­tract with jew­eller Van

Cleef & Ar­pels, and soon after­wards found her­self alone on a plane bound for Paris. ‘It was the first time I’d ever been on a plane. I was ter­ri­fied and my par­ents were ter­ri­fied, but they had no money to travel with me.’

Paris came as a nasty shock. ‘I was very lucky to have the chance to get out of the Czech Repub­lic so young; the girls I went to school with are still work­ing in our vil­lage. But at first I met all these peo­ple who were aw­ful to me. I was cry­ing down the phone to my par­ents ev­ery day and sob­bing my­self to sleep ev­ery night.’

Even to­day, when Gabriela has en­joyed some fab­u­lous trips to Paris with her hus­band, she says, ‘I get a shiver down my spine when I go there. My ex­pe­ri­ences were 20 years ago but I re­mem­ber how mis­er­able the girls were and how you’d go to a night­club and you’d be sur­rounded by these aw­ful men.’

Mean­while, all around her Gabriela saw ‘girls with eat­ing dis­or­ders’. When she put on a few pounds, her agent told her to eat noth­ing but green beans with a bit of boiled fish. ‘I re­mem­ber think­ing, “Gosh, re­ally?” but I ended up do­ing it oth­er­wise I’d have been sent home on the bus.’

With time Gabriela gained con­fi­dence. ‘It was tough but it made me stronger,’ she says. Then, in her 20s, when her mod­el­ling ca­reer took off, she moved to Lon­don. ‘I found life much eas­ier there; you don’t have sleazy men sur­round­ing you, there were girls who I liked who were not bitchy. I found a flat with peo­ple who are still my best friends and felt grounded.’

But even though she was at the peak of her ca­reer by now, Gabriela be­gan work­ing on a get-out plan. ‘I lived with a lovely girl who, when she hit 31, saw all her jobs slow down, and that scared me. I thought, “There’s no way I’m go­ing to be­come this age­ing model get­ting less and less work.” I’d had an amaz­ing time – get­ting lots of at­ten­tion, do­ing things such as shoot­ing a cal­en­dar in An­guilla – but I knew it wouldn’t last.’

So Gabriela did a de­gree in natur­o­pathic nutri­tion, then – for ‘more sci­en­tific depth’ – took another in nu­tri­tional ther­apy. ‘When I started the sec­ond de­gree, hav­ing al­ready done one, I thought, “This will be so easy.” Oh my gosh, it was prob­a­bly the hard­est thing I’ve ever done! Even though my English is good I could hardly write a sen­tence, and we had a re­ally tough mo­d­ule leader who was de­ter­mined to push out all the flaky “Ooh, study­ing nutri­tion sounds nice” types.’

But Gabriela was de­ter­mined to prove her­self. Six years later she grad­u­ated with a 2:1. By now, she had also mar­ried David in a cer­e­mony at Lake Como. They’d met through friends, though when he first asked her out she wasn’t sure and begged her mod­el­ling booker to come, too.

‘But al­co­hol helps in these sit­u­a­tions, so we drank a lot of wine and ev­ery­thing was fine,’ she laughs. ‘Be­fore, I’d al­ways tended to an­a­lyse ev­ery­thing about re­la­tion­ships – who’d texted who, what did he say – and sud­denly I was like, “I don’t need to think about this.” We spent that first week­end to­gether and David of­ten likes to joke that, after that, I moved into his house and never left, but, ac­tu­ally, it’s kind of true.’

She could have been a tro­phy wife, but Gabriela wanted a suc­cess­ful ca­reer, so she begged her friend, so­cialite Ta­mara Beck­with Veroni’s sis­ter Clare, to in­tro­duce her to the Queen’s physi­cian Tim Evans, who was in charge of a new holis­tic prac­tice at a swanky all-women’s club in Lon­don, Grace Bel­gravia. ‘I got my­self in­vited to a party I knew he’d be at, and I cor­nered him with my one-year-old on my hip and he hired me,’ says Gabriela with a chuckle.

She was the head nutri­tion­ist there un­til it closed last year, then be­gan prac­tis­ing pri­vately – dur­ing lock­down do­ing con­sul­ta­tions via FaceTime. ‘It’s been re­ally busy. At the start of the pan­demic peo­ple wanted to know what to eat to sup­port their im­mu­nity, but as it went on it be­came more about diet plans – be­ing stuck in has made it very easy to snack.’

As men­tioned, Gabriela’s no be­liever in wacky or ul­tra-strict di­ets, pre­fer­ring tweaks we can adopt long term. She jokes that she’s much more re­laxed than some of the ‘Not­ting Hill mums’ she mixes with.

‘I was ter­ri­fied to hear that some of my friends’ kids have never even seen ap­ple juice – my kids have it ev­ery day. My older daugh­ter loves all the un­healthy stuff, but what I’ve taught her is, for ex­am­ple, if she wants a dough­nut, she can have it as a treat, so long as she has a por­tion of pro­tein first. Now she ne­go­ti­ates with me – “If I have a yo­gurt and two eggs, then can I have a pas­try?” I grew up on white bread rolls pretty much and I ended up be­ing fine,’ she adds. ‘It is all about bal­ance.’

Ever prag­matic, Gabriela also re­alises that many of us don’t have the time to make sure we’re get­ting all our daily nu­tri­ents. ‘We’re run­ning around [go­ing], “How much broc­coli can we re­al­is­ti­cally eat in a day?”’

To aid this, four years ago she launched her GP Nutri­tion Sup­ple­ments, with ranges such as Clean Me – sa­chets and pills to op­ti­mise liver func­tion – and Slim Me, a fi­bre-packed pow­der drink to quell the ap­petite. The lat­ter sparked con­tro­versy and de­bate as it has been crit­i­cised by the Bri­tish Di­etetic As­so­ci­a­tion for con­tain­ing glu­co­man­nan, a lax­a­tive with po­ten­tial side ef­fects of ‘di­ar­rhoea, bloat­ing and flat­u­lence’ and that talk of sup­press­ing ap­petites could also be ‘emo­tion­ally dam­ag­ing’.

‘That made head­lines be­cause I’m friends with the roy­als. I was so shocked about it, I couldn’t sleep,’ she says. ‘Glu­co­man­nan is a wa­ter-sol­u­ble fi­bre that the Euro­pean Food Safety Author­ity has shown sup­ports weight loss, but it’s only one of be­tween 20 to 30 nu­tri­ents in my sup­ple­ments that help a healthy, bal­anced lifestyle.’

If Gabriela was up­set it’s be­cause her work is ev­ery­thing to her. ‘It sounds so naff but be­ing a nutri­tion­ist ful­fils me. I’d al­ways had a bit of an is­sue with be­ing just a pretty hanger for clothes. What I do now makes me so much hap­pier.’

GABRIELA WITH HER HUS­BAND, HEDGE-FUND MAN­AGER DAVID PEA­COCK

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