Dorcas talks food

Foodcamp 2013 – Panel Discussion: ‘You Are What You Eat, Fact or Fiction’

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At this year’s Foodcamp in Kilkenny, a day of interesting and informative talks ended with a panel discussion on ‘You Are What You Eat, Fact or Fiction’.

Time constraints must have kicked in, but unfortunately, the topic wasn’t opened to the floor to discuss. I was disappointed as I would have loved an opportunity to answer the question that John McKenna posed to the panel, “If I were James Reilly and could give you an unlimited budget to fix the problems we have with obesity and chronic diseases, what would you do?”

This panel, and another panel which discussed a similar topic I attended on the 17th October 2013 organised by the FSAI, did not come up with any practical solutions to these issues. Although it’s so reassuring that these major issues with regard to our nation’s health are being discussed at every level, I have found the lack of discussion on possible practical solutions frustrating.

Because of the work that I do and the research and reading I have carried out over the last few years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and because my family (having been subjected to my rants for so long) have urged me to share my opinions beyond the walls of our home, I would really like to answer your question John McKenna, with three practical solutions I would put into place immediately if James Reilly were to give me an unlimited budget.

Six months before my father died, a year and a half ago, I went with my mother to bring him to the new St Vincent’s Hospital for a difficult procedure. We were required to wait for most of the day at the hospital, and so ended up having to eat there as we needed to be close by. Sitting in the middle of the main restaurant, in this beautiful modern and state of the art hospital, I started to get very upset as I watched tray after tray of food go by, filled with the kind of food that had contributed to patients being in the hospital in the first place. To this day, I still find it so distressing to even think about it. So the first thing that I would do with Dr Reilly’s money would be to create food outlets and cafes in hospitals which provided nourishing and healing meals, and set the example of the kind of food we need to be eating to be vital and healthy. We know that educating about food will only ever bring us some of the way, but it’s the experience of delicious healthy food that will offer the opportunity to make a real difference in positive eating habits. How amazing and progressive would it be if Irish hospitals showed this example and pioneered this experience, creating centre’s of excellence in every area of hospital life?  Good food is inextricably linked to being healthy, so it seems nothing short of absurd that this ideal would not be presented to the patients and families of patients that spend time in hospitals throughout the country.

Secondly, I would create a detailed and comprehensive education programme for pregnant women and new mothers. To make changes to a nation’s habits, it always makes sense to start with new generations, and habits in food are no different. Children form their tastes in the first year of life, making it essential that they are given a large range of healthy foods during this important year, and kept from high fat, high sugar, processed and fast foods during this time. I would take advantage of the fact that pregnant women and new mothers are very eager and open to information and education on how to do the very best for their children, and create programmes to provide them with all the inspiration and information they would need to do this. As we are talking no limits here with regard to budget, I would also include cookery demonstrations and tastings in this education programme, as there is no doubt in my mind, that this is a far more effective way to teach about healthy food.

Lastly, I would change the curriculum for National Schools to include a substantial food based education programme. This would include making edible school gardens mandatory in every school in the country, and also include the means for the children to cook and taste the food that they grow. The programme would also include recipes that the children would be encouraged to bring home and cook with their families, and I would make this a part of their homework.  I would include competitions to bring out the wonderful creative and competitive abilities that children have, and to channel these qualities in a positive direction.

I don’t think that any of these solutions would be beyond the realm of possibility and I sincerely believe they could make a big difference, so please Dr. Reilly, could I have the money please?


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Who Is Responsible For What We Eat

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Last Thursday’s conference on ‘Who Is Responsible For What We Eat’ was hosted by the FSAI in Dublin with key speakers and an open floor panel discussion hosted by Suzanne Campbell.

The individual speakers, Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI; Prof. Michael Gibney, Head of Centre for Food and Health, University College, Dublin; and Orlaith Blaney, Chief Executive, McCannBlue, put forward various arguments as outlined here.

The highlight of the event for me was the panel discussion, where questions were answered from the floor by a panel including; Colette Brown, Columnist with the Irish Independent; Colin Gordon, CEO Consumer Products, Glanbia; Kieran Murphy, Director, Murphy’s Ice-cream and Kevin Sheridan, Owner, Sheridan’s Cheesemongers.  Although I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was said by all of the speakers and the panel, I am really heartened by the fact that this topic is being discussed, with all points of view considered.

On the panel discussion, Colette Brown spoke about how in Canada, studies have shown that removing advertising has not been shown to make any significant drops in obesity levels, signifying that people will still make negative food choices without advertising, and Colin Gordon spoke about the need for education with regard to healthy eating choices.

These two topics, education and advertising, bring up a very important issue not mentioned at this event, which is the nutritional information included in food product advertising and labels.  This information is almost always taken out of context in order to sell a product, and as outlined by Kevin Sheridan,  ’commerce is always about just making money above all else’.  I agree wholeheartedly with Kevin’s comments and mostly because I see the confusion that nutritional information in advertising presents to the public. This dietary advice has become a means by which the general public are being ‘educated’ about food.

While Orlaith Blaney spoke about advertising being used by food companies to push their brand over another, the more important issue for me is this influence they have with consumers by focusing on the nutritional information they use to sell their products. Large scale food producers, the one’s with the big TV budgets, regularly take one isolated nutrient mentioned in a study to have a particular function, and then trumpet this fact to sell their product.  Nature so cleverly designs food with the perfect mix of nutrients to go together, so that a particular (natural) food has the ideal mix to ensure maximum benefit to the body.  Picking one isolated nutrient and adding it to another food, is a bit like using an enormous magnifying glass, and seriously missing out on the very important big picture.

Unfortunately, the sales blurb really sinks in and the general public don’t appear to be wise to the conflict of interest.   The best example is a certain yoghurt drink which is advertised to be super beneficial to the gut, but in reality, so much sugar is needed to hide the taste of the pro-biotic, that it could never be good for the gut.  There are much better, and cheaper, ways to populate the gut with healthy bacteria.  Another product recently added a fear factor to their advertisement for yoghurt, which I would consider to be serious unethical, but thankfully this appears to have now been withdrawn.

I am amazed at how many people take on board this ‘science bit’ in food advertising, Michael Pollan calls this phenomenon ‘nutritionism’ and argues that “Because science has an incomplete understanding of how food affects the human body, relying solely on information regarding individual nutrients has led people and policy makers to repeatedly make poor decisions relating to nutrition”.  Large scale food producers use this fact to their advantage, and solely to boost their sales.

This source of nutritional information appears to have become so ingrained that it shows up as one of the most regular questions I get asked at classes.  Is it realistic to ban advertisers from making any nutritional claims about their products?  However unrealistic, for me that would be the best case scenario and one huge step towards useful and positive education around food and nutrition.

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On turning 50

When I was little, one of the conversations I remember having regularly with my Dad went along the lines of “What year will it be when I turn thirty, or forty, or fifty?”  But fifty always stood out as the most significant age that we talked about, because it was HALF a CENTURY!!  At the time, 2013 seemed so unbelievably far away, it was just beyond imagining, although we often tried.  I can remember exclaiming “Two Thousand and Thirteen (the capitals are important)!!!!!!!!  O my God, what will that be like!!” and my Dad loved that the concept was so wondrous to me.

My dad died last year and much as I always miss him,  today I especially wish I could talk to him and say “Dad,  can you believe that it’s actually 2013??”, “Can you believe that I am actually fifty today!!!”

As a teenager I did, of course, believe that my life would be well and truly over at fifty. Which makes it such a celebration today to feel a growing excitement that life is just beginning.  It has been an incredible year with so many firsts, I qualified as a Living Foods Instructor and trained as a Meditation Coach, I swam in the sea on Christmas Day and did two amazing 7 day juice retreats, I became a ‘dog person’ (a lifelong ambition!) and posed nude for a photographic exhibition (not a lifelong ambition, but still an amazing experience).  And probably more important than all of that, I have had lots of opportunities to work with really interesting people through coaching and teaching, and to grow my new business into a career I am so passionate about.  I feel calmer, more energetic, fitter, younger and happier than I did 10 years ago, so what’s not to love about turning fifty!

For my birthday, I am offering one free place on my Detox Programme, starting on the 6th November 2013 at Select Stores in Dalkey.  Share the link to this post on Facebook to put your name into the hat and the winner will be announced next Tuesday, 15th October.

Category: announcements, classes, Detox | 6 Comments

Detox Programme – November 2013


A 30 day detox programme

The next Detox Programme is beginning at Select Stores in Dalkey on the 6th of November 2013.  This programme will consist of 5 sessions over 4 weeks, with a focus on making permanent changes to your diet.

The potential benefits include:
- Lots more energy
- Better sleep patterns
- Feeling happier, calmer and reduce mood swings
- A visible improvement in the condition of your skin
- Some weight loss
- Opportunity to identify any food intolerances
- Creation of permanent healthy eating habits
- Stable blood sugar levels
- A feeling of being cleansed and lighter
- A reduction of aches and pains

Testimonials from previous clients:

The Dorcas Barry Detox programme is for people who are interested in learning about healthy eating with out giving up their love of food. For me the biggest surprise was that 9 years ago following surgery, I was left with a very disruptive sleeping pattern. I had resigned myself to the fact that this way of life was going to stay for good but not long into starting the detox I started sleeping through the night again. What an absolute and unexpected super bonus!!! Much of what we learned over the four weeks is now part of my daily routine”. – Siobhan, Wicklow 2013

A great way to make positive, lasting changes. Couldn’t praise it enough!” – Yvonne, Kilkenny 2012

I found it so beneficial, it’s amazing how much food contributes to how you feel – to your energy and moods! I also discovered lots of new foods” – Jackie, Dublin 2013

Before I started the detox programme I thought it was going to be very difficult to do for a full month. This was far from the truth, and instead of the endless smoothies and one dimensional food that I expected, my taste buds were treated to a fantastic away of new flavors and truly delicious food” - Julie, Wicklow 2012

I was’nt sure just exactly how I was going to manage to get through 30 days without coffee, alcohol, wheat, meat, dairy and sugar. But I can honestly say that with Dorcas’s guidance and carefully presented weekly menus, I really enjoyed the whole experience. I now have a strong awareness of how to nourish my body when its struggling with tiredness, dehydration or just feeling a bit blah! I would strongly recommend the programme, 30 days goes by a lot quicker than you would expect. – Nessa, Wicklow 2013

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Exciting Events

Upcoming Demonstrations & Tastings

If you would like to hear more about delicious healthy recipes, have a look at two events I will be taking part in this weekend.

At 12.45pm on Sunday 15th 2013, I will be joining Oliver McCabe of Select Stores, Dalkey, for a demo and tasting on healthy lunchbox ideas and snacks for kids and grownups alike. This is part of the Your Health Show 2013 in the RDS, Dublin, along with lots of other informative talks and demonstrations.

The second demo on this exciting and busy day is at the Enniskerry Victorian Field Day and will focus on easy and tasty ways to include raw food in your diet.  Join me at 4pm for some delicious tastings and lots of information on making changes towards a healthier lifestyle.

Hope you can make it to either of these events, and if so I look forward to meeting you!


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