interview by Jo Macdonald
This month’s inspiring woman is feisty, passionate, and madly in love with creating delicious food – what’s not to love about that combination! Rachel Redlaw is the creator of The Tiniest Thai Diet and her attitude towards food is so refreshing and inspiring that I actually forget halfway through that I’m supposed to be interviewing her as I’m enjoying her passion for her subject so much!
‘I’ve just changed completely the way I think about food! Diets shouldn’t be restrictive but about choice because, if you can have anything you want then what are you really going to choose? You can have anything, but do you really want it? If you choose that, is that really how you want to feel?’
Having found herself entering her forties unhappy with her job and weight, Rachel decided that things needed to change.
‘I realised that I was in danger of becoming one of those people where all I was really doing was working. I wanted to find out what I enjoyed, to explore [the question] ‘what do I really want to do?’ I’d lived in Thailand before and had travelled a lot in Thailand and I love cooking and food, and I just had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to start a blog and I wanted to write again because I hadn’t for a while. I hadn’t done anything really for years apart from work.
So I launched my blog sharing Thai cooking and Thai recipes. About a year later I wanted to bring it to life so I invited 4 friends over (because I only have 4 seats around my table) and I cooked them a tasting menu of Thai dishes, everyone loved it and started calling it the Tiniest Thai Restaurant. Then I started it as a supper club and the Tiniest Thai name just stuck.’
Despite enjoying her success with The Tiniest Thai projects Rachel was still unhappy about her weight.
‘I’d been putting on weight and, because of my age, I’d been telling myself all these stories like, ‘I might not be able to lose it, it’ll be so much harder now I’m older’ etc. I knew I didn’t want to go on a diet because I don’t like that kind of bland food, and I also had this overwhelming fear that I wouldn’t be able to lose it and would just carry on getting bigger. And I was uncomfortable, literally physically uncomfortable.
And then I just had this moment where I said,, ‘oh just pull yourself together, you know how to do this, you know about food, so just do it. Stop just sitting there feeling all miserable and sorry for yourself and just do it’. So, I stood on the scales and had a little cry about it, because it was the heaviest I’d ever been, and then from that day everything changed. Because once you’ve made the decision, and committed to it, that’s the hardest bit done.
I journaled and gave myself 12 weeks thinking I’d just see what I could do in 12 weeks, and actually it was after the first 4 where I was like, ‘Oh, okay I get this’. It was interesting reading back over my notes and seeing how my mindset changed and how my feelings fluctuated: Week 2 day 1 I wrote, ‘what a difference a week has made’ - I think I’d lost 6lbs and was feeling so much better. We never know where anyone is in their journey, so for me I was still really overweight but I’d lost 6lbs and I felt so different in the space of just a week and it made me really think that you just don’t know where anyone else is in their journey.
You know, that person that you may be thinking, ‘oh goodness they could do with losing a bit’, or whatever thoughts you sometimes have about people, they could have lost 2 stone and be feeling the best they’ve felt for years. And it just really made me think about people’s lives a bit more and that it’s about the feeling more than the weight loss.’
Having discovered she could lose the weight she wanted whilst still eating the food she loved, Rachel took her own experience and created a beautiful online course, rooted in that philosophy of it being all about how you feel and eating delicious tasting food.
‘I absolutely love it. The fact that I’ve launched it and other people have joined and they’re getting the same results and feelings as I did. It feels like my life’s work. And they’re all women around the same age, there’s something connecting us…You don’t just have to give in and say, ‘oh well that’s just what happens now I’m in my forties.’ I used to think that the faddier the diet somehow the more likely it was to work! I’d end up with a cupboard full of weird ingredients. And of course it doesn’t work.’
I think a lot of us have bought into the whole ‘clean-eating’ movement and ended up with half a dozen barely used bags of ingredients that cost a fortune! A quick scroll through Rachel’s recipe page on her website quickly shows that all her recipes are made from ingredients you can both pronounce and afford. And, having altered her relationship with food and her body, her forties now feel completely different to when she first entered this new decade.
‘I’m 47 now…I want to look after my body a lot more and I’ve got ambitions now for how I want to feel, look and be that I didn’t have before. I want to be stronger and leaner. I’ve kind of abused my body in the past and not taken care of myself but now in my forties I want to take more care of myself.’
When I ask what she is Loving most about Life After Forty her enthusiasm is clear to see.
‘I just love it. Life just gets better. You’re so much more at peace with yourself and more confident but not necessarily in a way people can see, it’s an inner confidence. For me it’s about doing the things that I really want to do. I spent a lot of time in my twenties (and thirties) not doing what I wanted to do because I never said no to things. I didn’t say, ‘no I’d rather stay at home and write or read’, I just got swept up into doing things without thinking. My forties are very much more about, ‘what do I need and what do I want to do’. And it’s not selfish at all because you can help people more and be a much better friend and partner when you are looking after yourself and not pretending to be someone you’re not. I really didn’t stop and ask myself what I wanted to do with my life until I got to my forties.’
You can find out more about Rachel over on her website where you can also get lots of free recipes and find out about her next round of the Tiniest Thai Diet starting in November, and you can follow her on Instagram. You might also like to read the guest article she wrote for Loving Life After Forty 'Has the Love-Your-Body at any size' Movement Gone too far?