Whistles Women: Lola Ross
As our interest in health and wellbeing continues to rise, we’re always eager to hear from experts within the industry. We recently sat down with Lola Ross: a registered nutritional therapist based in London and the co-founder of the moods and hormone cycle app Moody Month.
The term “passionate advocate” is often used within the health space but when interviewing Lola Ross, she epitomises just that and it’s easy to see that her devotion is genuine. Warm, eloquent and engaging – Lola talks us through the main concepts of her work, why we need to listen to our bodies and some of the common myths people believe about food and diet.
Can you talk us through the work you do and how you got into nutrition?
I actually used to work in the music industry – just for a couple of years – but I realised it wasn’t for me and I had always been more interested in nutrition. When I became pregnant with my son I decided to do an access course, before starting my degree in Health Sciences with Nutritional Therapy. I now specialise in women’s health and I’m particularly interested in the hormone and reproductive space within that.
You work with clients on personal nutrition programmes focused around their unique nutritional needs. Can you tell us about how this process usually works and the importance of personalisation in your work?
My initial consultations are dedicated to gathering the patient’s story. So many health issues are triggered by things like stressful life events, change of environment, side effects of medication and even chronic antibiotic use in childhood, so it’s good to understand what may have preceded the issue they came to me for. We might use functional testing to investigate what may be going on biochemically or genetically, which will help to inform the plan that I put together for them. I am a functional nutritionist so my recommendations cover food, lifestyle, stress reduction, supplementation and incorporating daily activity.
“I am a functional nutritionist so my recommendations cover food, lifestyle, stress reduction, supplementation and incorporating daily activity.”
And do you get people coming to you who don’t necessarily have any problems, but are simply keen to learn more about health and diet?
Absolutely. I also offer a nutritional guidance session, which is more like an informal chat. Clients can ask about supplements and any burning questions that they’d like evidence-based answers for.
When did your interest in women’s health in particular first spark?
My mum is my original inspiration. She is from Ghana and cooking food with simple, fresh ingredients was the norm in our house. I don’t think I had a takeaway or frozen food when I was growing up. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a teenager and her focus on healing in part with wholefoods and macrobiotics during that time really inspired me. Being a woman, I also understand the power our hormones that can have on our wellbeing and moods, so it’s an area that has always interested me.
It seems a lot of people just accept their PMS symptoms as something they have to live and struggle with. Have you noticed women often they don’t give their symptoms the attention they need?
Yes and it’s a shame because it can be really distressing and women have suffered in silence for a long time. However, thanks to the rise of femtech and the brilliant new platforms leading conversations around women’s health, we are now able to access information and support that wasn’t available before.
Which leads us on nicely to talk about Moody Month - the app that you co-founded. For our readers who haven’t heard of it before, would you mind giving us an overview of the app and how it works?
Moody Month is an app that helps you track your moods and hormone cycles. It is personalised tech focused around the ovarian cycle and all the symptoms that can typically or atypically occur. Tracking symptoms is an important first step in helping to identify imbalances and Moody offers a daily feed, informing you what could be going on during your cycle. It also allows you to custom log your moods and symptoms, whilst guiding you with solutions to help manage your health and well-being.
What inspired the name of the app ‘Moody month’?
We wanted to take the stereotype of the moodiness associated with PMS and own it. However we also understand that moods are powerful signals that we should listen to. We believe that our months are full of moods that typically shift and change – and they shouldn’t all be viewed as negative. Even when you’re feeling insular or a little more emotional, you can use that period of time to be more creative and do things for yourself without feeling guilty about it. That’s so important.
“We wanted to take the stereotype of the moodiness associated with PMS and own it. But we also understand that moods are powerful signals that we should listen to.”
And as well as logging and tracking functionalities, are there advice forums women can turn to on the Moody Month app?
Absolutely. Moody Month was built by women, for women. Everyone involved is female and we believe that it gives the information a real empathy and intuitiveness, as we are all bringing our own personal cycle stories into our work. The experts are an amazing team of doctors, gynaecologists and endocrinologists offering evidence-based information around the hormone cycle, psychology, mind-fullness and body movement.
Has the team grown a lot since you’ve been there?
It has and it’s been incredible. Initially it was just a few of us managing so much of the app, which was challenging but it has been a lot of fun seeing our ideas coming to life. With our investors coming on board last year we have started to expand as a team – now there’s about 12 of us in London and we have a team growing in the US.
What would you have liked to have done if you hadn’t gone into nutrition?
It’s a hard one! In my fantasies, a musician or a dancer. I don’t know if I had the talent though. I’ve always been drawn to the caring space and caring for people though. So I think a doctor or a midwife would have been more likely – or a women’s health campaigner.
“I’ve always been drawn to the caring space and to caring for people.”
What are some of the most common myths people tend to believe and come across when it comes to food and nutrition?
There’s a lot of myths and beliefs around diet and weight loss out there. People commonly think fats are bad for you but I try and educate my clients that healthy fats – such as omega fats – influence so many systems including cellular communication, brain function and our metabolic and hormone health. It is important to include them at the right levels in your diet.
I also think the biggest myth is that you can jump on a popular diet and it’ll work for you. I have to remind people that one diet won’t ever fit all – it may need tweaking for various reasons. This can be due to deficiencies, genetics and other factors. Every body is different.
“One diet won’t ever fit all - it may need tweaking for a variety of reasons. This can be due to deficiencies, genetics and other factors. Every body is different.”
Are there any other nutritionists or health experts that inspire you at the moment?
Dr Chattergee has been doing amazing things to spread awareness in the UK of some of the functional medicine principles via Lifestyle Medicine. More conventional doctors are now taking note and incorporating a more 360 approach to health, rather than prescribing drugs as the cornerstone.
Maisie Hill is doing great things in the hormone space, whilst Kathie Bishop from Into the Wylde is shining a light on vaginal health and Dr Anita Mitra is making gynaecological discussions more fun and accessible with her Gyanegeek platform. I also admire Erica Chedi Cohen who is a reproductive health expert, as well as Dr Chandrima Biswas for her commitment to women’s health in the NHS.
What advice would you give to people who are keen to start educating themselves on nutrition?
There’s an organisation called The Institute for Functional Medicine where you can find out who are the key players and educators in nutrition. It’s important to start with evidence-based research and information grounded in science. Check if what you read is cited and if you’re unsure, booking to see a nutritional therapist could set you on the right track.
Can you talk us through some of your favourite foods or supplements and the benefits they have on our health?
The microbiome is the ecology of important gut microbes, which are involved in so many things like manufacturing of neurotransmitters; weight and mood regulation, immunity, and hormone balance, so supporting your gut is key. Fermented foods are great for this and studies show that supporting your existing microbiology with prebiotic fibres from plant foods is crucial.
When it comes to supplements, we are all genetically unique so no one supplement will work for everyone – functional testing can help to direct you. I generally recommend essential fats, methylated b vitamins and botanicals like Ashwagandha, as well as the amino acid L theanine for focus and calm. Magnesium with B6 can also be very effective for menstrual symptoms.
Also due to low sunlight in the northern hemisphere, vitamin D is something I often prescribe for women of colour, who are at most at risk of deficiency.
What do you like to do on days off? How do you relax and unwind?
I like to spend time with my family as much as I can. It is really important to me to teach my two children about eating healthily too by cooking nutritious food. I enjoy running to de-stress and nurturing hot yoga classes, with a few drops of CBD oil. My husband works in the music industry so I’m lucky to get invited to some amazing gigs and music festivals. I love to laugh with my friends and sisters – that’s my soul food!
How would you describe your personal style?
On the whole, I’m a jeans and T-shirt person but I do love dresses too. I like the simplicity of being able to put one item on and be comfortable all day.
Where’s your favourite place to enjoy a healthy meal out?
I do eat in a lot but when I go out, I love Japanese food and vegan Japanese food. I love the moderation they use in their cooking – from the amount of fats they use to the small portions. Portion sizes are so important because we often eat more than we need.
For more of a treat I love Ikoyi in St James and Farmacy, which is a vegan restaurant in Westbourne Park. They do beautiful food. I have a friend who owns Rare Foods too and invites me round for a healthy spread, which is always delicious.
What’s next for Lola Ross? Are there any projects on the horizon you’re particularly excited about?
My practice is really busy at the moment, so that’s a main focus. Moody Month is also growing really fast too and we are expanding into different territories in the coming months – Canada, New Zealand and Australia. As we grow the app in different countries too I’ll be working with even more incredible women, so it’s an exciting time.