Dr Hazel Wallace: one woman, multiple careers. As if being a qualified medical doctor wasn’t impressive enough, Dr Hazel boasts more slashes than your average – doctor/nutritionist/personal trainer/author/influencer to name just a few.
She’s better known as The Food Medic, an alias created back in 2012 while still studying medicine and wanting to create a digital platform to educate and inspire both herself and others. Instagram was barely even a thing back then and the term influencer unheard of, making Dr Hazel well ahead of the game in terms of building a personal brand, whether she knew it or not.
Today she boasts a mammoth 485K Instagram followers and counting, is a number one best-selling author, a qualified PT, practicing nutritionist, multi-award winning blogger, brand leader, oh, and she just finished a run of working as a full-time Covid doctor during lockdown. We were lucky to squeeze into Hazel’s schedule to find out how she built such a unique, fulfilling and successful career…
Tell us about your journey to becoming The Food Medic.
It was back in 2012 when I was a medical student and looking for ways to help educate and inspire myself to become a healthier and stronger person. In doing so, I noticed a gap in the curriculum for nutrition and other areas of lifestyle medicine, and I soon realised that there was a lot more value in what I was doing than simply for myself. If I could share my message and extend it to my patients, and those around me, I could help improve the health of many people, both inside and outside of the hospital and so The Food Medic was born.
So, you’re first and foremost a doctor specialising in nutrition, but you’ve become an influencer because of it. How did you build your following?
Consistency, integrity, and staying true to my message. I’ve been doing this a long time – it’s not an overnight success.
Was it an active business decision to build a brand or did it happen organically?
No, I never planned for it. It was just a passion project of mine in the beginning and before I knew it, I was offered a book deal and it snowballed from there.
You’re also a qualified PT and an advocate of exercise as medicine. Tell us about your weekly exercise routine.
I do CrossFit style training three times a week, and run two to three times per week. During lockdown I really worked on my running and since the outdoor facilities have opened back up, I have been going to the running track every week. I also like playing tennis and just dabbling in sport – anything that moves you is movement and movement is medicine.
Which classes and gyms do you love to take in London?
WIT in Bank is my usual spot – they do a mixture of weightlifting and gymnastics, and CrossFit workouts. I also like dropping into the odd Psycle spin class on Mortimer Street for energy. And I also like doing my own workouts at home using the FIIT app.
Let’s talk about London – where was the last place you ate out?
As I’ve recently launched a new breakfast and lunch range with PAUL Bakery, I popped in to one of their shops the other week to see it on the shelves and try it in store. It was so exciting to see it there after all the hard work we have put into creating it.
As well as PAUL, I’ve also been to Megan’s in Balham recently – I love their veggie brunch.
Where are you looking forward to visiting that you weren’t able to during lockdown?
I’m just excited to be able to see my friends and go for brunches with them on the weekend – Caravan in the city is our usual spot after a Saturday morning workout.
Where does a good cocktail?
Sushi Samba in Heron Tower is amazing if you’ve got something to celebrate, or for something more cosy, a good wine bar is WC (wine & charcuterie) in Clapham.
Where can you recommend for a healthy dinner out?
I usually don’t scout out restaurants based on their “health factor” but if you want good, wholesome fresh food then check out Ethos – a vegan/veggie buffet just off Oxford Street, 26 Grains in Covent Garden for delicious breakfast bowls, and Lantana Cafe for brunch on the weekends – try the courgette bread.
What ingredients do you always have in the fridge or stocked up in the cupboards?
Favourites would be porridge oats, peanut butter, chickpeas, olive oil, sweet potatoes and tinned tomatoes. Those being my most used ingredients as they’re super versatile, nutritious and I love cooking with them.
Consistency, integrity, and staying true to my message has played a big part in my career. I’ve been doing this a long time - it’s not an overnight success.
How did you cope with lockdown and what have you learnt from it?
I worked full time as a Covid doctor so I was going into work every day, even during lockdown, so this really helped keep structure in my day.
I struggled with the pressure at times but it was also such a rewarding job and I learnt a lot from the experience, particularly how fleeting life can be.
Do you think the past few months and the strange times we’ve experienced have had a knock on effect on people’s health, both physically and mentally?
Absolutely. Obviously, you have the knock-on effect of people not wanting to and unable to access their normal medical care, but also lockdown was hugely mentally challenging for many. People also had the added pressure of job losses and that understandably would lead to greater anxiety. I’m not sure how we will recover from this but it is reassuring to see lockdown measures ease and NHS services opening back up.
Let’s talk about your diet. What do you eat for breakfast?
It varies, but overnight oats with a scoop of protein powder mixed in is usually my go-to. On my days off I will push the boat out a little more and make a veggie brunch with eggs on toast, mushrooms and tomatoes – my fave. And coffee, of course!
What snacks do you recommend?
Nuts and seeds, chocolate rice cakes, apples and peanut butter and dark chocolate.
Can you recommend a really easy, tasty but healthy midweek meal for our readers?
You can’t go wrong with a bowl of pasta – it makes the perfect weeknight dinner for a family and it travels really well so serves as lunch the next day too.
This chickpea and tomato recipe is one of my favourites.
Do you ever cheat and order takeaways?
I love cooking and if I don’t feel like it, I will usually eat out. But during lockdown I definitely made the most of Deliveroo. I try to support local takeaways beside me – there are a few great Lebanese restaurants and Thai food spots that I typically choose from.
Finally, what are your three golden rules to a happy, healthy life?
Scroll less, live more, and do what makes you happy.