Wellness Beyond Whiteness: Q+A Toral Shah

Toral Shah is a Nutritional Scientist (MSc Nutr Med), Functional Medicine Practitioner, Food and Health writer and Consultant,…

Toral Shah is a Nutritional Scientist (MSc Nutr Med), Functional Medicine Practitioner, Food and Health writer and Consultant, as well as the Founder of The Urban Kitchen. She originally went to medical school with a view to becoming an oncologist but when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she realised that this was not the career for her. Toral then went on to do an MSc in Nutritional Medicine at University of Surrey and became a functional medicine practitioner working with nutrigenomics. She is currently putting together a PhD proposal looking at the impact of stress, diet and lifestyle on oestrogen dependent breast cancer. Toral is also passionate about combatting the lack of diversity in healthcare and ensuring both doctors and patients from BAME groups are equally represented within the NHS and healthcare systems. Currently, BAME people have poorer health outcomes, even when you take into account socioeconomic factors, and are often diagnosed with cancer later and at later stages. Toral is working with several charities and organisations to ensure that they are creating more inclusive health promotion campaigns with more diversity and inclusivity so that all communities know that cancer can affect them.

- What are the essentials steps that the wellness industry needs to make to become the industry of equity?

Firstly, we need to accept that there is lots of evidence and statistics that shows that Black, Asian and Ethnic minorities are suffering from poorer outcomes with our health and wellness. Not only are we disproportionately more likely to die from COVID19, cancer and childbirth, but we’re much more likely to have health issues. Many of these stem from socio-economic disparities. The other reason that is that there is systemic institutional racism within our healthcare system. We need the government and local councils to make changes, and organisations need to breaking down institutional racism. The health and wellness industry needs to be more inclusive and not just skinny white women. We can only be the change if we can see the change. We have to have role models of different types of people, different colours of people, different sizes. Because health is not aesthetics. According to the World Health Organisation, Health is about having a sustainable physical, mental, social wellbeing.

- Is the Nutrition industry suffering from white supremacy?

I think so. The vast majority of the nutritionists who are really promoted are all white, and of particular body size and type, and often very young. This is not achievable and many have had eating disorders in the past and still do. It’s a choice for many people who have disordered eating as they can hide what they eat behind health. Nutrition is important to our health because we all EAT. A lot of people of Black, Asian minorities who have problems with nutrition, could benefit having a lot more support. Currently, the NHS, health organisations and charities base all diets on Caucasian people’s diets which doesn’t take into account culture or dietary requirements or religion. This is where I’m doing a lot of work and talking to local councils, organisations and charities to ensure that all the nutrition advice given is more inclusive and culturally appropriate. Advice needs to be more personalised!

- What are the top three resources, organisations, books, podcasts, movies you can recommend to check out to become more aware and educated on the issue of wellness white supremacy?

Balck Lives Matter Nova Reid Anti-Racism course Runnymede Trust - Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK IG live with Jonelle Lewis Books: Superior - Angela Saini So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo White Fragility - Robin DiAngelo Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo Lodge Me And White Supremacy – Layla F Saad Between The World And Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates How To Be An Antiracist – Dr Ibram X. Kendi Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Europe – Akala -- Follow Toral on Instagram, Facebook and check out her website for more information about her work.