Guest monologue: The Fertility Kitchen

Hello! Jennie here. This is the first post in what I hope will become an occasional series, highlighting books, projects, and other resources that have been created out of a less-than-straightforward fertility journey. I got chatting to Charlotte on social media a little while ago – and now her first recipe book The Fertility Kitchen has just been published. It looks gorgeous. I’ll be honest, the subject of food and fertility is a touchy one for me, as someone who in the past has got themselves into a real muddle, stressed and anxious about following all the rules and trying to live the perfect ‘fertile’ life – and blaming myself when I inevitably didn’t live up to this impossible standard. So I was reassured when Charlotte told me she could relate and that something she hopes to do in her book is to encourage people to ‘ditch the assumption that healthy = doing everything perfectly’. Anyway, I’ll let her take it from here…   

Back in 2008, I was struggling to conceive my first child. I’d spent most of my adult life trying not to get pregnant, so when we wanted a baby I (naively) assumed it would happen straight away, or at least while we were still having fun trying!

I had a textbook menstrual cycle and we were both young, fit and healthy. On paper it should have happened easily. Fast forward three long years, and we were embarking on IVF after being diagnosed with unexplained infertility. This wasn’t how I’d envisaged conceiving our baby.

I’d seen countless friends get pregnant at lightning speed. Undoubtedly the hardest part of infertility was watching friends welcome their second baby into the world while we were still trying for our first. I felt so sad and lived with a deep sense of longing. This spurred me into action, and I became determined to learn how to nourish my body to give us the best chance of conception.

Firstly, I sought acupuncture treatment (a rite of passage when trying to conceive?!) to help with the stress of it all. I still vividly remember my astonishment at my first pain-free period after years of monthly agony. How could a few needles have such a profound effect? I began to research Chinese medicine and I loved it; the approach to healing resonated and I wanted in. Cutting a long story short, I left my career in the fashion world to retrain in acupuncture. I’ve never looked back.

Shortly after I started acupuncture training, I began preparing for IVF. My nutrition knowledge was basic, so I researched how to use diet and lifestyle to support treatment. It was difficult to find practical advice; I found information on the benefits of specific nutrients, but nothing transforming this into real food and everyday eating. So, I started creating my own recipes, incorporating everything my research suggested I needed. My first creation was a protein smoothie that I drank everyday throughout IVF.

(The contents of Jennie’s veg box this week, for illustration purposes only – and in no way a recipe suggestion…)

I also slowly upgraded my day-to-day lifestyle, incorporating practices to nourish my mind and body as much as possible. As well as acupuncture, I exercised and meditated daily, used positive affirmations, kept a gratitude journal and prioritised sleep. These practices attenuated my stress levels, and I felt well and happy despite navigating IVF. We were blessed to conceive our son, George.

After qualifying I set up a fertility acupuncture clinic and through my work, observed a strong connection between diet, lifestyle and fertility. After the birth of my second son, Alex (also an IVF miracle), I continued exploring how to optimise my own health. Over time I completely overhauled my diet, experiencing first-hand the power of food as medicine; most pertinently the asthma I’d suffered with since childhood resolved. It was a defining moment that changed my trajectory and led me to embark on extensive training in the field of nutritional therapy, completing a three-year diploma at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in Richmond.

Meanwhile, I continued writing recipes. This reignited my creativity, which I’d missed since leaving fashion. I’ve always had a great passion for cooking (and eating!) and saw an opportunity to combine my love of food and creative flare through recipe writing, food styling and photography, with a newfound passion for helping women to take ownership of their fertility.

One morning I sat reflecting on my journey. I’d come to realise that my experience wasn’t unique and other women were also dissatisfied with the lack of fertility nutrition and lifestyle advice available. I thought about how I could draw on my personal and professional experience to educate and inspire others and create a community for women on their path to motherhood. I had a lightbulb moment, and The Fertility Kitchen was born.

The Fertility Kitchen is a wellness platform that provides recipes, evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle advice and supportive communities to help women become the expert of their own health. It is also now a book, The Fertility Kitchen: The essential guide to supporting your fertility, which I hope will become the go-to nutrition and lifestyle book for anyone who wants to become pregnant. It’s the guide that I needed on my journey, and I hope it helps you on yours.

In part one, I share my expertly tailored, nutrient-rich fertility nutrition and lifestyle plan, covering food, supplements, stress, sleep, movement, and environment. Part two helps you put this plan into practice and is brimming with more than 90 vibrant, flavour-packed yet simple recipes embracing everything that’s good for fertility. I address the key areas of health that can affect fertility, helping you to reconnect with your body and personalise your diet to suit your unique needs.

I totally understand how striving to live the perfect fertility-friendly lifestyle can be joyless. It’s the opposite of my approach and, in my book, I cover mindset and letting go of perfection. I believe in being kind to yourself, aiming for balance and flexibility. I also aim to bring the joy back into cooking and show that eating for fertility doesn’t have to be miserable or boring – it can be beyond delicious. 

I wrote the book to inspire you to connect with, and listen to, your body and take ownership of your health. The famous quote ‘If you change nothing, nothing will change’ is so apt; you hold the key to supporting your fertility. I hope it provides the guidance and inspiration you need to advocate for yourself and that by making small but positive and consistent changes you will find a lifestyle that you can continue forever.

You can optimise your fertility by eating well most of the time, while also giving yourself the freedom to indulge, make imperfect choices, have a social life and simply enjoy life. Remember – the goal is progress, not perfection.

Charlotte x

  •  Charlotte Grand is a registered Nutritional Therapist, fertility nutrition expert and creator of the popular Instagram channel @thefertilitykitchen where she shares her wholesome balanced approach alongside deliciously simple, everyday recipes. Charlotte has spent almost ten years specialising in preconception and fertility, and in her private practice supports her clients to transform their health in preparation for conception and pregnancy.

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