Meet our TEDxAberdeen 2022 speaker: Aileen Alexander
Speaker: Aileen Alexander
Talk Title: The best diet for weight loss
With just under a month to go until the big day now, we’ve been showcasing the amazing speakers who will be sharing their inspirational stories as TEDxAberdeen on the 12th November, next up is Aileen Alexander
Having previously worked for the NHS as a medical practitioner, Dr Aileen Alexander will be one of 10 TEDxAberdeen speakers taking to the stage at this year’s event. Sharing her talk ‘The best diet for weight loss’, Aileen will highlight the health and wellness issues we face as a society, as well as how small, positive changes to our routines can help us achieve a healthier and more fulfilling life.
We caught up with Dr Aileen to find out more about her chosen topic, why she is so passionate about sharing her talk with a wider audience and what she has learnt from her TEDxAberdeen journey so far…
Your topic is called ‘The best diet for weight loss’, can you describe this in more detail and share a bit about what you will be covering in your talk?
“My talk is going to be primarily focused on health and well-being as a whole. I want to help and inspire people to make changes so they can lead healthier and happier lives. On a whole, I feel we’ve become really ‘all or nothing in the society we live in, setting health and wellness goals which aren’t sustainable and are ultimately destined to fail.
“I work with busy professional women who often come to me with the desire to lose weight; however, I believe that weight is a symptom or physical manifestation of the things that we’re not doing to care for ourselves. This is one of the reasons why our typical ‘diet clubs’ or ‘counting calories’ approaches don’t work because they’re too superficial – they treat the symptom, not the core cause.
What has made you so passionate about this topic? How does it relate to you or your background?
“When I was a junior doctor I worked with a personal trainer and I loved how that made me feel mentally, but then I followed a really restrictive two-day meal plan which basically led to a cycle of dysfunctional eating. I would end up on night shift or get really stressed and binge eat chocolate which I didn’t realise was a symptom of my stress levels.
“After going through that journey, I completed a year long qualification in nutrition, followed by a post-graduate diploma in Lifestyle Medicine in addition to my GP training. I realised there’s a whole other world of health optimisation that was not being touched on in general practice and I wanted to be a part of it.
“Three years ago, I made the decision to stop working as an NHS GP because I felt like I wasn’t making the impact I wanted to with my patients, and I knew that healthcare wasn’t sustainable for the people delivering the service. The pressure upon health workers and the culture that they’re working in is actually detrimental to their health. For example, we give ourselves unhealthy rewards or comforts because we’ve worked really hard and feel overwhelmed in our job – I just didn’t want to be part of that cycle.
“Overall, I think my passion comes from a combination of my own journey, how it changed things for me and more importantly, being able to work with people and seeing the positive change that it has on their lives. Working with women, helping them to create sustainable health and well-being goals and witnessing their vast transformations is incredible.”
Why do you want to speak about this? Why is it so important for you to share this topic with a wider audience?
“Health and well-being is now a well-recognised topic, but the difficulty with the industry is that there can be a lot of false claims, false marketing, unethical sales and transactions where people are not getting their desired or promised outcome. Ultimately that erodes the trust and the self-belief that they can actually make positive changes and leads to their health deteriorating even more.
“We live in this world filled with stress, pressure and feeling bad about ourselves for not making the right decisions, such as eating healthy 100% of the time or getting enough sleep when things like stress is a physiological response within the body, and has a big impact on factors such as weight.
“Making positive change is all about starting low and creating sustainable goals which help us take better care of our health. By making small changes, we can build upon these until they become healthy habits that are ingrained within us and don’t feel like an uphill struggle. A person who embodies health and well-being needs to be flexible and adaptable and I think more people need that awareness.”
What do you think people will gain from listening to your talk?
“I want people to feel that health and well-being are realistic and for everybody to achieve, it isn’t just for the few people who have loads of willpower. Ideally, I want people to question these superficial, ‘sticky plaster’ approaches and look at the bigger picture. Whether it’s in a month’s time or a year from now I want people to remember my words and feel inspired to make these small changes. It needs to be a ripple effect, we need to change as a society and culture.”
What drew you to apply?
“I’ve been on this personal growth journey for the last 10 to 15 years and one of the goals I set for myself was to one day do a TED talk. I remember writing it down around five years ago even though I didn’t know how people come about doing a TED talk, so as soon as the applications opened I had no hesitation about applying.”
How has your TEDxAberdeen journey been so far? Is there anything you’ve learned that you didn’t expect, or any highlights?
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to be you. I don’t want to just be this professional polished Dr Aileen Alexander because that’s not my natural, authentic personality. I feel like this process has helped give myself permission to really be me.
“My favourite part of the journey so far is meeting all the other speakers – what an eclectic bunch of people! They are all from different backgrounds, professions and ages. It’s just so incredible to meet everybody, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, I think we were all craving the company.”
What are you most looking forward to most on this journey? What are you hoping to get out of this?
“I’m looking forward to standing on that stage and hopefully, feeling confident on the day to just completely own the topic and get my message out there. Then I can retrospectively look back and recognise my achievement of speaking on stage.”
What does being part of TEDxAberdeen 2022 mean to you?
“It’s a really special opportunity and I genuinely feel humbled to have been selected to share what I have to say. I think it’s a rare opportunity to be able to share such an extremely powerful message and get it into the hands of people that need it the most.”
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organised events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organised TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.