Is the Zoe programme worth it – considerations for midlife women

Is Zoe worth doing

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Whether you’re doing Zoe or not, you’ve no doubt heard of it and long gone are the days when Zoe was simply the name of my husband’s first crush.

I don’t often here gut health mentioned without Tim Spector in the same sentence, so there’s no doubt Zoe is big business. Are we all reaping the benefits though or is there a dark side that needs airing?

Does collecting data improve health?

My observations are that people are feeling drawn towards Zoe and the data it gives them, to be guided towards improvements in their own health, and that without this data, there is a sense that perhaps they are missing out on some important intel.

I have had clients and friends that have done Zoe, so I decided to gather their thoughts along with my own, to give you the no nonsense lowdown.

What is Zoe and how does it work?

Zoe is a form of personalised nutrition, analysing your blood and poo samples, to then tell you about your gut microbiome (bacteria and other species living in your gut) and how well you digest fat for example.

Based on information about your microbiome, they then score foods according to how ‘good’ they are for you using a colour coded system. These are some of the screenshots from my friend’s app:

Zoe app screenshots

This handy graphic I nabbed from their website sets out the programme quite well:

Graphic from Zoe website

If you choose to then log your daily food intake into the app, you will get a sense of how well you’re doing (according to their scores) and will receive suggestions on potentially ‘better’ choices.

The app also contains meal ideas and recipes to keep you inspired and motivated. I see can why this is appealing for many. Getting data on our insides that we can’t see or feel, seems exciting and surely must be helpful? Let’s see what people think.

What do people think about Zoe?

Indeed, the clients and friends I’ve spoken to report it’s ‘interesting’ and has helped them to diversify their diets and types of fibres they eat.

I was struck by one client’s words though – ‘Yeah, interesting but I’m really glad I did your programme first though’. My ears pricked up… ‘what do you mean’ I asked?

The dark side of Zoe

She went on to talk about how differently she might have engaged with this app and data had she not done some really grounding work in The Anchor Programme to improve her relationship with food and body.

Whilst she reflected it “feels more encouraging than My Fitness Pal”, she acknowledged that the tracking and colour coding could have raised some demons in her thinking.

Prior to our work together, she thinks this may have had the potential to create obsession over food choices along with the sense that she was not living up to the standards associated with better health and was therefore in some way letting herself down.

Does Zoe actually promote better health?

Quick answer to that – it depends!

My physio said to me last week, we can get a scan if you want, but it’s fundamentally not going to change how I manage your problem. This struck a chord.

We can collect data – lots of it, track it, stick colours on it, but does any of that change the basics that we have known for a long time:

  • Eating a diet rich in fibre is beneficial to the health of our gut.
  • Higher fibre meals are likely to help us feel fuller for longer and so might therefore help us to feel ‘better’.

Whilst this app doesn’t guilt trip us for a ‘red day’ (unlike Noom – don’t get me started back on that one) is it somehow subtly suggesting that we’re not getting it right enough? And can we categorically say that based on this ranking of foods that those of us who have more ‘green’ days are healthier and destined for longer, higher quality lives?


How do I know if Zoe is right for me?

I can see two things happening with Zoe, depending on a person’s lived experience and belief system as they enter into it. Take note of which one you align with…

Number one
It could just be an interesting delve into what lurks beneath – and an encouraging (if not expensive) prod to make different choices, diversify one’s diet and enjoy exploring the wonderful world of gut health.

Thoughts from clients and friends:
“It’s helped me to diversify my vegetable intake”.
“It’s reminded me to make more of an effort with pulses and lentils”.
“It’s helped me to find different types of wholegrain carbohydrates and I now feel I have more permission to eat them”.
“I definitely feel better when I eat a green rated meal so it’s nice to get that validation”.


Number Two
For those that lack confidence with what they ‘should’ be eating, who feel lost, confused and disconnected from their body, it’s common to seek external validators to help. We feel comfort in being told what we should be doing because we believe we have no clue.

With this mindset, we run the risk of Zoe becoming another thing we stack ourselves up against – can we achieve what they’re telling us to? Can we whip ourselves into action and use all this data to motivate us and get over those hurdles that make change hard?

Or does it become another stick to beat ourselves with, ranking up the inner critic voice that tells us we’re failing. If we feel like this, we often lose sight of the ‘good enough’ health behaviours that actually help us, because our inability to achieve what the app is setting out for us, makes us pendulum in the other direction.

My final thoughts on the Zoe app and programme for midlife women

My gut instinct tells me we need to dig deep on this one and ask ourselves what truly would help us to make healthier food choices and with less effort increase how much fibre we eat.

Should also say at this point, that tolerance of fibre and its different types is also hugely individualised and for those with IBS or other digestive conditions, individualised and more structured advice is key.

If you’re battling with bloating and an unhappy gut, you’ll benefit from the Beat the Bloat Masterclass.

Whilst the developments in gut health are exciting, we need to remember it is only one parameter and not a panacea for health. How we move, how we sleep, how we communicate with others, how we manage stress and how we rest are all key in achieving a life in which we thrive.

Bottom line – I would advise all people to go into Zoe with a healthy mindset – with the solid foundations of an eating routine that works for you in amongst the busy. If you struggle with your relationship with food, or need more specialist, tailored gut health advice, then I am here to help.

More To Explore

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