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New Business Venture Provides Mood Boost after Mental Health Battles

Lifestyle changes bring lockdown business success

When a difficult time in her life left Jessica Thompson struggling with mental health problems, she thought she would never be able to recover, but now she is at the helm of a new company, Benergy with her partner Ben Cochrane.

The nutritious snack company aims to bring foods to boost physical health and mental health, promoting better lifestyle and positivity.

 It all started when Jessica and Ben’s plans to hike across the Himalayas were scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When we first met, Ben’s health and wellbeing weren’t good and neither were mine,” she explained. “He had a dreadful diet, even though he was working as a chef. 

 “From my own perspective, my weight was fluctuating drastically over the years and it was only when Ben started to look at the internal processes, as well as the external ones, such as his diet and lifestyle, that I realised that I also needed to change the way I was living. 

 “We looked at a lot of different lifestyle changes but realised very quickly that our diet and lifestyle was the first thing that needed to change. As lockdown went on, we increasingly realised that those who were eating a clean diet were so much more active. We took a really close look at how we were living and eating.”

The link between diet and mental health is one that the couple realised was more crucial than many realise.

“Your mental health is not something to be taken lightly,” said Jessica. “Neglecting your mind can have a disastrous impact on every aspect of your life and on those of others in your life as well.

 “It was only after I’d gone through a really bad period in my life that I realised that my mind and body were in a really bad place. I couldn’t understand why one day I’d feel great, and the next I’d feel terrible.”

 After meeting, 23-year-old chef Ben Cochrane, Jessica began to look at both herself and her choices and led her to monitor what was going on in her life.

 “When I met Ben, he was starting out on his own journey where he’d started looking at his lifestyle and his diet in particular.

 “Ben had spent two years in hospitality, working as a chef for some well-known restaurants. He was working four fourteen-hour shifts a week, plus an additional half day. Most weeks he was working between 60 and 70 hours a week. 

 “We started going out on walks and began eating healthily and I began to realise how much I was able to focus on my mind and how I was feeling. 

 “I’d love to say that I just changed my diet and everything was fine,” said Jessica, who was born in Belfast, but grew up in Australia, before moving back to the province, “but that was not the case.

“It was a long, long road out of the darkness. But I am so happy to say that my sad days are becoming few and far between and my mood is the best it has been in years. 

“I do still experience panic attacks from time to time, but that is to be expected. I’m only human, but I’m always trying: the healing process is a long one.”

Jessica, whose background is in digital marketing and technical SEO, first met Ben in 2018 and realises how much their lives have changed since that first, meeting.

Spurred on by the positive changes in their own lifestyles, the couple decided to pass their new-found knowledge on to others by creating a range of breakfast pots and snacks for those ‘on-the-go’ moments.

“We’re not simply a nutrition company,” Jessica continued. “We’re all about educating people about food – particularly food that will benefit people both physically and, most importantly, mentally, because that’s where good health really begins. 

“You don’t have to be an international sports star or be heading out to the gym every day to eat the right things and get the best out of your life. Good nutrition is for everyone and should be a very basic part of everyday life.

“Our products are all plant-based, gluten and dairy free, which is very unique as vegan is the world’s fastest growing food market in the world today. We don’t just want to cater for one dietary requirement, we want to combine them all. 

“Our snacks include protein balls, healthy doppelgangers of the favourite blondies, brownies and truffles, and our new breakfast pots that have proved to be our biggest hit yet in the trials with some of Northern Ireland’s big names in personal training.

“Put simply, we want to break down the stigma around food restrictions and to provide products that can be enjoyed by everyone. Nutrition is not just for those that are involved heavily in the gym; all you have to care about is your mind and you can go from there.

“There is such a gap in the nutrition market. Products, for example, that are marketed a lot of the time aren’t great for you yet use the words ‘skinny’ and ‘high protein’ and people will opt for them even though they’re packed with other nasties and will often leave people suffering in other areas.

“It is so important to let people know that many studies have found a correlation between a diet that’s high in refined sugars and impaired brain function. While it’s important to understand this, it’s just as important to understand the benefits.”

Jessica explained that the link between healthy eating and mental wellbeing is being backed up by the science.

“Research undertaken by MIND in people suffering from depression showed that after they ate a banana they felt better,” she said. “This is because bananas contain tryptophan: a type of protein that the body turns into serotonin, which makes you relax and generally feel happier through an elevated mood.” 

The Benergy range contains a great selection of breakfast pots to start the day off well, and a fabulous mix of treats to keep people going in between meals. 

“Mental health applies to both Ben and me in different ways,” Jessica explained. “I suffered tremendously with my mental health through negative experiences, while Ben’s mental health took a hit through poor nutrition a few years ago when he was blissfully unaware and travelling, not to mention working so many crazy hours. 

“Since we got together almost three years ago, we’ve made small, consistent changes and the results have been genuinely incredible, especially in the last year.

 “I believe that physical health is just as important as mental health, but I believe that they are linked in more ways than a lot of people are aware of.

“The pressure that weight – or a lack thereof – can put on the body’s ability to function is tremendously misunderstood. Every day, I am learning something new that leaves my jaw on the floor. I think that everything starts with the mind – your perceptions, your thoughts, your function – everything happens internally first. I think getting yourself in check internally leads to a better ability to look at your physical health and reassess your goals. 

“Good nutrition is the first step to your physical health.

“The benefits to your mental health are an added bonus.”

To find out more about Benergy Nutrition and their delicious range of healthy snacks head to https://benergynutrition.com/

Food & Drink

‘LegenDerry – Great Place, Great Taste’ Celebrating Local

LegenDerry Food will continue to celebrate high-quality local produce and the food heritage of the city and region as hospitality businesses welcome more customers back as restrictions ease.

LegenDerry Food was the result of the City and District’s Food and Drink Strategy, which was launched in February 2019 by the Council as part of its wider plan to drive tourism and firmly place the region on the map as the number one food destination on the island of Ireland by 2025.

The past year has seen the development and launch of the LegenDerry brand, complete with a new website that provides a central hub for accessing unique food, drink and experiences in the region. As a certified LegenDerry provider, businesses are showcased on the LegenDerry website and receive a suite of marketing material to signpost their venues or produce with the LegenDerry stamp of approval.

There are now a total of 70 members who are part of the network, including 17 new members who joined in 2021.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said: “LegenDerry Food has gone from strength to strength since its launch, and at a time when we are starting to see our hospitality businesses welcome customers back and return to normality, LegenDerry is a vital service to encourage everyone to support local and to delve into the simply incredible food and drink, and exciting experiences, that we have here on our own doorsteps.

“Membership of the network continues to grow, and with impressive plans for the months ahead that will aid the COVID-19 recovery and support the further development of new food experiences in our city and district, we know that LegenDerry will only get bigger and better, with even more offerings and experiences for locals and visitors alike.

“The providers who are part of the LegenDerry Network are dedicated to producing the highest quality and showcasing this region as one of the best food destinations on this island, and new businesses are always welcome to get involved.

“Now more than ever it’s important that we support local, and I would encourage everyone to check out the LegenDerry Food website and find out more about the fantastic offerings we have right here in our own city and district.”

James Huey, Chair of the LegenDerry Food and Drink Network, added: “It’s incredibly exciting for our hospitality businesses and producers to be reopening again after a very difficult 15 months.

“At this point the Legenderry Food and Drink brand is now more important than ever as when you shop at an accredited business, you’ll be reassured that you are supporting local jobs and local produce. This will help our city and district get back on track to become the number one food destination in Ireland by 2025!”

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Food & Drink

Dished up Deli brings homemade cooking to your doorsteps

Philip Davison was inspired during lockdown to open Dished up Deli and is now offering homemade cooking, delivered to your doorstep for your weekend dining.

From three-course dinners to snack boxes and their speciality brownies Dished up Deli has a weekly changing menu, which if ordered on Wednesday will be with you, freshly prepared, on Friday.

It all started when Philip posted on social media what he was doing at home.

“Over the several lockdowns I shared pictures of some creation on Facebook and got slightly hounded,” he explained. “I finally got a call saying look would you make that make dinner for me and my friend we are dying to try this.

“That is how Dished up Deli was born, I think it was a honey chilli chicken, but much fresher.”

Although not a chef Philip’s passion for food has been there from an early age, and he is no stranger to hospitality, including stints at one of the most exclusive country clubs in Florida, and catering for Royalty.

“I worked for over 10 years in Front of house, and still do, managing many amazing music events, catering events and private dinners and I love the variety it offers,” he said. “I have been given a great opportunity while remaining GM of Living Room Café to develop this passion project and local east Belfast business.”

The passion is clear in the ethos of Dished up Deli.

“We supply quality homemade cooking from my home to yours, dishes come cold with simple reheating instructions so you can have a delicious homemade meal in minutes,” Philip explained. “Fresh ingredients are always used & therefore it allows for up to three days shelf life.” 

“We change the menu as often as possible and new products are constantly being innovated to match the needs of the seasons, the customers and the weather such as the brand new BBQ boxes.” 

Philip’s journey into hospitality and the love of preparing food, including achieving a BSC Honours in Hospitality Management began as a child learning from his grandmother the tricks and tips in preparing perfect pavlovas, flans and fifteens.

Orders received by 6pm on Wednesday will be delivered on Friday between 4.30-8pm.

Full details at dishedupdeli.com or visit socials @dishedupdeli.

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