Founder of The Food Medic, Hazel Wallace is a blogger, fitness model and final year medical student with a passion for health and fitness. Hazel is also one of the judges of the 2016 That Protein & HBC Health Blog Awards.

Hazel’s medical background and interest in sports nutrition led her to create The Food Medic blog in August 2013, where she hoped to show people that eating healthy and ‘clean’ can be enjoyable and uncomplicated. She believes in eating unrefined and unprocessed, wholefoods in her diet and wants to banish the myths around healthy eating. Hazel has modelled for numerous companies such as Active In Style, Misfit, That Girl and Charlie Cohen. She is sponsored by Muscle Food and has her own range of protein powder with the Natural Whey Company.

We caught up with Hazel to talk about fitness, kale chips and taking down trolls, ahead of the Health Blog Awards.

What are the three things people should look for when hiring a PT?

I think first and foremost you need to make sure they have adequate qualifications! Secondly, you want someone with experience and a good reputation. Speak to some of their current clients and do some ground work. Thirdly, you want to have a trainer who motivates and inspires you!

How would you describe your philosophy towards being healthy and fit?

I like to preach and practice balance. For a healthy diet to be maintainable, it needs to be enjoyable, so make sure the foods you eat are both healthy and delicious! For example, wheatgrass shots are very healthy for you, but I don’t enjoy them, so I don’t drink them. However I will happily choose a bag of kale chips which are much healthier and just as delicious as regular potato chips! It’s all about finding the space within the Venn diagram between the foods that you love and the foods that are good for you.

What are the absolute no-nos you see people from the health and wellness industry do online?

Waist trainers, juice ‘cleanses’, misusing the word ‘detox’, restrictive diets, diet pills, body shaming… frankly, the list is endless!

You are a such a busy lady, we struggle keeping up with you! How do you pick your collaborations?

It’s important that the brand reflects the ethos of my blog and my own principles. Usually brands approach me and I do my background work to suss them out. If I approach them, it means there is something about them that I admire or I’m passionate about and I want to share it with my followers. I used to say yes to every offer and I over-worked myself, which also sacrificed the quality of my work. Now I’ve learnt how to say ‘no’ and I’m a bit more selective with what projects I take on.

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What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the fitness blogging industry?

Stay true to what is important to you. Don’t get side tracked by numbers of followers, what other bloggers are doing, or financial rewards. It’s important to maintain your integrity. It will offer you far more in the long-term than any quick buck ever could!

What is the number one rule for engaging on Instagram?

Be human! It sounds silly but be personal and write your posts like you would speak to your friend. Show people snippets of your life, the highs and the lows, the good days and the bad days. People will connect and engage with you far more if you expose a part of you or your life that they can relate to.

Why do you think so many people are drawn to the social aspects of your workouts? 

The world of health and fitness has boomed in the past 2 years and I think that it’s fascinating for people to watch it grow. The concept of ‘bloggers’ is still relatively new and I guess it’s the latest hype on social media so everyone wants to be involved and connect with others in the community. I think this is why events in the industry are amazing, because you meet people who share the same passion as you.

What sort of obstacles did you face when exposing your own journey on social media? How did you overcome them?

It’s not easy exposing your personal journey on social media because it automatically puts you in a vulnerable position which is open to the positive and negative opinions of others. At the start I took any negative comments very personally, and at one point it caused me to stop posting for a short period of time because I’d lost confidence in myself as a blogger. After speaking with other bloggers I soon realised that this issue was widespread and most people with large social media followers have been victims to at least one or two internet trolls. My method of dealing with any negativity on my account is to delete and block. Regardless of how harmless the comment may be, no one needs bad vibes lurking about!

What is your favourite comforting meal?

My mum makes an amazing creamy chicken and broccoli bake with crumbled Tayto crisps on top! Tayto crisps are famous in Ireland and one of the biggest things I miss about home!

Finally, what does 2016 hold for you?

Well this year I will graduate as a doctor (Hurrah!) which is my biggest achievement to date. I will also be doing my personal training qualification and continuing to grow and expand The Food Medic through lots of exciting projects and collaborations!