Madeleine Shaw recovered her vitality after contracting PCOS

It's all about 'glow' – it may sound like another vague buzzword, but in the flesh it's easy to see what she means

There are plenty of buzzwords bandied around nowadays when it comes to health. “Clean eating”, “green”, “pure” and “fitspo” are some of the main offenders, so overused their meaning has been lost in the “Mayfair” Instagram filter. 

For nutritional coach and all-round health guru Madeleine Shaw, the word that keeps cropping up is “glow”. Sounds like another vague buzzword, but in the flesh, it’s easy to see what she’s on about. This woman radiates health, from her refreshingly-not-stick-skinny physique to her beaming face. Her cookbook, Get the Glow, focuses on nourishment rather than calorie counts, and her new app, Glow Guides, has an all-round mind-body approach to being healthy. 

A glow like this is not just down to genetics, and 25-year-old Madeleine is the first to acknowledge that she was not always the paradigm of health. “I was brought up quite healthily but in my teens I embraced low-fat, diet drinks, rice cakes and all that. I didn’t feel good, had low energy, dull skin. Food was an enemy I had to control – I never thought about nutrients, about nourishing my body.”

A tipping point for Madeleine came when her periods stopped after she came off the Pill aged 22. Losing periods is something we think of happening only to women who are severely underweight or approaching menopause. But for those with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), it can be a torturous and frightening side effect, sometimes lasting several years. “I had no period for a year and a half. It’s really stressful– women not only face the pressure of having to work hard and be successful, but also to be feminine and have a family. Losing your periods affects how you feel about that.”

Madeleine slowly started to change her lifestyle. She moved to Australia, always ahead of the curve on healthy eating, and worked in an organic cafe, before enrolling on a nutrition course. She discovered that one of the main problems thought to exacerbate PCOS was sugar. “I thought I wasn’t eating much sugar, but when I looked into it I realised I was consuming plenty of hidden sugars, in things like soups and sauces.” Another factor that she wanted to get under control was stress. “I got acupuncture and really tried to change the balance from “always on” mode.

Considering Madeleine has spent the last few months developing her Glow Guides, creating recipes for and writing her second book, maintaining her blog and Instagram site, seeing clients, giving talks, teaching yoga and hosting events, it’s hard to believe she ever switches off. “It’s difficult!” she admits. “I love my job, and even still have the excitement of a new email, but I try to switch my phone off at 7pm. Even on the way home, I try to look out the window rather than being tied to my phone.”

Madeleine’s new app is one example of how people looking to clean up their lifestyle can use technology for good, rather than evil. She bills it as an eight-week holistic transformational programme based on three pillars: Move, Munch and Meditate. 

She was keen that this would not be just about weight loss. “For some people, weight loss is part of their transformation, and part of their path to confidence, but this app has more than that. I wanted it to be a motivational tool. It’s all about an inside-out glow – if you feel good on the inside it reflects on the outside. When you feel confident everything else falls into place.”

But how tightly does your halo have to be fixed if you want to maintain that glow? “You don’t get much satisfaction from being perfect,” Madeleine insists. “If you want to have dessert or a glass of wine? Absolutely! There’s a wonderful destressing effect from having a glass of wine with a good friend. Don’t be too hard on yourself, that will be more stressful in the long run.”