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