After suffering from burnout during her career, Karina Antram got to the root of the issue. She retrained as a nutritionist, and shares her five steps to fixing fatigue.
Karina Antram (Business Management 2007) returned to Leeds for the first time since graduating to star on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch. She spoke about her best-selling book, Fix Your Fatigue, which reached the top 10 bestseller charts on Amazon.
“During my career working in a series of corporate roles, I suffered from burnout,” Karina says. “By retraining as a nutritionist and drawing on my experiences, I am able to empower people to look after their own health.”
Her clinic is increasingly busy – a pattern linked to the impacts of long Covid and workplace stresses – and Karina knew she could reach even more people through writing.
“People need to realise that being tired all the time is not normal.
“The problem with fatigue is that it doesn’t go away unless you identify the cause. It’s only when I quit my job, broke the vicious cycle of burnout and started making changes that I managed to do so.”
When Karina graduated from Leeds, her career was heading in a very different direction. “I loved my time at Leeds,” she says. “I tried to set up my own business on graduating, but it was a big failure. Failures are important though, and I learnt a lot.”
Karina sought a corporate job, but in a high performance, high stress culture, suffered repeated burnout and fatigue. “I based my career choices around status and what I was going to earn. It was never the right career choice at all. I wanted a job that was seen to look good.
“I was always unwell. I had broken sleep, headaches, pins and needles, aches and pains, tinnitus, gastrointestinal issues, dizziness and nausea.
“If you know that you don’t feel yourself for no reason whatsoever, that’s when you need to seek support.”
During her road to recovery, Karina recognised it was the accumulation and change of daily habits which made a difference – from bedtime routine, to dietary changes. “Take a tiny action each day and be consistent. If you set a huge goal you can’t meet, that isn’t going to work.”
Combining her personal experience, expertise and scientific research, Fix Your Fatigue focusses on the tired reader – when she was suffering, Karina found books were heavy on science and didn’t account for the fatigued mind. That’s why at the end of each chapter, a “Too Tired, Didn't Read” section summarises what the reader might have missed.
In the following section, Karina shares the five key areas to focus on in order to fix your fatigue.
Five key areas to focus on in order to fix your fatigue
1. Eat for energy
“We need to focus on big nutrition,” Karina says. “That’s nutrition that helps the brain, immune and gut. I want people to think about creating a balanced plate with good nutrient density by adding to the plate, not taking away.”
One way of doing so is by tweaking family favourites. “Next time you’re making a spaghetti bolognese, try replacing half the meat with lentils, and half the pasta with spiralized vegetables. That way you’re getting your micronutrients and improving digestion.”
2. Optimise the gut microbiome
“There’s a bidirectional link between the gut and the brain, and that’s why a healthy gut microbiome is so important. Often our plates of food are beige, when research suggests we need to eat 30 different plants a week – which includes herbs and spices or nuts and seeds.”
Karina encourages readers to focus on increasing the volume of prebiotic (a form of dietary fibre) and probiotic (live micro-organisms found in foods such as yogurt) foods. She also points to stress reduction techniques such as diagrammatic breathing, which reduces the likelihood of having a stressed-out tummy.
3. Supercharge your sleep
“One of my first signs of fatigue was when I stopped sleeping well,” Karina said. “That creates quite a spiral as your mental, physical and emotional health takes a battering and you start to make poor food choices.”
Karina shares lots of tricks to optimise sleep – for example, two cups of magnesium flakes in the bath can help induce sleep. She suggests a walk first thing in the morning can reset the circadian clock, and keeping the same sleep and wake time is key. “Exercise is really important too,” she says. “That doesn’t mean taking 10,000 steps a day. 4,400 steps a day has huge health benefits, and that can be achieved through regular movement you interweave into your day.”
4. Energise with supplements
Supplements are often debated amongst nutritionists, but Karina is in favour: “For me, soil quality isn’t as mineral rich as it used to be and food transported from other countries loses minerals. On top of that, 50% of food we eat is ultra-processed, so sometimes we need to supplement. I adopt a food first approach, then introduce supplements.”
5. Harness the power of your brain
“When I was fatigued, my brain was spent,” Karina says. “It’s important to de-clutter your brain in order to start the day afresh and that way all the other steps should fall into place.”
Karina suggests readers try creating morning pages: “Write three pages of notes of consciousness first thing in a morning to de-clutter your mind and maximise brain energy.”