With cyclic predictability, winter gives way to spring, and spring to the most photogenic, 'grammable season of all. Of course, there are some downsides to summer. Not only do you feel your life slipping through your fingers whenever it’s sunny and you’re inside, there's also the issue of everyone slimming down, stripping off and making you feel fat by comparison.
I’ll admit, we’re not exactly known for health food. Mountains of bread, rivers of cheese and miles of meat make up the Twisted relief map. After months of indulgence, I find myself looking ahead to summer with trepidation. However, there is one restaurant - and one man - I must visit on my journey to wellbeing.
Bradley Hill is lucky to be alive. A professional rugby player, his health was paramount to his career. However, he suffered a spinal cord injury which threatened not only his livelihood but also his life.
Repeated hospital visits got Bradley no closer to determining the cause of sudden severe back pain which appeared in May 2012. But his situation deteriorated and he was rushed back to hospital where it was discovered that he had a bacterial blood infection and an abscess on his spine. He underwent multiple operations, had to be resuscitated twice and, after he pulled through, was told he would never walk again.
Since then, Bradley has not only learnt to walk again, but has been a successful bodybuilder, fitness coach and restauranteur. It's at Simple Health Kitchen, located in the Bank area of central London, that I meet him.
You almost died twice. Not many people can say that. Do you have any recollection of it?
"No, I don’t have a recollection so no white light story. Just when you are seriously ill you know to try and stay awake at certain times and at others, rest. It’s an incredible daily battle of calming yourself down, and setting daily goals to try and hit."
Having experienced paralysis and been told you would never walk again, how did you stay positive?
"There's two types of people. Those who accept what they’re being told and those who challenge what they're being told. It's about always focusing on the positive and having a belief in something. The body is strong, the mind is weak. Keep the mind strong and your body will follow. I set myself small daily goals and when I didn’t hit them, I didn’t get upset. I made something up in my head why that didn’t happen then reset the goal for tomorrow. I saw no day as a failure but as a lesson. Focusing on goals is key to anything in life or you drift through ending up in the middle of nowhere!"
"There's two types of people. Those who accept what they’re being told and those who challenge what they're being told."
It would be fair to say you've recovered well since the accident. What do you see as the link between food and wellbeing?
"I still have massive physical problems but I manage daily. There are many people worse off. We always forget how lucky we are being able-bodied. Food has a massive physiological effect but also a huge mental effect. We know how we can feel good eating food. We also know how bad we can feel after a naughty meal. This can play havoc with people’s emotions and self-vision. It's important to understand your relationship with food and try not to let it be too emotional."
What inspired you to start Simple Health Kitchen?
"Simple Health Kitchen was born from there not being a healthy food place on the high street. I wanted there to be a place you could eat great healthy food when you're in a rush. This is hard to do."
What is Simple Health Kitchen doing that nobody else is?
"Simple Health Kitchen allows you to create a meal on how you feel that day. So on Mondays we serve lots of greens and lean meats and by the back end of the week, we serve more carbs and clean brownies. This is what I wanted to bring to the market - a place where you can eat well all days of the week but with the flexibility of being good but also being a bit bad with the knowledge it’s still good for you and has very clean and fresh ingredients."
"Understand your relationship with food and try not to let it be too emotional"
Bradley's experiences set him aside from other entrepreneurs and his passion for health has clearly been a driving force when it comes to his restaurant. Greeted by an array of grains and salads, you assemble your meal based on your wants, whims or weight training regime. The atmosphere is comfortably relaxed and the setup creates something of a lunchtime vibe. I can imagine it's extremely busy from 12 to 2 but at 7.30 in the evening, it was calm and welcoming.
Highlights include the black rice salad with apricots, mixed roast veg and spiralised carrot and courgette. I opted for peri-peri chicken which, paired with a yogurt dressing, added a tempered kick to the meal. Meanwhile, my guest went for the Sicilian salmon which was perfectly soft and flaky.
Knowing full well that I wasn't about to hit the gym, the protein brownie was perhaps a questionable choice. However, my guest ordered a protein pancake - which made me feel better - and the desserts made for a deliciously sweet end to a filling meal.
Having decided to go whole-hog, I was faced with a green juice which contained apple, cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, lemon and ginger. The waitress told me she liked it, even though she didn't drink healthy smoothies or the like before working here. However, I was far from sold. I thought about everything Bradley had been through but- No. Couldn't finish it. Some things just aren't meant to be.
Lastly, your achievements are commendable to say the least. What would your advice be to someone overcoming adversity, or trying to make it in a competitive industry?
"Have a clear goal. People's goal setting is way off and very vague. It has to be drilled down to incredible detail. Set your day out by hours. Procrastination will kill starting any self-motivated goal.
"Adversity is a tough one. I always say who I woke up as, was a different person to who I went into surgery as. You have to leave the memories alone and create a new you. We evolve as a person yearly anyway so try not to hold onto the past and always remember that there is someone who has been in your situation and came through OK. Be strong and understand breaking down, getting upset, moving backwards is all a part of growing. There is no straight line back to what you want to be. It’s a very bumpy road, but the journey is what we live for, embrace and enjoy it for without the lows, we can’t enjoy the highs."
Simple Health Kitchen is located a stone's throw from St Paul's Cathedral and is open from 7.30am to 9pm Monday to Friday. A large Simple Health Box (three salads, one protein) costs £8.90 ($11.10) to eat in or £7.90 ($9.90) to take away.