Think about it – every single item of food you consume fuels your body. The sugar, salt and fat runs through your bloodstream, directly affecting the way your body functions.
If there is one thing leading Australian nutritionist Cyndi O’Meara has learned, it’s that the general population is naïve when it comes to this.
“I think Australians generally want a quick fix, whether it’s a diet or a pill. They hear about something, go on a diet for six weeks and it’s a great quick fix. Then they go back to their old ways and wonder why they put the weight back on and are not feeling great.’’
O’Meara tells it how it is. She is matter-of-fact yet passionate, and it is these traits that have helped her steer hundreds of clients on to the right path. After 30 years in the food and health industry, she has no qualms in dishing out a few home truths.
“People are becoming disrespectful of what their bodies are,” she says. “They neglect their bodies.
“We are being dumbed down by marketing and advertising.
“They are putting in (to their bodies) margarine, low fat milk, Vegemite and all told it’s iconic Australian food… we believe it. We’re not waking up. We’re walking around in a daze.’’
She’s concerned about the rise in dairy intolerances and the use of pesticides on wheat farm soil, and about supermarket-bought apples that in six months remain unchanged, despite being kept in a desk drawer.
It is these issues and the way food is being interfered with that worries her the most. She says these are some of the reasons people need to get back to basics, buying fresh produce at farmers markets and avoiding packaged products.
However, O’Meara believes today’s population has little patience when it comes to matters of health and weight loss, hence the uptake in fad diets and meal replacement programs, which she has no time for.
She says while there is a growing percentage of the population who want to make lifelong changes, many people want a quick fix.
“I find it fascinating that people put food into their bodies knowing it’s causing their aches and pains, or put food in their body and think it has nothing to do with the aches and pains.’’
So, how do we embark on a change – one that is easily sustainable within our busy lifestyle?
One way people are tackling their health problems is with the paleo diet, advocated by celebrity chefs such as Pete Evans. Also known as the caveman diet, it centres on meat, fruit and vegetables.
People are becoming disrespectful of what their bodies are
This month, O’Meara spoke of the benefits of the lifestyle alongside Evans on his Paleo Way tour. She says it’s a good starting point for people wanting to improve their health.
“Paleo takes out dairy, grains and legumes,” O’Meara says. “You are left with fruit, nuts, meat and vegetables.
“What paleo does is it allows the body to calm down. The reason it’s working for so many people is that we are eradicating the main allergies we are getting from the manipulation of dairy, grains and vast amount of antibiotics.
“To me, it’s a healing diet and may not be a diet for life.’’
The author of Changing Habits Changing Lives says the key to achieving a lifetime of health is to change things step by step.
Start with salt: remove it from the pantry and replace it with Himalayan salt. Throw out all of your white sugar and replace it with unrefined rapadura sugar.
O’Meara says it’s never too late to make a change, but the earlier the better.
“There is a kind of imprintation on the child and what you consume around your child in the first six months to a year. Even though it’s not tasting it, it’s smelling. It imprints the food it should be eating for the rest of its life.’’
How to get your life in balance
Too often than not, we focus our health and wellbeing on what we put into our bodies and how we train them. While diet and exercise are extremely important, we often forget to nurture our mental state and lack the ability to find the right balance for our physical and mental health.
One woman who understands how intricately the mind and body are intertwined is Advance Wellness naturopath Jodi Chapman.
Chapman’s career as a naturopath began nine years ago and during that time she has travelled extensively throughout the country training with experts in a range of topics including psychology and neurotherapy. However, her journey to mending the link between mind, body and soul began much earlier than this.
As a child, she suffered allergies, daily migraines, sinus problems, anxiety and bowel disease.
“I was at the doctors all the time… millions of doctors but no answer,’’ Chapman recalls.
“It was all symptoms of allergy.
“It became my life challenge to resolve these things in me.’’
She has since not only resolved health issues for herself, but hundreds of other people suffering from unknown allergy problems.
“I watch TV and see, for example, the Michelle Bridges adverts. She’s in a market where she’s advertising something where people want their outsides changed,’’ Chapman says.
“They do all the diet and exercise but not necessarily look at the whole big picture, like a stressful, overworked life. It all ends and they can’t complete it.’’
Instead, Chapman says your goal should be about eating and exercising correctly but with the aim of getting your world happier and future healthier.
So, how do we achieve this?
She believes the way a person feels and focuses on issues comes down to a number of things, including biochemistry.
“I test every single patient for allergies. In nine years I’ve come across two people who were not allergic… everyone else comes back with at least 15 to 70 or 80 foods that show up as allergies.
“Allergic reactions can cause fluid retention, hormonal imbalances, constant low moods, migraines, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, nausea.’’
This is only one step in achieving a long-term solution.
“I think there are many pieces to put together, and you have to focus on all of them at the same time, not one at a time.
“The first one is keeping time for yourself. We’re not aware of stillness and enjoying life. Take time to smell the roses.’’
Chapman’s next steps for finding the right life balance is being around those you love and to focus on a goal.
It’s about keeping your body happy and healthy
“Always do something during the week or day to work towards that goal. Whether it’s working towards a degree, building a business, a triathlon, any kind of career change. Whatever it is you love to do. Make sure you write down your goals.’’
Finally, surround yourself with beautiful things to appreciate.
It’s simple: do you want to be healthy or unhealthy?
There is no quick fix to finding the right life balance. It takes commitment and dedication but the rewards are endless.
“It takes about 12 weeks to get used to a new lifestyle,’’ Chapman says.
“You need to figure out how to get everything in there, then you need to move into a second phase of another 12 weeks – the mind transformation and then 18 weeks to set it in stone.
“Make it forever. The minute you turn back to what you used to do you will revert back to how you used to feel.’’
How to stay fit for life
Exercise. The word welcomed by some, feared by many. There’s no denying that life is busy and filled with work, school drop-offs, children’s activities, caring for the family, the dreaded housework and overflowing social calendars. The excuses just roll off the tongue: I don’t have time, I’m too tired, I need new gym clothes. Instead, we find ourselves forfeiting exercise for quick fix weight loss techniques or pouring money into a gym membership that never gets used.
The Australian Government Department of Health guidelines indicate that regular physical activity has important benefits for physical and mental health. It reduces the risk of many health problems such as heart disease, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers.
Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death due to non-communicable disease and is estimated to be the main cause for about 21 to 25 per cent of breast and colon cancers and 27 per cent of diabetes cases.
Melinda Bingley of MAB Personal Training and Adventures says it comes down to one simple thing: “Do you want to be healthy or unhealthy?”
“It comes back to a power of choice,’’ she explains.
“Look at the positive things about being healthier. Healthy is having the confidence and the opportunity to be active and happy. It helps in the whole wellbeing.’’
So, you’ve decided you want to take the healthy road, what next?
Bingley says to aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, but if this isn’t attainable stick with 10 minutes. After all, 10 minutes is better than none.
Once you’ve decided to dedicate time to exercise, the next step is finding the right form for you.
“Go back to what you enjoyed doing when you were a child. Did you love riding a bike? Then do that,’’ Bingley says.
“Find the thing that is yours and you might have to try lots of things.
“It comes back to the why? If it’s a big enough ‘why’, then that will push you. Do you want to play with the kids down at the beach? Think of the ‘why’.’’
The big question: how important is exercise when teamed with the right diet?
“You can’t have one without the other,’’ Bingley tells My Weekly Preview.
“You can exercise your heart out but if you are not fuelling your body with the right fuel to do that, you are not going to perform.
“It’s about fuelling your body and your brain.”
She finishes with a commonsense piece of advice that we would all do well to follow.
“Make exercise part of your lifestyle.’’
A 30-minute walk five days a week raises life expectancy by a year-and-a-half
Fourteen million Australians are overweight or obese
80% of all Australian adults and a third of children will be overweight or obese by 2025 if current trends continue
Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia
More than half the Australian population is trying to lose weight
Fad diet fails
Lemon detox diet
A jug of warm water with some lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Beyonce reportedly swears by it – but this diet is not sustainable.
The baby food diet
The diet replaces two meals a day with pureed baby food and eating a third, small, low-calorie meal. Will leave you feeling fatigued and lethargic… and probably very bored.
Cabbage soup diet
A homemade soup of cabbage, capsicum, celery, tomatoes and onion. If continued in the long-term, could cause nutrient deficiencies.