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You are what you eat: nutrition and self-care

Musculoskeletal disorders are the biggest cause of disability. Despite the billions spent, the problem is just getting worse. Latest medical guidelines strongly recommend exercise therapy as the first-line-treatment for musculoskeletal disorders instead of much more expensive surgeries.

A personal tragedy started a journey for Nutritionist Bonnie Chivers to raise awareness of the impact food and lifestyle choices can have on our overall health.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in self-care and if embraced, food can be harnessed in ways that have very positive impacts on our overall health.

The saying ‘you are what you eat’ is increasingly accepted in a literal sense, as research consistently shows that certain foods aid in the prevention of illness, while others worsen conditions or increase risk.

We all have individual goals, whether they be weight related, to treat, manage or prevent disease, to improve our overall health and vitality, prepare for an event, or any number of unique ambitions.

Most of these things can be achieved by focusing on high quality food and ingredients. Rather than following someone else’s plan, consider researching 10-20 foods that can help you achieve your goal and make these the focus of your diet. You can then include a few of these items in each meal and search for recipes that include these ingredients. This makes meal planning a whole lot easier than searching through the thousands of recipes that appear when we google ‘healthy meal ideas’.

When it comes to weight loss, cutting down your caloric intake is what helps. However, very few of us can stick to extreme or restrictive diets for long, therefore close consideration of what you do eat is just as important as what you cut out – especially for long-term health and wellbeing.

Our tendency to dwell on what we feel we can’t eat often generates feelings of resentment towards food and ‘nutrition’. Instead, if we shift our focus towards things that we enjoy, yet also align with our health goals, then the rest can fall in around those enjoyable, healthy ingredients.

It is also worth noting that anything too restrictive may lead us to deprive our bodies of important nutrients – such as calcium for bone health. For those unsure of what foods/nutrients they need to support their goals, current health status or life stage, it is worth checking in with their GP or a qualified nutritionist or dietician every few years. 

For me, my overarching goal relates to disease prevention. I lost my dad and a young cousin to bowel cancer when I was in my mid-twenties. The journey made me aware of the impact food and lifestyle choices can have on our bodies, and this is what motivated me to start my academic journey in nutrition and public health.

Six years on from enrolling in a Graduate Certificate in Human Nutrition at Deakin, I have completed two Graduate Certificates, my Masters, two years of a PhD and proudly manage a small business selling health food.

So, from loss and suffering, a whole lot of learning and positive changes have resulted.

Through the getback blog we will explore more specific nutrition topics and I hope to encourage some of you to make positive changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Bonnie Chivers

Instagram: the_well_being

BAppSc, MHumNutr, PhD Candidate 

Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation – MCHRI
School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University