The Big ‘O’ Series – Seeing the Bigger Picture on Obesity: Article 1

Weighing Up How Childhood Obesity is Portrayed Within Australian Culture:

 A Critical Analysis of Media and Communications Messaging   

 Chantelle Vella 


Childhood obesity is the uncomfortable elephant in the room that we (even as health professionals), often struggle to address when it crops up in day-to-day conversation.

There is a common view held by many, that childhood overweight and obesity, is not a simple problem to “fix”. This has unfortunately been aggravated by a long and widely unsettled history of conflicting media, public, health professional and political discourse and framing of obesity in general, both globally and locally within Australia.

You only need to turn on the television, flick through the newspaper, listen to the radio or scroll through your social media feeds to be told that we are currently in the midst of a childhood “obesity crisis”, which doesn’t seem to be budging anytime soon.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not afraid to push boundaries and speak my mind. I have written this to challenge myself, and challenge you also, to consider the current and future direction of dialogue surrounding childhood obesity and everything it touches.

To put it bluntly, the way we are currently talking about childhood obesity, is not leading to many or any desirable outcomes without causing some sort of upset, uproar, or very ‘fixed’ polarising and dividing opinions*.

*Note that this of course too applies to the general obesity discourse as a whole.

We must therefore overcome the resistance and reluctance to participate in such difficult and painful conversations because we know there will always be conflicting voices that seem to scream louder than our own.

So, what’s the sitch on childhood obesity in Australia?

According to the World Health Organisation 1 overweight and obesity is defined as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”. This energy imbalance is strongly influenced by a complex interaction of social, physiological, psychological, environmental, genetic and behavioural factors 2 often said to be fostered by individuals and communities living in an obesogenic environment conducive of poor health outcomes3. These factors, particularly living a sedentary lifestyle, often seen to be coupled with a high consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor and ultra-processed food, may impair or interfere with the normal functioning of all human bodily systems, inclusive of but not limited to the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidaemias, fatty liver disease, hypertension, respiratory disorders, cancer and cardiovascular disease as comorbidities 4,5 long-term.

According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collated in 2015, at least 1 in 4 Australian children are now classed as overweight or obese, with 63.4% of adults also falling into an overweight or obese weight range 6 – a concerning trend to observe considering children who grow up as overweight or obese are more likely to stay overweight or obese as adults 7.

Childhood overweight and obesity is traditionally measured using the international standard Body Mass Index (BMI) cut-off points; 25 kg/m2 for overweight (preobese populations) and 30 kg/m2 or over for obese child populations aged over two years of age8. Childhood obesity is reported to be a huge burden to the Australian health care system, with new research finding early childhood obesity alone in children under five years old costs us $17 million per year 9. Yet to counter this, “for any successful intervention among 2 to 5-year-olds, the implication is for every child avoiding obesity, there are likely to be immediate savings in direct healthcare costs” 10.

On a policy level, the implementation of a sugar sweetened beverage tax, in addition to reducing the exposure of marketing energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and beverages as reinforced by the World Health Organisation’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) 11, are projected to be projected to be the two most cost-effective interventions curbing environmental diet-related influences on childhood obesity – saving $55 and $38 for every Australian dollar invested respectively 12.

What is the current dialogue on childhood obesity in Australia?

It seems that anyone and everyone wants to join in on the conversation surrounding childhood obesity and its prevention. And that’s great – except for the fact it is remarkably obvious that we’re not all on the same page. It is therefore critical to acknowledge here, where the societal blame for the childhood obesity epidemic has originated from, and why we are even in this situation in the first place.

Those often standing directly in the firing line include; the child’s (“irresponsible”) parents, the powerful food industry for poorly self-regulating (discretionary) food and nutrition labels, intensive food advertising and marketing to children, governments for not making [childhood] obesity prevention and management a political priority, as well as the fragmented public health community themselves for failing to “speak with the one voice” and instil confidence on finding an agreeable path forward 13 .

This frustration is equally shared among my colleagues in the nutrition and dietetics profession such as Accredited Practising Dietitian Dr Helen Vidgen, who at 2017’s World Congress of Public Health acknowledged, “If a family want to get some support from a health professional [in managing childhood obesity] there really isn’t a clear place for them to go…” 14.

It definitely doesn’t help that nearly everywhere we turn, messaging about childhood overweight and obesity often comes across as ruthless, shaming and parent-blaming…


Scaremongering social marketing advertisement tactics play on parents’ guilt

Probably one of the most outrageous examples of what not to do when discussing childhood obesity with parents was demonstrated by Sydney’s Precinct Studios 2010 ‘Break the Habit’ childhood obesity awareness television commercial15 which controversially compares the consumption of junk food to heroin addiction. It boldly confronts parents asking,

“You wouldn’t inject your child with junk. So why are you feeding it to them?”

Such an attempt of instilling a deep sense of fear (and guilt) within parents as the primary target audience, in the long term, may fail to facilitate desired health-related behaviour change outcomes 16 .Once this fear and guilt stimulus is gone, it then will most likely cease to be firmly planted in our minds, which of course is sadly why many social marketers take advantage of this and continue to ‘keep the fear alive’ – a psychologically damaging and highly unethical approach that is bound to do more harm than good overtime.


Reality television showcasing parent-blaming as the “new normal”?

The childhood obesity blame-game is further embodied on “reality” television shows aired in Australia, such as Supersize vs Superskinny Kids 17 as well as other traditional media sources illustrating the everyday struggles faced by overweight and obese children and their families. The show itself though, captively depicts their desperation to live a “normal” healthy life as well as tears, and ongoing “battles” with overeating. Their quest for change is guided by a team of medical professionals in a clinical setting, as well as through the eyes of a patient also receiving treatment to overcome their struggle with anorexia nervosa through the exchange of daily meals and life experiences throughout the show – essentially acting as a harsh call for parental discipline, to “stop being a pal, and start being a parent”.

Despite this, it is evident that such threatening, demeaning themes are still well entrenched within mass media messaging, almost a decade later. News reports and stories centre themselves upon, and frequently rehash ‘shocking’ statistics consequently dubbing childhood obesity as “the new normal” 18 a ‘crisis’, a ‘burden’ and ‘epidemic growing out of control’ – all ways of attempting to build a case for urgency of action – something I feel we are concerningly becoming more and more desensitised to.


Snap to it: Imagery of childhood obesity out to feed us the ‘ugly truth’ – and it’s not pretty

The circulation of photos and video footage in the media featuring overweight and obese children usually accompanied with greasy fatty foods or sugary beverages in their hands is equally as rife and confronting as some of the written or verbal commentary about obesity, consequently eliciting negative and emotionally-charged responses by viewers.

Hence why I deliberately chose not to feature an image of child portrayed in this patronising and stereotypical way. Thus, the selection of media and stock imagery, particularly in regard to obesity, must be greatly considered  to avoid reinforcing and normalising stigmatisation, and unfairly judge a person, their body or their story before being delving further into its broader context and meaning. Images truly speaks a thousand words and reciprocate the powerful role of validating the message one is trying to convey. My advice therefore is to be conscious and wary of others wrongly seizing the advantage of this opportunity as this may directly or indirectly reveal their true colours or harmful intentions in relaying their point of view.

And speaking of images… picture books are also an easily accessible, and usually entertaining medium for children and their parents to gain health education or knowledge – with the added advantage of visually conveying whereby the emotive nature of particular conversations through storytelling. The recently published Don’t call me fat – A first look at Obesity 19 is one that could inflict the opposite and wrongly desired effect to mainstream evidence-based obesity prevention efforts, potentially damaging a child’s psychological state, perception of body image and self-esteem by shedding obesity in a negative light:

‘It doesn’t matter whether you are a child or an adult, weighing more than is healthy can stop you from doing fun things like running, jumping, swimming and climbing as far and fast as others…It can be hard to find clothes that feel comfortable. And that can make you feel as if you are very different from others and that you don’t fit in.’

Yep. The author actually said those awful things.


There is indeed an endless amount of emerging ethical considerations that must be addressed to overcome prominent hurdles and barriers to achieving individual, community and population-level healthy sustainable behaviour change from improving our nutritional status, to engaging in physical activity from an early age as possible.

And while this most certainly opens up an entirely new conversation about obesity which we should simultaneously engage in, one of the most notably significant of these is the critical need to shift our focus “from an outcome to a behaviour to something that people can control” or become a ‘natural’ part of daily life because often “the obese individual is victimised without being given a solution” 20 as Dr David Katz rightly recognises.

Weight-biased bullying can negatively impede on the psychological wellbeing of overweight and obese children, where Bridger and Wareham 21 suggest that a more holistic approach be taken ‘beyond the BMI’ – something I am open to exploring in due course.

Yet, overall, from this empirical survey on childhood overweight and obesity, it can be learned that there are many inconsistencies in media and communications which urgently need to be resolved. Health communicators must craft childhood obesity-related public health messages much more humanely, being personally relevant, meaningful and practical for individuals (parents and children) to grasp. However, the real challenge here is to not to point the blame at one particular group or factor while simultaneously, sensitively softening the use of harsh vernacular to create a clear and convincing call to action which will still be followed through by to help improve health outcomes, without arousing unnecessary feelings of guilt or shame that often comes with dealing with weight management and obesity prevention in children and adults alike. It therefore goes without saying the ongoing metaphor of the obesity “war” needs to be dropped and alternatives to be reconsidered.

So, where should we take the conversation on childhood obesity from here?

Find out my personal thoughts as this series continues over the coming months! In the meantime, subscribe to my blog and connect with me @nutritionmunch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep the dialogue flowing.

Till next time,

Chantelle x Nutritionist – BSc, ANutr



Chantelle Vella is a tertiary-qualified Registered Associate Nutritionist with The Nutrition Society of Australia, Master of Health Communication student at The University of Sydney, and brains behind the blog NutritionMunch. Chantelle’s nutrition mission in a nutshell is to change-up the conversation surrounding health and wellbeing in a deep, meaningful, positive and thought-provoking way. Chantelle’s current passions and interests lie mainly in the areas of paediatric nutrition, health, nutrition and science communication, community and public health nutrition, food sociology and civic dietetics, and the emerging field of arts in health and each of their respective and creative applications in humanising all facets of health and healthcare.


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  11. World Health Organisation. Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO). Geneva, Switzerland. 2016.
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  16. Soames Job RF. Effective and ineffective use of fear in health promotion campaigns. American Journal of Public Health. 1988;78(2):163-7.
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  20. Katz DL, Murimi M, Pretlow RA, Sears W. Exploring Effectiveness of Messaging in Childhood Obesity Campaigns. Childhood Obesity (Formerly Obesity and Weight Management). 2012;8(2):97-105.
  21. Bridger, T. L., & Wareham, A. Beyond BMI: The next chapter in childhood obesity management. Current Obesity Reports, 2014;3(3), 321-329.












Nutrition: A Story I am Determined to Tell Differently

A happy fairy-tale ending. Will we ever see it come to fruition in this ever-changing and often confusing world of food, health and nutrition? To solve some of our world’s most pressing problems, we need to deeply explore and brush up on our creative potential.

Once upon a time, we highly valued storytelling as an integral part of our culture and our upbringing, health professionals were far more respected, and there wasn’t so much “nutrition noise”.

And now?

We are suffering from what I like to call a ‘disease of disconnect’, where nutrition is not only lost in translation, but is a truly endangered science. We seem to be too fixated getting the on the evidence-based science straight, and less involved in the human story and experience of food and nutrition, and how it impacts us and our world on a deeper and personal level.

We therefore absolutely owe it to our past, present and future indigenous and non-indigenous people on this land to revive this, and in the process, paint a more humanistic approach to health, nutrition and wellbeing through storytelling and creativity in all its forms.

Which is why I purposefully pressed pause on my own career journey towards dietetics to study the complex art and science of health communication – because without creating and maintaining a sense of connection and shared meaning, then really, what’s the point of it all?

There also seems to be an unfortunate myth-conception floating around, that nutrition science cannot coexist and flourish together with other disciplines to achieve the same goal, such as putting an end to malnutrition and putting a stop to global warming. This is simply not true. We can no longer afford to work in solely in isolation from one another.

Creating any kind of divide, will not allow us to unite, conquer and prosper to our greatest potential. 

If we don’t take the time out to listen to each other, understand each other and speak up for the greater good, we will be stuck in this same predicament until we endeavour to sustainably create change while producing enough food to continue to feed a forever growing population.

I am therefore making it my ongoing mission to change this, and permanently move us away from the battleground, to the middle ground, and tell this nutrition story differently – because as the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

We now, more than ever, need to recognise there is so much more to food than the nutrients they contain, especially in this never-ending era of nutritionism where we are constantly battling over who’s ‘right’ and who’s ‘wrong’ about nutrition, food and dietary patterns.

Food has the power to brings us together.

Food brings us closer with our family and friends. It has the potential to create bonds with people we’ve just met at a conference, a party, in the school yard or at a local community event.

Food also gives people a purpose beyond nourishment. It provides fulfilling jobs for nutritionists (like me), dietitians, farmers (the special people who grow our food!), chefs, policy makers, scientists and so many others – especially anyone who plays a fundamental role in the farm-to-plate journey – where it should be gratefully acknowledged that their story, becomes part of ours too.

Furthermore, food has the potential to create and preserve memories through story. Laughs at the family dinner table, cooking disasters (admit it, they happen), immersion within a different food culture, eating out on a first date, and the culmination of our life’s food experiences, all directly and indirectly support and contribute to our mental, emotional, social, and even our spiritual health. Food also greatly determines our longevity (and if you don’t believe me, why not explore the ‘secrets’ of the Blue Zones – the world’s longest living people).

In contrast, everyday people struggling to make ends-meet, who unfortunately in reasons often beyond their control, do not have access to education or an abundant supply of fresh, nutrient-dense and affordable food, or don’t have the knowledge or skills to prepare and cook this food for themselves and their families. The homeless, those living in war, or those struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with food cannot be forgotten in this either, as these vulnerable members of society may not be able to share in these same personal stories and experiences, which may be detrimental to their health and wellbeing both long and short term.

Thus, for all these reasons and more, it is incredibly important that we, especially us as the lucky bunch, dare to do nutrition differently, and while we’re at it, create a community always ready to listen and serve up empathy, compassion, sustainable and shared solutions.

Together we can rewrite the nutrition narrative and shake up refreshing, positive, innovative and much needed local and global change – something I strongly believe in, and am 100% committed to spending the rest of my career accomplishing – because that my friends is a story worth telling with a happy ending Xx.


Image credit: Artist Eugenia Nazaret – Instagram @Eugenia.nazraret 

Why I’m done fighting the fad diet tribes (and why you should be too)

On your mark, get set…paleo.

The trigger has been pulled. Your heart is racing as intense feelings of fear and excitement pump through your veins.  You are finally ready to embark upon a new path towards improving your health and wellbeing.

You take a few deep breaths, trying to shove any remaining fragments of anxiety down your throat.

Your head is frantically pounding with panic, as you wrap yourself around the seemingly never-ending rules of the game.

Grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, alcohol, coffee and fluoridated water are totally off the menu.

The humble acai bowl is in, but eating anything that contains gluten, equates to being the world’s biggest sin.

Not being able to snuggle up in front of the TV with a box of Hawaiian pizza on a Friday night is indeed a tough prospective –  but not as tough as coming to terms with the critical self-judgement and disappointment you’ll face from failing to follow through on your “good” intentions.

You glance back to notice the millions of others cheering you on from the sidelines.

They were the ones who inspired you to do this in the first place.

You confidently take up more will power and determination in your stride until the sightings of positive horizons, as if in a sheer act of betrayal, further distance themselves from you.

You begin to realise this profound “holier than thou” way of eating is much more of a pain to your hip-pocket than you first envisaged. You feel bloated, shaky, moody and lethargic, no longer able to tolerate the series of sharp painful hunger-pangs that come and go throughout the day.

Your vision suddenly becomes clouded, as constantly attending to your own miserably-restrictive dietary needs is starting to take over your entire life.

And that’s why, in an activated nutshell, I’m done.

I’m done with all the food hipsterism, nutritionism and ‘superfood’ elitism nonsense spruiked by the fad diet tribes, and you should be too.

Amongst our individual and collective pursuit of seeking wellness and a shared aspiration of (hopefully) living a long happy life, our mental health and wellbeing should not be put in a position of sacrifice or compromise. We all want to have our cake and eat it too, and as a foodie-nutritionist I am fully supportive of this notion.

In the end, there is no gold, silver or bronze medal awarded to those who deprive themselves of the food they love. Health is not a race or competition, and yet here we are treating it like an Olympic sport that’s more brutal than The Hunger Games.

It truly baffles me as to why our primal instincts have suddenly kicked-in to fixate much of our precious time, energy and devotion looking up to a bunch of fit, glowing, “clean eating” social media health-elitists – who by the way, possess absolutely no medical, nutrition or health-science qualifications and training whatsoever. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Gwyneth Paltrow.)

You see, the proof of our vulnerability isn’t just in the pudding. It’s in the “natural”, sugar-free chocolate-beetroot “superfood” brownies made with organic, free-range, cage-free, non-GMO, farm-grass fed, cold-pressed ingredients that have a bachelor’s degree in science – the perfect recipe for developing an eating disorder. An eating disorder that goes by the name of Orthorexia Nervosa; an unhealthy obsession or avoidance of certain foods, sandwiched between our fear-driven anxiety.

Yet, this is where I find myself stuck between a rock and hard place.

On one end of the spectrum, I recognise the prevalence of such eating disorders, especially in young people, is on the rise. While on the other, the latest Australian Health Survey results paints a stark and shocking reality; less than 4% of us Aussies are consuming the recommended serving of vegetables. That means, around 96% of us are not consuming enough plant-based foods, slowly sending us down a dark and gloomy trajectory of developing diet-related chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

And let’s not get started on that fact that over a third of our western-style diets are mainly composed of our favourite energy-dense nutrient-poor ‘discretionary foods’ such as pies, processed meats, alcoholic beverages, soft-drinks and desserts.

While it’s time to seriously veg out on a fresh (and non-extreme) perspective of health and nutrition, moderation is the ground we find ourselves struggling to settle on.

I’ll be the first to admit that the message of “eat a well-balanced diet” and exercise more isn’t a sexy sell. We (as health professionals) could do a much better job at getting the message across.

But tackling the complex relationship between diet, disease and eating disorders, is by no means an easy feat – especially in the face of our cyber and social media world heavily tainted by the presence of a bunch of dubious, outrageous and conflicting nutrition claims:

“Stop eating so many carbs – they make you fat”

“Surprise! You should be eating carbs”

“19 super foods that naturally cleanse your liver”

“10 clean eating myths that you need to stop believing”

It’s no wonder we’re so lost and confused.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the headlines that throw us off guard telling us to reach for the low-fat yogurt one minute and the full-fat variety the next.

We are falling for just about every conceivable fad diet under the sun – The bikini body diet. The blood type diet. The sleeping beauty diet. The alkaline diet. The lemon detox diet. The raw-till-4 diet.

Even the moon diet.

Glossing over the hype with a dash of caution and common sense just doesn’t seem to be cutting it. There’s a tribe out there catering to absolutely whatever we want to believe about so-called “healthy eating”.

But that’s not how science operates. That’s how “good” business operates.

Thanks to the fad diet tribes being extremely well versed in the art of marketing and pseudoscience, chia seed concoctions are no longer a novelty food enjoyed by a privileged few. Now you can buy them at a Woolworths store near you. Seriously.

If coming out the other side of a nutrition degree has made me appreciate anything, it’s that nutrition is a science. An intricately detailed and complex world at that, which like some of you, I was too, afraid of understanding. (Let’s just say high school chemistry wasn’t exactly ‘my thing’).

The hard truth of it is, I never signed up to pick a side in this ongoing battle of the diet wars.

I didn’t sign up to convince you to quit sugar, ban carbs for eternity, go on a 30-day flab-to-ab purifying detox cleanse, drink bone broth, drown everything in coconut oil or sell you a bunch of bogus supplements that won’t magically rev-up your perfectly-functioning metabolism.

And neither should you.


Because dragging ourselves in the mud with this “my diet is better than your diet” mentality, isn’t doing anyone any favours. Because we don’t deserve to lose our sanity being conned into spending over $299 on a program without seeing the results we desire. Because we are perfectly imperfect human beings and that’s something we should all be okay with.

So instead of trying to tear up, shut down, take on or obsess over each other’s conflicting dietary practices and beliefs, instead of wasting our money on a magic Nutribullet that doesn’t deliver on its promises, let’s work on finding some common ground.

Yet whether we realise or not, ground is what we already have in common. Ground to grow new understandings about the world and about ourselves. Ground to lay down self-acceptance, self-respect and self-confidence. Ground to deeply nourish us and connect us to what truly matters.

Ground to harvest fresh beginnings.

We must become more attuned towards our own dietary patterns and our internal feelings about our bodies, because we urgently need to revive the real joy of food and its relationship to the roots of our health, now more than ever –  without getting sucked into the cunningly “clean” agendas of the fad diet tribes.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll gain more of an appreciation for evidence-based science in the process.

A necessary nudge needed to take us off the beaten track, to somewhere we no longer find ourselves racing towards a “perfect” state of health and wellbeing. A path we should never have been destined to go down in the first place. Something I had to dig deep to discover along my own journey of ups and downs. But that my friends, is another story I live to tell another day.

Dietetic Dilemmas Part 2: What’s YOUR (Career) Flavour? – How to Figure it Out

Now that I’ve lived to tell my personal tale about diving deep into the nutrition world, it’s time for me to help you write yours.

First things first, I’m the realest.

Whatever path you choose to take is not easy, but it will be worth it.

So here’s a taste of things to take note of in making some life-changing decisions.

Identify What’s your Flavour

Inspired by one of my favourite music artists Craig David, you need to stop and ask yourself, ‘What’s your Flava?’ in the nutrition world. Is it working in a hospital? Is it working in private practice? Is it working in intensive care? Research? Cardiology? Renal? Mental health? Public health? Paediatrics? Is it working with adults? Is it working in maternal nutrition? Is it working with the elderly? Food science? Is it working in the corporate world? Is it working in research? Is it working alongside the next generation of Olympic champions? Is it working in food security? Is it working actively the media? All of the above??? Is it working 9am till 5pm and having stability in your life? Or is it about adventure and not knowing what each day will bring?


There are so many ‘flavours’ or career-path variants in the nutrition world. Go with whatever takes your fancy and your unique skillset.

Although I’ve barely scraped the surface, you need to hold onto the fact that the world of nutrition and dietetics is your oyster, as it is mine. So, if you’re not stopping to ask yourself these types of questions now, and evaluating and revaluating your answers at least every three to six months and appropriately act upon them, then you’re probably wasting precious time and money being in a place you don’t want to be.

But the BEST part is, that the choices we make now aren’t static or permanent either.

It’s a bit like picking an ice-cream or gelato. Chocolate might be your go-to favourite flavour for a while, but sometimes you’re craving an extra scoop of something else, or want to add multi-coloured sprinkles to mix it up to make the small joys in life a bit more fun and interesting. Some days you might want it to be served up in a cone, and other times you want to take your time eating it from a cup. However, the most difficult part of this is when the ice-cream or gelato you know and love is in high demand and there isn’t enough of it left, or tragically, it has completely run out – which means, you ALWAYS need a backup plan.

Yes, I am alluding to the stark reality here that is job scarcity in the nutrition field. It’s a real issue and I won’t sit here and pretend that it doesn’t affect me or that the problem doesn’t exist. It’s now been nine months since I’ve now graduated from my undergrad degree, and let me tell you #thestruggleisreal.

It’s an interesting dichotomy because we all know that nutritionists are technically in high demand to address our current complex and messy food and health climate. And while thankfully our jobs won’t be replaced by robots any time soon, not having a full-body of clinical dietetics knowledge behind you can be quite limiting at times. However, on the plus side, it makes sorting out your suitability in matching job descriptions and criteria a hell of a lot easier. For example:


Me: Errr, nope. Not yet? NEXT!

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Life is about experimenting with and working with what you’ve got by mixing and matching all the things you love and take a real fancy to. Although having said that, you still need to half an idea of what you’re into.

Yes, if you want to design and implement an appropriate dietary intervention plan for those living with multiple medical conditions or critically ill patients being cared for in an intensive care unit, you’ll need a dietetics degree. Yes, if you enjoy engaging with some serious number-crunching, then assisting people undergoing dialysis or mixing up enteral nutrition feeds for patients who have undergone gastrointestinal-related surgeries might be for you – but again, you’ll need a dietetics degree. If your goal is to help people recover and prevent the relapse of eating disorders, then you’ll need a dietetics degree behind you most definitely. If you want to create menus for people spending their time in hospital wards or nursing homes then you’ll need a dietetics degree for that too. If you want to fuel people’s bodies on space or military operations, you’ll need a dietetics degree (and even further accreditation in sports nutrition and/or food science too). I am not going to lie, feeding astronauts and sending food out of this world would be a pretty cool job!

However, if your mission is to improve the quality of food served up in school canteens and inspiring our next generation to eat healthier, you don’t need a dietetics degree to do that. If you want to work in food and nutrition policy, conduct research in public health nutrition or work in food security for example, you don’t necessarily need a dietetics degree for those things either. If you want to work in food product development, the food industry or food safety, agriculture and sustainability you can get by without a dietetics degree but a food science or agricultural degree could prove to be very advantageous. If you want to prevent the incidence of diet-related diseases such cancer, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other (cardiovascular) conditions then public health and community nutrition is definitely a great place to be, so pursing further studies in public health or communications is very useful.

If you want to answer some of the big questions in food, health and nutrition then going down the honours and/or PhD pathway would indeed be a smart move for you – and the great thing is, you can tailor everything to your personal interests too. And why the heck not consider breaking out into nutrition or science journalism if you still love writing but the world of academia doesn’t seem to be entirely “your jam”.

If you can’t seem to pin-point what your ‘flavour’ is (at the moment), then I highly recommend you;

  • Seek advice from your lecturers or tutors who know exactly what’s going on in the industry, where it’s headed and where you might best fit in with it all with your goals and aspirations in mind. In all honesty, I have found talking to a general careers counsellor is only so helpful, so you’re better off utilising your time with them for resume checks and brushing up on your job interviewing skills.
  • Chat to other students who have graduated from your degree or the degree or field of work you are looking at getting into.
  • Find yourself a mentor! You don’t have to wait till you’ve graduated either. This will prevent panic and hopefully give you a much smoother transition from uni to into working life. Find someone you get on with and who “knows the drill”
  • Look at the career profiles/bios and blogs of people in the industry who you look up to and even those you aren’t so familiar with – I guarantee you, they didn’t have an exactly ‘linear’ career journey either. If anything, will give you some perspective that there are endless ways to ‘reaching your destination’ and continuously evolving and striving for bigger and better opportunities.
  • Expose yourself to as many different world or personal views as possible. Now, that does involve networking in some shape or form by attending a bunch of different conferences, workshops or events and actually talking to people, but you’ll be constantly surprised by what new knowledge, ideas or contacts you walk away with that could lead you in the right direction. As scary as it can be sometimes, networking opens up so many doors. Yes, fortunately and unfortunately, it often comes down to who YOU know, not always WHAT you know! I can absolutely vouch for this because most of the opportunities in nutrition-land I have so far managed to snatch-up was because I knew somebody, or somebody stumbled upon my profile on social media and was keen to collaborate with me on a project they had going. And on that note…
  • Gain industry experience while you’re studying or in your uni breaks! This will hopefully not only make your job prospects look a bit brighter while studying, but you’ll be able to identify immediately what kind of work you enjoy doing as well as what you don’t. Undertake an internship, shadow a dietitian, get some hands-on volunteer or work experience, start a blog – whatever it is that you find appealing, gravitate to it!
  • INNOVATE. Be brave. Be bold. Be daring and go forth and do what nobody before you has done before! If you think you’ve found a niche, don’t be afraid to look for opportunities (abroad too) and take some calculated risks by using your creativity to tap into it – it might just be what the world needs.
  • Spring all of the above into action! Trust me, you won’t regret it! I cannot stress enough the importance of being open minded!

The biggest thing that enabled me to let go of needing to follow the status quo, was knowing that the door is always open for me to go back and study dietetics at any time and at any uni that offers it while having the flexibility to gain some practical experience and further study under my belt.

Remember, there might not be work in the area of nutrition you want to dive into now, but always keep busy on a side hustle (or two) to keep your foot in the door. Engage in something that you find productive, meaningful and worthwhile in your pursuit of going after what you really want.

You have to let go and try not to overthink things, but instead, live as though everything is rigged in your favour – even if it’s petrifying and you have no idea what’s waiting around the corner, because it might honestly be the best thing since sliced bread.





Dietetic Dilemmas Part 1: Why a career in dietetics isn’t my cup of tea right now – and why I’m totally okay with it.

(Even after dreaming about it throughout my entire undergraduate degree).

 To dietetics or not to dietetics?

THAT is the question probably on your mind after surviving undergrad trying to figure out what next. Here is the backstory to how I woke up to making my decision with no regrets – and how you can too.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Chantelle. She didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life (and to be honest, she still entirely doesn’t!). BUT, her favourite subject during high school was food technology. So, she went with her gut, enrolled in a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) at The University of Wollongong, got accepted into a Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics somewhere in the world, immediately found a job as a clinical dietitian after graduation, and lived happily ever after.

Errr nope. That’s obviously not quite how things have panned out for me thus far… Not even close. Yet here I am forever grateful that things turned out differently from the perfect fairy-tale I envisaged.


If you’re a student, new graduate nutritionist or dietitian feeling like you’ve somehow been led off the beaten track, I am dedicating this post to you.

Admittedly this was not an easy post to write and I know some of it might shock you, but, I believe everything happens for a reason and everything will always work out in the end the way they were meant to be, even if you can’t quite see it.

I’m sure like many of you, I was highly convinced that,

“A career in dietetics is your only option.”

In all honesty, I think there is a bit too much (and I dare say, unnecessary) pressure to sign up to study dietetics. I got the impression that it was literally a life or death thing. That if you don’t pursue the dietetics pathway, you will be forever ruined. (We’re talking roughly $30 000 or more, down the drain if you don’t end up “using” your degree. Yep. Seriously). Ouch.

Well, it turns out I was wrong – unfortunately not about the debt I’ve accumulated during the course of my tertiary education (so far), but about dietetics being my “only” option.

I was so fixated on chasing this “dream” that in fact, I was completely blocked off from looking outside the box and discovering what I was truly passionate about – but more on that later.

When I want to stick to my guns, I stick to my guns.

Despite literally starting off my degree on the wrong foot by conveniently fracturing one of my fifth metatarsals on the first day of uni (oops!), I was determined to pick myself off the ground!  I wanted to run my own little private practice after completing my Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics. So, I did what anybody who wanted to make their dreams come true would do.

I put in the hard yards. I endured all the late nights and early mornings. Battled through all the exhaustion that came with my three-hour round-trip to uni and back each day. Drank multiple cups of loose-leaf tea to keep myself mental health in-check. Took up yoga – occasionally. Survived more chemistry and biochemistry labs than I could have ever imagined. Cried my way through biostatistics (twice). Sat through most of my nutrition exams feeling super hangry as they always happened to be held during prime dinner time from 6pm till 8pm (I mean, who wouldn’t get hungry writing about food and nutrition for two hours straight!?). I also networked both online and offline which was truly the biggest blessing because I met some awesome dietitians along the way. I joined far too many uni clubs for my own good and made a bunch of friends for life who tried to keep me sane through it all. It was indeed a lot of fun but understandably very draining at the same time!

At this point I assume some of you are breathing a sigh of relief that that I am still here living to tell the tale (and in one piece too), while a bunch of you may be madly hyperventilating and questioning your personal life choices.

Well, if it makes you feel any better, here comes the part where I shockingly decided to question mine.

The lightbulb moment

Towards the end of my degree I took pathophysiology as an elective unit. I was thinking “great”. This will be the most exciting and clinically-orientated subject to-date. One step closer to being a dietitian! #Winning.

But there was one problem. Regardless of finally being able to see what I was working towards much more clearly, I realised I wasn’t enjoying it, at all. This shocking realisation freaked me out. Yet despite only having one more semester of my degree to finish up, I suddenly wanted OUT. I felt as if I had completely “switched off” and I no longer had the same motivation that I started with to keep going.

Something didn’t feel quite right. And it was reaching that point, I started searching.

I had to ask myself, what was pushing me away and what was I really gravitating to?

I knew that deeply instilled within me, was this immense and burning desire to help and connect people to their health and wellbeing through nutrition. While of course that hasn’t changed in the slightest, it now seems to stem more strongly from a “prevention is better than cure” perspective, as opposed to focusing on the medical nutrition therapy side of things – which explains why I don’t really have a knack for the nitty-gritty world clinical dietetics right now – it’s not exactly my cup of tea at this very moment in time, and by taking some time to reflect on life, it probably never really has been. But that doesn’t mean I can’t and won’t come back and revisit it later down the track. Mind you, there is nothing wrong at all in pursuing a career in dietetics. We all have our unique and individual places in the world, and on a  personal level, I just don’t see myself there yet.

So how exactly did I wake up and wriggle out of my dietetic dilemmas? Why was I suddenly not afraid to set off on a different path and beat to a different drum?

As strange as that sounds, it was as if my passions had gently tapped me on the shoulder and had slowly been leading me towards my true ‘life-calling’ all this time and revealed itself as I felt I was entering “almost-quarter-life-crisis mode”. It was from the moment I acknowledged my love for the world of public health nutrition, health advocacy and equity, media and communications, paediatrics, eating psychology and behaviour-change, marketing, research, fad-fighting, health writing and journalism just to rattle off a few, that things finally ‘clicked’ for me. (Better late than never, hey?). I felt so “at home” with my decision, that I didn’t even put in an application to study dietetics (*gasp*), because I know first-hand just how competitive it is, so I didn’t think it was right to selfishly take away that position from someone who genuinely very deserving and determined. However, the most liberating part of this for me is realising that I actually don’t need to stress myself out further and have a dietetics degree behind me (yet), giving me time and space I desire to obtain some real-world experience and “play-time” in this area as possible.

To tackle the more practical side of things, I also decided to enrol in a Masters of Health Communication at The University of Sydney (which to be honest with you, I didn’t even know existed as it’s the only degree of its kind offered in Australia which I think is way cool!). Today, with one semester under my belt already, I have absolutely ZERO REGRETS! It is the perfect blend of everything I love AND, best of all, I get to apply all the evidence-based nutrition knowledge I have acquired along the way too! (Total win-win!)

So what now and where too from here?

For the moment, I plan on soaking up as much experience in the nutrition industry as I can while I’m studying and eating out at the yummiest cafes and restaurants in Sydney (because this foodie-nutritionist has got to fuel her heart and soul you know!). I also want to hone-in on developing my own niche in the world and polishing-up my writing skills, which means you’ll be seeing plenty more blogs and bits and pieces in the media from me this year (so watch this super exciting space!)

And speaking of writing…the second installation of this blog series ‘Dietetic Dilemmas’ will be headed your way shortly where I’ll provide YOU with a handy go-to guide and a bunch of life-changing advice to help YOU figure out your special unique place in the nutrition world and how to best go about heading there!

So while I acknowledge that taking the road less travelled by isn’t is a piece of cake, it can truly make all the difference to your life and those you meet along the journey. I am very excited to see where this non-traditional nutrition career path leads us all. You might see me blogging here in a few years’ time as dietitian, and you might not. But either way, I feel now more than ever that I am on the right path to finding my way – and I know it’s going to be okay.

Till next time,

Yours truly,

Chantelle Xx









Savour the Flavour of Fresh Beginnings

Welcome to 2016

(and my first official blog post for the year!)

I don’t know about you, but I AM REALLY EXCITED to start over a new leaf this year! Having said that, I acknowledge that this time of year can feel quite daunting for many. This might be especially true for you, if you are wishing to step up and move forward with your health goals, whether they have to do with nutrition, fitness, being more physically active, boosting your mental health or whatever else they may be, or just don’t know where to begin.

As I mentioned over on the blog, behaviour change can be difficult, but it’s NOT impossible to make a series of small sustainable positive changes over time. Our journey towards better health is a lifelong one. That’s why I’m not here to encourage you to make any new year’s resolutions, but rather, focus on the bigger picture – hold onto whatever worked for you in the past year, while having the courage to let go and learn from what didn’t. Let’s raise the bar  higher, make some S.M.A.R.T goals,  go with the positive flow,  chase our dreams and  savour the flavour of fresh beginnings.

To help preserve that mentality for the next 365 days (and beyond), I present to you my first miniseries of #healthhacks and nutrition tips you can adopt in any way you choose to try make the year ahead a happy, healthy, less burdensome one – but most importantly, I hope it is indeed a pleasurable one:

#Healthhack 1:

Appreciate that nutrition and health is not a one-sized-fits-all thing.

What works for one person in regards to diet or exercise, may not necessarily work for another. Working out what’s best for us is a bit like Prince Charming running around with Cinderella’s glass slipper trying to the find the “perfect fit” – it may take a few attempts armed with persistence and determination to get it “right” before it falls into place, but this will help contribute to YOUR sense of accomplishment and a “happy ending” in the long run. Our behaviours surrounding nutrition and health, and ultimately understanding our own relationship with food, is a very innate, individual and personal journey and it’s important to respect that.

#Healthhack 2:

Shift the focus to looking at your dietary pattern as a whole, rather than just singling-out individual nutrients & their impacts on health in isolation.

After all, we eat food NOT nutrients which should be enjoyed with a sprinkle of gratitude, with people you love and ALWAYS looked at in the context of nourishing our social, mental, emotional health and wellbeing – not just our physiological state alone.

#Healthhack 3:

Ditch the idea of categorising/labelling foods unnecessarily!  

Labelling foods as being either “good” or “bad” can actually be more unhelpful in achieving your health goals. A good example of this is the rise of the  silent eating-disorder, orthorexia whereby obsessing too much over a “good” thing, can be a bad thing.  Making lists of food you should “NEVER EAT” or foods you MUST eat everyday to be healthy (unless of course you have a genuine food allergy, intolerance, medical condition or cultural/religious beliefs and practices that overturn this notion) will make you fall for the same trap. (And speaking of traps, the fabulous Tara from The Nutrition Guru and the Chef set up a REALLY good one here). I want to see more #moderationmovement trending in your life and less “clean eating” chit-chat demonising & vilifying ‘food/nutrient X’ after 5pm – or just anytime for that matter.

#Healthhack 4:

Adopt a more mindful, relaxed and intuitive approach to life that involves speaking more kindly to yourself.

My nutrition mission and philosophy about health and wellbeing is strongly influenced and inspired by the motive, which is why Munch on Mindfulness is my little side-project and concept that I hope to fully integrate into this blog in the near future 🙂 .  Learning the art of mindfulness and intuitive eating can be a huge help in gently bringing about a sense of awareness of your behaviour, attitudes and feelings towards your health and your body. Mindfulness can help you put your current situation into perspective, whilst simultaneously gives you the tools to reach your health goals. Be comfortable in your own skin and eat foods YOU enjoy. Starving yourself on salads and crackers or eating fancy acai bowls with ingredients you can hardly pronounce, have never even heard of and hold claims that sound way too good to be true, is NOT the secret to health. I know you’re probably going to roll your eyes when I say this, but it really IS about MODERATION and BALANCE. Listen to your body and it’s internal cues.

Tied inextricably with the practice of mindfulness, is that of body positivity and self-compassion. Living a healthy lifestyle is NOT a race or competition out to determine “who did it better” or who’s got the best bikini body. As they say, “be a warrior, not a worrier!” – this is your journey, OWN IT.

#Healthhack 5

Don’t overdo it but don’t be so hard on yourself either, if you don’t immediately achieve what you intend to.

 In other words, keep everything in perspective. It’s all about taking one step at a time and celebrating the small wins. All good things take time and nothing super magical is going to happen overnight which is why my next #healthhack is super important… 

#Healthhack 6

Monitor  your progress as you reach towards your goals.

In the public health world, we call that surveillance. In the everyday world, keeping a food and physical activity diary or having a chat with your healthcare professional essentially a way of doing same thing.  Frequently checking in on how things are going with your dietitian/GP/psychologist or another qualified health professional, can motivate you to keep going strong on track or alternatively, steer you in the right direction to change up your game plan and implement helpful strategies if things don’t seem to be working for you. How often should you do this? As often as you need or feel comfortable! Now if you’re not sure how exactly  you’re going on the nutrition front, or it’s a been a long time since you’ve really had a good think  about your general eating patterns and behaviours, I encourage you to take this very simple healthy eating quiz devised by the very clever Professor Clare Collins and a team of nutrition experts at the University of Newcastle. This is a fantastic starting point as a way of pinpointing and  keeping track of what you are eating (or what you could be eating more of)  to help you set up some goals on your lifelong journey towards better health and wellbeing.

#Healthhack 7:

Whatever action(s) YOU decide to take to improve your health, make sure it is sustainable, safe and makes you feel at ease and good about yourself.

This one is the essential ingredient you need to bundle all of the previous #healthhacks together and make them work for YOU. If you get bored of an exercise/fitness regime or a way of eating that just is too restrictive or not flexible enough to include foods you enjoy, or isn’t satisfying on both an emotional or physical level, DITCH IT. Seriously. You’ll be better for it. The “novelty” of living-off a bunch of expensive organic/detoxifying/paleo/raw/sugar-free/gluten-free/GMO-free “superfood” hoo-ha and blending them in a nutribullet for breakfast, lunch and dinner will wear-off and will probably be doing you a lot more harm than good and leave you very hangry. I’m all about health and safety first, so please *do NOT go ahead and do that!*. Instead, seek help from a health professional who can give you evidence-based personalised advice if you get stuck. Remember, you are NOT on this health journey alone. You HAVE TO FEEL COMFORTABLE AND AT EASE with the changes you are implementing! There are always great people you can reach out to and don’t forget about your support network of family and friends too. (PS. my tasting plate of all things credible to edible might be another great place to start!)

So there you have it. 7 simple #healthhacks you can keep in mind while pushing on with your health journey in 2016 and beyond. If you’ve got any of your own #healthhacks that you’ve personally found really helpful, I would LOVE to hear them, as well as some of your goals for 2016!

Inspired by the words of Bruno Mars, let’s make 2016 the year we learn to love and embrace our perfect imperfections, and that of others too.

Let’s pledge to make 2016 the year we listen to the way we talk to ourselves and give our mental, social, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing a bit of TLC.

Let’s pledge to make 2016 the year we no longer seek health advice from celebrities strutting the red carpet or posing and drinking kale smoothies on Instagram. (“Dr Google”, I’m looking at you too). Speaking to a real, caring, compassionate person who has the appropriate evidence-based training, experience and expertise from studying a nutrition or other health and medical science-related degree (for at least three to five years at university) will be a LOT more helpful AND TAILORED TO YOUR PERSONAL NEEDS I assure you.

Let’s pledge to make 2016 the year that we find ways to move our bodies more often – not because we have to, but because we want to and because we actually find that some forms of physical activity and exercise can be quite enjoyable and good for our health.

Let’s pledge to make 2016 the year we work on small simple things to improve our health. A great start would be striving to eat more fresh local produce especially fruit and vegetables as it is becoming apparent us Aussies really aren’t getting enough of the good stuff! #eattherainbow all the way is what I say!

Let’s pledge to make 2016 the year we stop comparing ourselves to others. It’s YOUR body. YOUR health. YOUR wellbeing. YOUR journey. OWN IT.

Let’s pledge to make 2016 the year we ditch succumbing to fad dieting, “detoxes”, and getting sucked into “superfood” marketing madness and the like – FOREVER. Please.

Let’s pledge to make 2016 the year we start to no longer feel guilty about or constantly defend our food choices. They are OUR personal choices after all.

Wishing you all an incredible, successful, happy and healthy new year ahead,


Chantelle Xx


Navigating the world of social media  for simple, credible, trustworthy, evidence-based information on nutrition, health and wellbeing can prove to be quite a challenge.

While most of us are fortunate to be able to access information about nutrition and health, whenever our heart’s desire at the click of a button, this may place us in a position of vulnerability, fear and confusion from trying to find some clarity amongst the multitude of viewpoints expressed within the social media arena because everyone’s a nutrition expert and it’s often difficult to know  who you CAN trust.

Never fear – that’s why my social media tasting plate is here!

I’ve divvied up some FABULOUS trusty, easy-to-read, informative and often humorous go-to blogs and social media platforms into a couple of broad categories of interest here for you in the one place to have fun and explore:



Note: These lists do not cover ALL my favourites, so I invite you to head over to Storehouse here to follow over 90 wonderful Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian’s (APD’s), nutritionists and students in Australia! (Hopefully I will be part of the storehouse crew someday too!)

Also check out my little side project Munch on Mindfulness* I’m working on in my spare spare time which combines my love for nutrition and mindfulness, which I hope to fully  integrate as a cornerstone piece of my blog and my nutrition career in the near future!

If you’re following me on twitter you can subscribe to my list of nearly over 400 nutrition experts to bite into the latest nutrition research, news, trends, media releases from authoritative bodies and professionals, delicious recipes and more!   

And speaking of twitter…how could I forget to mention that one of my favourite things to engage in while hanging out in the twitterverse  is #eatkit! #eatkit is run once a month  by some very fun APD’s Catherine Saxelby and Emma Stirling who LOVE to keep on top of the latest and upcoming trends in food and nutrition and discuss them with a bunch of like-minded foodies and nutrition professionals! If you would like to join in on the #eatkit fun, the details are all here for you. And oh, did  I tell you  there are some GREAT prizes up for grabs!


Last year I won this gorgeous bottle of Cobram Estate’s First Harvest Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil from participating in an #eatkit chat on the topic of healthy fats!  So delicious and absolutely perfect with salads!

(*Just a little FYI – you’ll need a Facebook account to directly access these links!)

And a quick final word: the internet or anything that is said on the internet and social media, does NOT replace the personally tailored evidence-based care and advice you will receive when popping in to see your fully qualified medically trained health professional(s); wether it’s your local doctor, accredited practising dietitian, psychologist or other allied health professional!

P.S. – celebrities strutting the red carpet, celebrity chefs, quacks and people making a living out of posting recipes making too-good-to-be-true cleanse/detox/teatox/disease-curing/rapid-weightloss etc. SCIENTIFICALLY UNPROVEN NONSENSE “health claims” on instagram don’t make the cut – #sorryNOTsorry! – your personal health, safety and wellbeing (and that of others) should NEVER be put in jeopardy and NEVER compromised on, no exceptions.

Till next time #munchoncredibility,

Chantelle Xx

Blog at first bite

Hi there & welcome to my new blog nutritionmuch!

I love chatting health, nutrition, wellbeing and science a bunch

I LOVE FOOD that’s colourful, funky fresh, FABULOUS, and has a flavour punch

Together we are going have fun, laugh & learn lots – I’ve seriously got a good hunch


By now you’ve guessed, I love good rhyme

But that’s how my love of communications started way back in thyme*


Nutrition really isn’t as fun, without a good pun*

P.S, my favourite vitamin is the one that comes from the sun!


I’m really here to put my heart & soul into inspiring you with MANY WAYS of healthy eating

I don’t believe in fads, “the food police”, depriving yourself of foods you love or “cheating”

I’m all in for the occasional chocolate or ice-cream treating

Even if you think those kilos are sneakily creeping, no need to give yourself a beating!

Intuitive eating (as you will find out), truly takes prime seating


Self-compassion & kindness goes a long way

So I’m hoping you’ll bear with me as I throw bits of wisdom into the mix & have a play

I’ll dispel lots of myths and nonsense that drives you and me a bit cray

While I’m at it, I’ll whip up some useful tips & tricks so you don’t wander astray

That’s pretty much summed up my nutrition mission

Catch you incredible humans later till another blog post idea comes to fruition!

Chantelle Xx 

get your healthy on