Wellbeing at the tip of mine workers’ fingers

Nutritional medicine practitioner Michele Chavelley Hedge reveals the keys to a good lifestyle. The good news is, they’re not as hard as some might think.

Staying healthy requires the same focus, on and off a mine site.

Michele Chavelley Hedge, a nutritional medicine practitioner who comes from a family of blue-collar workers, says there are only three key principles to embracing a healthier lifestyle. And none of them paint an extreme scenario.

“The reason a lot of people don’t embrace a healthier lifestyle is because they think it’s going to require such a big lifestyle change,” Hedge tells Safe to Work.

“They think they won’t be able to have coffee, they won’t be able to have wine. That’s not the case at all. There are lots of levels to a person’s health. My philosophy is to never take an extreme approach.”

Mine employees can start by focussing on the three main things. The first one involves eating real whole foods that are unpackaged and unprocessed as often as possible.

Real whole foods are preferred because they’re high in vitamins, minerals and fibre – all the components that contribute to a person’s good mental and gut health.

“When someone’s eating real whole foods, I want them to think about having a bit of good carbs, a bit of good fat and a bit of protein,” the author of three books says.

“They should start thinking about those three different components in their meals. Once people start eating like that, all of a sudden they stop becoming the sugar muncher.

“They stop becoming the mad binger or mad craver because by eating real whole foods, they send chemical messages to the brain that says they’re satiated. They’re satisfied.”

Hedge recognises that in the real world, people do live a busy lifestyle. The working mother of three admits she doesn’t always manage to eat real whole food in every meal.

But one can opt for the simplicity in avoiding as much processed and packaged food as possible.

The second principal to a healthy diet is to limit the amount of intake of added sugar, Hedge says.

Excluding the sugar found in fruits and vegetables, snacks such as muesli bars and yoghurt disguise themselves as healthy food, but are in reality packed with an abundant amount of added sugar.

Michele Chavelley Hedge prescribes a no-extreme approach to a healthy diet.

“A high intake of added sugar can lead to all sorts of physical and mental health complication,” Hedge, whose recipes and wellness programs can be found on her website called ‘A Healthy View’, says.

“We know there are links among junk food, depression and mood disorders. We know now there are links between excess sugar to the damage of the hippocampus in the brain, which is key to our memory and learning capability.

“Excess sugar also has an enormous effect on our sleep. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that if you’re sleeping poorly, you’re likely not going to be as productive or exercise the next day.”

Hedge adds that many people underestimate the importance of a good sleep. In fact, she prescribes nutrition, exercise and sleep as keys to true wellbeing.

“I’d in fact say that it’s the perfect trifecta, with sleep perched at the top,” she says.

“In order to get a good sleep, we have to consider not just our intake of sugar, but also if we have enough protein in our diet.

“Protein contains amino acid that is a precursor to our sleeping hormone, melatonin. So it helps if we eat a protein-based snack before bedtime.”

The beauty in transitioning to a low-sugar way of life is that people will naturally lose weight, according to Hedge.

She underlines that a good diet is not about cutting down calories, but it’s about choosing the different kinds of calories – those that come in the form of good fat and good protein.

“I rarely talk about weight, but rather your ability to have energy and exercise,” Hedge says.

“When people are so focussed on cutting down calories and feel like they’re in depravation, they’ll eventually bounce out of that and go on a binge. But if what they’ll be eating is quite satiating, they’ll feel quite nourished.

“You cannot fail at this thing called good nutrition. If you don’t have access to the freshest ingredients, you do the best you can and choose the lower sugar option.

“If you have a processed and packaged meal, don’t beat yourself up. For the next meal you have, have some sense of what the cleanest and freshest ingredients you can be eating that are closest to real whole foods.”

Hedge finally suggests that for every person to have a wellness tool kit, which may contain mindfulness apps to bring their stress level down wherever they are.

Other tools that can be useful when working in a remote site are exercise apps, where people may not have access to the gym or other exercise centres.

“Your wellness tool kit should be comprised of good nutrition, strategies for stress relief and things that help you get a better sleep,” Hedge says.

“In times of coronavirus, there are many, many things that we cannot control. We cannot control what life is going to look like in three months, what’s happening to our finances, and how our neighbour behaves.

“But what we can control is what we eat, and that has a direct effect on how we exercise and how we sleep.

“Those three things underpin every single thought we have, because without being well fed, well slept or having some sort of movement or exercise, we won’t be capable of making good decisions.

This article also appears in the September-October issue of Australian Mining.