Why Preparation is Paramount (And The Irony of My Work in Aboriginal Communities)

Soft drinks in remote community

A photo I took walking home. Some things don’t belong out here.

My watch read 1.25pm. Damn.

Five minutes until the taxi rocks up and I haven’t packed my food yet.

Let’s do this.

Flinging my bag onto the kitchen bench, I begin to raid the pantry and the fridge. Lucky I’ve done this so many times before, I know exactly what I need.

First I count out my slices of bread – Two for dinner, two for breakfast, two for lunch, two for dinner, two for breakfast, two for lunch.

Twelve total and in the bag. Man I’d go crazy if I was gluten intolerant. Sucks to be those guys.

Peanut butter for brekky. Check.

Tuna (sustainable ;)), two cans, chilli. Check.

Bag of spinach, two apples, and bag of cashews. Check.

Tin of chilli-con-carne for tonight. Minestrone pasta soup tomorrow night. One mi goreng just in case I get peckish. Check.

Lastly, two glucosamine pills, six fish oil tablets. My knees suck.

Oh yeah and a can of coconut water, don’t want to forget that!

Zipppp. Bag is packed. Good hustle.

Outside a car horn beeps. That’s my ride.

Crapppp I haven’t finished my apple. Why are taxis always on time when you don’t want them to be?

Apple between my teeth, I swiftly throw my backpack on, grab my other bags one in each hand, lock the door behind me and skip down the stairs, starting to feel a little flustered.

Darwin is so. Bloody. Hot . Every single day. I’m over this heat seriously. Why won’t it rain?

This thought replays over in my mind as I start to feel that tingle on my back – the warning sign that 1,000% humidity + backpack + rushing down three flights of stairs = a sweaty back.

I run past my neighbour downstairs having a cigarette.

“Hrmph” I grunted, still with the apple in my mouth. Hopefully my subtle chin flick signalled my attempt to say hello.

“Hey mate, airport please.” I manage to mumble out to the taxi driver, forehead sweat now pumping.

“No worries”, he replies. “Hot one today uh?”

I throw my bags in the back, slam the car door shut behind me, and the cool air-con smothers me like a liquid blanket.

The Need to Be Prepared

Now whilst I would’ve appeared terribly unorganised to my neighbour and taxi driver, in actual fact I was very well prepared.

You see, when I go to do grocery shopping on the weekend I have no choice but to plan ahead for my meals. And they have to be detailed.

I’ve got to plan specifically what food I will eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every single day. And it has to be transportable and non-perishable.

If I don’t do this, I basically don’t have access to any food (that I’m willing to pay for!).

And this routine has become a good habit for me now when I head out to remote Aboriginal communities for work (basically every week).

Ok, I could pack my bag early in the morning instead, but nobody’s perfect 🙂

The Two Ironies

I should quickly address the irony here in this post. Yes I am the community dietitian, aiming to improve the eating habits of residents living in remote communities. And yes, I am eating loads of bread (some haters out there), tinned foods, and even the occasional Mi Goreng instant noodles.

But this is because in remote Australia, fresh, desirable food is not readily available, and if it is it will cost you an arm, and sometimes your leg.

So in fact the real irony here is this. If me, dubbed the “food man”, does not shop at the local store because the healthier food is ridiculously overpriced and the quality overall is very poor, what are the chances the locals are gonna do that?

Incredibly slim.

A Sad Reality

Here, let me show you some shop photos I’ve taken on my travels.

Notice the prices. It’s fair to say they are at least double if not triple prices in the city.

One Broccoli head $5.90

 

Spam and corned beef, a “staple” “food”. Fat in one tin = 20 teaspoons of butter.

Sugar-free coke varieties. Nice to see it sells (a little bit).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s why I am bringing my own food to communities. (And for the record I do try and bring the healthiest things I can that come in a tin.)

Complete the circle – What do I advise my local clients?

In a nutshell, together we come up with ways they can make small changes to their eating habits but still enjoy foods they prefer. I highlight the healthier food alternatives available (if any), and if we have time I’ll go and show them at the store too.

Kind of like a mini-shopping tour!

Ultimately everyone already has at least basic understanding of what is healthy food and what isn’t, but it’s the entire environment (accessible foods, prices, marketing, the welfare system) that needs to change in order to see any large-scale improvement in their health and wellbeing.

And I sure as hell am not opening that can of worms today.

Planning Ahead Rocks

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

To spin this on a positive note, this year I have developed valuable planning skills that I otherwise never used to have.

Like I said earlier, when grocery shopping I have to plan for each meal on each day of the week. Fifteen meals or more sometimes.

And I’ve said this previously but I want to emphasise it again – write a shopping list. Even if you think you know what you need, if everything is written down you are much more likely to buy just those foods. Plus you won’t forget anything.

There are very rarely occasions where I can use this excuse on myself, “I’ve got nothing to take to work for lunch, so I’ll just have to buy something.”

Forward thinking encourages me to make better food choices without even trying. It’s a great system and it will work for you too.

And it doesn’t just need to be with food.

Plan your exercise routine in advance too. Something with regular outcomes you can measure.

If it has a weekly structure and weekly outcomes, you are far more likely to stick to it. That’s why so many people follow a set exercise routine from a magazine or personal trainer.

Just like with shopping lists, having that plan makes it clear what you want to accomplish, it helps builds consistency and habit

And it works!

 

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Comments

  1. Ps. I’m in Daly River today and it seems this will be my last trip remote for sometime which is really a big shame. I’ll explain more on this next week…

  2. Wow Joe, great descriptions here. I love the intro and the messages in this post. Great work. It’s still perhaps a little loooooong but very readable and enjoyable. Looking forward to the next installment and more photos please!

    • Hi Emma

      Thanks for that, yep it’s so easy to write and then before you know it you’re past 700 words!