In a world of endless fad diets, conflicting advice and general food confusion, nutritionist, Suzannah Smart is, quite simply, a breath of fresh air.
Simple being the operative word.
The Barossa dietitian is all about debunking food myths and promoting sensible and intuitive eating habits.
“People are so confused about what to believe, they forget about the basics,” says Suzannah. “It seems complex, but it’s actually really simple.”
She says ditching diets in favour of balanced and nutritious meals, eating five serves of vegies a day and listening to your body can be life-changing, not only physically but psychologically.
“It’s amazing the heaviness that lifts off you when you’re not carrying that negativity around, not calorie counting, not thinking about your body every minute of the day, and not worrying about it all,” says Suzannah.
“It gives you so much space for everything else, and so much more energy.”
An experienced dietitian and nutritionist and the founder of Smart Dietetics, Suzannah believes people have lost sight of what healthy eating actually looks and feels like.
“Many people have lost touch with knowing how to eat according to when they are hungry or full,” Suzannah says.
“We are all born with it – you don’t tell a baby how much to drink! It’s a skill that has huge effects when we learn to trust it again.
“The effect of just being mindful of what you are eating and dragging yourself out of auto-pilot into conscious thought is very powerful.”
Social pressures, unrealistic body images and seemingly endless new diets are also clouding people’s judgement when it comes to food.
Suzannah is no stranger to these pressures and speaks openly about her own personal experience.
“I saw a dietitian when I was younger and it helped me towards what I now know is a non-dieting approach,” the 28 year old says.
“The problem is diets don’t work, or they work for a while and then they don’t – 97 per cent of people who go on a diet will put all the weight back on, plus some.
“It’s our culture too, that instant gratification, and that’s what we are sold in the media, that you can lose that weight quickly and easily. We see the before and after, but we’re not shown the “after” after.
“So it’s very normal to fail a diet, and that can be depressing. It was tough for me to come to terms with that, because (dieting) is what I’d been taught.”
However clinical placements in Australia and abroad, combined with an interest in food psychology, have given Suzannah a refreshingly different approach.
Her philosophy is founded on simple, achievable targets and incremental change, not quick fixes or false promises.
“It’s got to be sustainable long-term and it has to fit in with your lifestyle,” Suzannah says. “People don’t have the time or energy to spend five hours at the gym every day or buy all the super foods and prepare crazily healthy meals.
“I focus more on mindset changes and habit changes.
“It’s not quite as captivating as the fad diets that lure you with a promise to lose 10 kilos in the first week – but it works so much better!”
Suzannah is also acutely aware of the role psychology plays in people’s eating habits.
“Eating is a behaviour – it’s not just food,” Suzannah explains.
“The number of people who struggle with emotional eating for example – it’s nearly every woman who comes in the door.
“Guilt is another thing people struggle with that doesn’t help.
“So I help people focus on little changes that are very achievable. Even if it’s something really little, it often has flow-on effects and you kind of accidentally start making other positive changes.
“Once you put the work in at the beginning, it starts to become a lot more natural and you don’t need to think about it. That’s the way our body is built.”
It’s a philosophy that hasn’t gone unnoticed in the wider Barossa community, sparking a number of collaborations for improved community health.
In 2019 Suzannah partnered with The Barossa Co-op to deliver a Healthier Choices campaign featuring healthy recipes, food demonstrations and education around food labelling.
Equally successful was ‘The Barossa Dietitian’ recipe book featuring “no fuss” recipes from Suzannah’s own kitchen, with proceeds supporting the Kind Hearted Kitchen.
Her next collaboration with Barossa Wellness and True North Yoga in Tanunda will focus on improving gut health.
“It’s been really cool,” Suzannah says. “The Barossa community is really collaborative. It seems like the more I put myself out there, the more opportunities come up.”
Last, but not least, Suzannah advocates for self-kindness.
“Everyone is so harsh on themselves – that’s something I’ve had to work on too.
“But when you fall off – and everyone falls off – the most important thing is to pick yourself back up.
“It’s okay to need some help sometimes too. Life’s too short to hate your body.”
Try meal planning – it makes weekday meals much easier.
Don’t fall for the latest fad diet.
Get more veg into your diet – it’s boring advice, but backed by research! And try different ways of cooking or preparing your vegetables or salads to make them taste great. No-one likes boring salad.
Ask for help if you need it.
I love it when things are delicious but you also feel good eating them!
Because it doesn’t get soggy, this is a great weekday lunch. Click here for this easy recipe!
Anything with chickpeas/legumes – they are a great source of protein.