Have your oats, but don’t forget the cheesecake.
My name is Kat. I am an Aussie critical care doctor who has a not-so-secret passion for food of all shapes and sizes. Except coriander.
I also have an inability to sit still, a love of travel and sport, a thirst for knowledge, a sense of adventure and a tendency to bribe my colleagues with baked goods.
When I’m not sleep deprived or on night shift, I love accruing CPD points, travelling the world, and creating or writing about food. You can find my colourful creations on Instagram at @oats.and.cheesecake; my travel tips abroad on Trip Advisor ; my Australian foodie haunts at home on Zomato; my more refined restaurant reviews for Doctor Q Magazine; or my pun-peppered summaries of the Brisbane food scene with my fellow foodies at Gourmand & Gourmet.
My attitude to a healthy diet is simple.
Eat nourishing food to enrich the body 80% of the time, and enjoy your favourite treats to enrich the soul for the other 20%.
As a teenager in the early 2000’s, I struggled with the idea of a healthy lifestyle. After all, we were the generation famously given the message “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels“. Even before the days of Facebook, we were bombarded with advertising in our favourite magazines about how we should love ourselves for who we are, followed by cake recipes and tips on how to quickly drop the last 10kg.
Way before Paleo was even a thing (the diet, not the species), we heard all about Dr Atkins, the cabbage soup diet, the South Beach diet etc – right in the midst of the rising popularity of new fast food outlets and an ever-growing range of packaged foods in the supermarket. When you’re overloaded with marketing at a young age, no wonder that myself and so many of my all-girl school peers had a warped idea of what healthy was meant to be.
Fast forward 20 years, and we have a fascinating dichotomy in Australia, where 16% of the population are affected by an eating disorder but two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. We now live in a culture of the time poor. Only a handful of adults eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis, and when you’ve got the likes of UberEats who can deliver straight to your door, it’s far less time consuming to order in than source fresh produce and learn how to cook wholesome food.
We also have social media in all it’s glory, which only makes it easier for us to be overloaded with these ridiculous ideas about food. One scroll through Instagram and you’ll find every blog imaginable dedicated to #foodporn with enough freakshakes, supersized burgers and fried-food monstrosities to last a lifetime. In the same swipe you’ll also unleash a herd of these so-called “influencers” who are paid to flog skinny teas and coconut oil under the guise that it will help you look like the entirely photo-shopped photo of themselves.
Somewhere in between, you have these amateur body-builders who manage to eat restrictive diets incorporating little more than protein powder and junk food, who stay incredibly chiseled in their physique due to their calorie deficit. And don’t even get me started on the ‘health bloggers’ who have no formal science based qualification whatsoever, but who are all too keen to dish out grossly unfounded advice about the latest magical ‘superfood’ they’ve found on Google. These pretty social media people always seem like they have the ‘easy way’ to stay healthy.
So I suppose that time hasn’t changed much really. We are still inundated with wildly differing ideas about fat and skinny, healthy and unhealthy, good and bad food etc. It’s exhausting!
So, this is just a word of advice from someone who doesn’t have a cult following on Youtube or a supplement range to promote; but instead someone who has spent over a decade studying and happily invested a lifetime’s worth of debt into a career in medicine, so that I can help other people with their own health.
Healthy does NOT involve constantly calorie restrictive eating, or binging and purging. But healthy also does NOT involve exercising to the extremes and being meticulously controlling with food under the guise of being ‘self controlled’. Healthy is NOT relentlessly counting carbs in MyFitnessPal, avoiding all starchy vegetable matter but eating bacon and icecream because it “fits your macros”.
Healthy is also NOT about making an abundance of excuses for why you can’t possibly exercise or eat fruit today. Healthy is NOT about trying to outdo each other in super-sized portions for Instagram fame. Healthy is NOT about the harsh confines of diet restriction just as much as it is NOT about a daily pursuit of culinary hedonism.
Healthy is not about the extremes. Healthy is all about balance.
As I doctor I know all too well that life is incredibly short, so I won’t be advising you to give up your favourite foods. I have certainly never met a patient on death’s door who said they’d wished they’d eaten more kale.
But what I do advise is that 80% of the time you should eat like you’re going to live to be 100. Eat a wide variety of mostly unprocessed foods, not too much, mostly plants and as many different naturally-occurring colours as possible. Be open-minded and experiment. You may just figure out which fruit, veggies, grains and pulses you genuinely like, which work within your budget and restraints of cooking time.
However, I appreciate that there’s no point living to be 100 if you can’t enjoy yourself along the way. So 20% of the time, give yourself permission to eat the dessert and drink the wine, on the proviso that you have a fantastic time doing it. Immerse yourself in the moment, be mindful and thoroughly enjoy every bite of it.
Have your oats, but don’t forget the cheesecake.
Dr Kat (BSc, MBBS)