Veterans Health

Veterans Health

As a Nutritionist, understanding contributors of eating behaviours, in the appropriate context, is essential in providing effective strategies. I have previously consulted ADF members on several occasions and quickly became aware of the unique set of challenges, that impact their health and well being. One of my clients reflected on his experience as a Soldier and shared his story with me;

1. When did you do join the Army, what was your position and how long did you serve for?
I joined in 1988 as a Rifleman with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and went into the role of Field Engineer until 1994. In 1997, I joined the Army Reserve as a Patrol Man with the 51st Battalion, for 2 years. I re-entered in 2010, with the Royal Australian Ordnance Corps, for 2 years.

2. What were your food choices?
Ration packs, MESS, Cooking my own meals, Take away , stews, spaghetti, bbq and cheap cut meats.

3. What were you barriers?
As all meals were prepared for an army of soldiers they were bulk, cheap, flavourless, overcooked and potent with salt, condiments or peanuts. Variety with main meal choices was also lacking. Fruit was available for soldiers to collect when exiting the MESS, but it was very limited quantity and quality. Ration packs were problematic with things that didn’t even resemble food, were full of preservatives and high in kilojoules. You ate what you were given and suggestions weren’t welcome. Now there is better OH&S in place.

4. How did it impact your eating habits and health and how did you handle them?
If I didn’t see anything I liked at the MESS, I would buy my own groceries or buy take away food. I really
enjoyed Sizzler as a young soldier, but you can’t afford to buy it often. Looking back now, I think my choices were poor. I began by making my own breakfast – Weetbix with fruit. I’d make my own lunch – if time permitted or went to the MESS. Dinner was visiting the mess and conducting a reconnaissance of what was available. If it wasn’t appetising then I simply made my own or visited a take away outlet. I really enjoyed a home-made meal.

5. If you could have given yourself some advice back then regarding your health what would it have been?
I would have liked to have consulted the advice of a health professional eg Nutritionist.

6. How has seeing a Nutritionist helped you improve on physical health and eating habits?
I have been educated on the benefits of healthy food choices for me as an individual – and me alone. After completing a food diary for 12 weeks, Karen was able to understand and identify my eating habits both good and bad. I had regular consultations to discuss my food choices and any barriers I am currently experiencing. Karen provided me with a nutritional plan (which I had input) to help me overcome these barriers and educated me about kilojoules with my food selection – very important. Karen always provided me with helpful information and instructions to assist me with my health and well-being goals. Karen’s ongoing support and motivation helps me during difficult times. It has been 4 months now since my first consultation, and my health and well-being goals have been well and truly exceeded. I could not have done this by myself.

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