This is a blog as much about friendship as it is about an inspiring woman with a powerful message to share and the unbridled passion to bring it to the world. I first met Malika Collett behind the receptionist counter at a gym on the Sunshine Coast. Before you form any misconceptions of myself and imagine some toned and terrific gym junkie, I should qualify this statement and explain that the gym was actually attached to the first high school I taught at, and I was supervising my Volleyball team as they developed their fitness. Anyway, as any good receptionist, Malika greeted me with a warm smile, bubbly personality and helpful nature. It was after all her job to be nice to me. However, we clicked instantly and a friendship quickly developed (not part of the her job description); I even joined said gym (shock horror) in an attempt to spend more time with my new friend. She introduced me to Pilates classes which generally involved her moving fluidly with a slow and deliberate grace through each of the poses while I could, at best, be compared to a newly born calf awkwardly trying to control her limbs. Although we no longer attend Pilates, thankfully, I get to witness Malika tackle life with that same poise.
Since that chance meeting at the gym, our lives have changed infinitely. I’ve made the tree change, relocating from the Sunshine Coast to Chinchilla to complete my country service and hopefully provide students in rural schools with the same opportunities that rural schooling gave to me. I now live the farm life at our property near Jandowae. I’ve married my highschool sweetheart and been blessed to have Malika and Eden, her first born and my goddaughter, standing by my side at my wedding.
Meanwhile, Malika is now a fully accredited nutritionist and dietitian, doting mother to three cherubic children, and by chance or fate living in Chinchilla, the same rural town I first moved to, as wife to a country police officer. We’ve been by each other’s side through the highs and lows - there’s nothing we couldn’t solve from the comfort of Malika’s couch with a cup of tea and some homemade granola in hand. She’d drop by with more cleaning products when I was frantically doing a bond clean of our house and I’d drop nipple shields over when she was battling breastfeeding for the first time. There weren’t fancy dates or flashy clothes, but a friendship forged on dowdy house clothes, messy buns and delicious, wholesome food.
Fittingly, this foodie now helps people develop a healthy relationship with food through her business Nourish Nutrition & Wellness Clinic. Years in the making, Malika’s business venture is the result of determination, patience and resilience. She was determined to finish her degree and did so whilst juggling part-time work, family and the build of her dream home. She was patient when she put her career on hold to raise Eden, Milla and Connor. And her resilience has been there through every failed recipe attempt (yes, they exist - ANZAC biccies circa 2011), post-partum recovery and the relocation to a rural town and completely new lifestyle. Taking it all in her stride, Malika has become a champion for the Chinchilla community, immersing herself wholeheartedly to ensure she can provide a service second to none.
Coinciding with Malika’s return to work in January, she co-organised a sell out soiree for women bringing the Embrace documentary to Chinchilla Cinema. Guests were treated to pre-show drinks and lovingly made canapés – think bliss balls and veg quiche – a fashion parade embracing all ages and body shapes and numerous raffles and goodie bags kindly donated by local businesses. However, the showstopper was the film itself that delivered a raw, confronting and motivating message about embracing your body and loving your own skin. Hurrah for a message that everyone can ‘embrace.’ While a night out with girlfriends would have been enough in itself, Malika was determined to do more. All proceeds received from the night have gone straight back into the planning of educational workshops for the benefit of the whole community and will be rolled out in the coming months.
Sharing her knowledge is what Malika does best, her passion lighting up the room and captivating her audience. This year alone she has run an ‘Eat A Rainbow’ workshop at a local primary school and a ‘Nourished Kids Workshop’ to help parents with their children’s eating.
When she is not educating the masses, she works out of an office in Chinchilla and visits the Better Movement Clinic in Dalby fortnightly. However, if you don’t live locally, you don’t have to miss out. Malika also offers Skype appointments for anyone living further afield in rural, regional and remote Australia who cannot access her services in person. She can chat everything from intolerances and food allergies to management of health conditions and even fussy eating. Trust me, I’ve seen her two-year-old daughter steal a bag of spinach leaves from the fridge. That’s certainly not what I used to sneak from the fridge; she is definitely doing something right.
I sat down with my dear friend to have our favourite chat yet. We talked business and let me tell you her excitement for health is contagious. Get her insights into nutrition and see how she keeps it real in our interview below.
What led you down this career path?
I studied psychology and was very interested in health psych. To be honest, I really enjoyed food and was interested in looking after myself and keeping healthy. It’s pretty simple.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?
Currently, the challenges that I’m facing all concern the mixed messages that my clients are getting. There is so much information out there regarding nutrition and day in day out I see people that are confused. They don’t know what diet they should be following this week and can’t keep up with the health trends and as a consequence, I think people are giving in and not necessarily eating intuitively and in a way that is right for them. I find that really quite upsetting and frustrating.
What really gets under your skin and makes you mad about the healthy industry?
Gosh, there are just so many health myths out there. As a dietitian, I am very much about the individual and I think that every single person needs a different approach. The messages that we are getting at the moment are that we all need to be following a specific diet and we all need to be restricting gluten, or this or that, and that is not considering what is right for you and your body. At this point in time, I don’t think the research strongly agrees with all the blanket restrictions that we are being told to live by. The one size fits all approach really gets under my skin. Certainly, there are reasons that people live with restrictions and I see those clients all the time, but our bodies all need different things.
What is your top nutrition tip for someone who is confused by all the conflicting messages in the world?
Keep it simple! Don't get caught up with superfoods and food trends. There is nothing wrong with grains, fruit, veg, nuts, good quality dairy and meat. There is no reason to take those things out of your diet. You don’t need to be living on processed green powders or any of those other expensive products we are being told that we need to be consuming to be healthy. Go back to basics.
What does it mean to have your own business now?
It allows me to have a bit more flexibility in my approach with clients and target and tailor my services to what the community needs. Being able to have that creative flexibility to deliver workshops that I see a need for, as opposed to being told that I need to specifically follow certain programs means I can help people more. I get to really engage with my clients in a more individualised capacity.
What’s something most people don’t know about you and are surprised to find out?
That’s a tricky one. I’m so honest that I think people get the real deal when they talk to me. I am fairly forthcoming and open so most people know what they’re getting.
How do you juggle being a working mum?
It’s a challenge! It’s obviously a challenge I am about to face more than ever now that I have the three kids. Having a great partner is a really big help. Organisation is obviously the key and working together with my husband. I don’t know if there is a secret trick, but I think it is a constant work in progress. I’m not sure that we ever get the balance right but it’s something we are constantly trying to fine tune and improve on.
How has having your children changed or inspired your approach?
I am very careful with the kids to make sure that they have a healthy relationship with food. I never use “good or bad” to describe food in front of the kids. I don’t want them to grow up having a fear of food.
What are some of your favourite things to do as a family?
We love camping. Now that we have a boat, we love skiing and being out on the water. When it’s just us we could be doing anything. But we really do love eating together, but I think you would expect a dietician to say that.
How would you describe your approach to food?
Can I say simple again? It’s fresh, no fuss, real food with very little processed food. I cook and love cooking so it’s also homemade.
What is one food that you couldn’t live without?
That’s a really tough one. I think about this constantly. You’ve stumped the dietician and foodie. I have to admit I really, really do love avocado.
Name three inspirational women you admire and why.
- My daughters, Eden and Milla - They forgive easily, love endlessly, live in the moment, try new things, never judge others, show resilience and they inspire me daily to be the best version of myself.
- Turia Pitt - It's impossible not to be inspired by her. Her tenacity, strength and resilience in the face of true adversity are incredible and it shows that anything is possible.
If you could speak to everyone in the world at the same time, what would you say?
We are all different and therefore our journey to happiness, fulfilment and self-love should be different to those around us. Be kind to everyone, yourself included, be grateful for your loved ones and your experiences in life and be authentic always.