WHY are so many of us overweight, unhealthy, tired, forgetful and suffering aches and pains, particularly as we grow older?
Well, one big reason is the way we eat, according to nutritionist Cyndi O'Meara.
Cyndi is the author of Changing Habits, Changing Lives, first published in 1998 and republished in its fourth edition this year, and creator of 2016's controversial documentary What's With Wheat?
She has been a regular visitor to Toowoomba over the years, including a visit earlier this month on her Real Food for Health tour, spreading her message of the need to change our attitudes towards diet and our eating behaviours.
Having completed pre-med studies including anthropology at the University of Colorado, and graduated from Deakin University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science majoring in nutrition, it didn't take long for Cyndi to reject the calorie-counting diets then in fashion and look instead to the traditional diets of the small scale societies she had studied in anthropology.
While she's not advocating a return to our hunter-gatherer days, she does advise eating local, seasonal wholefoods and ridding our pantries and fridges of packaged foods with flavourings, colourings, fillers and chemicals.
She says the new ketogenic diet, based on low carbohydrates, lots of good fats, little fruit and no sugar, reflects an older lifestyle in which humans did not always have plenty, and the body broke down fats rather than constantly feeding off glucose to supply its energy.
Today, we don't have these highs and lows of diet brought on by the seasons, because everything is always plentiful, but that is not necessarily what our bodies need.
Cyndi believes our focus should be on what we can eat to give us the greatest energy and vitality, and says by eating nutrient-dense food, you don't need a lot of bread, cakes, cookies and other carbohydrates.
"Food is a big part of why we have so many lifestyle diseases," Cyndi said, referring to diabetes, allergies, gut issues, autoimmune diseases and even autism, ADD and ADHD, all of which have increased drastically in incidence over the past 30-40 years.
"We need to stop going to medications, ignoring the pain or taking another drug instead of looking at our lifestyle to help solve these problems," she said.
She urges people to look past the big supermarkets with their easy packaged options that "look like food but aren't really food" and support local organic producers.
She also encourages people to look into the wheat industry and the changes to agricultural practices which have occurred, including the introduction of herbicide glyphosate and its effect on our bodies.
"Our age group - people in their 50s and older - can afford to do this, and can educate our children and grandchildren in a better way to eat," she said.
Supporting the growth of community gardens and the return to vegetable gardens in our own backyards, Cyndi said "we've lost our connection with the earth". But do we have the time for all this in our busy modern lifestyles? Cyndi believes we don't have a choice.
"If you don't spend time and money now on your health, on good food and movement, you're going to spend a lot more time and money later trying to fix the problems, the pains which have developed as a result," she added.
For more information about Cyndi and her work, go to www.changinghabits.com.au.