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Total Wellbeing . . . Melissa Smith has launched a new business helping provide people with nutrition and exercise advice. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/SARI ROBINS-LAUGHTON

The health and wellbeing industry is increasingly at the forefront of people’s consciousness. As part of a new Oamaru Mail series, Ashley Smyth is speaking to industry providers of all modalities in the Waitaki district, in an effort to demystify some of the ways they help people to help themselves.

Managing her diet and keeping active has been integral to Melissa Smith staying healthy while living with chronic illnesses, which means she is perfectly placed to be helping others do the same.

Melissa Smith Total Wellbeing, which launched last week, is a dream realised for the Oamaru woman, who has degrees in nutrition and physical education.

“I’ve always been into sport, and I’ve got quite an array of health conditions of my own. So health and wellbeing has always been important to me, because I’ve had to manage certain things. I’ve got Type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease, so nutrition and exercise has always been a big part of managing those conditions.”

At the peak of her netball career, Mrs Smith played for Otago under-21s and also the Otago B team in 2004, in what was then the National Provincial Championships. She also won a silver medal in discus at the National Secondary Schools Athletics championships.

Mrs Smith started working out of the newly opened Movement Hub in Harbour St last Monday, offering nutrition consultations and personal training sessions, or packages combining the two.

“It just really depends on the needs of the client, and what they want to do,” she said.

“Everyone is so individual in what they need and what support they need, and at different places in terms of what they’re looking for and what health means to them.”

She anticipated clients would mostly be seeking her services to help with energy levels or weight loss, but she could also help with nutrition and exercise advice for sporting events.

“I’ve also done a Fitgenes practitioner training, which means if people really want to delve into their genes they can do a health and wellbeing profile, which can show them how they can actually work quite preventatively if they’ve got certain genes that aren’t considered favourable.”

The Fitgenes test involves a saliva sample being sent away to a lab, and a report being developed after that. The results use genetic information to help people make better dietary and lifestyle choices.

Mrs Smith and husband Craig have three boys, Louie (6), Mason (4) and Albie (9 months).

She will be working two nights and one day a week to start with. These hours may increase to satisfy demand.

“I’ve got wee Albie and I kind of need to build it up to justify daycare for him.

“It’s ideal for now, I can choose what hours I want really, and if there is demand I can increase it.”

Q If you could offer people one piece of advice to help improve their life, what would it be?

Whatever you do, eat and for exercise, you’ve got to nourish your body and your soul. You’ve got to enjoy your exercise, and you’ve got to eat the food that makes you feel good, and it’s got to be sustainable in the long term, whatever you’re doing.

Anyone can do a diet and lose weight on it, but you’ve got to be able to maintain it. So it’s got to be sustainable long-term. Do what nourishes your body and your soul.

Q What’s one thing people might not know about what you do?

I am a certified Fitgenes practitioner and the approach is based on the science of nutrigenomics which looks at the interaction between your genes, nutrition and lifestyle choices, and how these influence the genes’ messages to your body.

It’s true you can’t change your genes, but you can affect their expression and influence with the right nutritional, exercise and lifestyle choices.

It’s just another piece in the jigsaw really, like an opportunity for people to really explore their health if they’re not getting answers from other avenues.

Q Any misconceptions about your industry?

People think if they’ve fallen off the wagon, they’ve got to do this cleanse and this detox to feel better.

But actually you don’t.

That’s where people feel guilt and shame and end up bingeing and overeating and then they feel really guilty about it. And they think, ‘oh I’ll start on Monday’, but actually just focus on your next meal.

You don’t have to do a three-month detox thing to start living a better healthy life.

Q What do you like about your job?

The people and the satisfaction of setting some goals with them and helping them achieve them.

I was personal training before, and that was more about the exercise, but the food came into it a bit as well. Often the goals they set, they achieve other things.

Some people come to me and they want to lose weight, but it’s the people who come to you and want to have more energy and feel better who end up losing more weight, because that’s not their focus.

If you make it about health, that’s when it all falls into place for people. When you look at other aspects of sleep and stress, and things as well, it’s not just eat well and exercise, but there’s other pieces of the puzzle as well.

Q How does your “Total Wellbeing” approach work?

People approach me, we investigate their needs and make a plan from there.