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Kathleen Dullaghan

Kathleen Delley 130x180I grew up in a small country town in Western Victoria, Australia. Despite being an active child whose mother tried to provide with healthy meals, I was obese, continually struggling with my weight and the associated social stigma from my peers. Time and time again I attempted to change my eating habits so I could be ‘normal’, but found my love of food and cooking, my family and broader environment, made this a near impossible task. At high school I lost a large amount of weight only to regain this, and more, by the time I’d completed my BSc in genetics and biochemistry. Throughout my life I have been angered by how those unable to distinguish healthy from unhealthy, such as children and the uneducated, are unfairly targeted by advertising. I knew that my way of life was not only a product of this environment, but also of my family’s method of expressing emotions through food, and lack of understanding of the physical consequences of poor diets and inactivity. Following my BSc I started paying for my lifetime of being obese. It wasn’t until I started re-inventing myself out of a hapless relationship, and rekindled my passion for cooking, that things started to look up. This time I made nutrition the number one priority. Being the logical person I am, I couldn’t fathom providing my body with fuel that was unhealthy! So, as a 22 year old, I began walking long distances, delved deep into nutrition research, and allowed my cooking skills to flourish. In doing so, I reduced my weight down to just over half of my largest size and obliterated the symptoms I’d started experiencing due to my obesity. Through my determination to change my personal situation I became committed to ensuring that every child, every human being, is no longer manipulated by industry, has access to safe and nutritious diets, and has the education and skills to realise this. I enjoyed helping others to achieve their personal goals. When people kept asking me what my secret was, I realised that nutrition education and promotion had become my a passion, and that I had to do something formally about taking it further. Thus, I enrolled for a Masters degree in human nutrition to further fuel my passion and set myself up to help others on a larger scale. While studying, I also worked on nutritional epidemiology at the Cancer Council of Victoria, and have since been employed on a type 2 diabetes prevention programme at Diabetes Australia. Now I have my Master’s degree. My current employment allows me to fulfil my desire to help others on a larger scale to adopt healthier habits, and one day I hope to be involved in policy-making to make an ever larger impact. In 2009 I attended the ICN Congress in Bangkok. It was a wonderful occasion, but it saddened me to see that a culture with an abundance of nutritious fruits and vegetables and a great traditional cuisine, now seems to be embracing the fast food habits of the West. Equity and logic are two key aspects of my personality. The world as we know it is far from aligned with equity and logic, particularly when it comes to food, nutrition and health. Regardless of background or socio-economic status, no one should endure what I went through as a child. This is what keeps me driven to make this world a better place. Like most nutritionists, I realise that the political system is primarily run by those interested in profit and power. I am determined to make the voice of public health nutritionists heard in the political arena to change policy, to produce and implement action plans with nutrition at their heart, and to make this world more nutritionally equitable.