• (L-R) Kellie McDonald, Jeffrey Morgan and Allira Potter (Instagram / @fitness_kellie, @jeffreyallstars, @grub_guide)Source: Instagram / @fitness_kellie, @jeffreyallstars, @grub_guide
Social media is all about the fitspo, the green smoothies and the transformation selfies, and these Indigenous influencers are making their mark in the movement.
By
Sophie Verass

28 Oct 2017 - 9:30 AM  UPDATED 28 Oct 2017 - 9:34 AM

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you'll have heard that our diets and exercise regime could be vastly improved. We're in the era processed food, high-sugar, excessive alcohol consumption and many of us have very inactive desk jobs. As such, a 2014-15 ABS report found 63.4 per cent of Australian adults were overweight or obese and at risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.    

However, on a more positive note, lots of us are committed to improving our health - and we can see it being done online. Like most things, 21st Century fitness has entered the digital space and there has been a recent explosion of health and fitness on our phones and on the web. Health and fitness apps have grown 62 per cent in 6 months, YouTubers watch 5,500 years-worth of yoga videos alone and trainers, nutritionists and fitness personalities now have a following of millions.         

Australia is somewhat pioneering this movement, with our country being responsible for some of the most popular wellness and fitness bloggers in the world. However, the lack of diversity amongst the Kayla Itsineses and Sarah Wilsons doesn't quite influence our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the same way that seeing one's own mob does.

Despite Black Comedy deeming kale as, "green shit", today - kale or no kale - plenty of Blackfellas are making a name for themselves by helping their community (and the wider community) take on a more healthy and positive lifestyle.  

 

 

Chris Warrior / @_blackfitness

He's the motivational voice, the account @_blackfitness, a sharing platform for Indigenous people who are taking on fitness and health challenges.

His account, Black Fitness, started in 2015 after Chris saw almost no social media platforms for blackfellas to share their workouts or dietary tips. 

"I wanted this page to inspire, motivate and encourage our mob to live healthier lives for family and for personal quality of life," Chris told NITV. "[The account] allows our mob to be able to learn from each other, considering the alarming statistics of smoking and chronic health issues - we need to encourage each other with healthy foods and being more active." 

Chris' Story

In 2012, the Kokatha/Wirangu man lived a typically "single/no kids" lifestyle, where he would play videogames for hours, drink energy drinks daily and rarely cook homemade meals. His weight went from 105 kg to 121 kg in just over a year. "I didn't even realise it was an issue, especially not moving around so much, you don't realise how unfit you really are," he says. 

Chris went to the doctors with the flu, but medical tests came back revealing far more than the common cold. "Tests revealed I had Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"Picture your body as a car. There were a few warning lights on the dash, indicating a need for a full service. My 'car' was defective and not road-worthy. I had neglected my body and especially my mind. 

"I needed to change my lifestyle and be healthy; not feel tired walking up basic steps, getting in and out of the car without taking a deep breath and not struggling to put my shoes on."

Chris turned to social media for inspiration. He took Jeffrey Morgan's All Star Personal Training program which he describes as, "igniting his desire and dedication to focus on myself". Chris adds that seeing a blackfella motivating others had a big influence too. Over time, he lost 23 kgs. His waistline may be smaller, but ultimately, his health has improved significantly. Chris says that by maintaining his health through diet and exercise his blood sugar is around 3-5 compared to a 13-16 average and his cholesterol is also low. 

"I look back sometimes on that photo of me weighing 121 kgs and think that's someone completely different. The physical aspect, but more so the mentality of that person."

Today, Chris is up regularly at 5am hitting the gym. He says creating Blackfitness aims to inspire and help kickstart other's health journeys like his. 

Quick Questions

Do you think there is enough support for blackfellas about training, wellbeing and fitness? 

There is no direct support in Aboriginal health organisations for fitness and training, only one group that incorporates that. The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) Healthy Lifestyle mob who do free sessions and have a Koori personal trainer for their circuit classes, boxing blast which is amazing.

We need more awareness in the fitness industry for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to be coached by Indigenous personal trainers, who are aware of the social issues. For example, why some remote communities do not have access to all the healthy food options that other mob in regional or city areas do. Also health and fitness ambassadors promoting and sharing health journeys to inspire out mob is what we need.

If you could only give 2 pieces of advice to someone who’s thinking about getting fit – what would it be?

1. Look at what you eat and how you eat it. I suggest use a food diary and record everything you eat for a week and the time you eat it - even the bad stuff! This will give you a glimpse into your current lifestyle and what you might need to change. Then talk to a dietician, nutritionist or health professional on ways you can improve and/or cut out the bad stuff. This is the most important thing before starting any fitness programs, 80 per cent diet and 20 per cent training.

2. Start slowly. Depending on your fitness level and any medical condition, start walking or bike riding, do the basics right and consistently then incorporate any medium level fitness programs. Also get a mentor to be able to be in that positive and encouraging headspace, support goes along way when starting.

What does our community need to ‘stop eating now’ and ‘start eating more’?

If you look back at our mob's diet for thousands of years we had plant-based diets (food derived from plants including fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes). So, high in protein, eating good fats with no refined sugars, just natural sugars from fruits, honey and bushgum and bush sweets. Processed sugars and high in fat meals are hurting our bodies, so we need to get back to basics. Healthy cooking options at home help community come together and will show positive food options. We need to eat more vegetables and high in protein, plant-based meals and do that consistently with drinking water. By doing this at the start before even stepping in the gym, you are preparing your internal and external body to change for the better.  

 

Jeffrey Morgan / @jefferymorganallstars

Body transformation specialist, Jeffrey Morgan is the brains (and body) behind the personal training business Jeffery Morgan: All Stars Personal Training. Jeffrey is a qualified nutritionist and strength and conditioning trainer and his work as a personal trainer sees him conducting seminars, leading group training sessions and individualising fitness programs. 

Jeffrey has a following of thousands on social media, as well as a YouTube channel where he shares fitness tips and motivational messages. He says the channels allow him to get his message about positive lifestyles out on a broader scale and from a business perspective, he says the far reach helps his business prosper.      

Jeffrey's Story

The Kamilaroi man grew up on The Block in Redfern, a place he reflects on as destructive with many drug and health issues. Jeffrey always grew up playing sport and even represented Australia. His skills and passion for athleticism lead to wanting to help others to have better quality of life, as he had seen first-hand the effects that neglecting health had had on his own community.     

"Growing up in Everleigh Street Redfern was crazy but at the same time it built character and the person I became, and I'm forever grateful for where I came from and the life I've lived and to be able to take that experience and now use that to hopefully motivate others," Jeffery says in his video, Never Forget Where You're From. 

Quick Questions

Do you think there is enough support for blackfellas about training, wellbeing and fitness? 

There isn't anything specific. Although the industry has plenty of information in general if you want to get into health and fitness.

If you could only give 2 pieces of advice to someone who’s thinking about getting fit – what would it be?

1. Make a healthier lifestyle and don't put a timeframe on it, just remember to keep active on a regular basis.

2. Learn to eat healthy from a good source like a nutritionist or dietician.

3. What does our community need to 'stop eating now' and 'start eating more'?

Stop eating the three factors related to major health issues worldwide such as, cancer, diabetes and heart disease - sugars, saturated fats and sodium. 

 

 

Allira Potter / @grub_guide

She's the girl behind the 11k followed account Grub Guide. The multi-talented Yorta-Yorta woman, Allira Potter initially began promoting cafes and eateries she rated in the Geelong and Melbourne area, while exercising her photography skills. However, being a talented cook herself and married to a chef, it wasn't long before her own food was joining the her feed (pun-intended).

From vegan beetroot falafels to "naughty" chocolate crackle bars, Allira's account has been a mega-hit, with followers regularly asking for recipes and sending messages of praise and more and more, Allira is collaborating with other chefs and cafes.   

In the next coming months, Grub Guide will have a re-branding and name change to further promote more of Allira's profile as well as her photography portfolio. 

"Grub Guide has given me so many opportunities over the last year, with connecting with other health and wellness influencers and being able to launch my photography business and helping people lead a healthier lifestyle," she told NITV. 

Allira's Story

Allira committed to a healthier lifestyle about 15 months ago, where she says she was "walking down the path of diabetes" and living her worst quality of life. She could also feel her anxiety and autoimmune disease flaring up on the regular. 

She was approached by the team at F45 gym to come in for a trial and it didn't take long because she had signed up and was on a completely new health and wellness journey. 

"I completely overhauled my life, going from eating 50 per cent processed foods to completely cutting them out and eating whole foods, as well as reducing my intake of animal products (although I still eat seafood)."

Since she started her journey, Allira has lost 20kgs and still going. She believes she's at her fittest and healthiest she's ever been.

Her lifestyle motto is about 'balance', "Eat as healthy and lean as you can, but don't restrict yourself if you want to have something naughty like chocolate or ice cream. Life is about living the best version of yourself. There is no point leading a 100 per cent healthy lifestyle if you're going to be unhappy!".

Quick Questions

Do you think there's enough support and information for blackfellas about nutrition, healthy eating and general wellbeing?

I believe there are resources out there for our mob, however, I question whether they're accessible to everyone. I do think that social media has been a key player in helping our mob learn more.

I am a huge advocate for ensuring our mob has access to all the right tools to help them with their overall wellbeing. I work casually alongside Cormach Evans, who founded Strong Brother, Strong Sister, and together our aim is to teach our younger mob about living a healthier lifestyle and ensuring that they are getting the best quality of life. 

What's your favourite thing to cook?

This has to be the hardest question ever! If I had to choose ... I think my favourite would be a spread of Middle Eastern Food. When I have friends over, I cook large and love to cook lots of sharing-type food. 

What are your tips for beginners in the kitchen?

Don't over think cooking. It's an easy process and don't be afraid to not follow a recipe - if something tastes good together, just roll with it and see what combination you can create. 

Being in the kitchen is such a creative explosion for people to really step out of their comfort zone and have some fun!  

What do our community need to 'stop eating now' and 'start eating more'?

We need to stop eating Fast Food, food where we can't understand the labels and hugely processed foods.

We need to start eating more whole foods. I'm a huge advocate for eating more food from the ground; farm to plate and eating at home, that way we know what we are putting into our bodies. 

 

 

Kellie McDonald / @fitness_kellie

Kellie is a qualified fitness instructor, protein supplies ambassador, fitness model and fitness and wellbeing vlogger. Her recently created YouTube channel is based around fitness, health, food and workouts, as well as shows off the Mandandanji woman's engaging personality and everyday activities.  

"I wanted to create the channel to show people that I am really just an average girl with some big dreams and goals within the fitness industry," Kellie told NITV. 

Kellie's Story

Kellie did competitive swimming throughout her younger years, but quit in year 10 to focus on her senior years of high school. She says joined the gym to stay fit. Kellie says she was relentlessly bullied at school for her broad "man" shoulders and they gym became a safe haven where she felt "normal". 

She fell in love with everything the gym offered, so it only seemed natural that Kellie would pursue a career in the fitness industry. She became a group fitness instructor, trying to get people to see working out as a lifestyle choice, rather than a chore and also studied and graduated with a Bachelor of Health Sport & Physical Education along the way. 

Always a goal-setter, Kellie entered her first bodybuilding competition in the fitness and sports category. She did incredibly well for a first timer, taking out Ms Fitness Model overall and placing 1st in every category but one.

"From this point forward, I have wanted to continue to reach out to people, mainly focusing on the Indigenous community to reach their goals in their fitness and health journeys."

Quick Questions

Do you think there's enough support for blackfellas about training, wellbeing and fitness?

I think there is lots of support for everyone with fitness influencers, but not specifically someone who solely influences the Indigenous population. 

My aim is to become one of the biggest Indigenous fitness influencers for males and females of all ages. I'm not aiming to be social media famous or anything, I purely want to be seen as a positive role model and someone to turn to, to ask for help whether it's related to diet, workouts or self confidence. I want to continue to build up the Indigenous culture through fitness and give our people a positive health and fitness role model that they can all be proud of and look up to.

If you could only give 2 pieces of advice to someone who’s thinking about getting fit – what would it be?

1. Mind is everything. Your fitness journey has more to do with your mind and how you see yourself now and how you want to see yourself within the future. On the outside, fitness looks like an exterior thing, but once you tap into your mind and you learn to control your thoughts, that's when anything is possible. 

2. No one else can do it for you. If you are dedicated, committed, passionate and determined to achieve your fitness goals, it is only you that can make them happen. Your fitness journey is a long process if you want to maintain it and it's always important to remember that slow progress is always better than no progress. Don't quit before your journey has even begun.

What does our community need to 'stop eating now' and 'start eating more'?

Our community needs to stop taking the easy options, like take away, just because it's convenient and cheap. It is a lot more convenient to buy fresh produce which you can meal prep for the week, freeze them and have the meals ready to go. Diet is the most important factor when you want to achieve your fitness goals. People need to be eating more lean meats such as, chicken and pork and a variety of fresh vegetables.

 

 

Steve Cardona / @steve_fitazdarwingym

Badu Island Torres Strait and Mulukmuluk man, Steve is the founder, director and personal trainer of FIT'AZ Gym in Darwin; a gym that strives to educate and train clients to live a healthier, fitter and more fulfilling lifestyle. It also has a massive Aboriginal flag taking up an entire wall!

FIT'AZ was built on sharing training videos, images and stories on social media and Steve believes it's that word of mouth from social media which has made the gym the successful venture it is today. Therefore, organically, Steve is active on his own account, motivating and inspiring friends and followers with training videos and workout tips. 

Steve's Story

Steve began training at the age of 16, when his footy coach advised him to 'bulk up'. 30 years later, he's the owner of a gym, training at least two times a day. 

"I grew up around so many unhealthy habits, and even illness, so I decided that I wanted to be the 'fit one' in my family. I wanted to break that stereotype cycle of blackfellas for my children."

Do you think there's enough support for blackfellas about training, wellbeing and fitness?

In Darwin we deal with the 'community blakfellas' and the 'urban blackfellas'. I can confirm that there is enough being done to help our urban blackfellas through programs and gyms. FIT'AZ is the only Indigenous-owned and run gym on Darwin. I have a good number of Indigenous members. We do our best to encourage, motivate and inspire our countrymen to get to our gym. 

If you could only give 2 pieces of advice to someone who’s thinking about getting fit – what would it be?

1. I have heard all the excuses in the world not to train and get fit. If you can breathe, you can lift! Be blessed you can walk and be active, so there is no excuse to be overweight, unhealthy and unfit. 

2. I'm a big believer in setting an example for the younger generation. I tell my clients all the time that their fitness journey will influence their children to be more fit and healthy. 

What does our community need to 'stop eating now' and 'start eating more'?

Stop eating KFC and other fast foods. What ever happened to eating good old home-cooked meals? Home cooked meals are full of protein, carbs and nutrition, that is ideal for a well balanced diet. 

 

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