When Chelsea, 40, arrived in Ipswich, Queensland from her former home in Tasmania, she and her family were on a downward spiral. "I was living an unhealthy lifestyle, both for me and my kids. I didn't think about my health at all, or my kids' health. Things like preservatives and additives, or sugar in food never came into my head. At one point, I weighed 150 kilograms," she says.
Starting again in a new location, with no family, friends or support networks, was a struggle. Chelsea turned to shopping, spending far more than she could afford on unhealthy, sugary snacks, processed meals and junk food. "I would just buy food because it was convenient, it was cheap," she says. "If it was full of junk, well, too bad, the kids still ate it."
Chelsea has four boys, aged 5-16, whose behaviour was suffering because their sugar intake was too high. "They'd be bouncing off the walls, and I would really struggle to control my anger," she explains. "Plus, I was spending hundreds at the supermarket".
Taking part in a Red Cross FoodREDi program helped Chelsea turn things around for her family. "They talked about food on a budget," she explains. "They explained how to shop more wisely, buy in bulk if you can. All about how to read labels and get better products for your children, and avoid the additives in cheaper products. We cooked together and swapped recipes."
Since receiving support from Red Cross, Chelsea has changed the way she shops and cooks for her boys. "I try to cook more things from scratch," she says. "And I pack healthy snacks for the boys for school and for myself during the day. In the evenings, the boys and I cook together - we make things like healthy pizza and soup."
The difference has been dramatic. "Before this FoodREDi thing, my kids were so hyped up on all the additives. Their health was suffering, and their attitude. They'd get angrier easier, and their sugar intake was too high, so they'd be forever bouncing around," she says.
Red Cross has had a big effect on Chelsea herself too. "I've lost 35 kilos," she says. "And I'm less stressed. After the program, I felt more in control, and my depression levels seemed to go down. My self-esteem has just skyrocketed, and that flows into my attitude to the kids."
These, days, Chelsea's family is healthier and happier. "We're really into our sport. I play hockey in the ladies' team, and I'm going to start soccer too. Dale is really into Little Athletics; he went up to Cairns for the State competition. He's a high jumper. Ashton does long distance running. I can't believe how far we've come!" she smiles.