Double Agent Linda Chisolm

This was going to be one of those ‘Inspirational Life Changes’ stories – you know, where I interview someone who has dived into a radical career change mid-life and made a ripping success of it all.

But in this instance, that’s not really the case. You see, horse-riding champion and hair colourist extraordinaire Linda Chisolm IS taking a new direction in life, but she’s also going to continue working in the salon. So it’s really an ‘Inspirational Life Juggling’ story – a case of combining careers, rather than ditching one for the other.

I first met Linda about eighteen years ago when I was working at Channel Ten and moved from Nunawading to the Como building in South Yarra. I stumbled into a hair salon across the road and found Linda, who was not only a brilliant colourist, but we got along famously. So even though it was very convenient having Linda so close to work, as soon as she left for a new salon, I followed. And I’ve been following her ever since.

Linda ONLY does COLOUR – no cutting, primping, curling etc… and that’s probably why she’s a master at her craft. I reckon she also makes a damn fine therapist with her ability to dish out pithy, down-to-earth no-nonsense advice when you thrust one of your dramas under her nose for dissection.

I also love the fact that she’s rarely impressed by celebrity. While she’s got a long list of famous VIP clients, she’s never a name-dropper and has been known to refuse to work with certain celebs if they prove to be difficult clients. She just couldn’t be bothered.

I asked whether she was nervous, colouring Kylie Minogue’s famous tresses many moon ago. ‘Not really,’ she said. ‘I’ve worked all over the world and people are people. They’re all the same – they just want to look nice.’ Simple, but true.

Linda at work

Linda at work

Linda is a little unusual in that she didn’t want me to photograph her working AND she doesn’t want me to mention the salon where she works. That’s because she’s not looking for new clients (being the best colourist in Melbourne) as her diary is chockers and she doesn’t need new people pestering her for a dose of hair magic.

The other reason Linda doesn’t want me to advertise her talents is that she’s cutting back on hours to focus more on her greater passion – HORSES.



This new gig Linda’s taken on is quite obscure. The fact that it’s SO unusual meant I had to write about it. Although when I first suggested to Linda that you couldn’t find two professions further apart – horses and hair – she rightly corrected me. ‘There’s some similarities between the grooming of horses and people. There’s products, plaiting, lots of washing!’

But don’t get the wrong idea – Linda’s new role doesn’t involve horse grooming. Instead, she and her partner, Stefan, will be importing top-end horse trailers from the United States. (See, I told you it was obscure.)

The opportunity arose when Linda spotted a huge gap in the horse trailer market. ‘We’d bought a couple of Australian-made ones and we weren’t happy with them. Not with the fit-out or the finish or the options. So we started looking in America and we bought our first one and through that, became dealers for the American brand. Which is Trail Rider Trailers,’ she said.

Linda and Stefan researched many companies overseas and Trail Riders came out on top. ‘They’re the best built in the field, offering the biggest range of options. It’s also a small, family-owned business and the trailers aren’t mass-produced so we knew we’d get good workmanship. They do a fantastic job and are happy to customise.’

Trail Riders Trailers - the high end of the horse trailer market

Trail Riders Trailers – the high end of the horse trailer market

A decent sized kitchen and dining area

A decent sized kitchen and dining area

Linda has been riding horses in events around the country since she was a child, so has a pretty good idea about what people are using and what’s on the market. She says it was hard to find trailers in Australia that offered simple luxuries like an oven or even a toilet.

Sleep in style

Sleep in style



As for sleeping quarters, the Trailer Riders bed is five-star compared to what’s on offer from other brands. But Linda says not all her trailers are as ritzy as this one we’re looking at. ‘They can be very high-end or not so high-end. But it’s the quality of the fit-out that makes all the difference. You can customise the size to whatever you want, that’s legal in Australia, which is 43-feet long.’

Royal Retro trailer

Royal Retro trailer

The range of options you can put in these beauties is astounding, including a washing-machine, electric fireplace, a ceiling fan – all sorts of options Linda says you just can’t get in Australia.

Even a toilet!!

Even a toilet!!

Now she’s the envy of her horse-riding friends. ‘I usually get a big WOW when they walk in,’ she says with a smile. ‘For a horse-person, these trailers are heaven. Everything is in the right place and it’s a great ride with fantastic suspension. You spend a lot of time and money on your horse going to shows, so you want to be comfortable. It becomes your holiday, your pastime. Most horsey people don’t head off to Bali for two weeks. They go to a national show and it’s their life-style.’

Linda reining

Linda reining

On top of colouring hair and marketing her new horse-trailer business, Linda also competes at events. ‘I do a sport called reining,’ she said. ‘It’s a discipline that started in America. The reining horse is known for its ‘sliding stop’ and its ‘turn around’ and spin,’ she explained.


‘They’re manoeuvres that came from when horses worked with cattle on ranches and they’ve been exaggerated for the show ring. You ride in a pattern and unlike dressage, it’s all at a canter. Or a lope, as we call it in the western world.’

Apparently it’s a huge sport internationally and is growing in popularity in Australia. ‘It’s very big in America of course, and Germany, Italy and we’re now a sport that’s involved in WEG. That’s the World Equestrian Games.  I think it will become an Olympic discipline eventually.’

Linda winning Reserve Champion at Werribee

Linda winning Reserve Champion at Werribee

Linda’s been ‘reining’ for about seven years now and has won several awards – one about two months ago in Werribee. ‘It’s a difficult sport,’ she said. ‘Much harder than I thought it would be! Like any horse discipline, you’re always learning and working at it. It’s more difficult than it looks as it’s a one-handed event.’

ONE-HANDED?! Jeez… then I’m guessing Linda has a pretty good connection with her horse to ride with such control.

‘Ah, you need a horse that’s really broke’ she laughed. ‘My horse is gorgeous. His show name is Red Hair and Freckles. He’s definitely up there with my favourites.’

With so much going on (selling trailers, reining competitions…) I was most relieved to hear Linda wouldn’t be ditching her colouring job. (PHEW!!) ‘I love my hair, I like my clients,’ she said. (YAY!!) ‘It might get a little tricky, juggling both, but I’ll manage.’

If you’d like to contact Linda about these impressive horse trailers, you can email her at

and check out the trailer website at:

or she has a Facebook page, for updated news – just reference Australian Horse Trailers and LIKE it!!

Salon Golightly, Prahran

Salon Golightly, Prahran

And just in case you want to TRY to get a hair colour appointment with Linda, she works at Salon Golightly in Prahran. (Now she’ll kill me.) Good luck….

Salon Golightly: 175 Greville street, Prahran
Ph: 9533 9966



Inspirational Life Changes: EMMA DUMAS – from TV Producer to Food Producer (OR Why a glass of wine is better than a glass of apple juice!!!)


Managing Director and owner of The Muesli, Emma Dumas is a crusader on an anti-sugar campaign. And not just to promote her breakfast cereal. She firmly believes SUGAR is the root of all nutritional evil. After interviewing Emma, I’m pretty much convinced too, so now the Muffin Top journey has ended, I’m going to try another experiment. I’m going to add another test of willpower to my list of New Year’s Resolutions. But more about that later.

Emma Dumas: owner 'The Muesli'

Emma Dumas: owner ‘The Muesli’


Let’s chat with Emma first. This is the third in my series of interviews, under the banner ‘Inspirational Life Changes.’ It’s about people who successfully change careers at some point in their lives and turn to a job that’s quite different, requiring new challenges and skills. With people living longer, it’s a much more common choice, so it’s wonderful to learn from others who have been brave enough to take a leap of faith into another area of expertise and make it work. Their experience can teach and inspire us.



Before The Muesli took over Emma’s life, she was a successful television producer. From a stint in radio, she began working at Channel Nine in 1989. ‘I was in TV production for many years, starting at the Nine Network in Special Projects as a Producer,’ said Emma as we chatted over a coffee. ‘I then started up my own company, Prime Time Productions and left Nine in 1993.’

Working in Special Projects meant Emma was involved in the production of major live events, like Carols by Candlelight, the Logie Awards and the Arias. It’s a job requiring super organisational skills, not to mention a good dose of persuasiveness when trying to convince stars to appear on shows. Emma then produced several highly acclaimed programs with her own company, Prime Time productions with another partner from Nine.

‘Then I had the babies from ’98, so I sold out of Prime Time in 2000, just before the birth of our second, Sophie,’ said Emma. ‘From there, I had about six months off, then Michael Hirsh rang me from Working Dog so I started producing The Panel from 2000 until it ran its course, in about mid 2005.’

It was about that time that Emma’s good friend Donna Aston, (personal trainer for the stars and registered nutritionist) who she’d worked and trained with, sparked an idea. ‘She was saying to me, “My clients are doing my head in. They cannot get their heads around breakfast and get it right.” I’d written recipes for her over the years for several books so I said, ‘Oh don’t worry about it. I’ll prepare something.’ So I mixed up this concoction and started making The Muesli.’ Emma said, smiling.


The Muesli

The Muesli


‘I’d parcel it up in one kilo zip lock bags and started taking in ten or twenty at a time to her gym and they started to sell. It was based on the fact that people just could NOT get an option on a supermarket shelf that was actually healthy. There’s a big perception that all muesli’s are a health food and people are doing the right thing buying it, but they’re really grabbing things that are up to 48 per cent sugar. And that’s before you start thinking about the roasting and toasting and the damage to fats in all the roasted and toasted products.’



I voiced my disappointment, being a lover of the roasted and toasted variety, but Emma insisted NONE of them are any good. ‘Absolutely no good!’ she said sternly. ‘So with all those things in mind, I put The Muesli together. Something that was nutritionally great. Donna loved it. It was high in protein, the fats are all raw, so they’re in their essential form and it just happened to be naturally sugar-free, because I would never have included anything that was sugary – which is dried fruit or honey or anything like that.’

I’ve tried Emma’s muesli and also love it, but could have sworn there were sultanas somewhere in the mix. “No,’ said Emma. ‘That’s how it’s sugar free. Because dried fruit is concentrated sugar. Our muesli is fifty percent nuts and seeds. 36 per cent oats and 14 per cent coconut. And the nutrition panel contains just 1.6 grams per 100grams of sugars, which occur naturally from within those ingredients.’

Proof of it’s taste-good factor comes from it’s popularity. As demand from Donna’s gym clients grew, Emma found it difficult to juggle both her TV production job and being a muesli chef. ‘Well I was working as well, and so I was in a hairnet and gloves in the kitchen at night, mixing my fifty kilos a month in massive vats and chopping it my thermo mix and yes, it was tough. It really was. Particularly when I was doing things like Thank God You’re Here. They were massive days. I’d suddenly get an order and think, ‘Oh my God…’

From supplying just one gym, Emma’s business quickly grew. ‘Basically it’s been a learning process. The fact that our muesli has so little sugar in it appealed to me as a selling point. So down the track, I decided to team up with Heather Brodie, who is a friend, and then we started producing commercially mid 2010.’

Now Emma only uses her own kitchen for family food preparation. ‘We sourced a company called OmniBlend which is a co-packer. So they produce according to our instructions, making a blend exactly to my recipe and package it. It’s all done in a factory that meets all the food standards. Then we launched  a website in early 2011 and it’s been growing ever since then.’

Emma Dumas with her product The Muesli

Emma Dumas with her product The Muesli

When working on the marketing strategy, Emma’s passion for the anti-sugar campaign grew. ‘We use a 99 per cent sugar-free slogan as part of the logo and the sugar thing kept resonating with me. I knew from research just how busy the marketplace was, so I knew there wasn’t any point putting just another muesli onto the shelves, among the dozens that are there already. I realised that the sugar thing was big. I also simultaneously became aware of David Gillespie who has written the book ‘Sweet Poison’ and he is brilliant. Everything he says, I absolutely  subscribe to,’ she said, her voice becoming more emphatic.

‘I fully believe from everything that I have read, not just from him, but other research as well, that sugar is THE biggest health crisis the world will ever know. And the sugar industry – BIG sugar world-wide is SO powerful. The vested interests in keeping sugar in everything are so huge that they’re very, very good at information generation – information that creates confusion and clouds the issue and covers up what is happening.’

Emma then went into a detailed explanation about how sugar works. To summarise:

SUGAR = 2 MOLECULES (fructose and glucose)

FRUCTOSE is the ‘natural’ sugar everyone talks about.

Emma is not a fan of FRUCTOSE. ‘There are lots of foods that are labelled Only Natural Sugars and you can be guaranteed that they’re chock full of fructose. Sadly it’s the fructose that’s causing all the problems. Glucose is the basic building block of all energy. So our bodies utilise the tiny simple glucose cell for all of its energy.’

But apparently our bodies have not evolved in a way that enables us to process fructose. ‘The only area in your body that’s capable of doing anything with it – is your liver. So what it does, is to turn it immediately into fat,’ said Emma. ‘So fatty liver disease is something being diagnosed more and more and its because the fructose half of sugar. David Gillespie says that if you drink a glass of apple juice, the fructose in that glass of apple juice is circulating in your blood as fat, before you’ve even finished drinking that glass.’

And then Emma told me something I hadn’t known before. While other food types have corresponding hormones to let our bodies know when we’ve eaten enough, sugar doesn’t. Which means you can keep eating sugary stuff WITHOUT feeling full. ‘ It ALSO suppresses existing hormones, so not only will you take in more fructose, but you can keep taking in other stuff as well.’

Ouch. That sounds pretty bad… In effect, sugar can actually increase our appetite? ‘Yes,’ said Emma firmly. ‘It’s the single most addictive substance freely available.’

With that in mind, I ask Emma if her children are allowed lollies. And if so, do they actually eat them, given they must have heard her stance on sugar?  ‘They do,’ she said. ‘Because I’m not a complete Nazi. But they’re very conscious of it. Although the 12-year-old is totally bored by me. But they take it on board and they do understand it and they probably do restrict themselves quite willingly without me needing to do much about it.’

Before you read the next part of the interview, take a look at this picture. A banquet of lollies to choose from that most people would find hard to resist… Is your mouth watering yet? Now read on.

Sugar and spice and all things nice...

Sugar and spice and all things nice…

Jen: And do you have a strict diet yourself?
Emma: I do. I lost about nine kilos in 2005 with Donna when I first began this. And I’ve kept it off. I basically cut out all processed foods – anything white – bread, potato and sugar. But I was never a massive sweet tooth. I’d eat a bowl of chips before chocolate.

Jen: How long since you’ve had a pig out on lollies?
Emma: Well, I used to eat dark chocolate, and I loved that but then I realised even that has too much sugar for what I want to do. I have to take this seriously, so sugar is the thing I completely restrict so it’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a lolly.

Jen: What, a year? (can you hear my incredulous tone?)
Emma, Oh no! It would be since 2005.

Jen: REALLY???????
Emma: Oh yes.

Emma: No.

Jen: You’re a freak.

There was a long pause, as I sat there stunned. How could ANYONE not eat ONE lolly for SEVEN years??? I mean, revisit that photo above. How could anyone say NO to that? But it’s a good thing, right? So how has Emma managed this – what is her SECRET to such amazing self-discipline?

Emma says it was probably easier for her than most, as she didn’t really have a sweet tooth to begin with. ‘I’d have a dim sim over a lolly any day. But it’s hard for most people because sugar IS the single most addictive substance. And if you are a sweet tooth, then you probably are addicted.’

That would be me… But Emma assures me there’s hope. ‘You can wean yourself off it,’ she said. ‘You will literally though, have withdrawal problems. Headaches and that kind of thing. And you can avoid chocolate and lollies, but the problem with our food source – the way that society is now – is that so many of the foods available for us that are on the supermarket shelves rare LOADED with sugar.’

‘That’s been my big thing that I’m campaigning about. Because sugar is killing people. It is completely implicated in every single health crisis we have going on. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease. You name it and sugar is implicated.’

But Emma says it’s a hard battle to fight because so many major corporations have so much money invested in industries that use sugar. ‘For instance, Sixty Minutes ran a piece about the dangers of sugar earlier in the year, but only two weeks later, Channel Nine had a piece on A Current Affair that exonerated sugar. Because of the advertisers. So the vested interests are massive.’

‘We’ve been terrorised for forty years by the slogan ‘Fat Free’ but to make the fat free food bearable, they load it up with sugar to compensate for taste. To make it palatable. And in those 30 to 40 years, the correlations between sugar consumption and the diseases that we’ve talked about are massive, And we’re not getting slimmer – we’re getting fatter a lll the time. You can guarantee the sugar industry has been behind the far-free campaign.’

So what do we do as a community, I ask? ‘I truly believe if people did nothing else but attempt to control their sugar intake by limiting anything that they buy, eat or use in cooking to LESS THAN FIVE GRAMS PER 100 GRAMS OR LESS THAN FIVE PER CENT SUGAR, it would make a difference. If we all did nothing more complex than that, we would see a massive impact.’

Emma calls it THE ONE LINE RULE. ‘And dieticians and nutritionists will jump up and down and say, you can’t put it all down to one thing, but what’s being prescribed and what they’ve been saying for the last forty years hasn’t worked. We’ve just been getting fatter and sicker. So I say, stick to this simple rule. Limit the sugar to this level and there’ll be a huge difference.’

I have a VERY important question that’s bothering me. I can cope with vetting the products I buy at the supermarket. I might even be able to cope with cutting out lollies.


Wine is better for us than apple juice!

Wine is better for us than apple juice!

‘Interestingly, fructose changes it’s structure in wine – in the fermentation process, ‘ said Emma. ‘So wine’s never good in excess, but it’s not as bad as you might think.’

THANK GOD. ‘So…’ I ask optimistically, ‘does that mean wine is better for us than apple juice?’

‘WAY better,’ said Emma definitively. ‘I’d be drinking wine over apple juice any day.’


YAYYYYYYYY. That’s the best news I’ve had all week.

More wine, less apple juice.

To get her message out there, (about sugar, not wine…) Emma wants to start speaking at schools to educate young people from an early age. With a Bachelor of Applied Science behind her, she has the credentials. ‘It’s just common sense,’ she said. ‘I’ve got two daughters at body-image age, and THE ONE LINE RULE resonates really well and really safely with kids at a dangerous age.’


Emma Dumas with her product, The Muesli

Emma Dumas with her product, The Muesli

‘It’s a much safer awareness than worrying about fatty food. Just look at the nutrition box on the labels of food and you’ll easily see whether there’s more than five per cent sugar or not.’

And what about fruit? Emma says one piece of fruit a day is fine. For breakfast though, NO jams or honey on toast. Choose vegemite or avocado instead. Better still, stock up on The Muesli!!

So that’s the challenge I’m going to set myself in the New Year. I’m going to add THE ONE LINE RULE to my resolutions list and see how long I can stick with it. Along the way, I’ll give you tips on which foods to avoid and which ones get a big tick.

Emma says while she misses the people and personalities she worked with in the television industry, she’s loving her running her own business with Heather. They’re extending their range of The Muesli to include a gluten free variety and even have plans to go international.

If you’d like to try The Muesli, here’s a SPECIAL OFFER. If you subscribe to this Blog (and it’s free, so just push the right buttons and you can do it in a minute) then just be one of the first TEN readers to email Emma, and she will send you a FREE 450g pack of The Muesli.

Happy Christmas!


Email Emma Dumas at
And to find out where to buy The Muesli, go to the website at