The older we get, the more life seems to pass us by. We’re presented with more and more challenges and our lifestyle speeds up by the second (even without kids!). To make up for this lack of time, we often cut out the good stuff: we might get a take-out from our local chain instead of cooking, or chill out in front of Netflix rather than going to that dreaded exercise class.
We all wish we could boast of better habits in life, but it’s not always easy. Martin, Geneviève, Adam, Heidi and Milanne are somehow managing it.
When I arrive at their home, the first word that comes to mind is, honestly, ‘sunny’. The house is gloriously bright, and the whole family dressed in fantastic, colourful prints, it’s the vitamin fix I never knew I needed!
Martin and Geneviève met a couple of years ago, when they were 26 and 25, respectively. They say it was love at first sight – after which followed a long list of exciting adventures: marriage, buying a house together, having kids, etc.
During her first maternity leave, Geneviève, who grew up on a vegetable farm, reminded herself of the pleasure to be taken from cooking, in particular with fresh ingredients, and as her family has expanded in size, her habits have changed to no end. The family have managed to turn the health corner that so many others have been aiming for, and they certainly aren’t regretting it! That’s why I’ve decided to share with you not just their journey, but also the tips they’ve picked up along the way!
What prompted you to make your healthy changes?
Geneviève: We both work in the field of workplace psychology, so we’re no strangers to the idea that the body and the mind have to be working in harmony if you want them to reach their maximum potential. I found that with maternity leave, I had a fantastic window of opportunity to set us all up for a healthier lifestyle. What was honestly the trigger for me was seeing Cook It on ‘Dragons’ Den’ [laughs]! I told myself, “I have to try that out; it could surely make things easier for us” and thanks to that, I rediscovered my love for cooking and I took charge of my family’s health.
I’ve set health goals for us, regarding our eating, sleep and physical activity patterns. I’m even more in love with Martin – I hope he shares this [laughs] – and I want us to be there for our kids for as long as possible, in the fittest state as possible, so that we can all grow old together.
In all my attempts to become more and more efficient in my everyday life, I had sort of lost the ‘values’ that my parents taught me – to eat fruit and veg and fresh products, but fundamentally, it’s no more difficult to cook, you just have to organise yourself a little better.
Martin: As a stockholder, the last 4 years have been much busier for me, and so it was easy to turn to junk food and all the rest. You never realise when it’s happening to you, but one day, I realised that I had put on a good 40 lbs since I first met Genevieve. So, when she suggested the family health kick, I threw myself into it, immediately starting to eat and sleep better. I swapped 5-hour sleeps for 7- to 8-hour ones and on top of that, we do one family activity a week, called ‘Baby-Cardio’. So, thanks to these 3 axioms, I’ve returned to my youthful weight [laughs].
Geneviève: And we really didn’t want to achieve that with a diet: it just doesn’t work. You really do have to modify all aspects of your lifestyle, learn to eat wholesome foods and serve yourself more reasonably-sized portions. We do spoil ourselves, too: nothing’s exactly ‘banned’. All of this has a huge impact on our energy levels.
What’s the most difficult part?
Geneviève: Surprisingly, it really isn’t as hard as all that, though I think it will be harder once I return to work. I’ve made life choices which allow me to put health at the centre of our family life; I’m going to work part-time rather than full-time, but I imagine even that will put a real strain on my time management skills.
Martin: Personally, I sometimes find it tricky to totally cut out certain ‘comfort’ foods. Before, when I ate chips, I never paid attention to how much I was consuming, and it was the same whenever I drank wine or beer. Now, I force myself to think about it and to tell myself “Look, if I eat lots of this, I’ll have to cut back on that”. It’s about learning to enjoy healthy ingredients rather than fattier ones.
I started all of this last February and I consider it a personal adaptation – one that happens gradually. I’ve had to make choices, too. If I drink two glasses of wine at dinner, I could probably do with skipping dessert.
So the key isn’t to deny yourself anything, but to make compromises?
Geneviève: Exactly! Occasionally, we enjoy a good poutine, and we’re right to – if not, it’d be too hard. I try to balance as well, so for instance for dessert, we’ll eat yogurt but with a little bit square of dark chocolate. If we find ourselves fancying a biscuit, we’ll have one instead of three. So no-one’s being deprived of anything; you just have to find a balance. Personally, I don’t feel like there’s anything I never eat now that I ate before.
Martin: I obviously do, though [laughs]! No, but seriously, sometimes I lust after the Jacques-Cartier pizzas that I used to gorge on, but generally speaking, I now just tend to take more pleasure in other kinds of foods. And it helps that Geneviève is a great cook!
What are you most proud of?
Geneviève: I’m proud of all of us. We’ve all pitched in, we’re all involved in this, and I couldn’t be prouder of my chum for losing 40 pounds; I didn’t ask that of him at all, but I’m happy that he followed me in my goals and that 9 months on, we’re maintaining those goals together. I’m just proud that this health adventure has been such a success!
Martin: Beyond losing weight, it’s the success in shifting our life habits that makes me truly proud, as well as learning to really know now what’s best for my body. I’ve also changed my way of working: before, I could work for 60 hours a week and now, it’s around 50, but I do the same work and I feel more efficient. So I’m proud of this change, too, and of how well it’s worked out.
Geneviève: We’re also more available in mind and body to our kids. We’ve got more energy, less stress and I really feel like we’re there more for them, generally. That really does make me proud.
What tips would you give to other families who’d like to try a health kick?
Geneviève: To achieve a goal, you’ve got to target one that is important to you, as well as a method of achieving it that suits your family. For us, it was choosing to cook at home more and signing up to an all-encompassing physical activity. Others might well buy bikes and go on treks. Basically, choose not just a realistic goal that’ll suit everyone, but also a realistic way of achieving it.
Martin: It also helps not to plan too far ahead with it. It’s difficult to tell yourself to achieve a goal by the end of a year; it’s too long a wait. You’re better off setting smaller targets.
Geneviève: Martin is also someone who needs things to be clear and concrete, so he downloaded an app that lets him calculate exactly what he’s consuming.
Martin : It’s a tricky one to say, but it’s one of the Cook It recipes; the teriyaki bowl! That’s an 11/10!
Geneviève : Sometimes, if I’m making a meal that the kids don’t like so much, I just make the teriyaki sauce from that recipe and they’ll eat it anyway! Apart from that, the tuna tataki is a winner for me.
Martin : Café Ferreira in Montréal was exceptional!
Geneviève : We went for lunch to avoid the dinnertime price-hike, but it really was fantastic!
Your culinary speciality?
Martin : Geneviève’s soups are always a hit!
Geneviève : For Martin, it’s gotta be a BBQ!
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Geneviève : I do really enjoy a good breakfast, but I love the collective aspect of dinner!
Cook It favorite?
Both, without hesitation: The teriyaki bowl!