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Published on: March 6, 2020
by Women’s Brain Health Initiative:
MIND OVER MATTER interviews celebrity chef Michael Bonacini on what he does to stay healthy.
Q – When did you start to get serious about your health?
A – This happened to me five or six years ago. I felt sluggish, so I made a concerted effort to lose weight. I started to choose what I wanted to eat more wisely, and began to maintain a modicum of exercise, none of which I had ever been particularly good at before.
When you’re a young buck running around and living life to its fullest, you don’t tend to think about your health and physical well-being as much. I’m turning the ripe old age of 60 this year. As I have gotten older, my perspective has changed. I think more and more about making specific efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. This includes cooking with good, wholesome, and fresh ingredients, maintaining a balanced diet, and getting enough exercise.
Q: How do you kick off each morning on a healthy note?
A: My most important meal of the day has always been breakfast. I will not leave home without it, regardless of early meetings or flights. Even while traveling, breakfast is so important in terms of getting my day started right. I take great pleasure in refueling while I pore over the newspaper or catch up on emails.
Perhaps because of my English roots, I always go for a good pot of tea, toasted bread with honey, natural and unsweetened peanut butter, and a banana. It’s been that way for decades. It addresses my sweet tooth, gives me energy and protein, and I feel satisfied!
Q: How do you maintain your energy throughout the day?
A: I often skip lunch, but enjoy a snack in the afternoon, whether that’s a handful of nuts, fresh fruit, or an Americano or skinny latte. If I do have time for a proper lunch, it will often be something on the lighter side, like a simple, fresh salad with lots of greens, tossed with hard-boiled eggs, cucumber, and a light dressing. On the weekend, I love throwing a few great quality sardines on toast, or enjoying some smashed avocado on rye crisps.
I also make sure to skip alcohol at lunch. Maybe I’ll indulge in a glass of wine on vacation, but then I’ll usually need a siesta, so I’d rather not!
Q: What does a typical dinner at home look like for you?
A: For me, one of life’s greatest satisfactions is coming in at the end of a long day and either cooking or sitting down at the table to enjoy something that my wife has prepared. Roast chicken is one of my favourite meals. I like to break down the chicken into the legs and breast, remove the skin, and chew and gnaw every bone clean. It annoys my wife to no end, but I just love those juicy chicken-flavoured morsels!
Q: You must dine out a lot. How do you maintain your diet at restaurants?
A: Dining out is certainly a lucky pleasure I get to enjoy. I always try to choose wisely from the menu, and often gear towards something lighter. I usually opt for fish at least twice a week, which is a great choice as it’s packed full of flavour, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein.
If a dish sounds rich, I will ask for the sauce on the side. My days of enjoying five, six, or seven-course tasting menus are few and far between. They’re just too rich and too much. I prefer less, and my stomach appreciates that too.
Q: When it comes to food, what is your biggest guilty pleasure?
A: Whenever there are desserts around, I have to dig deep for some extra willpower. Just the other night, my son made a tempting batch of Rice Krispie squares, and my wife made banana chocolate chip muffins. My Achilles Heel is definitely my horrid sweet tooth!
Q: How do you make sure you get enough physical activity into your schedule?
A: When I was younger, my exercise came from working in a kitchen and being on my feet for many consecutive hours. Today, I maintain an active lifestyle by finding ways to walk to downtown meetings, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Every little bit counts!
I fall in and out of love with the gym and gym equipment. I live in a condominium that has a gym, and I built a gym at my country home, but I’m procrastinating on investing in the equipment.
Q: Do you have any other hobbies or interests that keep you fit?
A: My preferred form of exercise is doing tasks around my country home like raking leaves, gardening, cleaning, or pruning trees. It’s very satisfying and also helps me exercise mentally. It’s nice to learn how much your body can take in terms of stresses, strains, creaks, and cracks, and it also encourages the important routine of stretching.
I also recently joined a group of fellas called the “FAT Boys” (Fridays At Three). We go cycling for about 40 to 60 kilometres every Friday afternoon. Once a year, we raise money for a local hospital by cycling to the Elora Mill and back (about 110 kilometres in total). It’s an inspiring group, in which the two eldest cyclists are 76 years old. This summer, we’re all going cycling in France with our wives and partners. The women in the group are wisely referred to as the “FIT Ladies”!
Q: How do you find ways to relax and manage your stress levels?
A: I can tell you that the idea of sitting on a beach all day doesn’t do it for me. I despise swimming pools and hot tubs. I can’t spend two hours on a crossword puzzle. I would much rather spend my downtime sanding and staining hardwood floors, or repainting or wallpapering a room. I have lots of to-do lists. If I did not keep active, I would erode from within! I have to have projects on the go.
Stress has certainly taken its toll over the years. As you get older, you gain more perspective on these things. My business partner, Peter Oliver, has been a huge source of inspiration for me in terms of his attitude to life’s curveballs. When something unfortunate happens, he turns it around and looks at it as an opportunity. He makes things feel less heavy.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to support a more healthy lifestyle?
A: We’re all different and we all have a different lifestyle that works for us. I have found something that works for me, for the most part. I think it’s important to listen to your body, your mind, and your cravings. At the end of the day, you just want to feel comfortable within your own skin. It’s incumbent upon everyone to figure out the best lifestyle for them. Everyone has an opportunity to try and make healthy and rewarding life changes.
Source: MIND OVER MATTER V9
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