Lisa sits down with her husband Nick to talk about how her desire to change to a wholefoods lifestyle has impacted him, what the journey was like, and how other passionate parents and families can help encourage their partners to embrace health and change.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Lisa: Hi everyone. Welcome to this very special episode of the podcast. I have one of my favourite people in the world with me today. Say hello to my husband Nick.
Nick: Special, eh?
Lisa: Well, right now you are, because you’re doing me a favour on the podcast.
Nick: And I bought you coffee this morning.
Lisa: Yes, okay. That’s totally special! So, we have holed ourselves up in our little podcast room at home, and our three children are upstairs sleeping. And we’ve done it today because there’s been a conversation brewing in the Small Steps Living membership, and it’s amongst women who have, kind of, seen the light with food. They’ve realised that there are changes that they’d like to make to their family food, and they’re trying really hard. And as we all know, anyone who’s tried to make, really, any lifestyle changes, it requires flexing new muscles, and learning a lot. And I think when we start to realise that the food we’re eating is impacting on our physical health, but our mental health too, and so many different things, we kind of-, we want to go all out. We get excited, we get pumped, and we want to share it with everyone we know!
The thing is that no-one really likes to be told to change, and these women are butting up against partners who aren’t as thrilled about the changes to their family food, that they are. And they asked me, ‘What’s the deal with Nick? Can he maybe talk to our guys?’ Can he tell us, you know, what has it meant for him to be with someone who, let’s face it, like, I loved food, but I wasn’t in any way, shape or form-, I didn’t know what that, you know, additive in ice cream was doing. I just grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and had a pretty standard diet, like so many of us. And then when my eyes started to open, it did change things for him. So, we are here today, tonight, to have a conversation with you, to share a little bit about Nick’s view of our move to a wholefoods lifestyle. Totally imperfect wholefoods lifestyle, but definitely a change, nonetheless. So, to kick things off, I’d like to ask Nick-, it’s weird, he’s sitting right next to me. Here we go! So, I guess it would be good for everyone to know a little bit about where you came from. Like, what was the food that you grew up eating?
Nick: That I grew up eating? Well, first of all, I’ve got a couple of questions for you, Lisa.
Lisa: What? No. Stick to the script, buddy!
Nick: The thing that I’m confused about is that when we first met, you were a totally different person, in terms of food. So I had an upbringing of, it was actually pretty conventional, with a mother and father, and the father worked full-time, and the mother cooked. She was a stay-at-home mum.
Lisa: Raising four boys, so she didn’t just cook all day.
Nick: No, no, absolutely. But when I met you, I already had a sense of food and the family, and my interpretation of you when we first met was, food didn’t matter, in terms of cooking and socialisation. Socialisation’s the wrong word, but in terms of cooking and making something really huge every night, it didn’t mean that much to you.
Lisa: No. No, I mean, the first meal that my mum really taught me-, or the first meal when we moved out of home, I was like, ‘I have a fantastic pumpkin risotto recipe that you make in the microwave. You just throw everything in the microwave.’ And we lived on that. And, yes, my mum didn’t really sit and stir risotto, no.
Nick: Yes. I think my mum did, but that’s a cultural thing. So, your mother worked full-time. So we had definitely different upbringings.
Lisa: But also, your dad is Croatian, and had certain expectations about food. Grew a lot of his own food.
Nick: Yes, had a big veggie garden, so I did know the idea of what fresh produce was. So, in terms of upbringing, I certainly had an introduction to food, as a cultural thing. So, I took pride in it. So when we used to talk about food as a young couple, especially when we first moved out, it was already about, ‘Hey, we’ve discovered a new farmer’s market.’ I mean, it was important, there was some kind of sense of heritage there. That was special, but it meant more than just filling your tummy, it was definitely bigger than that for me.
Lisa: Yes, and I remember at the first place we lived at, we lived in Sydney for five years, and Nick built a veggie garden on top of our concrete, inner West, back garden.
Nick: And it thrived, let me just say that. It thrived.
Lisa: You did a great job.
Nick: And in actual fact, the inner West house was owned by Italians. So lo and behold, Italians cover everything with concrete, and I was still able to grow tomatoes, somehow. Unbelievable!
Lisa: I mean, I think this is important to share, because it shows people, what we’re doing for our kids right now is establishing what they will know, and believe, about food in the future. And that is so important. And for many of us, we are re-establishing these things. You know, when I first met Nick, and most of the time, I’d pop around to his parents’ house, and his dad would be in the garden, and digging something up, and his mum would be thinking about a way to use up all that damn zucchini. And they were huge, so there was just this kind of, ‘This is our food, and then we prepare it.’ But then, I must say, the person who was living in a shared house with three other dudes in his mid-twenties was not so much the-,
Nick: Yes, he changed.
Lisa: Yes. So, you know, it hasn’t all been roses.
Nick: But there’s definitely a memory there. But, you know, when you move into a shared house, bravado takes over, right? You know, you’re living with a lot of different types of people, so, you know, I forsake eating food-,
Lisa: Buy the slab, instead.
Nick: Yes, and I still, you know, partake in the old long necker VB now and then.
Lisa: Yes, just once in a while, he has one next to him. Not really. But back then, the guy who I got to know, you weren’t driven by food. Like, I remember meeting you, going, ‘This guy needs a feed, he really needs a feed.’ So I’d bring over Dad’s minestrone, or something, to just feed him up, because food wasn’t on your agenda. At that stage of your life, it was booze, cigarettes, and charcoal chicken.
Nick: Yes, but there are priories, right? If you’re trying to prove yourself, and pay the rent, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. So, you know, booze and cigarettes will get you there.
Lisa: Oh, I fell in love with that. So weird. Okay, so, then, I guess, we moved out together, and then our life took hold. And here we are today, which is in a pretty different place, for a number of reasons. And a lot of the people in my community know the reasons why my eyes were opened to food. And, you know, a big part of that was our son being born, and just thinking, ‘Man, I don’t want to ruin this.’ And so many of us, sort of, wake up and start thinking about what we’re eating, and what we’re feeding our children, at that stage. And I took it a step further by doing some study, and now, obviously, I created a business around trying to help other people just start eating a bit more real food. Because it was a big learning journey for me, and as I went on that journey, inevitably, you came too. And I know a lot of the time, it hasn’t been easy, and there’s been some weird stuff tried, but as someone who, well, I guess, you were sort of stuck in your ways, like I was too. How did you find-, because this is what a lot of people come up against. They start to want to make changes, but they feel a bit of resistance, or the person who they’re living with doesn’t want to come along on the ride. But tell me what it was like for you, when things first started to kick off. And did you feel resistance, were you excited?
Nick: Wow, that’s a big one, Lees. Well, I suppose your food journey was definitely, you know, small. Like, incremental, and what I was enjoying was the evolution of you. If I can use that perspective, it wasn’t necessarily about, ‘Okay, what’s she shoving in my face?’ It was like, ‘Hey, this is your new interest, and I’m enjoying that.’ Just as I was into, you know, philosophy, and I’m still studying that kind of stuff. I’m hoping you’re enjoying, you know, my evolution. So I’ve always tried to take a step back and go, ‘Hmm, I’m going to enjoy this, because you’re my partner, and I’m just loving watching you just change, and grow, and let’s see what you’re going to feed me tonight.’ But in saying that, I’m not necessarily the guy that comes home and waits for food to be put on the table. I mean, we are definitely not that couple, and what we are trying to do is be self-aware enough to go, ‘Hey, this is a cultural thing.’ We are both of a generation whose parents were, you know, Dad was a nine-til-fiver, came home and expected certain things a certain way. We’re both self-aware enough to go, ‘Hang on, you know, it doesn’t have to be like that.’ And certainly, it’s not, in our household, and we’re trying to redress the balance. So, I think, your change has been instrumental in me growing, to be quite frank.
Lisa: Yes, that’s nice.
Nick: You know, I’ve, sort of, tried to step up, as you’ve stepped up, you know? Especially in your food journey. Because I don’t think it’s about food for you, I think it’s more about self-discovery, and that’s been really important for me. Just because you like to cook a strange fishcake doesn’t mean that it’s just about the strange fishcake.
Lisa: Yes, that’s really nice of you to say that, actually. I’m just going to sit there and take that one, because I think that I have been lucky in the way that-, there have been some things where you’re like, ‘You might have gone too far with the zucchini pasta. Let’s not do that again.’
Nick: Yes, for sure.
Lisa: But, at the end of the day, you gave it a try, and you appreciate that I am trying. And I think that you haven’t shown resistance in terms of the food, but there have been things that you definitely have shown resistance to. And I think that that’s for another episode, when it comes to our relationship, and working, and, you know, what creating a business out of this food thing has meant. So, that’s another episode.
Lisa: But for now, I know 100% that when you start to feel better in yourself, which I started to feel better when I got rid of a lot of the processed and packaged foods, you just want everyone else to feel better. And it can be frustrating when you think that people don’t want to. But I’d like to ask you, because I’m sure-, especially if there are any of the guys watching this, and as you said before, we’re very conscious that this is sounding like a, ‘Man works, comes home from work and, you know, dinner is cooked by partner who has been at home with children, or worked, and done dinner.’ And so, we’re really conscious that it doesn’t have to be that way, and we’re making moves in our relationship to change that up. But right now, I have been making the babies, I am working from home, it is where Nick does work full-time, and it’s where we’re at.
Nick: For the moment.
Lisa: For the moment. And on weekends, things change up. And on Wednesdays, when I’m out with the kids, with swimming, I come home to dinner on the table. Anyway, I just wanted to say that. But right now, I would like to know that as we’ve made these changes, have you felt improvements to your health, like, physically, mentally?
Nick: Well, okay, improvements. Yes.
Lisa: Well, have you felt different? Like, do you think it’s been worth it?
Nick: Wow, that’s a big question. Okay, there’s a lot to say there, Lees, you put me on the spot. Yes, certainly it has, but just thinking aloud here, I’m going to go back to the educational piece. Because right at the start of this podcast, I said that when I first met you, you weren’t really into this wholefood thing. You know, it was KanTong, and all that sort of stuff. And what I’ve enjoyed is the educational piece, you know, of your personality. So I’ve really learnt from you. We’re integrated, as far as whether we like it or not.
Lisa: Well, we share stuff, yes.
Nick: So that failed zucchini slice that you cooked a couple of weeks-,
Lisa: Zucchini pasta.
Nick: Yes. I’m going to learn from that, whether I like it or not. So, I guess that’s a long way of saying that it has helped me, because I’ve learnt a lot myself. So when I wake up in the morning, there are really simple changes that I’ve already made, such as, ‘Okay Nick, maybe milk isn’t necessarily always mandatory for breakfast.’ I used to just pound it on there, and throw on the milk with the muesli. I don’t necessarily have muesli any more, you know, it is a smoothie with avocado. I know it sounds a bit weird, but that wasn’t necessarily just a jump from one things to the next, it was a transition, as you’ve transitioned as well, Lees.
Lisa: Yes, small steps!
Nick: But, it has been a really big educational piece for me.
Lisa: So, you think finding out the ‘why’ behind why certain changes are being made has helped you?
Nick: Yes, and also, understanding what type of ‘why’ are you trying to create a revolution in our household. Not just, ‘Hey Nick, here is something, put it in your mouth.’ It’s, ‘I think we should do this because of… and I’ve seen the reaction in… and I’ve read in the paper that…’ all that type of stuff. And then it, sort of, just makes me think. So when I’m on the bus on the way to work, I’m like, ‘Wow, maybe that muesli bar is full of sugar,’ and I will pick it up and read the packet. And without sugar, after a couple of weeks, I do generally notice when I put a couple of Freddos in my mouth, because of a kid’s birthday party, I will start to get a slight, sort of, migraine feeling. And I don’t know whether that’s a good sign, or a bad sign, but I certainly feel the effects of sugar consumption, which is strange, yes.
Lisa: It’s awesome, and a lot of people don’t even get that chance to feel how their body feels, when they have that stuff, because they’re having it all the time. I think that’s a really awesome point, and I am thankful that you’ve been open to the learning about it. But I also do remember times when you’re like, ‘This is too far.’ Like, you know, ‘You’re taking it too far.’ I just want to also say that something else that comes up all the time, in my programs, and in the membership, and even on my Facebook page. Where people say that they’re trying so hard to make changes, especially with their kids, and it’s not even that the partner is getting grumpy, and he’s, you know, doing whatever. Which, you know, by the way, they’re on their own journey. And we have to be cool with that, like, we just have to let go sometimes. There are habits that Nick has that drive me crazy, and same goes, and we just have to be cool with that.
But the point that I’d love to talk about next is the issue with kids, and when we, as primary caregivers, or whoever is the person making most of the food in the family, is really trying to get rid of the additives, the preservatives. Is really trying to go back to basics with food. Load them up with good stuff, and then someone comes along, be it a partner, a grandparent, an auntie or uncle, whoever it is, and it just, sort of, feels like they undo a lot of the good work. Because we get to see the reaction our kids have to this stuff. We might be trying to keep a kid away from dairy, because of tummy upsets, and that’s definitely happened in our family. Or, it might be that a certain child reacts really badly to a certain colour, or flavour, or whatever it is. And then they just get given it, and it’s so frustrating. And there have been times when I’m like, ‘You’ve done what?’ Okay, you deal with them now! Or whatever it is. So, I’d love to get your insight into what’s actually-, what’s going on there?
Nick: My insight, or my defence?
Lisa: Yes, both.
Nick: It’s not necessarily about the food in that instance, Lees. And this is our current paradigm, right? Love it or loathe it, I am going on a bus every day, for eight hours, coming home, and on weekends these three little strangers pop up on a Saturday morning, and go, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.’ You know, the guys that I haven’t seen all week, and I’m like, ‘Oh wow.’ What is my two-and-a-half-year-old like at 11:00 in the morning? There she is, I never knew that she was so cute, and she’s asking me for a lollipop. Okay, and you don’t understand the joy, or it’s a very quick path to joy, when you, you know, give her that little lollipop when you’ve taken her to the milk bar on the way home from the park. And you go, ‘Oh my God, she is the cutest, and the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.’ I know that already, but there is a certain fire that’s lit up so quickly, and in such a short space of time. You know, it’s only a Saturday, or a Sunday day, and it’s what you do, just to fill your cup until Tuesday or Wednesday, when you’re starting to get grumpy. So, it’s a cultural thing.
Lisa: So, it’s for you?
Nick: Yes. It is for me.
Lisa: Because it gives you a feeling, or, you receive that love, that, ‘Oh my God, Daddy, thank you!’ That’s what you’re doing it for, is what you’re saying?
Nick: Yes. If I wasn’t working full-time.
Lisa: (Laughter) oh, yes.
Nick: That old chestnut.
Lisa: Yes, yes. Whatever, yes.
Nick: We’re not going to go there.
Lisa: I think that what you’re saying, you know, and it’s the grandparents too. You know, they want to be the ones to just go, ‘Come on, here you go. Don’t tell Mum.’ And it’s just such a shame that food is used in that instance, and, you know, I’m loosening up. And I don’t think I am particularly hardcore on this stuff at all, but I do know that there are people who have in-laws, or even their own parents, who just seem to either not believe what they’re saying about the food, and the impact it has on their kids, or just defy, and go, you know, F-you, this is the way we do it around here.’ And it’s hard, it’s hard for, in a lot of cases, the mother.
Nick: Yes. And I certainly don’t do it to make your life harder, and I do find it interesting that food is used as a bargaining chip in that instance. It’s because it’s one of the oldest bargaining chips in the world, right? There are obviously a lot of other things that I could use, such as, I don’t know, ‘You’re not going to the park today,’ or, ‘Let’s go to the park.’
Lisa: You do all that stuff too.
Nick: It’s just the added sweetness in life. So, we’re just trying to find, what else is the added sweetness, other than sugar? Is our challenge, especially with our six-year-old, and our two-and-a-half-year old. They’re both sugar addicts, or, they just go for it.
strong>Lisa: They have, they definitely have a sweet tooth. Our middle child is our savoury chick, but yes, the other two, and now, our son has, like, got some pocket money, and he’s just finding excuses for other people, when we were down in Melbourne, to take him to 7-11. And we’re like, ‘What is going on, this kid?’ Anyway, that’s another story.
Nick: They’ll find a way, and so we’ve just got to be a little bit less ‘dictatorship’ about it.
Lisa: Oh, that’s a harsh word. I think, here’s the thing. I find it hard, because when I grew up, there was everything in the pantry. I had the Barbecue Shapes, and the fun-sized Milky Ways, and we had the Lamington fingers, and the iced VoVos, is that what they were called? Yes, the ones with icing, and then the little fake jam. Oh my God, they were so good, and I would die if my kids ate those. But, it was always there, and I learned how to manage my own consumption of things. And I remember a friend, one of my best friends, saying, ‘Lisa, you’re so lucky. My mum was always on a diet, and we didn’t have any food in our house, so when I started earning a part-time wage, I went nuts.’ She put on a lot of weight, she was, you know, buying all sorts of things, because it was forbidden, and the forbidden stuff is everything you want. And I can see that I am going to be navigating this route, and it’s going to be hard, because I like that I was brought up knowing what that stuff tasted like. And being able to go, ‘Well, I don’t need it all the time,’ because it’s not necessarily forbidden. Like, Mum was pretty strict, ‘You can have one mint slice,’ or whatever it is, but we still got a taste of it. And that’s not going on here, right now.
Nick: No, and that’s interesting. It’s similar to the ‘alcohol with dinner’ concept that was just released today, or yesterday. There was a study in the paper, about, you know, does feeding your kids alcohol, small amounts, at dinner, encourage binge drinking? And the study leaned both ways, so it wasn’t really definitive.
Nick: Yes, unfortunately. But yes, it’s a tough road to navigate.
Lisa: Because we can have ideas, we can know what this food does, we can think it’s all a chemical cocktail, but the fact of the matter is, our kids go to birthday parties and eat this food. The fact of the matter is, they could work in a hamburger joint when they turn, you know, fifteen. This is their world, and we haven’t excluded them. All we can do is really teach them as best we can, and, you know, for all the women, and men, listening to this podcast, you know, I didn’t make up Small Steps. We live by it. We are constantly learning new things, we’re constantly trying out new stuff, we’re constantly being kind to ourselves. You know, it’s not an all or nothing for us, by any stretch of the imagination. And I don’t know of anyone who’s got this totally sorted out, who has really little kids. It’s easier to reason with older kids, I am hoping, but right now, it’s a road that we’re navigating, and trying all the time.
So, thank you for sharing a little bit about where you’ve been at. Have you got anything else that you would like to add, or was there another question? Oh, hang on! I needed to ask you about if you had any-, because we’re all about small steps, right? So, at the end of most interviews, I ask people, have you got any small steps that any of the-, well, they’re probably guys, or if there are any women who are being grumpy about their men making changes, this is for you, that they could take? If their partner’s on the road to eating healthier, and they’re feeling a bit grumps about it?
Nick: If the man is feeling grumps, is that the question? What does the man do?
Lisa: Yes, if the man is the one grumpy about the change. You know, it might be a man trying to make the healthy changes, and the woman’s grumpy. But yes, you get it?
Nick: Okay. I guess, for me, what I first did was look at my small circle of influence, right. I was brought up in a very, you know, structured, nuclear family, and that was very biased. So I had to look at that small circle of influence, and go, ‘Hang on a sec, I’m only looking at it from that perspective. There must be a wider world out there, that’s just my story.’ And obviously, Lisa, you are trying something new, so I stepped back from myself. You know, I tried to be a little bit more self aware, that was the big thing. And in doing that, I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s really going on here? She’s obviously wanting to improve, and I’m included in that journey, so I was thankful. So, I started just to be a little bit more gracious, and accepting, and say, ‘Thank you.’ I know it’s more about the kids than me, usually, but you’re doing it for a reason, and the reason is usually, well, obviously, always good. So, that was, sort of, getting out of my own way, and saying, ‘Thank you.’ That, sort of, opened me up a little bit.
Lisa: Things that, the way that you grew up, or what you knew about food, or even how we had set up our life? You could step back, and look at it, and see that it could be done differently?
Nick: Yes, absolutely.
Lisa: And you were thankful? That’s nice.
Nick: Yes. The only other thing that, you know, I would think of a lot of the time is, I don’t have a shed, but, you know, if I had a shed, a Man Shed, and I must sound disgusting with all these stereotypes, but you’re out there in the shed, and someone comes in and someone tries to tell you how to do something. And all you’re trying to do is make a table, for example, and the table actually means something for the family. You know, you’re trying to do something with your own hands, and your own mind, to improve, you know, your family. That’s what I thought Lisa was trying to do for us, even though it felt like she was encroaching on my space, if I, sort of, turned it, and looked at it from that perspective, I thought, ‘Yes, it is uncomfortable, but, you know, I like to build tables for the family, she likes to cook for the family, and we’re all trying to do our best.’ As sexist as that sounds, just hear me out here. I don’t have a shed, and I don’t build tables.
Lisa: (Laughter) I was thinking, ‘What the fuck is he saying?’ Building tables!
Nick: But it’s all about intention, right? That’s what I’m trying to get at. There was an intention there, and I tried to just switch it, and think, well, when I’m trying to do something nice for the family, and you come barging in and saying, ‘Hey, what the hell is this?’ That would really hurt my feelings. So I was just trying to look at it from your point of view. Because I often try to do things for the family that are misinterpreted. Yes, not building tables, but there are definitely things that are misinterpreted. So I guess my suggestion is, it all comes down to communication. As banal as that sounds, food is so much bigger than just what’s on your plate. There are cultural things, there’s intention there, there’s health. Yes, there are definitely psychological things at play, as well.
Lisa: Oh yes, big time.
Nick: So, it’s a big basket of worms.
Lisa: I mean, that small step, really, is about being gentle on your partner, who is trying to make these changes, and be as supportive as you can. So, I love it, thank you. And thank you, for being you, and for letting me go on this journey. And I know that we’ll be on it for a long time. I also think it’s been super-handy for you to have skin in the game. So, like, the way you used to grow veggies, or herbs, and we haven’t done that in Queensland, in these rentals, it’s a little bit harder. But making the fermented foods, which really came out of your love of beer, and, you know, home brewing beer. But just getting experimental with something, and being able to, kind of, just find your place within it. Like, the kids love those pickles. They love the sauerkraut, and the kefir. Like, ‘Daddy’s special drink,’ and that’s a great thing to do. And it’s just you, you know, getting down with some cabbage, and jars, and stuff. Anyway, I thank you for sharing this, and I hope it’s been valuable to you guys to hear that, you know, we don’t have it all worked out, and it’s been a process for us. And Nick, as I think I’ve been lucky that he’s had a background in real food. I thank his mum for that, and also that, you know, he knows how to make gnocchi and stuff.
Nick: That’s my grandmother, so thank you, Nonna.
Lisa: Oh God, thank you for that. Oh gosh, it’s a great thing. And yes, feel free to share with us any time. Keep the conversation going about how you’re helping to make the changes, how you’re going to support your partner in making the changes. And us chicks will all stick together, and keep on our mission of helping to improve the food our family is eating.
Nick: And lastly, you know, just for my own benefit, if there are any lingering questions that you want to ask me, I’d be more than happy to pass my answers on through Lisa. If they are a little bit hairy, and, you know, involve your men, more than happy to give it a crack.
Lisa: Might have to get you into the membership. But you can also find this episode on the website, if you go to Blog, Podcast, and find this episode, then you can leave comments underneath, and Nick will be more than happy to answer. Thank you so much for listening, and thanks Nick.
Nick: Okay, bye guys.