Continuing with our Wellness Series we have the incredible Wendy Riddell, longtime friend of The Whole Kitchen, and nutritionist and UFIT Director of Bootcamps and Trainer.
A busy mum of four, Wendy tends to get more done before 10am than most of us get done in an entire day. She rises early, sets up over 200kg of weights at the gym, drives not only her own children but her neighbours children as well to school, and even gets her own workout in, ready for her first clients of the day. And if, like us, just reading about that morning schedule has left you feeling a little worn out, prepare to meet the absolute machine and wonder that is Wendy Riddell. Forged in Scotland, Wendy moved to Singapore eight years ago and has been helping hundreds of people to make positive changes to their lifestyle ever since. She gave us a few hours out of her crazy schedule so we could sit down to ask her some of our burning questions.
Good morning! Before we get started, could you share with us how you started your day this morning? (we love hearing about morning routines!)
My mornings are super crazy as I teach outdoor bootcamps too. My alarm goes off at 5am, the first thing I do without fail is make my bed. I’ve always a large coffee and bottle of water in hand as I run out the door at 5:20. I do sessions all over, but on a Tuesday and Thursday I’m at Fort Canning and I usually have about 240kg of weights to set out before the clients arrive. I finish my second session at 8am, and then I drive home to pick up the children to take to school. I have six in the car every day (I have four and I take my neighbours two) so I like to joke I’m a part time bus driver too. Once I’ve dropped them off I usually do my own work out and then I’m ready for 10am for client or management meetings.
What is your story and how you got into the work you are doing?
When I was in my mid-teens, I noticed that a lot of people around were overweight, Scotland doesn’t have the best obesity rates in the world. I noticed that they were sick and also a lot of the time depressed. And I just knew there must be a better way, and I also wanted to help other people find a better way. When I told a teacher, I wanted to be a nutritionist they said to me “who would pay someone to tell them what to eat”. I went to university in 1994, graduated in 1998, and then two years later I did a post-graduate degree in Sports Science and haven’t looked back. I’ve travelled a lot, so have had the privilege to work for NGOs, as well as run my own small business, and now here I am doing what I’m doing at UFIT.
How has COVID-19 impacted you personally and professionally?
I’m quite a positive person by nature so just got on with things, don’t get me wrong there were times that home schooling nearly drove me to day drinking, however I also see I’m in a privileged position compared to many others. The biggest thing for me, as with many others, is knowing when I can go and see my family again. I have family in the UK and in Australia so it’s really making me think about where I want to be in the world.
From a work perspective, I’ve never been busier, we immediately put everything online, from classes, to one-on-one Nutrition, and our Clean & Lean programme. Surprisingly, it works amazingly well, much better than I first thought it would.
From your experience, what do you feel are the biggest health challenges people are facing today?
Obesity of course is the big one, but I think we are all aware of that and how it leads to many chronic conditions. However, I think the biggest challenge is ensuring that people have the tools to help them deal with the issues. I think there needs to be clearer guidelines on how food is packaged and labelled, it should be easier access to healthy food, we should have cooking classes in schools so people have the skills to cook healthy foods for themselves, and we need warning labels on items that are very high in sugar.
Can you describe your food philosophy?
I truly believe nothing is bad in the right quantities. It's all about balance, trust me I have my glass of wine on the weekend. But I feel so much better when I eat lots of greens and get my good proteins in, but I’m not going to say no to truffle fries every now and then.
What does gluten free mean to you?
I personally don’t have any issues with or intolerances to gluten (thank God as I’ve always loved bread) but I’ve had more than just a few clients over the years who have. In the not too distant past the options were limited and often tasted a lot like cardboard. However now we have some amazing options with great taste, you can’t tell the difference, it’s fantastic.
What is your typical day on a plate? Do you have any go-to, family-favourite recipes (snacks or meals)?
I don’t usually have breakfast, I’m a coffee and go sort of girl. For lunch I’m very consistent (some might say boring) I get a salad from Sun & Moon on Telok Ayer, I always have a good mix of veg, and I change it up by one day having chicken, and the next tuna. I am very likely to have a second coffee. My favourite snack is actually your Pepper Pepitas Seeds, so good, so I always have some of those on me. Dinner is usually some type of soup or stew, as I eat with the kids and they love that, they will have it with rice which I generally skip, but I will have a slice of homemade bread.
My favourite recipe is seed crackers! I know it sounds boring but they are so versatile and tasty, you can have them with anything.
What are your top three tips for healthy living?
Move as much as you can – you don’t have to be doing hardcore work outs, but walk, dance, run. Just keep moving, the human body is made for it.
Enjoy your food – be mindful about it and think what you are putting into your mouth.
Laugh – as much as you can, life is way too short.
For someone wanting to learn more about wellness/nutrition, what resources would you recommend?
There are so many, but some good ones are OPEX, Precision Nutrition, ACE, NASM, if you want to get a qualification. Science of Cooking is a good book to get you back into the kitchen, anything by Jamie Oliver is pretty good, Deliciously Ella and Quite Good Food are good websites for easy recipes. And sadly as I’ve only just gotten into podcasts (I know! Where have I been?!) I’ll have to get back to you on them.
Do you have any affirmations, quotes, or mantras that you turn to regularly?
Be thankful for what you have
Tough times don’t last, tough people do.
Strive for progress, not perfection.
And my all time favourite one – if you stumble, make it part of the dance.
How can our readers connect with you further?
By my email – firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @wendyriddell
And finally, just a bit of fun, some sentence starters (just say the first thing that pops into your head!)
Three things I always have stocked in my fridge are… Spinach, wine and cheese
To relax I… Exercise
I’m most grateful for… My kids
If I could eat only one thing for the rest of my life it would be… Oooh hard one, so cruel only one. I’ll have to say Cauliflower as it’s so versatile, I can even make Pizza out of it!
Thank you so much for your time Wendy, and for our amazing readers who have made it this far, you're rewarded with a delicious recipe to try courtesy of Wendy. Let us know how your Roasted Pumpkin, Spinach, and Feta Muffins go by tagging us on Instagram @the_wholekitchen.