For everyone out there, expat or not – you don’t need to be following a crazy, strict diet or be working out every other day in the gym in order to stay fit and healthy. This interview by Shape magazine with Her Excellency Margriet Vonno, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Singapore and Brunei, is a great example of how you can keep fit and healthy (even at 52!).
Consistency is the key to staying fit for life, and Margriet is an advocate of this philosophy.
The 52-year-old diplomat has been cycling since she was a young child, and still does it regularly today. The sport is very much part of Dutch culture and bike lanes are aplenty in the Netherlands.
“I always cycled to school and to parties when I was a student. The bicycle was the cheapest and most convenient means of transport,” says Margriet. “At that time, I did not cycle to stay fit, but it did help a lot.”
As an adult, she cycled to and from her office when she was working in The Hague, a city in South Holland (one way was almost 10km). She’d even cycle to meetings at other locations. During a typical week, she’d easily clock about 110km!
She’s been a diplomat since 1990, and has lived and worked in other parts of the world before moving to Singapore last year with her husband Martin, 55, and their daughter, Leda, 12.
The experience has been wonderful so far and Margriet loves how everyone here is friendly and engaging. She also loves the great infrastructure, from roads to sports facilities, and the local cuisine. “I now have one more reason to exercise: so I can enjoy more food,” she says.
While cycling to and from work isn’t quite an option right now, she usually cycles during the weekends. She and her family use the park connectors.
Here, Margriet expounds on her love for cycling, and her secrets to looking fabulous.
What do you love most about cycling? “It changes the way I think about things. I’ve noticed that it gives me time to ponder, and problems tend to shrink in size.”
What are you favourite places to cycle in Singapore? “I like biking to Marina Barrage. I also enjoy cycling at East Coast Park.”
What’s your fitness routine like? “I usually cycle on the weekends. Depending on my schedule, I might do a short one-hour route or take a longer ride. I swim 1,000m every other day. I also enjoy walking, jumping rope and playing table tennis.”
What’s your diet like? “Being Dutch, I am very fond of dairy products. I love cheese and yogurt. As the daughter of a greengrocer, I’ve also always eaten a lot of vegetables and fruits. I enjoy the tropical fruits here a lot.
Typically, I have coffee with milk and fruit for breakfast. Lunch is usually a soup and salad. For dinner, I alternate between fish, chicken, and a vegetarian main course. For carbs, I alternate between potatoes, rice, and noodles. I always also have a salad at dinner. If I eat at a hawker centre, I opt for chicken rice. That’s my favourite Singaporean dish.”
Any indulgences? “Chocolate. To be more specific, milk chocolate.”
What are your favourite and least favourite body parts? “I like my legs. Cycling has shaped them well. My least favourite part is my nose. It’s relatively long, but I would never do a nose job. I like diversity.”
How has your active lifestyle influenced your loved ones? “I guess my husband, who owns six bicycles and cycles a lot more than I do, has influenced me more than I have influenced him. Our whole family favours active holidays instead of lying on a beach. We’ve had nice cycling holidays in Europe.”
What are the three most important things in your life? “My family, my health, and connecting people.”