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That Mama: Hong Kong’s Health and Wellness Advocate, Ifat Kafry Hindes

Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life - Post Category - That MamaThat Mama

A health nut, successful entrepreneur and mama to
three kiddos!

For those of you who’ve been around Hong Kong’s health and wellness scene, the name, Ifat Kafry Hindes should be a familiar one to you. Practically raised in the 852, Ifat is no stranger to Team Sassy Mama. As a previous The Bump, contributor and friend to the site, we’ve watched as she’s pushed the boundaries on healthy eating and general wellness in our city. From previously launching Choice Cooperative, an indoor play space along with a coffee shop, cooking classes and now a cookbook, Healthy Eating on the way… what can’t Ifat do?! As a mama to three beautiful children, Jacob (6 years old), Leah (4 years old), and Elijah (2 years old), she is #mumgoals for all of us as she balances family life and start-up life so seamlessly. Ifat shares about who she finds inspiring in our local community, why we should support entrepreneurial parents and how she realised her hubby was “the one”! Read more as we dive deeper with Ifat in this edition of That Mama.

ifat kafry hindes

Tell us about yourself and how you found yourself in Hong Kong.

I moved to Hong Kong with my family back in ’84 from St Maarten, Virgin Islands where I was raised… and the rest is history! Hong Kong is home.

How would you describe your life philosophy?

My grandmother is a survivor of WW2. We went to Auschwitz with her to witness the exact spot that she last saw my great-grandparents as they were brought to the gas chambers. Her fight for survival gave me life. My other grandmother helped raise her brother and sister from age 13 as well as going to school while working full time. One of my grandfathers was underground in Berlin during WW2 and the other helped to form the first army in Israel, the Palmach. This is where I come from, this is my history which formed us.

Who I am now is the result of very important people who have guided and moulded me. I’m grateful for the people who fought for my home country and the survival of the Jewish people in order to give life to my parents and for us to continue onwards, hopefully to make the world a better place.

Based on this past, I have to ask myself do the ‘little things’ really matter in the grand scheme of life?

My philosophy can be summed up to this: it costs nothing to be nice and kind words can help someone more than you think. You never know what anyone is going through, so don’t assume you do. Be the one who nurtures. Be the one who builds both people and environment. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart! Be the one who looks for the best in people and always leave people better than when you found them.

ifat and her dog

Describe your personality with three words.
Passionate, determined, and sensitive.

Where did your passion for healthy eating and cooking stem from? Were you always mindful of your healthy habits?
I’ve always been quite healthy in my eating habits. Of course when I was growing up, I’d love to indulge here and there. I actually come from a bloodline of amazing chefs and cooks. My grandfather had a famous bakery in Israel and changed the way food was produced there in 50’s. He also had a restaurant in St Maarten. There was always a festive cooking environment growing up. Everything was homemade.  We would learn from my grandparents and my mother and experiment along with them. I remember mashing bananas, oatmeal, flour and milk with eggs to make pancakes when I was 9! When I was 19, I did a self-study on “food for mood”.  I was modelling and had suffered from anorexia and depression and when I came out of it, I thought surely what we put in our bodies must affect our outlook. I never finished it however, years later I stumbled on it just after Jacob, my eldest, was born. My curiosity was sparked again and I began to research once more.

ifat in the kitchen

Tell us more about your upcoming cookbook. What can we expect from it?
Healthy Eating Cookbook is about my journey with delicious and nurturing foods that I make at home and for my clients using real non-processed ingredients. Quick and easy ways to prepare snacks, grab-and-go recipes and desserts that are not only nourishing but also taste amazing!

We can’t wait to see it! What’s your favourite recipe from the book?
It’s hard to decide what my favourite recipe is as it always changes! I can say my Tahini Bliss Balls are one of my faves, though the kids love my vegan chocolate chip cookies! When we did a public taste test and people couldn’t believe it was free of processed sugar, vegan and filled with healthy ingredients. My hubby loves my spinach banana muffins and my mum loves my chocolate brownie fudge cake.

You are known as a health and wellness ambassador in Hong Kong, what does that title mean to you?
It’s an honour to be known as a Health Ambassador here in Hong Kong. I try to inspire people to make healthier choices in their lives. When people think of health, they think a lot about the outside and how they look. When I think of health, it’s more about how strong I am on the inside and how I take care of my body and environment. There isn’t enough awareness on internal health these days, and I feel like it should be highlighted as it is just as important. I suffer from chronic issues and have always struggled back and forth with some form of depression. Making healthy lifestyle choices has definitely impacted my overall state of wellness.

I’m not perfect and some days I treat myself to a little excitement out of the usual healthy options. I suffer for some choices the next day, so it reminds me of why I need to keep forging ahead with what I do and aiming for my goals.

ifat kissing her dog

If you could have a cheat meal, what would it be? Guilty pleasure?
Well first, I love to say TREAT meal instead. I think when we use the word ‘cheat’ or ‘guilty’ we add a negative connotation to our enjoyment. It’s important to enjoy, and to do so positively, especially if the kids are watching and they learn from us that it’s ok since it’s done in a positive manner.

That being said, my favourite treats from the 20 of my 80/20 lifestyle would be, Chinese Food or dim sum, Wild Mylk and Happy Cow ice cream. I don’t eat starches or complex carbs, so dim sum is an extra special treat. My favourite places are the Pure Veggie House, Mott32 and Yum Cha.

Read more: Favourite Icy Treats for the Summer

Where do you find inspiration for all your endeavours and who inspires you?
Such a hard question to answer, I don’t want to miss anyone out and bet when I read this back later I’ll remember a few names to add to the list! People who inspire me are authentic and are change-makers.

Peggy Chan from Grassroots Pantry is one of the most amazing women I know. I literally learn from her daily as I keep up-to-date with her social posts. I learn so much from her insightful sharing. Lori Granito who was my business partner with Choice Healthy Foods has an infectious energy that inspires everyone around her to want to be and do better. I’ve known Lisa Christensen from Ecozine for years and although I don’t see as much of her as I’d love too, she is so inspiring from her annual beach cleanups to environmental passions to inspire change within Hong Kong and the world around us. I’ve known Craig Leeson (who directed the award-winning Plastic Oceans) for a while now and he’s always inspiring me to make changes with how I interact with the environment around me. And lastly, Gary and Andy Stokes, from The Last Straw Movement are two people that inspire me. Through discussions with Gary, I have learned so much about the critical state Hong Kong’s eco-system is in. I love Andy’s drive for changing plastics that pollute the world by changing the straws we use and getting people to think about the little choices they make.

There are so many inspirational people right here in our backyard.

ifat cooking with leah

If you could choose a brand new career what would it be and why?
I would definitely become a Functional Medical Doctor. I wish I knew about this profession when I was younger and now, I think daily about the fact that I would love to do this. It tackles health and wellness from a cause not a symptom perspective. I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Mark Hyman at an event curated by the amazing Nealy Fischer for women. I spent some time talking to him which was such an amazing experience. He is truly inspirational and is probably one of the most respected Functional Medical Doctors around. He tackles the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. He is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Centre for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Centre, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

ifat at the dining table

How has being a mom changed the way you view your professional life?
I think I noticed the lack of professional support, especially in Hong Kong, for women who have young children. There is a lack of compassion towards professional people who also have a young family at home. This is reflected in everything I have done professionally.

When I created Choice Cooperative, it was the first venue in Hong Kong to incorporate a children’s area with 1,500sqft of sensory enjoyment space for the children to enjoy within our 5,000sqft venue. Nowhere else had a dedicated indoor area at that time, so we were popular with families and became a hub for entrepreneurial parents who wanted to work and have the kids around them. This was what I wanted to create.

When I closed that café and created Choice Healthy Foods, I incorporated a children’s safety zone, where the kids could be whilst I was working at the factory. I figured the worst that could happen is that they see how hard I work but also know how dedicated I am to them! I used to have ‘naysayers’, even friends who couldn’t believe I would bring my kids to meetings with me. However, there are people who embraced my way of life. For example, when I used to meet with the chefs at the Four Seasons, they’d happily give an area to the kids to play whilst we had our meetings!

I try to be the change I wish to see in the system. Now I see many mums doing what I did years ago when I had Jacob at ALL my meetings, breastfeeding him (covered with a ‘Hooter Hider’!) whilst a big meeting continued.

That being said, of course, there are situations where the kids shouldn’t come along and now that they are older they don’t. Elijah still breastfeeds so we try and keep him as near as possible in case he needs some comforting, but it’s not for everyone. Hopefully it inspires change within other institutions to be more supportive and flexible for parents knowing how crucial their role is for their children, and their future.

ifat cooking with kids

How do you balance work and mama life?
I don’t know that I do. I have three very young kids, Elijiah is 2, Leah is 4 and Jacob is 6 and each with very different schedules pulling me in all directions. I work in between all their schedules. My calendar is the one thing that I always update so I don’t loose track of everything. I put an alarm to remind me and check it everyday to make sure I’m on track.

ifat's dining room

What are some of your organisational tips and tricks?
When it comes to cooking for my kids, I’ve learned from my mother to pre-make all you can and freeze it. This makes things easier since they don’t all like the same things. Chop and cook in advance and place in the fridge so it’s easy to grab-and-go for all their different tastes. Jacob loves avocado smash sandwiches whilst Leah would love a wild salmon bagel and Elijah loves a little of everything in the fridge and cabinets… thank goodness he isn’t picky.

What do you do to get in that “me” time?
I still breastfeed so I try to sleep whenever I get the chance. I also love to exercise. If my hubby can allow time for helping to watch the kids then I will go out with some friends or spend girly time with my mum and sisters.

ifat hugging elijah

What do you find to be the most challenging part of parenting?
Forgiving yourself for making some bad decisions. Even though I always say we should always be kind, I still struggle to be kind to myself. I’m learning to show myself more grace.

What is the most rewarding part of parenting?
I am in complete awe of my children. I look at them and in my mind, it is like watching a video on fast-forward from when I first became a parent until now. I’m so thankful and blessed. Just having them is the most rewarding part for me honestly. It’s incredible to see how they have become such inspiring little beings.

ifat and her kids

What are 3 things you find yourself repeating to your kids all the time?

  1. Use your words the best you can because I can’t understand you.
  2. Why am I the luckiest mum in the world (to which they say, “Because you have the three of us, Ima!”)
  3. When they cry, I say let’s breathe together and get calm, deep breaths about ten times, and when they calm down we try and talk about what they can’t express very well.

Name your funniest and/or most memorable parenting moment.
This morning, Elijah did a massive number 2 and I noticed a horrible rash, so I let him run bare. He found my stash of Raiz the Bar Chocolate and decided that would be breakfast. Never did I think that I would be answering an email to look down and be puzzled at what I saw on the sofa. I thought he just spat out all his chocolate and was now playing with it and his spoon. Nope. He had made another massive poo and was playing with his spoon AND his poo while painting the floor and the walls… thankfully not eating it!

Favourite family holiday destination and why.
Easy, Israel. The best food, weather, beaches, people, culture and environment. The plus is, our children get to spend time with their great-grandmothers and family.

ifat and leah

What are your favourite spots to eat at with your family in Hong Kong?
HOME Eat to Live, The Conservatory, Pure Veggie House, Locofama, Sohofama, Grassroots Pantry, Genie Juicery, Le Pain Quotidien and Mana.

Read more: Top 5 Eco-Conscious Café’s in Hong Kong

What’s the best advice you’ve received as a parent?
People will either belittle you or celebrate you, go where the love is, know your circle of trust and family is everything.

Worst advice?
My children aren’t adjusted to sugar and that’s why they act out. I should probably incorporate a program of letting my kids eat sugar daily in order to get their bodies accustomed to it.

Something that you wish someone had told you about motherhood?
You can plan and over-plan but until you become a mum you don’t really know what your values and ideals are or how it’s going to be. No child is the same and no situation is the same for that matter. Trust your instincts and do what your heart tells you is right.

ifat and jacob

What has been your most humbling moment as a mum?
Every time I gave birth.

How did you meet your husband? Did you have an “a-ha” moment when you realised he was “the one”?
I had a crush on him in high school as he was a friend of my sister and her friends and I used to think he was awesome! I got butterflies every time I saw him and tried to get his attention. Years later (18 years ago!), I saw him out one night and tried to gather the courage to ask if he remembered me. Apparently, he didn’t! However, we spoke until 8am, and met again, and spoke on the phone for hours. A couple weeks into the relationship he told me he knew exactly who I was the whole time! That was when I knew he was the one.

ifat holding elijah

How do you keep the romance between you and your husband alive with such a busy work and family life?
Since we don’t see enough of each other during the week, we text a lot during the day. We also try and grab alone time when we can. It’s not easy as we do put the kids needs before our own most of the time. We both always have work to do, and learning to allow ourselves a couple hours off in order to have romance and alone time is difficult. So I guess, watching a film with the kids sleeping around us is as romantic as it gets most of the time!

Favourite date night restaurant with your partner.
It would be La Vache, Cassio or Lily and Bloom!

ifat with elijah outside

As a mama, I wish I were better at…
Not losing my temper. I feel I lose it too easily due to fatigue most of the time.

I wake up in the middle of night thinking about…
When I’m going to see my grandmothers next with all my kids.

ifat with kids at dining table laughing

Bedtime is always smoother when…
When we cuddle the kids to sleep and end up falling asleep with them.

My favourite moment of the day is…
Waking up on Sunday mornings with all three kids and hubby in the bed feeling so blessed and thankful.

Ed note: If you know a great Mum who’d be perfect for our next That Mama feature, please email us at: [email protected] for more information.

Thanks to the talented Jenna Louise Potter from Lucky Fish Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Facebook.
Styling by the lovely Tessa Matthews from Tessa Matthews. Follow her on Instagram.

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