I remember seeing the sign at Simply For Life go up across the street from our office on Nipissing. I had no idea what it was, but I sure was excited to find out. During my very first visit, I was honoured to meet the owners/ franchisees, as well as the founders/ franchisors. I must have stayed at least an hour, having been enlightened by their knowledge on nutrition and wellness. Their passion for healthy food and well-being is contagious! 

Originally founded by Bruce and Claudine Sweeney, Simply For Life is a continually growing franchise of health food centres across Canada. Colin Achim is the proud owner of the very first Simply For Life location in Ontario. His passion for helping people get healthy through nutrition is evident. He seems completely in his element, and strikes me as one of those people who is fortunate enough to really love what they do for a living. As I got to know him and his family, I found that Colin was not always living his best life, and certainly did not arrive at this stage in his life by accident.

Family Matters Magazine sat down with Colin, his wife of 19 years, Veronica, and their witty and beautiful fifteen year old daughter, Zoe. Miltonians since 2004, Colin and Veronica met in their early twenties while both working in retail at the Eaton Centre. Veronica was raised in a home where good healthy food was always encouraged. She says, “I remember always having a healthy relationship with food; my mom was always interested in experimenting, and we always ate well.” Colin, however, was always focused more on his career than on himself and his health. “I was a triple-triple and two doughnuts for breakfast kind of guy,” he admits. “I worked a lot, I was a smoker, and I was always travelling.” As the years passed, it wasn’t just his weight weighing him down, it was also the stress from his career, and the lack of time spent with his family. Eventually Colin transitioned into the manufacturing industry. But the travelling didn’t slow down— if anything, he was spending more and more time on the road. “I was on the company’s dime, working about 60 to 80 hours a week, and I was eating a lot, and eating terribly.”

Colin was getting increasingly more miserable. He was unhappy with his job, and was missing out on time with his family. Zoe recalls “I didn’t know any different, I thought it was normal for him not to be around much.” Colin knew better though. There were many signs that things needed to change, but there was one incident in particular that really hit a nerve with him. One Sunday, while at his mother’s for dinner, Colin’s mom lovingly put her hands on his belly and jokingly asked him when he was “due”. It wasn’t too long after this that he joined Reebok Crossfit Firepower here in town. This was a turning point; soon after Colin joined, Veronica also became a member. Although their fitness levels certainly started improving, Colin quickly learned that he was trying to out-train a bad diet. Their interest in nutrition was initially piqued as a result of having surrounding themselves with like-minded people at RCFP, but they would soon have an even better reason.

Colin’s mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy, and received a prognosis of just a few months. The family believes this is what really catapulted their interest in nutrition. They dove into research on cancer and its relationship to food, and soon discovered that there was a way to eat that could aid in the  combat against not only cancer, other diseases, as well. This revolved around eating a more natural, plant-based diet— as close to what nature provides as possible. Zoe recalls “it was around that time that I started seeing that our table always had an abundance of vegetables, especially leafy greens!” Although her prognosis was just a few months, Colin’s mother is still conquering cancer four and a half years later, and the family believes that it was nutrition that has kept her so vibrant. Over the years, the family has made this way of eating a lifestyle. Although they now had their nutrition and fitness in check, there were still a few changes that needed to be made; Colin was still working in a job that took him away from the family.

Colin always dreamed of owning his own business, but starting from scratch in his forties was not what he had envisioned. So, he started going to franchise shows. There were tons of opportunities to choose from, but none of them stood out as something he could feel proud to stand behind. He decided that whatever the career path he chose, it would have to line up with their family’s values. One evening, about six months into his search, on the sixth Google page, Colin came across a small east coast franchise called Simply For Life. The franchisor was not actively looking to expand into Ontario, but Colin approached them with a proposal, and was after flying out to meet with Bruce and his wife, Claudine.

Almost every aspect of the business lined up with everything that Colin and his family believed. The company promotes eating as close to nature as possible, learning to cook your own meals, and eating organic foods grown as locally as possible. Naturally, it was a great fit. Before long, they were starting the renovations on their new space in Unit 5 at 150 Nipissing road.

Simply For Life, Milton opened its doors on January 31st this year. It is a nutrition centre first and foremost; Tyler Vermeulen, is their in-house nutritionist. The family is thrilled to have found such a perfect fit for their team. “Tyler can see the best in everyone,” says Zoe. Colin agrees, “he genuinely wants to see everyone succeed.” Whether one is looking for weight loss, disease management, sports nutrition, along with low-carb, ketogenic, paleolithic diets, or just healthy eating, Tyler can customize a meal plan for you, and will help you stay accountable with regular check-ins and support. The shop also offers cooking classes in their spacious, modern kitchen. Groups and families can come out to cook and learn new recipes together to further facilitate their success.

The retail component is abundant with many healthy options that are as locally sourced as possible, and are friendly to many different lifestyles such as natural, ketogenic, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. There is something for everyone.

Simply For Life is quickly becoming Milton’s favorite place to shop for healthy and nutritious options. Although Veronica does work full-time, and is not able to spend much time in the store, Zoe has been able to help out all summer, and spend lots of time with her dad. Colin’s sister is an accountant, and is even teaching Zoe how to keep the books!

Colin, Veronica, and Zoe agree collectively that the changes that have been consciously made in recent years have brought their family closer together. Zoe shares the biggest lesson taught to her: “family sticks together.” Colin admits, “life is too short not to be happy.” As he shares this, Veronica nods in agreement, and her pride is evident. “Whatever stage in life you are at, don’t be afraid to take risks,” she adds. The family is grateful for their extended family’s support. Veronica’s mother is a silent partner in the business, and Colin’s mother was an invaluable inspiration to them throughout their journey. They also are forever indebted to the Reebok Crossfit Firepower community who supports them constantly, having been instrumental in Simply For Life, Milton’s creation and growth over the past few months.

When I asked Colin how he feels about life these days, he breathes a sigh of relief; “I’m in a much better place. I get to see my wife and kid everyday.” Zoe smiles and says, “yeah, it’s pretty cool to have dad come down and have breakfast with me before heading off to work.” When Zoe’s dad heads out the door, he is heading out to a healthy place he created so that he can live his life on purpose.

Family Matters Magazine invites you to pop in for a visit and encourages you to support small, local, family owned business like Simply for Life.