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How Can Exercise Help My Stress Levels?

Everyone reaches points in their life when they feel stressed out, anxious, or worried about current and future events. But how do we deal with them? I’ve tried many different “destressing” tactics. Everything from taking a nap, to spending a night out at the bar with my buddies. While the things I tried helped in the moment, nothing had the long-term benefit that I felt from exercise. If you’re anything like me, then you’re wondering why this is. Lucky for you, I enjoy doing a bit of research on this stuff.

  We know that regular physical activity has a range of health benefits. Everything from our cardiovascular system, to our digestion relies on staying active to remain healthy. But, previously unknown to me, our stress response systems need us to take part in regular activity as well! Anxiety and stress are controlled, partly by the central nervous system, and partly by the endocrine system. When you’re exposed to something that stresses you out, the hypothalamus in the brain gets going and signals the adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol [4]. When the situation that the brain is detecting goes away, this response should disappear.

  Now, in our modern society, it’s not just once in a while that we find ourselves exposed to something that triggers a response. If you find it easy to manage the stressors in your life, then well done! If you don’t, this next bit is for you.

  Whether you’re running late for work, freaking out about an upcoming date, or maybe cutting it close for an upcoming rent payment. These are all things that add anxiety to our lives. If you don’t have a way of mitigating the effects of the stressors you’re faced with, they can lead to several negative health effects.

Stress Effects.png

So, how can we avoid letting the stress build up to the point where we’re getting beaten down? Well, one great way is to maintain a regular active lifestyle. Before you say “I don’t have time, I have to get to the things that are stressing me out first!” and, if you do get to those things, that’s great! But, after exercise you are way more productive.

Why is this? When you exercise, it drives blood flow to the brain, which increases alertness. There’s also the added benefit of an increase in dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which all help to elevate your mood. Exercise even increases your cognitive ability and problem-solving functions [5]. All of these together end up making it much easier to tackle any problem or stressor that is bringing you down. Wow, those are some pretty awesome benefits! Well, what’s more amazing than just the benefits, is the fact that it only takes 5 minutes of activity to see these results (which increase further as your bout of activity continues). So, if you’re feeling stressed out, get out there and go for a quick jog, get a few rounds of walking up some stairs, or maybe do few sets of squats and push ups wherever you are. It only takes a minimum of 5 minutes!

Now, what if you’re someone who’s developed an anxiety-related disorder? Well, for anxiety and panic disorders, there are a range of benefits that stem from different levels of activity. When a person with these disorders engages in vigorous physical activity it can be considered to fall under the title of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a type of treatment where a person is repeatedly exposed to a trigger with the knowledge that this will lessen the effects of said trigger over time. With vigorous activity the heart rate is elevated, which can lead to certain stress responses e.g. Panic/anxiety attacks; evidence suggests that over time these stress responses will decrease in frequency and severity. Of course, it’s best to speak to a healthcare professional, and get their opinion on your specific situation. When engaging in any level of activity endorphins are produced, which help with reduced perception of pain, increases in sleep quality and ability, and reduced feelings of stress. These are all shown to be contributors in reducing the negative effects of panic/anxiety disorders. Although most people experience benefits from physical activity, researchers agree that it may not be 100% mentally beneficial to those with anxiety and panic disorders; like all forms of therapy the results may vary. With this in mind, there is no dispute over the physical benefits of leading an active lifestyle and therapists suggest being active if at all possible.

If you’re just starting to implement your healthy active lifestyle, it’s good to start out easy. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that there are notable differences in stress levels and demeanor after as little as 5 minutes. They also express that a good initial objective for regular exercise should be 3-4 sessions per week ranging between 20-30 minutes in duration of moderate aerobic physical activity [1]. This is a good start, but eventually you want to aim towards hitting at least one 30-minute session a day of moderate to vigorous exercise to get the most psychological benefit.  Good luck, and hopefully you’ll soon begin to enjoy an active lifestyle as much as I do!

 

 

References:

1.       Exercise for Stress and Anxiety

https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety

 2.       Study: Physical Activity and Anxiety: A Perspective from the World Health Survey

Stubbs B et al, 2017, Journal of Affective Disorders

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27802893

 3.       Study: Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety

Elizabeth Anderson, Geetha Shivakumar, 2013, Frontiers in Psychiatry

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/  

4.       Effects of Stress on the Body

https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#3

5.       Exercise Increases Productivity

https://www.livestrong.com/article/422836-how-does-exercise-improve-work-productivity/

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Artificial Sweeteners... Friend or Foe?

Kicking sugar and processed foods is no easy feat. It will take a serious amount of effort and self talk for you to get past the cravings and your brain wanting that quick fix of sugar. Don’t be tempted to “replace” your sugars by slipping in “fake” sugar instead. While it may seem like a good idea, using “fake” sugar (such as aspartame) actually has the opposite effect than intended. 

When your body initially receives the “fake” sugar, it confuses your insulin producing cells and leads them to think: “Hey, here comes the sugar”. Your insulin levels shoot up anticipating that they will have to combat the approaching sugar rise. But there’s no actual sugar. There’s only fake sugar. Your cells are confused. They’re activated, waiting, and waiting, and waiting and over time they end up getting used to the excess insulin in the bloodstream.

 With time and repeatedly being faked out they “down-regulate” their response to insulin, requiring more and more insulin to be activated when there is glucose. Eventually your cells become Insulin Resistant. (*Psst* That’s the early beginnings of Diabetes). Just because it says it’s “Sugar Free” it still doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

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Physical Activity and Depression

If you’re like me, you enjoy learning about the benefits of an active lifestyle. If so, I hope you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was to discover the value of physical activity to your mental health.

It has been shown that those who live sedentary lifestyles experience much higher rates of depression [1]. Did you know that 85 minutes a week of leisurely physical activity reduces risk of depression by up to 45% [1]? This reduction can be furthered by increasing your activity levels to around 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, and tends to reduce continually as activity levels increase. The cause of this seems to come from many factors and contributors. One of these is the increase in central norepinephrine neurotransmission. Norepinephrine is a messenger chemical in the brain which is utilized for a slough of different functions, some of which being: attentiveness, emotional regulation, melatonin production for sleep, and blood glucose management. The increase in norepinephrine can also help people with bipolar disorder, as one of the symptoms is lowered levels of norepinephrine in the brain [8]. This relationship between norepinephrine transmission and our body can be seen in the infographic below.

Norepinephrine and Exercise (2).png

For those who already suffer from depression related disorders, the benefits of physical activity are still drastic. These benefits include an increased perceived self-efficacy (the belief in yourself to achieve goals) and sense of mastery all which lead to improved self confidence and positivity; this generally goes hand in hand with improving depression [5]. An increase in negativity is generally partnered with increase in depressive states, so logically it makes sense that increasing positivity should reduce the frequency and duration of these states. Other positive effects can be the distraction from day to day stressors, and an improved opinion of oneself that stems from a sense of accomplishment.

Of course, the value of increased serotonin synthesis and metabolism in the brain can not be left out. When a person is affected by depression-related disorders, they typically experience a drop in serotonin levels. This drop can negatively affect everything from appetite and digestion to sleep and sexual desire/function. Physical activity increases serotonin levels partially due to the fact that, as a person exerts themselves, the increased motor function raises the rate at which serotonin is “fired” in the brain [7]. Another contributing factor in serotonin production is that as a person’s exercise levels increase, the level of tryptophan (an amino acid used to synthesize serotonin) increases as well. The most effective forms of physical activity for increasing serotonin in the brain are assorted aerobic activities such as hiking, running, biking and swimming.

Serotonin Production.png

 It may seem overwhelming to make these changes; however, when starting out, it only takes exercising a small amount to make a difference. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that there are notable differences in stress levels and demeanor after as little as 5 minutes of consecutive aerobic activity (such as walking, cycling and jogging).  After you master the 5 minute of aerobic activity mark you can try adding time slowly until you are at 20-30 minutes of activity 3-4 times a week and before you know it you might be at 7 sessions per week. Serotonin has been shown to be ideally regulated with 7 sessions per week of at least 30 minutes in length so this can be a good long term goal for all of us to work toward once ready. Remember, your physical activity does not have to be fancy in order for you to receive benefits. Benefiting your mental health through physical activity can be as simple as walking 5 minutes more a day. Happy exercising!

References:

  1. Physical Activity and Depression in Young Adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19062235

  2. Physical Activity, Exercise, Depression, and Anxiety Disorders http://spers.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/physical-activity-and-exercise-on-anxiety-and-depression.pdf

  3. Synapses and Neurotransmitters http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/i/i_01/i_01_m/i_01_m_ana/i_01_m_ana.html

  4. How The Brain Knows When The Body ‘Hits The Wall’  https://www.livescience.com/1669-brain-body-hits-wall.html

  5. 8 Suggestions for Strengthening Self-Esteem When You Have Depression https://psychcentral.com/blog/8-suggestions-for-strengthening-self-esteem-when-you-have-depression/

  6. Physical Activity Reduces Stress https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

  7. The Effects of Exercise on Serotonin Levels https://www.livestrong.com/article/22590-effects-exercise-serotonin-levels/

  8. What Chemicals Are Involved With Bipolar Disorder? https://www.livestrong.com/article/234421-what-chemicals-are-involved-with-bipolar-disorder/  


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Breast Cancer Awareness

            It’s odd to think of writing about breast cancer as a male member of society. Being male, I have a significantly reduced risk of this type of cancer making an impact on my body and any fear of this malady has been far placed from any thought of personal well-being. Therefore, I’m writing about this mostly from the state of mind that is thinking of the women in my life that I care about.

            Breast cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer among women globally and although mortality rates have been steadily decreasing since 1975, 508,000 women still lost their battle with this prevalent disease in 2011 [8]. Also, despite the declining rates of death, there has not been a reduction in the incidence of breast cancer; and it is, in fact, more predominant in first world countries like the US, Canada and Australia. One in ten neoplasms (abnormal growths of tissue) detected in human beings is breast cancer; and there is actually a ten-fold variation in incidences of breast cancer worldwide, depending on socio-economical, reproductive, and nutritional variations from country to country. Something that was even more shocking to me was the fact that when a family migrates from places with low rates of breast cancer (Asia, Poland or Italy) to a place with high rates (USA, Canada or Australia) within as little as one generation their rates increase (if the move is at a young enough age it will actually impact the individuals breast cancer risk) [1]. This shows that the epidemic we’re seeing has environmental factors that are important to consider when thinking about how to reduce risk.

            You might be asking then, “how can I, or the women in my life, reduce their risks of acquiring this terrible affliction?”. Well, that’s exactly why I’m writing this. The general consensus seems to be that there are several main ways to reduce the risk factors for developing breast cancer:

Breast Cancer.png

·         Diet:

In this day and age diet is a major lifestyle component to consider when attempting to decrease risk (not only to cancer). Women who consumed a Mediterranean diet (consisting mostly of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, healthy fats, and limited red meat consumption) were found to have lower rates of breast cancer [3]. This is not incredibly surprising when you consider that a healthy diet is related to a reduction in the rates of several other cancers, and many other health-related conditions.

·         Physical Activity:

A risk factor that is very easy to control is physical activity. Women who partake in a healthy amount of moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity can reduce their risks as well. The recommended minimum amount of time to devote to physical activity is 150 minutes a week, but devoting more time is considered to be beneficial. It doesn’t have to be extreme activity either; going for a 30-minute walk, 5 days a week, is all it takes to hit that minimum. Every little bit helps, just get outside and get your activity in, and make sure to keep progressing.

·         Alcohol:

The next reductive tactic is to keep alcohol consumption as low as possible. I know as well as anyone that it’s unrealistic to tell a person to quit drinking altogether, but if we can cut back that definitely helps. If you’re saying “wait, I don’t drink anyways” then well done, you’ve got this part down. The reason for this risk factor is thought to be due to the decrease in folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C that is a symptom of consuming alcohol. These 3 together may help with protecting your body from cell damage [3].

·         Smoking & Second Hand Smoke:

I know, the smoking part is fairly obvious here. But, I’m including it for those that maybe didn’t consider the implications for multiple different kinds of cancer. While lung cancer is a fairly obvious risk with smoking, it also contributes to the development of breast cancer.

·         Exposure to Ionizing Radiation:

This is probably not something that everyone considers, but it can be a contributor for many different types of cancer. While this is true, don’t be afraid of mammograms, as modern mammography actually involves a very-low dose for the imaging process. This low dose is considered to be next to harmless as 0.086% of women would accumulate a high enough dosage over their lifetime to be considered dangerous (that’s less than 1 out of 1,000)  [6]. Doctors state that the benefits of this form of testing far outweigh the risks.

·         Long-Term Oral Contraceptive Use:

Long term use of birth control has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. This is due to the hormonal fluctuations caused by these contraceptives. But, fortunately for those out there that like to reduce the risk of accidental pregnancy, this risk seems to decrease after usage stops.

Now that we’ve covered the risk factors that are easily controllable, let’s take a look at the ones that aren’t so easy. If you happen to fall under any of these categories make sure your healthcare professional is aware, and ask them about ways that you can decrease your risk:

·         Family & Personal History:

If you or someone you’re related to has had breast cancer in the past, then unfortunately you’re at a higher risk yourself, as there seems to be a genetic factor.

·         Late Pregnancy:

Unfortunately, women who have children later in life are at a higher risk for post-menopausal breast cancer than those who have children earlier on. This is possibly due to the fact that when a woman goes through pregnancy later in life she has already been exposed to estrogen for a longer period of time. When women go through pregnancy they release hormones that cause genetic changes in the mammary glands. These changes allow mature breast cells to protect against breast cancer. [7]

·         Early Menarche or Late Menopause:

Women who have their first periods early in life (11 or earlier) and those who go through menopause later in life than usual are more likely to be at risk for breast cancer. This is thought to be due to a longer exposure to estrogen across their lifetime.

·         Night Shift Work:

Those who work late at night are thought to be more susceptible to breast cancer. This may be due to the artificial lighting they are exposed to. It is known that being exposed to this artificial lighting at night (when you’re supposed to be sleeping) lowers the levels of melatonin in the body, which is a chemical that, among some of its functions, is to control estrogen levels. Again, with higher levels of estrogen there is an associated higher risk of breast cancer.

·         Hormone Replacement Therapy:

In some cases these forms of therapy are necessary, and if your doctor suggests it, definitely don’t ignore advice from your healthcare professional. Something you can do though, is to ask them about things you can do to mitigate the risk involved.


I know this is all a little bit overwhelming, and a little bit nerve-wracking, but it is better to be aware of the risks. This can help you avoid them and to prepare yourself for the future. Fortunately, there are a lot of brilliant people out there working on mitigating risk, saving those afflicted, and maybe one day, ending the breast cancer epidemic. How can you help? Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website and provide a donation: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-support. Also, if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare professional. That’s what they’re there for.

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Are 10,000 Steps-a-day the magic number that will protect your health? The science and truth behind this number

·     Digging back into history the idea of 10,000 steps was a concept born in the 1960 Tokyo Olympics- it was a catchy idea that got the Japanese citizens engaged physically.

·     Are 10,000 steps the recommended daily amount? According to FitBit, yes. According to scientist Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke, University of Massachusetts Amherst  and accelerometer tracking data, the answer is “no”, and “yes”. The “yes” is the more the better, but the “no” is it only takes 7500 steps at a brisk pace that provides the 30 minutes of vigorous exercise required to protect your health. (sited from her interview on CBC)

·     The recommended minimal exercise from WHO focus on 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity a week (side note, in addition, add TWO resistance workouts).

·     How does this “150 minutes weekly” translate to a daily number of steps, that is, the step counter? The answer- 7500 steps!! (BUT the more, the healthier 10,000 or 12,000, is even better).

THERE IS ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION….

·     The “intensity” question-- How to identify you are exercising at a moderate to vigorous intensity?? This is easy to answer… If you can TALK IN FULL SENTENCES while exercising then you are NOT exercising at your personal optimal intensity. Vigorous intensity is a different pace from one person to the next. The only consistency is—“Are you breathing heavy and can’t speak in full sentences?” Then, that is the correct intensity!!

To sum it all up:

As you progress along your healthy lifestyle journey, your moderate to vigorous pace will change. Your heart is getting stronger, as well as the rest of your body, so you will find yourself able to go farther and faster than when you first started. We strongly encourage you to introduce resistance training into your healthy lifestyle, as it not only increases muscle strength, but also decreases your risk of injury. (Consult your healthcare provider, or fitness professional, before starting your resistance training.)


10,000 steps.png

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4 food stories that significantly impact your health:

  1. Good news story: A palm full of nuts four times weekly lowers your risk of acquiring diabetes by 12% and improves lifespan, irrespective of your weight (1). Do it!
    Bad news story: Calorie for calorie Fructose (2) is one of the worst sweeteners on the market. Why? It has a negative impact on the body’s ability to handle your caloric intake. It impairs insulin sensitivity and impedes liver function. The result: increased lifestyle related diseases.

    • Advice: Read labels (ingredient list) and avoid products that have fructose (sugar) listed in the first 4 ingredients.

  2. Bad news story: Today 60% of calories in North American diets come from sugar and few come from fibre; almost exactly the opposite of a century ago. Throughout human evolution we’ve never faced such high proportions of dietary sugar. Lifestyle related diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes) continue to climb in epic proportions; mirroring the epic rise in the proportion of sugar in our diet (2). This is the major contributor to the rapidly climbing rates of obesity, diabetes, metabolic disease syndromes, and premature death seen today.As a result of our increased sugar intake, our biological systems that are meant to regulate our behaviours, such as eating, have become disrupted. This leaves us with the on-going march of unchecked diseases that we are currently facing.

    • What can you do? Eat more Fruits and Veggies –Look for and avoid sugars at one meal daily, starting today, for the next seven days. . . If you can do that, next try and reduce sugar in at least two meals a day.

  3. Bad News story: “Fresh versus Processed.”  Throughout human history digestion had the advantage of fresh foods gathered from the earth. The microbiome in one’s gut, that is the healthy gut bacteria, thrive on being fed unprocessed and mostly uncooked foods. Like cattle in a herd needing fibre from hay and fresh grasses to maintain healthy digestive bacteria, we likewise need high fibre foods. Unfortunately, the processed foods we are eating are not good for our gut health. Processed, cooked and prepackaged foods significantly eliminate the necessary nutrients and key probiotics that feed healthy gut bacteria. Allergies, premature aging and increased disease burdens are all attributable to poor processed food diets.

    • Advice: Add 2-3 fresh veggie snacks to each meal.  Minimize the cooking of veggies (destroys fibre). Regarding Vegetables: Keep them Crunchy-- Limit Cooked and Avoid Mushy.

    • Avoid processed foods for gut health!

  4.  Good news story: “Are You Really Hungry?” Your body commonly confuses thirst for hunger and reaching for a glass of water can generally prevent you from reaching for that sugary drink you were going for initially. So thirst … or hunger pains …rewire your reaction -- reach for that glass of water first. Wait a few minutes. And take note how you feel. If you’re still hungry, now you can go for a snack. It’s an easy and sustainable change to make and can completely change how you feel.  Water is free. Water is necessary. Water is healthy.

    • Feeling thirsty or hungry? Go for a glass of water first.

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References:

1.    Stanhope, K. et al. Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673878/

2.    Mozaffarian, D. Foods, obesity, and diabetes-are all calories created equal? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28049747

Definitions

Microbiome - The collection of microbes that live in and on the human body is known as the microbiota.[1] The microbiome refers to the complete set of genes within these microbes. Microbial genes significantly influence how the body operates and even outnumber human genes by a ratio of 100:1.[2]

  1. Ursell, Luke K, et al. “Defining the Human Microbiome.” 70.Suppl 1 (n.d.): n.pag. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

  2. “The Human Microbiome.” Utah.edu. n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Processed Food- A processed food is any food that has been altered in some way during preparation

  1. Eating processed Foods https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-are-processed-foods/



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5 Reasons Why You Still Feel Hungry After Eating

We often hear the importance of eating a balanced diet and everything in moderation. This gets difficult when you’re constantly feeling hungry. There can be many reasons why you still feel hungry after you’ve finished eating. Here are some of the top reasons why and some suggestions to help get those feelings of hungry in check.

Did you eat breakfast?
Is breakfast is the most important meal of the day? YES! Your body has been fasting, resting and healing while you slept. Overnight, it’s been working hard to get your engine ready for another day. Starting your day off right with a good breakfast helps break the fasting “regeneration” cycle and gives your body the nutrients it needs. Some people say they can’t eat first thing in the morning. No problem, just be sure to have some healthy food ready when you do get hungry.

What did your last meal look like?
The more sugar and junk food you take in, the more likely you’ll be looking for more food. How is this? Sugar is the most primitive nutrient around. It’s the most basic source of calories. A sugar load immediately activates your body to release the hormone Insulin. Insulin stimulates all cells to aggressively grab the excess sugar you just ingested and store it. But It also stimulates the body to ravishingly search out for more sugar. (Kind of like the bear in the fall ravishingly eating berries). The stomach and the body’s cells absorb sugar really quickly leaving us feeling hollow and wanting more food. How does this happen? After insulin completes its task to store your sugar load, you are left with excess insulin floating around, but with no excess sugar, this causes you to feel hollow and drives you to search for more sugar. You know that feeling. This is even worse with sugary drinks, e.g. drinking pop. The liquids you intake can affect your hunger both (positively and negatively) as much as the food you eat.

When was the last time you had a glass of water?
When you become dehydrated, your body sends signals to your brain looking for water. These signal can often get confused as hunger pains. So, if it’s not close to your meal time, have a glass a water and wait 10 minutes. If you still feel hungry, then it’s time to eat… Consider vegetables if it’s only a snack you need.

How fast do you eat?
If you’re typically the first one done eating at a family meal, chances are you’re a fast eater. It takes the body a while to realize it’s full (approximately 20 minutes). So if you’re looking for food within 20 minutes of finishing a meal, chances are your body hasn’t caught up with those feelings of hunger. If this is you. Slow down and enjoy your food by:

  • Talking a bit more during the meal

  • Putting your fork down in between bites

  • Having sips of your water


Are you getting enough fibre?
What is fibre? Dietary fibre is a term that is used for plant-based carbohydrates that, unlike other carbohydrates (such as sugars and starch), are not digested in the small intestine. As dietary fibre is not digested in the small intestine it reaches the large intestine or colon (5). This leaves you feeling full longer after a meal. Some foods you can try that are rich in fibre include:

  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread and oats, barley and rye

  • Fruit such as berries, pears, melon and oranges

  • Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn

  • Peas, beans and pulses

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Potatoes with skin

If you are having trouble remembering all these tips feel free to print out the infographic below to stick on your fridge. :)

hungry after eating.png

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Careful of the changing seasons

You have an internal “season” clock that responds to the season’s changing amounts of daylight. It affects your daily rhythm. It dictates the foods you treasure. It even affects your activity levels.

 With winter coming your body is wired to have you get fatter and be less active. Why?  Prepare for the coming winter where millennia ago food was not plentiful and you battled cold day in day out. It has been refined... and refined… and refined over many millennia preparing your body for what’s coming up and what you need to do. Hey, it was refined through a whole long lineage of past relatives, all who survived (after all – you are here), and with the return of this autumn it is preparing you for another winter.

To illustrate this, consider the mountain bear (I ran past one in the bushes on Saturday stuffing its face with mountain berries): Eat, Eat, Eat… and eat some more. What’s coming? Winter. Like chasing down calories for the bear in the fall, so will your internal clock, it will be directing your mind’s eye to focus on loading up for the coming winter.

 So don’t be surprised if you start languishing for higher calorie yummies, and a lot of them. Colder weather is upon us. Incrementally shorter and shorter day light hours are upon us. Like that bear, stuffing its face, not recognizing me run by, your internal season clock that has had many millennia of refining for your ancestor’s survival and yours too BUT… HOLD IT, we live in warm houses now—we don’t need the extra layer of fat (at least I don’t), AND if we choose we can still exercise now (though more of a challenge with more darkness).  Because we’ve created a world where this is possible.

So my advice to not fall into the mountain “bear trap” is this:

1.     First and Foremost SCHEDULE your whole week’s activities before the week starts. Lock it in! Definitely no on the run scheduling!! Your internal clock will have your backside on the couch enjoying another movie night eating buttered popcorn sprinkled with sweet things in no time flat. It is NOT a battle. It is time to schedule AND then you win.

2.     Regarding the food thing:

a.     Eat more non-processed foods—

b.     Veggies and fresh water, very important. Carrots and fresh fruit leave you in a great place to combat the munchies.

c.     Insure you’re Breakfast hardy and Supper lightly (lots and lots of salad)

d.     Finally, pack snacks you make and include cut up veggies. Learn a trick from the smoker’s habit change advise: Put something in your hand to stop you having it filled with a cigarette.  So my advise to you is daily pack a bag of veggie/fruit munchies (carrots, apples, etc) to snack on – and keep the fresh water close at hand.

Happy fall hunting and stay away from the mountain berry bushes when you are out exercising… it can cause quite the fright coming across a bear.

sweat heartone - bear.png

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Balance

Most of us have found ourselves having caught a foot, a near fall, an "ouch, that hurt..." or like Sandra Bullock attempting to navigate high heels in Miss Congeniality movie, tripping and stumbling like Bambi. Losing ones balance often happens so quick, we don't even realize it until we're on the ground. 

Here are some tips to help improve your balance

  1. Slow down (1), especially if you’re on uneven ground or if it’s dark.

  2. Stay organized (1); if you’re working out at home, keep the area tidy so you don’t trip on your equipment.

  3. Pay attention to your environment (1), know what’s around you. Especially if you have a little one, they can be sneaky.

  4. Get your vision checked (1), regular visits to the eye doctor is always a good idea.

  5. Try exercises to improve your balance (2)

    1. Balance on one leg (be sure to alternate), once you feel confident doing this with your eyes open, try closing your eyes. Know your environment, incase you stumble

    2. Walking or hiking on uneven ground helps improve balance

    3. Wide squats and lunges- helps to engage your core

    4. Walk heel to toe - forward and backward

    5. Incorporate strength training into your workouts (3)

    6. Use plyometric exercises to improve your sense of self (3,4)

      1. Try doing some explosive actions, like jumping up the stairs (with a railing for support)

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It’s that time of year again!! What time is that?

Well four times a year we'll send you a reminder to review your contract and update it. (And then modify your weekly exercise commitment of how many workouts and the amount of time committed)

Why is this important?

Because as we grow, our contract may also, but even more likely, as we continue to be more active we may see new possibilities and may be have new motivations for what is “my why” for exercising. Keeping it current, reviewing it quarterly helps in achieving improved physical health, or at least maintaining it.

How is the best way to decide on what will that new contract be?

Well the best way is to discuss it with another person with the aim to clarify, what is your “why” for exercising the next three months. And the best person to talk with is your personal professional who knows you best, likely know some of your challenges you face and is usually the one who supports you and holds you accountable. Or,  talk with a friend about your “why” for exercising. Failing that, take a piece of paper and write down three reasons that move you that are the reasons now that drive you to continue to be active, that is, that motivate you to keep active. Then change your contract on your GoGetFit app.

A few notes:

  • Remember to keep it realistic, but most important,

  • Make it personal (for me, my new commitment this fall is to be active so I can be active when my oldest son comes to spend time with me this year.)

  • Tell someone else. Notify your professional. Tell your friend supports.

  • Go to the mirror and do what I had to do daily when I was on national team-- Say to the mirror, looking at myself, what was my contract with myself, my personal why for being active.  This is mountains to molehills more effective than anything else. Just you have to do it the first thing when you wake up and come across a mirror. Try it?

 

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What would you do without fast food?

Stop take a moment, it’s time to evaluate our food situation. Could you make it a day without going through a drive thru? How about a week? Yes this means not buying your morning coffee at Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s. Ask yourself, could you make an equally as good of a coffee? Or perhaps the bigger questions is, do you want to?

 

 

Is the want or desire to be healthier strong enough to eliminate what is unhealthy in your life?

Take for example your daily cup of coffee. In one scenario you have black cup of coffee (no cream or sugar included). In the second scenario you have a cup of coffee, but this time lots of liquid flavoured sugar and cream as well as whip cream on top. In the first scenario there are no real calories or nutrition has been gained but overall no harm has been done. However, in the second scenario, not only have you not gained any nutritional value, but you have also consumed a significant amount of empty calories. Having a fancy latte every day before work can easily add up to 2000 calories by the end of the week, which is almost a whole day’s worth of calories in coffee drinks alone.

Part of the struggle with fast food is that so much moderation in our eating of treats has been lost. Everything is easily accessible and for the most part relatively affordable. It’s okay to have your fancy latte, pop, or fast food, once in a while as a treat, but having any of these items in excess is not doing your health any favors.  I'm saying this, not to scare you away from what we put in our bodies, but to encourage you to make conscious decisions about what you're eating and to be aware of the effects of what you choose to eat.

The fact is that those few extra pounds we all carry didn’t just magically fall out of the sky and land on our waistlines. We’re responsible for them consciously or not. These additional pounds are a product of our overindulging in food that doesn’t serve us or our bodies. Trust me, I get it. The temptations are everywhere. I run by a grocery store that still makes their own donuts. Let's face it, too much of the sweet stuff  is not doing ourselves or our families any favors. I'm far from the world’s best eater, but I know I want to do better and to live a healthier life. Here are some tips I've begun to use in my own life that have made a big difference in helping me manage my eating in a positive way.

1- Eat a good breakfast at home. Starting your day off right makes a huge difference in how successful you are in eating well for the rest of the day.

2- Make your own lattes (or whatever your guilty pleasure is). This way you can manage and be aware of the additives (such as sugar, cream etc.) that are present in your food.

3- Meal plan -Spend 20 minutes with the family and decide on meals for the week. Then buy the groceries. When you have a game plan that everyone shares you’re less likely to stray from your goals.

4- If your children are old enough to help with the meals get them to do so. Not only does it take some of the stress off of you, but it also teaches them valuable healthy eating skills.

5- Get together with a friend and take an afternoon and cook a bunch of meals to freeze for those extra busy days. This gets caught up on much needed friend time, plus you’ve accomplished a big task.

6- If you don’t have self control when it comes to your favorite food then don’t buy it! Plain and simple if you can’t handle the chips being in the cupboard then avoid the chip aisle. Or if you must buy chips, buy small bags for the once and awhile treat.

While it can seem overwhelming to make these kinds of changes in our lives, especially when convenient and fast food is such a large part of them, my advice is this: start small. Pick one thing you want to change and be realistic. Even if it means that you start out with cutting back one thing or trying to make your lattes at home. Be patient with yourself. Every journey starts with a first step. You can do it.

 

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My Inner Coach - Article 2

Who’s your competition? What’s your biggest challenge? …Yourself!

Yes... you are.

 

Over 30 years ago, while a member of the Canadian national badminton team, I had  my worst defeat ever. An early exit in a national ranking tournament that basically meant I was removed from the national team. Negative thoughts overwhelmed me.  But that loss plus learning about my inner coach resulted in me overcoming the biggest challenge to any one and any athlete-- profound self doubt. I turned it around and I will tell you how just  three weeks later I had the biggest international victory in my career, thanks to my inner coach. And you should know, you have your inner coach also waiting to be called on.

That “biggest challenge” for anyone is the questioning of self, facing that self-doubt . . . or even worse, carrying self-criticism. These all will quickly erode even the best of intentions to get better or move forward.

So what to do when you face that biggest challenge.

First and foremost, remember it starts small. Unrecognizable initially, but you must watch for it. And then one day you will catch yourself in the acting of “questioning oneself”. It is important to call yourself out on this. Address it immediately. Just as a garden weed, starts only as a small initially unrecognizable little seed, it still has the potential to germinate and eventually if left unabated, produce a large infestation in anyone’s garden. If that small self-criticism/doubt is left  unaddressed when it is first recognized, it will infest the best of intentions and best laid plans. Like any weed when it first sprouts, for the successful gardener, looking for it with a watchful eye, or for the successful athlete training those long hours day-in day-out, self-doubt/self-criticism needs to be weeded out immediately upon recognizing them.

 

How to do this:

Fortunately there is this phenomena available to anyone, it is called your “inner coach.” It works like this. It is a voice in your head.  It has had a phenomenal impact on my life. It replaces most of the self doubt when self-doubt shows up to spoil my party. Even sometimes I will yell in my head when I am struggling. “Go for it.” “Keep going.” Or, “Yes, I am tired today but just get started AND I will feel so much better when I DID IT!”

We all have an inner voice somewhere inside of us (the “inner coach” waiting). Open your mind to it initially by just saying those FIRST WORDS: “Go for it” or “Get started” And guess what? It will start to happen!

A little secret on how to do it-- next time you find yourself in front of the mirror- SMILE at yourself and say “I did it!” “I’m glad you’re taking care of me”. Self-competitors use this inner coach as their cornerstone of success.. They all know those external motivators can only carry them so far. External motivators have a short life as motivators. The most powerful force, the most enduring, the one that sustains comes from within, not externally.

If you’re reading this. Let’s activate your inner coach: Find a washroom. Close the door. Look in the mirror and say in a loud voice,  “Let’s get started. Go for it.” What did you feel?? Do it again- look into the blacks of your eyes and repeat it. Well?

A personal story I have not shared often... So here is an exclusive for you.

When I was on the Canadian national team many decades ago I had a dismal result that was going to knock me off the European trip in the coming year. It was three weeks before the Canadian Open. I was demoralized from the early exit from a national ranking tournament. “How could this happen?” The team sport psychologist gave me a call and instructed me to activate my “inner coach”. Each morning I woke up, the first thing I had to do was walk to the washroom look in the mirror and watch myself repeating a phrase three times aloud to get my head in the right space. Seeing myself repeat that phrase while looking into my eyes. Hearing my voice repeat every morning about my potential every day--  Well that loss in that smaller national ranking tournament resulted in my biggest victory in my career at the Canadian Open three weeks later: I beat the number 7th ranked player in the world who had recently beat the number one ranked player in the world. Honestly, I played out of this world. The story here is that had I not accessed my inner coach that was impossible (and I would not have been on that team trip touring in Europe representing Canada).

Your inner voice. It is waiting to be called on to be your inner coach. Psst… just find a washroom, close the door… and you know what to do. It can even produce out of this world performances for you. Take it from me.

Dr. PJ Rawlek
Founder of GoGetFit

 

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