Sunday, December 24, 2017

A new festive season salutation

What's really important over the holidays?  It's not a trick question.  Answer:  the same as what's important the rest of the year.  Health!

Most people take good or reasonable health for granted, and only when illness strikes do they bemoan not feeling up to snuff.  The state of one's health is largely self-determined, which means that being well needs to be everyone's priority project.

How many "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" greetings have you exchanged so far this season?  I'll suggest an alternative:  wish someone "Healthy Holidays" instead.  Of course there's nothing wrong with the standard, traditional salutations, but why not be a bit different in a good way?

Close on the heels of the Christmas and Boxing Day festivities follows the "back to the grindstone" monolith of New Year's, and the accompanying resolutions.  Take the pressure off expectations and instead reflect on what went well in 2017 and set a few meaningful goals for yourself for 2018.

I invite you to share your goals with me, and if I can help in anyway - especially for those related to health, fitness and nutrition - I look forward to doing so!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Those who fail to plan, plan to fail"

Do you agree with this statement?

I agree with it much - but not all - of the time.  Some things work better without planning them!  But for the most part, especially in the realm of fitness and nutrition, a little bit of planning goes a long way.

Most people do not have the luxury of being able to work out whenever they want, at any given time in a day, or to eat whatever they feel like and miraculously have their food choices be stellar in terms of nutrient composition, caloric intake and macronutrient ratio.  Even someone who has been working in this professional field for over two decades needs the structure and validation of a program.  I track every item that passes my lips with an app on a daily basis and analyze the nutritional profile from several viewpoints to identify excesses or deficiencies of micronutrients, identify my consumption ratio of C-F-P, track water intake and compare trends over time.  How else would I know that my average daily protein consumption for the month of September was 5% higher than in July?

Large and complicated life events require more planning.  For example, training for an obstacle-endurance race (Spartan, Tough Mudder) three months out, or one's first triathlon six months out.  You can't cram at the last minute for something like this, although people do try to crash diet when they realize that gosh, they still have 10 lbs to drop and the wedding is in a week and a half....

I am here to help people plan important aspects of their life - what is more important than exercise and nutrition?  It is my job to ensure people have a realistic, safe and hopefully enjoyable roadmap to follow to their desired destination.

If you're planning to commit to some health goals in the New Year, why not start now, and let me know how I can help.  Sorry to disillusion you, but the date January 1st is not imbued with some magical power that will make your wish to "get in shape" transpire when previous attempts have fallen short.  It's not about the date, it's about YOU.  Without you, nothing happens.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Do you play by the gym rules?

I came across this amusing article on one of the many health and fitness sites I follow.  Having been in the industry for almost three decades, I really have seen it all.  Including all sixteen of these faux pas.  Rather sheepishly I have to admit that I am sometimes guilty of #11 - in fact, I use my cardio time to multitask on my tablet or catch up on my reading.  This works for elliptical or stationary bike, but not so much for treadmill running.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

There is beauty in simplicity

Lately I have been scouring the internet for articles on simplifying life, decluttering, de-stressing, etc.... The fact that I have been doing this indicates that I feel a need, and that perhaps a simple, uncluttered, unstressed life is not something that I currently have.

There are so many good lists and suggestions out there, giving sincere and earnest advice on how to improve your life with less:  less "stuff", fewer commitments and calming down.

Everyone has ways to uncomplicate their life which are personally meaningful.  For some the main emphasis would be reducing time spent on SM and in front of a screen.  For others it might mean having that huge garage sale to get rid of half of their household contents - the half that are never used and just collect dust without paying rent.

Being drawn to this desire to simplify means that I yearn to find balance, to rectify my current state of overcommitment and not having enough hours in a day to do all those "shoulds" and "musts".

So here's my list of what I can do NOW, and it's a reminder to self to stay on track with creating the life I desire in a different location and career:

1.  Go through the physical stuff - the closets, the drawers, the storage locker, the cupboards - and get rid of anything that hasn't been used in a year (it probably won't ever be).  Movers charge by the box, and it's better to pay to have 30 boxes moved rather than 50!  Donate the stuff that is in good condition.  Giving feels good :-)

2.  Cybertime and screentime detox.  Set a timer to deal with emails for 10-15 minutes, once or twice a day.  If SM is a necessity, schedule and regulate time for that, and keep it to a minimum.  10 minutes per day for a quick post, Tweet or update is all that's needed.  Getting this out of the way early means it is off the plate early.  Keep emails brief and to the point.  Save non-priority emails and chats, Skype, etc. for the least busy day of the week and set a firm limit (with a timer!) for that as well.

3.  Make time for exercise and stretching.  Even if it's a 20 minute bout of cardio or 5 minutes of stretching on the living room floor while dinner cooks, it counts!  Exercise feels good and improves mental and physical resilience.

4.  Set a sleep schedule and guard it without compromise.  7-8 hours is needed for optimal health and functioning.  Short-changing by an hour or two will affect mood and performance the next day, and 6 coffees won't fix the deficit.

5.  Take regular breaks and vacations.  This could be an afternoon off, a massage (save the RMT receipts for taxes!), a drive to a forest or park for a walk, or an inspiring documentary when in the middle of a tedious project.  A vacation could be an overnighter with a sleep-in the next day, a weekend getaway somewhere relaxing, or a longer holiday such as a cruise or a plane trip.  Longer holidays require advance planning and more detail, but if done right they can be amazingly rejuvenating.  Make sure any vacation is based around stuff that is relaxing and enjoyable, otherwise it's not a vacation.  The reason I don't vacation with other people, as much as I appreciate the good people in my life, is that my vacations are for ME, not for catering to the whims of someone else.  If I spend the time trying to keep someone else happy making sure they get what THEY want - there's no point in being away.  A vacation truly has to be a vacation :-)

What would you do to simplify YOUR life?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

To buy organic or not? That is the question.

In this era of growing concern over quality of food, many people are turning to organically sourced produce and animal products in an effort to avoid contaminants and other toxins.  "You are what you eat" is as true today as it was thirty-odd years ago when my mother admonished me to eat my vegetables and drink my milk.  However, nowadays one has to ask where those veggies and that milk is coming from.

I'm a big fan of gathering information to make important decisions, such as what to put inside my body.  I'm also a fan of smart spending, so $12 for an organic cabbage seems a little pricey when its non-organic counterpart is sitting pretty at less than $4.  I did some research to find out just which produce items should be purchased from the organic section, and which ones don't have to be.

The readily-available list is called "The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen", and this link will take you to one of the many websites indexing these produce items.  I like this particular source because it rates the foods in terms of relative level of contamination as well:

How much of your food is organic?  Do you notice a difference between organic and non-organic?

Feel free to comment with your opinion on this topic!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weighing in on Plant-Based Eating

I officially survived the two week vegetarian experiment!  My first week was totally vegan, and in the second week I added back egg whites and plain, skim, organic Greek yogurt for the beneficial bacteria.

I consumed WAY more fibre than I would in an omnivorous diet, I found some very tasty vegetarian foods which I am keeping in my diet (Amy's burritos and President's Choice meatless burgers), and my intestines feel superbly clean! 😀  I also discovered Freshii as a delicious lunch stop for wraps-to-go, customizable and 100% fresh.

It was harder to get the amount of protein I aim for in my daily macronutrient ratio, but with some vegan protein powder it was possible.

I am reading a book, also available as a documentary, called "What the Health".  If you want a sobering look at the harm caused by animal-based diets, especially the unsanitary and cruel conditions under which much of this food is produced, have a look.

I have decided to walk a line in the middle of the road, and adopt a flexible pescatarian diet.  This means a vegetarian diet that allows seafood.  Out of all the kinds of animal flesh one can eat, I like seafood the best.  I'll keep my organic yogurt and egg whites as mentioned earlier, and expand my culinary repertoire to include wild caught seafood that is very low in PCB's and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead.  I'm switching from cooking in butter to cooking with olive oil.  My flexible pescatarian diet means than if I am in an occasional situation where I could have organic free-range poultry or grass-fed beef, I wouldn't rigidly eschew that option.  For example, going to a restaurant that doesn't have anything in the vegetarian or seafood offerings that I would eat.

There are different types of vegetarians, and this article sums the categories up nicely:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An edible experiment

One of my two top (as in trains with me double sessions four times per week) personal training clients has decided to make August a vegan month.  Having recently watched a Netflix documentary called "What the Health", he and his wife have decided to eat an exclusively plant-based diet for a whole month.  I don't have Netflix so I downloaded the e-book and will read it this month.  However, if you do have Netflix, check it out:

In the spirit of solidarity I said I would join him for a fortnight.  Two animal-free weeks.  I dutifully stocked up on veggie burgers, lots of organic produce* from Whole Foods, and reacquainted myself with a plethora of beans, pulses and legumes.  I tested (and liked) a frozen breakfast burrito from Amy's, for those hectic mornings and Manic Mondays.  I've pushed aside cow's milk for nut milks and will cook with olive oil rather than my traditional butter.  I'm taking a good quality multivitamin to make sure I don't run low on vitamin B12 or minerals like zinc and iron which are more abundant in and better absorbed from animal flesh than plant sources.

I am curious to find out if I notice any change in energy level or intestinal functioning.  I believe that humans are omnivores, but I also believe that much of the food available to modern day humans is poor quality, polluted, and full of junk and chemicals that are harmful to health.  Dairy products are full of hormones, eggs are from tortured force-fed chickens, and most of the meat consumed by people is NOT free-range/organic/grass fed/wild caught, etc.  Not to mention all the processed stuff that is called "food" which is really just sugar, salt, fat and chemicals!  I believe that when you drastically clean up your diet, get the crap out of what you're putting into your system every day, then your body will feel and function a whole lot better.

Thank goodness I can still enjoy my daily almond milk cappuccinos!  :-)

*Some, but not all, produce is important to buy organic.  Read a future posting about what you should buy organic and what you don't have to.  The lists are called the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen".

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

If you want something, do it or go after it!

I was gently reminded by a friend of mine yesterday that I "hadn't updated my blog in a while".
A couple of months probably, I thought.  Today I had a look. Over half a year.  WTF???  How does time slip by so quickly?

One of my favourite sayings comes to mind: "Life is like a roll of toilet paper - the closer to the end it gets, the faster it goes".  Time really does seem to be speeding up.  But of course that is just my perception, or a subjective experience of the Theory of Relativity.

So it's time to crack open the blogging toolbox.  I have observed many people who simply wait for something to happen in their lives.  Then all of a sudden they realize they are 50, or 75, and life has gone by forever.  If you want something to happen in your life, you have to MAKE it happen.

If I want to post more frequently than at embarrassing six-month intervals, then I need to commit to this.  Nike says it best:  Just Do It.

This goes for maintaining a workout plan or starting a new nutrition program.  Neither will happen magically on their own if you just think about these things.  Thoughts and talk are cheap, all that counts is walking the walk.

If you post something on Social Media it can haunt you forever.  This is not the forum in which to make empty promises.  Ergo, if I state here that I will blog with a stipulated frequency, then I am morally bound to keep my word.

So how's this:  I will post AT A MINIMUM once a month.  That's a sixfold improvement from my recent track record.

In the meantime, I do a very good job at Tweeting every day, so when you're bored check out my Twitter handle: @STS_Health