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As we enter the New Year, it is a bit tough to forecast what we have to look forward to in 2021. 2020 has proved to be an extremely challenging year and believe I speak for many when I say we are happy to leave it behind. However, with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and what it may bring this year, we need to focus our energy on the things within our control. Here are a few suggestions:
- Learn Something New
Did you know you can take FREE online university courses at www.futurelearn.com ?? If you’ve got some extra time on your hands- or you’re genuinely interested in expanding your knowledge and skillset- there are a variety of disciplines to study and variable course lengths. Check it out! If registering for a course sounds too intimidating- cozy up on the couch with an informative documentary!
- Find a Hobby
Chances are you already have things you spend time doing- and I’m not talking about Netflix or indulging in a glass of wine. A hobby might be something productive and constructive that you enjoy doing- maybe it’s a craft, doing a virtual fitness class, baking, etc. Hobbies are also great for those transitioning from working life into retirement… or from working full-time to not working… focus your energy on something you enjoy doing! Dive into the things that make you happy and see where it leads!
- Extend Kindness Everyday
It’s easy to get caught up in our own problems, issues and grievances. However, we must remember that there are others that are also struggling. Be sure to extend kindness whenever you can- whether it’s shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, offering a helping hand, or volunteering in the community. Let’s uplift each other with kindness!
- Health = Wealth
You don’t need a brand-new year to remind you that it’s time to take positive action towards living a healthy lifestyle. Last month I decided to start my mornings by blending up 2 cups of spinach with some fruit juice because I knew I wasn’t getting enough greens in my diet (and frankly, I hate eating them!) I may have to plug my nose and chug to get it down, but it’s a step in the right direction. Start with one thing- whether it’s getting outside once a week for a walk- or eating something green everyday like me – pick one thing to kickstart your new year.
Instead of focusing on trying to achieve every goal you’ve ever had at once, focus on one or two small goals. Don’t go for a NEW you this year- aim to create a BETTER you- one day at a time!
Maintaining “balance” over the holidays can seem extremely unrealistic for a lot of folks. The holidays are quite literally the “over the top” season; overspending, overindulging, overeating, and some people are frankly “over” the holidays in general before they even begin. From overeating at parties to stress-eating cookies while wrapping presents late into the night, it is important to stay on track with healthy habits:
1. Budget your spending
It may be too little too late to talk about budgeting but allocating yourself a certain amount of money to spend on gifts this season will set you up for success. If you’re like me and you have the tendency to go shopping for others only to end up buying things for yourself, you’ll find budgeting helps out with this issue- as long as you actually follow it! It’s not just gifts that we find ourselves spending money on either- it’s the extra money for food, desserts, snacks, treats- whether we bring in treats for our coworkers to enjoy, a family function, or a small gathering- food costs money too!
2. You are not hungry, you are thirsty
Often times, what we perceive as hunger pangs are actually due to dehydration. Before diving into a plate of appetizers, test your hunger signal by drinking an 8-ounce glass of water. Wait a minimum of five minutes and pay attention to see if you are indeed still hungry. It’s easy to forget to drink enough water when there are so many tasty snacks and treats lingering nearby. Bring your water bottle with you wherever you go to help with feelings of “fullness”.
3. Fill up on salads/soup
Holiday foods tend to be richer and heavier than our average meals, which can mean we are consuming excess calories. Fill up on salad or a broth-based soup so it is easier to control portioning the richer foods that can contribute to overeating.
4. Indulge a little bit
Depriving yourself of your favorite holiday-only treats (eggnog please!) can lead to an unplanned binge, especially if you have elevated stress levels. Treat yourself a little bit during the festive season, but always follow the rule of moderation.
5. Stick to your routine
Sticking to your routine as much as possible will help you stay on track more so than if you did not stick to your routine. If you normally prioritize going to a fitness class, a morning walk, daily yoga, etc. then continue to practice those habits. Plan your activities around your routine, don’t let festivities impede on your feel-good habits.
As a general rule during the holiday season, stop eating by 7pm. If you feel the urge to snack, keep a stock of healthier snacks like popcorn, fruits/veggies, and tea. Even if you do go “over the top” just a tad, the best thing to do is get back on track as soon as possible- whether it is with healthy eating and exercising or financially budgeting moving forward.
Have a wonderful holiday season everyone!
When I stumbled upon this question on the internet, I was totally intrigued. How DOES social media affect our spending?! I can take a guess and say that it heightens our desire to “want” things significantly. We’ve all had a conversation with someone about things we want to buy, then like magic, they appear as ads on our Instagram or Facebook feed. Social media makes it way too easy for us to get exactly what we need and often, even what we don’t.
Think back to the pre-social media days. How frequent was your purchasing? Spending money wasn’t as easy as a one-click checkout on Amazon. You’d have to physically go to the mall or store. Now, shopping is made almost too accessible.
In many ways this can be helpful- research studies have shown that many people rely on the information and reviews on social media as a guide for planning their future purchases. In fact, 54% of social media users browse social media to research products before making a buying decision.
We also really value the opinions of people we trust- the things we often get sucked in to buying are oftentimes from social media influencers- people we TRUST and follow. Research shows that consumers who are influenced by social media are 4 times more likely to spend more on purchases. Moreover, consumers are 29% more likely to make purchases the same day as seeing an ad on social media (i.e. impulse buying!).
If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, this will all make sense to you. This movie spells out how social media is essentially designed to understand us- what we want, what we like- so then it can strategically place ads in our feeds that are customized to our interests. Fascinating. But also, so dangerous. One recommendation that came out of this movie is to turn off notification settings. Turn off your notifications for Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook, all that good stuff. This way, you are only going on social media when it is convenient for you. Take control over your online purchasing by taking control of how often you look at your phone. The more mindless scrolling you do, the more likely you are to come across ads for things that you will want to buy. If social media is free to users, then who is footing the bill? Advertisers. We develop this fear of missing out (FOMO) if we don’t have a particular gadget or brand of clothing… don’t get sucked in!
Before hitting checkout, ask yourself a few questions; is what you’re buying something you really need? If it is a “want”, make sure you’re not overindulging. Allocate a few dollars a month to “wants” but keep it under wraps. Impulse buying is tough to avoid but deleting apps you know are triggers for you can help in managing your spending. Financial wellness is important too!
Supplementation is a HUGE industry these days; it’s the hot topic around for any gym goers, and even the not-so-intense-casual-exercisers! As consumers that care about our health and wellness (and the thickness of our wallet), it’s extremely important that we are critical of the products we are purchasing and ingesting. The hard part is trying to siphon through what’s legitimate and what’s sponsored information on the internet from so called “influencers”.
I am no accredited Dietician; however, I am a critical research consumer that has sought out some evidence-based information on supplementation. Although each of these supplements could be a blog post of themselves, here is an overview that’s worth the read:
What is NECESSARY:
- For the average active individual, 2.2 g/kg/day dietary protein is an acceptable dosage. For those that are less active, half of that dosage would suffice.
- 20g of protein immediately post workout (so a 200g serving of Greek yogurt, or a boneless/skinless chicken breast) is beneficial for muscle protein synthesis if you’re doing RESISTANCE exercises (e.g. lifting weights). If you did full-body, compound movements (squats/deadlifts/CrossFit), then 40g of protein immediately post workout.
- The average person can’t metabolize protein doses above 40g. If you consume more than that, it will lead to ureagenesis (expensive pee!) and NO greater effect!
- Want to save some $$? Take your protein in the form of food to avoid costly supplements!
- Most of us overlook the beneficial effects of this supplement- it is much more superior than protein and it does all the same things (and MORE); however, it only has beneficial effects when combined with resistance training. Creatine allows you to workout at a higher intensity without fatigue.
- Dosage = 0.1g/kg of body weight in healthy individuals
- Research indicates NO greater benefit if taken before vs. after exercise. But be careful- it cannot be consumed within 1 hour of caffeine otherwise it will blunt its response.
- Creatine has been shown to have a beneficial effect on strength, endurance, power, muscle mass, protein synthesis and bone density which is HUGE for aging populations.
- 4g of Omega 3 fatty acids IMMEDIATELY post exercise
will help decrease inflammation, increase protein synthetic pathway properties and transport oxygen to the heart quicker.
- It’s true- Omega 3’s have been shown to have ANABOLIC properties! Wow!
Save your Money:
BCAA’s (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
- BCAA’s seem to be everybody’s favourite way to waste their money!
- Leucine, the main BCAA, is the driving force behind muscle protein growth. However, whey protein generally has a higher concentration of leucine, so you’re better off getting it through your protein supplement!
- The addition of isoleucine or valine (other ingredients you may see in your BCAAs), show NO beneficial effect!
- In conclusion, there is no evidence to suggest that BCAAs are performance enhancing! Want some advice? Stick with whole proteins (whey or food)!!
- While pre-workout can be beneficial if it contains ingredients like beta-alanine, which helps delay fatigue for short bouts of exercise (lifting weights), it also contains a high volume of caffeine. Guess what else contains caffeine and is WAY cheaper? Coffee. That’s right, fire that Keurig up before your workout, your bank account will thank you!
- If you want a SUPER supplement, combine protein and creatine IMMEDIATELY after resistance training.
- If you prefer FOOD (who would’ve thought food was an option!?) to get your creatine and protein in post-workout, try seafood. Mackerel and Salmon are great options and they also contain a high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids- BONUS!
- Liquid forms are better simply because they are absorbed immediately, but you can still get adequate supplementation through FOOD.
- If you are doing a lot of cardio (running, biking, swimming, etc.), post-exercise CARBOHYDRATES are crucial in addition to your supplement regime…. carbs, carbs, carbs!!!
Giving credit where credit is due:
- Candow, D. G., Chilibeck, P. D., & Forbes, S. C. (2014). Creatine supplementation and aging musculoskeletal health. Endocrine, 45(3), 354-361.
- Coburn, J. W., Housh, D. J., Housh, T. J., Malek, M. H., Beck, T. W., Cramer, J. T., . . . Donlin, P. E. (2006). Effects of leucine and whey protein supplementation during eight weeks of unilateral resistance training. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(2), 284. doi:10.1519/R-17925.1
- Hulmi, J. J., Lockwood, C. M., & Stout, J. R. (2010). Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutrition & Metabolism, 7(1), 51-51. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-51
- Smith, G. I., Atherton, P., Reeds, D. N., Mohammed, B. S., Rankin, D., Rennie, M. J., & Mittendorfer, B. (2011). Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(2), 402-412.
As Summer finally winds down, we find ourselves preparing for the back to school blitz and getting back into a routine. While we are in this state of transition, we oftentimes let the chaos get the best of us and we lose sight of all things ‘self-care’ rather than embracing the very thing that can serve us and make our lives EASIER (or make it feel that way at least).
Self-care simply refers to the practice of caring for yourself and protecting your own wellbeing including your physical, mental and emotional health. While my perfect night of self-care would look like going for an outdoor run, indulging in some chocolate, followed by a bubble bath and a good book, that might sound appalling to you. Everyone’s self-care will look a little different. Those of us that live busy lives may even become more stressed out trying to incorporate self-care tasks that take time away from the things that actually need to get done- so maybe checking items off a To-Do list gives the busier folks more feelings of accomplishment and productivity than not.
Here are a few ideas:
- Take Care of Something
Oftentimes, we feel fulfillment through taking care of something else- a pet, a plant, a garden maybe. Helping something else thrive can help manage your own stress levels and be very rewarding.
- Give Yourself a Gift
I don’t know about you, but I can get a little carried away with this one! Occasionally, it’s nice to treat ourselves to a new pair of shoes (or ten), or maybe a much-needed massage. If treating yourself to something you desire makes you happy, then bring on the joy and add to cart!
- Improve Self Talk
We’ve all shamed ourselves for eating too many pieces of cake or looking undesirable in the mirror… but would we ever imagine saying something like that to our friends (hopefully not…)!? Give yourself reasons to LIKE you and be kind to yourself. Start by saying “I am strong and capable” or “my hard work will pay off.”
- Prioritize your Mental and Physical Health
You may disagree, but these two go hand in hand. Personally, my mental health is on point when my physical health is. Exercise gives you all sorts of endorphins and brain power to make you feel better than ever- moving your body is a simple way to improve mental health from a physiological level.
- Start a Gratitude Journal
Having a routine can help you feel grounded and centered. Even better if that routine also revolves around feeling grateful! Doing something as simple as jotting down a few things you are grateful for each day will help your brain focus on the positive things.
If I’ve lost you with those ideas, try something even simpler- put your phone away for a couple hours. Last week, I got a notification of my daily screen time report- 5 hours and 19 minutes. OH MY. Why am I wasting my evenings away on Pinterest searching up recipes when I could’ve probably cooked a dozen of them in that time!? You can’t tell me that tiktok has you solving any of life’s problems or improves your self-perception staring at instamodels all day. Do yourself a favor and put the phone down so you can be present with your family, pets, and yourself without distraction.
Take a minute and work out what self-care means to you. You may even be doing it already!
While most of us think that cancer is the #1 cause of death in Canada, we are mistaken- it’s heart disease. Heart disease is most common in males, largely attributed to family history, and correlated with sedentary lifestyle factors. Heart disease increases exponentially beyond 35 years of age and the more risk factors we have (i.e. male, obesity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, etc.) the greater risk heart disease poses. We’ve all heard someone say it- “diet and exercise is key”. Truly- this is the recipe for health. I wouldn’t lie to you!
As we age, we accumulate a plaque-like substance inside the arteries, making the heart work harder to circulate blood throughout the body. This increased resistance is commonly reflected in a blood pressure reading. Us women are a bit luckier when it comes to heart disease. Research has shown that estrogen (a female sex hormone) works to protect the inside of the lumen (aka our arteries) and helps prevent the buildup of plaque-like substances that cause blockages and lead to heart disease. Women are not entirely in the clear however, as the risk for heart disease increases after menopause when estrogen levels decrease.
If heart disease is in your family, or your lifestyle choices lead you to believe you are at greater risk, start with these simple steps:
- Increase aerobic activity
- Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 mins/week of moderate- to vigorous- intensity exercise in 10-minute bouts or more. Sound unattainable? Start by simply doing MORE aerobic activity than what you’re currently doing (i.e. parking farther away in a parking lot, going for a walk, swimming, etc.)
- Decrease saturated/hydrogenated fats in your diet
- Those grocery store donuts and commercial baked goods may taste delicious but, over time, will reap havoc on heart health.
- Increase polyunsaturated fat (Omega’s) and dietary fiber
- While Omega-3 vitamins are commonly marketed as “good for the heart”, you can get adequate intake of the heart healthy fatty acid through foods like salmon and cod.
- Monitor your blood pressure
- While blood pressure is not the ‘end all be all’ tool in monitoring circulatory system performance, it sure gives us a glimpse. Normal blood pressure is typically 120/80 mmHg. If you have hypertension or pre-hypertension, try the above-mentioned heart healthy tips for decreasing blood pressure the non-prescription way!
As we enter the warmer months of July, we also quickly approach National Drowning Prevention Week. The Lifesaving Society designates the third week in July every year as NDPW and aims to launch drowning prevention initiatives around the country.
Every year, nearly 500 Canadians die in preventable, water-related incidents. Of those 500 deaths, alcohol is factor in 40% of cases. While this statistic is quite alarming, perhaps the most alarming statistic of all is that 100% of drowning deaths among children last year occurred due to absent or distracted supervision. In 2019 alone, 29% of drowning deaths in Alberta were attributed to bathtubs. While we don’t think of bathing as being particularly dangerous (quite the opposite in fact), unsupervised activity in/on/around the water is proven year after year to be fatal. Drowning is not loud and recognizable as many often think. In fact, it’s fast and silent, often occurring in less than 30 seconds.
While we often question the rather strict supervision policies at swimming facilities, it is vital that undistracted supervision is present if we ever hope to see a Canada free from drowning and water-related injury. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in drownings across the globe since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as swimming lessons contribute to an 88% reduction in risk of drowning. With no swimming lessons currently being offered in most (if not all) parts of the country, it is up to us to adhere to enhanced supervision while in, on and around the water.