3 Ways Exercise Helps to Reduce Stress

3 Ways Exercise Helps to Reduce Stress


Everyone reaches points in their life when they feel stressed out. Maybe they’re anxious, or worried about current and future events. But… how do we deal with these moments? You can try many different “destressing” tactics. Everything from taking a nap, to spending a night out at the bar with some friends. While these things can help you to feel better in the moment, nothing has the long-term benefit that you get from exercise, why is this?

We know that regular physical activity has a range of health benefits. Everything from the heart and circulatory system, to food digestion rely on staying active to function properly. 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 stress response. If you find it easy to manage the stressors in your life, then well done! But many people out there find that stress is a regular issue in their lives.

Whether you’re running late for work, freaking out about an upcoming date, or maybe cutting it close on the rent… 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 have a negative effect on your overall health.

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 regularly active lifestyle.

Increases Productivity

Before you say “I don’t have time, I have to get to the things that are stressing me out first!” you’re actually way more proactive and productive when you regularly exercise.

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.

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 literally only takes 5 minutes!

Helps Reduce Anxiety

Now, what if you’re someone who’s developed an anxiety-related disorder? Well, for anxiety and panic disorders, there is 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.

Releases Endorphins

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 we do at GoGet.Fit


1.       Exercise for 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


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

Elizabeth Anderson, Geetha Shivakumar, 2013, Frontiers in Psychiatry


4.       Effects of Stress on the Body


5.       Exercise Increases Productivity


7 Little Food Swaps That Can Make an Impact on Your Health

7 Little Food Swaps That Can Make an Impact on Your Health


The food and drink we choose to consume on a day-to-day basis influence our mood, cravings, sleep, anxiety, weight, and so much more. But, to say “immediately STOP eating chips” isn’t realistic, nor does it support living a life without restriction.

Changing, or evolving, what we eat/drink doesn’t have to be torture. In fact, if you want to feel satisfied, continue enjoying your social functions, feel healthier over the long-haul… then making dramatic changes to your diet is THE OPPOSITE of what you need to do.

Here are 7 little food swaps that will, over time, make an IMPACT on your health goals. So, pick 1 or 2, (NOT all 7… NOT even 5 or 6), and see how it goes.


TRY THIS: Flavoured fizzy water

Swap your soda for sugar-free fizzy water – not every soda… just one. Or maybe two.
With the fizzy water, check the label and choose a brand with 0 sugar, 0 sodium. There are lots of options out there where the only ingredients are water and flavour.


TRY THIS: Open-faced sandwich
INSTEAD OF THIS: Regular sandwich on a bun or two slices of bread

Again, not every time, but occasionally opt to remove that second piece of bread and try eating an open-faced sandwich. It’s a small difference that can eliminate 50-100 calories from your day. It tastes nearly identical and, you might even find it tastes better – this way, I notice I actually taste the meat, veggies and… CHEESE.


TRY THIS: Boiled eggs

Eggs are a wonderful nugget of nutrition. By sometimes boiling your eggs, instead of frying, we can skip the butter/oil and potentially save 100 calories (found in 1 tbsp of butter).

We’re not saying butter is BAD, but hey, if you can save it and still eat that delicious golden yoke – why not?


TRY THIS: Baked goods using applesauce
INSTEAD OF THIS: Baked goods using butter/lard/oil

If you loooooove to bake, seek a recipe that uses unsweetened applesauce instead of butter/lard/oil. We know this might feel like you’re corrupting your secret family recipe for chocolate chip cookies… so don’t try it on that one! Instead, try Googling:

“Banana bread with applesauce” or “Muffins with applesauce”… and give one a try!


TRY THIS: Chips in a bowl
INSTEAD OF THIS: Chips out of the bag

We’re not going to tell you to ALWAYS swap chips for veggies. Next time you have a hankering for chips:

Pour some in a bowl
Close the top of the bag
Put it away, out of sight
Enjoy your chips, and when they’re gone… they’re gone. 1 serving of chips can be around 120 calories… but half of a bag could be higher than 500.


TRY THIS: Small popcorn
INSTEAD OF THIS: Large popcorn combo

You start off feeling amazing, this buttery popcorn is sooooo gooooooood… But then, halfway through the movie your hand hits the bottom of the bag and you’re like “OH NO… I don’t feel so hot. Why did I do that?!”

Some of those combos seem like a better ‘deal’, but with many of us, when we buy a bigger bag… we’ll simply eat more. Next time, try ordering just a small bag. Or if you’re sharing, get the large popcorn and ask for two small bags.


TRY THIS: Ice cream in a dish
INSTEAD OF THIS: Ice cream in a waffle cone

Taking the kids to the Ice Cream Shoppe? Guess what?! It’s okay to have some!!!
Instead of getting your fave two-scoop in a waffle cone, try getting a kids-sized amount in a dish. Eat it slowly. Take the time to enjoy it. Life is better when you enjoy your decisions. Getting that two-scoop tastes the same…So choose to eat a smaller amount and you get the best of both worlds – happiness…. And ICE CREAM.

Food Diary: Connecting the Dots

Food Diary: Connecting the Dots


So, you decided to try using a food diary. It sounded so easy when you heard about it. 

Write down everything you have in a day…Ok, simple enough.” 

You decided to start with just keeping track of your water intake and your lunch for now. Day 1, you are ready to roll! But you got caught up at work and drank some water and didn’t write it all down and now you forgot which glass you were on. Was it 3 or 4? Shoot! Do you remember? I don’t think so. Should I drink an extra one just in case? You know what, just keep going. Then it was lunch time and you tried using your hand to measure the portion size, but you’re not sure if it was 1 palm, or was it closer to 1 1/3? 

What if I have small palms do I still measure it the same? Hey, tomorrow is a new day. Oh no, I forgot to write down how I felt before and after eating on day 3, and I had soup for lunch instead of my usual sandwich. Does soup count towards water intake, or not?  

So many questions!! The week is going by and you are becoming stressed looking at the spotty diary you were filling out, worrying about the little details, having more questions than answers. Or maybe you have kept track of everything but you have no idea what to do with the information in front of you. 

Hopefully, the tips below will provide you with some insight on how to get the most of your food diary:  

  • The more detail you can put into it, the more the diary can tell you – it’s an investigative tool. Ultimately it’s up to you! 

  • Don’t add up the calories until the end of the day. It’s time consuming to do as you go along, and feels more restrictive creating a calorie ceiling. Diaries are reflective, it’s to help you learn, not to punish you. 

  • Completeness and accuracy – BE HONEST with yourself. No one is here to judge you including yourself. Try to use proper measuring tools like measuring spoons, measuring cups and scales, or portion sizes using your hands if you don’t want to get too detailed. Your fist is 1 serving of carbohydrates; your palm is 1 serving of protein; and your thumb is 1 serving of fat.

  • Don’t rely just on your eyes. Portions can be deceiving. 

  • Aim for consistency, not perfection. Even if you forget to record, you overate, or didn’t drink enough water, just keep recording. Pick up where you left off and carry on. Don’t throw away an entire day just because your day wasn’t perfect.   

  • Make your diary personal and fun. Find a notebook you like, personalize it, use an app on your phone. We have a journal template to help you as well – https://www.healthcareevolve.ca/subscribe

  • Focus on the bigger picture. It’s not about the daily calories or protein, but the overall picture. Life is dynamic and so is your food intake – there are going to be days where you eat more than others and that is OK!!

***This part is important in piecing things together*** 

So, it’s the end of the week and you see some words and numbers on a page. What do you do with all of this? How do we piece it all together? 

All of this info you have collected help us to identify patterns. Patterns of hunger, emotions and triggers. It’s not about avoiding any of these things, it’s about recognizing, acknowledging them and working through them. 


Knowing when you are the hungriest or have the most cravings helps you to better plan for them ahead of time. For example, you notice you’re hungry often by 10 AM. Is it because your breakfast was too small (or nonexistent)? By the time lunch rolls around, you are starved and purchasing the extra chocolate bar on top of your lunch, which you didn’t want to do… Seeing a consistent pattern where you are hungry by 10 AM, gives you an opportunity to plan ahead. 

Solution: Grab a bit more breakfast, incorporate a morning snack and see if we can dampen down some of that hunger at lunch, which will help us to make less impulsive choices for lunch. 


Eating is an emotional experience just as much as it is functional. Our experiences and connections with food are very personal. Some of us find our appetite increases when we are stressed, while others find the opposite is true for them. We also find ourselves connecting certain foods and activities together, like having popcorn at the movie theatre or having chips while watching Netflix at home. We use food to celebrate and to soothe. Broke up with the boyfriend? Grab a tub of ice cream. Celebrating your anniversary? Go for a nice dinner. 

We also have certain feelings around food and the environment we have them in. Do you feel guilty when you eat a donut in your car alone, versus in the lunchroom at work? What about grabbing ice cream with friends versus sitting in your kitchen by yourself spooning the container? 

We can eat the same food in different settings and feel differently about it. Do we have the “bad boyfriend” relationships with certain foods? Told yourself you were staying away from him this time… he isn’t good for you… but here you are again messaging him. 

We also can be disconnected from our eating experience as well. Maybe you found that bowl of mixed nuts at your friends party, had a few bites, it tasted delicious at first so you kept coming back to it, but now your lips are sore from the salt, you’re not even hungry anymore or enjoying it yet you’re still picking away at it? 

Solution: Taking the time to think about each meal we eat, reflect on how we feel physically, emotionally and what connection we have with those foods is CRUCIAL for identifying opportunities for us to make changes and place the power back in our hands.  


It’s easy to stay on track when the day is going smooth, but what about those unexpected curve balls? You forgot your planned lunch at home and now you have to fend for yourself. Woke up late and now you’re behind on your whole day and stressed out? Conquering the lunchroom which is overflowing with baked goods around the holidays, or that family gathering this weekend where your sister will make her infamous lasagna? 

Figuring out what the triggers and situations are making it harder for you to stick to your plans helps you find solutions ahead of time. This doesn’t mean “I am just going to eat my lunch at my desk to avoid the baked goods in the lunchroom” or “I’ll just eat salad at the family gathering”. No! It’s finding a middle ground which won’t leave you feeling guilty. 

Solution: “I’ll have a couple of the treats instead of filling up an entire plate”, “I’ll have a smaller piece of the lasagna and take some home for lunch the next day.” 


So you have this partially (or wholly) completed food diary for 1 week or more… You have some data – go back and take a second look. 

  • What is your journal telling you? 

  • Are there any patterns? 

  • An opportunity for change? 

  • Now what is one small step you could take to make a change? 

  • Do you feel you are not consuming enough water during the day? 

Maybe we can kick the day off with a glass of water first thing by having it ready on our counter before we make breakfast. Or perhaps you had a more productive activity session when you had a snack prior? So let’s add a little snack within an hour of your activity. 

The point is to find the patterns and make small changes that add up over time.

The food diary can be something that we put down and pick back up at a later date or something that we can do on a consistent basis. The more you practice filling it out, the quicker the process becomes and it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes a day to complete, but the wealth of information it can provide is invaluable. Not only that, filling out your diary serves as an ongoing reminder and reinforces all of the incredible changes you are making in your life to live a healthier and happier life!

Dear (Food) Diary…

Dear (Food) Diary…


My phone, like just about everyone else in the modern age, is an extension of my arm. 

I use it for everything! Check the time? My phone. Pay a bill? My phone. Send emails, check my calendar, make phone calls, read the news, stay connected…you get it…I use my phone. 

Besides being necessary for my daily survival, offering me advantages and advancements I previously didn’t have, the phone is easily our biggest source of distraction as well. Don’t get me wrong, I think a bit of perusing on Facebook, or Instagram, pinning some ideas on Pinterest or sending some funny videos to your friends is absolutely necessary to keep you sane. However, we can easily find ourselves losing hours of our day and week engaging in these activities and not even know how much time we spend doing that. 

How many of us find ourselves very busy and, “never having enough time in the day”? 

With my phone, I’m sure Apple didn’t single me out for this, sends me weekly reports to let me know how much screen time I have had this week, and I have been shocked at times, “Did I actually spend this much time on my phone?!” Well apparently I had. One could look at this and say, “whatever, I don’t think it’s THAT much” or this can be used as a tool to show you how you ARE spending your time if you DO want to utilize your time differently. 

Food diaries can be much of the same. 

Why keep a food diary?

It is a tool we can use to work towards a healthier and happier life. The purpose of a food diary is in part for data collection, with data we can inform ourselves, and by being informed we are able to make more sound decisions that ultimately lead to our behaviours. A food diary is not there to judge you for the food you ate or the calories you consume. It is there to serve as a guide, and can be an effective means of practicing mindfulness and reinforcing positive behavioural changes. 

What do food diaries do?  

  • Can help us to identify patterns – When am I the most hungry? What am I eating then? Do I have cravings? Am I overeating/undereating at times? Which foods make me feel full and satisfied, and which don’t have the same effect?

  • Identify hidden calories – We are human beings and, as such, are quite awful at ‘eye-balling’ portions and we can easily under- or overestimate how much we are actually consuming. Forget about that coffee with cream from earlier, or don’t realize how much salad dressing we are having.  

  • Opportunities for change! Can we make substitutions? Make food choices that are more filling or nutritious? Try different foods and see how they affect our bodies? Having whole food instead of a smoothie. Do some foods seem to cause digestive issues? The list can be endless and is going to vary person to person. 

Now, is keeping a journal something that everyone can do? No. Do some people enjoy the process and do it forever? Definitely. Do some people do it for 2 weeks at a time and suddenly gather a ton of insight into their eating habits and patterns? Absolutely! 

One area we need to be careful is that counting calories/protein in a food diary can certainly become an obsessive behaviour – remember this isn’t going to work for everyone! The bigger picture is in helping us to identify our patterns and behaviours around food. Most of the time when we utilize a food diary in clinic, initially we don’t have patients count their calories/protein. 

A lot of insight can be gained by just putting a little more thought into how much food we are eating, when we are eating, and what we are feeling before and after we eat. What you thought was 1 cup, is actually 3. Am I eating because I am hungry or because I am stressed? Is watching TV a trigger? The insight that can be gained is truly invaluable, and allows for steps to be taken to start making small incremental changes. The key is accuracy and honesty – there is no judgement here. 

So what do we record in a daily health diary?

  1. What? What did you eat and drink over the course of the day? This includes any and all food, condiments, any liquid calories, and the amount of water you have per day.

  2. How much? Measure food the best you can – your hands can be great for comparing portion sizes. Your fist is a serving of carbohydrates; your palm is a serving of protein and your thumb is a serving of fat.  

  3. When? What time of the day are you eating? – How long are you going between meals/snacks? 

  4. The Feels!! How do you feel before you eat? Hangry, ravenous, tired, sad, stressed, etc. How do you feel after you eat? Satisfied, stuffed, still hungry, happy, etc. 

  5. Activity? When and how much? Are eating enough before your activity? Are you eating enough after? How did your workout feel? Did you feel sluggish, lots of energy, or meh? Activity is fantastic but we need to make sure we are properly fueling our bodies before and afterwards to ensure we have productive workouts. Without the proper amount of fuel it can make activity difficult and unenjoyable, and it can lead to overeating afterwards! 

  6. Mindfulness! Now, not every food diary has this but for ours at HE we like to incorporate it as we believe it is important to take things 1 step farther. To consider what we are grateful for? What has gone well today? Maybe not so well? How can we learn from our mistakes?  

That is a pretty basic overview of how food diary can be beneficial. Again, it is a tool in the toolbox. Is it going to solve all of our problems? Of course not. 

It is one more thing that when utilized properly can help us to gather insight and information to make actionable change. 

So I hope this helps provide some clarity on completing a food diary – as always start small, like everything else this is a change in your daily routine/habits. Trying to fill out a food diary front to back can be overwhelming, so start with 1 meal or snack and slowly start increasing your journaling skills over time. With some practice the whole process can be done within a few minutes each day. 

Thinking about the benefits that can come with it, it might be worth putting down that phone OR even using an app on your phone to help you out with the process! Next week, we will continue talking about health journalling – some tips to make it seem easier, and the THREE MOST IMPORTANT things in piecing all of this together. 

Dr. Dan and our team at HE believe in health journalling SO MUCH that we made our template available FOR FREE online. 

Download it now – https://www.healthcareevolve.ca/subscribe 

Moving Your Way To Health

Moving Your Way To Health


Do you believe that if you could spend more time in the gym THAT would be your ticket to weight-loss? More exercise = more weight-loss?

AND have you been in a situation where you wanted to indulge in a treat, felt guilty about it, but managed to make a deal with yourself…

“I’ll have a treat now, THEN I’ll just do a little bit more exercise tomorrow to make up for it?”

Young woman holding staring at a tray with homemade chocolate cookies

I have been there more times than I can count. Negotiating my way into days worth of cardio to make up for extra food eaten. Even though social media keeps telling me how many calories are in my favourite treats and the ridiculous amount of activity I will need to complete in order to work those calories off – I STILL had the same equation in my head.

“If I eat more, I’ll just exercise more to fix it.”

We see exercising as a means to lose weight and the relationship between food and exercise as 50:50, with exercise being more important.

“I mean, I am sweating, and hurting, so it must be having a huge impact, right?”

But does it? What if I told you the balance is not 50:50? 

And that exercise has been proven to NOT be an effective means for weight-loss, would you believe me?

I hear the skepticism already….

Just hold on, lemme explain…

In a very simplified model, the key to weight loss (burning the excess energy stores on our body – FAT) lies in the balance of Energy IN vs Energy OUT. Energy IN being the food you eat, contributes to the full 100% while the Energy OUT has a few components to it:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) (energy needed to keep you alive every day)

  2. Energy to break down (digest) food (because it takes energy to make energy)

  3. Activity throughout the day

Your BMR accounts for about 60-80% of the Energy OUT – you have no control over this. Food digestion is about 10% and the rest of the 10-30% is your daily activities – going to work, caring for the kids, mowing the lawn, exercising, etc. Now, the activity component is the only component that is FULLY in your control. So you compare 100% of the Energy IN to 10-30% of controllable Energy OUT – your balance is way off.

How about a mathematical example? 

If we say there are 3,500 calories in 1 lb of fat, and for ease of calculation let’s say you want to lose exactly 1 lb of fat per week, you would have to create a calorie deficit of 3500 calories/week. Or an extra 500 calories/day. 

An average person would walk at a speed of:

4 miles/hr and burn 5 cal/min…..3500 Cal/5 min = 700 min/per week
700 min/60 min = 11.7 hours/week (or 1.6 hrs a day) 

You would have to walk about an hour and a half every day for 1 week, making no changes to your diet to lose 1 measly pound. Even if you wanted to commit to this amount of activity, is this sustainable in the long run? Because whatever you do to lose weight, you must be able to sustain it for life to keep the weight off – and 1.5 hours…? That is ALOT of walking!

Not only that, since you exercised, your body is going to increase your hunger hormones. Try to make you eat more to make up for the calories you lost during your workout. As well, you are a HUMAN BEING. So following some kind of exercise we tend to slow down. We might decide to take the elevator instead of the stairs. Have a nap in the afternoon. Or spend more time sitting at work because we got our steps in already for the day. So you will burn less calories throughout the rest of your day…

So, it is clear that exercise is not the golden ticket to weight-loss. 

Does that mean we dismiss exercise altogether from a weight-loss strategy due to its little effect on numbers?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

An important takeaway is not to focus on what exercise DOESN’T do, but to shift our attention to what it DOES DO.


By no means is this exhaustive but, exercise improves: 

  • Mood

  • Sleep

  • Cholesterol 

  • Blood sugar levels

  • Blood pressure, and 

  • Can reduce the risk of some cancers better than any drug 


But used alone it does not have a large impact on weight-loss. Exercise has a bigger impact in WEIGHT MAINTENANCE. On top all this – exercise feeeeeels goooood and it helps to drive other healthier behaviours and habit formation.

So, can we stop thinking about exercise as a means for weight-loss?! How about we reframe the role of exercise and place a different value on it? As the saying goes “If you don’t make time for your health, you will have to make time for your illness.”

Why not exercise for your health? To be more flexible? To be stronger? To manage stress? Even if you don’t lose a pound being more active, activity can help you to negate most, if not all of your potential risks that carrying excess weight may have.

So, what should you be doing then, and how much? 

The recommendation is for 150 minutes of exercise per week – an average of 30 minutes/day of moderate activity. It doesn’t even have to be all one session, you can break it up into shorter bouts. It can be whatever activity you enjoy, whether it’s going for a walk, riding a bike, cutting grass, washing your car, working in your yard, or going to gym facilities and workout classes.

Find something you enjoy, start small, schedule your activity in like you do your appointments and, get moving! To quote Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a family physician and expert in Obesity from Ontario, Canada,

“Some is good, more is better, but everything counts.” 

The Mental Games – May the Odds be Ever in Your Favour

The Mental Games – May the Odds be Ever in Your Favour


I consider myself a good driver, and every once in a while, I have a little fender bender. However, this time I was caught by a radar camera. How dare they have a police officer sitting on a side street without telling me, and then catch me driving 15 km/hr above the speed limit? 

Ridiculous, right? 

On top of that I didn’t even have a good excuse for speeding… “I never expected you to be sitting on a side street?” I would have to come up with a better defense than that, as I went down to traffic court to see if I could sweet talk my way out of it – or at least get it reduced. With this being my first traffic violation, the odds were looking good, plus added the leverage of a great driving record, I felt fairly hopeful. I really hoped I’d be able to say “I rest my case” or “I object”, but I knew that was pushing it. The important thing was to just get out of this ticket.  

The room where you see the judge/crown prosecutor to negotiate your fate has multiple cubicles, so you grab a number and wait your turn. There are makeshift dividers providing minimal privacy, and you are able to overhear each individual next to you plead their case and ultimately the crown prosecutors decision. 

So, there I was on my best behaviour, and ready to address my case. I hoped the judge was in a good mood, but it was hard to tell from their stern expression. I provided quick and clear answers and patiently waited in silence until I was asked to speak. During the silence of my own case, I overheard another case being discussed a cubicle away: 

The judge: “Why were you speeding?” The lady: “Well, I woke up…and right off the bat I was stressed.” It sounded like she had quite a lead up before she was in her car and got caught speeding. The day each of us was caught speeding was similar. We each were heading off to our respective workplaces and got caught speeding, but my morning had been fairly peaceful and easy, hers in comparison was full of little hang ups and roadblocks. 

I managed to get my ticket reduced and left after the discussions were finished. I don’t know how her case turned out, but it got me thinking. I don’t know what this lady was going through, maybe she was looking for excuses to get out of her ticket and embellished her story, or maybe she was actually dealing with a number of stressors that I couldn’t relate too. 

For me, I was not stressed out over this ticket. I was more annoyed that I would have to pay a fine. To this lady, the speeding ticket was just another problem on top of all the other problems she was already dealing with. Regardless, her ability to plan, organize, and be thoughtful about her decisions, habits, and behaviours on a daily basis is likely impaired. 

This is not unlike many of our patients who are trying to manage their weight. Obesity is a complex disease that often involves a large mental health component, that can be overwhelming from the minute you wake up until you go to bed. If we are not managing your mental health, you might have continuous roadblocks every step of the way – setting you back, or making steps forward much more challenging.

Obesity is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination. 

Obesity is the disease you wear, and there is a significant amount of stigmatization and mental health disorders such as depression, and anxiety that are associated with the disease itself. You are not only having the daily war in your head – managing low self-esteem, negative self-talk, dealing with failures from past diet attempts, seeing your weight yo-yo up and down. You are also dealing with how society will treat you for being overweight – being judged for buying a lunch because you forgot the one you packed at home, being passed over for promotions or jobs, healthcare professionals telling you that you are ‘fat’ and need to lose weight…

Does this all sound familiar? Maybe on top of all that, you suffer from an eating disorder (binge eating, bulimia, and night eating syndrome). After your usual day, you head home binge and self-medicate with food in an attempt to reduce your stress and anxiety, to what we can hope is a tolerable enough level to sleep. Then, you wake up and do it all over again.

No amount of pep talk, inspirational quotes from Facebook or Instagram, or motivational videos on YouTube will “snap you out of it”. 

As you struggle to cope, are you thinking, “Hmmm, I better pack some healthy snacks for tomorrow and coordinate my outfit for my planned physical activity as well.” Probably not. Any of these are a lot to deal with and #thestruggleisreal, very real. 

The journey towards a healthier YOU takes a lot of preparation, organization, and thoughtfulness. You have to be privileged in order to change your habits. From having the time to plan out your week, to determine what you will eat, when you shop, preparing your meals, scheduling physical activity, affording your meals, etc. While many of these tasks are not overly difficult and can easily be done once, replicating them on a regular basis is the challenge

Depending on the level of support you need, the following could be useful tips:

  • Engaging your team of healthcare professionals to support you 

  • Developing your support system through friends and family, or through peer support groups

  • Find an accountability partner

  • Take small steps; don’t try to make drastic changes over night 

  • Practice gratitude on a daily basis

If you are suffering from a mental health disorder, such as depression, before we embark on any lifestyle changing efforts we need to ensure we are properly addressing your mental health FIRST

As I said, changing your habits requires planning, organization, and thoughtfulness and having something like uncontrolled depression is going to make it near impossible to carry out those practices. 


It is a common misconception that losing weight will help to treat your depression and anxiety – this is just not the case. 

So, if you are the one going through this process, remember PLEASE be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself in the way you would talk to someone you love. Be gentle and compassionate. We are all doing the best we can, and small progress is better than no progress at all!