Layering for Exercising Outside in the Winter

Walking outside in Snowy Winter

Layering for Exercising Outside in the Winter

As in the summer, spring, and fall, there are innumerable reasons for you to get outside and exercise all winter. There are even a few bonus reasons in the winter. Working out in the cold means your body works a little harder to stay warm, burning extra calories. If you find working out in the summer uncomfortably warm, you might actually prefer the winter.

With the cooler temps, there are a few things to think about that may not have occurred to you if you’ve always been a fair weather runner. The goal is to stay warm, but not so warm that you’re sweating hard. Sweat will make you cold, so we’re aiming for that happy middle ground, which will take some trial and error. There are three key differences to dressing for cold weather exercise: layers and clothing material and more layers.

 

Material

This can get complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. A rule of thumb is to stay away from cotton. Cotton is a poor insulator and holds moisture (sweat) and keeps it close to your body, keeping you cold and chilled. The science is to use materials that allow moisture to travel as readily as heat, wicked away from the skin. Instead, wear clothes that are made from synthetic material blends, or wool if it’s comfortable. For most exercise, synthetics are fine. Synthetic materials will wick sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry, and thus warmer. If they do get wet, synthetics will still maintain their insulating properties, keeping you warm. Same for wool. This is more important for layers next to your skin > socks, pants/leggings/underwear, sports bra, top and gloves.

Layers

You’re going to need a few more of these, but likely not as many as you think. The layers that work best vary from person to person, as everyone has a different tolerance for cooler temperatures. There is also no need to wear leggings or tights if you prefer loose clothes. One rule of thumb for inner layers and mid layers is “Thin is in.” Keep them thin!

Lots of layers.

When you’re learning, it’s better to err on the side of caution. A freezing, miserable experience will leave you skipping your next workout. It’s annoying to have to remove layers, but you can always tie them around your waist and make a mental note to go lighter next time. Build your insulating layers intelligently– Useful layers include:

1.     The inner layer- Something fairly snug and thinner next to the skin. (thinner whisks the moisture to the outer side of that layer travelling with the heat loss, thereby keeping the inner layer next to your skin dry- remember “Near the skin keep it Thin”).

2.     The mid-layer- Next, a looser long sleeve on top (or two). If cooler, add more layers here. 

3.     Outer layer- A light jacket to break the wind yet breathes or a light insulating jacket (pick and choose, depending on the temperature). If you don’t have these, start with what you have, as long as it’s NOT cotton.

Go bold, start cold.

This will take some experience. As you exercise, your body will warm up and keep you warm, even when it’s cold outside. A good rule of thumb it to wear enough layers so that you feel cool (not freezing!) standing still before you begin.

Don’t “lose” your head!

We lose lots of heat through our heads and the back of our necks, so as the air cools down, remember to bring a hat (Canadian Toque) or a headband! Thin headbands are great if you sweat a lot and need to release some heat, yet still keep your ears warm. Bring a pair of gloves or mittens for your hands too – nothing is more miserable than cold, chapped hands that never warm up. For your feet – wool or synthetic socks (layers of socks… thin next to the skin) will make a big difference in avoiding blisters and keeping your toes warm, even if your shoes aren’t water proof. These materials insulate, even after they get wet, unlike cotton.

It may feel like a lot to think about at first, but like all things exercise, the best way to learn is just to start . Pick a day that’s not too cold, to get started, layer up and head out to enjoy the many activities winter has to offer! You can run, walk, hike, cross country ski, skate, bike/fat bike (be careful on roads!), and snowshoe! Plan on rewarding yourself with a hot tea or coffee afterwards – one of the best parts about getting out in the winter is getting cozy afterwards!

Is Your Social Life Wreaking Havoc on Your Weight Management Goals?

Is Your Social Life Wreaking Havoc on Your Weight Management Goals?

 

Wine with the ladies. Beer and wings with the boys. Friday night pizza. Date night dinner out or skip-the-dishes on Saturday. Family breakfast on Sunday. Does your social life revolve around food? Food is a universal connector, offering us comfort in good times and in bad. But could your social life be wreaking havoc on your progress toward your weight management goals?

Maybe.

We really loved this blog written by Kristyn Hall of Energize Nutrition. She covers how:

  • Eating with other people can change how we eat
  • Eating out can increase our overall calorie intake
  • Even when we choose to eat at healthy restaurants…. we STILL consume more calories that we’d think

Read it now > why your social life could be wreaking havoc on your weight management goals.

PHOTO CREDIT: JANET PLISZKA, VISUAL HUES PHOTOGRAPHY

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

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/

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.

 

FOOD SWAP ONE
TRY THIS: Flavoured fizzy water
INSTEAD OF THIS: Pop/Soda

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.

 

FOOD SWAP TWO
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.

 

FOOD SWAP THREE
TRY THIS: Boiled eggs
INSTEAD OF THIS: Fried 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?

 

FOOD SWAP FOUR
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!

 

FOOD SWAP FIVE
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.

 

FOOD SWAP SIX
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.

 

FOOD SWAP SEVEN
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. 

HUNGER AND CRAVING RANKING THROUGHOUT THE DAY 

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. 

EMOTIONS AND THOUGHTS AROUND FOOD 

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.  

TRIGGERS WHICH ARE LINKED TO DIETARY STRUGGLES 

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.” 

WHAT YOUR DATA CAN TELL YOU

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.

THERE IS NO DRUG OR THERAPY MODERN MEDICINE CAN PROVIDE THAT COMPARES TO THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE…

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 OK NOT TO BE OK! 

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! 

Plotting your Weight-loss Journey with Values instead of Goals

Plotting your Weight-loss Journey with Values instead of Goals

 

Values are innately a part of every individual on the planet, Instilled in us at a young age by our parents, society, and cultures, they are important to us, and ultimately dictate our behaviours and beliefs without us even realizing it. Without them, life would be difficult, as values provide us with purpose and help us make decisions.

Some who don’t have a strong sense of their values can sometimes struggle with making decisions, such as whether they go back to school, move to a big city for a new job, etc. Those who have a greater sense of their values are better equipped to look at a choice and decide which option better aligns with their values.

Compared to goals, values are generally unwavering. I would argue they don’t change over time but rather they evolve.

For example, a goal is ‘I want to lose 10 pounds’, and a value is ‘I want to be happy and healthy’.

I like to think of values as the directions on a compass. Values set the course and point us in the direction we want to go. There are specific destinations along the way, and these are our goals. Despite reaching one destination… we never stop. Instead, we infinitely continue on the course our values have set reaching one destination after another.

Goals on the other hand are finite. They are a great motivational tool and give us markers of accomplishment to strive for in the short-term but, unless they are tied to our values once we achieve our goal the question becomes, ‘Now what?’

Classic example – Olympic athletes who train their entire lives to win a gold medal:

Day in and day out, that gold medal is their goal and nothing else matters. Then the day comes and they win the gold medal. Everything they have poured their heart and souls into for years comes to fruition.

Then what? Many athletes end up crashing, becoming depressed and even suicidal. Why? Because they had nothing else beyond that one goal, and they struggle to adjust to a life that does not involve constantly striving for a gold medal.

In living a healthier lifestyle and trying to lose weight, we see much of the same. My patients constantly tell me their goal weight: ‘I want to lose 20 pounds.’ ‘If I could just get down to 150 pounds I would be happy.’ The list goes on for numerous iterations just like this.

Goals can be motivating because while you are working towards that goal you put on the blinders. You ignore the cookies in the lunchroom; you don’t have that extra glass of wine; you bring a lunch with you to work; you hit the gym; you essentially do everything that is necessary to lose weight and work towards your goal. The problem with using goals – especially when it comes to weight-loss – is that you either reach that goal or you don’t.

If you don’t, you start beating yourself up, believing you are a failure because you could not reach your ‘goal weight’. In turn, you revert back to your old lifestyle and end up gaining the weight back and possibly then some, all the while, further loathing yourself for putting weight back on.

Now what if you DO reach your goal? Well, the blinders come down. You start to give yourself permission to have that cookie in the lunchroom or have that extra glass of wine, because ‘Hey, I lost 20 pounds. I deserve to treat myself.’ Again, over time you revert back to your old habits and end up putting all the weight you lost back on. At least until your next attempt, and the cycle continues…

What if you set a health or weight-loss goal based on your values? Instead of saying, ‘I want to lose 20 pounds.’ How about, ‘I want to be healthier or lose weight, so I can keep up with my kids, so I can have less pain in my knees, so I can enjoy my retirement, so I can live the life I want to live…’

Notice the difference? When we set goals based on our values, we don’t just stop moving forward when we reach our goal. We maintain our progress or we set another goal and continue to strive towards our values. It is about the JOURNEY rather than a specific destination.

So the next time you are thinking about setting yourself a goal.

Living a Life Based on your Values

Living a Life Based on your Values

 

Our values dictate our attitudes, beliefs and behaviours often without us even realizing it. So, how then do we determine what our values are and actually put them into words?

This can be a challenging question for many people. Part of the reason is that our values are so deeply ingrained within us, that they are driven by emotions and instinct vs. intellect. What do I mean by this?

If you’re into watching video, check out the same exercise on our YouTube channel

When we look at the human brain, there are two important components we are dealing with:

  1. The Limbic Brain, this is where emotions, motivation and learning occurs, and
    The Neocortex which is involved in higher order functions such as problem solving, perception and language.
  2. Unfortunately, the limbic brain is disconnected from the language part of the Neocortex.

When the limbic brain transmits signals to our body, it is generally a feeling or an emotion that we can’t quite describe.

Think of that ‘gut feeling’ we have all experienced at one time or another. Without a connection to the language part of the brain, it becomes very difficult to put our emotions and feelings into words! The same applies when we attempt to articulate our values. This is a gross oversimplification of neurobiology but, I hope that helps to clarify what I am getting at.

The good news: with some practice and a few exercises, we can begin to articulate what it is we truly value and find important in our lives.

VALUES help to set the direction of our journey through life, and GOALS are the destinations along the way. Unlike goals, which are finite and eventually come to an end, our values are infinite. We never accomplish or finish our values. We simply continue along the path in the direction our values have set for us.

Let’s get to it:

How do we determine what are our values around living healthier lifestyle?

The first question(s) I ask my patients are:

Why do you want to be healthier? Or Why do you want to lose weight?
You’ll soon come to realize ‘WHY’ is the most important piece. The answers I often hear for these questions are: ‘To be healthy.’ ‘To not feel uncomfortable.’ ‘To be happier.’

Again, I pose the question ‘Well, WHY?’.

This is often met with bewildered looks, and the look of ‘What the hell do you mean WHY? Isn’t it obvious?’ Then I prompt a response back such as, ‘Do you want to be healthier so you can stay at home and “Netflix and Chill”?’ After, hopefully a chuckle and another bewildered look, this usually garners a bit more of a deeper dive – and – we start getting closer to an individual’s values.

‘I want to be healthier so I can have less pain in my knees.’ ‘I want to be healthier so I can play with my grandkids.’ ‘I want to be healthier so I can travel without worrying about my health.’

Now THOSE statements demonstrate something we can set our personal compass to. These are not destinations or goals. The most important thing to remember? If you can still ask ‘WHY’, you likely haven’t found your value or the deeper reason for wanting to make a change!

REAL-TIME VALUES EXERCISE:

1)Pull out a piece of paper and write down as many values you can think of, fill up the entire page!

2)Next, we need to create a value statement. Below are the simplest forms of a value statement, and you can feel free to use them or create any kind of variation that you feel works for you.

‘I want to be healthier so that ____________________’, or

‘I want to lose weight so that ____________________’, or
‘I want to live a life where my health is not preventing me from long into the future.’

Again, I recommend writing these statements out by hand as they generally become more deeply internalized. Write as many as you can. The more you put into this exercise, the more you will get out!

3) NOW – I want you to post that piece of paper somewhere in your home or an area that you will see it every single day. This will be a daily reminder for the journey you are embarking on!

So, why did we go through all this trouble? As I said above – our values dictate our behaviours.

When it comes to making changes and living a healthier lifestyle, you will constantly have to make decisions that will affect the direction you are travelling.

For example: To eat the cookie or not eat the cookie, to go for a walk or not, to pack a lunch or not, etc. Fundamentally you will have 2 choices. However, with your beautiful handwritten value statement(s), those choices will hopefully be easier to make and might look something like this:

‘If I eat that cookie I bet it will be delicious, BUT you know if I don’t eat that cookie then I will be living based on my value of being able to keep up with my grandkids.’

Now will this work every time? No. Also, by no means am I saying that one cookie is going to derail your entire journey, BUT the cumulative effects of eating a cookie daily, might.

What if it’s your grandkid’s birthday and there are cookies and cake around? Does living based on these values mean you can’t partake in any of the good stuff? HELL NO! The bottom line is that your VALUE in this case is your grandkids – hence, spending time with them on their birthday.

And guess what? Birthdays sometimes involve cake and cookies, and THAT IS OK! In fact, it is a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle.

We will get into this more in future blog posts but, food is a large part of our culture and society. We not only use it for fuel, we use it for celebration, when we are feeling sad, or when we are spending time with the ones we love!

So, I hope this helps you in finding your values and setting the course for your journey, whatever that might be! If you ever feel like you are restricting yourself or avoid socializing with those you value because you might be too tempted by food…then we need to talk.