Eliminate Excuses

24 Oct


Sitting on the couch in my pj’s or sweats on a lazy Saturday I think to myself, “I should go outside for a walk, the weather is great”.  But then that little devil on the other shoulder pipes up as says, “You can’t go outside looking like that!  What if someone sees you?”

There was a time when that little devil would usually win the arguement.  I would just stay home and continue being lazy because I didn’t feel like fixing my hair or putting on makeup etc.

I have recently decided that I’ve had enough of that little devil standing in the way of me being more active and spending more time outdoors.

If you want to make sure your little devil is not stopping you from doing what you know is best for you, you have to outsmart him.  You first need to anticipate what kind of excuses he will make.  The next step is to make a plan to eliminate the excuses.

Since the excuse that was usually most troubling for me was the – can’t go out looking ugly – excuse, I had to find ways around it.  Some days, even on lazy days, I just get myself ready first thing in the morning as if I plan to go out somewhere.  That way, no matter what I end up doing I will be ready for it.  But lets face it, there are some days when you just don’t feel like fixing yourself up.  I especially don’t want to fuss over my hair if I want to go jogging since I will probably need a shower when I’m done anyway.

So the excuse buster that works for me is my hat and sunglasses.  A hat will hide even the worst bad hair day, and the sunglasses are good for hiding the fact that I have no make-up on.  Now, I have no excuse.  When I think “I should go out for a walk” I just do it.

We all make excuses to try to get out of doing something we just don’t feel like doing.  Figure out what your common excuses are, and then find a way to sabotage them!

Don’t let that little devil win.  He doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

What is your best excuse buster??

Choose your friends wisely – your wellness depends on it

14 Oct
Cover of "Connected: The Surprising Power...

Cover via Amazon

The people you’re spending time with will absolutely have an impact on your wellness.  If you’re spending a lot of time with people who are making poor lifestyle choices, it will have some influence on you.  If you’re anything like me, you often think “I really should get more exercise” or “I should stop watching so much TV” or – insert your own example here.

If you want to be more active and watch less TV, hang around with people who are doing this.  It seems like a pretty obvious solution, but sometimes we can get into a rut.  Call a neighbor and see if they want to go for a walk.  If you have a friend who tends to be the active type, give them a call, plan to get together.  Sometimes even just hearing them talk about thier life and all its activities will be enough to inspire you.  Maybe you can make plans to join them on one of their next adventures.

What do you do if you don’t really have any active friends?    Consider joining a class or a team.  It’s a great way to get active and make new friends at the same time.

Friends affect other aspects of our lives as well.  How we eat is another good example.  If your friends like to focus a large amount of thier social time on going out to eat, it can be a challenge to keep your food choices and portions in the healthy range.

If your friends are smokers, you are more likely to become a smoker – or be subjected to second hand smoke.

Dr. Christakis and Dr. Fowler have written a book all about the effects of our social network and how it affects the person we are.

Dr. Christakis and Dr. Fowler discovered that if your friend’s friend’s friend starts gaining weight or takes up smoking, you’re more likely to do the same.
You might be thinking – “I’m an adult and I make up my own mind about things.”  While that may be true, the fact remains that our thoughts and feelings about things are influenced by the things and people we see all around us.  By Surrounding yourself with positive people, you are improving the quality of the influence.  Better influence = better decisions.

Normal weight obesity and cardiovascular risk

10 Oct
English: "Love handles" are made up ...

English: “Love handles” are made up of excess fat around hips. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study from the Mayo clinic has shown a strong correlation between normal weight obesity and increased risk of illness or death from cardiovascular problems.  Surprisingly, they even found that the normal weight obesity posed an even higher risk than generalized obesity.

What?  How can someone be normal weight and obese at the same time?

There are a couple ways of defining it.  In this particular study researchers defined normal weight obesity as having an increased waist to hip ratio – in other words, the people had a large belly but were relatively thin otherwise.  Others have defined normal weight obesity as a situation in which your percentage of body fat is increased, as in a person with little muscle mass but increased fat tissue, although their weight is still within normal limits.

Another surprising finding is that people whose weight puts them in the obese category may not be at increased risk if they carry the majority of their fat tissue in their legs and hips.  They even said this may have a protective effect.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation has published healthy waist circumference guidelines.  You are at increased cardiovascular risk if your waist measures larger than:

80 centimetres or 31.5” (Chinese & South Asian women)

89 centimetres or 35” (Women & Chinese/South Asian men)

101 centimetres or 40” (men)

So, what should you do to reduce your risk?

  1. Keep active!  The more active you are the more calories you burn and therefore the less you are likely to weigh overall.  If you incorporate some muscle building activity into your routine you will be even better off since research has found increased muscle tissue has a beneficial effect on your cardiovascular health.  You can build muscle by doing exercises that include some form of resistance.  Some examples are lifting weights or using elastic exercise bands.  Using your own body as resistance works too, like when you do push-ups for example.  Doing some serious yard or house work can give you a work out too.
  2. Eat sensibly!  Include protein, vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet daily.  A little bit of fat is good too, but too much fat and the wrong kinds of fat can be a problem.  Highly processed foods and sugars should be avoided.  One easy way to make sure you’re choosing healthy foods at the grocery store is by shopping the perimeter of the store.  Most grocery stores are arranged so the fresh fruits, veggies, milk/dairy, meats and fish are on the perimeter with the more processed foods in the centre aisles of the store.  One rule of thumb that I often turn to is – if my Great Grandmother would not recognize the ingredients on a food package, I should probably avoid it, or at least limit its use.

Another thing to keep in mind – the experts agree you really can’t spot reduce.  You can’t get rid of the fat on your belly just by doing lots of crunches.  You need to keep working towards a healthy weight, waist circumference, and muscle to fat ratio by staying on track with your diet & exercise in a general way.

Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to give thanks

8 Oct
Gray wolf

Gray wolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have heard this well known legend before:

A Cherokee elder was teaching his children about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to them. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandchildren thought about it and after a minute one of them asked, “Which wolf will win?”

The elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I believe this to be true.  That’s why it’s important to spend time thinking about the good things, those things that you are thankful for.  Spending time thinking or talking about these positives is like feeding them.  The more you dwell on wonderful things, the more wonderful things you will find.

Thanksgiving is a time when we are reminded to practice this gratefulness – but thanksgiving only comes around once a year – don’t wait for that one day to feed the good wolf.


Take advantage of the sun while you can!

30 Sep
Autumn Landscape

Autumn Landscape (Photo credit: blmiers2)

At this time of the year, the days just keep getting shorter.  Our moments in the sun are becoming fewer.  This is all the more reason to get out there and enjoy it while we can.

Exposure to the sun has several benefits.  One important benefit is the suns ability to enhance our mood or feeling of well being.  Many people are affected by SAD or seasonal affective disorder.  People with SAD basically become less happy as their time in the sun is reduced – usually due to the shorter days we experience during the winter months.

Another benefit of the sun is that it helps our bodies make vitamin D.  Vitamin D is important for bone health and is found infrequently in foods.  Even a few minutes of sun exposure to your skin and eyes daily can make a big difference.  Sun screen does reduce the suns effect on vitamin D production.  A few minutes of exposure per day is all you need without sun screen but with sun screen you will need a little more time outside.

A third benefit of the sun is reduction of circadian rhythm sleep disorders.  If you’re having difficulty sleeping at night, enjoying some sunlight early in the day may help reset your body’s internal clock.

There are many ways to spend time outside.  We can go for a walk at any time of the year.  Sometimes it gets difficult to go for a walk in the sunlight as winter closes in and we find ourselves leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark.  One possible solution is to make use of your lunch break.  You may even be able to find a co-worker who would like to join you.

It may not always be possible to get your sun fix during the work week so consider getting active outdoors on your days off.  Try a Saturday morning hike.  Get out there and enjoy the beautiful fall colors!

Plan outdoor activities with friends.  It’s the perfect time of year for a game of touch football, and it’s not too late for golf.

Once we have snow on the ground you could go cross country skiing.  There are trails in various places throughout Manitoba.  BeaudryPark near Headingly has groomed trails and warm up shacks.  For a complete listing of Manitoba ski areas go to: http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/recreation/ski_trail.html

Go for a bike ride, take your kids to the park, rake the leaves or walk to the mailbox.  The list of possibilities is endless.

Do take care though.  Do not allow your skin to burn.  Any benefit you may gain from the sun is undermined by the risk of skin cancer if you allow yourself to burn.  Even a minor sunburn is not a good idea.  If you’re going to be outside for a prolonged period of time make sure to apply sun screen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Path to wellness not always straightforward

20 Sep
Nurses Smoking in Little Rock Arkansas October...

Nurses Smoking in Little Rock Arkansas October 2011 002 (Photo credit: Curious 72)

Have you ever seen an overweight doctor?  How about a nurse out for a cigarette break?  Clearly just knowing what’s good for you isn’t always enough to make you choose the path to wellness.

Author, public speaker and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron suggests that habitual behaviours such as overeating, smoking, watching excessive amounts of TV, drinking alcohol excessively, and other habits can be compared to scratching an itch.

In her audio book “Getting Unstuck”, Chodron describes a common situation in which people often find themselves with a vague sense of discomfort about something.  This discomfort is unpleasant – like an itch – and the natural thing to do is to scratch.  The bad habit that we repeatedly engage in is the scratching.

Often we are not aware of what is causing the itch.  We just keep scratching and since this provides some temporary relief we don’t spend time trying to figure out what is causing the itch in the first place.

The itch may be some kind of negative thoughts or feelings about who we are, and what we are and are not capable of.

Sometimes we have to refrain from scratching and “be present” with the feeling, the itch.  Only then can we get to know what is triggering our bad habit.

Understanding our triggers can be an important first step in our journey towards choosing a path of wellness.

Train your tastebuds

14 Sep


Why add something artificial to something so natural?

Your wellness is hugely influenced by what you consume. 

If you generally eat processed foods and foods that have added sugar, salt or artificial flavours, you have trained your tastebuds to expect and enjoy these types of foods.  You may even find natural foods such as fresh fruits and veggies, whole grain breads, and plain water taste bad to you.

The truth is, fresh natural foods can taste fantastic!  You just need to remove the distractions that the processed foods present.

Think about life in your great grandparents day.  Mine were farmers.  They ate what they produced on thier own land with the addition of only small amounts of things such as sugar, salt and spices.  They would grow a large vegetable garden and eat what grew.  They ate it when it was fresh and also preserved plenty of it in jars so they would have an ample supply for the winter.  For added flavour, they would make things like dill pickles and relish, also from fresh garden ingredients.  They drank water.

So why is it that we eat so differently now?

In a word – marketing.

The whole goal of marketers is to find a way to make you buy something.  It’s all about money.  They are very talented and can make almost anything seem like a need.

The latest item that is annoying me is Mio.  This is a liquid product designed to enhance the flavour of water without adding calories.  The artificial flavours and sweeteners in this product are not good for us and they are entirely unnecessary.  There is nothing wrong with the way water tastes.  The problem is that years of marketing have convinced much of the population that there is.

Besides the artificial ingredients there is another problem with this and other similar products.  They are training your taste buds to expect sweeter flavours.  If you regularly drink sweetened or flavour enhanced products you will find that natural water seems bland or even kind of yucky.

Once you have trained your tastebuds to love the sweet and artificial things, you will crave these things and tend to consume more of these things on a regular basis.

By avoiding products that contain artificial ingredients and added sugar, salt or subtitutes, you can retrain your tastebuds to appreciate the natural flavours in healthy food and beverages.

People often say it’s too expensive to eat healthy.  If you are spending money on flavour enhancers for your water you have enough money to eat healthy.  Plain water from your tap is practically free.

For more on Mio check out “Fooducate”.

Sometimes marketing is the only education we get about certain things.  Take the time to get informed.  Don’t let salespeople decide what is right and healthy for you!  Your wellness is worth more than that!

Massage – more than just a feel good experience

6 Sep

Lying face down on the massage table, dim light, soft music playing in the back ground, sometimes makes me feel like I’m living the lifestyle of the rich and famous!  But it goes far beyond just pampering.  Massage can really add to your wellness!

Massage has many benefits that go beyond the obvious awesome feeling you get while you’re there.

Studies have shown that massage can actually reduce the levels of stress hormones in your system.

Substances such as cortisol and norepinephrine are released in larger amounts when we are under stress.  They help our body respond to dangerous situations helping us muster up the strength for the fight or flight response.  The problem is that although we may not be in any real danger most of the time, we may have frequent low level stress causing the release of these stress hormones.  This causes increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, and slowed metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity.  When this becomes chronic we can start to feel pretty run down.

That’s where massage can help.  Massage can help to break this cycle of ongoing stress response.

Massage can also be an effective strategy when recovering from surgery or an injury.  All ages can benefit from massage, even infants.  Many massage therapists specialize in specific types of treatments.  Do some research and find the therapist that’s right for you and your particular needs.

In the Winnipeg area you could check out Symmetry Massage.  Their “our people” tab provides information about the therapists and their specialties and interests.

The more you do – the more you can do!

24 Aug
Exercise calisthenics #2

Exercise calisthenics #2 (Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)

And the more you want to do which equals increased wellness for you!

The saying use it or lose it is for real.  If you are not doing regular physical activity, your muscles will not develop, in fact, they can atrophy.  This means they actually shrink!

I have seen very ill patients loose increasing amounts of muscle tissue after a few weeks of bedrest.  Fortunately most of us get up and walk around the house at the very least, so we don’t experience that degree of atrophy but we do lose some muscle if we are not active.

The less muscle you have, the more difficult it is for you to do the physical activities you want to do.  You may find even mild activity tiring.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue.  The less muscle tissue you have, the more difficult it is for you to burn calories.

If you are a couch potato and you want to increase your activity levels and your muscle tone, start small.  Don’t go straight for the 5 mile run after 5 years of relative inactivity.  You will feel horrible, probably both during and for at least a day or two after.

Start with something a little more manageable.  Do something that will leave you feeling invigorated but not exhausted.  You want to feel like you’ve succeeded, that way you will not mind doing it again in a day or two.  You might want to start with a short walk.  After a few days increase your distance a little.  Keep increasing gradually as your tolerence and your muscles increase.

The same goes for weight lifting.  Just because you could use 30 lb dumbells to do arm curls back in the day does not mean you can pick up where you left off.  If it’s been a while since you last hit the gym you may have to cut back a little or maybe even a lot.  Start low and gradually increase as you regain your tone.

Whatever activity you choose to do, the more you do it the more you will be able to do it – and many other things.  And forget about trying to get away with the I’m getting old excuse.  Check out Winnipeg’s Jaring Timmerman for some inspiration.

You can do it, just get started.  Better to do a little than none at all and before you know it you’ll be able to do more and more!

Let nature be your gym!

21 Aug

Sometimes we get fooled into believing that we have to go to a gym to get a proper work out. Not true.

My daughter and I checking out the geocache we found while hiking the Hunt Lake trail.

Last week while camping I went for a hike on the beautiful HuntLake trail in eastern Manitoba. The views were spectacular! The terrain was rugged, and that’s what made it a great workout.

There were steep inclines and rocky uneven surfaces. Like a Bosu ball, a typical peice of equipment found in a gym, the uneven terrain forces you to use your muscles differently. You need to incorporate a whole range of different muscle movements in order to maintain your balance. By adjusting your speed and the distance you hike, you can tailor your workout to your own fitness level.

The Hunt Lake trail is supposedly 16 kms long. We chose to do slightly less than half. I would love to do the whole trail someday when I have plenty of time, and when I have built up my endurance level. Since my concussion I have had to increase my activity levels gradually. I’m currently up to approximately 6 kms of walking.

That’s what makes hiking great; you can tailor it to your own abilities. It’s also a great way to get the whole family involved.

You can even make a game of it. Many people do and we stumbled upon the evidence. Quite by accident we found a geocache! Geocaching is basically a treasure hunting game using your GPS to guide you. Someone hides a “treasure”- usually a waterproof container with a log book inside. They will then share the GPS coordinates online so others can go in search of it. Maybe this would be a good way to get the tech lover in the family to try hiking?

If you have young kids, it’s never too early to start hiking with them.  Start with short easy hikes while they’re young and gradually increase the difficulty.  If you wait until your kids are older to start hiking, there is a chance they might not have a great attitude towards it.  By starting young, they will come to view these types of activities as a normal and probably enjoyable part of life.

Do you have a favorite hiking trail?  Reply to this blog and share some great hiking trail ideas so we can all enjoy them!



%d bloggers like this: