Posturing Up

 

I remember being a teenage girl and always hearing ‘Andrea! Stand up straight!’ from my parents, teachers and coaches. To say I had poor posture was an understatement. I think young girls are shy about getting taller, so in turn do everything they can to appear shorter. Now as an adult I pride myself on standing strong – both physically and figuratively. But that’s not to say every so often I don’t find myself hunched over in front of my computer. I try to do ‘posture checks’ to make sure my shoulders are back, my chest is out and my backbone is straight. Believe me – it’s rare that I am sitting straight these days.

I recently received an email from a 55-year old woman who has been reading our blog and let me know that as she has grown older and had a few health challenges along her journey, she has found her posture to be suffering. As our muscle mass decreases as we age, our posture tends to decline which can cause chronic pain. According to Dr. Michael Gleiber, MD, there are three major reasons why people start to hunch over as they age. These reasons are osteoporosis, wedge compression fractures, and spinal stenosis. But poor posture doesn’t mean you have one of these three issues. In fact, posture can be improved by a few simple exercises and stretches throughout the day, and strengthening you core.

1. Shoulder Rolls –Bringing your shoulders up to your ears and slowly rolling them back while you push your chest forward. Repeat ten times, three times per day.

2. Chest Stretch – my massage therapist always recommends this one to be done at least five times per day. Simply raise your arms to your sides, palms facing forward, keeping your elbows straight and your arms completely level at shoulder height. Next, bring your arms backwards so that you are bringing your shoulder blades together. It will be a very slight change but you should feel a stretch across your chest muscles and through your upper back.

3. Wall Sits – this is a great reminder on how to keep our spine straight. Sit with your backbone against the wall, your knees at a 90-degree angle, and your feet shoulder width apart. Try to hold this for thirty seconds, three times a day. Be mindful of how your body feels when your spine is straight.

4. Standing Side Bends – this one is great with or without weights. Remember when you were a kid and used to sing the song “I’m a little teacup”? It is the same movement! Simply keep your feet shoulder width apart and your hips squared. Bend 10 times to your right, squeezing your oblique muscles each time. Repeat on the left side.

5. Kneeling Quad and Hip Stretch – for this one, I would suggest putting a mat under your knee that is on the ground, and doing it beside a wall for balance. Put your right leg in front with your knee bent and your foot flat on the ground. Your left leg behind with your knee on the ground and your left toes pointed. Next, ever so slightly push your left hip flexor forward. This will give you a stretching feeling throughout your hip. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat three times on each side.

The other major piece to bettering your posture is strengthening your core. Taking yoga or Pilate’s class at one of Winnipeg’s exceptional studios is a great way to help with all of this. But if going to the gym or workouts at home is more your style, here are a few sample core workouts you can add to your regime.

Workout #1:

20 Criss Crosses (each leg for a total of 50)
20 Cross Over Crunches (each side)
20 Crunches
20 Flutter Kicks
20 Heel Touches (each side)

Workout #2:

20 Bicycle Crunches
30 Second Plank
20 Windshield Wipers
20 Full Sit Ups
20 Russian Twists

Workout #3:

20 Leg Raises
20 Crunches
20 Oblique Crunches (each side)
20 Pelvic Thrusts
20 Bicycle Crunches

With all of the above routines, repeat 2 to 3 times if your fitness level allows it. And with all of the above recommendations, consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting on any new exercise routines to ensure your health and safety is always top of mind.

Cacao Now – My New Favourite Nutrition Secret

 

 

 

 

On the advice of my brilliant nutritionist, I started to add more raw cacao to my health regime earlier this year. I purchased raw cacao powder and planned to put it in my morning concoction, which is a mixture of a green supplement, maca powder and now this. I found the combination worked really well to get me through my workouts, as I do intermittent fasting and need a boost. But the mixture was far from tasty. I could get it down, but figured there must be another, tastier option for the cacao. I wanted to find something that was raw, real, organic, and tasted awesome. Sounds impossible right? Wrong.

I stumbled across a company called Cacao Now founded by Tove Redeby and found a plethora of options to try. As I read more about the products and business, I found myself pretty fascinated with the woman behind the company and thought she would be a perfect person to interview and highlight in our FIT Women & Girls blog and social media. A super strong, healthy, environmentally-conscious woman…just our type!

“I have been interested in optimal eating and whole foods, as well as organic living and the environment for as long as I can remember. I have a diploma in nutrition, and I have always been fascinated by the power of food, REAL food. I believe that the foundation of most of our modern health issues are connected to what and how we eat, and that we can ultimately heal ourselves through our eating choices. As an avid all-around athlete, the connection between great food and great performance has also always interested me. My most important education has taken place in the mountains and in the kitchen, and my work is in service to both,” says Tove.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of cacao:

  1. Cacao contains the highest concentration of ANTIOXIDANTS of any food in the world!
  2. Cacao seems to be the number one source of Magnesium.
  3. Cacao contains enough CHROMIUM to help reverse deficiencies in this mineral.
  4. Cacao is an excellent source of MANGANESE and ZINC.
  5. Cacao has an very high value of Vitamin C.
  6. Cacao is high in FIBER.
  7. Cacao contains essential omega-6 fatty acids. Once the cacao bean is cooked, the chocolate product automatically contains rancid omega-6 fatty acids (trans fat).
  8. Cacao contains Phenylethylamine (PEA). PEAs are a major class of chemicals that our body produces when we fall in love. This is one of the main reasons why love and chocolate have such a deep relation (this relation is not merely a myth). But, as PEAs are heat sensitive, they are not as present in cacao that has been heated.
  9. Cacao is rich in serotonin.
  10. Contrary to popular belief, Cacao is a poor source of Caffeine. Cacao contains Theobromine, a close relative to Caffeine.

Starting to sound like gold isn’t it? But how does it taste?

I have tried three of Tove’s Buddha Bars – Raw Chocolate Vanilla Bean, Raw Chocolate Peppermint and Raw Chocolate Orange Zest. The orange zest reminded me of the Christmas orange chocolate you get at the holidays. If that flavour is your jam, you’ll love this one. The vanilla bean is a subtle hint of vanilla, and if you are a big dark chocolate fan this one is for you. But that peppermint option – whoa! It’s delicious.

So here’s the cool part. I honestly felt the effects from eating this bar almost immediately. It gave me an energy boost, but not a jittery shakey boost. It seemed to just uplift me. This might be the most perfect pre-workout snack I can imagine. I at times workout twice a day with how my schedule is, and find that I need something to give me that extra umph! I completely avoid any sort of pre-workout supplements as I find them often riddled with chemicals and make me feel jittery and gross. I don’t like to eat too much before a workout as I find it makes me nauseous. Behold the solution! And here’s why this particular brand company is where it’s at:

There are absolutely zero refined sugars in Cacao Now products. Everything is sweetened with dates and/or raisins. Sugar is seriously the devil – avoid it as best you can. The cacao comes from raw cacao nibs, not a processed cacao mass, and therefore no fillers or ingredients we can’t pronounce are included. And Tove genuinely cares about what she is making and who she is making it for. She “deeply believes in the energetic connection between human and food” and in such energetically cleans her space before making her products.

Made in Squamish,BC, much of her product line is only available to the rest of Canada on her website. But don’t think for a minute that this woman plans on stopping there. With an upcoming expansion of her product line, she hopes to be in health food stores across the country soon. She is on a mission that I feel many of our readers can relate to. “My mission is just as much to share my knowledge and my passion for conscious living; to share the wisdom and healing powers of food and specifically of cacao; to spread good vibrations and LOVE; and ultimately to do my little part in making this world a “better” more loving place,” says Tove.

We love supporting strong, entrepreneurial women doing great things across our country. Eating real food, listening to your body, and eating mindfully are the words of wisdom Tove and Cacao Now want to share with you.

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My Love Affair with Broccoli

I literally eat broccoli every single day. It’s to the point that I crave it around 3pm. I love it raw with hummus – it’s my absolute go to afternoon snack. I love the taste, love how it fills me up just at the right time and is loaded with tons of nutritional benefits. I strive for my nutrition to be at the 90-10 rule. 90% of what I eat to be healthy, nutrient dense food, and the remaining 10% I give myself some slack. And the addition of a daily dose of broccoli allows me to get there. Here are the best nine reasons why broccoli should be in your every day routine:

  1. Broccoli is loaded with vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from free radicals. This has been shown to be a solid defense against cancer.
  2. Broccoli has sulforaphane, which researchers believe gives broccoli a particularly strong ability to fight cancer properties. This sulforaphane switches on the genes that prevents cancer development and switches off those that help it spread. WOW!
  3. Broccoli also has the ability to help restore your immune system as you age, and in turn helps your liver detoxify. Your liver plays a huge role in how clean you entire system truly is, and ensuring it is pumped full of detoxifying agents is key.
  4. Broccoli has loads of omega-3 fatty acids that are known to be anti-inflammatory. We have all heard that we want to have an ‘anti-inflammatory diet’ but what does that really mean? Chronic inflammation can cause numerous issues including mood disorders like depression and anxiety, issues with your cardiovascular system such as heart disease, swelling and pain in your joints, issues with your digestive system. Personally, all things I would like to avoid.
  5. It is good for your heart. Broccoli has been shown to reduce and even reverse damage to blood vessels. It has tons of soluble fiber that helps cholesterol leave your body.
  6. That soluble fiber? That helps you feel full longer. I love it at 3pm because when I’m hungry I need to eat! I can’t wait until dinner time for my next meal, but don’t want a full meal at that time either. Broccoli and hummus fills me up just enough to make me feel satisfied until dinner time. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating foods high in soluble fiber is key to reduce your appetite.
  7. It keeps you super regular! Did you know a healthy digestive system has you going poop at least once if not twice a day? If you aren’t, try adding broccoli to your day to keep things moving quickly.
  8. Broccoli is great for your bones and skin. It is a solid source of folic acid and potassium which help build collagen, and keep your tissue and bones strong. This can also help you avoid osteoporosis as you get older.
  9. You want to try to keep your body alkalized, meaning less acidic. Broccoli is great for that. It can get a bit complicated on how to, so if you are interested, we would suggest you reading this terrific article from Real Food For Life.

Are you sold on broccoli? There are tons of options in the grocery store for ready-cut broccoli to take the chore out of food prep on this one. If when you first try it hurts your stomach, lightly steam it. Adding real butter or honey is a great trick too to help you enjoy the taste. It’s so great when the planet gives us such a remarkable food…enjoy it!

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This Not That – For Kids

I’m a working Mom of three kids. I know first hand how hard it is to always make the healthiest choices for our kids. Life is busy.  Between work, school, activities, driving, cooking, cleaning and volunteering, there needs to be about 5 more hours each day to fit it all in.

The choice of foods we make for our children not only affect their health now, but also for their future.  Their little bodies are in a constant state of building and their future health depends on what we put in those bodies while growing. Providing good nutrition is also the way to set them on a path of healthy eating for their adulthood.  We know that kids learn their eating habits and views about food from their homes.  Let’s teach our kids to not only enjoy nutritious food, but also to view food as fuel that can help make them make their bodies do great things.

All this said, I know how hard it is to raise a healthy eater. Every kid loves French fries, pizza, candy and ice cream. I admit that my kids eat these things too!  However, when they do have them, it’s infrequently and a treat – not a regular occurrence.  I’d like to share a few ways you can make simple changes to provide better (not perfect) nutrition for your kids.  It’s basically about swapping one thing for another.

 

FOOD BETTER BEST
White Bread Rye Bread Whole Grain Bread
McDonald’s (Fast Food) A&W (no antibiotics) Freshii, Jugo Juice
White Pasta “Smart” Pasta (tastes exactly like white but added veggies or fibre Whole Grain Pasta
No veggies 1 – At least once per day of any vegetable – their favourite

2 – Serve veggies with dip

3 – Cooked with butter and honey (my secret weapon)

A variety of vegetables with lots of different colours –  maximize nutrition intake.
Margarine Butter Ghee
Store Bought:

Cookies, Cakes, Granola Bars,

Store Bought but “all natural ingredients/no artificial ingredients or preservatives” Homemade or other healthy snacks – fruit, vegetables…
Pop or Fruit “drinks”, Slurpees

(all packed with sugar and without nutrients)

Real Fruit Juice ½ water, ½ juice OR
Water
Gatorade/Powerade/

Sport Drinks

Chocolate Milk Water
Processed Chicken Fingers or Nuggets or Fish Sticks Homemade Chicken fingers or Fish Sticks – Baked Grilled or Baked Boneless Skinless Chicken or Fish
French Fries – Deep Fried ½ size Fries and salad/veggies or fruit, mashed potatoes Baked potato, sweet potato
White Rice Basmati or Jasmine Rice Brown Rice, Quinoa
Candy, Chocolate Bars Snack Size/Halloween Size Fruit
Potato Chips Veggie Chips, Baked Chips, Pretzels, Popcorn Nuts, Fruit, Raw Veggies
Waffles, Pop Tarts, High Sugar Cereal (all processed) Homemade pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, whole grain cereal, whole grain toast Add fruit and protein…

Eggs, peanut butter, orange juice, yogurt, bowl of berries

To summarize, stay away from processed foods, deep fried foods, sugar (except that naturally found in fruit), white starches/carbs.  There is always a substitute.  Don’t worry if you’re entire menu is currently on the “stay away from” list.  The good news is that you can only improve from here.  Start today with things you think will work for your kids and then slowly incorporate more.

If you found this information useful, have a look at some of our other blogs on nutrition and health and subscribe to our newsletter!

Immunity Health – What You Need To Know

Winnipeg is experiencing one of the worst flu seasons in over two decades. A strong immune system can play a detrimental role in keeping the flu at bay. I often make myself a bit of a guinea pig to test the books and articles I read on health, and immunity is no exception.

To begin, why is the immune system is important? In short, it is the key to maintaining overall good health. The healthier your immune system is, the better chance you have at warding off illness and toxins. The immune system is the defense force against invaders from both outside and inside the body that can cause disease or death if not stopped. Personally, I feel that the key to a long, healthy life is a strong and clean digestive system and immune system.

According to the book “The Immune System Cure” by Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Patrick Bouic, (which I would highly recommend reading) there are ten important nutritional supplements to boost your immune system. They are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Reduced L-glutathione
  • DHEA

Many of the above should be found in a high quality multi-vitamin. It is really important to choose a multi-vitamin that is absorbed well by your cells. Cheaper multi’s won’t be absorbed and you will just end up peeing out the nutrients.

In my personal regime to keep my immune system strong, I include the above, but have also found a few other really important pieces to the game. First, are phytonutrients and phytosterols. These are basically immune system boosters. You can get these in your food by eating organic vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts. If your daily nutrition regime isn’t up to par, there are two things I would strongly recommend. First, a supplement called Immuno-First by Health First. You can purchase this online or at most health food stores. The second recommendation I have is to add a greens supplement to your day. I personally take PhD Pharma Greens Whole Food & Cleansing Herb Blend. I mix this with water at the gym, which gives me added energy while working out, is a natural cleanser for your cells, and an immunity booster.

Next, part of my morning ritual is a few spoonfuls of goodness. I take a liquid iron supplement by a brand called Lorna Vanderhaeghe (which by the way, tastes like caramel sauce – it’s delicious!), Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel (antioxidant and overall good health maintenance), Progressive High Potency Fish Oil, and Organic Hemp Oil by Manitoba Harvest. I know this might sound high maintenance, but it takes less than one minute to do and I feel terrific. All in all, worth the 60 seconds.

I would also suggest taking a probiotic. These good bacteria help promote both a healthy digestive system and immune system. It is important to switch up your probiotic though – your body will get used to the good bacteria and it will start to become less effective. So be sure to switch up the brand or particular one you are taking every couple of months. Another great way to add good bacteria to your body is through organic, raw, fermented Kombucha. Kombucha improves alkalinity, digestion and detoxifies and maintains a healthy intestinal tract. There are lots of great options out to there choose from.

When I feel myself coming down with something, the first thing I do is double my dose of my multi-vitamin, vitamin D and vitamin C. This seems to work for me. We have all heard that vitamin C can chase a cold away, but in fact, once you have a cold vitamin C can’t help you. That said there have been many studies surrounding the concept of high-dosing vitamin C. In W. Gifford-Jones MD’s book “90+ How I Got There!” he talks about high dosing vitamin C and lysine, and their potential to prevent and help with various diseases from the common cold to cancer.  Jones takes 10,000 mgs of vitamin C and 5000 mgs of lysine every day. I take about a quarter of that via supplements, plus what I get from my food, which is much higher than most people. The average multi-vitamin only has about 100 mgs of vitamin C. Definitely worth some personal research and speaking with your health practitioner if this is something you are interested in.

Then there is food! I touched briefly on the idea of fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts earlier, but there are also some great flavors to add to the mix to help with your immune system boost. First is garlic. Garlic has potent healing properties due to its antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties. Onions are right behind garlic with their immune system help. Fresh is best when it comes to these two.

Avocado and tomato are also high up on the list of immune system boosting foods. Tomato is absorbed best when eaten with a little bit of oil. Try flaxseed or olive oil with a salad for a great, healthy tasting snack.

Then there is the berry family. Berries, including blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries are packed with vitamin C and phytonutrients. Grapes are also a great fruit choice as they are full of antioxidants and resveratrol that has shown in some studies to have anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.

Last but not least I have to promote the idea of flushing it out. Clean water and green tea can be your best friend when it comes to immunity health. And do you know what is the worst thing that you can do? Eat sugar! When we eat sugar our immune system becomes upset, which can lead to numerous health issues including diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart disease and many more. Everyone loves a sweet once in a while including me, but try to keep the sugar intake to a minimum, especially when you’re sick.

At Home Workouts For YOU

The recent cold snap hitting Canadians is making it hard for many to get motivated to do much of anything that includes leaving the house. Bundling up, starting the car, and driving to the gym is definitely a hard undertaking when home is so warm and cozy. But as they say, summer bodies are made in the winter, so we don’t want to stop working out every time the temperature drops. As Canadians we are hardy and don’t let a wind chill bring us down. But on those days that you just can’t seem to muster up the love for the gym, there are plenty of exercise options you can do at home with zero equipment.

As with any new workout regime, be sure to consult with your doctor or health care provider before starting out. You don’t need a home gym to get your heart pumping at home. What you will need is some music you love, a bottle of water, workout gear including proper footwear, and a sturdy chair. I would suggest doing the workout on a carpeted space, or have a mat close by for the abdominal portion of the workout. This workout is a full body workout, and should be used on days you don’t feel like your normal routine.

Warm Up:

Before you get started on any exercise routine, it is important to do a 5 – 7 minute warm up to get your blood flowing.

Walking on the spot with your knees up – one minute

Jumping Jacks – one minute

Squats – one minute

Alternating lunges – one minute

Jogging on the spot – one minute

Workout:

Now that you are warmed up, and your music is pumping, you’re ready to workout. Be sure to take water breaks as often as you need them, and listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. This is supposed to be fun and good for you!

Because this workout is designed to give you a full body workout, we are going to alternate between upper body and lower body movements.

Squat – Push-up Combo: Do three sets of 20 squats. In between each set of squats, do 10 push-ups. If you cannot do pushups on the ground just yet, head over to the wall and do them there. Lower your body as close to the wall as you feel comfortable. Do not do push-ups with your knees on the ground. This will not help you achieve your goal of doing regular push-ups, but the wall option will.

Lunge – Crunch Combo: Do three sets of alternating forward lunges, for a total of ten each side. In between each set, head to the floor or your mat and do twenty forward crunches. Be sure to keep your elbows to the side each time you do a crunch.

Step-up and Dip Combo: Step up alternating which foot is first to go up onto your chair. This can also be done on a stair if the chair seems too high. Do a total of ten with each foot, for three sets. In between each set head to the edge of your chair or stair, with your hands gripping the front edge. Slowly lower your body down by bending at the elbow, and having your butt get as close to the floor as possible. Your legs should be straight out in front of you. Rise up. Repeat this dip exercise ten times.

Side Lunge – Side Crunch Combo: Do three sets of side lunges, concentrating on putting your butt back and keeping your back straight. Complete ten reps on each side. In between each set lie on your mat like you would for regular crunches. Keeping your elbows to the side, bring your right elbow to your left knee, and repeat 10 times. Then bring your left elbow to your right knee and repeat 10 times.

Wall-sit – Shoulder Pulse Combo: Head to the wall and sit with your back against the wall in an imaginary chair. The goal is to sit for one minute, three times. When first starting out, try for 20 seconds each time and gradually increase your time at the wall.

Shoulder pulses are also a timed exercise. Stand straight with your arms out to the side like the shape of a T, with your palms facing upward. Do slight pulses up, for your palms to go towards the ceiling. This is a slight movement, perhaps half an inch. Move to the beat of the music, for one minute. This is a tough one, even though it sounds so easy! When first starting out, start with 20-second increments each time and gradually make your way up to 60 seconds.

Calf-raises – Plank Combo: With your feet planted on the ground, feel free to hold the wall for balance, rise onto your tippy toes. Slowly lower down, without ever having your heels touch the ground. A slight hover, approximately the size of a grape. Rise up as high as you can for three sets of twenty. In between each set head back to your mat for plank. This exercise can be done with your hands firmly planted on the ground, like you are going to do a push-up, or from your forearms. Simply stay in the position, with your hips level with your body in a straight line for one full minute. You will feel this exercise in your abdominal muscles and shoulders mostly.

Cool Down:

Hopefully you managed to work up a sweat and get your heart pumping. Having an active rest at the end of this routine is important. It is easy to flop onto the couch, but that is not what is best. A gentle walk on the spot while sipping on your water, or perhaps up and down the stairs a few times until your heart beat slows down. Be sure to stretch your muscles at the end of every workout to help avoid stiffness and injury.

Holiday Health Tips

It’s that time of year again – the holiday season! There is a festive feeling in the air, the lights make everything look so alive, and parties are well underway. With all of the chocolates, sweets, dinners, parties and drinking going on, it’s really easy to pack on a few extra pounds over the holidays. Now I am one to indulge and enjoy too, but have a few handy tricks of the trade to make sure I stay on track with my health goals throughout this time of year.

 

At the Office

I have worked in office spaces before where all of your clients want to send a sweet something to the team to say happy holidays. Next thing you know there are twenty different boxes of chocolates, candy canes galore, and enough shortbread cookies to feed an army. The temptations are endless. A chocolate here and a cookie there can really add up throughout the day. I find the easiest way to avoid this is to not see it. If your work area is close to the ‘snack table’ see if anyone minds if you move it. That way every time you get up you don’t grab a treat. Not possible? Give yourself a daily maximum. That might be three treats a day, and you can have them all together or throughout, but make sure you’re not grabbing for a goodie every time you leave your desk.

Potlucks at this time of year are also a big office favorite. Everyone likes to bring their favorite holiday dish which usually consists of something sweet, something rich, or something fattening. Make your dish something healthy. And if that turns you off, make one healthy and one not-so-much. I always like bringing a great vegetable dish. You might be surprised by how many others also crave something with some nutrition to add to the table. Pick and choose between the unhealthy items – try to pick only your favorites rather than one of everything.

 

At Home

Our family has always been one to get together around the holidays and enjoy each other’s company surrounded by delicious food and drinks. It is a time that everyone tends to have a bit of a break from work, school and life. Similar rules from the office potluck would apply to eating at your favorite cousin’s house. Yes – the food is delicious. But you don’t have to walk out of there feeling like you’re going to explode. Be mindful of your choices and be mindful of your eating. Eat until you are no longer hungry rather than until you are stuffed. Choose two types of desserts rather than one of each. And get up and move around. I find right after a big meal playing with the kids or dogs around the house takes your mind off of having another plate, and helps your body digest your food better rather than sitting motionless.

Around your own house, try to best maintain your nutritional routine. If this time of year brings more guests around, and perhaps in turn a few more alcoholic beverages, choose wisely. Try to keep it to a realistic number and don’t drink high calorie drinks. Everyone loves a Bailey’s and coffee or a Rum and Eggnog on Christmas morning but those are loaded with calories. One or two might be a great festive move, but drinking them like they are water will have your caloric intake through the roof.

 

Holiday Parties

Work holiday parties are always fun. It gives the team a chance to get together outside of the office and connect on things other than work. Whether you are a team of ten or 500, the camaraderie that can develop at these events is terrific. I always find that there is so much food to be had. Finger foods and appetizers while people are first arriving, followed by a soup and or salad, followed by the main course and then dessert. I definitely encourage everyone to indulge once in a while, but remember you are eating for one. The appetizers can really put things over the top. Eat the same amount of food that you would normally eat. At home, I don’t have six or seven appys before dinner. Try to make smart choices about the options you choose and the number of them that you choose.

Another great tip is that if you know you are going to be eating a large meal that night, be mindful of your meals throughout the day. Perhaps have a salad for lunch, and stick to fruit and eggs for the morning. Try your best to keep your caloric intake as it normally is.

 

The Gym

No, there are no holiday parties happening here but that doesn’t mean forget about your workouts for a couple of weeks. This time of year can be really busy with events, shopping and having fun. And because we are all eating a bit off of our usual program, sticking to your gym routine is really important. Find the time. Make it a priority throughout the holidays. It is as important in December as it is when you are making your New Years’ resolutions in January. Remember – summer bodies are made in the winter!

 

I hope this gives you a few things to consider when you are out and about this holiday season. I encourage you to eat well, be merry and enjoy your time with your family and friends.

 

 

Top 14 Foods I Would Never Eat

I am a firm believer in the idea of the 80-20 rule when it comes to your nutritional health. Meaning, 80% of what you put into your body should be nutritionally dense, healthy food, which leaves room for 20% to be ‘other’. The more I learn about nutrition, and how it effects everything from disease prevention, our moods and energy levels, not to mention our waistline, I find myself getting closer to a 90-10 rule. At Fit Communications we have blogged often about super foods, how to have a healthy kitchen, food swaps for a healthy kitchen, and so this week we wanted to take a look at the foods we would never, EVER eat. Everyone has different goals and ways of getting there, so we hope this article is an eye-opener to a healthier direction for you.

1. Fast food burgers – I don’t eat red meat. I personally feel it is bad for your blood. It absolutely slows down my digestive system and makes me feel lethargic. The quality of the meat that is used is often really low and full of fillers when buying it from fast food chains (with the exception of A&W). This is something that tops the list of no go for me.

2. Fake cheese – this would include ‘Cheez Whiz’ or Cheese in a Can. It is a completely processed food with sometimes ZERO actual dairy products within. I try to avoid chemicals in my life – whether it be with food, house hold cleaners, skin care…natural is the way to health for me.

3. Pop – I cut out pop a few years ago. I wasn’t really a heavy pop drinker, but the odd one would ‘pop’ in every once in a while. It has literally zero goodness in it for you. And if you think ‘diet’ drinks are okay, think again. They are made with ingredients that actually have you craving more sugar. Moreover, they rot your teeth and your digestive system. I want no part of that.

4. Sandwich meat – “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. And it has classified red meat as a probable carcinogen, something that probably causes cancer. IARC is the cancer agency of the World Health Organization.” That’s enough for me to say no thanks! Source: Cancer.Org

5. White bread – I honestly don’t like the taste of it. I didn’t eat white bread as a kid, as whole grain bread tasted better to me. And I also feel I have trained by taste buds over the years to enjoy health food over garbage. Traditional white bread (think WonderBread) doesn’t have one ingredient that brings anything good to your body. With so many other healthy options out there, an easy pass for me.

6. Sweetener – A good friend of mine who happens to be an incredible Health Coach, once looked at me as I emptied a sweetener pack into my coffee and said “You would be better off with white sugar. That is white sugar covered in chemicals to get the calories out.” Not exactly a statement with an appetizing vibe! When you start to understand WHAT your food is, and WHERE it comes from, some decisions are easier than others. That was the last coffee with sweetener I ever drank.

7. Pop rockets – What even is this? Let’s think about this – it’s a sugary candy that makes a popping sound and feeling on your tongue when it is mixed with your saliva. What do you think that is does on its way down through your digestive system? Don’t you want your digestive system to be clean and working as efficiently and effectively as possible? If so, this should be on your hit list too.

8. Microwave dinners, including pizza pops – A year ago I decided to try living microwave free for one month. Research has not yet proven that microwaves cause cancer or any other direct issue with the human body, but I personally don’t trust the idea of sending waves into your food and that it wouldn’t cause any change to your food’s make-up, and therefore be an issue within your body. Moreover, the ingredients of many microwaveable foods tend to be highly processed, lots of salt, and words I can barely read let alone understand what they really are. When grocery shopping for packaged goods, if there are ingredients that I don’t know what they are, I put it back on the shelf. I simply want to know exactly what I am eating. If someone offered you a plate of maltrodextrin, disodium inosinate, xantham gum and sunflower oil, would you eat it? Because that is what is in many frozen dinners…check the ingredients!

9. Microwave popcorn – Although popcorn can be a healthy snack, it can also be dangerous to your health, even exposing you to cancer-causing chemicals. For all the nitty gritty details and facts, check out this link.

10. Canned meat, for example spam – I am not a big meat eater. I eat seafood and chicken, and that’s about it. As mentioned above, I don’t personally think it is good for your blood, your digestive system or disease prevention. And really…what IS spam?? The major ingredients are:

• Pork ‘with ham meat added’ (whatever the hell that means)
• Salt
• Water
• Potato starch
• Sugar
• Sodium nitrate

And just so you know, the sodium levels are over half of what your daily intake should be. And if that’s not enough to get you off this can-o-meat, check out this link to see how it’s made. Yuck!

11. Orange ‘drink’ (versus orange juice) – this could easily fall under the category of ‘sugary beverages’…either way, I’m not into any of them. If a beverage is sugar packets, add water, stir and voila…it’s not for me. I’d rather get my calories from something tastier. I would like to point out at this point that I am NOT a calorie counter. The premise for the amount of food I take it is answered by asking myself two questions. First, am I hungry? Second, is this a nutritionally dense food choice? If I say yes to both, I eat it.

12. Mozzarella sticks – The idea of eating a basket of mozza sticks hurts my stomach. I have a sensitive stomach to crap what can I say! I will be either running to the toilet right away or be ‘bunged up’ for a day or two when I eat items on this list. No exception here.

13. Processed baked goods with a long shelf life – eating a fresh piece of pastry, cake or pie is amazing. You should definitely indulge in your favorites. But quality here is key. If you have a home-made torte, it’s not staying good for long. A couple of days in the fridge max until things just aren’t quite looking, or smelling, right. Baked goods such as Twinkies or brownies at your local convenience store, that have a six month or longer shelf life should make you worry. Why is this not going bad? If you made it in your home kitchen it would be bad after 2 – 3 days! It is covered with chemicals to keep it from going bad faster. Is that really something you want to be eating?

14. Convenience Store hot dogs or a hot dog on a stick – My first question is how long have those things been sitting on the warmer? And even if all food safety measures are being fulfilled, what is INSIDE that dog that you’re about to get into? Many are packed with pork and preservatives – and not with the ‘high end’ of the pork. It’s the bottom on the barrel, we were going to throw it out levels of meat that are squished into a casing and served. There are definitely healthier meat options for hot dogs – please choose wisely!

Rishona Hyman – Making a Splash in Winnipeg

 

What would you say if your son or daughter wanted to make a career out of teaching swimming lessons?
Would you be excited or disappointed? Now what would you say if your son or daughter wanted to be an entrepreneur, and be a leader and role model to hundreds of staff and students? What if he or she wanted to teach people how to save lives? What about teaching people a life-skill? Well, Rishona Hyman is that daughter and she’s doing it all and killing it!

Rishona Hyman has always loved teaching swimming lessons. It is her passion. She started teaching swimming lessons twenty-one years ago and started Aqua Essence Swim Academy fifteen years ago. This was during a time when “private swimming lessons” were really few and far between and were really flying under the radar. Rishona has changed the way people view private lessons and swimming. Rishona prides herself on providing positive and quality programs to her students. She has small teacher/student ratios and tailors to individual learning styles so that each student is “seen” and given the attention they deserve.

“I truly believe that swimming lessons should be a priority. It is a life skill and more than that there is so much goodness that can come from a swimming lesson. I am motivated to change the way we, as a society, view swimming and first aid/CPR. The benefits on poverty, injury prevention, fitness and overall health are incredible.”

Aqua Essence Swim Academy has evolved from swimming lessons to now include triathlon training, a swim club, CPR, first aid and even babysitting courses. This is a far cry from the start of Rishona’s business – her self-created part-time job. Becoming an entrepreneur and making a business out of her passion was a bit of a “learn as you go” process. She is a self-taught entrepreneur who has had to figure it along the way. “I am a leap of faith person” – she believed in herself and her goals and just knew it would have a way of working itself out.

As a female entrepreneur, Rishona admits that sometimes people don’t take her seriously – maybe because she’s a woman, maybe it’s because of her business’s industry – maybe a bit of both. She says that people tend to think that this is just a “hobby” for her. That is so far from the truth. Although she loves it, it’s beyond a full-time gig. Imagine running swimming lessons, CPR, first aid and babysitting courses (planning, programming, hiring, registration, finances, website maintenance, marketing) for hundreds of students across ten City of Winnipeg swimming pools, multiple private pools and even a hotel! Not to mention managing and inspiring a staff of 40 plus (many of whom are students!!). They run courses seven days a week and twelve hours a day! This doesn’t sound like a very relaxing “hobby!”

With a mostly young staff, Rishona has proven to be a great employer by taking time to know each individual and motivate each one. “I really try to have an open-door policy and really want to get to know them as people. I feel that once you know someone and know what makes them tick and share stories you can then motivate them. It is definitely getting harder to motivate but I just keep trying. I also believe that motivation comes from within and that we can try to motivate people but you need to know what does it for them. One way, I try to motivate them is by continuously adding a growing what we do and giving them opportunities to try new things and have a new experience. For example, we teach babysitting courses, so anyone that wants to do this needs to take some additional training adding to their skills and abilities, they also get a compensation increase for having more certifications. Teaching courses like babysitting, first aid or CPR gives my staff a great opportunity to go out into the community, teach out of the water and share their leadership skills while passing on valuable knowledge.”

On top of it all, Rishona is a wife and mother of 2 young children. So how does she do it? She admits to being very fortunate to have a great husband. Like every working mother, Rishona struggles to find balance. With her family, she has made a pact to not be on her phone in the evening until her children are in bed. She wants to be present with her kids and “devote my attention to them.” This isn’t always the easiest especially when she is potentially “on call” until lessons end at 9pm. In addition to making quality time for her family, she also sees the benefit to taking time for herself. She realizes that is a role model to her children, staff and students. As a result, she does much to stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle. In addition to swimming (not shocking!), Rishona also goes to 9-Round boxing and kickboxing five times a week, “Saikels” and rides her bike often. Like most female entrepreneurs with families, the question is when does she sleep?

With such a busy schedule why does she do it ALL? “I am inspired by my staff and our families and students. I love the connections and relationships to people throughout the city. I love peoples’ stories. I still get excited knowing we have made a difference in someone’s life. I love hearing how happy people are. These stories and the people inspire me to keep growing and adapting. Swimming has so many lifelong benefits that I just get excited when I see it working and benefiting someone.”

“I love what I do so much! I love that I have been able to continue to do what I love the most, teaching people to swim and be safe in and around water including first aid.”

So what are Rishona’s words of wisdom for female entrepreneurs? “”I can do hard things!” I would tell someone to make sure that they really passionate about what they want to do. You don’t have to think of everything right away but you need to be an excellent problem solver as inevitably problems will arise. And to always like to treat people as you would like be treated.”

If you are interested in learning more about Aqua Essence Swim Academy and the terrific programming they offer, please visit them online at https://www.aquaessence.ca.

 

 

Confidence of Girls in Canada Reaching a New Low

How’s your self-esteem? Would you consider yourself super confident? Medium? Or totally not? What do you love about yourself? What do you dislike about yourself?

 

I posed these questions to a group of young girls between the ages of 5 – 17 at our most recent Girls Empowerment Event, and the answers were at times heart-breaking. While some of the younger girls could give me a list of twenty things they loved about themselves, including I’m beautiful, smart, a great runner, I clean my room, I’m a good listener and a good friend, others couldn’t think of one reason they loved themselves. And as the girls got older, the answers took such a negative spin.

“I’m not popular.”

“I’m fat.”

“How do I get better at being less ugly?”

As someone who has always been sure of herself, I try my best to tell those around me how much I love them and WHY. This session brought me to tears. I wanted to run over to these girls and give them a huge hug and tell them that they are perfect. They are beautiful, smart, funny, kind and fun to be around. I wanted to tell them that before puberty their bodies start to change and they start to put on a couple of extra pounds because they are getting ready to grow and become a woman. And that no matter what size they are they are beautiful. It broke my heart to hear these girls think so little of themselves, but the reality of the situation is that most girls’ self-esteem is absolute crap.

According to a recent survey commissioned by the Girls Guides of Canada, 55% of females said the need to look and act a certain way, as reinforced to them by societal expectations, has negatively affected their self-esteem. More than half of girls, 56%, also said that they’re getting mixed messages on the way they are “supposed” to act and dress. One in five girls surveyed said they feel the need to be skinny while also having curves.

The ways in which girls are told to act, and how that influences their behaviour, is just as troubling:

  • 59% of girls feel the need to act in a certain way because society tells them to.
  • 30% of girls didn’t take up a sport because it’s not traditionally associated with women.
  • 24% of girls don’t want to pursue a career of their choice because of unfair pay-differenced between men and women.
  • 16% of girls pretend not to like science and math-related subjects out of fear of being ostracized.

(Source: https://www.mtlblog.com/whats-happening/this-is-why-canadian-girls-have-low-self-esteem)

Does this not sound unreal to you? Pretending to not like science and math because being smart isn’t cool? Or the idea of feeling so conflicted about being both skinny and having a booty – can’t we all relate to that one? Imagine that issue as your 12-year-old self?!?

So what can we do? I wish we could follow young girls around and give them boosts throughout the day on how amazing they are. And when bullies start in we can stand up for them and make them feel loved and so sure of themselves. I wish we could erase any doubt or negative self-talk from their worlds and fill it with confidence. I wish we could start these conversations with them when they are first learning to talk…so we don’t wait until they are 16 to find out how they feel about themselves. And so we don’t have to wait until we are 40 to realize that we should love ourselves – all parts and pieces – that we should do it from day one.

All of these wishes can’t be done overnight, but we DO have a starting block. We have created a tool for parents and teachers to start the conversations with their kids – girls AND boys – about their self-confidence. It is called the Confidence Workbook, and we are so proud of this piece of work.

The Confidence Workbook has ten exercises for kids to do either on their own, with a friend, parent or teacher to start looking at their confidence. We ask questions and relate to the kids with real life examples. We talk about negative self-talk. We play games, we find reasons for them to love themselves, we determine who makes them feel really good and who maybe doesn’t. The Confidence Workbook can be purchased online here for only $16, and we will email you this wonderful e-book within 48 hours.

We have had a terrific response from media with regards to our Workbook. Here are a few links for you to check out:

CTV – https://www.facebook.com/pg/FITWomenandGirls/videos/?ref=page_internal

CBC – http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/manitoba/confidence-workbook-winnipeg-self-esteem-1.4306771

Winnipeg City News – http://winnipeg.citynews.ca/video/2017/09/26/winnipeg-sisters-hope-workbook-will-inspire-confidence-in-kids/

Metro News – http://www.metronews.ca/news/winnipeg/2017/09/25/new-workbook-aims-to-help-winnipeg-kids-build-self-esteem.html

QX-104 – http://www.qx104fm.com/2017/09/25/a-first-of-its-kind-confidence-workbook-for-kids/

My Toba – https://mytoba.ca/featured/winnipeg-women-launch-kids-confidence-workbook/