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Weight Loss & Fitness

Bursting to give her spiel about the newest superfood she’s discovered, Sarah Williams heads out to visit her family. She arrives and with a smile from ear to ear begins to chat about her newest feel-good foods. They smile, roll their eyes and poke fun of her. It’s hard to assimilate all of this info when one’s not feeling that same zest for life.

One thing is for sure though, had she not diverted onto the path of conscious eating at the age of 11 when her weight peaked at 172 pounds she wouldn’t be waking up each morning embracing a new day feeling healthy vitality, 14 years later.

“Since the age of 12 my goal was to have my best life ever,” Williams, who was raised in Keswick, ON says. Williams reminisces about the day she made her decision to turn her health around. She had glanced around the classroom, envious of the other girls who were thin and pretty, and she made a pact with herself to start making conscious changes so that she too could someday be like those girls.


No more party-size bags of chips to wolf down, no more overeating of junk foods and no more pop. Instead, when the family headed to McDonalds for dinner, like they did on many occasions, she would opt for a bottle of water. Small changes can make a big difference, she says. It wasn’t like her family didn’t eat home-cooked meals most days. They did, in fact, but living with a lack mentality they overate, “snuffed up” food like it was their last meal. And it was never enough to split a bag of chips with the whole family. Everyone received their own party-size bag to enjoy, she remembers.

Swapping out foods – like popcorn instead of chips or no more high-sugar cereal for breakfast – was an easy way to make changes at that age, along with choosing a smaller bowl at meal time, she says. When the family headed out to McDonalds she not only swapped out the pop for water, but ordered only a burger, rather than a burger and fries. Small changes still make a difference.

While it’s challenging to carve out one’s own path to healthier eating as a youngster living in a family where everyone else was still eating junk food, what it really boils down to is self-discipline and purposeful eating, and choosing activities that would boost physical activity, she says. “I wasn’t really active as a child,” Williams says. “I acted like a kid who stays at home and eats and watches TV.

“As soon as I said to myself that I was going to be thin I found things that would help me be more active. I got a paper route that forced me to be out on my bike for 80 minutes each day to deliver papers, and sometimes I ran the route.” In high school instead of taking the bus I would walk to and from school each day, which meant that I was walking 10 kilometres every day. Instead of asking for a ride to a friend’s house, I would jump on my bike.”

“When I’d walk to high school instead of taking the bus my whole day was different. I had opportunities to skip along the way and say hello to strangers during the one and a half hour walk. I felt amazing. I was more focused in school, I was happier and more energized. The world looked different. When I was driven to school, I was less engaged during the day.”

Her weight consistently decreased, but it wasn’t until age 19 when she moved to Sudbury to study at Laurentian University that she really started to make the connection between real nutrition and real health, and the impact it would have on her day to day energy and vitality.

She embarked on an “unintended detox,” only buying organic foods, making all of her foods from scratch and loading up on live foods – not just the over-boiled veggies, meat and potatoes she had grown up with.

“I didn’t actually like the foods I cooked for the first while,” she remembers. “I used my brain to overpower my taste buds by saying things like ‘I will like this. This is really good for me.’ That’s how I grew to like all of the foods I was choosing to eat.”

This new way of eating awakened a whole new energy in her body – one that she hadn’t even realized was compromised while growing up.

“If I just ate something like a Kashi cereal for breakfast the amount of sugar would cause me to feel very weak and my energy levels would cause me to collapse,” Williams says. “I’ve come to understand that I always felt sick and felt like I was going to faint when I was growing up because there was so much sugar in my body.”

She recollects feelings of weakness and dizziness and lacking energy since the age of eight, and had never connected it to lack of nutrition and overconsumption of sugar until around age 20 when she went on her unintended detox, she says.

Ear aches, strep throat, migraines, eczema, the flu and colds were all commonplace for her throughout her childhood and high school years, she recalls.

After a year of consuming only real, wholesome foods, and working through personal issues which were raising toxicity in her body due to stress, headaches were gone, her eczema cleared up and regular bouts of the flu were a thing of the past.

By age 22 she could toss on a pair of roller blades and go from one end of town to the next for a two-hour jaunt and never feel tired. That’s a far cry from her younger days at age 13 when she first started rollerblading and only made it for 10 minutes before feeling exhausted.

In her early 20s she began adding super foods like chia seeds, goji berries, kale and açai berry to her daily regime to boost her nutrition. She was even making her own kombucha, kefir and almond milk to ensure her body was receiving the purest form of nutrition, without any additives.

Through research she taught herself how to make just about anything from scratch, motivated by the purity of her food and the money that she saved. Sure, healthy eating can be expensive if one is purchasing only pre-made healthy foods, she says. Learn to make foods yourself, she stresses, whether it’s dried beans that you boil, bag and freeze for later use, or even ice cream, if that’s what you crave.

A fun way to inspire herself to try new produce was to pick out a veggie that was foreign to her each time she went to the grocery store, like an artichoke or a cassava, then research online how to prepare that veggie. She’d also surround herself with like-minded people, even if it meant just browsing at a health food store or joining a yoga class.

“I’d frequent those places where people like me have bought into the mentality of healthy living.”

Meditation, counselling and spiritual retreats helped her cope with stressors and eliminate struggles with self-doubt and worry, as well as understand how she felt about herself and the connection with her physical state, which ultimately shifted her to this current place of undeniable love for herself.

“It wasn’t until I started doing purposeful emotional psychological work that I noticed if I ate food that wasn’t good for my body my mental state would deteriorate too.”

I can feel in my body when I’m not loving it properly and listening to it. I get grouchy and irritated when I haven’t eaten properly, I’m not thinking clearly and emotionally I’m not settled.

“Sometimes I feel myself slipping, but I remind myself how good I feel (after eating wholesome foods or exercising) and I do these things for me.”

If you want to have your best life ever then you have to get up and do this every day.” “The more I delved into my emotional and spiritual connection the more I realized that the bad diet made me insecure and agitated. It made me forget who I am. If I’m aware of who I am and I’m eating in a way that makes me forget who I am then the relationships in my life aren’t strong because they’re not authentic because I’m not being authentic.”

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101 Reasons to stay active!

  1. Because there are few things that make me feel more alive than feeling the thump of my own heart vibrating my body!
  2. Because being active means moving, and by moving you get to see and experience more of the amazing parts of this life!
  3. Because being active makes those lazy days feel like a treat!

    Submitted by Carmen Scott

  4. I exercise to stay happy.
  5. I give myself a short Reiki treatment before I go for a 45 minute walk each day. The Reiki and the exercise boost my energy and help my heart and lungs take better care of me. They stimulate the chemicals in my brain that make me feel happier and more relaxed. They also both help to control my weight and that makes me real happy!

    Provided by Cynthia Widawski, Reiki Master Teacher, Grief Recovery Specialist, Capreol

  6. Your kids will learn the importance of being fit
  7. To increase energy levels and reduce stress
  8. To improve health & reduce illness and injuries

    Provided by Josee Garneau, Sudbury

  9. My favourite reason for exercising is that any aches I have from working out are earned aches, as opposed to just feeling aches that signal I am getting older. My legs and feet used to ache a lot, but now only when I overdo exercise. I want to burn out, not rust out.

    Provided by Suzanne Brooks, Gulliver’s Quality Books and Toys, North Bay

  10. Walking with your pet will make them happy and fit.
  11. Walking or biking with your child will give you quality time together.

    Provided by Sylvie Gareau-Jones, Sudbury

  12. You’ll have more energy.
  13. You’ll look and feel younger
  14. To keep up with the kids
  15. To prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and much more
  16. To fit into that bathing suit this summer!
  17. To keep your brain sharp
  18. To release the “feel good” endorphins
  19. To prevent osteoporosis
  20. To prevent falls as you get older
  21. So you’ll be strong enough to shovel your snow next winter!
  22. To prevent depression

    Provided by Kelly Wallace, ND, Wallace Integrated Health Centre, North Bay

  23. Yoga teaches us that where there is breath, there is life! Mindful exercise allows us to deepen in the breath. Enjoy your breath! Enjoy your life!

    Provided by Theresa Gregory, co-owner of YogAloft Wellness Retreat in McKellar, ON

  24. So we can enjoy life and time with grandchildren.
  25. Life is busy, we work all our adult life and as we turn towards 50, a time when we are supposed to have more time to do the things we want too do; whether that be engaging in extended family activities or excursions for thy self, being active at all stages of life allows us to actively participate in our grandchildren’s activities; where we can get down and engage at their level, which for myself is one of the ultimate gifts that life has to offer.

    (Submitted by Lauraine Chassé, Social Worker and life style coach at Nature’s Inn B&B, Massey, ON.)

  26. To forever be able to do the things I love to do, such as gardening and animal husbandry.

    (Submitted by Isabelle Legault, Field Good Farms, Cache Bay, ON.)

  27. Physical activity increases the oxygen levels in your blood, which manages fatigue better than a cup of coffee!
  28. Turn back the hands of time – physical activity makes you not only feel, but also look younger!
  29. Heart disease, constipation, diabetes and arthritis – just a few of the conditions that can be alleviated and even prevented with physical activity!
  30. Stressful day? Physical activity actually produces a calming influence, which stabilizes your blood pressure and improves stomach problems by relieving nervous tension and anxiety.
  31. By stimulating blood circulation, physical activity improves concentration, memory and sleep quality.
  32. Perspiration during physical activity rids your body of an unwanted build-up of toxins, making it stronger and more resistant to disease.

    Submitted by Rebecca Mullins RHN, Alive ‘n’ Thrivin’ Nutrition Education and Counselling, North Bay, ON

  33. I exercise to age better. Being over 50, stretching is great to improve flexibility, attitude, stress levels and circulation.
  34. We live in a sit-down, drive-thru society. Many of us work many hours at the computer, including me. I exercise to loosen up and lessen muscular pain and tension.
  35. Going on my treadmill is like a walking meditation for me. Many times my mind solves a problem while I am on the treadmill.
  36. I exercise because I want to do everything in my power to keep healthy and independent in my golden years.

    Submitted by Valerie Borden, Fresh Set of Eyes, Sudbury, O)

  37. No matter how I feel when I walk into the gym, I always feel better afterwards.
  38. After exercise, my blood pressure drops 20 points.
  39. Moderate exercise fights cancer and helps to reduce the side effects of treatment.
  40. Because of weight training, I can carry all my groceries from the car to my kitchen in one trip.
  41. Exercise has helped me look 10 years younger than my age.
  42. I have met a lot of people at the gym.
  43. I like catching up on television while on an exercise machine.
  44. On Saturday mornings, I go to yard sales on my bike and save money while staying fit.

    (Submitted by Allan Hirsh, M.A. Counselling Services in North Bay, ON)

  45. Improve emotional well-being and reduce depression.
  46. Be a healthy role model for your children. They will be more likely to exercise if you exercise.
  47. Cut down on pollution by walking, running or riding a bike instead of driving. Help keep your dog in shape and healthy.
  48. Improve your sleep.
  49. Improve brain function and help reduce the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia later in life.
  50. Have a healthier pregnancy and baby and lose those pregnancy pounds afterwards.

    Submitted by Dr. Sherrie Guillet, B.Sc. (Hons), D.C. Chiropractor, Acupuncture Practitioner & Animal Chiropractor, New Sudbury Chiropractic & Wellness Centre

  51. You know that later on in the day you’ll regret not getting out to exercise.
  52. Because you’re running out of excuses not to exercise.
  53. Because you’re not ready to invest in a new wardrobe yet, despite the fact last year’s clothes don’t fit.
  54. You’ll feel better about yourself if you exercise.
  55. It’s a great way to de-stress and leave everything behind.
  56. Getting friends together for a brisk walk is great for the soul.
  57. Adults don’t always spend enough time in the sunshine, so a walk is a great way to get your vitamin D.
  58. It’s the best stress reliever ever!
  59. To get your beach body!
  60. Because you can.
  61. It improves your sex drive.
  62. When you’re physically active your brain is sharper and you can make decisions more easily.
  63. Exercise can be a moving meditation if you are concentrating on breathing and your movement, rather than your list of things to do.
  64. You can run to catch the bus.
  65. You can keep up with an active toddler.
  66. Because you’re tired and you know exercise combats fatigue.
  67. You want to remain independent for as long as you can as you age.
  68. Aches and pains disappear if you keep your body strong.
  69. A physically active person is more attractive than a couch potato.
  70. It makes you feel vibrant and alive!
  71. You want to be able to outrun your kids.
  72. You’re tired of looking at your flab.
  73. Because that desk job is giving you a back ache.
  74. Because life is about movement.
  75. Because you enjoy being a pain-free gardener.
  76. Because you don’t want to wake up one morning and discover climbing on a chair to reach up into a cupboard is too much work.
  77. Because you don’t like cellulite.
  78. Because you’re tired of blaming all of your health issues on aging.
  79. Of all the health interventions available to you, exercise delivers the greatest return on investment.
  80. Spandex feels better on a toned body.
  81. You never know what size of hurdle life will throw at you.
  82. Because there’s something inherently wonderful about being able to tackle tasks on your own.
  83. Because you don’t want to throw out your back lifting your toddler.
  84. Because you never know when you might have to outrun a bear.
  85. Because regular bowel movements are essential for health.
  86. Because you never know when you’ll have to crawl out of a tight spot.
  87. Because scales don’t lie.
  88. Because it’s one of the best anti-aging medicines available free for everyone!
  89. Because you don’t want to squeeze into a theatre seat.
  90. Because you like the idea of living longer.
  91. Because you’re tired of spending money on cold and flu medications.
  92. You don’t feel guilty when indulging in a dessert.
  93. You are capable of much more than you think you are.
  94. Because you promised yourself you’ll start exercising tomorrow.
  95. Because after the age of 30-something you’ll lose up to a half a pound of muscle annually if you don’t exercise.
  96. You’ll feel motivated to eat healthier.
  97. When you nurture yourself with exercise, your whole family benefits.
  98. You have better posture.
  99. You’re more likely to drink more water throughout the day.
  100. Because you like the look of toned arms.

Because life’s too short to feel crummy!

Why a good night’s sleep matters

There are a lot of things happening in our body while we sleep, but perhaps the most important may be the secretion of growth hormone, what you may have heard called, “the anti-aging hormone.” Growth hormone stimulates tissue regeneration (it essentially helps our body heal), liver regeneration, muscle building, breakdown of fat, normalization of blood sugar levels, plus a whole host of other important processes.The other amazing thing that sleep can do is that it acts as an antioxidant. Free radicals, molecules that cause oxidative damage (you can think of it as our body’s rusting), are removed while we sleep. So, you can understand how important sleep is to slow down the aging process, to help us maintain a healthy weight and to prevent illness like heart disease and diabetes.

During the day our adrenal glands produce the hormone cortisol, which establishes our daily rhythm – that we wake in the morning and are sleepy in the evening. Normally, cortisol is high in the morning and lessens throughout the day, parallel to our energy levels.

Another hormone, melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland in our brain, begins to play its role when the sun goes down. Our body senses fading light and signals melatonin to rise. At this point, cortisol should be at its lowest, allowing you to fall asleep. Once asleep, your body then begins to produce growth hormone and when it’s allowed to do its job we wake rested and rejuvenated.

Growth hormone cannot coexist with cortisol. They are an- tagonistic. When cortisol is high it suppresses the production of growth hormone. Therefore, our sleep is thrown off when cortisol levels remain high at night. What causes this? Stress, eating at night, watching intense movies or TV shows, arguing before bed or performing challenging mental or physical work can all raise your cortisol levels. Some of the tips I recommend below actually work by helping to lower your cortisol levels.

Our bodies play this intricate hormonal dance every night and day. Based on this knowledge it makes sense that we try to follow the rhythms of natural light as much as possible. Light or lack of light provides cues to our body that determine hormone production and our sleep cycle. This means longer waking hours and more activity in the summer, more sleep and rest in the winter.

Think about how this affects people who work night shifts. No wonder it is so difficult to maintain hormonal and mental/emotional balance when working at night. Darkness triggers melatonin and is crucial to a good night’s sleep. Avoiding sleeping while it’s dark out disturbs our natural hormonal rhythms, as does sleeping in a room full of daylight.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a diagnosis given to people who become depressed during the winter months. I’d argue it’s actually a result of our society’s attempt at defying natural rhythms. We try to fit the same amount of activities and busyness into a short winter’s day as we do in a long summer’s day. This places stress on our hormonal system and as our hormonal system becomes imbalanced the depression sets in.

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