Are we making informed decisions about what we're eating?

Popular diets today include the Paleo, Ketogenic, Vegan, Vegetarian, and Mediterranean diets, and we are inundated with reports, news, and recent “proof” from sources we have come to trust, that each one is unquestionably the absolute best.  As with any subject we study, the more we learn, the more insight we have.  When it comes to learning about which diet is the healthiest however, I think the public is more confused than ever.

“My friend’s husbands cousins wife says that she’s feeling great on the new cupcake diet, so that’s who I’ve started following.”  I know this is a little far-fetched but honestly, I hear similar statements quite often.  People just love hearing good news about their bad habits and will jump on the latest “trend” wagon believing that they can have their cupcake and eat it too.   We tend to want instant results, but we all know that there is no magic pill or quick fix solution to better health.  The scary part is that the implications of long-term compliance of fad diets are not known, yet the masses are willing to try just about anything.

What we believe to be a healthy diet is, in large part, grounded in our culture, upbringing, education, and own personal health experiences. Today, our opinions about food are further influenced by biased reports, marketing and popularity.  “If everyone’s doing it, it must be good for me.”  When it comes to our health, informed decision making is key, and in today’s society, it is greatly lacking.  

Additionally, powerful marketing ploys get in the way of the truth, so it's even more important for us to dig a little deeper and find out exactly what we're allowing into our bodies.  I’m pleased to know that the new guidelines from Health Canada include information on how marketing can influence our food choices, and this section is definitely worth reading. 

Unlike fad diets, there is one diet showing long-term evidence of improved health.  In fact, recent reports show that one of the most powerful steps we can take towards improving our health is to move toward a plant-based diet.  Whole, plant-based foods contain the highest amount of life-giving and disease fighting nutrients.  Processed foods and supplements can not take the place of real food.

Global statistics continue to show that many of us have already made dietary changes in this direction, and Vegan and Vegetarian Population Statistics around the world reflect that the popularity of more plant-based diets is soaring.  Some of the health authorities supporting this claim included Health Canada, Diabetes Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

When looking at the vegan population statistics in the United States, the research firm Globaldata found that “In 2014, only 1% of the American population labeled themselves as vegan, and that in 2017, the “figure spiked to 6%.”  In Canada veganism was the most search trend in 2017.  According to the Google Trends Report “plant-based diet” topped the search list.  

Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke, Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases, and Diabetes are the leading diseases in Canada, and Canada’s food guide reflects research for the best dietary choices to help reduce the risk of developing these conditions.  It recommends that “protein foods should make up a quarter of your plate” and “when choosing your protein foods, choose plant-based more often.”  The new guide also recommends we eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein plant foods, and healthy fats instead of saturated fats. 

Countries such as Great Britain, Australia, Portugal, Germany, and China are seeing an increase in plant-based food choices as well, and Euromonitor International reports that Italy had the fastest growing vegetarian population; a 94% increase from 2011 to 2016. 

Surprising to me is recent arrival of plant-based options at restaurants and fast-food chains.  While still processed food, the sudden increase of veggie burgers and breakfast “sausages” confirms that today’s consumers have spoken and that these companies have not only listened, but calculated the potential profit.  We know that companies of this size only make changes if strong evidence points to increased sales.  

While transitioning to this way of eating raises red flags and plenty of questions, with the first often being how to get enough protein, I feel the concern should be how to eat for optimal health and disease prevention.  

Over time, and as the implementation of whole food plant-based diets continues to increase, health statistics will reflect lower rates of illnesses and disease. Less sickness and suffering, fewer childhood illnesses, less Cancer and early deaths, fewer people suffering from mental instability, and a society that is thriving the way nature intended.  What a different world that will be from the one we have come to know.

As a Holistic Nutritional Consultant and Holistic Cancer Coach I provide information that is intended, not to criticize any particular diet, but to share evidence-based, unbiased research, that connects common eating patterns with improved health.  

I compare it to buying a new house.  We check out all the little details of the property ourselves first, imagine each room with our belongings in it, and imagine ourselves living there. Generally, though, if considering a purchase, we don’t sign on the dotted line before having the property professionally inspected.  When making a large investment, we want more than the sellers’ word that the structure of the house is sound and that the electrical plumbing systems are good for the next several years.  We put our trust in a proven expert to assess the property with an unbiased eye and outline exactly what we are getting ourselves into.   

The same thing goes when a sales associate is helping us buy a smart phone, laptop or car.  We listen to their sales pitch and then go to Google for unbiased product feedback and supporting evidence.  We make informed decisions before putting our money down.  If only we took this much care in what we put into our bodies.

This is Janice, inspiring change

Are summertime health goals achievable?

Summer is my favorite time of year and it always goes by so fast! 

It’s a happy time of year and according to an article published in the Daily Mail, entitled “Ten Reasons Why Summer Is Good For You” “Sunny skies and rising temperatures do more than make our environment a pleasant place. They also provide some very significant benefits to our health and wellbeing.” 

We know that sunlight helps to regulate many of the body’s systems and there’s no question that waking up to sunshine on a regular basis boosts our mood and energy level. 

Some of the roles of the sunshine Vitamin (D) include helping the body to: 

· Maintain the health of bones and teeth 

· Support the health of the immune system 

· Promote the production of “happiness” chemicals in the brain 

· Regulate insulin and support diabetes management 

· Support lung function and cardiovascular health 

· Influence the expression of genes involved in cancer development 

Summer is also a very busy time of year; often jammed packed with plans based around food, and this is where I want to offer support. In a time where routines can be thrown off, staying on track with our health goals can be very challenging. 

One thing we know for sure is that we don’t want to lose the strides we have worked so hard to achieve. We don’t want to jeopardize all our efforts thus far. 

As we know, change doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, many experts will agree that health goals are more likely to be achieved and maintained long-term, when we adopt a gradual, slower and steadier pace. Most of us need time to create new, healthy eating and exercise patterns, that we can maintain for life. 

A short-term restricted diet plan can work for a while and we often see quick results, but it can set us up for failure in two ways.  It restricts calories but doesn’t always focus on health. As an example, a piece of chocolate cake and a sweetened latté could add up to half of our daily calorie allowance and leave us nutritionally deprived and hungry a few hours later.  More importantly, it doesn’t help us establish better eating habits, which is required for long-term success.  When goals are achieved in this manner, the likelihood of long-term maintenance is low, and we gradually slip into our old eating patterns. 

Enter summer.

Many people take a break from their health goals in the summertime, but I feel that this is where all our hard work can really pay off. This is where we can put into practice the new habits we have incorporated into our daily lives. By sticking with what’s been working well for us so far, no matter where we are or what obstacles (temptations) we face, we will be successful. 

In my experience, the feedback from those who have kept up with their routines and made slow and steady progress is very much the same. 

Overall, clients say that they: 

· have more energy 

· feel healthier 

· feel stronger 

· have less pain 

· are in a better mood 

· have better concentration 

· have improved digestion 

Two key points to help stay on track over the summer include: 

Set quotas:

By giving ourselves limits for situations that can be challenging, success can be within our reach. For example, when the decision to have only one helping, one drink, or a salad instead of fries, is pre-determined, we’re still partaking in the event but staying within our chosen parameters. Even if the choice isn’t perfect (to our standards), it’s smart thinking on our part. For a little extra support, follow this link to “The busy peoples Guide to Healthy Eating On The Go” ….https://www.janiceinspiringchange.com/the-busy-peoples-guide-to-healthy-eating-on-the-go). 

Maintain an exercise routine:

While it might not be what we’re used to, committing to a set number of times we exercise per week, is a step in a positive direction. When away from home, consider a fitness class at the hotel gym or nearby health club to support your efforts. Aiming to reach a certain number of steps to per day while on vacation is a great way to keep moving. 

With the right tools in place, it is possible to maintain a healthy routine all year long…even in the summertime.

Summer is going by very quickly! Stay happy, healthy, and hydrated and enjoy every minute of it! 

This is Janice, inspiring change.

Surprising Statistics about the Health of Canadian Men

June is men’s health month and the goal is to bring awareness to men’s health and disease prevention. General health encompasses several lifestyle factors, including regular physical activity, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, stress management, and social interaction.  

According to the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation report from 2018, “Canadian guys aren’t that healthy, and it’s not because of genetics; it’s a result of lifestyle.”

In 2014, the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation shared some surprising statistics about the state of men’s health in Canada.

Here’s a recap:

·      54% of Canadian men are unhealthy sleepers

·      59% of Canadian men don’t exercise enough

·      62% of Canadian men are unhealthy eaters

·      39% of Canadian men have unhealthy alcohol consumption

·      20% of Canadian men still smoke

·      72% of Canadian men are borderline unhealthy and/or unhealthy

·      25% of Canadian men are considered healthy/very healthy

The reports also showed that men were 40% more likely to die from cancer, 70% more likely to die from heart disease and live an average of nine years of their lives in extremely poor health. 

The study concluded that “70% of men’s health problems can be prevented by adopting healthy lifestyles.”  Some of the common health issues men encounter are cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP) more commonly known as prostate gland enlargement.

I think efforts to raise awareness about men’s health are beginning to pay off.  In my practice, I am seeing an increased number of male clients.  As more and more men move toward healthier lifestyles, I’m also seeing an increase in couples’ consultations.  It is so much easier to implement long-term healthy habits when two people are working toward the same goal.

Most studies conclude that a healthy lifestyle is the body’s best defense against illness and disease.

Factors to consider:

  • Improve your diet by eating less processed foods and more whole foods including vegetables and fruits.

  • Maintain a healthy weight to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic illness, and cancer.  

  • Exercise or play sports at least three times per week. 

  • Learn how to manage stress 

  • Make time to relax and spend time doing activities that you enjoy 

Men’s nutritional needs change throughout their lifespan.  This means that certain key nutrients are more important based on different stages of life.   

A diet based on whole natural foods, with the avoidance of processed foods, is recommended at any age.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and quality protein supply the body with the nutrients it requires for optimal health.  

If poor diet is one reason for the unflattering statistics mentioned earlier, then let’s look at supporting nutrients important for men. 

Lycopene

Lycopene is a plant pigment found in foods such as tomato, guava, pink grapefruit, apricots, and watermelon.  Research suggests that an increased intake of foods rich in lycopene is associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer as well as an improvement of cardiovascular risk factors, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  

Beta-sitosterol

Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol or phytosterol.  The FDA has stated that beta-sitosterol may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by lowering blood cholesterol levels. It has also been shown to improve symptoms of BPH by increasing maximum urinary flow and decreasing residual urine volume.

Good sources include avocados, oranges, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, bananas, apples, peaches and pears.  Beta-sitosterol is also found in some nuts and seeds such as pistachios, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and sesame seeds.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral involved in numerous physiological processes, including immune health and hormone production.  Foods that contain zinc include cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas, spinach and mushrooms. 

Zinc supplementation is used to treat infections, including the flu, common cold, urinary tract infections, and to lower respiratory tract infections.  Zinc supplementation has also been found to benefit male fertility by increasing sperm count and testosterone levels.  Zinc supplementation may show promise for male infertility treatment. 

Korean Ginseng

Korean or Panax ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that grows in Korea and northeastern China. Korean ginseng may help improve erectile dysfunction in men. There is also some clinical evidence that shows it enhances cognitive function, such as working memory and attention processes, in healthy adults.  

Saw palmetto

Saw palmetto, also known as the American dwarf palm tree, is a perennial plant from the botanical family Arecaceae.  The supplement form, saw palmetto extract, contains fatty acids that are extracted from the saw palmetto berry.  Research has shown that saw palmetto may be effective in treating lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and sexual dysfunction associated with BPH.  

If you are considering adding an adaptogenic herb or new supplement to your diet is advisable to first check with your healthcare provider. 

As mentioned above a healthy lifestyle is the body’s best defense against illness and disease.  Maintaining a healthy weight is a key factor in disease prevention and the body will find it’s ideal weight by following a diet of natural and whole foods.

Exercise also plays a large role in overall health.  Finding an activity or sport that you enjoy and doing it at least 3-5 times per week is recommended.  

There are many ways to reduce stress, and guided meditation, yoga, tai chi, are very beneficial.  When stress is interfering with family, social, or work relationships, however, professional support is suggested.   

We now know that adults who are more socially connected are healthier, deal with stress better and live longer than adults who live more secluded lives.   

Several studies suggest that social ties influence healthy behavior.  One study reported that those who were involved with formal (e.g., religious organizations) and informal (e.g., friends and relatives) social ties showed more positive health behaviors over a ten-year period.  With studies on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease surfacing almost daily, we now understand that social support benefits both mental and physical health by reducing the impact of stress, and by fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in life.  The effects of healthy, supportive relationships have also shown benefits on the immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.  

The movements towards helping men improve their health is showing promising results and it’s wonderful that more men taking an active role in their health.   

The shift is happening, and I’m thrilled to see it!

This is Janice, inspiring change   

 

 

 

 

What is inflammation & is an anti-inflammatory diet really that important? 

What is inflammation and is an anti-inflammatory diet really that important? 

While there are several links and risk factors related to chronic disease, the following information focuses on inflammation and its link to illness. Common questions about how inflammation relates to diet and lifestyle are also addressed.
 
What is inflammation anyway?

Inflammation is not always a bad thing. It’s the balance that’s important.
Inflammation is a natural process that our body uses to protect against infections, irritants, and damage. It also helps to reduce the cause of the damage by fighting the infection.
 
However, long-term (chronic) inflammation has damaging effects on the body, and is often associated with several health conditions, including diabetes (and other auto-immune diseases), heart disease, and excess body weight. 

Heart disease and diabetes are on the rise worldwide.  In fact, it's estimated that 90% of people with pre-diabetes don’t even know it. The first stage of heart disease is called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and inflammation is a key issue with both atherosclerosis and heart attacks.  
These, and other chronic diseases, are serious, long-term conditions considered to be “lifestyle” diseases. This means that they tend to occur in people with certain lifestyles (i.e. not-so-awesome nutrition and exercise habits, etc.).
 
Diabetes and heart disease are also linked with excess body fat, as well as inflammation.  There’s a lot of evidence that improving nutrition and lifestyle can help many factors associated with chronic diseases, including reducing inflammation. 
  
According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health):
 
“People with insulin resistance and pre-diabetes can decrease their risk for diabetes by eating a healthy diet and reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity, not smoking, and taking medication."

and

“The main treatment for atherosclerosis is lifestyle changes.”
 
So what type of diet is best?
 
A nutritious diet promotes health, reduces risk of many chronic diseases, and can reduce inflammation. 
 
Substances like polyphenols. flavonoids, pigments, unsaturated fats (including omega-3s), and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals like vitamin E and selenium are showing promising results.  Foods that contain these substances may also help to improve insulin sensitivity, cholesterol levels, and gut microbiota. 

Many anti-inflammatory effects of foods containing the substances mentioned above have been demonstrated in human and animal testing.  When we look at individual components in a food, we should keep in mind that it’s the whole diet, with all foods and lifestyle components that help to promote health. One or two individual aspects don’t have the same effect as a holistic approach to improving overall nutrition and lifestyle.
 
What about sugar and starch?
 
Excess sugars and starches put stress on our blood sugar levels and increase our risk of chronic diseases. They also promote inflammation in the body.
 
Studies show that those who eat sweets and white bread, and drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages have higher levels of inflammatory markers, while those following a diet low in sugar and refined starch have lower than average levels of inflammation.
 
One possible reason is that more sugar and starch may increase production of inflammatory molecules and free radicals (unstable molecules) and give immune cells more fuel, as well as increase their activity.
 
You can upgrade your nutrition in this area by eating fewer sugars and starches.  Especially “added” sugars and “refined” starches.
 
Does fat intake affect inflammation?
 
Some studies show that increased levels of saturated fats can increase production of inflammatory markers and free radicals. 
 
Unsaturated fats like omega-3’s from fish seem to be particularly healthful. People who eat more fish tend to have lower levels of atherosclerosis and heart disease. 

Fish-based omega-3 unsaturated fats reduce inflammation in two ways. They reduce the source of inflammation, as well as increase the number of anti-inflammatory molecules.
 
Tree nuts are another good source of unsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. While nuts do contain a fair amount of fat, many studies show no weight gain after adding nuts to the diet.  In fact, many studies show that people who regularly eat nuts do not tend to have a higher BMI (body mass index) or more body fat.
 
You can improve your dietary fats by eating more fish and nuts. Fish and nuts contain unsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory effects. They can also improve insulin sensitivity and even improve the health of insulin-producing cells.
 
Is dietary fibre linked to inflammation?
 
People who eat more fiber, fruits, and vegetables tend to have lower levels of inflammation. They also have lower risks of diabetes and heart disease. 
 
Additionally, studies show that eating fiber reduces excess body fat. This effect can be because fiber slows down absorption of food from the body, reducing blood sugar spikes. It can also be because of its interaction with the friendly microbes in our gut.
 
Some foods high in fiber include whole grains, legumes (i.e. beans and lentils), cocoa, seeds (e.g. sesame), tree nuts (e.g. almonds), avocados, raspberries, and squash.
 
Can exercise help reduce inflammation?
 
Regular exercise helps with many chronic diseases, as well as helping to reduce inflammation.
 
Levels of inflammatory markers are lower in people who exercise regularly, in comparison to those who do not. Adding regular moderate exercise to a nutritious anti-inflammatory diet lowers inflammatory markers even more.  
 
Is there a link to inflammation and quality of sleep? 
 
Both acute and chronic sleep deprivation cause an increase in inflammatory markers in the blood. Additionally, sleep loss is a risk factor for insulin resistance and diabetes. 
 
Conclusion
 
Inflammation can be healthy if it’s fighting an infection or healing a wound, but chronic inflammation is associated with many serious conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Two things these diseases have in common are excess body fat and increased levels of inflammation. 

There are a lot of nutrition and lifestyle issues that can contribute to chronic diseases and inflammation is one contributing factor.
 
The good news is that nutrition and lifestyle factors can be improved by eating less sugars and starches, eating more fish, nuts and dietary fibre, and getting regular exercise and quality sleep.
 
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss your health challenges with me, schedule your complimentary 60-minute no-obligation consultation here.
 
To learn more about me and my holistic approach to wellness follow this link https://www.janiceinspiringchange.com

This is Janice, inspiring change

 
 

Reaching Your Goals in 2019 - How this year will be different

The holiday season is a time for traditions and gatherings with loved ones, friends, and colleagues.  The dinner table is generally the meeting spot, where all enjoy special meals, sweet treats, and good cheer.

At the start of the New Year, we realize that over the past month, our fitness routine and healthy eating were put on the back burner, so we resolve to get on track. 

The top two New Years’ resolutions are to get in shape and lose weight.  Innately, we know that adopting a healthier lifestyle makes us feel better.  Studies have proven that living a healthy lifestyle can reduce our risk for disease and it can also improve our health and ability to function independently in later life. 

With this in mind, we aim to exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet at the start of each New Year, and for the first couple weeks of January we are motivated to get going.  By the first of February, however, many of us are discouraged and have already give-up on our goals.  In fact, research shows that only 8% of people achieve their new year’s resolutions. 

New Year's resolutions are extremely hard to keep, especially when we attempt to abruptly break life-long habits.  In fact, no matter when we decide to make a change, or how strongly we are motivated, adopting a new, healthy habit, or breaking an old, not so healthy one, can be difficult.  The good news is that even though we may struggle or give-up completely, research suggests that any effort we make is worthwhile, and that making a New Year's resolution, for example, may boost our chances of eventual success.  

I believe that if we truly want to reach our goals we will do what’s necessary to succeed.  As French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry put it, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” and planning is the key to achieving our goals. 

As we begin a new year and embark on our resolutions, it’s important to remember two things.  The first is that we CAN accomplish what we set out to do.  Once we've set our goal, we must design our course (plan of action) and follow it.  Secondly, it’s important to realize that change doesn’t happen over night.  Change takes time and every little step counts.  Every step in the right direction brings us that much closer to our goal.  

To improve chances for success it’s important to set realistic goals.  For example, a person who has been sedentary most of their life and now wants to exercise more might start with taking the stairs more often, or parking the car further from the door and walking, and eventually, working up to a more ambitious goal.  The same can be said for weight loss.  Cutting out all unhealthy foods overnight can lead to failure, but a less drastic approach of cutting back on a daily junk food, or adding a cup or two of vegetables to dinner a few times week, allows for a gradual change in the right direction.  This approach is much more sustainable in the long-term.

In today’s fast-paced world, one reason changing our lifestyle habits can be difficult is the issue of time.  Quick and convenient (processed) foods end up taking the place of healthy, nourishing foods when we’re on the go.  These less-than-ideal food choices put us on the vicious cycle of experiencing low energy, weight gain, and potential health problems, all of which make us more likely to become sedentary.  Most people agree that when they start eating better, they notice increased energy, and actually feel more like exercising.  Moving more supports healthy brain function and promotes positive thinking, which can encourage us to stick with our goals. 

With time being an issue for many, we have to consider common situations we often find ourselves in, and how we can make better choices.  

Although we have busy days, it doesn’t mean we have to forgo a healthy dinner.  With a little planning, and a crock-pot, we can have a home-cooked meal waiting for us at the end of the day.  When everything is prepped the night before (if time doesn’t allow in the morning), we can come home to a delicious meal that is ready to serve.  When we do have time to cook, batch cooking and planning for meals later in the week will free up some time.  By simply doubling a favourite recipe and freezing it in meal-size portions, healthy and quick choices will always be available.  Making an extra large dinner and refrigerating the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day frees up time for a walk, the gym, or a little downtime. 

Many of us spend several hours in our vehicles every week running errands, stuck in traffic or shuttling kids back and forth between activities.  If we don’t plan ahead, it is easy to fall into the trap of circling through the closest drive through when hunger strikes.  Waiting until we’re famished to eat something most always lead to bad decisions, but planning ahead by carrying healthy snacks helps keep us on track. Foods that are easy to prepare, and convenient to take on the go include:

·      Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus or other healthy dip 

·       Sliced apples with almond butter

·       Fruit

·       Healthy smoothie

·       Trail mix or nutritious energy bars

·       Raw nuts and seeds

·       Sandwiches or wraps

By setting realistic goals and putting in a little effort and organization, we CAN achieve our New Year’s resolutions and develop new, healthy and lasting habits. 

This is Janice, inspiring change

Kitchen Basics 101

(PANTRY PLANNING)

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“If you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food.”  I love this quote by personal trainer Errick McAdams, and I think it makes perfect sense.  If there is only healthy food at home we will eat healthier.  This doesn’t mean that there’s no room for a “treat” once in a while, but for the other 80-90% of the time, we will be reaching for something that supports our wellness goals.  

I think, as a whole, we have become wiser to the fact that our lifestyle has a direct bearing on our well-being.  A constant lack of energy, persistent aches and pains, and chronic digestive complaints, are only a few signs that indicate an imbalance in the body.  Although we are all different, and have unique nutritional needs, I believe most of us will agree that when we eat better, we feel better. Yes?  

Many of us are making smarter and more informed decisions before filling our grocery carts, however the task of transitioning into healthier eating can be a daunting one.  Let’s face it, with all the marketing gimmicks telling us that processed food is nutritious, not to mention the questionable food sources we have to be aware of these days, eating healthy can be challenging.  I think the first step is to shop wisely and set ourselves up for success.   If there’s little in the way of healthy food in the pantry and kitchen, how can we expect to stay on track?

One of my favorite things to do is a kitchen “make-over.”  This is where I go to clients homes and help them organize their kitchen, as well as provide tips and strategies for success with their health targets.  We also go to the supermarket together to source out the best options available.  We read labels, ask questions (butcher, baker and produce manager), and find alternatives that fall under the guidelines of my recommendations. Did I mention how much I love my job! 

For some, however, a gradual approach toward making healthier choices might seem more appealing.  By using up what’s in the fridge and pantry first, and then swapping it out for a healthier option on grocery day, the shelves will eventually be restocked with more nutritious foods.  Let’s take processed cereal for example.  When the box is just about empty, look for a whole food alternative such as oatmeal, millet, or quinoa.  If such a drastic step is not in the cards just yet, instead choose a “no-sugar added” cereal with a high fiber content.  The same goes for sweetened fruit juice.  Replace it with an unsweetened variety, or opt for freshly squeezed juice or flavored water (with sliced cucumbers, lemon or fresh mint). It's easy!

I have created a pantry make-over chart to print out and keep as a handy reference.  Over time, these new, healthier foods will become a regular part of your diet.  By swapping out the not-so-ideal foods with healthier foods, you’ll slowly but surely “remodel” your kitchen!  

This is Janice, inspiring change

SWAP THIS White flour and white bread Boxed cereal (with added sugars) White rice Sugar sweetened jam Pop, soft drinks, sweetened beverages Sugar sweetened fruit juices Margarine Cooking oils, store-bought salad dres (4).png

 

 

Is Our Health in Our Hands?

While cleaning up some files last week I came across a letter I received almost 20 years ago.  “Janice is lazy and just needs to exercise.”  What!

This was the final comment of a two-page report submitted to my health insurance company by a specialist after I applied for long-term disability.  The letter stated that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).  The Mayo Clinic defines CFS as “a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition.  The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest.”  Interestingly, the letter concluded that I was lazy, and all I had to do to improve was exercise.  

In an attempt to uncover exactly what was going on with my body, and before my insurance company denied me compensation, various blood tests were ordered.  I waited for results; hopeful that an explanation was just around the corner.  Nope.  Test after test came back "normal" and one day the probing ended.  A diagnosis was made.  Case closed.  

Needless to say, it was like having a door slammed in my face!  I was shocked and felt helpless at that time in my life.  For weeks I read and re-read this report and I got increasingly angry.  I was not going to accept this diagnosis.  No way!  I was determined to get to the root cause of my complaints.  

I was much younger then, but having an interest in health, I knew that there was a connection between nutrition and healing.  I understood the importance of a balanced diet and I also took notice of the direct relationship between eating well and feeling well.  Additionally, the courses I had taken in nursing school provided me with a broader view of how the body worked, and what it needed to perform at an optimal level.  Knowing all this, I felt I had some control over my situation.  In other words, I had hope.  

I did indeed have chronic fatigue syndrome.  Let me rephrase that.  I was infact, chronically fatigued.  Fatigue, which prevented me from doing my job properly.  Drained of energy and muscle aches so bad that, even after a good nights sleep, I was unable to climb set of stairs without stopping half way to catch my breath and to wait for the pain in my legs to subside before continuing.  So tired that on the days that I could muster up enough energy to take my dogs out for a walk, I would drive to the nearest park and sit down on a bench while they ran loose. 

I chose not to accept that I wouldn’t be able to work anymore, and that I would have to live the rest of my life this way.  It isn’t normal to feel extreme exhaustion day in day out, month after month.  Exhaustion that sleep did not relieve; pain that stopped me from moving; and a lack of energy that regular exercise (the little I could manage) did not improve.  I chose not to live on pain medications and accept this as the new normal. I chose to get my life back! 

Finally, I found an alternative health practitioner who listened to my complaints.  Further testing revealed the root cause of my complaints and a recovery plan was in sight. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic!  

I’m grateful for this letter, however, as it prompted me to be proactive about my health.  I’m sharing my experience to reach others who might be struggling to find answers and getting nowhere.  Don’t give up.  Find a way to get to the root cause of the problem and get your life back.   

My journey back to health didn’t happen over night, nor was it easy.  I was criticised, ridiculed, and received countless eye-rolls for the choices I was making.  I paid no attention to criticism, however; this was my life, and my health was my top priority!  As I embarked on this challenge I came to the realization that, for the most part, the body has the amazing ability to heal itself.  Yes, it was tough. Yes, I had to change my relationship with food.  And hell yes, it was absolutely worth it!  

Our health is in our hands.

This is Janice, inspiring change

Is it possible to eat healthy these days?

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(What motivates me to prioritize my health, and how do I make it work. Part 2)

Is it possible to eat healthy these days?  I believe it is, and it’s not as difficult as one might think to live a healthier lifestyle.  Sure, it takes some thought and effort, but I sum it up to doing the best we can with what we have, in the area in which we live.   

When I consider my diet today, it looks nothing like it did 20 years ago; thank goodness, as my staple food was, admittedly, potatoe chips!  Change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a work in progress, and as I learn more about food and my environment, I constantly tweak my choices.  I also adapt to my surroundings and make adjustments according to what’s available.  When I moved to from Nova Scotia to Qatar, I quickly realized that I had to think outside the box, try new brands, read labels and ask the local folk about the produce that was available to me.  With my interest in cooking, it was exciting to try fruits and vegetables I’d never heard of, experiment with spices that I had only read about, and taste dishes of which the ingredients had to be identified by the chef.  Being a frugal shopper, I was happy to sample local products, which were a fraction of the cost of the imported and well known varieties. 

I think, as a whole, we have become wiser to the relationship food and the environment has on our health and wellbeing.  We are making smarter and more informed decisions before filling our grocery carts.  With the Internet at our fingertips, we have the opportunity to learn about food; it’s benefits, how it’s grown, and the process it goes through before reaching our tables.  Equally, the contradictive information out there can be mind boggling and it can leave us not knowing what to believe.  It's up to us to dig a little deeper to find factual information so that we can make informed decisions about what we put into our bodies.

So, how to get started?  We are all different and what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another.  Our eating habits stem from childhood and we have emotional attachments to food, cultural traditions, as well as family and social influences.  The first thing we need is the desire to change.  If we truly want to start living a healthier life style we will.  I honestly think it’s that simple and with that frame of mind we will start moving toward our goals.  We’ll become more inquisitive and selective of our food choices, and, as we learn more about the how food fuels our bodies, we will desire fresh produce over denatured food.  When, one morning, we wake up and realise that we feel better, have more energy, as well as a more positive outlook, we will be motivated to continually improve upon our current choices.  

Lack of energy, aches and pains, digestive complaints, illness and disease, are telling signs that the body is not in balance.  It's up to us to pay attention to the warnings that the body is unsatisfied with our lifestyle choices.  I think, deep down, most of us beleive that natural, whole food is what the body requires for optimal performance.  As John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100, writes “We all have the tools to live longer lives, and to remain active, productive, and resourceful until the very end.”

This is Janice, inspiring change

P.S. Summer is over and September is all about fresh starts, new schedules and routines.  Click here for your free Developing Healthy Habits guide and start living your healthier lifestyle today!