I know I haven’t written or posted anything for a while and there are many reasons at play for that but with the recent current events, inaction and silence are no longer an option. The events surrounding George Floyd and systemic racism against BIPOC communities has caused many to pause and reflect about the systems and institutions that we participate in, including myself which sparked this post. Some may think that my position is rather dramatic, I would argue those people who think so are proving my point; that Nutrition and Dietetics is systemically racist.
To be clear, I am not saying ALL Dietitians or Nutritionists are racist (although there are MANY that are knowingly or unknowingly engaging in overt or covert racist behaviours) I am saying that the way Dietetics is practiced is fundamentally & systemically racist which is the fault of the organization and in part the overall healthcare system. Please understand the difference between overt racism and covert racism (Please see attached educational graphic developed by Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (2005) and adapted by Ellen Tuzzolo (2016))
The reality of racism in Healthcare is very real. The Center for Disease Control examined pregnancy-related deaths in the United States from 2011 to 2015 and even more detailed data from 2013-2017 to show that black women at 3.3 times more likely than white women to suffer a pregnancy -related death. Native American and Alaskan First Nations women were 2.5 times more likely to die than white women. In 2005 the Institute of Medicine (Not-for-profit, non-governmental organization now known as National Academy of Medicine (NAM)) found that “Racial and ethnic minorities received lower-quality health care than white people – even when insurance status, income, age and severity of conditions are comparable.” The NAM Report goes on to quote a study of over 400 hospitals in America that showed black patients with heart disease receiving older, cheaper and more conservative treatments than their white counterparts. They go on to state that Black patients are more likely to receive less desirable treatments.
“Oh that’s America, Canada is MUCH Better” I can assure it’s not.
If you Google image search “nutrition” you will primarily find pictures of White Women eating salads. If you Google search “graduating class” images in nutrition programs across the country, you will find minimal diversity and any diversity that exists exhibits white-passing privilege. If you Google search the current iteration of the food guide you will only find Euro-Centric and North American-Centric foods. If you go on a Government funded website you can find behaviours and actions that fundamentally erase or minimize ethnicity or downright uses OFFENSIVE RACIAL SLURS!!! (Yes, these are REAL screen grabs I took from this unnamed Government Funded website as of June 1, 2020 at 9:59am).
But wait! There’s more!
There are two ways to become a Dietitian in Canada - An expensive Master’s/ Diploma Practicum program or a 9-month unpaid Postgraduate Practicum Program (Formerly known as the Dietetic Internship) followed by a standardized written exam. That’s right folks! After 4 years of University and student debt our options are to go further into debt OR to try to survive for 9-10 months without an income OR realize that the degree that you now have doesn’t qualify you for anything. Did I also mention that many of those Dietetic programs are in Toronto? Where we have INSANELY high cost of living rates? Did I also mention that HUNDREDS of Dietitians were also told that if they were working a part-time job during their “Prestigious” unpaid internship that they weren’t taking it seriously and forced to quit? Did I also mention that the Dietitians that are supposed to be teaching these “Prestigious Unpaid Internships” aren’t properly trained to be teachers at all? Why is that last one important? Well remember those racist Dietitians? They pass on racist thinking and ideals, whether it be overt or covert racism.
Want to see the height of systemic racism in Dietetics? Look at the cultural erasure in the practices of not only the screen grabs but look at Canada’s Food Guide. NOT ALL CULTURES AND ETHNICITIES EAT USING A PLATE MODEL! By getting rid of portion sizes we lose a universal language to communicate; numbers and math. Which is extremely important when counselling with a language barrier! If you want to justify the removal of portion sizes based on current research, then how do you possibly justify the reduction in numbers and frequency of foods and ingredients from other cultures visually represented on the plate model. Oh, you like the food guide because it promotes mindful eating? Well have you considered what a LUXURY and PRIVILEGE it is that your food security is so good that you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from? rather you worry about HOW you’re eating the foods and whether or not you’re enjoying them? Have you also considered how privileged you are to be able to AFFORD to follow the advice on the Canadian Food Guide, which even when you follow does not meet all daily nutritional requirements? The problem here is that the individuals that designed this dumpster fire of a Government funded resource completely FAILED to think about anything other that a Euro and North American-Centric view of eating and food. (To date, I still cannot find a list of the people that were responsible for their “expert” input into this back up single ply toilet paper document to see what the diversity was behind that panel because it’s my guess that, AGAIN, no one bothered to care about it).
This is the example that takes the cake and it is my personal story that I have avoided making public until now. Years ago, I accepted an extraordinary position, a position where I would be able to help diversify this profession and begin to undo the vast amount of damage done by a poorly run organization. Unfortunately, like other POC, my position was an example of Tokenism. Now to be clear, I KNEW that this is what they were doing, however (at the time) I felt it to be my responsibility to represent ACTUAL diversity in the profession and ADVOCATE and discuss those issues that were being ignored every single year. As soon as that announcement went live and it was revealed that I would be representing Ontario, the biggest and most populated region in Canada, the complaints came. Countless colleagues from across Ontario complaining that I do not represent “them” and that they were outraged. To those that complained, I want you to read this very carefully; I DON’T CARE THAT I DIDN’T REPRESENT YOU!
I endured the stones thrown at me, because as a POC this is what we deal with OUR ENTIRE LIVES! But I finally snapped when over 2 years of my advocacy, volunteered time and efforts were COMPLETELY ignored when they chose to celebrate Nutrition Month with a COMPLETE LACK OF DIVERSITY promoting only images of White Women or women of White-Passing privilege for nutrition month. The reason I was given was to celebrate the Award winners from last year and to give recognition. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but they were already celebrated LAST YEAR, weren’t they? Their achievements were publicly well known, so why do it again? Why not focus on other members and their achievements? The other explanation I was given tried claim that they were promoting diversity in PRACTICE SETTING – this is not only bullshit, it’s insulting. Furthermore, when that project was announced 3 years ago, one of the markers of success would be 80% satisfaction amongst that organization’s members, that now means something VERY different to me. Because that now means to me that 80% of your members satisfied with the systemic racism in your organization.
You think this is personal? I assure you it’s not. There are MANY examples of Dietitians from marginalized communities and those that represent true diversity that have put in so much work to create free resources, webinars and materials only to have them be completely ignored. Examples of male Dietitians putting together resources and action plans on how to attract more men to this profession to be able to better address Men’s health issues and to provide more options for counselling, only to be ignored. Examples of BIPOC Dietitians having their resources appropriated by White counterparts without acknowledgement of their work. White Dietitians using cultural events like Ramadan or Lunar New Year for their social media without acknowledging the culture and history just because that particular hashtag is trending. Those Dietitians have shared their stories with me but haven’t spoken out for fear of losing their jobs or being ostracized or wanting to change the system from within. I simply don’t care what anyone thinks of me anymore.
“OH Ben! That was a few years ago, it’s much better now!”
Yeah, the promotional materials are now OUTRIGHT lying about the diversity that doesn’t exist in this profession. Look at the image below and look at the LinkedIn image above and compare it to the images used on the Government funded website. You could try to justify the idea of “Many people won’t know what these foods are” OK fair, but then explain to me why Shakshouska, an Arabic dish, or Khao Tom, a Thai Rice Soup, maintains it’s cultural and ethnic identity when OVERTLY racist terminology like “Oriental” is used to describe recipes posted directly in-front of a culturally insensitive “Proudly Canadian Beet and Barley Salad” (It’s not like Beets or Barley are an ingredient native to Canada like the Fiddlehead, and “Proudly Canadian” carries many problematic First Nations implications, which is shocking to see considering the vast number of Canadian Dietitians that work in First Nations populations)
The reality is that Dietetics has avoided this much needed PUBLIC criticism for far too long. Dietetics has been complicit in supporting Systemic Racism and cultural erasure. Dietetics has become more elitist and privileged than EVER BEFORE. My concerns when I first entered the profession around 10 years ago have all become reality. We now see vulnerable populations getting worse health outcomes because communities don’t trust Eurocentric and Culturally irrelevant and insensitive information coming from predominantly White Dietitians. We see worsening men’s health outcomes because we don’t have enough male Dietitians available. We now see more and more requests for referrals due to cultural and language barriers. We see higher and higher private practice costs to meet an individual’s sense of worth more than their need to be effective for their clients and communities. I don’t care if you’re uncomfortable with the things I’m saying because they need to be said, and you should be uncomfortable. I don’t care if you disagree with my methods, you want them to be peaceful so it can be ignored.
Ever since the change in leadership of this organization following a GIANT pay scandal of the previous management and direction, there have been some improvements. But as every other POC in the world knows, unless more consistent change is coming and planned, unless more people come out and speak about this without fear and without apology, unless you plan to change the systemically racist structure in Nutrition and Dietetics, we POC know that this “Change” is short lived and just a Public Relations move. Prove us wrong because this systemic racism affects the health of all of Canada. Black Indigenous People of Colour are being murdered in the streets by Police Officers but healthcare and Dietetics has been neglecting and devaluing their health and lives all along.
No more excuses
DO BETTER, NOW
Rest in Power
P.S. Just for fun, here’s a list of just SOME of the prejudice, racism, sexism, elitism and discrimination I have experienced from my own colleagues. (Read this list and understand it. You do not get to tell a POC what is racist or how to feel)
P.P.S. Re-read my words before commenting. The nutrition world has recently had MULTIPLE cases demonstrating incapability to understand the written word. I also fully understand that this does not position Dietitians and Nutritionists in a good light – This is my full intent. It is unethical to continue to support a system that blatantly oppresses people based on their ethnicity and to discriminate them based on their economic status. So, if you read my words and feel the need to organize a petition for me to take this post down, then all you’ve done is give me a list of Racist Dietitians. We have a problem and there are FAR TOO MANY Dietitians that are silent and complicit in this racism.
Hey hey hey!
December is finally here and with that comes time for reflection and goal setting for the new year and the upcoming decade. First off, I’d like to thank all of those that have supported ESN in any way at all. Whether it be those that have received counselling from our Nutrition team, those that have enrolled in the ESN learning center or simply those that have consumed our content over the past 5 years. The support that you’ve shown has been overwhelming! I never would have thought that when I conceived and started ESN 5 years ago that it would grow to this, a nationwide company with multiple partners that has received recognition and praise from multiple communities.
When I started ESN 5 years ago it was because I thought my training and education was lacking and that there was a better way to look at nutrition, physical activity and health. One that went far beyond my training as a Dietitian and a Personal Trainer. Before I started ESN, I pitched the concept multiple times and people thought I was crazy. They thought it was too ambitious and that it was impossible. Thankfully my stubbornness allowed me to have a Thanos moment and say “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” I love being the underdog and to take risks. All that negative energy just fueled my fire and the flames grew bigger and bigger to what ESN is today.
ESN was founded on looking at things from a different perspective, to innovate by combining things together, finding patterns and translating all the complex science into simple to follow guidelines. To approach nutrition and health the same way GPS works in your car. To guide and instruct the driver, to re-route without judgement when things stray off course and to focus on the journey, not the end destination.
Originally ESN was for athletes, those looking to push their limits and barriers because comfort is the enemy of growth. We have done just that. A small independently company that was working with professional athletes, celebrities and Elite Olympic level athletes. Today, we celebrate as we have multiple ESN athletes going for Olympic Trials and many that will make the Canadian Olympic team for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics as well as multiple professional athletes across the country.
While ESN was originally designed for athletes, our approach to nutrition soon became recognized by multiple communities and then our partners started coming. We started getting exclusive contracts to staff and train Dietitians to work in workplace settings that Dietitians traditionally weren’t recognized in. To this day, one of my greatest accomplishments is the fact that I created over 20 jobs for Dietitians in less than 3 years of business.
Once ESN grew and we got our team together I started to make mistakes. These mistakes were, and still are, on me. My issue was that I was so focused on my client base and their successes that I failed to recognize the managerial shift in my position. My constant need to grow and help my own clients succeed, trying to help a whole Dietitian team grow their businesses, being the first Canadian Dietitian to co-create, write and host a Nationwide TV show, launching a podcast and trying to manage my own health, mental health and athletic goals left me spread far too thin. I would have burnout episodes lasting months. My depression would render me incapable of the most basic things. I neglected my own self care, health as well as my family and loved ones. This cost me friendships, relationships and would put a strain on my family. The worst burn out was this year, where my burnout episode coupled together with a massive depressive episode lasted 3-4 months. This caused me to drop the ball on multiple things, most notably the development of the Level 3 ESN Learning Center Sports Nutrition Certificate Course. For all this I offer my sincerest apologies. To those that registered, this will be addressed in a separate email. I finally realized this year, with A LOT of help, that I was my own worst enemy.
In this recognizing this very sobering fact I have stepped back to refocus on building my own health, mental health and physical health back up. It also allowed me to knock my own ego down to absolute zero and rebuild, but this time with sustainability as the primary goal.
One of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do is step back because we have done it our way for such a long time and we if we are still standing after 1-2 years (which is a huge success milestone for entrepreneurs) then it’s hard to let others in. After this most recent burnout episode, I realized the stupidity of my actions. I have surrounded myself with some of the best Dietitians and professionals in the industry but I didn’t utilize their potential and thus have not only come close to destroying myself and everything I’ve built but I have let them and those that look up to ESN down. This is on me, and I offer my sincerest apologies.
Now having learned this lesson, I am proud to say that I now recognize what is truly needed of me and have developed plans to save me from myself. With that being said, I will be stepping back from certain roles at ESN to make myself more effective. I am happy to announce that I will finally be handing the reigns over to our wonderful and AMAZING Vice-President, Catherine. We have spent the last few months discussing what this would consist of with these discussions happening regularly so that she can better execute OUR vision.
In light of this there are other things that we at ESN will be doing very differently in the upcoming decade. This is just a quick list of what those things are:
I want to thank you all for reading this long post and standing by ESN while we get our house in order. We are more dedicated than ever to innovate and meet the needs of our collective changing landscape that our modern-day environments challenge us with. I am happy to say that I have taken the much needed time to get things sorted on a personal level and I am me again, possibly better (hopefully). The next decade is going to be big so we welcome you to join us on this journey of health.
Peace and Love,
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management
As many of you know the newest version of the Canadian Food Guide was released earlier this week, in fact it was released on my Birthday! In many ways it was the perfect representation of what most gifts are; a moment of excitement at the sight of the wrapped present followed by confusion followed by the thought in my head “Does this person even know me at all?” (at least to me, I really despise gift giving culture for many reasons but I digress)
Before I go forward with my critique, I want to share the things I DO actually like about this food guide. I’m going to seem ungrateful because I’m going to blow past them really quickly as I’m sure you’ve read other blog posts by my amazing colleagues:
Ok, now that the ceremonial participation trophies are given out, let’s tear this thing to shreds.
So there it is; my brutally honest review and critique of the new Food Guide. Now I realize that this blog post comes across as overly critical and negative – good. I'm not saying that there isn't something positive, but the new Food Guide is admirable but mistaken in my honest opinion. Criticism without constructive ideas is just whining and I’m no whiner. Stay tuned for a follow up Blog Post on what I think they should have done and my full wish list for the next Food Guide, which will hopefully come sooner rather than later.
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
Owner, Founder and President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Creator and Host of 'Highway to Health' on the Bell Network
Complete Lifestyle Management
Burgers. Hotdogs. Chips. Potato salad. Nothing says summer like an outdoor barbecue and the typical food fare that comes along with it.
With August just around the corner, you likely have a few of these events marked on your calendar. Consider the following suggestions to help you stay on top of your health and nutrition goals during barbecue season.
1. Portion Control
Social gatherings centered on food can make it difficult to eat mindfully. Unlimited appetizers, multitasking and more variety in food options can all lead to overeating. Advice: take a small plate for appetizers, fill it up once. Do the same with a dinner-size plate for the main. By filling your plate at one time, you are more aware of the amount of food eaten and mindless snacking isn’t an issue.
2. Eat Your Veggies
It’s easy to get your fill of starches and proteins with typical barbecue fare. But, don’t forget to eat your greens! Serve yourself vegetables first (ideally ½ your plate), then fill the rest of your plate with other foods (1/4 plate lean proteins + ¼ plate starches). Not sure if vegetables will be served at the party? Contact the host and offer to bring a salad or veggie tray. They will either thank you for your generosity, or, tell you that they already plan to offer these options.
3. Limit Condiments
Some of the biggest culprits for hidden salt, fat, and sugar can be found in the condiment aisle. Sauces and dressings like ketchup, BBQ sauce, store-bought marinades, mayonnaise, and sour cream can pack a calorie punch. Advice: a little goes a long way! Try reducing the amount of condiments you use. Alternatively, flavor foods in different ways using spice rubs, herbs, lemon or vinegar.
4. Rethink Your Drink
Cold beers go down pretty easily on a hot day. But calories from these, and other alcoholic beverages, can add up quickly. Pace yourself by staying hydrated with water in between. You can also make lower-calorie choices like wine spritzers, light beer, and tall mixed drinks (ideally with a non-caloric mixer or club soda).
5. Move More
When you’re finished eating, move around! Play a game of horseshoes, toss a ball or go for a walk. Removing yourself from the table limits opportunities for mindless snacking. Bonus: you’ll fit in some activity and quality time with friends and family.
Writer: Kerry Miller
The Struggle is Real: My Journey With Celiac Disease and How I Made My Gluten-free Home Tasty and Nutritious
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 24 years ago, I took it like a champ. When I was blind-sided by a celiac diagnosis this past September, let's just say I did not embrace it quite so readily. I knew that type 1 diabetes and celiac are a common autoimmune pairing. We are all learning that celiac disease may present relatively asymptomatically. A persistent burning sensation on my tongue led me to ask and investigate; sure enough Celiac disease. Not having any stomach complaints, abnormal bowel movements, any major deficiencies, or weight loss, everyone was shocked.
Coming to terms with my new reality has not been easy. I wouldn’t even say that I have fully accepted it if I’m being honest. There is still an anger and sadness I get especially in social settings and travel. With 2 young kids at home, (kids love gluten) there’s other considerations, such as a costlier grocery bill, finding replacements for their gluten filled favourites, whether or not to keep my house totally gluten free (GF), and ensuring the nutritional needs of my household are met.
The irony of living with type 1 diabetes and being a dietitian is that I am all too aware of the shortcomings of a GF diet. This goes beyond missing out on that flakey croissant; I’m talking about the nutrient density of my food. While GF diets have been trendy for weight loss, and diet fads like paleo, they are NOT necessarily healthier. Unfortunately for those with celiac disease, non-celiac related gluten sensitivity, and even IBS, a GF diet is often not a choice.
And so, I am now among this GF community. And as I continue on my path of acceptance, and being a professional helping others eat for success, I have no choice but to make the best of this. With that, I am now setting goals to make my home a GF haven and taking the opportunity to experiment with new and exciting products, and recipes that don’t sacrifice taste OR nutrition.
The reality is, GF products tend to be:
But don’t fret, there are so many wholesome grains and sources of carbohydrate still available to those following a GF diet. If you stick to whole foods and make an informed choice versus relying on the more processed, convenience foods such as breads, pastas, crackers, snack bars and cereals you won’t be missing a thing!
So how do you make the best of a GF diet and can you make it as nutritious as one with gluten? The answer is most certainly YES. In honour of celiac awareness month, I wanted to share my key tips to making a GF diet tasty and nutritionally complete.
1. Adding fibres. Just because your store bought packaged items are lower in fibre, doesn’t mean your diet has to be. On average we should be getting between 22-35 g of dietary fibre daily. Fibre is great for heart health, keeping blood sugars stable, keeping you regular, adding satiety to your meal, and proven to lower your risk of colon cancer. A few ways I have incorporated healthy fibres into my GF diet include adding psyllium powder, and GF chia and ground flax seeds to smoothies, salads, yogurt and baked goods. If you’re experimenting with your own homemade breads and bakery items these can be easy add ins. Quick tip: you may need to add more liquid to compensate for the absorptive nature of these fibres.
2. Read labels. GF or not, I have always encouraged this for my clients whether it’s for weight loss, health, diabetes, or other chronic conditions. Yes, occasionally you’ll opt for the closest replica to your favourite glutinous item. But for items eaten on the regular seek out those with more fibre and protein per serving, and look for the key word ‘whole grain’. This means more of the nutrition is intact. Comparing labels can help you make an informed choice. For bread, local GF producers often have healthier items with fewer preservatives. For more commercial brands, Udi’s millet-chia loaf, and their omega flax and fibre loaf fit the bill for me. In the toaster the taste is good and offer 3g fibre and protein per slice! The price is more reasonable as well. Northern Bakehouse whole grain loaves are also texturally pleasing and offer about 3 g fibre per slice. Better yet, try making your own!
3. Pick whole foods. Another practice I preach to my GF and non-GF clients alike is to stick to the outer aisles. This is where your whole foods are found and everyone should be practicing this! It’s a cheaper way to shop too. Fruits, veggies, and starchy veg like squash, sweet potatoes, edamame, turnips and fresh corn provide complex carbohydrates to fuel your day. They provide soluble and insoluble fibres and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. The more variety and colour the better. Your minimally processed whole grains like GF certified quinoa, millet, oats, beans and brown rice are also safe and nutritious choices for your family’s plate. Fresh proteins, tofu, eggs, and dairy items are also found here (which are almost always GF), provide loads of nutrition and are minimally processed. I loved the creative use of leftover sweet potatoes in this recipe. A wholesome pancake, great for breakie, pre- workout or as a portable kid friendly snack; they were a hit in my house!
4. Healthier flours. Sure there will be times that using a GF flour mix is the best and quickest option. But, I have had success with GF oat flour, almond, chickpea, and coconut flours as a base for delicious baked items and feel good about the lower glycemic effects and less refined quality of these options. Making your own baked goods for snacks, and kids’ lunch boxes is a great idea. Batch cook and freeze to save time. Again, I encourage this for both GF and non GF-clients because you can often pack-in more healthful ingredients like fruits, yogurts and applesauce to control the fat and sugar content too. Adding psyllium and GF ground seeds to the mix can further boost the fibre, protein and omega content of your recipe. I’m not known to be a baker, but I make these ones on the regular, minimal ingredients, done in the blender, and the kids love them!
Writer: Debora Sloan (RD)
Debora Sloan Healthy Solutions
This month's recipes are made by the winners of our Nutrition Month recipe competition! Congratulations!
Spinach and bacon omelette by Emelia Dermott
1 tbs. olive oil
4 strips of bacon chopped
8 cherry tomatoes
2 handfuls of spinach
Pinch of salt and pepper
1. Chop bacon, spinach, and cherry tomatoes
2. Add chopped bacon to a heated pan and cook until golden on the edges, drain the excess fat and set cooked bacon aside
3. Add olive oil to pan
4. Whisk together tomatoes, spinach, cooked bacon, and eggs adding to heated pan over medium low heat
5. Cover the pan and let cook for about 6 mins or until desired cook
6. Add salt to taste
Breakfast Enchiladas by Laurel Dix (RDN, LD)
8 large eggs
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb 99% lean turkey
2 cups spinach
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 cups black beans
1/2 cup enchilada sauce
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded Mexican cheese
Toppings: cilantro, avocado, salsa
1. Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together eggs and milk until froth. Season with pepper.
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of egg mixture and swirl pan. Cover with lid and cook for 3-5 minutes until the middle of the eggs are set. Remove from heat and repeat, making about 6 egg "tortillas."
3. Make filling: Add oil to a skillet over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until onions appear translucent. Add turkey and cook until fully cooked. Add spinach, beans, tomatoes and stir until spinach has wilted.
4. Spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a baking pan.
5. On a cutting board, lay one egg tortilla. Top the centre with turkey & veggie filling. Roll tightly and place in the baking pan.
6. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
7. Drizzle remaining enchilada sauce on top of tortillas and sprinkle with cheese.
8. Bake until cheese has melted, about 15 minutes.
We hope you enjoyed this month's delicious recipes. Thank you again Emelia and Laurel for submitting these! If you decide to make these recipes, please tag Emelia, Laurel and ESN - we would love to see them!
I recently was given a Fitbit with a heart rate feature so decided to give it a go. I’ve been wearing it for a solid month now, both in the gym and out, and love the instant feedback gained with a quick toggle through the watch options. The features that have me hooked are the steps counter, the heart rate monitor, and the energy expenditure readings. Sure, accuracy is always debatable but the info it provides has merit and is great for goal setting.
We all know being active has many benefits, and when I saw this title pop up in a medical journal the other day, “Prolonged sitting leads to brain atrophy”, I was further compelled to share my experience wearing the tracker and how it influenced my daily activity.
Wearing the device, I noticed how my heart rate fluctuated quite a bit by simple activity changes in my day. For example, walking my kids to school, running upstairs to grab my socks, leaving my desk to grab my lunch from the fridge, or taking a bathroom break. Obviously; we all know that exercise increases heart rate and therefore helps burn more calories. But, in this context I was less interested in my planned training sessions at the gym and more in the simple daily activities that increased my heart rate above baseline. Let’s face it most of us spend 23 out of 24 hours a day sitting at a desk...
So, what can we do about that? While I’m certainly not suggesting we forego the gym, is it also possible to consciously build-in simple things that break up our sedentary day? If we can do this, can we also improve our overall mental and physical health, AND have an easier time maintaining our weight?
After wearing the watch and also applying what we know from the literature, here are my quick tips to getting fitter at work - tried, tested and true:
Stand instead of sit:
A simple change to your work environment can help with healthy lifestyle changes. Ergo desks are becoming a thing and for good reason. Standing instead of sitting has benefits for the low back, neck posture, and preventing hip tightness that inevitably leads to poor mobility and chronic back stiffness. Standing requires more muscle activation and thus increases heart rate compared to sitting, therefore a few extra calories burned. Since I see clients much of the day, I wasn’t sure how to implement this but wanted to give it a try. So, I tried out a small, portable option for my laptop that has adjustable heights, so I can easily switch between standing for when I’m writing nutrition plans and sitting for my client counselling. Here’s an example of what I’m using: It was easy to assemble and a no fuss solution to making my otherwise sedentary day a little more active.
Take the stairs:
Simple tasks like taking the stairs or parking farther from your destination are simple ways to get the heart rate up throughout the day. I know we’re busy, but by the time you wait for the elevator, or circle the parking lot ten times for a closer spot, it’s likely going to take you longer! Using my Fitbit, I loved seeing how I could elevate my heart rate and increase my daily activity by incorporating these small things into my day. Small adjustments like this help you get closer to achieving the health standard goal of 10 000 steps a day.
Walk instead of drive (if you can!):
While this doesn’t always pan out for various reasons, I was shocked to see how FEW steps I did on some days. Yikes! For someone who claims to be active, I was frankly embarrassed by my stats. Sure, I tend to make it to the gym 4 days a week, but that’s only 1 hour of my day. Studies show that more physical activity leads to better weight management, improved mood, higher insulin sensitivity and much more. While walking doesn’t spike the heart rate, it certainly contributes to total daily activity and increases heart rate above baseline which ultimately contributes to higher daily energy expenditures. With this new info glaring at me from my wrist, I make efforts to set goals around increasing my steps when possible.
Do some squats, or push-ups, or burpees, or jumping jacks, or toe touches, or basically anything that you can do right where you are that elevates heart rate and moves your muscles:
Not only will this help burn some calories, but it also increases adrenaline and blood flow, aiding in digestion, alleviating joint stiffness and also boosts energy and mood. Apparently, it can also improve memory and brain function. Test this out when you’re falling asleep at your desk at 3:30 pm and see how you perk up. It’s better than coffee! Your co-workers may think you’re nuts but point out some of these benefits and they may be joining you. A quick set of push-ups for example may take as few as 30 secs to 2 mins and can instantly double your heart rate. If you set a goal to do 10 or 20 squats or push-ups every hour or two, think about the cumulative effect on your cardiovascular health and daily energy expenditure.
My message today is don’t have an all or nothing attitude when it comes to improving your health. Every little bit counts. Setting some small goals to facilitate being active is a good step. This may mean making some small changes to your work or home environment or re-evaluating daily habits to facilitate more movement. For me, the wearable tracker uncovered that I wasn’t as active as I thought. Using the data, I have now made some small changes to my workspace and am making more efforts to walk. Elevating heart rate whenever possible has both physical and mental health benefits and always remember that when it comes to healthy lifestyle change, the cumulative effects of small things can sometimes make the biggest difference in the long term.
Writer: Debora Sloan (RD)
Debora Sloan Healthy Solutions
Ok so this is going to be a controversial post so I’m going to be upfront and say this right away; I am not advocating for the use of marijuana as it is still considered an illegal drug in Canada. This blog post is to reflect the current uses of Marijuana in sport and to explore its positives and negatives in regards to athletic performance. I mean I might as well, if all things go according to plan in Canada, we’ll be able to smoke a spliff on Canada day, LEGALLY!
Ok now that I’ve done my due diligence and my lawyer is happy, let’s do this! Marijuana and Sports!
I’m going to officially start by saying that there isn’t much research, at least not great research, within this blog post. The reason? Because the Food and Drug Administration and drug laws have made it so incredibly difficult for people to research Marijuana effectively. But we’ll talk here about what has been researched and what people are currently using Marijuana for, in the world of sports of course.
Marijuana is a plant with the active ingredients of Tetrahydrocannibol (THC) and Cannibol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound that gives you the high that’s associated with the drug. CBD is the medicinal compound that many boast anti-inflammatory, pain relief, anti-anxiety, anti-psychosis, anti-seizures, anti-spasm, blood sugar control, appetite stimulation and it’s been claimed to even have anti-cancer properties – but there is little quality research to support these claims. CBD is the compound that makes you one with your couch and THC is the compound that gets you high. Furthermore, there are different strains of marijuana that have different amounts of THC and CBD; Sativa and Indica. Sativa plant strains are typically taller plants and have more THC in them vs CBD. Indica strains are typically shorter and darker in leaf/ bud colour and have more CBD than THC. There are also hybrid strains that are mixes of Indica and Sativas in a selective breeding process (think brocoliflower as an example of cross breeding). ANOTHER thing to point out too is the CBD and THC content is also heavily reliant on how the plant was harvested and cured. If the plant was harvested and cured earlier; there is a higher THC content but if the plant was allowed to mature longer in the flowering stage then there is typically more CBD. Since CBD is reported to have more of the medicinal compounds, we’re primarily talking about Sativas in this post (there are also a TON of different types of Sativas and Indicas! Not to mention hybrid strains)
How is this relevant to sport at all? Well for a long time Marijuana has been put on the banned substances list for athletes because of the misunderstanding due to the difficulty in researching the plant. Hell, I remember the Winter Olympic controversy behind the first ever snowboarding gold medal when they found weed in his system, because let’s be honest here; for anyone that’s ever smoked a joint KNOWS that it’s not a performance enhancing drug (unless it was an eating competition). Not to mention that there are a ton of pro athletes that do smoke weed. So why are athletes smoking up and potentially risking their multi-million-dollar careers?
Well aside from the fact that it has significantly less health issues when compared to the VERY legal and often celebrated alcohol, there are many different ways athletes are using weed in their training. Some of these reasons include to recover better from their workouts by supressing inflammation, help them stimulate appetite to meet caloric goals, helping them relax and sleep better before competitions/ races and some have even been using it to reduce anxiety before competition/ races. Many also report weed has pain management properties without as many side effects as prescription drugs. Some studies have even shown cannabis can increased oxygenation of tissues, improve vision and concentration, reduce muscle spasms and helping them forget about past traumatic experiences – however these are not specifically in the athletic population. One runner, writer and weed advocate, Tyler Hurst from Portland (of course it’s Portland) claims that it helps him during long runs similar to the runners high and has helped him recover better and it allows his muscles to relax better for his foam rolling and stretching. So, let’s take a look at them and what needs to be considered (again, I am not promoting Marijuana use!)
Firstly, smoking Marijuana has been shown to impair athletic performance. That only makes sense, you’re still inhaling toxic carcinogenic chemical compounds from combustion into your lungs. That can and will decrease your VO2 max and your lungs abilities to move CO2 out of the lungs and move Oxygen into your blood for the needed metabolic reactions. BUT is there research on what happens when you vaporize weed? Vaporizing weed is different because instead of a chemical combustion that gives off a lot of toxic waste products you’re roasting the weed at a much lower temperature to get the CBD/ THC properties without the chemical combustion. The issue is there isn’t any reliable research on traditional smoking vs vaping in athletes can comparison to vaping tobacco products isn’t fair because Bronchiolitis Obliterans (BO) AKA Popcorn lung is caused by the chemical diacteyl which isn’t found in vaporizing the marijuana plant (I have no idea about any of the vape pens that use Weed or Hash oil though). So bottom line, we don’t know the difference between Vaporizing pure weed or Vape Pen oils but we do know that smoking a joint or a bong will decrease your lung capacity and aerobic fitness – also, I have no idea if the bong water actually filters out anything as it’s commonly believed to do so, again there’s not a lot of research on this yet.
So that leaves us with eating the CBD for it’s reported effects. There are SO MANY ways to do this now! CBD and THC are both fat soluble compounds so there’s the old school budder where there is a complicated process to cook the marijuana plant in butter to make budder and then you can either bake it into baked goods like cookies or brownies or spread it on other foods like toast. There’s also marijuana oils, tinctures, pills, chocolates, candies, gummies and lollies (I’m just going to stop with the examples here because the list keeps going). So, the assumption here is that if you eat your weed then your aerobic capacity is preserved, which makes sense but no surprise here – there’s not enough research. BUT the one thing to point out is that eating your marijuana products will have the effects go longer than smoking, approximately 6-10 hours vs 2 hours for smoking/ vaporizing.
Some other effects seen in marijuana studies that can affect physical performance include an elevated heart rate and decreased short-term memory, alertness, lowered reaction time, faster muscle fatigue and it may even lead to cardiovascular disease. There’s also an association with decreased IQ and some people report an increase anxiety and paranoia. So this doesn’t seem like something that would help with sports that are a bit more coordinated and require a bit more thought and coordination like Baseball, Basketball (GO RAPTORS!) and Hockey (GO LEAFS! – see what I did there?).
So what’s the verdict? Could pot assist with some of the recovery aspects of sports? Maybe, but it could definitely impair performance more than it can enhance it; so definitely avoid toking up before sports. Like I said a few times in this post already, I am not advocating for it’s use as it’s still considered illegal in Canada and it’s 100% considered a banned substance by the World Anti Doping Agency, so it could cost you your career as a professional athlete. The truth of the matter is that we don’t have enough research to definitively say what method of taking it would be best for whatever intended benefits. Hopefully with the legalization of Marijuana for recreational use we can see a relaxation of it’s research capabilities not only the sport world but the textile, renewable energy, medicinal world and much more. But for now, the debate continues.
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management
One of the main questions I get more than any other is how to reduce or eliminate bloating. One of the most common symptoms that brings people I see together is this almost silly symptom of bloating. It sounds like just a pest that plagues you, usually brushed off as not a real problem. Many women rate their bloating and distention as if they were pregnant! The actual complexities of what bloating is, where it’s coming from, and the problems it can be caused by and that it relates to are far and wide.
Bloating is the discomfort and pressure or physical appearance of distention in the abdomen. First, let me say that I have some good and bad news about bloating.
The good news about bloating is that often times, we confuse it with fat — when that’s not really the case! Some people call it “false fat” for this very reason. Bloating comes in the form of gas and water weight, adding inches and puffiness to our body, especially around the waist.
This means, when you reduce bloating, you look significantly thinner and healthier — even if you haven’t burned off any additional fat! Pretty great, right? That’s yet another reason to drop our unhealthy obsession with micromanaging weight by obsessively weighing yourself! Which is amazing.
Ready for the bad news?
It’s simple: bloating is really a health issue, and as such, there is no quick fix. The key is identifying why you bloat. There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing it and no two people are the same. But once you have identified the cause there are things you can do to help.
Causes of Bloating
1. Food Allergies or Sensitivities
You may have food sensitivities or allergies. The most common allergies or sensitivities that can cause bloating are gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, shellfish, and fruits. True food allergies result in hives, anaphylaxis and swelling, rarely cause bloating. Sensitivities are harder to diagnose and are often the primary cause of GI distress. An elimination diet and food journal to track how you digest and feel after certain foods is usually the way sensitivities are found. Whereas food allergies are something to avoid throughout life, food sensitivities may be resolved by a time of food elimination and some digestive healing.
2. Eating Under Stress
Eating under stress causes some degree of digestive shutdown. When we eat under stress it reduces stomach acid and enzymes for breakdown of food making our whole digestive tract work harder to convert foods into usable nutrients.
Our body has a rest and digest mode, OR a fight or flight mode. When we eat, the optimal state to be in is in rest. When we eat under stress, in the fight or flight mode, our body thinks it’s under attack and starts to respond to food as if it were a foreign invader. The blood rushes out of our bellies into our limbs, making digestion more difficult. Eating under stress, therefore, plays a role in the development of food sensitivities.
No matter how rushed we are, slowing down and becoming present during a meal has many beneficial properties for overall health and less bloating. From a digestive perspective, it’s better to eat less in a more mindful state than to eat more while disconnected from your body.
3. Too Much Food
When we overeat, it can cause a stress response in the digestive system, which can lead to bloating. Our digestive system is like a wood-burning furnace. We want fuel, but if there’s too much wood and not enough oxygen, fire won’t happen. If all our resources are attempting to manage a large amount of food, the body registers this as a stressor, not fuel. Digestion slows or stalls and we feel tired, rather than energized.
Excess food slows the transit time in your digestive tract. When this happens, we don’t use our food efficiently. Food sits in the digestive tract longer and can ferment, and as a result, bloating occurs.
4. Antibiotic Use
Antibiotics destroy not only bad bacteria, but healthy gut bacteria as well, and commonly cause bloating for many users. The good bacteria living in a healthy colon help us from a nutrient standpoint, and they fight off local infections in the gut. When we take antibiotics, we kill good gut bacteria, which contributes to bloating, decreased mood, depressed immune function, and constipation.
If you need to take antibiotics for a specific infection, make sure you combat the dying of good bacteria with a probiotic. These need to be taken at least 2 hours apart so the antibiotics don’t kill the probiotics. Eating fermented foods will help cultivate good gut bacteria.
5. Unprocessed Emotions
There is such a thing as psychological inflammation. When our social, family, or work environment is toxic unsupportive or non-optimal, we can get bloating or inflammation, manifestation in physical form. If you’ve tried all the other suggestions and are still experiencing bloating, talking to someone about it can help!
Writer: Alysha Coughler, RD, MHSc, Sports Dietitian
Sports Dietitian with Evolved Sport and Nutrition
It’s a term that is familiar to athletes from many sports, and especially in the world of running. Yet the term “carbo-loading” is probably one of the most misunderstood nutrition strategies for marathon runners and other endurance athletes.
With the Boston Marathon coming up in a little over a week, athletes may be beginning to ramp up their intake of carbohydrates to ensure they start the race with a full tank. And rightfully so. Your body can only store enough fuel or glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate) to sustain around 90 minutes of exercise. Beyond this, without taking in any fuel (gels, blocks, sports drinks), energy levels begin to drop and fatigue sets in. Boosting muscle and liver glycogen stores therefore can help to reduce fatigue and boost performance.
Early carbo-loading strategies includes a 3-4 day depletion phase where athletes undergo hard training and keep their carbohydrate intake low, followed by another 3-4 days of easy training and carbohydrate loading. With this strategy, it was found that muscle glycogen bounced back much more than just eating carbohydrate every day, it was “supercompensated”.
Fortunately, a few years later, it was discovered that a more moderate approach to carbo-loading could be adopted. The glycogen depletion phase is no longer necessary and provides no additional benefit to carbohydrate loading. Thank goodness, right? Light activity in the 2-3 days before your race (hello taper!!) along with a higher carbohydrate intake will have the same beneficial effect on performance.
This all sounds great, right? So why the ‘but should you?’ in the title? Well this is where it gets interesting!!
Studies have shown the the rate at which we break down glycogen to use as fuel during exercise is proportional to the amount of glycogen present in the muscle. Simply put, if you have extremely high glycogen stores you will break them down faster than when you have normal or high glycogen stores. So an hour or two into exercise, glycogen stores will be comparable whether you started with extremely high or just high glycogen stores.
So rather than aiming for extremely high glycogen stores before the start of the race, it’s enough to just ensure that they are sufficient.
As mentioned above, this can be accomplished in the 2-3 days before your race by eating carbohydrate rich foods while reducing training. But with decreased training comes decreased energy expenditure. So your higher carbohydrate intake should not be the result of eating more. Instead, it should be achieved by emphasizing carbohydrate sources and reducing fat intake.
With a lower energy expenditure, aiming for a carbohydrate intake of 5-7g/kg per day is enough, in most cases, to ensure that glycogen stores are sufficient. The type of carbohydrate consumed has little effect and both solid and liquid carbohydrates have the same effects. If you are an athlete that experiences GI issues, you should choose your carbohydrate sources a little more carefully and may benefit from a lower fibre intake.
Speaking to a registered sports dietitian is a great way to to find the perfect carbo-loading plan for you!
Writer: Stephanie MacNeill (RD)