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
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
The word macronutrients or macros for short is a fancy term for nutrients that we as humans need to consume to survive. There are 3 essential macronutrients; carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Each individual food contains different proportions of all three macronutrients. Counting macros has gained popularity recently, replacing traditional calorie counting. Let’s breakdown what each of these essential macronutrients are and where to find them.
Carbohydrates A.K.A. “carbs”
Carbs are your bodies main energy source. They provide 4 calories per gram. We need carbohydrates for brain function, muscle recovery and growth, digestion, basically all of the functions to keep us alive. Carbohydrates are found in many plant based foods and processed foods. When you think of carbs, these are foods that are traditionally thought of as sugary or starchy, be it natural or processed.
Examples of carbohydrates are: fruit, vegetables (especially potatoes, corn, squash), legumes, grains-based food (rice, pasta, breads, quinoa), dairy (milk, yogurt), and processed items like crackers, granola bars, juices, and candy.
Understanding the role of carbohydrates in your diet is essential when it comes to performance and body composition.
Fat is another main energy source. It is the most concentrated energy source, providing 9 calories per gram. Fats are needed in many important bodily functions such as energy use and storage, satiety, insulation, and fat-soluble vitamin absorption (Vitamins A, D, E, and K).
Fat sources include oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, butter and margarines, and marbling in meats (found in red meats).
The type of fat and timing of intake can influence your hunger levels, workouts, and overall health.
Protein has many important roles in the body. It provides 4 calories per gram. Protein breaks down into amino acids in the body and are used for many functions such as maintaining lean muscle mass, skeletal mass, the structural component of all cells in the body, and energy use.
Food sources of protein include red meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, soy (tofu, tempeh), legumes, and protein powders.
Protein plays a very important role with the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass, and can be maximized with guidance around timing and frequency of intake.
Why this approach might work for you
For some, taking the focus away from “calories” and instead focusing on getting the right amounts of macronutrients can take away that feeling of restricting. It can encourage a more balanced diet by including a variety of foods that provide all three essential macronutrients. It discourages individuals from thinking a 1500 calorie diet is sustainable on only salads, egg whites and avocados. You may be feeling sluggish (I mean, where are the carbs?!) which impacts the quality of your workouts. For some it takes away the negative thought process of “I can only have” and instead allows for more positive thoughts like “wow I can eat THAT much protein?!” For those that like to plan ahead and meal prep, macro counting makes sense. Many athletes who macro count feel a sense of control over what they are having and feel more knowledgeable and in charge of their nutrition.
Why this approach might not work for you
As with calorie-restricted diets, it is another form of counting. Trying to stick to your allotted macronutrients can seem like a daunting task, think of Tetris on expert level. It can be very time consuming. Some of the food diary apps are not monitored for accuracy, so certain foods are incorrectly entered. What you think you are consuming might not be true. For example, if you type in “chocolate chip cookie”, you might get a dozen chocolate chip cookie options, all of varying carb, fat, and protein amounts. How do you know which one is most accurate? Measuring and weighing your food is needed to know exactly what you are consuming. This can be quite overwhelming for those who don’t have a lot of time for meal prep, those who don’t make their meals, or those who have little nutrition knowledge. Like calorie restricted diets, macro counting can allow for poor quality food choices, given they fit into one’s macros. It’s easier to count macros off of a nutrition label than it is weighing and measuring your fresh vegetables and lean proteins.
To learn more about macro counting and if it would benefit you in your particular sport, speak with Sports Dietitians.
Writer: Emilie Trottier (Specialties: Crossfit Nutrition Specialist, Weight Lifting, Mental Health, Chronic Disease Management, Weight Loss, Body Composition Change)
“Health at Every Size” is a term you probably have seen all over social media and news. People either embrace it or demonize it. Some claim that it helps with self acceptance, positive body image, while others argue it enables obese people to remain obese, and those suffering with eating disorders to justify their behaviour. But what does it really mean? What is the purpose of the “Health at Every Size” movement.
The term “Health at Every Size” was coined by Linda Bacon, PhD in her very popular book The Surprising Truth about your weight: Health at Every Size released in 2008. According to Linda, the problem with weight is not fat itself, but with dieting. “A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates thin with healthy is the problem.” Additionally, Linda states, HAES is not a weight loss book, diet book or exercise program. The book is designed to encourage healthy living and support a shift from a client hating their themselves and fighting their body to learning to appreciate their body and their life.
There are five main principles to HAES®:
As one can see, the overall principles of HAES®: are positive and meant to support a healthy, well balanced lifestyle.
Unfortunately, this term has been skewed by media and persons around the world to support unhealthy lifestyles and lifestyle behaviours including eating disorders, clinical obesity, sedentary behaviours and excessive food consumption.
You are probably wondering, can someone be overweight/obese and be healthy. The answer to this is not a simple yes or no. It would depend on the definitions of the terms. Is someone judged overweight/obese based on the BMI alone (an outdated measure of body health); or is it based on weight circumference, body fat percentage? Is healthy based on the numbers found on a laboratory report or how active the person is? Or is it based on how balanced their life is with respect to food, exercise, sleep, social activity, etc.?
As you can see, there is no simple answer and there is no single answer that is perfect for everyone. It is individual and specific to each person. What I can tell you, HAES®: is not a means to justify restricting, binging or purging food. Nor is it a justification for living as a couch potato. Engaging in any of these activities is not healthy for the body, mind or soul.
So, what can you take away from this. Health comes in many shapes and sizes. The judgement of healthy comes down to more than a number on a scale, miles run, calories burned. Being healthy is about finding balance, acceptance and self-love. It is about being kind to our bodies, respecting our bodies and engaging in thoughts and behaviours that enable a positive lifestyle.
Written by: Catherine Rose-Loveless, RD (Registered Dietitian, HAES Practitioner, Yoga Instructor and Wellbeing Coach)
For more information on HAES® visit:
Are you an active individual eating a healthy diet and puzzled as to why you can’t take off the last 10-20 pounds? Specializing in sport nutrition and weight loss I see a couple common mishaps.
Could a few key “health” foods be kiboshing your weight loss efforts? These 3 come to mind.
2. Nuts and nut butters
The common denominator in this list is they are all deemed health foods with a number of nutritional benefits. While this is TRUE, there are some key considerations.
Sure Granola can be super nutritious. But don’t be deceived, I’ve had more than one client shed pounds JUST by being mindful of their granola snacking habits!
The Good: Points go to the nutritious and fibre rich ingredients, including nuts and seeds, oats, quinoa, coconut, and dried fruits.
The Bad: Granola and granola bars, even homemade varieties, use a high volume of sugary ingredients like dates, and honey, providing that desirable crunchy and cohesive cluster. Technically ‘natural’ sweeteners, these are also very concentrated forms of carbohydrate. Furthermore, nuts and seeds, as well as nut butters pack a calorie punch.
The Bottom Line: Snacking willy nilly on granola is too easy. And, since it’s deemed healthy, you don’t think twice about it. But with a 1/4 cup of granola being very high in carbohydrate, relatively low protein, and easily hitting upwards of 250 calories, your seemingly harmless, healthy snack habit may be a sugar spiking extravaganza that’s looking more like a meal.
Solution: Search recipes for smaller quantities of sweeteners (dates, maple syrup, honey) and nut butters or modify yourself so it fits your needs. Compare recipes that provide nutritional info and serving sizes to give you a sense of what’s coming in. Strategically, using a measuring cup and closing the jar up out of sight can help ensure you don't overdo it.
2. Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters
A convenient addition to snacks, salads, breakfasts and more, nuts, seeds and nut butters are healthful and something I recommend to clients to boost their intake of healthy fats. With an upsurge in paleo, keto, and other low carb diets, nuts and nut butters fill the void. But could it be that your peanut butter habit is sticking to your waist-line?
The Good: I’m all for adding fats. Whole nuts, seeds and natural nut butters are a great source of heart healthy fat, high in omega 3s, fibre, and nutrients. They offer some protein and due to their fat content offer some satiety, which is a plus.
The Bad: Per gram, fats are more than twice the calories as carbs and proteins. Nuts, seeds and nut butters, being a significant source of fat are thus calorie dense. How many of you measure your nuts or pay attention to how much nut butter you spoon out? Since psychologically 12-15 almonds or a mere tbsp of PB seems pretty meagre, it’s easy to overdo it.
The Bottom Line: Including these healthy fats is a definite DO for our diet but portion control is key. For all the low carbers out there, your fat needs are indeed higher, just know that these tasty little bites are not a free for all.
Solution: Measure Measure Measure. If you’re a sucker for nuts and nut butters pre pack them in controlled quantities or find them already pre packed in individual sachets (black diamond brand sells these and found at most Costco stores). Avoid mindless snacking on nuts in front of the T.V., or having a nut jar on your desk which could facilitate overdoing it.
So you heard it here, salads and raw veggies could be making you fat! No, it’s not the plate of romaine or a few baby carrots that's the problem, but how about the dips and toppings on your greenery? Peruse the nutritional facts on some popular chain restaurant menus and have a look at how your salads could be adding up.
The Good: Veggies are very high in water, fibre, vitamins and minerals and the ruffage takes time to chew and digest helping with satiety. The veggies themselves are nutritionally dense NOT calorically dense. Filling your plate with loads of veg is great for preventing hunger, and keeping us super healthy.
The Bad: Most don't eat a plain plate of leaves or raw veg unadorned. Tune in to the fancy toppings, adding loads of calories, including bacon bits, shredded cheese, chèvre, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, crispy tortilla bits, and the list goes on. Then add on the dips and dressings poured generously on top. You get the picture. One tablespoon of dressing or dip alone runs you 120 calories or more. I’ve seen restaurant salads racking up to over 600 calories per plate.
The Bottom Line: Salads and raw veg are a great choice. Most of us need to be eating more! They don’t have to be bland to be healthy, but added dressings and crunchy bits can add up. When it comes to raw veg, how many times does your carrot hit the dip?
The Solution: Compare labels, or make your own dressings and dips that are more healthful; for example replacing oil with greek yogurt and herbs or higher ratios of lemon juice, and vinegar. Measuring out your dressing and asking for it on the side when dining out gives you the most control and can be a significant calorie saver.
The message here is that there CAN be too much of a good thing. Sometimes it’s not what you’re eating but how much! Practicing mindful eating and proper portioning with all foods ensures you don’t overdo it. Learning more about food and the nutritional value of your snacks and staples can help you make more educated decisions. Check in with a nutrition expert, compare labels and menu nutrition data, or try out a food app tracker periodically to clue you in.
Writer: Debora Sloan (RD, certified personal trainer and Crossfit coach)