Jun 1 2016

Exercise as good as medicine?


Soon a cancer diagnosis may come with an exercise prescription. Intense, physical exercise improves the quality of life for men with advanced prostate cancer. Dr. Fred Saad, researcher at the University of Montreal, has shown that exercise has a DIRECT effect on cancer. That exercise is as effective as drugs, even in advanced stages of the disease. Dr. Saad says that even active patients often become sedentary once diagnosed and this affects cancer progression.  

Dr. Saad is now studying exercise, in addition to regular treatment, along with Professor Robert Newton, Co-Director at Edith Cowan University at Exercise Medicine Research Institute, who has designed a specific strength and cardiovascular training program for patients in the new trial. These patients will participate in one hour of cardio and resistance training three times per week and be supervised for 12 months to prove that exercise extends the life of patients with metastic prostate cancer.

Another study being done this year by Cancer Research UK is testing exercise as a treatment for prostate cancer.   Using exercise, as opposed to surgery or radiation, to prevent cancer from spreading  to other areas of the body. The researchers believe that exercise affects the genes that regulate cancer cell growth and DNA repair. The men participating in the UK study will have active surveillance of their cancer rather than surgery or radiation, in addition to exercise sessions.

Research earlier this year from Harvard Medical School states that 20-40% of cancer diagnosis and 50% of all deaths from cancer could be prevented by adopting 4 healthy lifestyle factors. The four factors are not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular moderate to vigorous activity and avoiding alcohol.

Change your mind, change your health,


May 30 2016

Diets do work


You may be under the impression that diets don’t work, but they do work. Just about all of them.

If you want to lose weight, and don’t care about the effect on your health or anything else, then any diet will do. Pick one there are so many to choose from.

The Cookie Diet… really. Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Breatharian Diet – that’s right, all you do is breath. The KE diet, where you can only ingest food through a feeding tube. Dukan, Beverly Hills Diet, Israeli Army Diet, Junk Food Diet – you know the one where you only eat sandwiches from Subway – Juice Fasting, Master Cleanse, Blood Type Diet, Paleo, Warrior, Zone… I could go on.

If you want to lose weight, and don’t care about the effects on your health or fitness, it doesn’t matter how you do it. Proven, once again, with a new study by the Obesity Society. They found that people eating prepackaged portion-controlled meals lost more weight than people making their own choices.

We aren’t very good at making choices, too often we choose more rather then less.

The real problem with diets is that they are temporary, not that they don’t work. They weren’t made to last. The diet industry knows this. World wide, the weight loss business is worth US $586 billion dollar.

But, there is also some good news. Less people are on a diet. In the last 20 years, less women report being on a diet and Weight Watchers (the market leader in weight loss) has had declining sales for the last two years. Sales of low calorie foods have dropped. According to Weight Watchers CEO Jim Chambers, consumers want a “holistic approach” they want to eat healthier and exercise more. 

Yes, people do want to eat healthier and you don’t need a diet to do that.

Change your mind, change your health,


May 25 2016




May 2004

I was away for the long weekend. A long standing tradition, for the last 20+ years, the May long weekend has been the start of summer training. For some in Canada the May 2-4 is the start of the summer drinking season (24 cans in a flat/case of beer) to each their own I guess. But, back to the way I like to enjoy the May long weekend, by cycling, running, sometimes swimming (weather dependent) all with some like minded friends. This weekend was no exception. It got me thinking about weekend warriors.


May 2016

We were in the South Okanagan in BC, wine country, and there were many weekend warriors to be found. On Saturday morning, at the end of our run, we stopped for coffee. The coffee shop had all sorts of things for sale, including napkins with clever sayings and one, in particular, stuck with me.


Doesn’t that explain everything.

The number one excuse for not exercising is “no time“. This does not need an explanation.

One of the most common reasons that people who are trying to lose weight don’t succeed,  is because of the “weekend effect”.

The weekend effect is a little more complicated. Not only do people tend to eat more on the weekends, they also tend to eat more junk food. Processed foods have more calories and are easier to absorb, requiring less effort to digest than whole foods, but junk food indulgences also change our gut bacteria. Eating junk food on the weekends only is enough to change your gut bacteria to undo any healthy changes you make through the week. 

For many people this is how the week might go…

Monday. Start with great intentions, eat healthy, exercise, go to bed on time.

Tuesday. Still full of promise and good intentions.

Wednesday. Have to catch up at work/pick up kids/go to a meeting… I’ll exercise Thursday, maybe have take out for dinner.

Thursday. I am so tired. I have so much to do. I can go to the gym tomorrow. 

Friday. Yeah! Survived another week. Tomorrow I am going to do an extra hard workout and have brunch with friends.

Saturday. Go for a workout. Eat too much all day long. Start thinking about eating better on Monday.

Sunday. Relax. Prepare some healthy food for Monday and Tuesday. Wash workout clothes I’ll start again Monday.

After Monday and Tuesday even the week says WTF.

Medscape, a website for health professionals, describes weekend warriors  as

” individuals who “engage in [physically] demanding recreational sporting activities on weekends despite minimal physical activity during the [work] week.”[1] The most common reason cited for this burst of activity on the weekends rather than regular workouts throughout the week is not having enough time to exercise. Consequently, weekend warriors may not be in the best physical shape, and suddenly engaging in intermittent strenuous activity can therefore increase their risk of injury—with certain types of trauma more common to these individuals.”

My best advice, based on something I read on a napkin, WTF does not stand for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. For best results be active everyday.

Change your mind, change your health,




May 18 2016

Sweat is the best anti-depressant


On Tuesday morning I was at an Active Living seminar listening to Dr. Guy Faulkner, Canadian Research Chair in Applied Public Health, talk about exercise and depression. He compared the evidence for exercise as an anti-depressant. His conclusion? Compared to anti-depressants, when exercise is used as a treatment for depression, it is as effective, less expensive, can be self-administered and has no negative side effects. 

Dr. Faulkner argues that exercise should be presented as a treatment option along with counselling and drugs to everyone, because it is as effective as conventional methods. As he says,

“There is a mountain of evidence”

With reviews of 20 different studies on the effect of exercise on depression there was almost no difference between exercise and anti-depressants.

Why don’t doctors prescribe exercise? There is still little awareness or understanding in the medical community, even with more than 15 years of research. There are no exercise reps going to visit doctors to provide information on the value of exercise. In Canada, the exercise guidelines for physicians view it as a “complementary medicine”, somewhere between light therapy and St. John’s Wort.

I agree with Dr. Faulkner when he says that physical activity is a mental health promotion strategy. It prevents and treats depression, improves daily life, and increases happiness and well-being. The best part? It only takes 30 minutes a day to improve your health, physical and mental.

Change your mind, change your health,



May 16 2016

Weight loss

jillian-michaels-yellingThere has been a lot of press lately about the impossibility of long term weight loss. The NY Times reported a study of past participants of The Biggest Loser and decided that it is not possible to lose weight and maintain it.

That is simply not true.

Studies have shown that weight loss is not only possible, it is sustainable. The only thing that is not sustainable is living like you are a contestant on the Biggest Loser.

Other, more reputable sources, have proven that weight loss and maintaining weight loss can be achieved, with some persistence.

 One study followed 3,000 people, who lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for 10 years. There were three common factors for losing weight and keeping it off. The people that were physically active, weighed themselves regularly and watched portion sizes maintained their weight loss.

Another study looked at 65,000 overweight and obese people from 2005-2010.  80% of those that lost a significant amount of weight during the first year kept the weight off the second year.  90% of participants that continued in the program maintained their weight loss. This program provided support, encouraged activity and exercise, as well as healthy eating.

Personally, I have watched many clients lose up to 100 pounds and maintain their weight loss.  Common factors that worked for all successful losers include, eating more vegetables, reducing processed foods, exercising regularly, having support and keeping track of their body weight.

Perhaps we could assume from these results that the common ingredients for successful weight loss include, regular physical activity, keeping track of your body weight, eating whole foods, watching portion sizes and having support. Perhaps not entertainment, but practical and proven methods for success.

But, back to the Biggest Loser.

This isn’t real, this is “entertainment” if you like that sort of thing. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a Canadian obesity specialist says it is the most god-awful dangerous thing to happen to weight management in history.”

Dr. Ed Tyson an American eating disorder physician has said “it’s miraculous that no one has died yet”

Fitness “expert” Jillian Michaels is an actress who made millions of dollars out of bullying people for entertainment by saying things like The only way you’re coming off this damn treadmill is if you die on it!” 


Not inspiring, not professional, not sustainable, not a weight loss program.

The Biggest Loser is not a realistic study in successful weight loss.  But, it does remind us one thing. Diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes need to be made for the rest of your life. Exercise and activity are important for weight maintenance. This doesn’t make for good tv or great headlines.  As Dr. David Ludwig, Director of the New Balance Foundation of Obesity Research, says “it shouldn’t be interpreted to mean we are doomed to battle our biology or remain fat. It means we need to explore other approaches.”

Change your mind, change your health,



May 9 2016




Summer is coming. I can tell and it’s not the weather, it is the arrival of superfoods. Not that they ever went away, but as the weather heats up so does the hype. Every magazine, every second news story, blah, blah, blah, is the new superfood…

First, you can’t live on one food – that would really be a superfood – and second, trying to make up for a multitude of sins by suddenly consuming any one superfood isn’t going to make miracles happen. 

Over and over again the research proves that there is one super diet. A plant based, whole foods diet. It is not that one diet will prevent heart disease and another type 2 diabetes and another Alzheimer’s and cancer.

It is just one diet.


There are many studies and many personal stories. But if you want the real proof, follow the money. Corporations and health care companies are promoting a plant based whole foods diet to their clients, because it will save them lots of money on health care costs.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care plan providers in the US tells their doctors “Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity.”

The Complete Health Improvement Program  (CHIP) in Canada showed “rapid and meaningful reductions in chronic disease risk factors” with a plant based eating pattern.

A study at 10 corporate settings the US insurance company GEICO showed “An 18-week dietary intervention using a low-fat plant-based diet in a corporate setting improves body weight, plasma lipids, and, in individuals with diabetes, glycemic control.”

A study from the Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in California concluded  “vegetarians have consistently shown to have lower risks for cardiometabolic outcomes and some cancers”

Dr. Dean Ornish, showed a regression of coronary atherosclerosis with intensive lifestyle changes. In fact they found “the primary determinant of change in percent diameter stenosis in the experimental group was neither age nor disease severity but adherence to the recommended changes in diet and lifestyle” His program is covered by Medicare in the United States.

Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jr at the Cleveland Clinic showed that 99% of 198 people with cardiovascular disease on a plant based diet avoided another major cardiac event.

And finally, this week a study by the doctor’s at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona that evaluated dietary advice for doctors has concluded that “physicians should advise patients to limit animal products when possible and consume more plants than meat.”  In the 1.5 million people studied all cause mortality is highest for those that consume meat.

It is not just that people eating a plant based, whole foods diet live longer, they cost less in health care dollars. They spend less time in hospital, take fewer medications and weigh less. 


Every time you choose to eat a whole foods, plant based meal you are contributing to your good health. Lifestyle medicine, is a new way of looking at healthcare. The  focus is on preventing and treating the cause of disease, not simply treating the risk factors. Lifestyle medicine practitioners are asking that patients receive all the options about managing their conditions, including dietary changes. However, preventative medicine is bad for some businesses. It could eliminate the need for medications and surgery. Ask your doctor if prevention is right for you.

Change your mind, change your health,



May 4 2016

Grapefruits vs tangerines



Did you know that if you hold three grapefruits in one hand and three tangerines in the other,  the grapefruits are about the same size as 5 pounds of fat and the tangerines about the size of 5 pounds of muscle?  Do you want another reason to go to the gym? Or get moving? Here are two.chart-arteries


This week researchers found that the more people sit the greater the risk of having calcium deposits in the arteries of their heart. Southwestern University in Dallas, Texas has shown that each additional hour of being sedentary increases arterial calcification by 12%. Dr Amit Khera, Director of the Preventative Cardiology Program has shown that sedentary behaviour was an independent risk factor, regardless of whether you exercise, have diabetes, or high blood pressure, sitting is a risk factor. 


So why go to the gym if getting up and moving regularly will help prevent heart disease? Researchers at UCLA have found that even if you already have heart disease, having more muscle as opposed to fat, lowers your mortality risk.  Emphasizing the fact that it is not so much what you weigh that is important for your health, but what you’re made of or how much muscle you have, that is important. The only way to gain and retain muscle is exercise and the best way to keep your muscles strong is resistance training. Don’t stop exercising and move a little during the day, it is good for your heart.


Change your mind, change your health,



May 2 2016

Eating while bored

Boredom affects our food choices. 


Apparently we like to eat high fat, high sugar snacks when we are bored. Researchers from the British Psychological Society believe there is a relationship between low levels of dopamine in our brain and reaching for the fatty snacks. Dr. Sandi Mann thinks that if we can’t boost the brain’s dopamine levels through interesting activity we look for other ways to stimulate our brain which includes eating chips. She says,

“Bored people do not eat nuts.”


Next time you find yourself doing repetitive tasks alternate with a minute of exercise or meditation, both natural ways to increase dopamine, as is sunlight, massage and sleep. Just keep away from the junk food.

Change your mind, change your health,


Apr 25 2016

Vicious cycle


Do you eat more when you are sleep deprived?

You know those days when you haven’t slept well and you would give anything for a nap, but it just isn’t possible. You may find yourself  trying to boost your your energy with food, and if you are like me, you probably aren’t choosing fruit and vegetables. Sleep deprivation does effect our brain’s ability to function.

Sleep deprivation reduces our decision making ability and increases activation in the pleasure seeking areas of our brains. Being tired decreases our higher order brain functions, those areas that help make complex decisions, ones that help us make choices.

Sleep research has proven that being tired increases the chances of eating high fat, high calorie food and reduces the chances that health, or even taste, matter much when it comes to eating when sleepy.


Now, new research from the University of Adelaide shows that eating high fat diets increases daytime drowsiness and reduces the likelihood of getting a good nights sleep. Researchers found a direct relationship between fat intake and daytime sleepiness as well as sleep apnea.

Poor sleep makes us feel less energetic during the day, which leads to increased cravings for sugar and fat, which leads to less sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, but it could work both ways. Get a good night’s sleep for better food choices and make better food choices for better sleep.

Change your mind, change your health,



Apr 13 2016

Natural born killer cells


Do you run? Or exercise regularly? Why do you like to exercise? Do you do it for your health? Stress relief? To maintain or lose weight? Maybe all of these?

I can still remember the first time I decided to go for a run. It was the most difficult 15 minutes…but I stuck with it. I had never been a runner, but as a university student it was an easy, and cheap, way to get some exercise. I had always been active, swimming and cycling for transportation, but never a runner. Soon after my first attempt at running I got talked into running with a group. People I really had no business running with, they were “running” I was surviving. But, they never asked why I kept turning up, always waited and seemed to not be bothered by the fact that I was much, much slower. So I kept at it. It changed my life.


I have used running for weight loss, my sanity, adventure, to socialize, for meditation, to explore, to blow off steam. I can remember the day running felt fun, actual fun, while I was doing it, not fun because I felt so good after I had done it. It wasn’t that long ago. I have run regularly and semi regularly for longer then I haven’t run. I have been very dedicated while training for events or training other people for an event. Lately I have been less dedicated, for various reasons, but I know as long as I can, I will run. It may be saving my life.

My family has a long relationship with cancer and heart disease.

New research shows that exercise is an effective protector against cancer. We are well aware of the benefits that exercise has for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other conditions. We also know that having extra body fat increases the likelihood of some types of cancer, but exercise offers a different protection, one not realized by weight loss.

The release of adrenaline that is a component of our “fight or flight” response is also stimulated by exercise and we now know that this mobilizes a type of immune cell called Natural Killer cells. These cells are recruited by proteins in active muscle cells that slow or prevent cancer cell growth.


When researchers injected the cells with adrenaline, or natural killer cells, they were not as effective as when stimulated by exercise and did not stop or slow cancer growth. So whatever your reason is to exercise, and they are all good ones, you can add stimulating your natural born killer cells as a reason to get out and get moving.

Change your mind, change your health,