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,



Apr 20 2016

Running = happiness


Feeling a bit out of sorts? Running can help. A 30 minutes jog can make you feel better. Especially when you are having difficulty regulating your emotions. Researchers compared people who stretched for 30 minutes to those that jogged for 30 minutes and found that the joggers feel better even after watching sad movie scenes.

People who exercise are also less likely to have a major depression diagnosis. But, does that mean that exercise is an anti-depressant or that only happier people exercise? Men and women over 50, with major depression, were treated with drugs or exercise and the results were the same for both groups. Drugs or exercise, they both worked as a treatment for depression.

Exercise improves your mood in the short term and the long term.  Ask your doctor if exercise is right for you.

Change your mind, change your health,




Feb 29 2016

Distracted dining?

family texting at dinner

Distracted? Who isn’t?  Too many things to do, too much work, too many extracurricular activities and then there is the food. It is everywhere. In the office, at home, even at the gym. You are not alone if you are feeling a little overwhelmed and maybe a bit (more) distracted.

And that is the problem.

Distracted dining is a problem. Especially when there are kids around. When parents are distracted by noise, stress and interruptions they eat more. They also monitor their children less and pay less attention to them. Why does this matter? Paying attention to children at meal times, positive attention, results in healthier kids. The benefits of regular family meal times is well established and chaotic family meal times increase the chances of kids becoming overweight.

Does that mean you are destined to be overweight if you have a chaotic house or grew up in one?




Mindful eating and practicing everyday mindfulness can reduce blood sugar levels and improve heart health.

Everyday mindfulness is the the ability to be aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment. Research published in the American Journal of Health Behavior showed that mindful people are less likely to be obese and have a greater sense of control, believing that they can change many important things in their life.


The good news is that mindfulness is an acquired skill and the research suggests that practicing mindfulness is associated with the ability to stick to diet and exercise plans. You don’t even have to start early. It is never too late to start practicing good habits.

Change your mind, change your health,


Feb 3 2016

How flexible is your brain?

12592191_10153947117221214_2120192120406663372_nMany people may already be doubting their ability to keep their resolutions to get more exercise and that is too bad, because exercise makes your brain more adaptable to change. New research from Italy shows that people who get more exercise have better plasticity in their brains and this means a greater capacity to learn, remember and repair cells.

Brain plasticity was thought to decline with age, especially when it comes to our sensory brain. The research shows that exercise is critical for your body and your brain. In fact if you want to be more adaptable and make new habits stick, exercise is a key ingredient.

And even though you might be feeling a little less motivated today then you were on January 1st, there are still many good reasons to exercise even without the research.

If you are doubting your ability to stick with your new habits spend the rest of this week asking yourself what really matters? Is it your health? Being fitter? Spending time outdoors? Reducing stress? Once you understand what your personal motivation is, then you can make your daily decisions on what will take you closer to your goal. Making you and your brain more flexible.

Change your mind, change your health,


Jan 29 2016

How to change a habit



Why are habits so hard to break?

It all starts in your brain. Habits become wired into our basal ganglia, the part of our brain responsible for regulating activities and choosing actions. It is also responsible for compulsive behaviours. The basal ganglia has a “go” and a “stop” pathway. Research from Duke University has recently shown that the go and the stop pathways both fire more with habitual activities, but the go pathway fires faster. When the action is not a habit, the stop pathway fires first.

What does that mean for you and how do you change a habit? If you are trying to break a habit, giving yourself a moment to pause and reflect can prevent the “go” from taking over. This is one simple strategy that you can practice over time to change the pathway. A strategy that comes from mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness allows you to expand your awareness to what is happening right now, without judgement, simply paying attention in the present moment, without immediately jumping to the next thing.

You might think this is a great idea, but who has the time? Well, the good news is that you don’t need to become a Zen master to reap the benefits and change your brain.

MRIs have shown that after an 8 week Mindfulness Meditation practice the pre-frontal cortex, the area of our brains that is responsible for awareness, concentration and decision making gets thicker and has improved connections with areas of attention and concentration.

Meditation does change your brain. It helps to preserve brain function as we age, increasing the connectivity and thickness of brain regions. Mindfulness decreases the mind wandering, “monkey mind” state that we can slip into, worrying about the past and the future, dialing down this perpetual state of anxiety and unhappiness. Mindfulness has been shown to be effective at reducing depression, anxiety and addiction. Mindfulness has been proven to be a useful tool to improve mental and physical well-being and just might help you kick that bad habit once and for all.

Want to know more about Mindfulness? Watch the video from Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Change your mind, change your health,



Dec 14 2015

The one thing you need to know about weight loss


There is one thing everyone neglects when they try to lose weight. Although you are probably not going to lose weight in the next few weeks, it is the season of eating and indulging. But, after that comes January, the season of repentance and regret. It also the season of resolutions and the number one New Year’s resolution is to lose weight.


To be successful you might want to focus on something besides diet and exercise. Only 8% of the millions of people that make weight loss their New Year resolution stick to their goals. Why? Because they don’t focus on this one critical component of weight loss. We focus on food, exercise and deprivation.

In a survey by Orlando Health, 31% said that the reason they weren’t successful was due to lack of exercise, 26% said it’s what they ate, 17% thought it was the cost of a healthy lifestyle and 12% thought their biggest challenge to successful weight loss was the time commitment. It is none of the above.


90% of people miss the critical factor in successful weight loss.

Our emotions.

Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health says,

“Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise. But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts. In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we’re eating.”

We use food to comfort, celebrate and reward ourselves. The key to successful weight loss is to understand our emotional connection to food and then view it as nourishing.  

You can change your relationship with food by using these these three steps to identify an emotional connection to food and be a successful loser.

  1. Keep a food diary to track your intake and your emotions.
  2. Identify foods that make you feel good and why you want to eat it.
  3. Before you eat, ask yourself “Am I hungry?” If the answer is no, think about your reason for eating.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating and enjoying food, but don’t ignore the emotional connection when you want to change a habit.


Change your mind, change your health,


Dec 9 2015

Inner GPS

Lately, I have been running without a watch, heart rate monitor, Strava or any other training device. It hasn’t made any difference. When I get curious and check the distances run, they measure up to my best guesstimate. When I decide I can run for about an hour, an hour later I am home. I don’t feel like I need a heart rate monitor to measure my effort, in fact we know that regular exercisers can monitor intensity level better without gadgets.

Brain's Positioning System Quanta Magazine

Brain’s Positioning System, courtesy of Quanta Magazine

Can this work for everyone? Yes.

Your grid cells know how far you have run. Space and time are organized in your memory. Recently neuroscientists found that memory is a common experience in animals used to organize space and time. What does that mean to you? Grid cells in our brains fire at specific intervals. Some fire at time intervals and some grid cells fire at specific distances even when running in place, like on a treadmill. Our brains have a built in GPS and you can use it to measure time or distance.

We are learning more about our brains, like how critical exercise is for memory, learning and overall brain health.


Now that we know we have our own inner GPS, occasionally leave the gadgets at home. You are smarter than you think and more accurate too.  GPS data often overestimates distance traveled, especially when running. Your GPS tracking is not continuous. It tracks your location at a specific time and estimates the distance between the last location.

Change your mind, change your health,


Dec 7 2015

High fat diets eat your brain


It is the first week of December and maybe you have already indulged in a little holiday cheer. You might be worried about your waist line, but all those fatty snacks can also effect your brain. Too much fat in your diet makes you stupid. It doesn’t matter how many calories you eat, but it does matter where those calories came from and high fat diets change your brain.

Researchers  from the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia fed two groups of mice two types of diets. One that was low fat, about 10% saturated fat and one that was high fat, 60% saturated fat, a fast food diet. The calories were the same for both groups. (While you might be thinking you are not a mouse, you are similar and it is apparently unethical to do this to people).

What happened? After 4, 8 and 12 weeks the researchers looked at the regular differences, weight, insulin, blood glucose levels and they also looked at the hippocampus. Your hippocampus is your learning and memory centre. The results weren’t good. Scientist’s found that the normally busy immune cells in the brain were becoming lazy and eating the connections between nerve cells. The high fat diet was destroying brain connections and causing cognitive impairment.

The good news? That after two months on a low fat diet the mice brain’s returned to normal activity. What does that mean for you? If you are going on a holiday eating binge, get back to a low fat, healthy eating pattern to prevent brain damage. Like this adorable, carrot loving, hamster.

Change your mind, change your health,