Is it authentic, or just a manufactured influencer? Be wary of ‘advice’ contrived via social media

social media influencers / Image source: appinstitute.com
social media influencers / Image source: appinstitute.com

Is it authentic, or just a manufactured influencer? Be wary of ads contrived via social media

If you are engaged in social media, and especially Instagram, you are probably familiar with the power of influencers. These are ordinary people, just like you and me, who lovingly curate their feeds with inspirational photos of their meals, exercise routines, glorious sunrises, and breathtaking sunsets. They tag their posts with #blessed, #fitspo, and #empowered — and offer us all a slice of a more perfect life. It can be fun to thumb through the feeds of people of all shapes and sizes living their best lives and offering us that push that we can do it too.

Influencers can be found in all corners of the online fitness social communities. From trainers to fit-at-any-size marathoners to mothers entering their first weightlifting competitions, social media has given voice to those who might not fit the stereotype of a typical fitness devotee.

Recently, high levels of Instagram user engagement have given companies an opportunity to capitalize on users with thousands of followers.These Instagram ads, for which influencers can be paid an estimated $1,000 per 100,000 followers, are selling not just a product but an entire lifestyle. They also might be selling bad fitness and diet-related advice.

9 out of 10 patients look to influencers and online communities when making health and wellness decisions. 94% of people share influencer-driven health information with others.

But let’s think about the reality of these influencers. Are they qualified to provide wellness advice? Or are they motivated by a desire to promote certain products or simply to further their personal brands? Because sponcon (sponsored content) can be positioned alongside other posts, it can be difficult to separate the paid ads from the personal stories.

As you scroll through different feeds, keep an eye out for these paid promotions masquerading as solid lifestyle advice. Because influencers are more likely to be ordinary people and not celebrities, they are more valuable to sponsors and appear more trustworthy. Having 100,000 followers does not make you a fitness expert. It does not make you a qualified trainer or a nutritionist. What it makes you is a person with beautiful photos and a performance of authenticity that appeals to your followers.

Before you take advice from anyone you follow on social media, take a moment to evaluate this advice. Is there a prominent brand name dominating the caption? Could these before and after photos be altered in any way? Are you taking advice from influencers you would never even consider if it came from your best friend, a neighbour, or a casual acquaintance?

If you said answered “yes” to any of these questions, maybe it’s time to click “unfollow”.

When treatments go wrong: speak up, it’s your body

Image source: The Independent / Getty Images
Image source: Shutterstock

When treatments go wrong: speak up, it's your body

Last week, I wrote about IV Therapy. I explained what it is and outlined how it may or may not be helpful to treat chronic or immediate health concerns. I also mentioned that I had recently tried IV Therapy and shared my own thoughts.

What I didn’t describe was my experience at the clinic. It can be difficult separating a treatment from the circumstances surrounding how that treatment was administered. I believe I did my best to be impartial and focus on what I felt were the health benefits of IV Therapy.

Now, separated from the actual cocktail of vitamins and electrolytes, I would like to focus on what actually happened at this clinic. I was attended to by a nurse who did not properly administer the IV drip. While clinics are staffed by certified medical professionals, you have assume that the individual attending to you knows what they are doing.

Well, maybe this was just a bad day or a one-off experience, but my nurse did not get my IV into my vein. Instead, my upper arm filled with fluid. When I asked my nurse if this was normal, I was shrugged off. Eventually, I needed to speak with a different nurse when I was in an increasing amount of pain. And I am not a complainer. I have an extremely high pain tolerance. This nurse realized what was going on, quickly removed the IV from my arm, and re-administered it. Immediately, I could tell that this was done correctly.

For many of us, we know what feels right and what is uncomfortable. We know how our bodies should react and when we are struggling beyond a reasonable expectation.

What can you do if you have an experience that feels more uncomfortable than invigorating? The first thing you must do is tell the person administering the treatment to stop. Although they might think that everything is proceeding according to plan, only you can speak up and explain how you are feeling. Sometimes it can be difficult to advocate for yourself when you are in a vulnerable position. However, speaking up is not making yourself an inconvenience. It not only draws attention to what you are experiencing, but provides the administrator with valuable feedback. Maybe you aren’t the first person who has had this reaction to this therapy. Maybe your own voice will ease the experience for others.

Speaking up, especially in a bodywork or wellness setting, can be awkward or uncomfortable. As the expert of your own body, your experience is more critical than those of the people in charge. You are paying for them and you deserve to be treated properly. This includes being honest and, yes even critical, if the experience is uncomfortable, the setting is unprofessional, or you are not satisfied.

You are the customer — and your words and patronage are your real currency.

Guest blog: why bellydance? Join Kelly May 15 and find out

bellydance art
bellydance art

Guest blog: why bellydance? Join Kelly May 15 and find out

A guest post from trainer and bellydance instructor Kelly Enston. This post originally appeared April 19 on her site at KellyKinetics

Why would someone want to bellydance, you may ask?

Well, there are so many reasons why people should bellydance!

If you are worried about it being a sexual thing, don’t worry, it’s less sexual than it is sensual in its movements. Originally the history of bellydance started as a dance developed by women for women.

Although there are misconceptions about what bellydance really is, be assured, and anyone can correct me, that it only became sexualized by men. Funnily enough, now bellydance has taken the entire world by storm and there are amazing male bellydancers as well. That being said, I welcome everyone into my classes.

If you are worried about showing your midsection, guess what?! You don’t have to unless you feel comfortable doing so. In bellydance classes, you can wear whatever you feel comfortable in. You can wear a full-length tank top or t-shirt, or you can wear something showing your midsection. The main thing is, no matter the level of coverage, it should be form-fitting so that as your bellydance instructor, I can properly see your body movements.

If you decide to start performing in small student shows or even professionally one day, that’s another level and even there, there are options on coverage level. Main point here is, do not let this stop you from learning. I want my students to be comfortable coming to class.

Besides being really fun… I share a list of other reasons to bellydance. Some may come with an explanation.

1. Learning about how your body moves and feels

Your fitness journey doesn’t always need to start in the gym.

The way I teach bellydance (based on Hadia’s Amazing Body Logic System), you learn what muscles create certain bellydance moves, how these muscles are meant to work to create those movements and in turn you develop a greater sense of body awareness. So many people’s brains are detached from their bodies. I help you reconnect mind and body through bellydance. The methods I use also provide the body with a nice massage!

2. Learning what it can do for your overall mind, body and soul.

Once you start to see how my methods to teach this dance art work, and you get more comfortable and confident in your abilities, you will see how bellydance starts to collectively affect your mind body and soul positively. I haven’t met a person yet, including myself, that this has not happened to.

3. Learning that every person’s body, mind and soul is unique and so bellydance will empower each of you in a different way.

I think this is self-explanatory. Every individual is unique. I expect feedback on this to be very different for everyone.

Teaching at Carmen Romero's Dance Studio

4. Learning about your strengths and weaknesses and having the courage to work on weaknesses in order to build them into strengths.

Learning anything new will allow this to happen, but I find learning how your body works is an excellent avenue for this type of growth.

5. Getting a great workout in a fun, safe and friendly environment.

6. Allowing yourself to learn about a new culture while having fun and making friends.

7. Allowing yourself to use your body for something it was built to do.

If you want to bring fitness and health, joy and empowerment into your life, then come out and learn what bellydance can do for you!

If this convinces you to come try out a class, I invite you to a free demo class on Wednesday May 15th, 12-1:30 pm, at Training Spaces, 567 College Street West, Toronto, ON. To reserve your spot in this free trial class please visit https://live.vcita.com/site/kellykinetics or email [email protected] to confirm your spot.

IV therapy: magical health infusion or expensive and temporary placebo?

IV therapy: the latest wellness trend. Image source: lateet.com
IV therapy: the latest wellness trend. Image source: lateet.com

IV therapy: magical health infusion or expensive and temporary placebo?

The Future of Fitness Explained: IV Therapy

If you love to learn about new exercise and fitness trends, The Future of Fitness explains it to you in a way you can understand and separate the hype cycle from actual results.

IV therapy has been used for decades in hospitals to treat a range of conditions from dehydration to nutrient-absorption disorders. However, IV Therapy clinics have started to pop up in busy metropolitan areas. Boasting miraculous hangover cures and immunity boosts, are these expensive shot infusions worth the price or are they just hype?

What is IV Therapy? 

IV Therapy is an infusion that is specifically designed to address a health concern, to increase immunity, as a beauty treatment, or to boost energy. A cocktail of vitamins and minerals combined with fluids and electrolytes are delivered to your body intravenously. With IV Therapy, as soon as your infusion starts, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are quickly circulated through your bloodstream and delivered to cells.

What Do I Need to Do? 

If you are interested in IV Therapy, you need to book an appointment with a clinic. You can find a number of locations online that explain what combinations and treatments they offer. You arrive at the clinic, sign a waiver (or waivers depending on health history or age), and wait to be hooked up to an IV by one of the healthcare professionals.

Does it Work? 

There are lots of stories about people who felt IV Therapy was invaluable in helping them manage a variety of chronic conditions like migraines, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular issues, or adrenal fatigue. As someone who recently tried IV Therapy, and with most alternative healthcare practices, I feel that results may vary. I booked myself an appointment when I was feeling rundown and susceptible to a cold. After my treatment, I did feel renewed and energetic — and I did not get sick. However, it was only four days before I returned to my previous tired state.

Should I Try It? 

It depends. How do you feel about general IV infusions? Have you had any previous difficulties having your blood drawn or receiving fluids through your veins in a hospital setting. Fighting your own history of IV drips to try a trendy cure is probably not worth it.

If you have no problem with IVs and want to see if IV therapy can restore your energy or help you fight off a cold, this might be for you. If you have been working long hours or extending yourself, IV Therapy may be a quick solution to prevent the inevitable burnout and crash that comes with over-work and over-play.

Do keep in mind that IV Therapy is quite expensive — prices are usually over $100 per session and are generally paid for out-of-pocket.

More Information Please!

Try these links and get educated about IV Therapy:
https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-07-07/should-you-try-iv-therapy
https://www.healthline.com/health/under-review-IV-vitamin-therapy
https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/iv-drip-bars-is-this-the-new-path-to-wellness/
https://www.medicaldaily.com/hydration-therapy-benefits-and-risks-behind-iv-infusion-water-and-minerals-401808

Intermittent fasting worked for Hugh Jackman. Is it the future of fitness?

Hugh Jackman shirtless all buff as Wolverine.
Hugh Jackman shirtless all buff as Wolverine.

Intermittent fasting worked for Hugh Jackman. Is it the future of fitness?

If you love to learn about new exercise and fitness trends, The Future of Fitness explains it to you in a way you can understand and separate the hype cycle from actual results.

This post originally appeared July 16, 2018.

People are talking about Intermittent Fasting. It’s how Hugh Jackman got so pumped for Logan! It’s how you can control your appetite and eat whatever you want! It doesn’t care about carbs or fats! It’s a war on breakfast … and breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting is eating within a specific timed window. It’s become increasingly popular over the past few years because preliminary studies on mice and observational ones in humans suggest this method of eating might translate to weight loss and, at least in some cases, improved metabolic health. It’s also become increasingly easy with apps like Zero to undertake a fast — as they allow you to set your fast time and alert you when your fast is over.

What Do I Need to Do?

Depending on the fast type, you complete your evening meal and then fast for a designated amount of time. For some, that’s 16 hours. Others may choose the 13-hour circadian-rhythm fast where you start fasting as close to sunset as possible for at least 13 hours.

Does it work?

Yes and No. According to recent studies, nearly all types of intermittent fasting are physically and mentally harmless — and can result in some weight loss. However, there’s no evidence to show that intermittent fasting can result in more weight loss or superior health metrics compared to plain old continuous caloric restriction.

Should I Try It?

Like any new diet or exercise regimen, you always should check with your doctor before diving in. Do your research and don’t be swayed by the promises of miraculous instant weight loss. We’ve been through this before where a magical solution guarantees instant results.

More Information Please!

Try these links and learn more about the pros and cons of intermittent fasting:


Related posts:

With weight training, it’s not how much you lift or how many reps, but how hard you work the muscles​

woman athlete weight training / Image source: Leon Martinez/pexels.com
woman athlete weight training / Image source: Leon Martinez/pexels.com

With weight training, it's not how much you lift or how many reps, but how hard you work the muscles

Lifting weights is an essential part to achieving any fitness goal — and this includes losing weight. Once my clients embrace the benefits of weight training, they begin researching how they should lift weights. Apart from queries about good form, the most common question I get about weight training is: should I lift heavy or should I lift light?

And believe me … everyone has an opinion about this. Websites will debate this in forums with the bodybuilders encouraging people to lift as much as they possibly can with holistic fitness forums praising lighter weights at multiple reps. But I am going to set the record straight.

You might have heard that lifting heavy weights for a low number of reps builds muscle, while lifting lighter weights more times tones them. But what is muscle tone? This is just an expression to describe how firm a muscle looks. But the fact is that your muscle tone doesn’t change — exercise or not. The way your muscle looks depends on two things: the amount of fat that covers it and the elasticity of your skin. So your goal shouldn’t be toning your muscle. It should be reducing the amount of fat that covers the muscle. Muscles closer to the surface, without a barrier of fat, will be more visible — and look more “toned.”

But really, it’s not about how much your lift. You can lift heavy or you can lift light. What really matters is how much effort you put into the exercise. Regardless of how much weight you feel you should be lifting, the real key is to fatigue your muscles by taking each set to the point where you can’t do any more with good form. How hard you work is what it’s all about.

This means you have to get uncomfortable and challenge yourself through using a heavier weight or performing one or two more reps. Light weights will be effective in the beginning, but this will eventually wane. It can be hard to force yourself out of your comfort zone, but without gradually increasing weight or reps, your progress will stall. By lifting heavier weights, you build more muscle, and more muscle leads to a faster metabolism. Stay in the comfort zone and get used to being comfortable. You need to challenge yourself for real progress.

How hard you work is the secret to maximizing weightlifting efficiency. Forget heavy versus light. Like most things in life, with weightlifting what you put in is what you get out.

Don’t take bad habits on holiday: Three tips to keep vacations good for your health

Holidays can be a chance to enjoy exotic dishes -- better than overindulging familiar not-so-healthy fare.
Holidays can be a chance to enjoy exotic dishes -- better than overindulging familiar not-so-healthy fare.

Don't take bad habits on holiday: Three tips to keep vacations good for your health

I remember being at an airport a couple of years ago and seeing a sign that made me laugh and think. “Vacation calories don’t count!” it exclaimed. For so many of us, vacations are a break from the routine. This doesn’t just include work but can extend to diet and exercise. We can see vacations as a free-for-all, a magical time period where calories don’t count and exercise is an inconvenience.

I get it. When on vacation, you want to indulge in the things that you normally wouldn’t touch when you’re at home. So how can you find a healthy balance? Here are three things you can do to make the most of your vacation while staying committed to maintaining your health goals:

Avoid the buffet — if possible

Whether you’re at an all-inclusive, on a cruise, or at a hotel, the lure of the buffet is an on-going temptation. Because of the choices on offer, it can be easy to go back and overindulge. But the days of the 99-cent buffet are long gone.  Today, buffets can be just as expensive as eating in a proper restaurant.

If a buffet is your only option, use smaller plates and focus on the foods you will really enjoy. Don’t look at a buffet as a FOMO experience — much of the same food will be available the following day. While there may be slight variations, by day two or three, you will know your buffet’s offerings by heart. Also, take advantage of the chefs to prepare fresh choices.

Eat local

As our world becomes increasingly commercial, it’s not surprising to see a familiar restaurant chain on the main street of your vacation destination. Instead of gravitating towards what you know, a holiday can be the opportunity to try something different and local. Find those little restaurants and eat like a local. This may require venturing off the resort, so get a recommendation from your hotel. People are eager to share their regional cuisine and culture. One of the best Chinese meals I ever had was in Cuba.

Eating local also means eating at different times of day. When in Spain, head out for dinner at 10 PM and don’t be afraid to ask questions as you peruse the menu. Eating is an adventure and while you might not like everything, you’ll definitely come home with one or two unexpected new dishes that you’ll be excited to incorporate into your routine.

Keep active

While you may not want to spend 30 minutes of your vacation on the treadmill at the hotel fitness centre, there are many ways to stay active on vacations. If you’re on a city break, walk as much as you can. You’ll see more and uncover hidden gems that you never thought you would experience. Walking immerses you in a new place and slows you down to take in your surroundings.

The same goes for exploring nature. Hiking, rock-climbing, zip-lining, discovering ruins, or paddling a canoe lets you experience different environments and landscapes — and reminds us all why we need to protect these places.

If you’re on a beach vacation, swimming can get your heart rate up. We’re not talking about mindless laps in the pool while dodging an unruly game of Marco Polo. Snorkelling can introduce you to a beautiful undersea world and the strange creatures that live there. Even walking along the beach provides resistance which can turn a leisurely stroll into an activity that raises your heart rate.

A vacation can be a break but it’s not an excuse to return to bad habits and destroy all your good work. By making sure that each indulgence is deliberate and taking the time to get some well-needed rest, you can come back home reinvigorated and ready to commit to yourself.  

Forget dancercise comparisons: appreciating barre for its isometric benefits

Barre exercise / Image source: Yoga journal
Barre exercise / Image source: Yoga journal

Forget dancercise comparisons: appreciating barre for its isometric benefits

Barre studios are springing up as quickly as spin studios were a couple of years ago. With strange socks with jelly grips and unitards that send you into Flashdance flashbacks, is this new fitness-dance hybrid for you? Will you have to learn difficult combinations and wear a tutu? What exactly is a barre class?

Barre classes combine strength training and cardio by focusing on small, isometric exercises. Isometric exercises are contractions of a particular muscle or group of muscles. During isometric exercises, the muscle doesn’t noticeably change length and the affected joint doesn’t move. Isometric exercises help maintain strength.

The barre is the primary prop used to balance while performing these isometric exercises. Depending on the class and instructor, you will also use very light weights (1 to 4 lbs), a strap, weighted balls, and those squishy exercise balls that only seem to exist in fitness studios.

Each class begins in the centre of the room and moves through a specific set of poses. You start with core (planks, modified push-ups), then move on to arms (small biceps curls, tricep extensions). Following this, you will find a place at a ballet bar and perform exercises that target your legs and glutes. Each exercise focuses on small pulses movements — you will hear “up an inch, down an inch” so many times — and works to fatigue.

There are a number of benefits to barre classes. It’s a challenging workout that focuses on tiny movements. You can be a fitness novice or an expert and still find yourself tired by the end of the hour class. The class is also good for joints as there are no high-impact components. Each studio seems to follow its own flow so once you have taken one class, you will have some idea what to expect. Of course, different instructors will change and modify based on preference and experience.

While barre classes do boast benefits like improved posture, muscle definition, weight loss, increased flexibility, and reduced stress, they really are no different from any enjoyable group exercise, yoga, or pilates class. The techniques are ballet-like but they won’t give you a dancer’s body. You will feel taller and stronger, more aware of your core and posture, but you won’t be asked to dance lead by the National Ballet of Canada. There are also a lot of squats, or pliés to use the correct ballet term — so if you suffer from knee issues this class may not be for you.

Like many group exercise classes, barre studios can be expensive and may require a monthly or class number payment commitment. Fortunately, the first class is often free so you can try out the class and determine if it’s a right fit. ClassPass (link to Committing to a class blog) also includes a number of barre studios and classes options to make this group fitness class more affordable.

And barre isn’t just for women. Like many lower impact studio classes, barre classes seem to predominantly attract women. However, all of us can benefit from an hour of tiny, exhausting movements, and being reminded how our abs work.

Assembling your care team: do you need bodywork specialists to supplement your personal trainer?

Massage therapist doing body work / image source: babymoonlex.com
Massage therapist doing body work / image source: babymoonlex.com

Assembling your care team: do you need bodywork specialists to supplement your personal trainer?

When you are assembling a care team, your personal trainer is at the center. They can assess your overall wellness holistically and your one-on-one work together can be complemented by other individuals with different skills and experience.

I find myself guiding my clients routinely to two specialists: a chiropractor and a massage therapist. Most personal trainers will have relationships with other bodywork specialists and can recommend them, if asked.

Why Chiropractors?

Chiropractors manipulate the spine. They believe that proper alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure will enable the body to heal itself. Manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury or repetitive stress.

Following an initial assessment, a chiropractor will work with you over a period of time to address immediate issues. They recommend monthly assessments to proactively prevent issues from returning.

Why Massage?

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension.

There are many different kinds of massage from deep tissue to hot stone to reflexology. It may take time to find the right type of massage and the right therapist. Every therapist has their own specialty so see what feels best for you and your body. Some practitioners have a variety of massages they offer so learn what is in your therapists’ skill set.

Both massage and chiropractic work can be covered by workplace benefit plans. Like visits to most specialists, your initial appointment will be longer and potentially more expensive. In this assessment, be clear about why you were referred and even demonstrate some of the exercises your trainer has shown you. Like any relationship, working with a chiropractor or massage therapist relies on honesty. Your therapist will look for cues of discomfort during your treatment but nothing replaces clear feedback.

From craniosacral therapy to osteopathy, I feel it’s essential to explore bodywork specialties and try them out myself. This way, I can provide you with an unbiased recommendation and we can discuss whether or not this would be a beneficial addition to your regular care routine. It can be easy to start making appointments with multiple therapists but research and recommendations can help you avoid adding too many people to your wellness payroll.

Video: Joseph Cipriano, DC

Chaga mushrooms: the newest superfood?

Chaga mushroom / Image source: Medical News Today
Chaga mushroom / Image source: Medical News Today

Chaga mushrooms: the newest superfood?

It feels like a new superfood is celebrated every three months. From Acai berries to celery juice, superfoods come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. It can be hard to keep track of the benefits of these exalted products — and separating the hype from the healing benefits.

Chaga, a type of mushroom, feels like 2019’s new entry into the superfood cycle. It  is believed to open blood vessels, lower blood pressure, enhance healing, and reduce diabetic blood-sugar levels. Chaga is naturally anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-Candida, which helps to keep foreign bacteria and microorganisms in check while promoting healthy flora and intestinal health. Increasingly, researchers are examining the possibility that chaga mushrooms may be able to prevent cancer and slow its growth.

Although chaga consumption does not commonly produce adverse side effects, there are still some precautions you should take. There is some uncertainty in how it interacts with prescription medication. Chaga may affect blood-thinning drugs (such as aspirin) due to its unique properties — slowing down blood clotting due to its blood-thinning characteristics. Another drug that can react negatively with chaga is insulin. Because chaga lowers blood sugar, it can be dangerous for people taking insulin and other blood-sugar-lowering medications.

Chaga mushroom is available as a supplement and in herbal teas. We always recommend moderation when introducing any new food into your diet — even one with so many healthy properties. You just don’t know how you will react, and everyone has different sensitivities.

If you are curious, you can purchase chaga from your trusted health food store or online retailer. Just make sure that you are using a reliable source. A buying guide to chaga is available here:  https://chaga101.com/chaga-buying-guide/.