Do you need to detox? Or just stop eating things that are bad for you?

Stock image to go with detox post / image source: psychologies.co.uk
Stock image to go with detox post / image source: psychologies.co.uk

Do you need to detox? Or just stop eating things that are bad for you?

Toxins are everywhere. We’re constantly alerted to the fact pollution, chemicals, and poisonous substances surround us. From air quality alerts to the waxy substances on non-organic fruit, we are inundated with reminders of our compromised environment. A number of classes, products, websites, programs, and articles also urge us to eliminate the buildup of toxins in our bodies. Without taking action, we are putting our health in danger. But is there any truth to these threats? Is a detox an effective way to reset ourselves? 

Our fear of toxins is at the heart of detox diets and products. And fear sells. In fact, many detox diets and products are harmful to the body and your well-being. Adding chemicals to your diet, paying for products that promote sweating or promise to pull impurities out through your feet are all quick fixes to a non-existent problem. The fact is you don’t need a cleanse or detox to rid yourself of toxins. 

When we’re looking for a solution to a frightening problem, it’s easier to look outside of ourselves than knowing that our bodies are actually equipped with a detoxification system of their own. The skin, lungs, respiratory system, intestines, liver, and kidneys all work together to create barriers or eliminate toxins. And that popular myth that sweating eliminates toxins is just that — a myth. 

Detox diets work because you are cutting calories. Removing food groups, limiting the intake of certain foods, eating at certain times of the day, or adding extra fibre can lead to gastrointestinal issues, low blood pressure, fainting, nausea, and fatigue. There is no research showing the positives of  any detox diets.

Instead of buying into the detox hype, start by removing processed foods from your diet and prioritizing exercise, hydratation, and sleep. Make choices to use quality ingredients (fresh or frozen) and whole grains in your cooking.  

There are many ways to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Using products that boast detoxifying properties or recommend unhealthy eating practices are a waste of money and potentially dangerous. Instead, I invite you to do an internet detox. It’s time to unfollow, unsubscribe, and delete content that promotes unrealistic, unhealthy, and costly solutions to an imaginary problem. 

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

This post originally appeared March 18, 2019.

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 holiday 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 a day of your holiday 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.  

Your gut’s connection to your emotional state makes it your second brain

Gut outline on chalkboard / image source: healthbeat.spectrum.org
Gut outline on chalkboard / image source: healthbeat.spectrum.org

Your gut's connection to your emotional state makes it your second brain

This post originally appeared November 12, 2018.

Have you ever heard of the gut-brain connection? If not, you’ve definitely experienced it. It’s that nervous feeling in your stomach when you’re in an unfamiliar situation or that full feeling when you’ve received unexpected sad news. Emotions such as happiness, anger, anxiety, and sadness can all cause a physical reaction in your gut.

The gut includes every organ involved in digesting food and processing it into waste. The gut or “second brain” can operate on its own and communicates back and forth with your actual brain. The vagus nerve controls messages to the gut and runs all the way from the brain stem to part of the colon. Hormones and neurotransmitters also connect your gut chemically to your brain.

Many contributing factors affect how your body digested and eliminates what you eat and drink. They include diet, food intolerances, lifestyle, hormones, sleep, and medications.

To maintain or restore gut health and support good overall health, it is important to maintain a strong balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Eating a diet that includes foods with probiotic or prebiotic ingredients support a microbial health by restoring balance.

What are Probiotic Foods?

Probiotics contain live beneficial bacteria grown during carefully-controlled fermentation processes. You may already have probiotics in your diet: plain yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and miso.

What are Prebiotic Foods?

Prebiotics do not contain bacteria. They contain indigestible fibers that ferment in the GI tract. There, they are consumed by probiotic bacteria and converted into other healthful substances. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, cabbage, asparagus, legumes, and oats.

Are There Other Foods that Benefit the Gut-Brain relationship?

The following foods have also been shown to balance and improve the gut:

  • Omega-3 fats
  • High-fiber foods
  • Polyphenol-rich foods
  • Tryptophan-rich foods

If you’re experiencing indigestion or even if you are prone to depression or anxiety, you may want to look at your diet. By incorporating gut-healthy foods, you can begin to nurture your second brain.  

Fat-shaming response to Nike’s plus-size mannequins shows just how far we still have to go

Nike plus-size mannequins on display in London / Image source: allure.com
Nike plus-size mannequins on display in London / Image source: allure.com

Fat-shaming response to Nike's plus-size mannequins shows just how far we still have to go

It’s been almost a month since London’s flagship Nike store unveiled its new mannequins. Displayed alongside more traditional ones, the new mannequins showcase Nike’s plus-size clothing line. Nike, unlike a number of mainstream fitness brands, carries a range of sizes from XS (0-2) to XL (14-16). As the average American woman wears a size 16, it is more necessary than ever to provide all body types with stylish, flexible, high-quality exercise wear.

However, not everyone celebrated the unveiling of the new mannequins as a sign of progress, inclusivity, and acceptance of body diversity. In an editorial published in the Telegraph, a columnist berated Nike’s move as delusional. She went on to shame the mannequin and make dangerous assumptions about health. Because I don’t want to contribute to the many clicks this article has already received, I will not directly name the so-called journalist or include a link. If you want to be disappointed in humanity, all you need to do is google “Nike mannequins Telegraph.”

Should we be surprised that this opinion exists? Not really. It’s just one of many negative voices that athletes who do not conform to traditional sizes and shapes have come to expect when they look for clothing that fits properly, offers enough coverage and support, and looks great. From athletic-wear CEOs casually saying their clothing isn’t for all women to incredible female athletes being criticized for what they wear to compete, the athletic-wear industry is a battleground. With the rise of athleisure, casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and general use, it is more critical than ever that companies embrace body diversity if they want to make profits and set trends.

While so many amazing women of all sizes have shattered the assumptions that there is a specific size and shape for an athlete, the idea that only certain types of people should even participate in exercise is pervasive in our culture. Yes, it is changing — but progress is slow.

As much as we may not want to admit it, many of us are still prisoner to this idea that overweight means unhealthy. Our society still looks at BMI as an easy way to classify and put people into groups. We look at the outward presentation of thinness and the numbers on the scale instead (link to How to Measure Your Progress) of celebrating our own accomplishments every time we lace up our running shoes.

The truth is that we all need to stop making generalizations about health and even berating ourselves for what we look like instead of what we can achieve. There are slender people who pass cardio benchmarks effortlessly. However, there are larger people running marathons and achieving the perfect balance of healthy and unhealthy cholesterol. Being limited by out-of-date biases will only keep us hating ourselves and reinforcing negativity. Change is slow, but if we want to all move towards acceptance and kindness, we need to start with ourselves.

They’re berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.com
Handful of acai berries / Image source: Mayo Clinic News Network

They're berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Raspberries? Blueberries? Strawberries? Pffft. Been there, ate that.

I kid. I’m not really slagging them. Whatever your preference, berries typically deliver high amounts of Vitamin C, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. You see them in a wide variety of dishes from jams to juices to pancakes, where they add colour and a wide spectrum of flavours ranging from sweet to sour and beyond. Today we look at three lesser-known but ultra-healthy members of the berry family.

Acai berries and power / Image source: evolution-slimming.comAcai berries

Among the best known exotic berries, acai berries are native to the Brazilian Amazon region and are popular for their high  antioxidant content. In fact, they may contain up to ten times as much antioxidant polyphenols as blueberries. Acai berries have been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels and post-exercise oxidative stress.

Acai berry fans tout many other possible health benefits for these Brazilian berries, including heart and skin health, weight loss, energy boost, anti-aging properties, and more. And no list of possible health claims would be complete, of course, without references to the male libido; acai berries are said to help in this regard by promoting increased blood circulation. 

Acai berries are perishable, and thus are usually shipped frozen. They can be used in juices and powders and eaten with yogurt, cereals, and desserts.

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.comGoji berries

Traditionally used as a medicinal food in China, goji berries have a sweet taste tinged with a little sour and are often marketed in dried form. In addition to being potent sources of Vitamin A and copper, goji berries are high in  zeaxanthin, making them a powerful supplement to eye health. They also contain antioxidant polyphenols, which can protect against ultraviolet light. Other possible benefits include boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of cancer.

Some research draws links between goji berries and sexual performance, and even suggests that they can function as an alternative to medications such as Viagra.

Goji berries can be used in smoothies, yogurt, cereal, salads, and more. You can also enjoy them by the handful like raisins.

Fresh bilberries / Image source: linnea.chBilberries

Bilberries are similar to blueberries but are smaller, softer, and darker. They are good sources of fibre and Vitamin C, and are said to help reduce inflammation, blood sugar, and cholesterol. One study tied them to weight loss and reduced waist circumference. Other potential benefits include stronger blood vessels and better circulation, prevention of cell damage, possible reduction in blood glucose levels, and treating diarrhea and nausea. 

Like the other berries, bilberries are a good source of dietary antioxidants, manganese, zinc, and iron. Bilberry extract has been cited as an effective defense against a number of eye problems, including some tied to aging. The fruit is also said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Bilberries can be used in preserves, pies, jams, and tarts. The juice can be enjoyed straight or used as the basis for liqueurs and syrups. Even the leaves can be used to brew tea!

Bottom line

Like their better-known cousins, today’s berries pack a healthy punch. They’re low in calories but high in fibre, and excellent sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And their lively flavours can help reduce cravings for sugary snacks. In short, there are berry good reasons to make them part of your daily diet!

Disclaimer: this site is not offering professional medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about these foods and your health, ask your family doctor or a qualified nutritionist.

Focus on supplements: collagen can help with many things, but is it right for you?

Collagen powder / Image source: Clear Medicine
Collagen powder / Image source: Clear Medicine

Focus on supplements: collagen can help with many things, but is it right for you?

I’ve had many clients ask me about the health benefits of collagen. They want to know what it is, what it does, how it helps…and if it actually works.

Collagen is a protein, made up of long chains of linked amino acids, and plays a key role in the connective tissue throughout our entire body — contributing to the function of skin, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. However, as we age, the production of this protein slows down.

Besides from improvements to the text of skin and hair, people are turning to collagen for relief from joint pain and stiffness, as well as help with digestive issues. Collagen supplements are available as tablets, capsules, and powders. To be effective, collagen supplements must be hydrolyzed. Hydrolyzation breaks the collagen down into peptides, making it easier for the body to absorb and use.

If you are interested in adding collagen to your diet, look for companies that get their bones and tissues from cage-free, pasture-raised, free-range, and antibiotic-free sources. Animal sources of collagen who have been treated humanely are more likely to be free from hormones, pesticides, and heavy metals. With marine collagen, you also need to read labels carefully to refrain from supporting fish farms.

While collagen powder dissolves in most hot liquids, marine collagen can clump together and require more stirring. It is also has no flavour so is easily added to coffee, tea, or oatmeal without compromising taste.

There are currently not many known risks associated with collagen supplemented. However, if you have an allergy to fish or shellfish, you should avoid marine collagen to prevent allergic reactions. Some people have experience digestive side effects like a feeling of fullness or heartburn.

Like any new supplement, it’s best to start off slow. Add a teaspoon to your morning coffee or tea and see if collagen is for you.

Do you really want to change?

Change often comes one droplet at a time / image source: medium.com
Change often comes one droplet at a time / image source: medium.com

Do you really want to change?

One of the biggest reasons why people start working with a personal trainer is that they want to change. There has been a moment of realization when change becomes essential. Whether incited by a past or upcoming doctor’s visit or the inability to get into your favourite pair of jeans, you are propelled to take charge of your health. And the change will begin.

We all embark on change with the best intentions. But the reality is that change is hard. We say we want to commit ourselves to transformation — but this is often a slow process. One of the reasons why people have embraced the keto diet is that it works quickly. Making those adjustments results in significant and quick weight loss. When we see the effects of change and want to continue. When it looks like we’re putting in effort and don’t see results … well, it’s hard to keep on track.

Additionally, it’s easy to say we want to change but when it comes down to putting in the work…that’s a lot harder. It pushes us out of comfort zone and makes us feel vulnerable. We don’t ever want to appear weak or in need of help. It’s the daily armour we put up that allows us to move through a world that is often complicated and cruel.

If you’ve settled changing something in your life, how can you make it last? Well, change has two parts. There is the thought and there is the action. You can say you want to start running three times a week, and you can really want to start running three times a week, but if you aren’t actually running three times a week, then you need to put those runs in your schedule. Do you need to wake up a little earlier to accomplish this? Can you run home from work? If you aren’t looking for solutions and ways to make change part of your daily life, then it isn’t important enough.

With lifestyle changes, the journey is the focus. The results are surprises. They creep up on you when you least expect it. It’s being able to cycle up a hill without feeling winded or sustaining a 5KM run without walking. It’s choosing a salad because you just want a salad, and not because any diet plan tells you to eat salad. It’s prioritizing yourself and your workouts without feeling guilty.

Change happens in tiny increments, so don’t get discouraged. Allow yourself to appreciate the journey and reject quick fixes. In the end, it’s the change that is earned that is the change that lasts forever.


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Diets come and go, but how do you decide which one works for you? Listen to your body​

Post-workout meal / image source: Healthline
Post-workout meal / image source: Healthline

Diets come and go, but how do you decide which one works for you? Listen to your body

A new diet is introduced and it’s hailed as a fast way to lose weight and get healthy. The culture embraces this diet and celebrates it. Celebrities post before and after photographs and articles citing scientific evidence are published in journals.

Then, everything changes. The backlash begins as the truth comes out. This diet isn’t healthy, it’s too restrictive, it harms your body, or causes severe side effects. Lines are drawn and the information becomes increasingly confusing. For every positive, there’s a negative ready to address each specific claim.

Recently, the keto diet has been in the news because celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels has come out strongly against it. She describes its negative effect on the body. And maybe Michaels is right. However, she is also someone who recommended that people who were gaining weight from antidepressants go off their medication and that it’s okay for pregnant women to occasionally have a drink.

But the truth is that regardless of Michaels’ feelings about the keto diet, the backlash against popular ways of eating is inevitable. Remember Atkins, South Beach, the Master Cleanse, Whole 30, Eat Right for Your Blood Type, fasting, the Mediterranean diet, juice cleanses, paleo, clean eating, weight loss tea, apple cider vinegar, intermittent fasting, coffee enemas…and on and on. Every single one of these diets swept through our culture and was hailed as the new hope of quick and easy weight loss. And only months later, these diet cookbooks fight for space in the bargain bin.

Despite the different rules of diets, they are all aimed at the same basic formula: ingest fewer calories and burn more calories. Eat less, move more. How you trick your body into eating fewer calories is really at the diet’s heart. Whether it’s a deliberate feeding time, constantly drinking liquid, or ingesting protein that sends your body the satiety signals, each diet works the same way.

For some people, having a restricted diet helps them feel in control of their relationship with food. It prohibits feelings of bingeing and stops them from reaching for sugar-filled, high carb snacks. For others, the set of laws that govern diets is enough to shake them out of the misconception that they are eating healthy. These extreme diets can be the wake-up call that you need to assess your habits and help examine your relationship with food.

Where diets become dangerous is when they aren’t actually good for you. And the you is not general, it’s very specific and individual. While your friend may find the keto diet the best way to make healthy changes in her life, you might find yourself struggling. I remember when I was drinking bulletproof coffee in the morning and I felt extreme pains in my side that sent me to the hospital. The ingestion of this type fat was not right for me — and I had to stop immediately. However, I have several clients that put the exact same oil in their coffee and swear by it.

There is no overarching diet that is good for everyone. If you want to try cutting out carbs or trading in a smoothie for a meal, I think you should. But if you are in pain or suffering from weakness and lack of energy, you need to supplement what you are doing with different foods. And your body will actually tell you what you are missing. Those hunger pangs, and I’m not talking about cravings for peanut M&Ms, are your body telling you what it needs. From meat to more vegetables, listening to your body will help you navigate the complicated waters of eating.

Diets may come and go. You might find one that works for you, or you might laugh at the time you ate cabbage soup for a week and spent more time in the bathroom than at your desk. What isn’t negotiable is listening to what your body needs and not being afraid to break from an extreme eating routine.

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”.

Special-occasion weight loss and what happens the day after

measuring tape around waist
Foot on scale with flowers for weight loss post

Special-occasion weight loss and what happens the day after

This post originally appeared June 18, 2018.

I’ve had a lot of clients come to me with a specific goal or date in mind. It’s the wedding dates or the high-school reunions that have motivated them to take the first steps to weight loss. Whether powered by a desire to transform themselves or fit into a magical size, these are some of the most committed people that I’ve ever seen.

They meet with me multiple times a week.

They follow the diet rules. (BTW, I hate the word “diet.”)

They track their food and obsessively count calories.

And they count down to that special day.

And, not surprisingly, many of them achieve their goals. When you’re dedicated and have an end date in mind, your own laser focus can take you wherever you need to go. As a trainer, I work with my clients to target specific areas and celebrate weight-loss milestones. I love seeing my clients achieve their goals, but there’s always this little voice in my head that haunts every weigh-in.

“What about the day after?” it says.

Don’t backslide

Because I’ve seen it happen so many times. The day after the marathon is completed or the cake is cut. What happens next? What happens when real life sets in and there’s no focused end date for this fitness-first mentality?

Sadly, I’ve seen the most motivated people cancel workouts and slide back into unhealthy habits without a solid goal and a date. I’ve seen all the good work replaced with weight gain and frustration. Without the focused goal date, it’s difficult to get re-motivated until the next big event. We’ve talked about the challenge of maintaining commitment before. And the cycle continues.

That’s why I always recommend that my clients train for life — real life and not a cut-off date. By integrating healthy habits into the everyday, you can avoid the disappointment of special-occasion weight gain … that follows special-occasion weight loss. Focusing on overall wellbeing develops patterns and a healthy baseline.

So, train for today and not tomorrow.

Laura's question of the week

Have you ever resolved to lose x amount of weight for a specific occasion? What was it for?

  • Wedding?
  • Christening?
  • Bar / Bat Mitzvah?

Were you able to maintain it? Let us know!

stock shot of tape measure around waist of woman in bridal gown