FIT Talk With Tania  

How eat right and enjoy your food this Thankgiving

Thankful for second helpings

This Thanksgiving, keep your top button done up and burn fat through the holidays when you have second helpings.

I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying fall this year. The colours are stunning, the sun stills shines and last week I was still outside without a jacket. After smoke from the wildfires once again cut our summer short, the blue skies and sunshine combined with the bursts of colour around the city fall are welcome. And, of course, those beautiful autumn colours always bring with it a cornucopia of produce ready to enjoy. Here in the Okanagan, harvest time is always a recipe for something good.

The time between October and February is the time of year where, if a person was going to let his or her health slide resulting in a little (or a lot) of weight gain, it would be here. There are a number of things that factor in and contribute—fewer daylight hours creating a tendency to spend more time indoors with less physical activity; temperatures drop dictating we swap out bathing suits and shorts for bulky sweaters and jeans; and then of course, there are all the holiday meals. I refer to this time of year as the season of food.

October has Thanksgiving and Halloween–both savoury and sweet treat options here. And for all the snow birds flying south, November offers up a second Thanksgiving celebrating with our US friends. November also kickstarts all manner of Christmas parties, and festive gatherings that continue through December and right up until Christmas day brunch, lunch, dinner or, let's face it, some of us partake in all three! Any one or all of these then often get repeated to some degree just one week later as we ring in the New Year. Feeling the urge to undo that top button already?

So with the impending season of food looming upon us, and the helpless feeling of how to stay on track amidst the gravy, candy and pie, while armed with body camouflaging sweat pants, sweaters and boyfriend jeans... well you get the picture. This festive time of year could easily be changed to “feast-ive.” I've even heard people not-so-jokingly comment they're putting on that extra layer for winter. And wardrobe has nothing to do with it.

Then, of course there's a bit of a panic in spring when the sweaters get put away and people start to wonder if they're going to fit into last year's shorts. It can be a very real source of stress for some people— for some, even to the point of foregoing family gatherings to avoid temptation.

And with all the isolation and separation that has happened over the past almost two years, getting together with family, friends and enjoying that atmosphere of joy and thankfulness is a must for mental health.

So, if this has been you in the past, know that you can embrace Thanksgiving and the “feast-ive” season this year.

Fill your cup by supping with those you love, and keep that top button from bursting by having second helpings. Yep, that's right, seconds.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but generally what happens at almost every celebratory dinner, dinner party, holiday feast, or indulgent food-fest of some description, is people head into it like they're never going to eat again. They starve themselves all day, sometimes limit food the day before even, and sit down at the table ravenous and viewing the meal as a challenge.

After all, ya gotta eat to make up for what you sacrificed all day right? Wrong. They load up their plates and power through, often times eating dessert when they're already feeling uncomfortable and had to loosen top buttons and undo belts several mouthfuls ago. Sound familiar?

If you were to approach the meal with the mindset, not that you'll be having less or that you would somehow miss out, but that you get to have this deliciousness twice rather than just once, chances are you'll be less likely to stuff yourself and eat only until satisfied. Have the turkey, protein is a must.

Have the veggies, those are the carbs you want. A spoonful of mash potatoes or stuffing with a little gravy rather than a mountain of potatoes surrounded by a moat of gravy. In choosing smaller amounts of everything you'll come away from the table satisfied, comfortable and with your pants properly fastened.

You'll also be less likely to lose the rest of the day crashed on the couch sleeping off a food coma. Three to four hours later, you'll start to feel hungry again because your body was able to metabolize the amount you put in and not store it as fat. And as we need to fuel our bodies every three to four hours, bring on the second helpings.

By choosing two smaller meals three hours apart, you're effectively using food to stabilize blood sugar and balance hormones. Which in turn keeps your metabolism turned on and burning fat rather than storing it. You can even further refine your results by choosing sweet potatoes over white, steamed veggies and/or salad greens over dinner rolls and stuffing, sweeten your cranberry sauce with stevia rather than sugar, and opt for sparkling water with lemon or lime over alcohol.

The bottom line is always, the better we are at stabilizing blood sugar, the more efficient our bodies become at burning fat. And let's face it, who doesn't want to enjoy holiday meals and burn fat at the same time?

If you're looking for more great recipes, tips and strategies on how to use food to create balance in your body and burn fat, join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook.


Craving food vs. choosing food

Healthy eating

When we use food to create hormonal balance rather than dieting, amazing things happen with our health.

When it comes to food here in North America, and in all First World nations, we have choice—an overwhelmingly abundant number of choices actually.

Aside from the rush on toilet paper last year, how many times have you gone to the grocery store and have seen empty shelves? It never happens.

Some call it a blessing, some blame their poor food choices on it.

Regardless of where you sit on that food spectrum, the one thing we do know for certain is we should be one of the healthiest nations in the world. But we're not. As a First World, wealthy country, we have an abundance of food but a vast majority of the population is starving to death nutritionally. It makes you wonder how that can happen. It all comes down to choice.

Many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer's, digestive issues and leaky gut are all now being called lifestyle diseases. Why? Because the lifestyle that was chosen by the individual, over time, caused the disease to happen.

It would stand to reason then, that if our choices could bring about a negative outcome, it seems reasonable they could also bring about a positive response. And there's science to back it up.

A study published on the NCBI's website by the National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health shares how making dietary and lifestyle changes is key to reversing these lifestyle diseases and restoring overall health.

“But Tania”, you say, “heart disease runs in my family so I'm bound to get it sooner or later.”

So, why not make it as later as you possibly can?

And, just to address the genetic elephant in the room, our DNA controls only about 20 percent of the outcome of our health. Some scientists are now saying it's even less. That means we have about 80 percent control of the outcome of our health. Pretty amazing right?

So why does the better part of our population continue to make poor food choices?

There are two aspects that play a part in how, and what, we eat—physiological and psychological.

The way our bodies are made up, our physiology requires that we eat food. When we deprive our bodies of what they need – restrict calories, remove food groups, forget to eat, skip meals, eat junk food–blood sugar crashes and the hormones in charge of appetite, such as leptin and grehlin, get knocked out of balance.

The brain—the psychological component—however still needs food.

When we deprive our bodies of the fuel it needs, grehlin goes into high gear, triggering the brain to start telling the body it needs food fast. Leptin, which normally lets us know when we are full, gets shut off.

Hello cravings and overeating. And that's when people are most likely to grab something packaged, processed and/or sugary rather than whole, healthy foods. Ignoring cravings for bad food is a good thing, but if you're also not fuelling with the good at regular intervals throughout the day (for whatever reason—time, working late, dieting) your body will take away from its own muscle, turn it to glucose and send it up to the brain. Oh, and FYI in case you were wondering, it won't take it from your stored fat.

It's pretty difficult to make good food choices when hormones, and “hangry” feelings are working against you demanding to be fed ASAP. The thing is, you can get those hormones to work in your favour, to work together with your body and your brain to get rid of cravings, overeating and impulse snacking. Believe it or not, you do it with food. The thing is, when food is used to create hormonal balance, health happens.

Hormones are balanced when blood sugar is stabilized. And the way to stabilize blood sugar is to eat small macro-balanced meals every three to four hours throughout the day.

I call this PFC every three. Simply put it's eating a balance of a good quality protein, healthy fat and colourful carbs together, within one hour of waking and then every three to four hours throughout the day, up until about an hour and a half before bed.

It’s a simple concept that does take a bit of organizing and prepping to get going, but the benefits are totally worth it.

Blood sugar will be normal, hormones will be balanced, menopause symptoms will be minimized or eliminated, inflammation will be reduced, joint pain will be decreased, digestion will be improved, cholesterol and blood pressure will be normalized, immune will be function-enhanced, it could help reverse some diseases, metabolism will be turned on and stay on and the body will release stored fat and burn it as energy.

Just a little trivia for you—Did you know that for every pound of fat, there are 3,500 calories of stored energy waiting to be used? And once the stored fat starts being released, any excess weight you might be carrying comes off too?

It’s a wonderful side effect that happens when you stop dieting, and start focusing on creating health.

Looking to create health in your body? Join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes Facebook group today.

A happy and healthy way to return to school

Eat right, stress less

Back to school can be a stressful time for both kids and parents, but you can turn it around for you and your child.

Just over a week into September and kids and parents are settling in to the start of another school year.

My walk home from the gym takes me right past Rutland Middle School and it's really good to see kids walking, talking and hanging out together. Being together and social interaction is an important part of their development, growth and how they deal with situations in the real world.

As a mom and self-proclaimed “health nut”, I tend to notice things when it comes to kids.

Part of that also comes from the decade and a half of working with kids with special needs. Occupational hazard. And people are interesting. We can learn a lot about a lot of things when we pay attention to those around us. Anyway, walking home this week I noticed a few things on the faces and in the hands of several of the kids I encountered—stress and sugar.

Just to backtrack a little for all the new readers, there are six components to look at when it comes to achieving and maintaining health. Stress, sleep, water, nutrition, exercise, supplements, in order of importance. Each one affects the other, positively or negatively, depending on where you're at with that component. It really should be no surprise that stress is at the top of this list.

As I've written about before, whether it's acute (short-term) or chronic (constant), stress affects all areas of our lives, including the lives of our kids. And for those people who are saying, “What do kids have to stress about?”, it's all a matter of perception.

We, adults and kids alike, can only ever see things from our own perspective. Stress occurs when we encounter a real or perceived danger. Our brain doesn't differentiate and the negative effects are the same.

Back to school can be a stressful time for both kids are parents. For parents it's more about dealing with the changes in schedule, logistics for getting everyone where they need to be on time, costs involved with buying school clothes, supplies and fees and the new extracurricular activities that often come with.

For kids it can be going to a new school and not knowing anyone, entering middle or high school and afraid of getting lost trying to find all the different classrooms. Then there's the clothes, shoes, hairstyles, and wondering whether they will fit in or stand out in an awkward or bad way. And these were all before covid was thrown into the mix. Try reading someone's facial cues from across the room when everyone's masked up. It's not easy and it's stressful.

Any readers out there ever reach for ice cream, cookies, chips, etc., or perhaps even a drink or a cigarette, when you know what hits the fan? Yep, we've all been there.

Did bad food or stimulants solve the situation? Likely not. In fact, I'd bet that the guilt that came with over indulgence of bad choices made the situation even worse. At least mentally. And kids are no different. I would say that at least half of the kids I saw were nursing sort of over-sized take-out drink or using a vape. Definitely not the best way to start the day, or the year.

What can you do about it? Be the example. The do-what-I-say-not-what-I-do doesn't work much past kindergarten. If you're lucky. Parents, take note of how you're handling your own stressful situations. It's ok to let you child see that you're stressed, that's a part of life. Let them also see you handle and resolve it by making good choices for your health.

Let's say things haven't been going well at work. Morning rolls around, you're mind is all over the place about what's happened or what might happen (perceived stress remember?) when you get there. You can either, hit snooze a few too many times, skip breakfast and rush out the door without more than a few words to your family, or, make a point to get up a few mins early, take a few minutes to yourself to relax, sit down with your family and actually eat breakfast and talk. Let them know you might be having a tough day and ask what's been going on with everyone else. It may seem minor to you, but to the 12-year-old who had a timetable change the day before and has no idea where his new classroom is for first period, a few encouraging words and help with the school map is invaluable. Trust me, you'll both start the day feeling good.

When we take the time to do these little things that sometimes go against what we feel like doing in the moment, we are telling our kids, it's ok to talk about problems, you are a safe person to talk to and taking the time to eat breakfast is important. And you all know how I feel about breakfast.

Your mom was right, it is the most important meal of the day. Starting the day with real, whole foods, including protein, plus a big glass of water, and then taking some more protein and whole foods to work—and kids to school—will keep that blood sugar balanced, lower internal stress and eliminate sugar cravings.

Repeat the process again at dinner for maximum effect and you'll soon find that you and your kids will be healthier and feeling less stressed.

And that's a win for you both.

For more recipes and a plan on how to create healthy, balanced meals, join Tania's 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook.


Exercise, diet help the mind

“Sudden bursts of movement cause reactions in the body that break the cycle of stress, allowing the brain to calm down, relax and focus on the task at hand.”

We all know that eating right and exercising is necessary to create and maintain good physical health. But how many of us actually stop and think about the effect eating whole foods and getting in some exercise really has when it comes to our mental and emotional health? Lucas Cullen did. And if you keep reading, you'll see what an incredible difference it made for him and others.

For those who have been following me over the years – a big thank-you for that by the way – you might remember that once upon a time I worked in the field of special needs. First with littles at the Child Development Centre, then in classrooms with elementary school kids, and then later with some private clients in their homes. Even though many of the kids I worked with fell under the same diagnoses, no two were ever the same. Just like the typical learners, each child with special needs was also unique in the way they took in information, processed it, learned and progressed. There were two things, however, that regardless of where the child was at in his/her learning, always brought about good outcomes – diet and exercise.

Quite a while back I remember reading something that said vigorous exercise was the most effective “medicine” for depression. Seems that statement had some merit. A paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry on the NIH (National Institute of Health) website had this to say, “Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression. These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain... and the hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.” It's nice to have the validation of a prestigious paper to back me up when I share information, but it's really just redundant for anyone who's tried making healthy changes. Results speak volumes. And really, at the end of the day, results are really all that matter.

The patterns I saw in the classroom, were not unique just to children. Kids who showed up at school without breakfast had way more difficulty attending to the teacher and getting their work done. When the same children were allowed to eat a snack at their desk, the majority of wiggles and inattention went away. Similar can be said for adults who arrive on the job without breakfast. Whether your job is physical or mental, demands are being put on your body that require fuel to keep it functioning properly. Fatigue, headaches, irritability, being short with co-workers, having to read the same thing over and over again, forgetting something, or conversely doing it twice – are just a few symptoms that arise when the body is not properly nourished.

As referenced in the study, similar can be said in both age groups when it comes to exercise. The kids who just can't seem to sit or focus for any length of time, regardless whether they'd eaten or not, find it much easier to concentrate and get their work done after exercise. Any parent or teacher who's been locked inside with kids for any length of time can't wait for them to get outside and run around. Sudden bursts of movement – running, jumping, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, etc. – cause reactions in the body that break the cycle of stress you're experiencing at that moment, allowing the brain to calm down, relax and focus on the task at hand. And when things positively affect the way our brain works, things like depression, mood swings, and hormonal issues see a profound improvement as well. Just ask Lucas Cullen.

Lucas, a Kelowna local and former semi-pro hockey player turned ultra-marathon runner, has struggled a lot with depression. It was when he reached out to me a few months ago for nutritional coaching in preparation for his first 52-km run this fall, that I heard his story. How he's been using running to beat back depression, overcome the struggles, and create strength in the areas of his life where it was lacking. Because of his success and passion for helping others, Lucas created Struggles Create Strength, to help others to also find strength in their struggles. It's amazing to see just how much a person can transform their life and take back control of their health, not just physically, but mentally as well. And to help as many people as possible, Lucas is running the 52-km ultra-marathon next month hoping to raise $50,000 for mental health. Watch this short video on Lucas' story And read the stories of people he's helped and how you can support the movement at Struggles Create Strength. Please share with anyone you know who might be struggling.

To get started creating healthy food and fitness habits, join Tania's 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook and set yourself up to win with your health.

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About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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