FIT Talk With Tania  

New year, new you

Resolve to make health a priority

We made it.

In spite of what 2020 threw at us, turkey and trimmings were gobbled, holiday treats were enjoyed, hugs happened (some virtual, some in person) and most of us, glad to be rid of 2020, enthusiastically rang in 2021 with renewed hope and faith for a better year.

If there's one thing that 2020 taught us, it is the value of good health. I've seen it over and over again with clients. For whatever reason, most people generally don't focus on strengthening and building their health and immune function, until something happens. Or until their doctor tells them they must.

Although I am a firm believer that it's never to late to make healthy changes, prevention is infinitely better than trying to reverse disease once it's started.

I've had several clients lately reach out with the sole intent of not becoming “like my mom/dad/grandfather who had (any number of lifestyle diseases) and died early.” Those co-morbid conditions we've heard so much about this past year.

While there is much debate whether measures can be taken to prevent contracting the dreaded virus, the science is clear that those with co-morbid conditions (aka lifestyle diseases) are more at risk than those without.

On a positive note, science also shows that lifestyle diseases can be significantly reduced and even entirely reversed, with food.

Think about it. “Lifestyle” diseases are due to a person's particular lifestyle – including food choices – that puts the body into a compromised state.

Change the food and lifestyle and it makes sense that the problem will reverse.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, two out of every three adults, and one out of every six children aged two to 19 are either overweight or obese.

Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, hormonal imbalance, metabolic syndrome, cancer, fatty liver disease, pancreatitis, and even Alzheimer's are associated with diabetes and/or carrying excess weight.

There's been a health crisis happening for years that should have been the focus of public health long ago. Given our current health crisis, I've often wondered why our public health officials haven't offered suggestions on how to improve health and boost immune function by targeting these co-morbid/lifestyle diseases.

No one can change the past. But we all have the opportunity to make changes today that will have a positive impact on our own personal health tomorrow.

As you're making those annual resolutions around health, weight loss and hitting the gym, why not resolve to do it differently and do it right this year?

Set yourself up to win in 2021 by making resolutions that:

  • Make sense to you
  • Are proven and backed by science
  • Work with your family
  • It is not some crazy diet.

Anyone can lose weight by restricting calories or exercising like a fiend, but is that what you want to do for the rest of your life?

Is that how you want to live your life, never again eating your favourite foods? Likely not. And that's why diets fail.

Here are six things you can do that will work today and in the long term.

Eat breakfast within one hour of waking and make sure to include some protein.

Balance your meals. Including a good quality protein, fat and unprocessed carbohydrate (PFC) stabilizes blood sugar.

Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Having those PFC meals every three to four hours keeps blood sugar stable, turns on metabolism, burns more fat, increases energy and optimizes immune function.

Drink more water. Three to four litres per day for the gents and two to three litres for the ladies.

Move your body. With the way the world has been this past year, more people have spent more time sitting in front of a screen than ever before. Six hours or more of inactivity per day is considered a sedentary lifestyle. If you don't use it, you'll lose it so move it.

Supplement daily. Can we get everything we need from food? Yes. Do we? No. Because nobody is perfect. It's important to use good quality supplements to fill the gaps and shore up any nutrient deficiencies we may have.

Vitamins D and C along with Zinc are a great place to start. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption.

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron and plays an important role in the growth and repair of tissue, Zinc is required in many areas such as gene expression, healing wounds, growth and development, and all three of these are key to optimizing and supporting the body's immune system.

Bonus tip, consuming certain types of aloe vera allows for better vitamin absorption.

While it's not rocket science, these six simple strategies are backed by science. Not only will implementing them help you lose weight, look and feel better, you'll be healthier too.

New Year, New You. If you're ready to take back control of your health, book your free health assessment with Tania today [email protected] and join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook. Together let's make 2021 your last weight loss resolution ever.


The 12 pounds of Christmas

The Twelve Pounds of Christmas, sung as The Twelve Days of Christmas

Oh, the first pound of Christmas was easy to ignore…..

       (And) It all started with a box of Lindor.

The second pound of Christmas just appeared overnight…..

       Fast food while Christmas shopping.

The third pound of Christmas came sneaking up on me…

       Eggnog and cookies.

The fourth pound of Christmas came with the butter tarts….

       I should never start.

The fifth pound of Christmas appeared while I dressed….

       Yikes! My pants are tight.

Shortbread cookies baking, how fattening can they be?

       Butter added six pounds.

Staff parties are in full swing so plan for food and cheer….

       Seven pounds each year.

The neighbours came a-calling and brought with them some cheer….

       Can eight pounds come from beer?

The thermometer is dropping, but the scale says nine pounds up…

       OK, make mine “light whip."

Now, it’s time to trim the tree and decorate the house…..

       10 pounds makes this a workout.

The season’s not complete without fruitcake and mincemeat….

       11 pounds to my seat.

After turkey and the fixin's you’ll be more stuffed than the bird….

       I’ve gained 12 pounds this Christmas, how absurd.

It's fun to play around like this and change the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas, but for some people this isn't actually that far off from what really happens over the Christmas season.

Here are just a few last-minute tips and strategies to help you make it through the holidays without gaining weight this year.

  • As much as possible, stick to your regular meal schedule of eating a protein, fat and carb every three hours (PFCs in 3s!).
  • Carry balanced snacks with you – protein bars, shake mix and shaker bottle, unsalted nuts and a Mandarin orange are just a few of the things I never leave home without during the Christmas season.
  • Never arrive hungry. Having a small balanced snack before heading out will make sure you are choosing what to put into your mouth rather than the mindless munching that happens when your blood sugar drops. FYI, restricting food all day and “saving room” for that big dinner is actually worse and will cause your body to burn muscle and store even more fat that sticking to the plan all day and then simply indulging for the one meal.
  • Have your alcohol with food. Alcohol is a carbohydrate. Think of that glass of wine like a piece of bread. When carbs are consumed by themselves, blood sugar spikes and fat is stored. In order to minimize that spike and the carnage, it's best to enjoy that glass of wine with dinner.
  • Hydrate! Not only will water help flush out any bloat that may have been collected by the extra sugar, salt and alcohol, but it will also help you to feel better the next day if you did happen to overdo it just a little the night before.

With only six more days left until Christmas, I invite you all this year to;

  • Plan your off-plan meal and
  • Be choosy. And then enjoy it guilt free. Studies show that those who plan their special occasions, tend to make much better choices in the days leading up to it. And those who choose to indulge in only their most favourite treats tend to enjoy them guilt free and are typically satisfied with smaller portions. Whereas those who randomly indulge simply because treats are available tend to report less enjoyment and more guilt.

A sure-fire recipe for living the Twelve Pounds of Christmas. Something none of us wants to carry into the new year.

For tips, takeaways and healthy treat options on how to prevent holiday weight gain and thrive through Christmas, join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook today. And stop worrying about making that annual New Year's weight loss resolution.

Christmas cookies essential

It hardly looks like winter as I watch the squirrels run back and forth between the houses here on my street, let alone less than three weeks until Christmas.

Yet, despite the lack of snow, many of us put up the Christmas lights, decorated our homes and even put up trees weeks ago.

My neighbour has seven, albeit not all are full sized. Why so many? Simple. She says looking at them makes her smile.

It's well known that happy people are generally healthier people. Not only do happy people have fewer stress hormones and tend to engage in more physical activity, when you're happy, your body releases endorphins which helps ease pain, heal and generally make you feel better.

Your brain releases endorphins in response to things that make you happy. Given the way this year has unfolded, doing more things that make you happy should definitely be considered essential. One of those things for me, is Christmas baking.

Yes, this health nut does engage in a practice generally associated with uber amounts of sugar, sprinkles, chocolate and candied, well everything. It makes me happy to see my family enjoying their favourites.

The other thing that makes me smile even bigger, is when I've been able to swap out some ingredients in a favourite family recipe, creating something healthy and just as delicious. If not totally healthy, at least minimize the carnage.

Let's be real. When it comes to the holidays, people tend to eat more meals out, chow down larger portions, consume more sugar, and drink more alcohol than any other time of the year. That's during holiday years that didn't come with restrictions. We've seen consumption of all of these increase even well before December arrived.

For most of us, food is comforting. When you can't visit mom, digging out and making some of her recipes is likely to make you feel closer to her. And you'll smile.

What I'm hearing from my clients is that the extra weight that comes as a result of all these indulgences is not making them smile. What does turn their frowns upside down is learning that you can have your cake – or Christmas cookie – and eat it, too.

The first thing we talk about is swapping ingredients. There are many items you can make healthy swaps with, but I'm going to deal with the three that are found in a lot of holiday recipes:

  • Sugar
  • White flour
  • Lard/shortening.

When it comes to sugar, I swap white sugar for stevia or monk fruit, and brown sugar for coconut palm sugar. Stevia and monk fruit both have glycemic index of zero, meaning it will not cause any fluctuation in blood sugar, while coconut palm sugar comes in at 35.

The higher the number, the higher and faster blood sugar spikes on consumption. White and brown sugar sit at 68.

Wheat flour, when grown without toxins, before GMO, and ground as needed for use, was once a healthy staple. Today, it's become a huge source of digestive distress as evidenced by the growing numbers of:

  • Leaky gut
  • IBS
  • Colitis
  • Crohn's
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Wheat intolerance
  • Celiac disease.

If you're one of the lucky ones without any digestive issues, you're still going to benefit by eliminating the bloat that generally comes with wheat/gluten items. Depending on the recipe, you may be able to replace one to one, or perhaps a combination may be needed to get the desired consistency and result.

The simplest is to choose a good quality gluten-free flour. Most will say on the package how to use it in place of regular flour. My go to is organic, non GMO spelt flour. Although not gluten free, I've found it does work for most people.

I also keep on hand, arrowroot, almond, coconut and quinoa flours, which are gluten free, to use in specific recipes.

I've always made my own pastry and years ago lard or shortening were the fats of choice. Today, coconut oil (solid of course) is my fat of choice. Grass-fed, grass-finished butter is also an upgrade from lard, depending on how dairy affects you as it can be another bloater.

Just a little tip, roll your pastry out on a parchment paper for an easier transfer.

There are many things you can add, swap, or simply remove to create healthier, more balanced treats.

Try swapping:

  • Cashew cream for cream cheese
  • Olive/avocado/coconut oil for toxic vegetable oils
  • Applesauce as part of any oil measurement
  • The right protein powder can be used in cupcakes, muffins or loaves, replacement for sugar in a crumble topping, base for puddings/mousses, “rum” balls, replace icing sugar for frostings.

The list is endless.

Christmas – the dinner, the cheesy movies, the Story, and yes, even the cookies, are essential. This year, more than ever. Not for the sprinkles, but for the happy memories, the peace, and the smiles.

For healthy, delicious Christmas recipes head over to the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook. Dec. 1–12 enjoy new recipes daily with the #12DaysofZen recipe challenge and win.

Life years lost

Another COVID casualty: The other health crisis/pandemic

I think we can all agree that 2020 hasn't been the healthiest year on record. But not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

There are many things that play a role in the outcome of our health. There are six components that I work with clients on,:

  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Water
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Supplementation.

Each one has factors that also affect the outcome. More often than not, we have control over those outcomes. Even when considering genetics, which according to Dr. Terry Wahls, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa, controls just five to 15% of the outcomes of our health.

That really is good news because that means we can potentially control upwards of 85% of the outcome of our own health. Except that's not what's been happening this year.

This year has been fraught with more bad news than I'm sure anyone has heard in a very long time, which translates to stress.Stress is listed first for a reason. Left unchecked to become or stay chronic, stress negatively affects all the other components that come after it.

Stress puts the body and brain into a fight or flight mode, a good thing if someone were trying to hurt us. Heart rate increases, insulin spikes, cortisol and adrenaline are released, blood flows away from vital organs out to the extremities and away from the frontal cortex (decision maker) of the brain to the amygdala (fear centre), all causing us to act quickly to resolve or escape the situation.

Once the danger has passed, levels come down and blood flow returns to normal. But what happens when it doesn't?

For the past nine months, every major news source has reported a daily dose of doom and gloom with regards to COVID. Let's face it, we're all more than a little stressed and frustrated by and with it all.

While being informed is important, quite frankly, the constant dripping of negative information delivered multiple times per day across multiple sources, accompanied by ever-increasing restrictions and closures, mounting expenditures and dwindling incomes, and the all-around fear and uncertainty most have been living in for months, has caused harm to more people than the virus.

These are the life years lost.

According to the National Library of Medicine posted on PubMed, life years lost, or years of potential life lost is defined as:

The concept of years of potential life lost (YPLL) involves estimating the average time a person would have lived had he or she not died prematurely. 

If a 25-year-old man commits suicide and his otherwise life expectancy would have been 80 years, YPLL is calculated at 55. Hang on we will come back to this.

A large part of the continual drip, drip, dripping of information is the number of cases announced on the daily. It would go a long way to alleviating fears and lowering overall stress if these case numbers were given context.

For example, I know seven people who were told they had the virus, however only two were actually tested. A few friends have also mentioned how odd it was that they, or a family member had signed up to go and take a COVID test but then changed their minds as the wait was long and they were not feeling ill, and were contacted by the testing site to notify them of their positive results.

As well, independent MP Randy Hillier in Ontario asked questions in the House last month regarding the accuracy of the PCR tests. He reported that his findings showed in order for the tests to be accurate, they should be set around 25 cycles (the number of amplifications used to identify the virus) as above that will give a false positive.

Hillier stated in this address that in Canada, testing is done at 40 cycles. And since all the policies, rules and restrictions seem to be based on case numbers alone, it seems it might be worth it to have a look.

In the name of cases, the elderly in care facilities have been sequestered into isolation – from their loved ones and from their fellow residents. A member of a local business group told me she has seen severe decline in her mother because of this.

My grandpa died this past summer in the U.S. He was together with his wife in assisted living and she died before him. After her death, the home would no longer allow his daughters to visit. He underwent two separate amputations, a stroke and died shortly thereafter. Alone, at 102 with a mind as sharp as a tack.

Seniors Advocate of BC surveyed both care home residents and the public. The report is lengthy, but I believe more people need to see their answers. A shorter read, this article done by NBC is heartbreaking as well.

A former colleague who works in a school is deeply saddened that she's no longer allowed to comfort a child who has been hurt, or is feeling sad and frustrated. If they are bleeding, she must put on a mask and glove up before going to the child.

She's seeing children coming to school with hands that are dry, cracked and in some cases bleeding from excessive sanitizing. Broken skin is an easy way for any virus or germ to enter the body. And even more disturbing, younger kids are hesitant and even afraid to approach their older siblings during the school day, when they would have otherwise run up and given a quick hug and gone back to play.

I've spoken to or heard from business owners who haven't been able to take a wage for over eight months, all the while trying to keep up with the increasing protocols and restrictions that seem to just keep coming. Not to mention the employees who no longer have jobs, or now have to try and get a second job to make up for the hours they are no longer able to work.

It's a well-known fact that unemployment is a major contributing factor to suicide. Both the BMJ, British Medical Journal and the MJA, Medical Journal of Australia, concluded that:

“Being unemployed was associated with a twofold to threefold increased relative risk of death by suicide, compared with being employed.”

For those who have been able to stay afloat, the added stress of fearful customers taking it upon themselves to report what they perceive as infractions of the latest rulings, further impacting businesses and livelihoods. Unfortunately, this is happening in Kelowna.

All these extra stressors play a role in our lives and the resulting life years lost. Living in a constant state of fear and stress is not good for our health. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypertension, depression, anxiety, weight gain and the risks associated like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, join pain, suppressed immune function to name a few of the physical health issues that are accelerated.

When these stressors are out of our control, or even when we perceive them to be out of our control, the results can be catastrophic. Both for physical and mental health of our nation, and the world as a whole.

Today, to help bring down and alleviate the stress you're carrying today, turn off the news. Take a walk, read a book, call a friend, watch a movie, preferably something that will make you laugh. Take a break from the negative and take back your health, and some happy.

If you're looking for a community of positive, healthy people, you're invited to join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook. You might even get so healthy holiday treat recipes to try this year.

More FIT Talk With Tania articles

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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