FIT Talk With Tania  

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.


Win the food fight

Fall, clear through until spring, is a season of food.

Thanksgiving in October – and again in November for all our Snowbirds – followed by Christmas in December, interrupted briefly in January when the world once again resolves to lose weight and get healthy.

Ironically, the two largest chocolate/candy days ever, Valentine's Day in February and Easter in April, follow directly to test our resolve.

Every year, a massive chunk of our calendar is devoted to one indulgent celebration after the other. And those same dinners, sweet treats, and occasions to indulge that are anticipated and longed for by some, are actually a source of dread and stress for many.

Those already struggling to achieve or maintain weight loss and health goals often see food holidays as a fight they've not been able to win. And without a plan to navigate these many feast-ive occasions, the meals that should bring joy and happy memories made 'round the table, bring stress instead.

Working hard, being “good” all year only to lose the food fight yet again and have to start all over again in the spring, is unfortunately a reality many deal with each year.

Good news. I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way. With a little planning, a little balancing of food, and these six strategies, you'll be able to keep off those extra pounds, enjoy your holidays meals, and finally win the food fight.

Never arrive hungry.

Skipping lunch, or worse, not eating all day in an effort to “save room” is not doing your body any favours. Starving yourself all day causes blood sugar to drop and the body to burn muscle. You'll also be more likely to reach for the chips or the bowl of Lindors, spiking blood sugar, burning muscle and slowing metabolism.

Pair alcohol with food.

Having that glass of wine with dinner will go a long way to keeping blood sugar balanced and avoid the fat storage. TIP; alcohol is a carbohydrate, so pass on the breads, rice, potato, etc., when adding alcohol.

For those gatherings that are not a full-on meal and you still want to have an alcoholic bevvy, look for the snack table and choose a few slices of meat or cheese, or grab a handful of nuts to munch on while sipping. The protein and fat work to balance the carbohydrates in the alcohol, helping to minimize the carnage. 

Water is a must.

Hydrate well before dinner, throughout the evening and following any alcohol. Water will help flush out bloat from excess salt and sugar in the food, as well as any alcohol in your system.

Be choosy.

If you decide to take the off-plan route and indulge in dessert, choose one that really and truly appeals to you. Something you've always wanted to try, or is your favourite. In doing this, studies show that you'll be satisfied with a smaller portion and less likely to have seconds.

PFC your plate.

The better we are at keeping our bodies in balance and our blood sugar stable, the more successful we will be at keeping the weight off. For those new to PFC, it stands for Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. Yes, we do need carbohydrates, the fruit and veggie kind. And yes, fruits and veggies are carbohydrates.

Having seconds may help you lose weight. 

And no, this is not a misprint. Unfortunately, many people are still under the impression they need fewer meals in order to lose or maintain their weight when really it's all about the balance.

It's far better to have the correct portion PFC meal and then the same meal again three hours later than to have one large meal. Bodies can only metabolize a certain amount at a time and when we give it too much it gets stored as fat.

Whether you're at a restaurant, staff lunch or family dinner, being mindful to ensure all three PFCs make in onto your plate and replacing the potatoes and rice with extra steamed veg or salad if need be, keeps your metabolism turned on and burning fat.

Taking it a step further and eating PFC every three to four hours throughout the day, will keep your body in balance and allow it to burn fat all day long. 

After all, wouldn't you rather emerge in the spring looking lean and feeling energized, not like you're storing up for hibernation?

If you're ready to start now and not just survive the holidays, but thrive through the holidays and beyond, join our 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook and book in for your complimentary health assessment with Tania today. Why weight?

Aloe vera a miracle plant?


The first time I ever heard anything about aloe vera I was about 10 or 12 years old.

A friend of my sister who lived at the end of our street was riding her bike down the hill and wiped out. She hit some sand, lost control and went head first over the handlebars. It was not pretty. Poor girl had road rash on almost ever piece of exposed skin, including her face.

Her mom had an aloe vera plant. She broke off a few leaves, split them down the middle so that some of the wet, jelly-like substance remained on each side of the leaf, and proceeded to put it directly onto the worst spots on her daughter's face.

I don't remember how long it took for her face to heal, but it wasn't long. And to this day, you wouldn't be able to tell she'd ever had so much as even a little scratch on her face.

Scrapes, burns, and sunburns, are usually what most people think of when it comes to medicinal uses for aloe vera. You may be surprised to know, however, that this not-so-prickly cactus has been found to have even more healthful benefits when used internally.

Botanicals (plants that are used alone or in combination, for flavouring, fragrance, functional health and/or medicine) are becoming increasingly popular.

They are so popular that, according to a Zion Market Research report, the botanical market will surpass $1.4 billion by 2025. Clearly more and more people are open to trying natural products.

Although aloe vera has been used both medicinally and cosmetically for 6,000 years, it really seems to be showing a surge in popularity this past year.

Since a 2019 study done by Brand Essence Market Research projected aloe vera gel alone to come just shy of the $1 billion mark by 2025, I felt aloe vera was indeed worthy of some attention.

Why the sudden increase? What are people using aloe for and what benefits are they experiencing?

Glad you asked, I did a little research.

According to a study published by the International Aloe Science Council, (yep that's a thing)  “... aloe vera enhances the bioavailability of vitamins B12, and C, and ORAC among mature adults....”

That means when consuming aloe vera, the body was able to more readily absorb and use the vitamins and antioxidant levels were also increased.

The study went on to say:

“It’s clear that consuming Aloe vera along with vitamin supplements would be beneficial especially among populations for whom B12 deficiency is an issue, such as the elderly.....the positive effects are boundless for those who take nutritional products.”

Good to know, no?

Vitamin absorption is just one of many benefits. Aloe vera:

  • Helps improve gut health
  • Calms IBS symptoms,
  • Aids in digestion
  • Reduces acid reflux.

It also promotes regularity, helps with liver function, helps boost immune function and detoxes the skin. Definitely so many more benefits than just that cooling relief after staying out in the sun too long.

I think we can all agree aloe vera is beneficial and understand perhaps why the sudden spike in sales. While I love seeing people invest in their health, I do not love seeing people waste money.

When it comes to health products, quality is of the utmost importance and you really do get what you pay for.

Just as your car drives you around town, your body is really the vehicle that drives you through life. If your car was made to run on supreme over regular, you won't get near the performance you'd expect to when you cheap out at the pump. Same goes for your body.

Regardless of what the marketing on discount grocery store brands would have you believe, all aloe is not created equal. Labels, all labels, list ingredients in descending order according to quantity.

The first item listed is the primary ingredient and the rest go down from there.

If the first ingredient is not aloe vera – the inner leaf juice/gel – red flag.

If it's full of sugar, fructose, artificial sugars, flavours or colours, red flag. Soy, fillers, bright colours or things you can't pronounce, also a red flag.

While picking up a few groceries the other day, I noticed a large aloe drink product display. Advertised as a sugar-free Aloe Vera Drink, the bright green colour prompted me to check the label.

A quick scan showed the first ingredient as water, “sugar free” turned out to mean it was sweetened with sucralose, and although it did contain some real aloe vera, the drink also contained artificial aloe flavour. Definitely not something that would provide much of a health benefit. 

Any benefit you might receive from the small amount of actual aloe vera, would quickly be negated by the inflammation caused by all the other toxic ingredients your body would have to deal with.

Now,I know some health products rank low on the totem tasting pole and aloe vera was one of them. Years ago, I gave it to my youngest to help with digestive issues and I must admit it wasn't great – a bitter, lumpy gel.

Fortunately, science has come a long way and we now have quality aloe options that taste good too.

For more info on all things aloe vera, tune in to Facebook Live with Tania as she joins aloe vera expert Chris Hardy, former board member of the International Aloe Vera Science Council, along with other industry leaders Oct 27. Join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook for details on how to watch.


Thankful for health

I am blessed to say that I have many things to be thankful for.

God, family, and health are always at the top of my list and despite all the chaos that's happened this year, I am thankful for 2020 as well.

I'm sure a few of you are now questioning the state of my mental health at this point. Even though this year seems to have brought more negatives than positives, 2020 has also provided amazing opportunities to reflect on what's been working in our lives and what's not. Especially in our own personal health.

Typically, people usually only make significant changes in life when something happens to indicate staying where they are would be worse than making that change. As humans are (mostly) creatures of habit and balk at change, it usually has to be something pretty big to set those wheels of change in motion. For my mom, it was cancer.

About 24 years ago, my mom was diagnosed with two different, rapidly growing types of breast cancer. One in each breast. By all accounts my parents led a healthy lifestyle. They don't drink, dad hunted and they had a big garden, they've always been active and neither has ever been overweight.

It just goes to show that:

  • The absence of a diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean we are healthy
  • We simply can't really know what's going on the inside of our bodies.

My mom looked fine on the outside, but clearly she wasn't fine on the inside. And that prompted them to make some changes.

As a kid growing up, I often remember mom telling my sister and I, “Your dad can fix anything.” And she was right. Things around the house and the farm, vehicles and even some things to do with his own personal health.

After working with a naturopath and doing a lot of reading on food, dad was able to bring down his high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar and his doctor never did have to prescribe any medications. So when mom was diagnosed with cancer, dad started researching again.

Mom's a tough, little lady. When she sets her mind to something, you can bet she's going to make it happen. And as mindset does play a role in the outcome of our health – good and bad -  choosing to focus on the positive is key. She's good at that.

The old adage, “What you think about, you'll bring about," has actually been quantified by science. Bruce Lipton's work in epigenetics illustrates it quite well.

My mom went through surgery and treatment, always looking on the bright side, my dad read up on what she should be eating or not eating, how much and when, and learned which supplements would help keep her from getting sick during treatments.

It worked. And because they saw results, even after mom was given a clean bill of health, they kept doing the things that helped to build health and swore off those things that didn't.

As with anything in life, we get out what we put in. And when it comes to health, it really is much like an investment. Most people understand that whether they want to or not, putting away even a small amount of money on a regular basis will get them a good return when it's time to retire.

It's that consistent building on and adding to what was put away the month before that helps your money grow. Same with health.

Doing any good thing(s) for your health is always preferable to not. Adopting them as part of your lifestyle will allow you to experience increased benefits. As opposed to those who simply follow a plan for a short amount of time and stop when they think they're done.

Health is a journey, not a destination. If you stop putting money into your portfolio, you can't expect to see the same amount of money at retirement as you would by contributing regularly. Same with health.

Any time you make a healthy change your body benefits. But if you stop following that healthy plan, don't expect to live with the same level of health you would have created by continuing to invest by doing those things that worked. And food is one of those things.

I find it interesting that even though Hippocrates first said way back in ancient Greece, “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food,” little consideration is given in North America to making healthy food changes to:

  • Reverse disease
  • Support healing
  • Boost immune function
  • Build up the body to reduce risk of contracting illness.

It's sad that this is often an afterthought rather than forethought.

Common sense would be to build up the body as much as possible ahead of time, especially since we really don't know what's going on inside. The worse thing that could happen is that you won't get to use those company sick days.

Still, no one is perfect and sometimes things do happen. People like to use the example of a marathon runner who's in the best shape of his life and yet has a heart attack at 40.

They ask, “What's the point if it's going to happen anyway?” Rather than saying, “Good thing he was in such great shape or me might have had that heart attack at 30.”

Last week, my mom had surgery to remove a tumour in her pancreas/bile duct. Her surgeon was pleased that they were able to remove it all with no complications and he reported the surgery went better than expected.

Dad and I both agree that had he and mom not been consistent with staying away from the nasties and doing so many good things consistently over the years, it could have been a very different story.

This Thanksgiving, our family has a little more than usual to be thankful for. I am thankful not only that my mom will make a full recovery, but also that she and my dad are once again taking stock, doubling down and committing to doing the best they can for their health.

The Bible says we're meant to live to the ripe old age of 120. Similarly, a 2017 article in Time magazine discussed a paper published in the scientific journal, Nature, which listed 115 as our last year.

Even that was criticized for limiting it by setting a number. By either of those numbers, most of us aren't even halfway there. All the more reason to be thankful and invest in your health.

If you're looking for simple tips and strategies to lose weight, increase energy, reverse disease and take back control of your health, join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook.

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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