Wondering where to take your wellness journey in 2017? Find out how natural health experts recommend you shape your goals for the coming year.
It’s the dawn of 2017 and the resolutions are almost palpable in the frosty air. When it comes to your commitment to health, the New Year brings new possibilities and priorities. Here, experts in natural health advise you on setting and sustaining your health goals throughout the year.
Meet your panellists (from left to right)
- Catherine Roscoe Barr, BSc Neuroscience, wellness coach
- Melissa Carr, registered doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, BSc Kinesiology
- Joy McCarthy, holistic nutritionist
- Christy Brissette, dietitian and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition
- Lisa Petty, nutritionist and healthy aging expert
- Gillian Flower, naturopathic doctor at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre
Out with the old; in with the new: What’s one piece of old advice readers can shed going into 2017?
Drop the idea that you should follow a popular diet plan because it worked for someone else. You have to find what works for you. And remember that because your body’s changing, that might not be your plan for life—it might be your plan for now.
Fat is the enemy. It’s not!
The idea that 15 minutes of sunshine is going to give you enough vitamin D.
Please finish this sentence: My inspiring advice to readers looking to take their health to the next level in 2017 is … Why is this key for readers now, and how can they sustain it throughout the year?
Eat more fat! Incorporate healthy fats into your day for beautiful skin and hair and to help you lose weight and keep it off.
Over the last couple of years, everyone has been focused on getting enough protein. In 2017, take this one step further by adding the healthy fats that lower inflammation and keep you satisfied.
Have a healthy fat at each meal and snack. Go for whole foods first such as nuts, seeds, and avocado because they come packed with other nutrients such as disease-fighting phytochemicals, protein, fibre, and vitamin E. For cooking and salad dressings, choose organic, unrefined, cold-pressed oils to get the most nutrients.
Have your blood tested for vitamin D. Many of my cancer patients are coming in with deficient vitamin D levels. This is certainly supported in many studies as showing a link between vitamin D deficiency and increased cancer risk in some cases, but other conditions such as depression, arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis (MS) and many others seem to have some association with vitamin D.
Put your supplements in a place where you’ll remember to take them: in the kitchen right beside the fridge, beside your toothbrush, or on the dresser. It’s important to take the same amount on a daily basis.
Have your vitamin D levels checked annually to help refine the dosing to make sure you’re taking the right amount. It’s also important to find the form that works best for you: pills might be your first thought, but drops are an option that are better absorbed for some people.
Develop a mindfulness practice. Focus on what fills you up and what drains you in order to harness the power of neuroplasticity (ability for your brain to change).
Keep what I call a mood, food, and fitness journal. This is almost like a science experiment: you’re gathering empirical data and evidence about what serves you and what doesn’t. The act of thinking about and writing down how things make you feel—how you manage stress, how what you eat makes you feel, how movement makes you feel—stimulates neuroplasticity. That hardwires these healthy habits.
Women have to be more proactive in terms of working with a health care practitioner and taking charge of their own health. In my master’s research, it became painfully obvious that women are still not included in research studies to the same extent as men are.
Lives are busy and expectations on women are particularly high right now. Many women are experiencing a particular exhaustion—caring for children or young adults at home while also caring for older parents.
Consume protein, fat, and fibre at every meal and snack. One simple way for women to boost their energy levels first thing in the morning is to start the day with a food-based greens product.
Also, women don’t think about the importance of balancing blood sugar; it’s really key to energy management. Women will go either too long without eating or when they do eat, they load up on carbs because they’re easy and they give them an immediate rush of energy.
What is the organizing ideal you’ll be sharing with your clients this year?
Create daily “no excuse” healthy habits. For example, as kids, we had to be told to brush our teeth. Now, most of us brush our teeth at least twice a day every day without thinking about it, without excuses.
Try one new recipe a week. By the end of the month, you have four new recipes. Let’s face it: most people never dust off or crack open their cookbook, or they may bookmark their favourite recipe in alive magazine, but then do they actually make it?
What are the top two ways readers can sustain this ideal?
Once somebody figures out what their new daily habit is going to be, they need to have a way to track their commitment. Use things that work for you, such as sticky notes on your bathroom mirror or an app on your phone.
Writing it down on a to-do list and crossing it off also works; your brain gets a boost of serotonin when you cross something off a list, and that feeling of being rewarded will help you stick to your commitment.
Another way is to sequence it: “So, I’m going to brush my teeth, and then I’m going to do that thing every day.”
A meal plan really helps. Getting the family involved by cooking together is a really good thing to do. Or, make Sundays your batch cooking day: you have your girlfriend over, you make a big soup or a chili and split that and eat it for the week.
Why do most clients visit you?
The top reason is to lose weight or body fat and build muscle. The second most common is digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.
To achieve holistic success. What I mean by holistic success is success mentally, physically, spiritually, socially, and intellectually.
To help with the side effects of the conventional treatments for cancer they’re currently receiving or moving forward post-treatment for cancer.
Pain, possibly from injuries new or old, inflammation, headaches, migraines, or cramping. Also, stress: it’s such a pervasive thing, and it’s either created or aggravated by a number of other things, including physical and emotional health issues.
Digestion, skin problems such as acne or eczema, and meal planning advice. A big part of what I do as a nutritionist is helping people figure out what to eat and then giving them creative, inspiring, and delicious meal plans.
Right now I’m working a lot with mid-life women. I have really started to focus on the process of aging proactively, so I think the people I attract are the ones who want to age well.
Top 10 health tips
Supercharge 2017 with these quick tips from our panel of experts.
1. Use probiotics
“Improving your gut flora is key to boosting your immune system and may help battle the bulge,” says Brissette.
2. Try a fungus little known to the West: Japanese red reishi
This bitter-tasting mushroom’s properties help you adapt to stress and bolster your energy levels, help prevent cancer, aid in liver function and detoxification, and improve cardiovascular health.
3. Take essential fatty acids
Research continues to uncover the wealth of benefits fatty acids give your brain, heart, immune system, hair, skin, and nails.
“If you don’t have enough essential fatty acids, it’s hard for your body to operate property,” says Carr.
4. Become part of Roscoe Barr’s “anti-sedentary revolution”
If you’re hitting the gym for an hour every day, Barr asks, what are you doing during the other 23? If you’re at a desk, move around at least once an hour to improve circulation.
“Think of the circulatory system as either a clean babbling brook or a stinky, stagnant pond—what do you want to be?” questions Roscoe Barr.
5. Be mindful of your posture at all times, including during your workout
“Proper posture is not only good for your spine and health, but it also changes the way we feel about ourselves and the way others perceive us,” says Roscoe Barr.
6. Be a fibre fiend, says Flower
Flower says her clients’ diets still aren’t fibrous enough. She prescribes 25 g of fibre a day. Men should consume a minimum of 38 g of fibre each day.
7. Eat vegetables at every opportunity, recommends Flower
Eat them as snacks and part of your meals—half of your plate to be exact. Consume plenty of colourful veggies because they contain antioxidant-bearing flavonoids.
8. Prioritize sleep
Some things bear repeating in our time-strapped culture. “Ensure you get seven and a half to nine hours of sleep a night,” says McCarthy.
9. Seek an acupuncturist
According to Carr, your acupuncturist (R.Ac., R.TCM.P., or Dr. TCM) should have at least three to five years of training specifically in traditional Chinese medicine (where acupuncture originated) for you to receive the most thorough evaluation and benefit from your treatment.
“Acupuncture can help support the achieving of [New] goals by calming the nervous system and supporting healing,” says Carr.
10. Don’t beat yourself up when you take a health detour
“When you treat yourself, buy a gourmet goodie, savour it—and then forgive yourself and move on,” says Petty.