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Tag Archive for: healthy living


Six Simple Ways to Improve Nutrition As A Team

Julie Entwistle, C.Dir. (c), MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

It is no secret that obesity is on the rise across North America.  In fact, a 2014 study shows that obesity now accounts for 8.6% of youth and 25% of the adult population.  (Després, Alméras, & Gauvin, 2014)   The leading causes of this “obesity epidemic” are sedentary lifestyles, lack of physical activity and poor nutritional choices.

With the stressful lives being led by our generation, taking time to prepare and bring healthy lunches and snacks to work is difficult.  Yet, without a healthy snack or lunch, the tendency is to purchase food that is not healthy, or to under-eat which, believe it or not, can also cause obesity as our body works to “hold onto” every calorie in fear of starvation.

Employers may ask “why do I care if my team is eating unhealthy”, but the answer is obvious:  a healthy workforce is a productive workforce and workplace absences for health-related problems (including obesity, heart disease, diabetes etc) are hugely disruptive.

Here are a few suggestions that can be implemented in the workplace to help improve the health of your staff and organization:

  1. Schedule Regular Healthy Pot-Luck Lunches — choose a day of the week and have each person bring in a healthy lunch item for a team-building activity.
  2. Bring a Colleague a Lunch — people are more likely to prepare healthy meals for others than for themselves, so capitalize on this and arrange for “bring a colleague a lunch week” and see the efforts people will go to in order to promote the health of a colleague.
  3. Recipe of the Week — each week choose a member of the team to share make their favourite healthy meal or snack and bring it in to share with the team.  Have them send each member a recipe via email for them to make on their own.
  4. Education Opportunities — bring in a nutritionist, dietician or health coach to speak to the team about how to create healthy meals and snacks to help fuel their day at work.
  5. Brown Bag Week — encourage the team to have a “brown bag” week.  Eating out can lead to unhealthy choices and lack of portion control.  Bringing your own lunch can help to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need and fueling productivity the entire day.
  6. Russian Lunch Roulette — like secret Santa, have everyone bring a balanced lunch and randomly select who gets what lunch.  It always tastes better to consume something made by someone else, so people should enjoy the surprise lunch they end up with.  Of course, plan ahead for any allergies/food requests and ask people to put sauces/condiments on the side to be added only if desired.

In the end, lead by example.  Employers have the ability to create opportunities that can help their workforce to engage in healthy habits.  Use the strength of your organizational alliance to bring people together to help them achieve healthy goals.  Everyone will benefit, including the organization.


Previously posted August 2015


Stay Active for Good Health No Matter Your Age or Ability

Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do for your mental, physical and cognitive health.  It is recommended that adults have 150 minutes per week of heart-pumping activity and the good news is that no matter your age or ability there are activities anyone can engage in.  Take a look at the following care of Participaction that provides some great resources on how anyone can be active.

Participaction:  Activity is for Everyone– How to Get Active at any Age or Ability


Healthy is a Lifestyle, Not Just a Behavior

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

In my work as an occupational therapist I am often asked to help people learn to manage or improve their behavior.  Things they want to stop or start doing, and how to get there, become the topic of our treatment sessions.  But my response in these situations is often the same and my approach is to encourage people to make “lifestyle” and not just “behavior” changes when it comes to improving function or health.  After all, if behavior (be·hav·ior) is: “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others” and a lifestyle (life·style) is: “the way in which a person or group lives”, then there is a difference between acting and living.  My job is to coach the latter.

The difference in linguistics might seem small, but I would argue it is huge when actually implementing change.  I was reminded of this the other day when taking my daughter to the doctor.  Our doctor’s office is on the second floor.  She entered the building and moved towards the elevator.  I said “sorry Abs, we take the stairs”.  She made a disapproving face and I said “we would take the elevator if we needed to, but we don’t and the stairs align with our healthy lifestyle…race ya…”

I wanted her to know that our decisions need to align with our lifestyle and that deciding to take the stairs is not just a behavioral choice (“how should I act given my choices”)?  It is a way of living that will create the life we want as a family.

I still maintain that the best course I took in University was “Behavior Modification”.  Our project was to modify one of our own behaviors over the four months of the course.  As a dog owner, I chose the behavior of “dog walking” with the goal of making this a more regular routine.  Over the next four months I mapped out routes, increased walking distances and times, monitored my progress, and made a list of great dog walking locations in my community.  By the end of the four months I had adjusted my behavior from walking 20-30 minutes to two hours per day, spread over the morning and evening.  This is a routine I maintained for years – adjusting it as needed to accommodate my life changes along the way.  But my point is that in hindsight, the course did not allow me to modify my “behavior,” because in the end, I modified my “lifestyle” as this ultimately became the way I lived.

When taking that course I was told that it took four months to modify a behavior.  I have since heard that it takes three weeks to develop a new routine.  Perhaps the difference between these is that three weeks is a consistent period to make behavior change, but four months is needed for lifestyle adaptation.

Working with my clients I explain that lifestyle change is a commitment and like many things, requires daily practice.  We need time to reach the goals together, and change cannot and will not happen overnight because if it did, it would not be sustainable.

Spring is here, the sun is out, days are longer…a perfect time to ask yourself what lifestyle you want to have and to develop a plan to take you in that direction.  Don’t over think it.  Go big.  If “healthy” is on your mind, commit to a full out lifestyle change and make your daily decisions align with that.  Take the stairs, adjust your schedule, cut out the sugar, run the marathon, train for the Paralympics, but ultimately commit to a lifestyle and dedicate your energy towards living that way.


Back to… You!

This September we ran a series all about getting “back to you.” By now, we’re well back into the school year and new routines and we want to ensure you are taking time in your newly established routine for you.

To recap our “Back to You” series we want to leave you with the top 5 tips to ensure you are working towards a healthier lifestyle by focussing on you:

1. Schedule time for yourself.  Taking some me time each and everyday will go a long way to reducing stress, increasing energy and productivity and strengthening your overall health. So ensure, every day, you schedule time for yourself. Read a book, join a class, connect with a friend, or practice mindfulness techniques like meditation or yoga.

2. Keep Fit.   Ensuring your body is healthy through fitness at every stage of your life will help to keep you healthy and live longer. Try to schedule in some daily activities to promote fitness, but if you don’t have time for the gym or sports, ensure you sneak it in.

3. Eat Well.  You are what you eat! Food is the essential fuel for your body and mind, and without a balanced, healthy diet it’s impossible to function to your fullest potential. Take time to plan and prepare meals in advance so you ensure you are including the necessary nutrients on a daily basis and not needing to hit the drive-thru on your way home from work.

4. Keep Your Budget In Line.   Financial troubles or concerns can be a huge cause of stress in your life which can negatively affect both your physical and mental health. By taking time to plan, assess and modify your finances and spending habits you can alleviate stress, improve relationships and concentrate on you!

5. Keep Tabs on Yourself.  We’ve provided you with great ways to focus on you and your health, but with a busy lifestyle it can be hard to stick to your plans. If you notice yourself deviating from any of the plans you’re following to improve your mental, physical, and financial health, take a step back, reassess and devise a new plan that puts the focus back on you!