Category Archives: Health

(FINAL) Day 28 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Ladies and gents, you did it. You made it to the last day! Congrats on taking some steps to improve your health and your life, little by little.

Today may mark the end of Helen’s annual health challenge, but it’s only the beginning of new habits, better decisions and a healthier life.

For my final TIP in this series, I wanted to share a really important secret to success: believe in yourself and persevere!

Since nothing worthwhile comes easily, without effort, you will need to be steadfast in your convictions and dedicated to your own success. Since I have lived through this – and still continue to, very much so – I thought this would be an opportune moment to briefly tell you my personal story, my own journey of transformation.

As some of you may know, I had struggled with my weight for most of my life. I was almost never very evidently overweight, but often definitely above what is normal and healthy for my size. This manifested in a big lack of confidence, growing up, which affected many areas of my life. I also continue to fight off my fairly bad eating habits and addictions. Jackie still tells me from time to time how I can get into “survival mode” and just mindlessly devour what’s on my plate, without giving it much conscious attention or taking a moment to savor the wonderful mixture of tastes.

One thing that has helped me tremendously in my life, is my relentless dedication to certain objectives that I make my mind up about. Over the years, this strength of character has showed up on several occasions (even against great odds) and has shaped who I am today.

For instance, when I was around 19 years old, I arrived in Greece exactly one month before having to show up to do my military service (mandatory for any man born in Greece). I weighed 190, which is quite heavy for me (measuring just below 5′ 10″). I decided to let loose and pig out, since I was inevitably going to lose it again in the army. So through careless and voracious eating, I actually managed to gain 30 pounds in 30 days. I mean, that’s just ridiculous. But it’s also entirely true, I’m not even exaggerating one bit. Now at a weight of 220 and obviously getting quite round, I enter the Greek army, only to discover that it was a real joke and I was destined to actually gain weight and become less fit while in there, if I did nothing about it. So I made a decision that I was going to exercise, get fitter and lose the weight – on my own, while doing my military service. This played out like so: every 4-5 days, we were allowed a 3-hour outing from the base, to go into the small town for a coffee or whatever. I instead paid to join the local gym, and would use every evening out to workout (something I was not doing as a soldier!). In the end, I came out of the army exactly 6 months later (as a permanent resident of another country, I only needed to do a partial service) weighing 190 again! A few months later, I was back home and my weight was slowly crawling back up near 200. When I finally hit that dreaded number, something in me profoundly changed. I still remember the exact day…

On January 8th 2001, I decided I was going to get healthy once and for all. So I started to go to the gym 4-5 times per week and began to eat ridiculously strictly (reading only some popular magazines, I though this was actually a healthy way to eat at the time). Sadly, I didn’t know any better than to eat low fat and restrict calories then, but with my drastic and dangerously rapid weight loss tactics, I lost 50 pounds in 75 days. I have since discussed this with a doctor who basically said to me “that’s impossible”. Oh, it’s possible, although I sure don’t recommend it to anyone.

What stayed with me most from that experience is how a simple decision led to an unbending will – despite ferocious opposition and discouragement from everyone (concerned, and maybe a bit jealous?) around me – which inevitably led to the success I set out to achieve.

This weight stayed off for many years, before I eventually bubbled back up to about 185 by 2008. That summer I learned about a fascinating activity called CrossFit, which I was so captivated by that I even dreamt of opening my own gym, since there were none in Laval. However, I quickly learned that one was in the process of opening and the partners were set, so I missed that boat (sort of too bad, it’s a business which is exploding now). The following year, in the summer of 2009, I was the first ever client of CrossFit Laval and that again changed my life forever, and I am very grateful for it. I lost about 25 pounds over the first 3 months of membership and as a result, have been more fit and health-minded than ever before in my life. I became inspired by a community of people who prioritize health and nutrition, so I educated myself, pushed my limits, and essentially recreated who I am. It even led to me entering my first ever competition (once again, fighting off protests from “loved ones”): the 2010 CrossFit Games Canada East Sectional Qualifier, held in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I finished 53rd overall and learned some tough lessons along the way, but the experience of it will remain with me forever.

One last thing I want to mention is how important it is to go at your goal gradually and steadily – in a healthy manner! It is not realistic (and often dangerous) to attempt to undo damage from years and years of bad choices. When your mind is made up, really, there is no rush. Permanent, lasting change happens steadily.

A final anecdote of mine about this is when I was on the cusp of my first major body transformation, in late 2000 (weighing almost 200 lbs), I remember going to a supplements store and speaking with an experienced personal trainer there. I asked how long it could take until I get lean and can actually have some abs? His answer floored me: He pinched my belly fat and candidly said “if you keep at it, in about 4 years you can get there”. Since I was thinking (dreaming?) more along the lines of 4 weeks, this news was devastating! Many years later, I came to understand how correct his advice was.

I know that my own tips and advice over this past month may have challenged some of your personal beliefs about what is truly healthy. Some of my beliefs are quite contrarian to current popular thought and “conventional wisdom”. I can only encourage you to keep on learning and try things out for yourself, to see what works best.

All this to say, the power is in your hands. Our entire life, from now until the day we die, it is entirely up to each and every one of us to choose what we truly want and then have the fortitude to be true to ourselves and follow-up on it. Just have the presence of mind to always believe in yourself – we can all do so much more than we think.

Today is an important milestone along this path. It is no small feat to decide to take responsibility for your choices and actions, day after day. No matter how you rate yourself during this past month, the intention was correct and some progress was made. My hat’s off to you guys. Take a bow, you deserve it! And never ever give up on your health.

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
–Patañjali (author of The Yoga Sutras, 2nd century BCE)

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
–Michael Jordan (arguably the greatest basketball player of all time)

The writer is fully aware that this message is not orthodox; but since our orthodox theories have not saved us we have to readjust them to bring them into harmony with Nature’s laws. Nature must be obeyed, not orthodoxy.
–Dr. Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939)

Day 27 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hey everybody! Do you FEEL GOOD today? With only today and one more day to go, I sure hope so! You’re officially in the home stretch, the final straightaway, so plan to finish in style!

In today’s TIP I wanted to share a quick reminder which makes the daily workout effortless: exercise should be fun!

This means, very simply, choose an activity that you enjoy doing and practice regularly, you will inevitably get much better at it – while getting into better shape. If you’re having fun along the way, you won’t even think of it as exercise. In this way, being active becomes a part of your life, and doesn’t feel like a chore you “should” do.

I also highly encourage you to try new things from time to time. This is not only a great way to discover fun new activities, but also a great opportunity to meet other like-minded, healthy, active people and also put to functional use whatever form of exercise you may have been practicing.

For instance, just today I went to my first Paragym class, and it was a blast! This particular session was focused on Parkour/freerunning movements and I absolutely loved learning these, while also discovering that my body can quickly learn to do impressive jumps and rolls I had never tried before. Paragym (which I stumbled upon recently while online) has a unique school of thought that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere: their mission is to help people learn to move better, to make all forms of acrobatics accessible to people of all ages, by emphasizing the importance of postural alignment and the development of body awareness. By the end of just one class, we all did an assisted backflip (including people in their 40s and 50s, incredibly)! I highly recommend it!!

Another time I had joined an Ultimate Frisbee league and had a blast picking up a new, challenging, fast-paced, no-contact, self-officiated sport. It was truly a fun, playful experience!

On yet another occasion, Jackie and I went on a challenging 4-hour hike at the Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton, in the Eastern Townships.

Aside from constantly trying new permutations and combinations of common exercises and workouts, I’ve also taken classes in Olympic weightlifting, as well as dabbled in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing.

Each one of us has sports or activities that they’re curious about and has wanted to try. I say just go for it – you may even discover a new joy or passion!

People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.
–Dale Carnegie (American writer, lecturer and developer of many famous courses)

Play makes us human.
–Peter Gray, Ph.D. (developmental psychologist, research professor and author)

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.
–Michael Jordan (one of the greatest basketball players of all time)

Day 26 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

What’s going on guys? Only a few days left!

Today I wanted to share a very effective way to exercise: it’s called High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short.

All it is, basically, is going “all-out” for short bursts, followed by a period of rest, and then repeated 8-12 times (or as many as you’d like). This is a very effective way to train, for two main reasons:

  1. It’s quick and easy: No endless treadmill “cardio” sessions that leave you unmotivated and puzzled as to why your body composition stays the same year after year.
  2. It applies the minimum effective dose: Who wants to do hard work for longer, when good results can be obtained from very short workouts? HIIT may be the most efficient way to train.

Now, when I say easy, I don’t mean that quite literally. In a sense, it’s “easy” to get a good workout in less than 10 minutes a day, this is true. But believe me when I say you’re working you ass off for those few minutes!

The original method uses a 2:1 ratio of work to rest periods (e.g. 30–40 seconds of hard sprinting alternated with 15–20 seconds of jogging or walking), but it can be scaled as needed. The goal is to get some serious metabolic conditioning!

Can you imagine giving your absolute 100%, like there were no other “sets” to do? Not toning it down one bit, just giving it your all and getting completely depleted. This kind of maximal effort can’t last that long, and so you would typically sustain it for about 20 seconds. Not too scary, is it? Then take a quick break and back at it again, giving another 100% of whatever’s left in the tank, and so on for a few more times.

There is a well known protocol called Tabata, which consists of 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times – totaling a whole 4 minutes of exercise! This system can get you some serious results in very little time (quite literally), and I guarantee you that, once you try it, you will agree that it legitimately qualifies as a workout.

The real beauty of a Tabata workout is that it can be applied to any exercise, or even a combination of 2 exercises (done alternating or in succession), called a Double Tabata, lasting 8 minutes. Equipment is optional as well (think sprinting, pushups, pullups, squats, burpees, lunges, planks, dips, etc.), which means you can do it anywhere and anytime.

An important thing to mention is that studies have already shown that by doing HIIT just 3 times per week, you stand to gain from aerobic benefits (improves VO2 max and increases resting heart rate for 24hrs, which makes you burn extra calories automagically!) as well as metabolic benefits (significant reduction in total body fat and improved insulin resistance).

In short, HIIT is something to take seriously, especially if you’re the kind of person who has trouble prioritizing the time to work out daily.

Just give it a shot – and keep on rockin’!

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.
–Sam Ewing

Day 25 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hi guys,

In light of the sad news about a friend’s father passing tonight, I felt it was the ideal time to briefly discuss this important TIP: never take your health for granted!

Every single day we’re here on this Earth is a true blessing, but it’s only human to lose sight of this after a while. We just expect that things go well, we are healthy (enough) and only other people die. However, I’m certain we’ve all had at least one of those unexpected moments life inevitably throws your way, that completely knocks the socks off you or shakes you deeply. That scary curve-ball when you were just cruising right along comfortably. Each one of these experiences contains an important lesson, and reminder.

Health – and life itself – is a gift. Anyone who remembers to take a brief moment and remind himself of this daily, is likely leading a more purposeful, meaningful and happier life. Taking care of your body, this temporary “Earth suit” which is your temple, is of paramount importance! Once we lose our health, it is far more difficult to regain it – so why not tend to it and be grateful for it while things are going well?

Even the smallest steps and efforts towards improvement count. No matter what you’re doing, if you’re trying something, you’re making progress. When you can look at yourself in the mirror and honestly declare that you are a better person than you were yesterday, you deserve to be congratulated. Keep going. Keep up the good work. Don’t stop building on your successes. Your health is in your hands, and it’s so precious. I suggest you treat it like you would a newborn baby – with the utmost love and care.

Start treating your health better right now. One day it may be too late.

May we all truly live, until we die. God bless.

Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.
–Josh Billings

Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.

–Earl of Derby

The king who cannot rule his diet, will hardly rule his realm in peace and quiet.
–Rule of Health of Salerno

Day 24 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hi everybody,

Today’s TIP is about the 80/20 rule & hormesis.

As Helen mentioned in her email, I totally agree with the ancient Greek philosophy of “παν μέτρον άριστον” (and with the occasional poutine!). Within what we consider to be primitive societies, there is often much wisdom to be discovered.

I’m far from perfect but I do try to eat well at least 80% of the time. There is a ton of evidence that this 80/20 approach (originated in economics but has application in everything) may be the best – and most realistic – way to live.

In fact, evidence does suggest that a little junk food or anything that is slightly poisonous to us (i.e. a toxin) may actually be beneficial!

In the scientific literature, this is known as a hormetic stressor, and even mild nutritional stress can help your immune system get stronger and more resistant to disease.

Other examples of hormesis, meaning stressors that may initially do “bad” things to our health , but then produce a positive adaptive response that improves health are: exercise, intermittent fasting, cold water baths and sunlight exposure.

So, everything in moderation indeed!

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
–Friedrich Nietzsche