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  Everybody deals with stress at one point in time or other. No matter if you’re stressing out about a big date, what socks you’re going to wear, whether or not she is actually pregnant, or the pack of wolves that just jumped out from the bush behind you (run dude!), your body has the same reaction to stress. The hormones epinephrine and cortisol flood your blood and frighten you into action. These “alarm” hormones make your heart beat faster, bronchial tube dilate to feed oxygen to your starving brain, and also releases fat and glucose into your bloodstream for energy. This means that having too much stress will give you a high cortisol level consistently. You may be wondering why that’s such a bad thing. For starters, consistent high cortisol negatively disrupts your metabolism, and it also signals cells to store as much fat as possible! Storing fat is not good, let alone as much as possible. The thing is, is that the cortisol receptors in your abdominal region seem to be better so guess where the majority of that fat storage happens? You got it – as visceral fat behind your abs!

Cortisol can also effect weight gain through cravings because high levels of cortisol has you craving more salty/fatty/sugary treats. Eat too many of those and you may have to put a few new notches in your favourite belt (and not to make it tighter).

One big contribution to weight gain via cortisol is what is called emotional eating. Emotional eating consists of:

Social Eating – Stress seeks social support. We all know this fact because release is great for stress. However it gives that “feel good now, regret later” feeling after a big sundae, or bag of chips.

Nervous Energy – When you’re stressed or anxious you often get “orally fidgety.” Examples would be nail-biting, teeth grinding, or eating when not hungry.

Childhood Habits – Comforting memories mostly revolve around food. When you were younger your parents may have bribed you with sweets. Rewards like these develop emotional attachments.

Stuffing Emotions – Some people eat to quiet uncomfortable emotions like those who don’t deal well with confrontation. Instead they deal with their frustrations by eating junk rather than communication since food can take the focus off of numerous emotions.

Just looking at the way stress works and how people often deal with it shows you how difficult it can be to battle weight gain when stressed out. Often people get stressed out when they aren’t losing the weight they thought and then creates a vicious cycle of gain, gain, gain. Learning to control your stress can be a task but the better you are at it, the more success you can see in the weight loss department.

The term organic seems to be popping up a lot these days. You might find it on your bananas, on your milk, or even on your canned soup. Everyone is saying how great organic foods are for you, but what good is all of that without knowing why? I’m all for naturally grown, pesticide-free food, but unfortunately not everyone can afford their sky-high prices. In the perfect world I’d totally recommend buying everything organic, however if you’re on a tight budget, not everything absolutely HAS to be. To best understand how and why it’s imperative that we look at the facts behind the process.

Organic simply refers to the method in which farmers use to grow and process their products. It is a system that maintains soil fertility without the use of potentially dangerous pesticides or fertilizers. Much like the tricky marketing used with various other healthy benefits, organic labels can be misleading as well. If a package states that the product is “made with organic ingredients,” then it is actually only 70% organic, according to MayoClinic.com. 95% for foods labelled “organic,” and completely organic for those labelled “100-percent organic.” There are plenty of reasons that merit the want to reduce exposure to harmful substances after knowing that they’ve been linked to certain cancers and ADHD, as well as a handful of things in between.

One common misconception people often argue is that they don’t need to buy organic foods where the skin is not consumed because the skin acts as a barrier against pesticides. It’s easy to understand why people would think this, but unfortunately isn’t always the case. 20% of all pesticides are what we call “systemics.” These pesticides move into the plant through the roots and into the vascular system. From there they move to the surface where they stop viral pathogens from growing, or kill/ward off insects. Some pesticides are actually 100% systemic. Thus the skin of produce doesn’t always protect us from consuming potentially dangerous substances.

There is a group of products called The Dirty Dozen however that I really encourage all people to buy organic. These are the items that studies have shown to posses the most traces of pesticides and fertilizers. By knowing these twelve products it will help those on a tight budget avoid unnecessary overspending when considering organic food, AS WELL AS reducing your exposure by as much as 90%. The list is as follows:

– Celery

– Peaches

– Strawberries

– Apples

– Blueberries

– Nectarines

– Bell Peppers

– Spinach

– Kale

– Cherries

– Potatoes

– Imported Grapes

Please do not avoid these foods altogether because all of them are great for achieving a well-balanced healthy diet, but please DO buy them organic. If you’re going to fork out the cash to limit your exposure to pesticides, these are the products to splurge on.

At one point of time in your life you have probably thought of losing weight. After having asked around or reading up on the internet, your adventure has probably led you to the answer of cardiovascular exercises. While these types of exercises are great, you need to understand why some are better than others. More often than not, when somebody is asked for an example of a cardiovascular activity, they will most likely say “running.”

Running is a great way to get the blood flowing, but if you’re not training for any kind of running event there are plenty of other, more beneficial ways to go about losing weight. If you run on a treadmill for 30 minutes you will burn quite a few calories, but once you step off of that machine you’re back to your usual, everyday fat burning ability. This is something called your base metabolic rate (BMR). When you run your heart is pumping blood faster and all your muscles are working hard to burn calories for that 30 minutes, but when you’re done and your body starts to settle down, your BMR goes back to normal.

Another path that your research might have led you down is the idea of lifting weights in order to lose weight. Lifting weights is great exercise for your body as well, but much like straight-forward cardio activities, there are special ways to go about it in order to be most beneficial. If you go to your gym and pound out 3 sets of bicep curls on the machines, resting 2 minutes between each set, and then go do the same for however many more exercises, you won’t be using your time as beneficial as you could be in order to burn fat. In the end you may even gain some weight this way.

But what if you combined the two? What if you did exercises in a way to increase your heart rate as well as lift weights? There’s a great approach to weight loss using this method available out there today known as “circuit training.” This technique focuses on doing resistance training at a pace to keep your heart rate elevated with very little downtime in between. Instead of doing 3 sets of one exercise, and then moving along to another one, do one set of EACH of your exercises right after each other, then rest for a little bit, and do it all again for a total of 3 cycles. By doing this you can burn more calories in the process AND it boosts your BMR for several hours after you’re even in the gym! Also, by gaining more muscle your body will burn more calories as it is. An example exercise would be as follows:

10x Squats

12x Push-ups

12x Lunge

10x Lat Pull-down

10x Shoulder Press

12x Step-Ups

10x Woodchopper

12x Back Extension

*Do one set of each exercise consecutively. Only rest once all exercises have been done. Repeat 3 times.

You might also notice that all of these exercises use multiple muscles at once. This will also help burn more calories as opposed to isolation exercises such as dumbbell curls that focus on one muscle at a time. By changing your routine and using this approach to exercising, along with much focus on nutrition and eating properly, you will definitely notice more results in the end. You should be aiming to lose 1-2 pounds per week in order to maintain health and having more focus on a lifestyle change that you can stick with after you’ve met your desired weight.

So you’ve decided that you want to look like that dude (or dudette, sorry girls) on the cover of that fitness magazine. Seems pretty easy, right? I mean, he/she is human, and you’re human, so all you’d really need to do is hit the gym 8 days a week and you’re set? Wrong. While consistent exercise is definitely key to overall health and getting “jacked” (for lack of a better word), a HUGE emphasis needs to be put on what you put into your body as well. In fact, I like to refer to the process as a 3:2 ratio with it being nutrition and exercise respectively.

Especially if you lack the muscle mass to begin with, developing larger muscles can be quite a difficult task to achieve. That’s not to say that those who have a solid build to start will chisel their dream body in no time, but it can potentially come slightly easier than those with a “Napoleon Dynamite” figure.

It’s best to understand both nutritional and fitness related concepts, but for the sake of this blog post we’ll just focus only on eating to gain muscle size. You might not have any idea, or you might have heard it before and didn’t believe it. The number one rule to achieve your lifting goal of bigger muscles is to eat more PROTEIN! Say it again: PROTEIN! Without the proper consumption of protein you will struggle immensely achieving those Hulk Hogan pythons you’re picturing yourself with. Let’s take a look at the science.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is the building block of muscle. Some protein sources, such as meat, contain all essential amino acids, and are what we call complete protein sources, while others, such as vegetable protein, are missing a few amino acids and therefore referred to as incomplete protein sources. When you workout, you’re essentially depleting your glycogen stores, and breaking down muscle fibers. The protein helps repair the damage, making your muscles stronger. There are different types of protein, but whey is considered best since it’s the quickest and easiest to be absorbed. With that being said, it is a good idea to consume protein after a workout. Protein shakes are often used for this purpose, and are great, but keep in mind that natural food sources are always the best option. Try to plan your meals accordingly, and have a protein rich snack waiting for you at home after the gym.

The amount of protein you should eat is determined by your goals. A great rule of thumb is to aim for 1g of protein for every pound of your target weight. So if your goal is to weight 180lbs, you should try to eat 180g of protein everyday. That might sound like a lot, but protein will help you build more muscle, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn doing nothing!

Did you know that over the past 60 years there have been 21k studies done on caffeine? If you do the math on that you have just about one study per day. With that said you would think that researchers would know the in-and-outs of caffeine and whether or not it’s good for you, or bad, so we could move on to something else. Since caffeine’s most popular form is coffee, personally, I always tell people that it is good to have in moderation for several reasons. Before I get into that though, let’s just take a look on how caffeine works!

The Biology

To best understand how chugging a cup of Joe can send you into an energizing jolt you’ll first need an introduction on the compound adenosine. As you are sitting there right now, hunched over your keyboard, reading this blog, adenosine is coursing through your veins, and it’s job is to put a halt on your central nervous system. Men’s Health Magazine likes to call it “Nature’s Chill Pill.” Knowing that, you can better understand why as the day goes on the adenosine builds up in your bloodstream making you more and more tired, like when your body tells you to turn off the game and let your battery recharge.

Think of the following as an electrical socket plugging into an outlet, because adenosine accomplishes the shutdown by plugging into adenosine receptors.

“These connections inhibit the release of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that control both brain and muscle function,” says William Lovallo, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Oklahoma. “As a result, both your mind and your body slow down.”

But according to several researchers, caffeine is just an adenosine impersonator, and in fact, when battling the adenosine for a spot in the receptors, comes out on top. This means that adenosine can’t do it’s just and hence all your extra energy from the caffeine.

Your Brain: As soon as you take your first sip of coffee you get a release of dopamine, which is a brain chemical responsible for alertness, problem solving, and pleasure.

Your Heart: Adenosine helps blood vessels relax, however this causes an artery constriction resulting in a rise to blood pressure.

“If you don’t have hypertension to begin with, the temporary blood-pressure increase from a cup of coffee isn’t a problem,” says Matthew Sorrentino, M.D., a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “Plus, the impact on blood pressure tends to be smaller in habitual caffeine drinkers because their bodies become somewhat tolerant to its effects.”

Your Muscle: Since caffeine raises your heart and breathing rate, it can positively effect your overall performance.  “

“Caffeine may also have a direct effect on your muscles. Here’s how: Calcium must be released within a muscle fiber in order for that fiber to contract, and caffeine may block the adenosine receptors attached to muscle fibers, triggering electrical activity that prompts bigger bursts of calcium.”

Weight Loss: When you think about it, black coffee is virtually fat and calorie free, and the caffeine itself may act as an appetite suppressant. This effect though is usually short lived, and may even be opposite for some people, triggering hunger. It’s also said that caffeine can temporarily boost your metabolism by something called thermo genesis, which is when your body digests to produce heat and energy at a quicker pace. Caffeine ALSO stimulates physical activity which can lead to more calorie burn.

There are many ways that drinking coffee can benefit your overall health via your brain, heart, muscles, and even contribute to your weight loss goals. Decaf coffee won’t have the same effect because it can’t spark thermo genesis, or suppress appetite, but it still counts as a no calorie beverage that can fill you up better than a caloric catastrophe. That’s not to say you should drink 20 cups off coffee a day, but if you keep it in check and not overdo it with the caffeinated beverage, you could be drinking your way to a slimmer mid section and also being so healthy.

I sure do! In my opinion skipping breakfast can be one of the unhealthiest things you can do, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. In the past there’s been research favouring both sides (breakfast vs. no breakfast) , so by now you’re probably unsure of what to believe. Personally, I’m a huge fan of stuffing my face as soon as I wake up because if I don’t bad news tends to follow. I’m not going to try to force you to eat breakfast, but chances are if you’re sitting there reading this, you’re probably looking for some sort of nutritional guidance as it is. Let me explain the importance of breakfast and how it can make you feeling better than ever and maybe you’ll make your own decision to eat like a king in the morning.

Most people skip breakfast because they’re trying to lose weight with the mentality that if you skip a meal altogether that’s x amount of calories you didn’t ingest. Which in theory is true since weight loss always falls back to the equation of calorie intake vs. calorie burn no matter how you look at it. However, those same people who skip breakfast 9 times out of 10 will be starving by the time lunch comes around and therefore either eating way too much, or indulging in extremely unhealthy food. Because of this there has been research indicating that breakfast skippers are linked to obesity 4½ x more than those who eat it on a regular basis. Pretty crazy numbers aren’t they? This thought is also linked back to the idea that people who eat fewer, larger meals accumulate more body fat than those who eat smaller, more frequent meals. By eating smaller meals more frequently you really rev up your metabolism so that your body doesn’t go into starvation mode where it actually stores fat leading to weight gain.

Skipping the most important meal of the day doesn’t just have a negative impact on your body weight, but it is also linked to your concentration and overall performance. When a study was done on breakfast skippers, researchers found that they performed significantly worse on memory tests when compared to people who ate a nutritionally balanced breakfast. After a long night of fasting it only makes sense to eat so that one can recharge their brain and body, increasing both strength and endurance as well.

You might be wondering by this point: “Ok, ok, I get it. Breakfast is great for you. But what should I eat?” The greatest thing about breakfast is that it’s SO easy. You don’t need to cook up an extravagant meal like the guy you saw on Iron Chef. Truth be told, when I’m making my breakfast every morning I’m wiping my cloudy eyes as I reach for the coffee pot, and covering my yawn with the other hand. If you’re in any state to be flipping knives and juggling produce at 7am I salute you!

When it comes to eating breakfast I still follow a little rule that Men’s Health Magazine taught me at the beginning of my nutritional interest. As I make breakfast I ask myself 3 things. Is at least half of my meal from protein sources? Is the meal approximately ¼ of my days calories? Are my grain sources from whole grains? If I can answer yes to all three of those questions then I am eating a proper breakfast. The reason behind the protein, aside from its fat-burning potential, is the overall satiety it provides once consumed. When you pair it up with the fiber you receive as well from your breakfast you will feel full for such a long time. One great example of a protein source for breakfast is eggs because research says that people who consume eggs eat 20% fewer calories for the rest of the day. But there are other great lean protein options as well. When it comes to fiber, you can get great sources from fruits, vegetable, and whole grains to enclose your nutritionally complete breakfast. The trick is to make sure you’re consuming whole grains as opposed to processed grains because they release the energy from the carbohydrates a lot slower, lasting all the way until lunch and not spiking blood sugar. Plus whole grains contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber that hasn’t been taken out like refined grains.

A typical breakfast for me would be an omelette containing 2 eggs, whatever veggies I can find in my fridge, and a whole wheat English muffin toasted with almond butter. The eggs and almond butter provide a lot of protein, and the whole wheat English muffin along with the veggies helps my vitamin and mineral intake as well as fiber. I can honestly say that the meal itself keeps me nice and full for 3 hours AT LEAST.

Also try to keep in mind when thinking breakfast that healthy behaviour begets more healthy behaviour. So if you decide to eat in the morning chances are you will think more about healthy choices as the day goes on. If you follow the idea I’ve presented then you will have a more nutritionally complete diet which leads to optimal health.

 Eggs are such a staple in my diet. It is said to aim for 3-4 servings per week of this healthy powerhouse, and let’s just say I don’t have a hard time exceeding that recommendation. For the longest time eggs have developed a negative reputation because they’re “bad for you” due to their high levels of cholesterol and fat, but that’s actually been proven incorrect. It is that same thinking that lead to low-fat diets, the same approach that has been making North American’s waistlines larger over the past decade. People fear fat. It’s true. What they don’t understand is that fat doesn’t make you fat. “Whole eggs contain more essential vitamins and minerals per calorie than virtually any other food.” They also provide antioxidants that help with macular degeneration and cataracts. A little bit more about the egg:

  • 1 large egg (50g)

Calories: 71, Fiber: 0g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 5g, Carbs: 0g, Selenium: 23%, Riboflavin: 14%, Vitamin B12: 11%.

One of the greatest things about this perfect diet food is that you can incorporate it in just about any meal of the day. Make an omelette in the morning, whip up a healthy egg sandiwch for lunch, or toss it (sliced) in a salad for dinner as a protein source. Eggs have to be one of the most versatile healthy foods out there. Have I mentioned that they’re also inexpensive and delicious!? Here’s one of my favourite egg breakfasts:

  • 1 large egg (scrambled)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 slices turkey

Slap all of those onto a 100% whole wheat english muffin and you have yourself a nutritious and delicious healthy breakfast full of protein and fiber to keep you full for a while. Not to mention that people who eat breakfast statistically eat less, AND on top of that recent research has determined that people who ate EGGS for breakfast ate 264 fewer calories in a day. So the moral of the story is… eggs are a nutrient dense powerfood that totally create a strong foundation for a healthy diet.

Do you eat avocados? If not, you’re probably hiding from one of the healthiest superfoods on this planet. I say “hiding” because many people are afraid of the high amounts of fat included in each serving (approx. 85% of calories come from fats), but you couldn’t be more wrong. Let’s take a closer look at what’s included in an avocado. There are three factors of fats inside that include phytosterols, polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (or PFAs), and oleic acid. Both the phytosterols and the PFAs support the inflammatory system by keeping it under control, and the oleic acid increases the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. The cool thing about the monounsaturated fats is that they help lower the risk of heart disease, and who wouldn’t enjoy that, am I right?

Another great characteristic of the avocado is that it aids in the absorption of two important carotenoid antioxidants known as beta-carotene and lycopene. What that means is when you add avocado to say, a salad that contains tomatoes, you will be taking in the lycopene from the tomatoes approx. 200%-400% more effectively than if the avocados weren’t included. Did I forget to mention that lycopene may reduce the risk of certain cancers? Very cool.

Depending on how you prepare the avocado it may effect the nutrients as well. Researchers say that the most nutrient dense area is the dark green portion located right underneath the skin. So when you are cutting it try to get as close to the skin as possible to make sure you aren’t missing out on a lot of the benefits. Here are a few quick ways to incorporate avocados into your daily life:

  • Slice an avocado on a toasted whole wheat english muffin with scrambled eggs and turkey (personal favourite)
  • Chop avocados, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and seasonings together for a little different guacamole
  • Spread avocado on a sandwich instead of mayo
  • Toss sliced avocado into garden greens

Whatever creative way you decide to include this awesome food into your diet I will totally support because it is such a great move on your part. Sometimes you need to look beyond the nutritional information and dig deeper into the value of nutrients to see how healthy a food can be. Be sure to let me know any great ideas you might come up with involving avocados and how they will help you become so healthy!



The term “nutritionist” is thrown around these days like a hot potato in a Kindergarten class. One person says this while another person says that, when in reality anyone can call themselves a nutritionist if they really wanted to. Is it wise to believe everything the Average Joe preaches about the topic? Absolutely not. Does he/she know what they’re talking about? Possibly. There are designations, education and guidelines created by governments that deem certain practitioners qualified professionals. Also keeping in mind that the industry keeps growing and developing new  research that one needs to keep on top of.

So you’re seeking advice about food since the last weeks worth of meals you remember have been caloric catastrophes from local restaurant chains and dive bars. The first thing you’ll most likely do after working your butt off in the gym and seeing no results, is hop on your laptop or mobile device and search for a nutritionist that can help you achieve your glorious goal of losing weight. The only problem with that is that you might find yourself caught in a vicious spider web of information from dieticians to nutritionists, to ancient weight loss rituals using animal sacrifices. Not to mention whatever on Earth they mean by the “holistic approach?” (We’ll get more into that shortly) All of this information all at once could send anyone’s mind spiraling down to throwing in the white towel of defeat! Most people will lean back on dieticians since they’re exposed to such practice more frequently than some of the other bizarre methods found on the interweb. And please, don’t even consider the animal sacrificing! What people don’t look into is the approach that takes your whole body into consideration, including your mind and spirit – the holistic approach! The following information was gathered to help you understand the difference between a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and a Registered Dietician so that you can easily decide what method is best for you.

Holistic Nutritionists understand that everybody is different so that there cannot be a “one-size fits all” mentality for overall wellness. They look at the person as a whole including current diet, lifestyle, health problems, as well as any emotional concerns that may be effecting a healthy lifestyle. Dieticians focus more on the Canada Food Guide, since that is where their training sprouted from, and perform a more rigid, scientific approach usually found in a Hospital on patients that have already been diagnosed with health issues. Whereas a holistic approach would focus more on organic, natural, whole food diets.

It is not uncommon to see both professions work hand-in-hand to help a client meet his/her required needs. In the end, the decision is up to you on the approach you’d most likely take when dealing with  your healthy living goals. Ask yourself what your budget is, since most dieticians may be covered by health plans. Or think about your comfort level with experimenting alternative therapies compared to a licensed practice. Both professions can help steer you down the right path. I’m intrigued to hear which one you decide on and why.


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