Oct 1

PRODUCTIVITY with MINDFULNESS

Do you want to feel more productive? Many high achieving professionals are banking on the proven benefits of an ancient mind technology to balance the demands of a successful professional life while staying productive and competitive. This technique even helps to manage their stress and increase wellbeing. Business coaches, counselling professionals and business leaders have been using it widely to tune individuals to optimal states of mind. What is that awesome technology? Mindfulness!

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is emerging as one of the most effective tools for increasing or sustaining high productivity, preventing burnout, reducing pain, enhancing focus and achieving life and work clarity. Mindfulness was popularized by Dr. John Kabbat-Zinn for pain management and then has generalized in wellness circles.

Working with chronic pain sufferers, he was surprised when the practice of mindfulness helped his patients feel less pain. He defines mindfulness as a simple state of awareness, in the moment, and without judgment. This ability to redirect the mind to what we want to actually be doing has health benefits and can improve our productivity in noticeable ways.

Once you realize how easy it is to practice, it sounds unbelievable…and it actually works! In contemporary health care and counseling, mindfulness has been pared down to simple and effective exercises. Being mindful is a simple and effective set of practices that anyone can incorporate in one’s life with minimal effort.

Studies show that these exercises help the body turn off the stress response by engaging the parasympathetic system that naturally turns the stress response off. This has the effect of liberating practitioners to make sounder decisions and have more clarity.

Mindfulness Benefits

The benefits of this technology of the mind range from better focus and productivity to experiencing more calm and less stress. It draws from mind technologies practiced by Buddhist and other traditions, but without any religious element. Contemporary mindfulness training helps the nervous system learn how to notice when the mind is wandering and gently return it to a state of focus.

More ability to stay attentive results in better productivity. If you stay on track, you can finish things faster and with improved accuracy. Studies show that even after five days of mindfulness workshops, people notice a significant improvement in attention.

Progressive businesses are harnessing mindfulness to enhance the capacities of their employees and leadership. Aetna insurance, for example, found out that their employees gained a full hour of productivity when taking mindfulness workshops, all without drugs or chemicals! If these are not enough benefit, the clarity you get from not being distracted also affects your capacity for making better choices and sticking to priorities.

Mindfulness Can Connect Productivity To Purpose

Everybody knows that getting a lot of stuff done is not productivity if the stuff being done doesn’t matter.  Mindfulness offers concrete practices that stop your mind from going around in circles. It helps you become more focused on what is important to you and to your work. These are life-changing tools!

Mindfulness can also keep us in the game, by helping to prevent burnout. The last twenty years have seen research study after research study showing that mindfulness increases resiliency and one’s capacity to withstand stress in a dramatic way. Long-term practitioners have staggering more capacity to withstand stressors compared to those who do not practice.

In short, mindfulness helps you make better and more focused decisions, less at the mercy of your emotions and more in tune with your actual priorities. A distraction that previously would have hooked us into reacting, now can be relegated to the side on behalf of more important choices. This increases mastery at work, and with mastery, your personal satisfaction. It also liberates you from having to engage emotionally with everything.

Mindfulness is a great tool for those interested in staying productive and competitive and increasing their well-being. You can go to it to improve productivity, and it will provide you with wider benefits in well-being and life goals.

Give Mindfulness a Try!

Why not give it a try? I am offering an introductory mindfulness workshop where I will introduce a few simple mindfulness exercises you can incorporate into your schedule in easy and simple ways. It is my way to introduce my services, and one of the techniques I use to help people live in full. It is free!

Follow this link to get registered


Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, and served as  Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.

Ariel Blau brings a sense of active engagement, innovation, and imagination to his work as a catalyst for change, responding to the idea that every person’s life is a work in progress. He wakes every morning eager to do what he loves, full of energy and enthusiasm.

 

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Sep 25

‘Keep Calm and Go To Dr. T’

“Keep Calm and Go To Dr. T”. This phrase is actually how a client got referred to me.

Your pain is complex, but the solutions shouldn’t be complicated. The health and wellness ecosystem is complicated—even for those of us who are practitioners within it. There are no factual statements; it’s not math. Everything in biology has a half-life, and there are always things that are constantly changing and, at times, becoming contradictory. We need to embrace complexity and shield ourselves from over-complication.

Additionally, the rate at which we are receiving new information about it has also rapidly increased. Fifty years ago, human knowledge would double every 25 years—today it doubles every 13 months. This provides us with both opportunity and overload. So, in accounting for the changes that are happening around us and within us, it becomes difficult to know what to do. Out of this ocean of new knowledge, where are you, as a patient, to find your beacon of light?

In this age of self-diagnosis—where you can find information on every worst-case scenario known to humanity on the Internet—it becomes important for you to be able to triage yourself and to find the right team for you.

With that in mind, this is what I aim to do in treatment with my clients, based on my clinical experience:

  1. Differentiate between the hardware and the software problems.
    • Are you just collecting different apps, or is your glitch in the operating system? As an example, you hurt your back. Tissue damage, inflammation, and joint misalignment would be considered hardware issues. The software would be your brain’s response of a cascade of compensation and resource allocation to bias your protection and safety before function. The hardware is what is happening locally at the site of the injury, whereas the software will dictate the compensatory patterns, muscle spasms, and pain response. Treatment that takes into account the interaction between the hardware and the software is key to a successful recovery and increases resiliency.
  2. Provide an expanded concept of quality care.
    • There is an illusion of options out there. For me, it is important to determine exactly what you need to do and what I need to do to keep calm the areas that are injured, and build back your tolerance and function. I can help you find more colours to paint a new picture of wellness that is vivid, strong, and awe-inspiring.
  3. See and hear you, as you like to be seen and heard.
    • A critical part of your process stems from the information I gain from listening to you, but also from your physical response to the treatment. That is feedback that we can only gain when you become actively involved in your own process. Sometimes the exercise will provide the relief, but it is designed to figure out if you are a responder, neutral, or a non- responder. That provides the next piece of ‘data’ for me to help guide you, but it also gives you agency in your own recovery.

Having the lens to view rehabilitation from both sides, this is what I aim to be as a clinician based on what I would hope for as a client:

  1. A health care provider to serve as an analyst or coach to guide your process.
    • There is a lot of data to take into account when looking at your health. Whether it be simply your test results, x-ray/MRI reports, the latest research, or all of the complexities within your biosphere, it is important to me to have a broad enough bandwidth to take in all of that information, and provide you with your next steps to set you up for success and winning.
  2. An orthogonal thinker.
    • Orthogonal thinking describes the ability to gain new insights from a variety of perhaps seemingly unrelated perspectives—it is what the cool kids call lily padding. In allowing even a momentary blurring of boundaries amongst these views, new possibilities may emerge and blind spots can be shrunk. We all have ‘reactants’—those previous experiences that result in us making an immediate, subconscious decision about all things that fall into a similar category. In a nuanced view of how your brain, biology, and environment are interacting in your current state, I become better at helping you navigate your health and recovery. Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, are both excellent resources to further explore these concepts.
  3. A facilitator, using the brain’s neuroplasticity as an orchestrator of life.
    • Novel experiences, good or bad, allow us to generate new pathways to overcome our previous experiences of pain and struggle. In your rehabilitation, we drive the pathways that require active participation, as these are the same pathways that allow you to become more active and in control of your life. The only blessing after an injury, accident, or illness is the opportunity to test our character, motivation, patience, enthusiasm, and forgiveness. This is validated by our understanding of neuroplasticity, and the science of post-traumatic growth. However, let me not feed you with empty calories as others might do, with the promise of ease and simple steps, as this is something that I have struggled with myself.

For my part, I constantly evaluate my own blind spots to stay at the forefront of what is happening next, to help you stay at the forefront of your health and well-being. Because, despite the complexities (or, perhaps, partially because of them), I find it most rewarding and energizing to work with those patients who truly wish to get ahead of the problem, and be active participants in fulfilling their life’s purpose.

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Sep 19

Counselling at IHI by Ariel G. Blau

I am delighted to be joining this amazing group of dedicated healers at Integrative Health Institute as a counselling provider. As a new member of this caring and wonderful team, I want to introduce my work style and what I have to offer.

So what are my goals and my way of working?

My goal is to help reduce your suffering, and help you reach your life goals. I want you to experience more creative flow, loving-kindness and joy in your life. My other goal is to protect your confidentiality and make you feel protected and safe during counselling sessions. How do I go about achieving this? I work collaboratively with you and, if you give me permission, with the other providers. Based on what you contribute to each counselling session, I offer feedback in a variety of ways all tailored to what you might need at the moment.

Initially I do my best to make you feel comfortable. I listen with curiosity and empathy to build a therapeutic relationship based on kindness, compassion and unconditional regard. Ample research shows that this is the most helpful element of “talk therapy” no matter what modality the therapist uses.

Once in counselling session, I find that people feel at ease with me because I am naturally engaged, authentic and direct. I practice a philosophy of being fully and humanly present. I embrace Martin Buber’s philosophy of being fully present in a relationship framed by mutual respect. My approach is not like the therapists you see in movies, where the therapist is silent and writes on a pad, aloof and distant. I will offer my views when asked as well as if and when I see it might benefit you. It will always be in terms of the goals we define during our initial counselling sessions.

Mindfulness is one of my favourite tools to use.

Dr. John Kabbatt Zinn, a physician that developed uses of mindfulness to work with pain, defines mindfulness as being aware, in the moment, without judgment. He found that when his patients stopped avoiding their pain, they could bear it with less discomfort and were able to suffer less. With emotional distress, it works pretty much the same. It helps by liberating your energies to solve the problems that make you suffer in the first place.

At the beginning of each counselling sessions, I offer to lead you in a very short mindfulness practice to help you relax and focus. I use mindfulness during our counselling session to stay connected and aware of what you bring to share. This awareness will help you stay in the moment, be more aware of what is going on with your feelings and open ways to deal with your distress effectively.

The rest of the time I listen. I pay attention to my intuition, but also to patterns, imagery, myths, thinking traps, somatic changes and emotions as they relate to what might be keeping your energies stuck. My ability to use divergent thinking comes in handy when imagining how you experience the world and for noticing patterns and making connections that help me “get” what is happening internally with you. I also stay aware of my intellectual and emotional responses to what you bring to the counselling session. When you ask, I offer my responses to you generously and transparently.

Looking into what is happening in other people’s soul is very moving and requires being open and vulnerable in order to be sensitive to details and to understand your condition with any depth. I know how to take care of myself in the process, and how to keep you as emotionally safe as possible, too. Finding the unique effective intervention that helps you get your life in flow with your goals and desires is my reward.

It is like a complex puzzle for which I get the pleasure of finding a solution. To solve it, I use a wide range of techniques gathered in more than 30 years of facilitating change with people. In our counselling sessions, I will address any fear with kindness and compassion, and help you uncover sources of courage and resilience to accomplish what you defined as your goals for our work together.

I imagine that you might have questions about how I can serve your particular needs best. Asking questions and listening to the answers is a great way to figure your fit with a particular therapist, which is important for effective treatment. At IHI, you can book a complimentary meet and greet appointment, where you can get a sense of whether my work style might be compatible with your needs, now or in the future. You can book an appointment below with the Book Now button.

It is in my interest to work with people who I find are compatible with my skills and gifts as a therapist.

My intention is to make every counselling session worthwhile for you. I do a brief check-in at the end of each counselling session to track how our collaboration is working and hope you take something useful with you.

Here are some useful links:

My website: www.arielblau.com, (You can read about my training)

Some useful Apps that you can get for free (The following information does not constitute endorsement by Integrative Health Institute):

Depression: Mood Tools

Managing Emotions: ACT Coach

Mindfulness: Head Space

Relaxation: Relax Melodies

Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. Let him work together with you to help you reduce your suffering and use your internal gifts to accomplish the experiences and life you want.

Ariel will listen and connect with you in an authentic, courageous and powerful way. He will actively help you cultivate and develop your unique traits to find a state of positive flow, overcoming emotional, interpersonal and other problems. Working together with you, he will help you improve your sense of connection to others and to your life’s purpose.

Let him help you get unstuck so you can endow your life with more meaning, love and compassion. Let Ariel help you embrace your goals and empower your actions in the direction you always wished them to take.

Find out more about Ariel at his website.

Take action now towards a better life by making an appointment to meet and discuss how he can help you fulfill your needs.

 

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Sep 19

Life, Learning, and Letting Go – A Fond Farewell

They say you teach what you need to know…whoever ‘they’ are.

Myofascial release is rooted in the concept of letting go. I guess that’s why it resonated with me so deeply. Because letting go has never been my forte.

My strength, my stubbornness—they have served me well at times. But they sometimes keep me holding on to things that no longer serve me well past the best before date.

The hardest for me to let go of is people. I understand the ever-changing nature of the circumstances of life; the need to move forward and experience new things. I understand that sometimes change is necessary for growth, that sometimes change is for the better, and that sometimes things just aren’t working anymore, and so it is inevitable.

I have learned to embrace the notion that change is always for my highest good, and that it is to be embraced without resistance.

But it’s the people that I miss. When it comes to how I feel, I’m not one to do things halfheartedly. When I invest in people, I tend to go all-in. And so, as I prepare to leave IHI at the end of September, the letting go with which I have struggled, makes such transitions difficult.

But embedded in the art of letting go is taking with you what you’ve learned. Because nothing happens randomly, the lessons must be absorbed for anything to let go…

I learn from every single client I see. Something about you. Something about myself. Something about my practice. It’s not just about the diagnosis or techniques. Everyone is different, so I have learned to be aware of the metrics of the specific things that ‘work’, but also to take them with a grain of salt. The most prevailing commonalities are in the beliefs, fears, and desires of the people who walk through the door, and I have learned the value of treating your humanity, not just your symptoms. And, in doing that, I so often see the reflection of the things I need to know and heal in myself—and so the journeys that we walk are independent, but not separate. I believe it is about teaching you to connect to yourself, and coming back to myself in the process.

I have learned to cherish the people that support me. Those that truly get me. Those with whom I have an innate understanding. Every relationship takes nurturing, of course, but there are sometimes those magical connections that you just know are serving a greater purpose in your life—the ones that touch your soul and make you, not just want to be your best self, but actually see that it is possible. These are priceless.

I have learned to appreciate the people that don’t support me. Literally everything is a lesson. Those people teach me to own my own worth—to find it for myself, and be unrelenting in standing in it. They teach me how to better communicate, how to have better boundaries, and what I will and will not tolerate. And so you learn to thank those people, too—thank them and let them go.

And, when everything is a lesson, I learn to regret nothing. To see the lessons, remember the good, hold the love of the relationships in my heart, and begin the process of letting go that is essential for moving on. Trusting that those that are meant to continue on with me on my journey will continue to be part of this occasionally bumpy and winding ride.

Thanks to everyone in the IHI community—the amazing staff and clients. I have been truly blessed to learn these lessons with and through you. It has been a tremendous experience to be here and share this time with all of you, and I have so much gratitude for this chapter in my life.

Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.

Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.

Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.

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Sep 19

RUNNING OVERTIME – Runners who work LONG Hours

Strategies to REVERSE YOUR PYRAMID, Support your Immune System and Stress Response when under Pressure to Perform

Anyone who works long hours has the potential for burn out. Runners, athletes and those who are trying to whip themselves into shape who work long hours AND train in their spare time are at a higher risk for burn out and a run down immune system. Exercise is a fantastic tool for stress modification, however, overtraining without adequate recovery can lead to decreased performance and fatigue[i]. Enabling these habits over longer periods of time can lead to adrenal fatigue, a condition that leaves you feeling tired and run down.

If you are like many other dedicated downtown executives, your job is demanding and requires you to go above and beyond in order to survive. Throwing exercise into the mix can help offset these stresses, but too much can leave you with headaches, muscle aches, foggy thinking and feeling irritated. These are all signs that your Adrenal Glands are having a hard time keeping up the pace.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

The adrenal glands have many functions, including the secretion of cortisol and other hormones in response to stress. Having a busy work load with no down time can be a stressor on these organs, therefore adrenal fatigue is common amongst busy executives and serious athletes.

Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems, but is not a medical diagnosis[ii].

Calorie restriction, sleep deprivation and excessive exercise all stimulate the release of these stress hormones. Overtime, changes in cortisol levels can lead to depression, injury, panic disorder, malnutrition and weakened immunity[iii]. Left untreated, this can create a situation that is difficult to bounce back from. The adrenal glands, can become exhausted and unable to effectively do their job leaving the window open for chronic pain and inflammation[iv].

What are other Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue?

  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Feeling tired most days, especially after lunch
  • Higher energy levels in the evenings
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Cravings for salty foods
  • Overuse of stimulants like caffeine
  • A weak immune system – frequent colds
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Dry skin

How does Adrenal Fatigue relate to my fitness?

  • Extreme tiredness an hour after exercise
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Lower back pain
  • Difficulty losing weight or unexplained weight loss

What can you do?

When you are busy, stressed and overwhelmed, adding something else to your to do list can be daunting. However, working on foundational support is what is going to get you through this bump in the road. It isn’t always realistic to cut back our hours (if you want to keep your job that is!). So we have to be creative in how and create a strong foundation. Think of yourself as your bodies engineer. You need to make sure the building has a secure support system in place, so it doesn’t topple over. Burning the candle at both ends leaves a weakness in the foundation.  We need to REVERSE OUR PYRAMID.

What are the Foundational Strategies?

SLEEP

Most of us are scrapping by on the 6-8 hours. But when taking a quick look at some of the top pro athletes, they are getting 10-12 hours[v]!

Signs you are not getting enough sleep can be decreased reaction time, slower metabolism, decreased strength, and a sense that you are exerting yourself much harder than you actually are.

Go to bed (before midnight) and wake up at the same time every day.

OPTIMAL NUTRITION

Take the WHOLE FOOD challenge. By eating real unprocessed foods, you automatically reduce your intake of sugars, saturated fats and white flours.

EXERCISE

This part you already know. Be sure to work in down time and increase the intensity by 30% at a time to avoid injuries.

How to Eat if you are Suffering from Adrenal Fatigue:

  • If you have adrenal fatigue, Intermittent Fasting may be contributing to your symptoms. One of the major dietary mistakes made by people with low adrenal output is not eating soon enough after waking. Eating your first meal before 10:00 am can help replenish blood sugars from the previous night.
  • An early lunch, between 11:00 am and 11:30 am, is better than a late lunch. Your body quickly uses up the morning nourishment and is ready for more.
  • Eat a whole food snack between 2:00pm and 3:00pm to sustain yourself for the cortisol dip that typically occurs between 3:00pm and 4:00pm.
  • Your evening meal should be eaten between 5 and 6 PM[vi].
  • A high quality snack before bed can help you get through sleep disturbances (2 slices of turkey, apple slices or banana dipped in nut butter).

What foods support my Adrenal Glands?

  • Clean, unprocessed meals are a great start. Warm foods also ease the pressure on system and allow easy nutrient assimilation. Broths, soups, stews and these foods encourage recovery:
  • Clean Proteins: Fish, Nuts, Eggs
  • Sea Salt. As long as your blood pressure is 120/80 or lower, add a pinch of seasalt to cucumbers and your work out water.
  • Coconut Oil or Flax seed Oil: Include 1-2 tbsp’s (Note, Do Not cook with flaxseed oil, this can be added on after cooking).
  • Papaya and plums in the afternoon. Aim to keep fruit after lunch.
  • 7+ servings of red, yellow, green and purple vegetables! Add vegetables to each meal (eg. Sautéed spinach with an egg for breakfast, kidney bean and cabbage soup for lunch and steamed broccoli with salmon for dinner).

Can Supplements Support my Adrenal Glands?

With all of my patients, it is important to conduct a thorough intake to identify the root cause of your Adrenal Fatigue. In many cases supplements can help support your body while you work on foundational skills that keep you healthy beyond the supplement use. Each persons stressors and lifestyle are different, therefore their treatment plan should be too. These are just a few of the supplements that could be considered in your personalized prescription:

  1. Vitamin C
  2. B Complex
  3. Magnesium
  4. Rhodiola

Acupuncture and IV Vitamin Replacement Therapy are modes of treatment to be considered to restore balance and replace deficiencies.

If you are feeling like you are RUNNING OVERTIME, it is a sign your Adrenal Glands need support. Together we will create a program designed to support you and your active lifestyle. Dr. Tanner, ND is available for Complementary 15 minute consults.

Disclaimer The information provided is for informative purposes and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

References

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722782/

[ii] https://www.torontonaturopathicmedicine.ca/adrenal-fatigue/

[iii] www.allmaxnutrition.com/post-articles/supplements/athletic-stress-and-adrenal-fatigue/

[iv] https://www.naturopathic.org/content.asp?contentid=314

[v] https://www.fastcompany.com/1663723/infographic-of-the-day-why-pro-athletes-sleep-12-hours-a-day

[vi] https://adrenalfatigue.org/adrenal-fatigue-diet/

Dr. Jennifer Tanner, has a broad, evidence-based practice with a focus on sports and performance-based medicine. Being a marathon runner and having been a competitive equestrian, an active lifestyle is important. Dr. Tanner uses a variety of tools including Acupuncture and Clinical Nutrition, putting an emphasis on “food as medicine” and addressing the root causes of inflammation. In conjunction with the Integrative Health team, Dr. Tanner is thrilled to help people achieve an optimal state of health and pursue their performance based health goals!

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Sep 19

Why Meal Plans Don’t Work

Meal plans don’t work. There, I said it! Coming from a Nutritionist, that statement might seem bold, but I have a sneaking suspicion you might agree. Think for a second about all the diets you’ve tried that lasted a few days, weeks, maybe a month max. Maybe you found a plan online with a strict breakfast, lunch, and dinner protocol, or one with a list of foods that was off-limits. Now remember how you felt as you followed this nutrition plan (hungry, tired, restricted?), and how guilty you felt when you inevitably fell off. Most structured meal plans are too rigid and don’t take into account your unique needs. Let’s look at where things go awry!

A meal plan is too restrictive

Meal plans with a designated breakfast, lunch, and dinner don’t allow for flexibility. When your bestie gets let go from her job you need to be there with chunky monkey ice cream and a bottle (or five) of wine…does your rigid diet plan allow for that?

It’s time consuming & expensive

Not sure about you, but I don’t have time to spend an hour preparing each of my meals. I need something fast, easy, and delicious. A laundry list of ingredients also means a long time at the grocery store, and searching for adzuki beans all over the city is not my idea of a fun Friday (true story). And having separate ingredients for each meal means $$$.

There’s no support component

Let’s face it, we are social creatures, we need support and accountability along the way when making life changes. Shifting the way you’ve eaten for years takes courage, and without someone there to break it down and celebrate small victories along the way, it’s easy to fall off the wagon.

There’s no focus on factors surrounding food choice

A cookie cutter meal plan focuses only on the food, but your health is so much more. It’s your mindset, stress, and sleep too…all these things affect what you eat and how you process nutrients. Think about a time when you didn’t sleep well the night before and were overtired. Did you make the best food choice the next day? You probably opted for the bagel with cream cheese in the morning because it’s comforting, quick, and you were craving carbs.

That’s why you need a nutrition strategy instead of just a diet plan. A diet plan isn’t going to adapt to your busy lifestyle. It won’t teach you to choose healthy options in the grocery store, and it definitely won’t show you how to build up resiliency when life gets hectic and meal prep goes out the window. This isn’t Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, you are a unique individuals and I believe your diet should reflect that. You need a way of eating that works with your life, your personality, and your goals.

At IHI we’re launching Infinite Nutrition, a brand new program to accomplish this. Your health needs are complex and you probably don’t have time to search through the excess of information that’s available online (and how do you know what information is reliable anyways??). I’m here to sort through that bull$#*t and develop a simple strategy so you can take action. During the 3-month program we’ll meet at the start to kick things off, then again halfway through for a motivation boost, and at the finish line to make sure there’s a plan going forward. We’ll also touch base frequently throughout with short momentum calls to keep things rolling. I’m all about small, sustainable changes that get your body working for you instead of against you. This program is about so much more than what you eat. It’s about designing a strategy to help you reach your health goals, and providing the support you need to help you reach them, and of course leaving room for chunky monkey ice cream.

Heather is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist trained by the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She is also a certified Yoga Instructor and has a Masters of Science in Public Health, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology both from the University of Waterloo.

Heather specializes in personalized nutrition using live, natural, and whole foods and looks at many factors surrounding food choice such as stress, sleep, mood, and lifestyle. She has a strong background in mental health and is passionate about promoting its connection to nutrition. Heather sees clients who are overworked, overstressed, and overtired, and empowers them to bring their body back into balance. She also specializes in plant-based diets, being vegan herself since 2013.

In her spare time, you can find her scouring dog parks for animals to pet, or searching for the city’s best smoothie!

Check out Heather’s blog for articles about health and nutrition https://heatherlillico.com/blog or follow her on Instagram http://instagram.com/heather_lil.

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Sep 19

Integrate Your Wellbeing

At the Integrative Health Institute, we see the value in working together to get optimal results for our clients. “Two heads are better than one” is an idea that helps us see a client as a whole person (because you are a whole person, not just a sore back, an anxious socializer, or a blood test result). This got me thinking: Why not use an integrative approach to your mental health care? Let’s start mixing it up to gain better results! I’ve got your combo packs right here:

  • Mesh your movement and your social life.

    Who made the rule that social hour has to take place over coffee, brunch, lunch, or drinks? While it’s wonderful to come together over food, we can also come together over yoga. Or power walking. Or rock climbing. Or skating. Maybe even a date to go out dancing… what a way to build a romantic connection with a new love interest! The benefits of exercise or physical movement are plentiful for your mental health… as is spending time with friends. Create a double whammy positive effect by relocating your usual Starbucks date to something physical that you both enjoy. You don’t have to be too ambitious if it’s not your thing just yet. Chat about your lives while you walk around the block or the Lakeshore, and maybe together you can build up to something more intense. You’ll both come away feeling energized.

  • Spend time in nature and jumpstart your creativity.

    Getting out of the rut of city life can have an excellent effect on your sense of wellbeing and peacefulness. It forces you to slow down, disconnect, and enjoy your environment. Flexing your creative muscle can be helpful in gaining confidence and encouraging a sense of enjoyment. These two things make a perfect pairing. Allow yourself to be inspired by nature and be less distracted by the city hubbub while you do some creating. Sit down in a local garden and sketch what you see. During a hike, take a break to write a short verse about your experience. Spend some time at the beach and build a sand castle. You don’t need to aim to be the next Picasso or Bob Dylan. This can be just for you. But if you do find yourself in an artistic standstill, getting out into nature can offer you a jumpstart.

  • Make something delicious while you have a fam jam.

    Getting into the kitchen while you spend time with family is a natural combination. Cooking for yourself helps you gain an appreciation for nourishment and encourages self-care. Spending time with family helps your sense of connectedness to those you love and builds memories during quality time and conversations. You may be surprised at how close you can feel to someone after making an incredible pasta sauce or even a pan of brownies from a store-bought mix. No need to enter the kitchen with mad skillz. You can grow your cooking repertoire together!

  • Create a peaceful mind while you’re on the job.

    To some, this may seem like the ultimate oxymoron – a feeling of calm and relaxation… at work?! Not only is this possible, but it is perhaps the most needed combo on this list. Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work and end up trekking home with stress in our shoulders, teeth gritted down to the nerve, and an exhausted brain. While I have no doubt that you’re busy, I also bet that you can find a minimum of five minutes to dedicate to your mental health. If you’re having trouble justifying it, look at it this way: The healthier your mental state, the more productive you’ll likely be, so the investment in your relaxation will pay off dividends in both your work life and your “I’m a human being” life. Start small. Turn away from your computer for two minutes at a time, three times a day, and spend that time taking deep belly breaths with your hands resting peacefully in your lap. That’s all. Ready to take it next level? Try a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. This is a big name for a simple technique. Seated comfortably, close your eyes and slowly move through each of your muscle groups in your body from head to toe (facial muscles, neck and shoulders, tummy and back, etc.). Squeeze that muscle group to create tension. Then let it go completely. You’ll release the baseline tension that you’re likely holding onto from nine to five. Run through each of your muscle groups twice while doing your deep breathing, and notice how you feel by the end. I’m betting you’ll feel looser, energized, and better equipped to tackle your next work gig. Need more? Check in with your psychotherapist or mental health professional to tailor some exercises to your exact needs.

Everyone knows that the best things come in twos: peanut butter and jelly, beach and ocean, a sock and… the other sock. Show your mental health that “the more, the merrier” applies, and get integrating for maximum benefits!

**Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

 

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Aug 20

Summer Peach Popsicles

August is peach season in Ontario! Eating seasonally & locally means the food is picked at peak freshness and gets to you quicker. The result is maximal nutrition for you. One peach has about 10% of your fibre for the day, 15% of your Vitamin C needs, and is loaded with antioxidants to protect the body against free radical damage.

When you want a sweet treat that’s full of flavor, reach for these popsicles! These are great for Summer BBQ’s or late nights on the deck.

Prep time: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes

Yield: 8 popsicles

Ingredients

  • 4 peaches
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • ½ a lemon, juiced

Directions

  1. Wash the peaches and leave the peel on. Chop peaches in half to remove the pits, then chop into smaller pieces.
  2. Throw the peach pieces in a food processor or blender, along with the honey and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour the liquid into popsicle molds and place the sticks in. Pop into the freezer until solid (about 6 hours).

Heather is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist trained by the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She also has a Masters of Science in Public Health and a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology both from the University of Waterloo.
Heather specializes in personalized nutrition using live, natural, and whole foods and looks at many factors surrounding food choices such as stress, sleep, mood, and lifestyle. She has a strong background in mental health and is passionate about promoting its connection to nutrition. Heather sees clients who are overworked, overstressed, and overtired and empowers them to bring their body back into balance. She also specializes in plant-based diets, being vegan herself since 2013. In her spare time, you can find her scouring dog parks for animals to pet, or searching for the city’s best smoothie!

Heather Lillico, MSc, RHN

 

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Aug 7

The Fastest Test for Digestive Function: The Indican Test

Did you know there is a simple, in office test that can tell you about several key factors impacting your gut, including:

  • stomach acid production
  • production of digestive enzymes
  • malabsorption
  • bacterial overgrowth

I bet you didn’t! Too few doctors are using this simple test to diagnose digestive concerns (and it can also be used to monitor improvement over time).

How the Test Works

The Indican test (sometimes called the Obermeyer test) is a very simple test. Indican is a compound (technically an indole) produced by bacteria in the gut when they eat a specific amino acid, tryptophan. Most of this indican is excreted in our bowel movements, but some is absorbed, processed by the liver and then excreted in our urine.

In a healthy individual only trace amounts of indican are found in a urine sample. However, if there are dysfunctions in the gut we can find large amounts of indican in the urine.

Causes of a Positive Indican Test

A positive Indican test can point to some likely causes of digestive dysfunction. It won’t tell us which one the problem is, but gives us guidance as to how to best put together a plan to understand it.

Possible causes of a positive indican test include:

  1. Low stomach acid, causing poor digestion of proteins
  2. Insufficient production of digestive enzymes, especially proteases and peptidases that break down proteins
  3. Malabsorption of protein
  4. Leaky gut, or disruption of the gut lining
  5. Overgrowth of bacteria in the small or large intestines
  6. Excessive intake of protein in the diet
  7. Celiac disease

Why Should I Do an Indican Test

The best reason to do an Indican test is to help you and your Naturopathic Doctor determine next steps in developing a plan to resolve digestive issues. If you experience gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, it can be difficult to determine the underlying cause. The Indican test can help to point towards some possible causes, and possible treatments.

Other conditions that can be the result of digestive imbalances or imbalanced bacteria (dysbiosis) include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating or gas
  • Fatigue
  • Acne, eczema and psoriasis
  • Headaches
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Mood swings, depression and anxiety
  • Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle weakness or soreness
  • Joint pain
  • Frequent colds or poor immune function
  • Weight gain

The Indican test can also help you to monitor the effectiveness of the treatments used. If you support your stomach acid production and your Indican test normalizes, then you’ve got the right treatment in place!

How To Do an Indican Test 

The Indican test is a simple urine test done in your Naturopathic Doctor’s office. All that is needed is a urine sample and the Indican preparation. To prepare for your test you will need to:

  1. Avoid alcohol for 24 hours prior to the test
  2. Take no supplements that contain iodine (such as a multivitamin, prenatal or thyroid support supplement) for 3 days prior to testing
  3. Eat a meal that contains protein the night before the test

Your results are compared to a colour chart to determine the amount of Indican present in the sample.

What if My Results are Positive?

A positive Indican test is a starting off point for further investigation into your gut health. Whether you have digestive symptoms or not, a positive Indican tells us you need to look at how well this system is functioning.

Your Naturopathic Doctor will guide you to the next steps for you. This may include optimizing stomach acid, replenishing digestive enzymes, probiotic supplementation or supports to heal the gut. It may also mean further testing for SIBO, or a comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA).

Now Available at the Integrative Health Institute

Indican testing is now available through our Naturopathic Doctors at the Integrative Health Institute. Book a meet and greet appointment to discuss if this is the test you’ve been looking for to assess your gut health.

Dr. Lisa Watson delivers health care that supports balanced and attainable health at all ages and stages of life. Of primary importance is health care that nurtures the body, mind, spirit, family and community. As a Naturopathic Doctor and mother, Lisa believes that health care and a healthy lifestyle are intrinsically linked and that each serves to support the other. Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

Check out Dr Watson’s blog: www.drlisawatson.com

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Jul 30

Self-Help To Go

In our now now now society, we want everything on demand: our internet, our Ubers, our full seasons of TV shows (thanks, Netflix!). When it comes to our mental health, I advise that patience is a virtue; changes are absolutely possible and attainable when you put the time and effort into the process, and the results are typically long lasting, sustainable, and relieving.

That said, welcome to your cheat sheet for quick-acting, on-the-go mental health tips that can help you feel better in times of stress (think: awkward social situations, turbulent flights, stressful work crises, moments of poor self-esteem). Consider this 3-pack of techniques when you need a little help and a counselling session isn’t possible. Lauren’s Top Tips are here to save the day!

  1. Breathe. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

    In a moment of anxiety or stress, breathing is often the first thing to go out the window. Big mistake. Huge. Our breath is a physiological superhero that allows us to regulate stress hormones (oh hello adrenaline), slow down a stress-related elevated heart rate, and help clear our heads for more helpful self-talk. This technique is easy to master. I suggest practicing for even one to two minutes per day; then it will be second nature at times when you need it. You want to focus on slow, controlled breathing, preferably (but not mandatory) breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, for a count of 4-5 seconds per each inhale and exhale. Think of a bow gliding along the strings of a violin, slow and smooth, rather than breathing in quickly, holding the breath for a few seconds, and then forcibly exhaling. You also want to focus on filling up the lower lobes of your lungs, as if you were trying to fill up your belly with air. Breathing shortly, into the top of your chest, will only increase feelings of anxiety. Try this for about 10 breaths and notice how you feel. I’m betting you will notice a sense of calm and control that is invaluable during times of stress.

  2. Change the conversation.

    Now that you’ve relaxed your body and mind with your breath, it’s time to work on your self-talk. This is the running conversation you have with yourself, the little voice in your head, that is going on during all your waking hours. Pay attention: what kinds of thoughts are taking up most of the dialogue? If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or full of self-doubt, I’m guessing they are negative thoughts. Shut these down right now. Not only are they wickedly unhelpful, but they are also likely untrue, at least to some degree. Attempt to find even a more realistic point of view (positively leaning) to bring your focus to. Finding it a challenge? Channel your best friend and imagine what he or she may say to you about the situation. It’s doubtful that she would say “you’re right, you’re done for!” and more likely that she would calm your nerves by offering a solution or a realistic point of view that will help calm you and set you up to finding a solution to the problem or help you feel better.

  3. Mindful reminder. Remember the popular expression “stop and smell the roses”?

    It’s an oldie but goodie for a reason – during our hectic days, we often forget the five senses that make us human and help us connect to our sense of self and ability to exist. The buzz word for this is “mindfulness”, and its popularity has to do with its effectiveness; so why not give it a shot? The easiest introduction to mindfulness is to start with eating a food. The idea is to experience it slowly with each of your senses to gain a fuller appreciation for what you’re consuming. This leads to feeling much more satisfied in every way. Let’s practice together: you just went to one of those insane ice cream parlors that have popped up everywhere. Instead of downing your treat in a millisecond while Instagramming the pics of your dessert (you know who you are), let’s focus on savouring it with each of your senses. Sight: how beautiful is this cone?! Look at the creamy-looking ice cream, the colourful sprinkles, the way the one drip runs down the cone, the intricate pattern of the waffle cone. What do you notice? Smell: take a whiff. Can you smell that Dutch chocolate? Does the cone have that fresh-baked smell? Taste: go in for that first bite. How do the flavours mix? Do they complement each other? Ooh, that hit of sea salt in the caramel is a surprise! Sound: go for the slurp. Bite that cone and listen to that snap and crunch. Tactile touch: how does that waffle cone feel in your hand? How does that ice cold treat feel on your tongue? Notice the smoothness of the ice cream compared with the crunchy toppings. When you bring your attention to a single bite using all of your senses, you truly experience that ice cream. Yours is the only “like” that truly matters. (Pro tip: try this mindfulness exercise with more than just food. Run through your senses as you wash your hair, go for a walk, or play with your dog. One caveat: leave out the sense of taste if you’re not eating!)

There you have it, folks! A little self-help to go. I hope you enjoy these quick tips – they are faster-acting than a Redbull. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to Google-map the nearest Sweet Jesus.

**Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**


Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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