Happiness & Health: What would you eat if there were no rules?
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Read my comments in an interview for the Calgary Herald about what I know about the healthiest and happiest people we see at our practice. Deprivation leads to over-consumption and focusing on how you eat as much as what you eat is the key to success.

Make it easy, make it fun

Focusing on health and happiness with the Calgary Herald Health Club

By Yvonne Jeffery, Calgary Herald January 24, 2013

Build a fort out of pillows.

Nope, that’s not our advice for shutting out a cold, hard world. It’s one of the healthy living suggestions from Tanya Labrecque, healthy active living manager at Calgary’s Cardel Place, a not-for-profit and recreation centre with a mission to raise healthier generations (see more at letsraisethebar.ca).

“Healthy living means being active every day, having fun, eating well and enjoying life,” Labrecque says. “It really is about just getting moving, getting started and starting at home.”

Especially if you involve the entire family – and it can start with something as simple as building that fort, taking the dog for a walk instead of sending it to the backyard, walking around the arena with one child while another child plays hockey, or doing 10 push-ups during the TV commercials.

“There’s a big difference between the mindset of going for a workout and simply getting moving,” she says. “Especially for new exercisers, it can be overwhelming to go for a workout, but to get moving and get active is more manageable.”

But there’s a secret to being successful.

“Whether you’re a family or an individual, you have to set yourself up for success and not failure . . . it’s not about starting a healthy eating plan and exercising five days a week and going to sleep eight hours a day and doing all of these major life changes all at once,” Labrecque says.

“It’s about just doing more than you did the week before, the day before. Start with really, really small steps and go from there.”

Her colleague Brenda Cromer offers one way to get started.

“It starts with less screen time, whatever screen that is,” says the personal training and group fitness co-ordinator at Cardel Place. “If you sit at a desk all day and you go home and sit down and you relax in front of the TV, it’s exactly the same thing. It’s about exchanging sedentary relaxation with active living.”

She suggests making a family plan that’s specific, realistic, time sensitive and measurable. Track your usual habits for a week, to create a baseline, and then set an allotment of screen time for the week. Track it, along with the amount of time that’s spent being active – including everything from walking to household chores to playing in the yard to dancing in the family room to parking further from the mall so it’s a longer walk to the stores.

Most important? 

“Have a fun reward,” Cromer says, like going out for pizza and bowling on a Saturday night. “Kids get really excited about that kind of stuff . . . One of the benefits of spending time with the family being active is that kids get better face time with their parents and it improves the kids’ self esteem – they feel like they’re valuable.”

Generally speaking, she says, you’re aiming for an hour of activity a day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once.

“It can be 10 minutes at a time,” she says. “We’re not talking about exercises, we’re talking activity . . . when you change so small, it sticks.”

The same can be said for healthy eating, says Calgary dietitian Andrea Holwegner, owner of Health Stand Nutrition.

“I’d much rather see people make one solid change and sustain it,” she says.

Her start point might surprise you, however, because she wants you to think about what you would choose if you could eat anything, if there were no “rules.”

“The healthiest and happiest eaters we see here are the people who have full permission and no guilt associated with eating,” says Holwegner, also known as the Chocoholic Nutritionist. “If you start a meal with always eating what you love, and taking some time to actually taste it and savour it, food becomes more satisfying. And if you’re struggling with your weight, you’ll eat less.

Deprivation always leads to overconsumption . . . if it’s not soulful and pleasurable, it will never be satisfying.”

Holwegner adds that how you eat is as important as what you eat.

“When you eat, only eat,” she says. “Eating doesn’t take that long, yet we multi-task it and it’s never going to be satisfying when it’s multi-tasked.”

serving of fruitPaying attention to eating also helps you recognize your body’s cues that you’re no longer hungry, which can also help you eat less.

As for the after-school and after-work scramble to get to extra activities, she’s concerned that the family dinner hour is being sacrificed. Research shows that eating dinner as a family is about more than just healthier nutrition and eating habits, it’s about family connectedness.

“Everything has a consequence and the fallout with the pace of extracurricular things is that food gets cut . . . when we look at health and happiness, what are we doing to set up our kids not to live the same crazy pace we do?” she asks.

To improve your own healthy eating habits, she suggests keeping a food journal for a week. “Eat as usual and just sit back and look at what you’re doing.”

You’ll likely see one or two things you could change, such as drinking more water or adding a serving of fruit or veggies per day. Pick just one, and work on it until it becomes a habit. Then move on to the next change.

“Even if you’re busy, if you just have one thing to do for your health that day, it’s doable,” Holwegner says.

“There’s a certain level of empowerment with that.”


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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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