Ann Douglas shares her weight-loss story. Image by: David Wile
Ann Douglas shares how a walking routine and being kinder to herself helped her lose 120 pounds.I had almost given up on ever losing the extra weight I'd been carrying around my entire life. It was January 2013. I was staring down a milestone birthday (50) and the number on my scale (286 pounds). Heading into midlife with more than 100 extra pounds increased my odds of a premature death or disability. I wanted so much more for myself and my family.
|This story was originally titled "Many Steps Forward" in the October 2014 issue.|
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Dalal, with her daughter and sister, Fatima. Image courtesy of Dalal Al-Waheidi.
Self-improvement and self-care are important, but this time of year always brings me back to the focus of my childhood New Year's experiences: my family.
By the time the fireworks crescendoed over Cairo and my 22-month-old-daughter woke up to witness midnight on her second New Year's eve, my mind raced with changes I wanted to make in the year ahead to strengthen my family.
Ringing in the New Year with my sister at a Nile-side café, sharing plates of Arabic mezze such as hummus, baba ghanouj and kebab, was very special. Separated by thousands of kilometers and national borders, I don't get to see my loved ones nearly as often as I'd like and the holidays present a rare opportunity to rekindle the bonds of family.
As we talked—and the clock moved closer to midnight—sharing our plans for the New Year and reminiscing about our childhood, it struck me that the types of resolutions we usually think of around this time of year are foreign to me. Growing up in Kuwait and Gaza, the New Year was a very different affair.
Sure, there were fireworks and parties—but even at their loudest, our celebrations felt quieter, more subdued and grounded. There were no glaring campaigns encouraging you to join a gym, take that dream vacation or switch phone companies. New Year's Eve was another occasion to spend time as a family and connect with those closest to you.
It wasn't until I moved to Europe and eventually came to Canada that I saw the full force of the self-improvement craze as people promised to slim down and tone up, get more sleep and stick to a budget.
Self-improvement and self-care are important—being fulfilled in ourselves empowers us to care for others—but this time of year always brings me back to the focus of my childhood New Year's experiences: my family.
Firstly, I'm committing to use technology to enhance my family's relationships, instead of just to fill time while commuting. I'm going to be present with the people in my life, leaving my phone in the other room to make the most of the time I have with my loved ones over dinner. And for my family we can't share a meal with, I'm going to make sure they're an active presence in my daughter's life through video chats and photos.
Next, my husband and I are committing to volunteering together. Families that are actively engaged in their communities create a generation of change-makers and one of the greatest gifts I can give my daughter is the knowledge that she can have an impact. That starts with modeling behaviour for her now.
Lastly, I'm going to ensure my daughter grows up knowing what it means to be a part of a diverse community that cares for each other. Whenever I travel I'm reminded of how special Canada is, where people from all backgrounds speaking a multitude of languages celebrate cherished cultures side by side. This year my family is going to celebrate the threads that make up our diverse tapestry by sharing meals with our neighbours.
As 2016 drew to a close, headlines around the world declared it the worst year in recent memory: darker; more politically divisive; full of disaster, disease and an uncharacteristically high number of celebrity deaths. We have the potential to make 2017 better—not just for ourselves (when we finally lose that extra five pounds or remember to pack lunches for work) but for our family's and for each other, when we learn about issues together, leave notes of kindness to brighten one another's day, or tell the people in our lives what we're grateful for.
These are simple steps I plan to take for my family but my goal is much larger. I imagine a day, not too far off, when my daughter is a little older and we can talk about the issues and challenges she sees in the world. I want to raise her to care about little injustices and dream of ways she can help because she knows she can have an impact. That starts now, with a strong grounding in our home and our family.
Boost your heart health Image by: Getty Images
Heart disease is the biggest cause of death for women, but Dr. Danielle Martin from Toronto's Women's College Hospital says there are ways you can improve your heart health.
What do you think of when you hear a phrase like "women’s health"?
Many of us picture high-profile campaigns about breast and other cancers, or reproductive health issues—but, in fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for women over 55.
In the past, health professionals were trained to think of heart disease mainly as a men’s issue. This mentality led to gaps in awareness (when Canadian women were asked to name the greatest health problem for their gender, only 13 percent correctly answered heart disease) and treatment (after a heart attack, women are less likely to be admitted to intensive care settings and â€¨cardiac rehabilitation programs, or to receive interventions such as bypass surgery).
Today, thanks to public health campaigns and the work of advocates, there is growing awareness that heart health is a women’s issue, too.
When it comes to your heart, there is good news on two fronts.
First, you have the power to reduce your risk of a heart attack right now. Some risk factors are beyond your control, such as age, gender and family history. But there is much that you can control.
Many of the risk factors for heart attack and stroke can be reduced or even eliminated. Smoking is a big one: If you smoke, the single best thing you can do is stop. Other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, can be significantly reduced by effectively managing those chronic conditions. Management includes eating a healthful diet with lots of vegetables and minimal processed foods; exercising and keeping a healthy body weight; and, when necessary, taking medications regularly and as prescribed.
The other piece of good news is that the Canadian health-care system has made some much needed changes to the way heart health is managed. One challenge in the past was the long wait times to see a cardiac specialist. In recent years, Canada has been a world leader in improving access to cardiac care. For example, back in 1990, the Cardiac Care Network of Ontario set out to reduce wait times. It increased coordination between family doctors and cardiologists by creating a central database and an urgency rating system.
The result? 17 cardiac centres across Ontario link patients, doctors, cardiologists and hospitals. The moment a patient is referred, they are assigned a maximum safe wait time and given a tool kit of educational resources.
Since 2004, regional differences in wait times have gone down, and nearly all Ontarians waiting for heart treatment and procedures are seen within their recommended wait times.
Both at the individual level and at the systemic level, there is much we can do to reduce the risk of heart disease and promote heart health.
Are you suffering from any of these bad nutrition habits? Read on for easy ways to get back on track with your weight-loss goals.
When it comes to nutrition, we all have certain habits that need to be broken. While some treats and indulgences are harmless in moderation, some habits can have negative effects on your general health such as weight gain, fatigue, irritability and faulty digestion.
Here are 5 of the worst nutrition habits and advice on how to break them.
1. Drinking too much coffee
A certain amount of morning java can help to boost alertness, performance and concentration. In addition to containing anti-oxidants, research also suggests coffee contains health benefits that can lower the risk of heart disease, decrease the risk of Parkinson’s disease and help prevent gallstones. But, when your body has had too much caffeine you can experience numerous ill effects such as increased in heart rate and blood pressure, the jitters and dehydration. Also, too much coffee can interfere with proper absorption and elimination and can upset optimal weight loss results.
While you do not have to retire your coffee mug completely, the key to drinking coffee is moderation. Research suggests you can safely consume one to two cups of coffee a day.
2. Eating after dinner
After a long hard day, many of us turn to snacking after dinner to soothe emotions, deal with stress or as a treat in front of the TV. Unfortunately, late-night snacking is a one-way ticket to weight gain. Ideally, after dinnertime, the kitchen should be considered closed. If you have eaten a sufficient dinner with a protein source, you should be left feeling satisfied. If you still are feeling the need to snack at night, opt for lighter calorie foods that do not create excess weight gain such as unsweetened apple sauce, a small yogurt, vegetables, soup broths or air popped pop corn.
3. Skipping breakfast
When Mom told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, she was right. Research suggests those who skip breakfast make poorer food choices throughout the day and tend to gain more weight then those who enjoy a healthy breakfast. While you do not have to consume a huge meal first thing in the morning, it is important to spark your metabolic engine and eat a small balanced meal in the morning hours. Natural yogurts, low fat cottage cheese, steel cut oats, fruit, whole grain bread and natural nut butters and fruit are all terrific options to start your day off on the right foot.
4. Falling prey to the afternoon slump
Is it usually the mid or late afternoon when you start to feel groggy and your craving for sweets rears its ugly head? Before you know it, you have grabbed a muffin, cookie or some other starchy carbohydrate to satisfy your hankering for refined, sugary goods. While grabbing a treat mid-day might make you feel better temporarily, you are encouraging the cycle of energy and blood sugar fluctuations, eventually causing weight gain.
Instead of grabbing a processed sweet treat, opt for natural sweets such as a handful of healthy trail mix with raisins, protein bars, fruit, yogurt, vegetables and hummus, a salted hard-cooked egg or a small piece of dark chocolate with at least a 70-per-cent cocoa.
5. Not drinking enough water
Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, headaches, bloating and weakness, and can cause premature signs of aging. Drinking your six to eight glasses of water every day needs to become a habit. To get in the habit, put a dot on your hand as a reminder. Whenever you look at the dot, take a few sips of water. Keep your water handy at your desk, in your car or invest in a home water dispenser unit. Squeeze fresh lemon to you water for a refreshing taste and reap the benefits from its detoxifying properties.
If you identify with one of the bad habits listed above, just remember the key is moderation. Small changes such as making better choices when wanting sweets, drinking more water or eating a balanced morning meal can have positive effects on your health, weight and energy.