live it active

Karoshi. Death by Overwork.

It seems that Canada’s work-life balance is out of kilter, based on a recent poll featured in the Globe and Mail. At least most Canadians polled are familiar with the term work-life balance. Apparently only 10% of Japanese workers are familiar with the term.

The Japanese culture places great emphasis on work ethic. Not to say that North Americans don’t, but I’m not sure 4/5 of us would cancel a date with a loved one if a supervisor asked us to stay late. Okay, maybe once in a while (depending on the project), but definitely not on a regular basis.

Last night I watched a documentary on happiness entitled, Happy. It featured the story of a Japanese woman who had lost her husband to Karoshi. Yes, death due to overwork has become so common in Japan that they have a name for it. Her husband was a quality control manager at a Toyota plant. Leading up to his death she had noticed higher levels of fatigue, increasing worry lines and less time engaged with his daughter. On the night of his death something happened in the plant – a defect of some sort. While on the phone to his supervisor, asking for help, he dropped to the floor, dead.

Japan has an association for victims of Karoshi. This woman, featured in the documentary, is a member.

There are a multitude of factors that have contributed to this workcentric culture. The 90’s economic challenges along with the current economic challenges faced by citizens all over the world are major factors. Japanese workers are now dealing with the threat of job loss, wage reductions, increasing responsibility on the job due to job cuts elsewhere (so one person has to do the job of 3 people), and fewer breaks. Yes, I know these are issues faced all over the globe; however, the Japanese people haven’t had much of a break since the early 90s.

Based on the results in the Globe and Mail it seems that we Canadians aren’t doing much better. We’re working more, feeling more depressed and less satisfied. So what can we do?

Happy (that documentary I watched) reiterated the importance of strong social bonds between family and friends. It has been repeatedly shown that cultures with a strong sense of community are on the whole, happier. People who help people feel a greater sense of purpose. Having purpose along with a strong social network is crucial for us humans – without it, we tend to be a little more sad, less happy.

So this weekend, instead of working, have lunch with a good friend. Call your mom. Talk to your aunt. Go for a walk with your partner. Sit in the park (if it’s warm enough…). Enjoy your community – both the one you live in and the one you have developed throughout your life. Trust me, it’s worth it.




Mr. Golden Sun, where are you?

Yesterday was the first full day of sun that Calgary has had in over a week. A week doesn’t sound long but trust me, it is.

Apparently in order to stimulate the production of vitamin D (yes, your body actually produces it) you need around 5-30 minutes of sun exposure two times per week. As most Canadians and North Americans will know, UVB rays become significantly less intense during the winter months and thus, we must compensate by spending a little more time in the sun.

The sad news for Calgarians and all Canadians who live north of the 42-degree latitude – producing enough vitamin D from November through to February is a major challenge. Supplementing through oral pill or dietary changes is recommended to ensure you’re getting enough.

Not getting enough vitamin D can have some serious health consequences. In children, a deficiency can lead to bone deformities known as rickets. Adults may experience secondary hyperthyroidism which can lead to the breakdown of bone and development of osteoporosis  Furthermore, deficient levels of vitamin D has been associated with diabetes type I, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, cardiovascular heart disease, and many common deadly cancers.

Low levels of vitamin D has also been associated with a variety of psychological conditions including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). During winter months, people diagnosed with SAD, experience similar symptoms to individuals diagnosed with Depression, but to a somewhat lesser degree. Simply increasing one’s level of vitamin D may not lead to dramatic changes in mood, but it will likely help to some degree.

Yes, it’s serious. And the topic of low vitamin D has definitely picked up some international steam.

Due to my weariness and thus refrain from taking oral supplements (apart from my regular injection of B12) I took full advantage of the sun’s rays yesterday. My partner and I enjoyed the sun during our walk and our post-walk hot chocolate on our balcony. He too, has been feeling the effects of low sun levels. Needless to say, we were both happy to be outside, enjoy some outdoor activity and boost our vitamin D levels. My body and mind definitely definitely appreciated it.

This winter, be sure to get out and enjoy the sun when you can and if necessary, talk to your doctor about vitamin D oral supplements. Your body and brain will thank you.



Flossing Much?

Not going to get your teeth professionally cleaned as often as you should?

Do you wonder why you even go?

Ever found out the answer?

Well to sum it up there are over 400 types of bacteria in your mouth. Some are good for your body and some are very bad. Bacteria that is not addressed can often lead to, you guessed it, gingivitis, commonly known as gum disease. Gum disease is an inflammation and infection of the tissue that supports teeth, which includes the gums, periodontal ligaments and tooth sockets.

In recent studies, gum disease has been repeatedly associated with physical conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoporosis. Also, gum disease may increase the risk of women giving birth prematurely and / or having low weight babies. Therefore, treating inflammation in the mouth will also help manage other chronic inflammatory diseases.

It’s a well researched fact that a healthy mouth often equates to a healthy body. But getting your teeth cleaned on a regular basis can be pricey.

If money is stopping you to get your teeth cleaned here are a few tips:

  • Brush at least twice a day for 2 minutes, floss (or use other tools to stimulate your gums) 1-2 times a day and using an antiseptic or anti-bacterial rinse is great way to keep your mouth infection free. This will help reduce the need for regular professional cleaning.
  • Go to a dental hygiene school or dental school – it’s more affordable and they will really appreciate your participation.
  • Seek out a dental hygiene clinic in your area.

Jessica Fielding RDH


Thank you to my good friend, Jess, a dental hygienist in British Columbia for writing this post. I am proud to say that I have gone from a never-ever flosser to a 3-4x per week flosser. While my flossing and brushing habits aren’t quite up to Jess’s standards, she has never been happier with me. Seriously.

Happy flossing!


The Fear of Success (yes, success)

I am doing some reading on motivation for my upcoming book (yes, book…if I tell people, I am more likely to get it done). I just finished the book The Life You Want by Bob Greene and while little lengthy, he and his team provide the reader with some useful information, tips, and next steps.

At the outset of the book he discusses some of the barriers people tend to experience along their weight loss journey. Fear of success was one such barrier.

As Greene points out, it seems counterintuitive to be fearful of actually meeting or surpassing your initial goal, but as a trainer he has seen it time and time again.

Why? Making a big change in your life, whether it is losing weight or embarking on a new project at work or starting your own business, can be intimidating. Not only intimidating because of the time, effort, and energy required to get the job going, but because with success comes with great responsibility (close but no cigar eh Spiderman fans?). If you lose weight, your friends, family and coworkers are going to take notice. If you win another project at work based on the success of the last, your coworkers are going to take notice. And as Greene points out, some people do not like upsetting the apple cart.

Another reason, you may not be able to utilize the same coping strategies you once did. The example Greene uses is associated with food as he is writing a weight loss / health book, but it’s still relevant. If you’ve always used food to cope, knowing that you can no longer turn to a pint of icecream after dealing with a stressful day at work may provoke anxiety. Thus, not only are you losing weight, but you’re also being forced (by your very own decision) to find new ways of coping. And if you’ve got a tried and tested technique up your sleeve, finding and implementing a new one on a consistent basis can be daunting.


So in some cases we end up sabotaging ourselves. We end up finding a way to interrupt and alter our path to one that is slightly less than what we originally intended. And it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate because it speaks to a larger issue – feelings of low self-worth.

Greene also talks about feeling of unworthiness as a potential barrier. If we don’t think we deserve to be fit, happy, successful, etc. we will find ways to ensure that we aren’t. Greene aptly points out if you were to ask most people “Do you feel worthy of having a good life?” most would answer “Of course”. But as you dig a little deeper, the answer is often no.

How do we overcome this? With time and continuous practice. It comes back to the practice of mindfulness, which I have mentioned many times on this blog. It requires you to spend time listening to your inner dialogue and cataloging what you hear. I would hasten a bet that it’s going to be predominantly negative self-talk. While scary to hear what you think of yourself, you now have a better sense of why you feel the way you feel about yourself. Even better, you now have the power to work on and improve that inner dialogue to something more positive. Note: that’s a lot easier said than done.

My belief, is that in order to overcome the fear of success you need to spend some time tapping into your self-worth. If you don’t really like yourself that will largely determine your success rate with any challenge you decide to take on. I promise. If you’re constantly beating yourself up for mistakes in the past, you’re likely going to make the same mistakes in the future.  I promise. Thus, it’s imperative that you set aside time to tune into your inner workings and begin addressing the issue of low self worth (if it’s an issue).

Writing these steps is a lot easier than doing them. Evaluating and working to improve your feelings of self-worth will take time. Not days. Months. A year. Maybe more than a year. But there will be moments of clarity along the way. There will be positive reinforcement – trust me, I’ve been on this journey for 3 years now. While difficult at times, it has been 100% worthwhile.


It’s Wednesday and I’m Out of Juice (On Work/Life Balance)

No, not orange juice or beer. I am also not referring to the ‘juice’ in cars (aka, gas…my dad’s slang, in case you’re wondering). I’m referring to energy. Seriously, I can’t believe it’s only Wednesday.

It’s been a busy week at work, I haven’t managed to exercise, and am in need of my monthly B12 shot. And I know I am not alone in my feelings of fatigue and weariness.

Fatigue and burnout are sadly becoming more common. We seem to be working longer hours, typically in front of a computer, with minimal activity, and while sometimes beneficial, we are always connected. Smartphones allow for quick and easy conversation – a client/parent/partner now has the ability to know where you are at all times. Well, not so much where you are, but they know they can reach you at all hours if they wanted. This presents a major barrier to maintaining our work/life balance.


I’m not going to go on some boring diatribe about society and technology. In all honesty, the technological advances that I have seen in my lifetime are incredible and I look forward to what the future holds. Yet, if our technological world continues to advance, which it inevitably will, we need to become a little more savvy at maintaining the separation between work- and home-life.

Some simple suggestions:

  1. Determine a time to shut off your phone each night
  2. Do not accept a work phone/pager unless you absolutely have to
  3. Do not connect work email to your personal Smartphone
  4. Determine a time that you will no longer answer work emails (or personal for that matter – we need time away from the screen)
  5. Reduce Facebook checking time (I am pointing the finger in my direction as I am guilty of being a regular Facebook checker…okay, stalker)
  6. Shut-down or close your computer at the same time each night (sometimes difficult, but try)
  7. Say ‘no’ to working on the weekends…regularly. Sometimes we have a big project or event, just don’t make working on the weekends a regular event.
  8. Take your lunch break. This one is so simple, but rarely done.
  9. Plan an activity after work that will get you out of the office at a decent time
  10. Be sure to track and take your lieu time.

Rarely does anyone have their work/life scale in perfect balance. It’s a constant challenge. While difficult, I would encourage you to try out a few of the suggestions above and track (by writing down or recording) how you feel. My gut tells me you might actually enjoy it.

Happy balancing.


Pushups & Pee?

The Globe and Mail is offering up some interesting exercise advice this morning – how to squeeze in a workout during your bathroom break.

I want to preface that I am a big advocate of fitting in exercise into your daily routine, but this is a stretch, even for me. Running or biking to work, walking during lunch, taking the stairs, sitting on a Swiss ball instead of a desk chair, or stretching mid afternoon are all fairly straightforward examples and less likely to result in a bacterial infection (well, one can hope). Doing pushups on the wall, right beside the urinal, is a little much.

The author of this article has likened exercise to hand-washing. It seems that both things are natural behaviours in the bathroom. Well, they’re not (well, hand-washing is fairly standard).

Personally, I don’t want to exercise in the washroom and I would hasten a bet that most of you wouldn’t want to either. And it’s not because it’s ‘weird’ (I like weird). It’s because it’s down right unhygienic and stinky.There are so many other places in the workplace to work on your pecs. The first place that comes to mind, your office. The second, the break room. The third, any wall that is not in the bathroom.

Let me restate this, I am all for fitting exercise into your daily routine, but even I have limits. Yet, if you’re comfortable with getting your sweat on in the bathroom, go for it. As the expression goes, to each their own.

Happy workout…wherever you may be!


Wednesday Workout Tip: Try Out His Sweet Moves

Good morning!

Ever get tired of the same old exercise routine? I do. After about 2 days of doing the same thing, I need to switch it up (yes, I have a short attention span).

This guy, Michael Darren (I assume…don’t know him personally) put together a video of 21 different moves that you can integrate into your exercise routine. Some you will have seen before. Others will be new to your eyes.

I have already tried some of his moves (around 4) and was very pleased with the degree of my delayed onset muscle soreness (yes, DOMS) the next day. On a cautionary note, some of his moves may trigger a nerve / back pain and may be hard on the knees. As always, exercise with caution.

Happy training! Let me know how it goes.


Reflecting on the “Everyday Champion” Series

Sadly, the Everyday Champion series has come to an end (well, for the time being). I have to say, the series has been my favourite on the blog so far, not that there have been a lot of series, but still.

I learned a lot from my friends and family members – about them, their challenges, and the human spirit. It’s a fighting one. The human spirit is tenacious, tough, and resilient. It takes a lot to bring someone down and keep them there.

We heard from a multiple half marathoner who plans to run another race in her near future. We heard from a a man who did indeed throw away his fat clothes – his exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes have resulted in sustainable weight loss. We heard from a woman with a chronic condition who works hard to ensure some normalcy to her everyday life. We learned that old dogs can learn new tricks if they’re willing to; that running can become a part of your exercise regime at 60. We heard from a woman who was tired of being told “you have such a pretty face” and became the yummy mummy she wanted to be. We heard about the journey of a woman diagnosed with Depression; we learned that Depression has many different etiologies and that each deals with it in their own perfect way.

We heard six powerful and inspiring stories from six very different people, all at different stages of their life. Yet, there were undeniable similarities. Each experienced challenges. Each experienced setbacks. Each experienced pain (whether physical or mental). Each experienced joy.

To me, an everyday champion is a person that has overcome an incredible challenge. What makes something an incredible challenge? The eye of the beholder; the challenge is relative to the person who decides to take it on. A half-marathon to a decorated Iron Man isn’t a challenge. Making a lifestyle change may not be a challenge to a professional athlete (at least not now, perhaps in the beginning stages of their training). And running a 5 KM may not seem like much to that multiple half-marathoner.

Most of us are aware of our strengths and weaknesses. An everyday champion is one that uses their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. Using humour to overcome the pain of running another 10 meters or creating a schedule to overcome fatigue are prime examples.  An everyday champion is one that determines the challenge, sets both big and mini goals, creates a plan of action, and follows through. It is a person that sets a new goal once they’ve accomplished their last one. It is a person that learns how to take care of themselves in the way that works best for them.

We are surrounded by everyday champions. Truly. Just start talking to your coworker, neighbour, partner, long-time friend and you’ll realize you’re completely surrounded. Trust me, you’ll be inspired.

Due to the success of this series and the absolute joy I have derived from doing it, I have decided to write a book. The challenge – I need more champions. So to all those everyday champions out there (and I know there are hundreds of thousands), send me your story. The world wants to read it. 

Lastly, thank you to the everyday champions who were brave enough to share their respective stories. I cannot thank you enough for participating in this endeavor. And yes, I will be asking you to be a part of my book :).



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