How many of you have given retirement a serious thought?
Depending on the age of the person reading this, I’m sure it varies from, “I worry about this everyday,” to “Yeah, it’s the thing they take money off my pay check for every week like criminals.”
A 2018 CIBC poll shows that only about one in five Canadians are actually giving retirement some serious thought and considering it, saving money so that they eventually won’t have to work.
The poll demonstrated that the magic number people may need to retire is close to $756,000 in order to be able to live comfortably for your remaining years.
Finding this article on a nutrition website, you probably ask why we’re talking about retirement or money in general. The fact of the matter is, people are comfortable talking about saving money for retirement but very few are considering the state of their health when they eventually are able to walk away from their lifetime jobs.
When it comes to getting older, although you may no longer have financial obligations such as a mortgage and car payments etc, your healthcare costs will dramatically increase. After 65, they will nearly double, 75 even worse.
This is largely because the likelihood of having other health problems increases. It can be anything from more conditions, more medications, a surgery here and there or having to actually move out of your home and into a retirement facility. From 2011 to 2016, the number of people having to live in a retirement home in Canada increased over 100,000, according to our most recent census.
When it comes to health and fitness, that’s what we are after—longevity. Put more simply, the average cost for retirement may be $756,000, but what if you were one of the outliers on the lower end of the scale that only needed a fraction of that number plus your Canadian Pension Plan in order to live out your remaining years with a smile on your face?
What if you put off the need for increased medications, visits to the doctor and ultimately relying on an assisted-living facility for another decade or eliminated it all together?
Your financial needs for retirement would plummet. And all of that is possible but you have to take action in your youth to make it happen because the reality is that all of these conditions, many diseases and atrophy is preventable. Sure, there is a chance anyone will get a disease like cancer in today’s world, but the most common preventative measure is a healthy lifestyle and that starts in your 20s with the same importance that putting aside part of your pay check for your pension does.
It starts with assessing the things you’re eating and the way your body is moving. It starts with having a full picture of not only the money you’re saving for your nest egg, but the body you’re going to have once you get there.
After all, if you retire with $2 million dollars but need to rely on medications, weekly doctor visits or worse, are you really retiring from anything at all?
Retirement is supposed to be about being freed from work so you can enjoy the fruits of your labour for your remaining years, not being imprisoned by your health (or lack thereof).
So, when it comes to investing in your health now remember that those dollars are as important if not more than those going into your investment portfolio. Treat the cost of your gym membership or payment for coaching (be it nutrition or personal training) with the same importance as your RRSP because it is.
An investment into your health is as important as one in your pocket book.
6 weeks to your best body yet. Summer fit in one month.
Ever seen these marketing ploys?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Within the fitness industry, they’re rampant these days and to be quite honest, they’re probably not going anywhere anytime soon.
Without going too in depth as to why they exist, it’s pretty easy to see why they’re successful. Think about it— for years you’ve been trying to get that dream body, those six-pack abs, tighter butt, stomach etc, and then you hear that someone can do it in just six weeks not to mention the so-called transformations they have on their website that says it’s attainable?
WHERE DO I SIGN OVER MY BANKING INFO!
Don’t worry, I’ve fallen prey to these marketing tactics as well. It’s why I bought magazine after magazine of Men’s Health looking for that quick summer body with a tagline similar to “lean abs yesterday.”
The hard reality though is that these transformations need to happen in a lot longer terms than just six weeks. It probably takes more than 12 weeks. If you want it to last, for the rest of your life, this is just the reality!
My mentor Jason Phillips puts it eloquently by saying that, “you didn’t get yourself into this mess overnight so you can’t expect to get out of it overnight either.”
For me, it’s taken the better part of two years. These photos aren’t months apart, they’re two years of hard work, counting macronutrients with hills and valley, successes and yes, failures.
This isn’t to say that your desired transformation is going to require two years, a year or more to actualize but it is a suggestion that you play with the long-game in mind rather than the short game. The United States has one of the best track records when it comes to losing weight. It’s not hard. People understand this, so why do they have one of the highest obesity rates if not the highest in the world?
Because they are constantly jumping on and off the “dieting” merry-go-round. People looking for quick changes go on a short-term diet, create success for themselves and then instantly return to their previous lifestyles and they are back at square one only months later or worse.
It’s why I don’t recommend diets like the ketogenic diet unless you’re willing to eat that way as a lifestyle approach.
At the end of the day, if I told you I could drop 20 pounds off of you in six weeks but that you would have gained it all back and maybe more in 12 weeks, would you hire me as your nutrition coach?
I hope not.
What about if I told you we could drop 20 pounds off of you in three months but worked together after to ensure you were able to increase your food without gaining unwanted body fat?
Now we’re talking.
Dieting and nutrition, whatever you want to call it, is a long game not a short game. We’re after a lifestyle transformation, that just might happen to give us a physical transformation. It won’t be fast, it won’t happen overnight, but it will be sustainable.
It will give you a true version of yourself.
One of the first things we will begin to talk about with our nutrition when sitting down is tracking our macronutrients and calories so that we can create sustainable weight loss.
Got you with a picture of me eating a donut didn’t I?
It’s only been just recently that I can snack on something like that and feel totally happy. Complete bliss. I mean, it’s junk food right? The chocolate, the dough, the CARBS, they’re going to make me fat, right? I have to immediately go to the gym and run this all off right?
Wrong. All these are ideas that you may have an unhealthy relationship with food in the same way that I once had a terrible relationship with it as well.
Don’t worry you aren’t alone if you’ve had any of these thoughts when going about your daily life. We’ve been conditioned this way throughout our lives to see nutrition in black and white terms and forgot that there’s actually this fantastic shade of grey that’s perfectly fine as well.
What I mean by this is that we’ve been led to believe things like eating are very simple. Eat bad/junk food (chocolate, ice cream, hamburgers), we get fat. Eat good food (chicken breasts, steak, broccoli, salads) we get skinny, healthy, fit, whatever you want.
Turns out that’s only kind of true. In fact, we’ve proven you can ‘lose weight’ eating something as ‘bad’ as twinkies for every meal.
Now I didn’t post this picture to talk about the fact that I eat donuts 365 days a week at each meal. I don’t because that’s a bad idea for me and for you. Instead I posted to take the opportunity to talk about the importance (yes you read that right) of enjoying a donut, beer, piece of cake, or ice cream cone from time to time.
The first thing I talk to about clients who approach me to talk about nutrition is what your non-negotiables are. For some people, it’s going out for date night with their partner once a week, not tracking anything and eating what they want. For me, it’s one pint of ice cream a week that I don’t worry about. For you, it’s the answer to, what’s one thing you need in your diet that would cause you anxiety if we took it away?
The obvious reason for this is balance. If I told someone who enjoys a glass of wine with their husband every Friday night that they couldn’t have it, what do you think their response would be? If they even wanted to continue working with me, I’m sure it wouldn’t be, ‘hell ya I’m in man.’
Instead, it’s building around that idea and finding a way to bring it into your weekly diet. Same for the mom or dad who wants to take their kids out for ice cream after a soccer game in the hot sun. Who am I to take away that bonding moment from you and your family?
For some of you, this dip into the tainted waters of eating might mean, “okay, today’s diet is already gone, let’s go off the deep end here.’ Don’t worry, I’ve been there before too. If it’s just one spoon of ice cream, let’s have it all right?
This is yet another sign of an unhealthy relationship with food. If you can’t stop at the feeling of full, there’s something wrong there that we have to work out.
What is healthy is finding a way to incorporate that more regularly into your daily lifestyle. Instead of eliminating sugar completely from your diet until you reach the x number on the scale, and then binging on it, why not manage it so we can create a lifestyle change for the future.
In concrete terms, why not have a donut a week for life rather than riding the roller coaster of punishing yourself for ‘eating bad’ then eating ‘good’ for the rest of your life?
At the end of the day, food is food and calories are calories. You don’t deserve a donut any more than you deserve to eat kale and suffer through a salad. Eliminate that word from your fitness and nutritional vocabulary right now. Any label you attach to the food casts judgement on not only the calories on your fork entering your mouth but also who you are and become when you swallow that food.
Food is meant to be gasoline for the engine of our daily lives but it’s also meant to be enjoyable too. It’s supposed to make you smile. It’s supposed to make you laugh with friends. A nicely grilled steak with steamed broccoli can whet the appetite and make you smile over a dinner with family and friends.
But so can the pie for dessert.
Ever see those magazine fitness cover models and think, “damn, wouldn’t it be nice to look like that?”
Don’t worry you aren’t alone. I remember being an overweight teenager and picking up a Men’s Health Magazine and wanting desperately to have the physique of the person looking at me on the cover of that magazine. But is that realistic? Can anyone actually look like that and be healthy?
The answer is yes, but not in the way we probably think.
The thing we don’t realize about those cover models is that they have prepared intricately for that photoshoot for that particular magazine. Most likely the scenario goes like this:
The magazine reaches out to the movie star, athlete or model and asks if they would like to be on the cover of their magazine, providing a date and contract for when they would be potentially doing the shoot (in most cases, it’s weeks if not months in advance).
From there, the model gets to decide. In a lot of cases, it would be flattering to be offered the cover of a magazine. For many, it’s a lifelong dream. But it also means that they’re paying you to look a certain way on that photoshoot day whether you like it or not.
It means they want to see abs. For men, they want to see bulging biceps, a thin waist and broad chest. It’s all the things societally that we have determined are ‘attracitve.’ It’s what makes us want these things and work for them when we enter the gym everyday.
So the model gets to work. In most cases, they are already somewhat close to the end goal—Men’s Health isn’t asking Mark Wahlberg to be on the cover of its magazine because of his physique in the Gambler as much as it’s likely because of his build in other movies like Pain and Gain. Like a physique athlete getting ready to walk on stage, they diet down and lean out trying to get as ‘ripped’ as possible to look the best for that cover as possible.
When it’s over, when the last photo has been taken, guess what? They suddenly go back to that phase of a moderate body fat, more food and reasonable lifestyle. But we don’t see that. The magazines don’t show that.
Instead, we see the peak. We see them, “in season,” and draw all these perceptions that we can, and should, look that way in the future.
That’s why it’s important we periodize our nutrition and be smart about it for the long haul. For the everyday person, there’s always a season. It’s usually the reason people are getting in touch with a nutrition coach to begin with. For aesthetics purposes, it can come in the form of a wedding, reunion, anniversary or any type of vacation that we want to look our absolute best for.
And that’s great. We can work together and get as lean and muscular looking as you want by losing weight during that season. But like autumn, spring and especially winter in Canada, that season is going to eventually go away and we’re going to refocus our priorities to other areas of nutrition once that event is over. Sometimes that means trying to add more muscle, or simply just not tracking our nutrition as closely because it's the Christmas holidays and you want to eat whatever you want whenever you want.
Because the fact of the matter is that our bodies weren’t designed to live at cover model lean levels. From an evolutionary perspective, we held onto body fat because we never truly know when or if we would need those fat stores to fight off starvation. Our hormones live and breathe in that fat whether you like it or not.
This fails to mention that when we go into a caloric deficit or start a dieting phase, we do so at a cost to our hormones, energy levels and longevity which all need to be brought back to homeostasis (balance) once we have achieved our goals.
At the end of the day, no one here is saying you can’t look the way you want to look for the event you want, as long as it is in line with your health and long-term goals. For CrossFit athletes, this off-season period after the Open, Regionals or the Games is where we prioritize aesthetics IF WE WANT TO.
Like the nutritional prescriptions we help unearth at Refocus Nutrition, it’s important to break down our goals throughout the year.
It seems we are in a bit of a period of carb shaming lately, especially with the ketogenic diet.
Countless times, I’ve been approached by individuals looking to make a change through diet and ask about the ketogenic diet or what I think about it and if I would recommend it.
Fact of the matter is, the ketogenic diet can be an incredibly useful resource for a lot of people. My parents live by it and love it. They love eating that much fat and very little carbs, claiming that carbohydrates spike their insulin levels and make them feel, “sleepy.”
They’re not alone either. I know plenty of people who report feeling groggy or tired after a high-carbohydrate meal. There is reasons for it.
However, if anyone ever asks me about this diet, my first question is why you want to do this diet?
For A LOT of people, the thought this is that this diet will allow them to lose more weight. Up until earlier this year, many people actually believed it and there was little scientific evidence to refute it. That was until April this year. Researchers studying 609 overweight adults for a period of 12 months found that there was no statistical significance in weight loss between a low-carb high fat diet compared to that of a high-carb-low-fat diet when total calories were controlled.
Now, that doesn’t mean you aren’t a unicorn and have different physiological adaptations to the general population but it is a good indicator. For many who have tried the ketogenic diet, they report rapid weight loss in a week or two, thinking, “hell ya, this truly is the answer!”
Unfortunately, what most of that is, is water loss as you go from what was likely a higher carbohydrate diet to little to no carbs at all. The thing with carbohydrates is that they hold water in your body unlike fats so when you drop the carbs, take a guess what happens to all the water that was stored in those glycogen (carb) stores in your body?
The other question I would bring up to someone who is looking to use the ketogenic from a purely fat loss perspective is, what will happen when you hit your target weight?
Usually, it’s a return back to the way they were eating, which if they are from North America and haven’t done a purely macronutrient based diet, is a high carb, moderate protein and low-fat diet. Guess what happens next? We are right back to stage 1, trying to figure out an approach for finding that physique you want again. If you can't live with that diet forever, and don't want to, it's probably not the right diet choice for you.
The answer to what is the best diet equals the one that works for you. It’s the one that you could do under the absolute worst circumstances. If you were getting married, your father was in the hospital and your pet was sick, you’d still be able to somewhat follow your diet. So, if you can’t do the ketogenic diet beyond 30-60 days or whatever time frame for your transformation, guess what diet you shouldn’t be doing?
Yes, that means that if you enjoy things like alcohol, sweets, date nights enjoying cake or popcorn, you should not being doing the ketogenic diet. Any time you have any of these aforementioned foods, you will be kicked out of ketosis and have to spend the next 8-36 hours (sometimes even longer) for your body to become fat adapted once again and use fat as an energy source.
If you are someone who is a performance athlete (CrossFit athlete whose primary concern is Open performance not aesthetics, powerlifter, endurance athlete) that is highly central nervous system regulated, you will also not benefit from a ketogenic diet and could suffer other negative consequences such as adrenal dysregulation. The nervous system’s preferred fuel source is carbohydrates, which convert to glucose for the body to use as energy and the body cannot create glucose from fat.
Now that I’ve covered who shouldn’t use it, what about who should?
Well, looking at the triangle of awareness (health, performance, aesthetics), people who are concerned from a longevity perspective may best be suited towards a ketogenic diet. One thing this diet will do is control blood sugar levels for diabetic or prediabetic individuals. According to Diabetes Canada, 3.4 million people were diagnosed diabetics in 2015 with many more who are considered insulin resistant and on their way to becoming diabetic in the next decade without dietary intervention. Myself, after doing a long bout of CrossFit where I increased my carbohydrate intake to stimulate recovery found that my blood sugar was getting out of control. For this reason, I too underwent a short-term ketogenic diet so that I could bring those levels back to normal where I could leverage insulin (sugar) the way my body needed to.
What the ketogenic diet will do for these people is regulate their blood sugar because of the near elimination of the hormone insulin in their diet. For diabetics and prediabetics, they have become insulin resistant meaning that their bodies can no longer respond to the anabolic hormone and are thus storing all those carbohydrates as body fat. Put simple, lose insulin sensitivity and you can quite easily lose your waistline.
A ketogenic diet allows those people to reset their insulin sensitivity so that they are properly able to use insulin for muscle growth and other anabolic factors.
The other population that can seriously benefit from a ketogenic approach is those who are susceptible to or already have cancer. To oversimplify, cancer feeds on sugar which comes from carbohydrates. Therefore, in some cases, if you remove the sugar you can starve any cancer cells as the normal cells in our bodies can use fat as an energy source. This is what makes this approach a valuable resource for fighting or eliminating cancer.
At the end of the day, the conversation and internal dialogue needs to happen as to why you want to do this particular diet or any diet. If you love bacon and eggs and simply don’t like carbs, great, let’s go for this diet. But if it’s because you think carbohydrates will make you fat etc, you should probably examine your relationship with food a little more.
Otherwise, you’re going to get on the diet train and eliminate all the foods you would enjoy at get-togethers and other events and simply not enjoy your life the way you should. When you inevitably reach for that savoury treat, you’ll be back at square one, reinforcing the negative association you have with that food to begin with.
It doesn’t have to be that if you don’t want to. You can eat the things you want, while feeling and looking the way you want.
A former journalist and sports blogger, I've turned my writing prowess and love of fitness and nutrition into a personal blog where you can find anything you are looking for on the world of health, nutrition and fitness.