Close

Author Archive for: eridpath

by

The Healthy Menu Choices Act – Will This Trim your Waistline?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Here is some rocket science: being obese is a well-known contributor to poor health.  The secret to not being or becoming obese?  If you are obese, it is “move more and eat less”. If you aren’t, it is “keep moving and eat well”.  I was at the gym today and heard someone make a great comment “just show up and do something”.  Is it that simple?

In the interest of public health, Ontario has a new law effective January 1, 2017:  the Healthy Menu Choices Act.  In this, all food-service chains with 20 or more locations in must now post calorie information on menus for the food and drink items they sell.  Further, as of January 1, 2018, all menus must post the following statement:

Adults and youth (ages 13 and older) need an average of 2,000 calories a day, and children (ages 4 to 12) need an average of 1,500 calories a day. However, individual needs vary (1).

So, will this help continue to the better health of Ontarians?  People are complicated and behaviors ingrained, so do we know if having more information about calories will contribute to different choices? 

First, let’s define a calorie – it is actually “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C (now usually defined as 4.1868 joules).”  Huh?  So why does that matter?  Because in nutrition calories refer to energy consumption through eating and drinking, and energy usage through physical activity.  For example, an apple may have 80 calories, while a 1 mile walk might use up about 100 calories.  Our body uses calories as our energy source to breath, digest, circulate our blood, etc.  So, these are important and we get them from foods and beverages (2).  But knowing how many calories one person needs to maintain their weight and be at optimal health will depend on several factors including metabolism, level of activity during the day, age, and even genetics.  I need way less calories as a middle-aged active woman than the 12,000 calories per day consumed by Michael Phelps when he is training for the Olympics. 

So, to the common consumer that knows little about nutrition, but is interested in trying to eat well, will the calorie information on menus help?  Well, the math will be simple.  If the sign says I need an average of 2000 calories per day, and my Big Mac, Biggie Coke and fries is 1200 calories, I will consciously know that I have 800 left (for weight maintenance).  But when I go home, will I check labels, pull out a scale, and put together my remaining meals to not exceed 800?  Probably not because the common consumer does not tend to behave that way because if they did, we would not have an obesity problem in the first place.  However, for the educated consumer things might be different.  Personally, having fitness, health and body composition goals, I have already changed my food choices at fast food places because the calories in what I really wanted was starring me in the face, making me feel guilty already.  And I was still able to enjoy what I did order, recognizing that another element of health is “consistently making good choices” when most of the options out there (for convenience food anyway) are poor.  So I felt good (emotionally) making a better choice.  But when dealing with people and behavior, it is much more complicated than simple math.

It is also important to look at the stages of change when considering whether having transparent information about calories will actually lead to people making better decisions.  There are five stages of change – precontemplation, contemplation, preparation for action, action and maintenance (3).  Described briefly, in the first stage people don’t know they have a problem and the behaviors are risky and potentially life-threatening (like stress-eating, overeating and becoming obese).  In the second stage the person identifies they have a problem, or there are signs of the problem worsening (the number on the scale, bloodwork results, Diabetes starting etc).  In Preparation for Action, the person is ready to make a change and is seeking information and guidance.  This is when someone might start to understand what a calorie is, and how that relates to them.  In Action, the person starts actively changing.  This is where I see the Healthy Menu Choices Act being helpful.  It will provide people the information they need to make choices that are better than others, as part of their “action” towards improved health.  The Healthy Menu Choices Act will also be helpful in the last stage of Maintenance as people can use the calorie information to make choices that align with their desire to maintain the gains they have made, or to be healthily mindful in selecting foods.

From a health perspective, I think that the more information people can have about the choices they are making, the better.  Even if they don’t yet understand it, or choose not to use it, or it does not result in behavior change, it is there when they are ready for “Action”.  From a business perspective, restaurants and establishments might want to review their menus and look at the balance between their healthy and not-healthy choices.  Further, they will also want to look at how orders change with this new act.  If people stop ordering the White Chocolate Crème Frappuccino (at 510 calories) and instead sales of Iced Skinny Flavored Lattes (at 80 calories) soar, your consumers are telling you something.

Honestly, I am all for a nice bucket of poutine once a year, but beyond that I will pick the healthy options on a menu, if these exist.  If they don’t, I will go elsewhere.  It is that simple.  So I appreciate the added information the Healthy Menu Choices Act provides, and will use the calorie information in my meal decision making.

Resources:

(1)   https://www.ontario.ca/page/calories-menus

(2)   http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263028.php

(3)   http://www.activebeat.com/your-health/women/the-5-stages-of-behavioral-change/5/

by

Dining Out? Check the Calorie Count

If you’ve recently dined out, or even purchased a coffee in a drive-through, you may have noticed that calorie information is now posted beside each item on the menu.  As of January 1st restaurants with 20 or more locations are now required to provide this information directly on their menus.  While this information may be helpful, many are wondering:  will this change how we eat?  Learn more about how this change is already affecting behaviour in the following from CBC News.

CBC News:  How calorie counts on chain restaurant menus ‘can have a lasting impact’

by

PTSD and Occupational Therapy

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

From when I was a teen I have been highly sensitive to movies, news stories, songs or videos that involve violence (particularly against women).  In fact, I avoid movies and shows in general (beyond thoughtless sitcoms or socially interesting reality TV), fearing that I will see (or hear) a bothersome scene.  If my screening process fails and I catch something disturbing, I have problems sleeping for days as the images or sounds replay in my mind.   In talking to my friend about this, she asked me a pointed question:  Do you think you have PTSD?

Her question was referring to her knowledge of my experience as a teenager in 1991:  My former elementary classmate Leslie Mahaffy and later Kristen French were both abducted, tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered by the notorious Paul Bernardo and his wife Carla Homolka.  Kristen’s body was found near my community.  Not long after, Nina de Villier was abducted and murdered after leaving for a run from the tennis club where I played and her brother was my double’s partner.  I was part of the search party for Nina in the days of her disappearance and following these tragedies my mother became involved in an organization developed by Nina’s mother Prescilla called “Canadians Against Violence” (CAVEAT).  Over the next few years I assisted with the organization at times, meeting many people whose lives were horribly impacted by the tragic loss of a daughter or sister, or who were victimized, stalked and threatened (some ongoing) by men.  Now, as a mother of four girls, I recognize that these experiences still foundationally impact how I parent and I try to not let my fears about the safety of my girls restrict them from experiencing the important milestones of growing up.

Whether I have friend-diagnosed PTSD or not, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, PTSD is a mental illness. It involves exposure to trauma involving death or the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence.  In general, the traumatic event involves real or threatened physical harm to the self or to others, and causes intense fear, hopelessness, and/or horror. Emotional impairment results due to anxiety, depression, recurrent flashbacks, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and feelings of guilt of having survived when others may not have (Stats Canada).  In the military, one in six are reported to experience PTSD as a result of their service (Learn more from the Globe and Mail).

Occupational therapy, a profession vested in helping people to function safely and independently in their life-roles, is often one of the many health care providers that can assist people to overcome the symptoms associated with PTSD.  Problems like anxiety, depression, flashbacks, difficultly sleeping and concentrating, and overcoming feelings of guilt can be tackled through: cognitive and / or behavioral strategies aimed at increasing activity participation slowly over time; by identifying, recording and sharing thoughts and feelings; and through engagement in healing-focused activities.  Occupational therapists break down life tasks into smaller and manageable chunks to grade the successful return to meaningful roles.  Over time, previously challenging tasks become easier as we help people master the roadblocks that are preventing their successful engagement in function.

However, with something as significant as PTSD, it will be the collaboration of multiple professionals helping the client to overcome their challenges that will have the most impact.  Medical doctors, social work, psychology, psychotherapy, even massage, art or yoga therapy can help to provide a holistic approach to helping people move beyond these often crippling experiences.  If you have PTSD and this is impacting your ability to do the things you need or want to do, please seek the help of professionals.

As for me, I don’t currently have the goal of wanting to return to watching movies and shows riddled with violence, rape and murder.  I personally don’t find that entertaining and actually wonder why other people do.  I am not sure I will ever understand, PTSD or not, why people derive pleasure watching (even if simulated) images of people’s horrible mistreatment.  So, I will stay in my bubble for now enjoying Modern Family, Survivor and The Amazing Race.  However, if my past does start to impact my ability to parent my girls, participate in activities I would otherwise enjoy, or snags my engagement in any other necessary or important area of my life, I will surely reach out for help.

by

Beating the Holiday Blues: The Top 5 Things to Consider when Giving Back This Holiday Season

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Tis the season for me to carefully balance my dislike for the Holiday season with my desire to not bring those around me down with my “baa-hum-bug” attitude.  My hate-on for Christmas started in my late 20’s probably around the time I had four kids under age 5 and through some lack of communication among my family, my kids had like 15 presents to unwrap EACH.  No, I am not complaining that my kids have access to such “abundance” by some very loving and well-meaning people, but with this display of affection comes a parent’s concern that their child will love Christmas because of the stuff.  And the more stuff they get, the more they want.  The more they want, the more they miss the point on the difference between want and need and the more they expect the “bar” to be raised with each passing year.

So, in my search to not pass on my “hate-on for the holidays” gene to my children, I landed on charity and acts of service to balance the fact that they, like most of their friends, live in abundance but still need to be mindful and grateful that they get a lot of what they want, while “needing” nothing.  After all, most of us can give something and there are so many options for this.  This new approach has been helping me to beat the Holiday Blues for the last few years.  It helps me to slow down, reflect, and be mindful and grateful for the things I have and can provide others, and for the pleasures of my own life. 

But in stepping out and getting my girls involved in local charities over the holidays, I have realized that there is an art to “giving” that can have the most impact.

Here are my Top 5 Things to Consider when Giving Back This Holiday Season:

Donate Money – good and responsible charities are appreciative of every dollar.  From the Salvation Army Bell Ringers to putting in a payment online or in the mail.  Money does help.  Search online with your kids to find a charity close to your heart, and have every member of the family donate.

Donate Items – some charities collect food, clothing, toys, or housewares to provide to those in need.  Time to purge those things you don’t need or use.  But before you donate items, ASK the charity what they need and HOW they want the items provided.  If they want new toys, these need to be packaged and un-used.  If they want them unwrapped then don’t take the time to wrap them – it only adds cost and time for you, and cost and time for the charity to unwrap the item before distributing.  Also, ASK what age groups they have a hard time providing for.  I was volunteering at the Good Shepherd recently and they had an abundance of items for small children, but very few for teens.  If you ask them, they will tell you the age categories they struggle to provide for.  Lastly, be sensitive.  If the charity is serving refugees or people immigrating from war-torn countries, toys that involve violence or war (i.e. guns or tanks) might not be appropriate and will need to be screened out by the charity before providing it to the recipient, again adding time and administration during a busy season.

Purchase Charity Goods – some charities sell “goods” that provide an item with a donation.  World Wildlife Federation sells small stuffed animals to represent an “endangered species” and most of the cost of the animal goes to the charity.  So, for $40.00 my child gets an “endangered stuffie” with a certificate about the animal they have adopted, and the charity gets $32.00 as a donation to their cause.  This is also true of other charities that aim to sell farm animals or agriculture supplies that are provided to third world countries.

Support Events – many charities offer dinners, auctions, or other seasonal events to raise money.  This is a great way to donate while engaging in an “experience” with a friend, partner or as a family.

Donate Time – sometimes donating your time reaps the best reward for you and the charity.  Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to see how the organization operates and allow you to be “hands on” in making a difference, it saves the charity from needing to fund staffing to manage the busy holiday season.  I have been at the Good Shepherd three times this month doing anything from sorting clothing donations, food donations, stocking housewares on the shelves in their store, and sorting toys for their Christmas hampers.  There are many organizations that just need some extra hands during the holiday season and sometimes our time is our most impactful gift.

Today on our blog we begin our annual tradition of giving back to our readers with the 12 Days of Inspiration.  We hope you find these uplifting stories a source of inspiration and hope this Holiday Season.  

by

Stress Management Tool

In our post from earlier this week, How Stress is Affecting Your Health, we discussed an important and often overlooked piece of the health puzzle:  stress.  Though some stress is natural and can actually be helpful, when too much stress begins to affect you on a daily basis it can become damaging to your health.

Use our following FREE printable worksheet to help you identify stressors, your reactions and to come up with solutions to help you cope.

stress-management-worksheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more helpful tools for children and adults please visit our Printable Resources Page.

by

Solutions For Conserving Your Energy

Energy is like a currency, we only have so much of it and need to spend it wisely throughout our day. Conserving energy during small tasks throughout the day helps to save needed energy for important, meaningful daily activities. If energy is a precious resource to you, planning ahead with the help of the following checklist will help you conserve as much energy as possible throughout your day.

The following FREE printable will help you to identify which activities have high, medium and low energy costs and can help you to plan your days and weeks to balance your overall energy expenditure.

energy-conservation-checklist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more helpful tools please visit our Printable Resources Page.

by

What is The AODA?

If you are not familiar, with the AODA this is Ontario’s way of making the province accessible by addressing the following key areas so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in their communities:  customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and design of public spaces.  This a catch-all legislation aimed to create a culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

Learn more about how Occupational Therapists can help to make your organization more accessible in the following infographic: