Can you trust the Internet for health and fitness information?

Good morning! I’m sitting here at home, multi-tasking as usual. My 3 year old son is beside me, I’ve got “The Perfect Physique” (“documentary” on male fitness models) going on Netflix and I’m blogging.  I decided to watch this film because I’ve recently been exploring the world of women’s body image and our difficulties with loving ourselves. I thought I needed to take a balanced approach and not forget about the guys: do they pick themselves apart as much as we do?

That was my goal, but during the opening credits I became focused on something else. The credits revealed that MetRx (www.metrx.com) was a sponsor of the film. Their involvement is why I put the word documentary in quotations above. How honest or unbiased could this film be when it’s sponsored by a supplement giant? The male models featured freely admitted that what they do and how they look is NOT NORMAL. If that’s true, how does the industry get away with using them as representatives of what men should look like? How can we trust the information presented to us? Can we trust the information at all?

That leads me to what I’m writing about today. When we want information on how to get six-pack abs (or 8 pack or 10 pack) where do we go? Where do we find information on creatine or energy drinks? I would hazard a guess that most people turn to the Internet. I’m lucky enough to come from a background built solidly on science and I understand the value of peer-reviewed research (this means that scientists who have conducted the research have had their results reviewed by several other scientists, and their work was determined to be reliable and well-researched according to established procedures and ethics). I know what to look for in an article and what to question in terms of “scientific evidence”.  Do most fitness fans? I’m sure many people have invested hours and hours in educating themselves but for the most part people know only what the industry tells them. That worries me.

I have attached a peer-reviewed research study  provided to me by a university professor and former human kinetics classmate of mine, Dr. Erin McGowan of Memorial University. This study looked at the accuracy of cancer-related exercise information available on the web.  Buote et al 2016 Wouldn’t you hope to find the most reliable information regarding the health of a loved one? Patients and physicians are turning to Google to help guide them towards healing and improved health, and we can’t trust what we find!

We’ve all been hearing about fake news lately, so question the “science” published on the Internet just like you’d question what Sean Spicer says (I like to call him Spicey and I can’t help but picture Melissa McCarthy). A perfect example of what I’m talking about is when I asked a friend who sells supplements and shakes and detox cleanses for the research on her company’s products, she sent me a “study” that was fully funded by that same company! How can you call this reliable and accurate information when it’s really nothing more than an advertisement disguised as science?!? Would a business actively distribute information that suggested their product was useless? No, of course not! They want your money (and lots of it), and they get it by masquerading as reliable and scientific. They prey on your desire to improve yourself with promises of quick results. (By the way, I have yet to come across reliable scientific evidence supporting cleanses or detox products. If you have, please forward it to me.)

I could go on and on about different products and fads and advice that I’ve seen floating around in cyber space that should never even exist, but I will encourage you instead to educate yourselves. It can be overwhelming, I know, so enlist the help of a certified health and fitness professional. Befriend an educated professional (kinesiologist, naturopath, registered dietician, trainer or instructor) or even send your questions my way and we can work together to sort out fact from fiction.

Here are JUST A FEW things to consider:

  • most family physicians have only a few hours of nutrition education.Physical education teachers receive more nutrition education than they do!
  •  fitness models and celebrities are paid to look the way they do! They spend hours in the gym and then hours in hair and makeup. They are NOT normal and their lifestyles are NOT normal.
  • if an athlete or celebrity is endorsing a product, remember they are being paid to do so! Except for the odd few, they are NOT educated or trained in exercise physiology or nutrition, and therefore in no position (legally or medically) to give advice on this stuff
  • most exercisers do not know whether or not their trainer/instructor is certified and never even thought to ask
  • if a fad or product promises you will lose more than 1.5lbs per week, be sceptical
  • even natural products and herbs have side effects, some of which may be negative (any medications you are taking may interact with natural products)
  • what works for one person may not work for you
  • you can’t exercise and eat like shit and expect to be healthy. You can’t eat well and not exercise and expect to achieve optimal health, either.
  • if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • LOVE yourself enough to make the best choices about what you do with your body and what you put into it

 

 

My name is Shannon and I’m a size 10.

I recently had headshots taken (by the wonderful Kristen Dunlop Photography)to use for my business and they turned out beautifully! I shared them on Facebook and of course, my family and lovely friends flooded my wall with compliments and for the first time in my life I tried really hard to accept them. I tried not to minimize the beauty of my blue eyes or argue the effect my sincere smile had in lighting up my face. I tried to accept each compliment gracefully and to do my best to ignore the bits I usually dislike about myself in pictures.

In the world of fitness, being anything but a size 2 is oftentimes ignored. Fitness magazines encourage us to have Barbie doll proportions and to be sun-kissed all year round. Well, this body boasts a 34F bust, a 30 inch waist, and a complexion that requires 24/7×365 SPF 30. You will never see me in a fitness competition because the industry just isn’t ready for me to strut in a bikini, heels, and a spray tan. I have friends who do compete at this level and they are beautiful and wonderful, but they’re definitely not a size 10.

In one of my headshots, I’m wearing my power colour royal blue dress but as I look at it, I struggle to see beyond my own boobs. I’ve got curly hair and my hairdresser (thanks, Nadine) does a fabulous job with my highlights. I’ve got those beautiful blue eyes and strong arms. But I zoom right in on my ample bosom. A lot of people zoom in on my boobs, though. Last summer, my photo appeared in our local newspaper and a “gentleman” messaged me to comment on how “impressed” he was. I immediately assumed he was referring to my breasts. Was I supposed to feel flattered? Instead, I felt like hiding and camouflaging my chest from the world. (At this size, though, that’s pretty difficult to do.) It’s hard for me to find clothes that fit properly in most stores and it’s something I’m constantly aware of. But I’m fit and healthy. They’re cumbersome but it doesn’t stop me from doing burpees. They jiggle but I’m still out training for an upcoming 10k race.

This body has been pregnant 3 times and birthed 2 beautiful children. These boobs fed those children, too. Yes, I require an industrial-grade sports bra to contain my lady lumps when I go for a run, but this body is fit. It’s fit enough to run several 5k races each year. It’s fit enough to attend boxing bootcamp classes several times a week. It’s fit enough to inspire my children to run and workout and do yoga with me. It’s a size 10 and I am healthy.

Should I have waited until I toned up a bit more and lost a little weight to get professional photos done? Hell no! I work hard at my business and I work hard at my fitness. My education and experience say I have a valid role to play in the fitness industry, regardless of my size. I want people to see me and know that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes, and strength comes with a healthy state of mind, not a small bikini size. The strongest women I know are not size 2! They are mothers and career women and entrepreneurs who live real lives with real demands. If I had 8 hours a day to workout, I might fit that industry mould, too. I’m a mother and a wife, and a member of a community. I have people who count on me and my size is irrelevant.

I will continue to run and workout and make an effort to focus more attention on clean eating. My goal is health and fitness not a certain dress size or  weight on the scale (I don’t even own a scale!) I am proud of how far this body has carried me in life and I will graciously accept any compliments thrown my way;-)

 

Coping with negative feedback

I consider myself a work in progress. That applies to every aspect of my life: my fitness, my mindset and self-perception, my roles as a wife and mother and friend. I’m not perfect and I’m learning as I go. Aren’t we all? So if this is true, why do I have such a hard time with negative feedback?

I reached out to the Twittersphere last night after receiving some particularly negative criticism. Turns out, I’m not alone in the struggle to overcome it and move on. People responded with their own experiences and it appears to be common for us to hang on to negative comments more than positive ones. (Addressing the need for social media to ease up on the negativity is material for a future post.)

I decided to do a little reading on the topic and stumbled upon a NY Times article addressing this very notion. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html). Turns out we’re wired to linger and ruminate about negative comments directed towards us; a survival tactic apparently. The author says “Oddly, I find this research, in some ways, reassuring. It’s not just me. I don’t need to beat myself up because I seem to fret excessively when things go wrong.” I agree. I tend to find solace in knowing I’m not suffering alone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do the work necessary to learn from it and move on.

How do we move on? A tweeter suggested acknowledging the emotions involved before trying to get on with it. Someone suggested venting about it, being present in those emotions for a bit to express them and release them which I’m glad to say I am fantastic at! I am also acknowledging that there is some significant personal bias and subjectivity on the part of the individual who provided the feedback I’m currently processing. I willingly accept the areas I need to improve upon, but I’m confident enough in who I am to recognise what is false and what I refuse to accept. Just because someone else offers an opinion doesn’t make it true.

Doesn’t this apply to all aspects of our lives? Just because I didn’t finish the 5k race in first place doesn’t diminish my achievements as a runner. In fact I have yet to even place in a race but I keep running them! Just because I am not a size 2 doesn’t mean I am not a fit woman. I’m quite comfortable working towards a comfortable size 8 pair of jeans. I’m learning to acknowledge who I am, what my strengths and talents are, and to celebrate those every.single.day. It’s not easy but necessary for me to be a successful mother, wife, and human being.

So, now that I’ve expressed my distaste at the negative sludge hurled in my direction, I’ve reached out to my strong support system to help me process and I’m ready to move on. I’ve taken from it what I needed to learn and I aim to put more kindness out in to the world in response.

#IAmStrong Sunday

It’s Sunday which means it’s time to acknowledge the girls and women in our communities who celebrate their strength with the world. This week I’m honouring the strength of my 6 year old daughter, Aurelia.

Since day one this kid has been a force of nature. She weighed less than 5lbs at birth, and while she’s still smaller than all of her classmates (and her 3 year old brother is already wearing bigger shoes than she is), her personality and joy for life are larger than life. She already has an extensive medal collections from her kids runs, and she has informed me that her goal for The Bread Run Kids Run (May 12th) is ” to be the best me I can be”. How awesome is that? Shouldn’t we all be the best mes we can be?

She tags along to the outdoor summer bootcamps I attend (and participates whenever she can), she loves doing yoga, and at school she writes about how she loves getting fit with mom. Her confidence in her ability to take on anything is inspiring and she also shows confidence in everyone else’s ability. She is a pint-sized cheerleader to everyone she sees (including complete strangers we see out running and being active.)

Of course as her mom, I’m amazed by her spirit and everything she does but she doesn’t let her size limit her and she’s quick to (happily) prove people wrong. I am inspired by her attitude and I want to be just like her when I grow up.

 

Whose strength are you celebrating this #IAmStrong Sunday?

Aureliaboxing (2)

AureliaBread Run (2)

What does meraki mean, anyway?

When I was choosing the name for my business, my first instinct was to choose something that started with “A”. You know, so it would show up first in alphabetical listings anywhere. Living on the East Coast, it seems like every second business is “Atlantic” something, so that option was a no-go. I’ve always loved unique words, and one day on Pinterest, I came upon “meraki” and knew I had found the one.

Meraki is a word of Greek origins, which roughly translates “to do something with soul, creativity, or love; to put something of yourself into your work”. Do I need to explain any further?

Happy Easter!

I was lucky enough to get out for a run yesterday AND today in the beautiful, sunny, spring weather. I’m working towards a 10k race happening May 13th here in Hants County (check out The Bread Run if you get a chance https://www.facebook.com/runforbread), and running always gets me thinking about how I used to think I couldn’t run to save my life and now I run for fun. How did that change? Why did that change?
I started running when I joined a free, no-commitment run club operated by a community recreation department. After a few runs with some seasoned and new runners, I felt ready for the challenge of a run event I had to pay for. I registered for a New Year’s Eve run and once my tired butt crossed that finish line, I knew I could do better. That was 5 years ago and I’ve done several 5k races and a couple of 10k races to date, but every year I take on more. I can run! I’ve bounced back from injuries! I’m a runner! 
I never thought I could be a personal trainer, yet I’ve been certified for 12 years. I never thought I could throw a good punch, but I can (at a heavy bag only). I never thought I could crawl through the mud and enjoy it, but I have. Twice. As a fitness and wellness entrepreneur, I’d hazard a guess that you’ve experienced the same thing at some point. Seeing a challenge and embracing it. Now imagine all of the potential clients out there facing these same challenges: sitting on the couch, wondering if they can get off it. They’re watching other people run by the house, cycle by in the park, or post pictures of the fun that comes with living an active life and they’re wondering where to start.
Here’s where I can help you. Wonder why obstacle course events, colour runs, and fun runs are so popular? These events offer newcomers the opportunity to try out this “active living” thing without the pressure to commit to full-time activity. These events allow people to have fun with a group of friends or family while trying out something new. No pressure, just fun. That’s the key to our success: creating fun events to encourage everyone and anyone to come out and embrace a new challenge, without  fear of judgement or pressure to commit.
You and I know fitness is fun, so let’s work together and invite our communities to share in that! Meraki Event Planning is passionate about growing the fitness and wellness of our communities one event at a time.