Healthy Living in the North

What are your ideas?

Room full of people

If you have ideas to help people get healthier, start sharing them! In Prince George, PechaKucha provided one way to share ideas. How does your community share ideas?

Are you happy and healthy? Do you belong to any groups in your community, go to school, or work in a place where you want to see people become healthier? Do you have family and friends who care about you and you care about them? Do you eat healthy foods, get some exercise, stay away from tobacco, and wear safety gear?

As more people in the north become healthier, we all win. What do we win, you might ask? We all win safe and healthy communities filled with healthy families and people of all ages!

How can you build a healthier community?

This is why Northern Health wants to listen to the ideas you and your community have to become healthier. This is why we fund community-based health promotion projects to make you and all of the people you see around you where you live, work, learn and play become safer, healthier and happier.

The health promotion projects that northern schools, groups and communities are doing together are amazing. Project ideas are sometimes very simple and sometimes they can be very complicated, but they all have one thing in common:

Someone had an idea to help the people around them become healthier.

We all have ideas about how things could be better, but we don’t always share them. Sharing your idea can be such a great idea!

There is a very interesting way that people of all ages from around the world are telling stories and sharing their ideas. It’s called PechaKucha and it isn’t as hard to pronounce as it looks, but you may want to jot it down because it might be a new idea to you.

Stories are a powerful way to share ideas and also learn from others ideas. People of all ages are using PechaKucha to share their ideas and stories in short, simple ways. The idea is that you tell a story by showing 20 images for 20 seconds each. Any community or group can do PechaKucha; all you need is an idea or story to share.

In Prince George, Northern Health helped fund a local group of northern storytellers to get started. You can explore their stories and lots of others at the PechaKucha site.

Here is the question again: Do you have ideas to help people become healthier?

The next question is: Do you share them? If you have ideas to help people get healthier, start sharing them! Your idea might one day help your community become safer, happier and healthier.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

-Margaret Mead

Room full of people


About the IMAGINE Grants

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants fund health promotion projects by community partners, including northern groups/organizations and schools or districts, to support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s Position Statements. We’re happy to have an ongoing series of blog posts that will highlight past recipients of IMAGINE Grants and share their great work with you!

 

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Use your muscles where your food is

Adult showing child how to sow seeds.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” Photo credit: Christine Glennie-Visser

Using muscles is about more than getting the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily for adults. Research strongly reminds us that we need to sit less and move more and the term “sitting disease” is becoming more widely used. What does this have to do with food, you might ask?

Two of the easiest things we can change personally to build and maintain health is healthy eating and active living. One of the messages we use to remind everyone to increase their physical activity throughout their day is “use muscles not motors,” which comes from the Canadian Society of Exercise Professionals and is part of the promotional messaging for the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

You may still be wondering what this has to do with food. Many of us use the motors in our vehicles to drive to the local grocery store as the easiest option to get groceries. There are many ways to be active and get your food – pushing a shopping cart around your local grocery store is just one option. HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living) in northern B.C. began in 2001 with a focus on getting people more active in order to be healthier. More importantly, though, HEAL focused on gardening as a means to both be more physically active and eat healthier. Gardening is a win-win way to be active! It provides not only full body exercise, blood, sweat and sometimes tears, but you get good food as a result of your efforts.

Perhaps you aren’t really into gardening and would rather get your fruits and vegetables by walking down to your local farmers market or pushing that cart around a local store. Most farmers markets offer meat and sometimes fish in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, but imagine the fun physical activity you would enjoy if you went hunting or fishing to stock your own freezer for the winter, or to enjoy a succulent grilled fish you have harvested from a northern lake, stream or ocean. As a parent raising a family, and now as a grandparent enjoying grandchildren, there is a well-known philosophy that has been a constant current beneath my family’s relationship with food:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.

This is the perfect time of year to go outdoors, turn over some soil, plant and nurture some seeds, and look forward to the harvest. It is also the perfect time of year to grab a fishing pole, some bait and go fishing. Maybe you love hunting and you spend time in the summer getting ready for the fall hunting seasons. Whatever your connection to food, consider putting not only your own muscles to work to grow, gather and harvest your groceries but involve a child, too, so they can learn where their food really comes from and be more physically active while they learn.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

 

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Investing in a healthy future

Christine walks dog.

After knee surgery, Christine enjoys walking her dog with her grandchildren.

I’ve written before about the struggles of giving up running and then walking due to developing a knee issue, which progressed enough while I waited for surgery that I lost more and more mobility. As this happened, and I had to fight harder to stay fit, I began to feel like I was losing my independence.

My knee issue was the result of an old running injury, where I had torn my cartilage without realizing it. I came from a ‘stiff upper lip’ kind of family, and unfortunately, I didn’t pay enough attention to act preventively when the injury happened. Because I did not address the torn cartilage before it deteriorated beyond repair, I had to stop running. The knee would never be strong enough to continue running without further damage. Then, a few years later, I lost my next favourite form of exercise: walking. Shortly after that, I lost biking. I turned to exercise in deep water, which helped me manage the increasing pain, but moving continued to become more of a challenge. Family, friends and colleagues tried to bolster my spirits, but all I could do was watch everyone as they easily moved through their days, while I waited.

Depression often accompanies deteriorating health conditions, becoming a significant barrier to staying active, fit and healthy. It often felt like I was losing more than I was gaining but I did try to focus on staying as active as I could. In my head, I knew how important exercise and movement was, not only to physical health, but to mental health and well-being as well.

 This summer I was finally called for surgery. I set two goals:

  1. To walk my dog again.
  2. To walk to the park with my grandchildren.

In the end, the surgery was well worth the wait. I surprised everyone around me, especially myself, when I accomplished both goals within two months of the surgery. I felt like I had my life back!

I still have recovery ahead of me, but it’s important to me to focus on the investment in future health and well-being, as well as to be a role model to those I care about. I have set a new goal for myself: right now, my knee doesn’t bend enough to ride properly and safely, but with practice, perseverance and persistent exercise, I believe I will ride my bike again and I am aiming for Bike to Work Week at the end of May 2014. The surgeon thinks it’s a great idea and gave me suggestions for how to get there. I am engaged and invested in my future, health and well-being.

But the best reward of all is being able to walk to the park and back with both my dog and my grandkids. Spending time with them by ensuring they have time to build their bodies through walking and play means we are also investing in their future, together.

Whether you’re one or one-hundred, invest in your future by physically moving throughout your day to build your own health, wellness and strength. Every move counts and it is never too late to be more active.

For information on health at and all ages, as well as seniors’ falls prevention, please visit Healthy Families BC. There, you’ll find ideas for how to build your health and wellness, invest in the future of health where you live, work, learn and play.

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Your health is worth taking the time to move!

don't give up

Don’t ever give up… don’t ever stop moving, no matter what it is you do.

I love quotes. I love collecting them and using the words to remind me to think differently. When I was writing the Northern Health position paper on sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity, I came across one quote that has become a very important reminder as I continue to wait for surgery to fix a damaged knee.

Great thoughts can still be important even when taken out of time and place. One hundred and forty years ago, Edward Stanley, the 15th Earl of Derby was giving a speech to students preparing to graduate. The words he spoke then, still resonate strongly now: “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”  

This wasn’t a new idea. Several thousand years earlier, Plato said, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”

Running and long walks used to be my passion, but they were not the best choice to keep my knee protected from injury. Being faced with physical restrictions that ended my favourite ways to exercise might have meant I would just give up and wait for the problem to be fixed.

There are many people just like me who are waiting for a problem to be fixed or have given up and begun to decline in fitness. The easy answer would be for me to go into a wheelchair or scooter, or even a seat elevator to get up and down my stairs at home. My doctor had different ideas.

I was struggling with depression and frustrated because I couldn’t go for the mind-clearing walks I loved. He reminded me that my knee will be fixed at some point and that right now my mental well-being was more important than my knee. I needed to find ways to be active that didn’t involve walking or running, but I needed to keep moving.

Now I use a stationary bike or I go to the pool and run in the deep water. While these aren’t my favourites, they are the exercises that keep me moving and keep me in a better place, both mentally and physically. Exercise keeps my joints and muscles fluid and strong, so even though my knee doesn’t want to work right like the rest of my body, it is hanging in there waiting to get treatment so it can catch up and be strong again.

Many days, as I watch co-workers and family go for walks, I realize it would be easy to feel sorry for myself and give up.  But giving up isn’t an option, I want to live a long and healthy and active life enjoying spending my children, their spouses and my wonderful grandchildren. Many people say that exercise is the best medicine… and I think they are right. If I don’t exercise, I don’t feel good and I don’t move well. If I exercise, I don’t have as much pain and I also enjoy the benefits of an improved mood as a side-effect of exercise.

Don’t ever give up… don’t ever stop moving. Research has shown that you can build muscle strength no matter what your age. Of course, at 90 you won’t build muscles like a 20-year old, but you can still build enough muscle to be as independent as possible. Keep moving, because as soon as you stop, there will be lots and lots of time for you to experience the diseases that come from moving less and sitting more.

Check out Dr. Mike Evan’s work 23 ½ hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? I hope you too will be inspired to find ways to keep moving.

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Make time for physical activity, or TAKE time to be sickmeans to Christine. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Workplace Food Wars

health foods in the candy dish

Celebrate good food together and take the war out of your workplace by sharing food that is a healthy choice for everyone.

I am a foodie. I love to eat good food and share good food with others. However, the last thing I want to find are brownies in the lunchroom for everyone… with a note to please “help” eat them!

I love brownies, but they aren’t a good food choice for my health. They typically have high sugar and fat content and low nutrient value, but if those brownies are on the table, they’ll be on my mind all day. After passing them up fifteen times, I’ll be ready to throw away my common sense, give into the addictive struggle and eat them anyway.

I can control my food environment at home and make sure it’s safe, but how do I manage it at work when I am surrounded by candy dishes, chip bowls, and sweet leftovers people bring in from home? This got me thinking about why people bring food into the workplace. Food can create a friendly environment, an opportunity for conversation and sharing, a brief escape from duties and – in the case of sugar – a short-term sugar high.

Now, to be clear, the challenge is not having food in the workplace. The challenge is the types of food in the workplace. We need to find healthier ways for coworkers to gather, celebrate, and enjoy food together. For example, I’ve had great success with black bean brownies from the new Dietitians of Canada cookbook. I made them and brought them into my workplace. To my surprise, the healthy alternative was quickly eaten and everyone wanted the recipe.

Why should we think about the food we bring to the workplace? Many workplaces (including Northern Health) have policies restricting scents in the office due to allergies. We don’t smoke at work and many schools are nut-free. These policies are in place to keep people safe while at work and, in order to create safer environments, they should be extended to consider the food environment at work.

I encourage you to think about the food environment where you work:

  • Remove the candy from the candy dish.
  • Start the counter-movement and fill the candy dish with healthier alternatives. I have candy jars with almonds, kale chips, roasted chickpeas and often a bowl of fruit.
  • Make a personal statement: “I will not contribute to sweets and unhealthy foods in the workplace.” This means not bringing leftover cakes, cookies, Halloween candy, and Christmas goodies.

Celebrate good food together and take the war out of your workplace by sharing food that is a healthy choice for everyone. Visit our website for more guidelines on living a healthier life.

What health promoting foods do you put in your candy dish?

[Ed. note: Don’t forget to join the September Healthy Living Challenge and enter the Week 2 Challenge for your chance to win a Fit Kit!]

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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