Healthy Living in the North

Health at Any Size

self-image, weight bias, weight stigma, health at any size

A big part of being healthy is feeling good about yourself. How is that impacted by others?

Living in a small town where you are known by your work role (I’m a registered dietitian) can sometimes be a challenge. Awhile back, a stranger approached me in the grocery store, peered into my basket and said, “Just making sure you’re following your own advice,” and walked away. I can brush this incident off knowing that what was in my basket was in line with what I believe and say about healthy eating. This position includes a variety of foods – the foods highlighted in Canada’s Food Guide, but also chocolate and the occasional summer hot dog roast. But, this got me thinking about how we are judged by the foods we eat and this can impact what we eat, how we view ourselves, and – ultimately – our health.

“Fat” is not a four-lettered work. It is a descriptive word like short, tall or blond. Being fat is no more negative or positive than being thin. Healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes; sometimes these bodies are fat and sometimes they are thin.

Unfortunately, weight bias (negative assumptions, beliefs and judgments based on body weight) and weight stigma (being devalued based on your body weight) are more common than we’d like to admit.

No matter our size or weight, we all have the right to health. When I hear people talk about “getting healthy,” their first step is most often to try to lose weight. This comes from three very common myths:

  1. Weight loss will improve health – Strategies to lose weight are not always healthful. Attempts at weight loss are associated with increased rates of disordered eating and overall long-term weight gain. Studies have shown that weight “yo-yo”ing is more harmful to health than being at a stable, higher weight.
  2.  Fatness causes disease and early death – Studies show that people in the “overweight” body mass index (BMI) category live longer than those in the “normal weight” category and that poor health is more likely at the extremes (very “underweight” and very “obese”).
  3.  Weight management is about energy balance – Eating less and moving more is thought to be the magic bullet to lose weight, but this doesn’t consider things like family history, personal dieting history, socioeconomic status, the environment and the many other factors that impact one’s weight.

Research tells us that people who are the victims of weight bias and stigma are at risk for poor body image, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, anxiety and suicide and are more likely to avoid medical care, experience stress-induced illness, avoid physical activity and engage in unhealthy eating behaviours. That doesn’t sound like health to me. We would all benefit from this prescription for life:

  • Eat well
  • Move daily
  • Hydrate often
  • Sleep lots
  • Love your body
  • Repeat for life
  • Let your weight settle where it is meant to be

 Weight bias and stigma must stop. Have you noticed weight bias in your day to day life?

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!


Tobacco Battles: the difference of a generation

cigarette, tobacco, smoking

Leave that lonely old broken cigarette behind.

Do you know the significance of Friday, January 17th, or Wednesday, January 22nd? If not, you are not alone. These days were “just another day” for many Canadians.

Friday, January 17th marked the 50th anniversary of the United States surgeon general’s report on smoking and health.

What’s the big deal? Today, everyone knows that smoking is addictive and bad for you. That’s the key, though. Today, everyone knows. It was January 17th, 1964 that the US surgeon general first linked cigarette smoking to fatal diseases. (Though, the British made the connection between smoking tobacco and poor health effects in 1956.)

This landmark report started ongoing controversy between (and among) grassroots anti-smoking groups, researchers, policymakers, and the tobacco industry. This is the time when I grew up and faced those parts of growing up that one must face: playing sports, first loves, and increasing independence. With this, came the exposure to the offers of a first drink and a first smoke (swiped from my mom’s pack and led to 31 years of smoking). All the while, the big battles of tobacco were playing in the not too far distance.

The battle of tobacco was one of the backgrounds to my life. Most of the time I was totally unaware of the issues, but every now and then it caught my attention. For example, it surprised me when someone would ask me not to smoke around them, or when I saw or heard the ads for Weedless Wednesday.

Weedless Wednesday the third Wednesday in January when people are asked to give up tobacco use (in all forms) for the day. The idea is that this is a time to reflect on what tobacco use means to you whether you use or don’t use tobacco.

At some point in my lifetime, Weedless Wednesday became part of National Non-Smoking Week. (This year, National Non-Smoking week was January 19-25.) So, what is the bigger picture here? In my lifetime (and I’m not that old), smoking has gone from something that you did just like everyone else to smoking being something that is questioned. (“So, why would you smoke?!”)

While we have made great gains in getting people to quit smoking and using other forms of tobacco, we still have a ways to go. It is something that we can maybe quit all together one day – could you imagine?! It took me 31 years to say to myself (and others) that I have smoked long enough and can stop.

We may have missed those landmark dates for in the world of tobacco, but it’s never too late for you to quit. It doesn’t need to be Weedless Wednesday to stop and think about this. What does tobacco mean to you?

George Wiens

About George Wiens

George is a team lead for the population health team in the northeast. His background is in tobacco reduction. A long time resident of Dawson Creek, he has a lifelong curiosity about people and their behaviours. This interest carried him to UBC and through a degree in psychology. George enjoys working with people, gardening with his wife, cycling in the snow-free season, and flying kites in the spring breeze.


Caption contest winners

Thank you for all of your captions!

Thank you for all of your captions!

Our caption contest has come to an end, and we’d like to say a gigantic “thank you” to everyone who participated! Congratulations to our grand prize winner, Jane Daigle from Prince George, who won a $300 GC, which she plans on spending on a new bike to use when the snow melts! Also, congratulations to Stacie Johnson from Prince George and Wendy from Smithers, both of whom won a $50 GC each to support their healthy goals for 2014! (All prize winners were randomly selected.)

The winning posts were:

  • “Forget paddleboard yoga – Vancouver has nothing on us Northerners!” – Jane on the ski-yoga picture.
  • “Going mean with the greens” – Wendy on the green smoothie picture.
  • “Don’t hibernate like a bear, get out and enjoy the sunny #healthynorth” – Stacie on our winter hibernation picture.

We had an astounding 232 captions submitted, with some of our favourites highlighted in the most popular photos below (see gallery). Entries ranged from the inspiring to the motivational and the funny to the downright sensible. We hope that you return to these captions if you’re having trouble sticking to your healthy goals by visiting our Facebook fan page or our Twitter feed and, hopefully, finding a voice that speaks to you to help you stay on track. The Northern Health Matters blog is another outstanding resource where you can find real stories, advice, and health tips from real people to assist with your healthy lifestyle choices for this year and beyond.

Once again, “thank you!”


Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.


Motivating change

A device that measures your healthy activity and the smart phone where the info is displayed.

You can combine fitness and technology to help keep you healthy goals on track.

A few weeks ago, I wrote to you about New Year’s resolutions and setting up a plan to help you succeed. I have my S.M.A.R.T. goal written down to keep me on track, so how can I fail?!? If only it were that easy! This follow-up piece is to talk about motivation. Outside of having my wife, family, and friends support me to help me stay motivated, self-talk and a few props can go a long way in filling some gaps!

What happens when I miss my workout or smoke a cigarette or eat that extra rich dessert? At that point, negative self-talk has the potential to derail everything. How many times have you said to yourself, “I have blown it,” “I can’t do it,” “I am weak,” or “I am a failure?” Our self-esteem takes a hammering and makes it hard for us to do anything other than return to the behaviour we wish to change. Often, this leads us to continue to undo all of the good work we have accomplished.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Many studies have shown that kind and positive self-talk is the most effective thing you can do to stay true to your goals. “I am worthy,” “I can do this,” “I lasted two weeks last time and I can do better this time.” Try it the next time you have a setback. It has been shown that during a quit attempt from smoking, kind self-talk is as effective as nicotine replacement therapy.

Finally, as someone who enjoys technology, I have become very interested in wearable health devices and smartphone apps. For about $100 you can purchase a device to monitor and track your daily steps (for example, a Fitbit). This is a great way to see if you are as active as you think you are, track your daily and weekly goals, and even share your journey with friends and colleagues for some healthy competition.

 In 2013, it is estimated that over 35,000 apps are dedicated to health and fitness.

In recent years, the market for apps has exploded. You can find an app to do just about anything. I have an app that tracks my goals and sends me reminders when I need to run or exercise. I also have an app that counts my pushups when I touch my phone with my nose and cheers when I reach my daily targets. With these props, I am all set for motivating my new routine. I can hardly wait to get started!

You can also use SMS text messages to keep your motivation levels high. Two of my colleagues agreed to send each other a motivational, supportive message each day to keep on track. It’s a simple and effective plan and, so far, they are both reporting a positive impact to their healthy goals.

Power-up your self-esteem in 2014; Take control and imagine how healthy and happy the “future you” will be. The time you spend building resilience will pay dividends in the future. Be inspired and become the inspiration for your family and friends. You can do it!

What do you do to keep yourself motivated for change?

Michael Melia

About Michael Melia

Michael Melia is the director for northwest mental health and addiction services. He is a registered psychiatric nurse and has a bachelor’s of science in nursing and has recently completed a master’s in business administration. Michael is serving as an elected board member for the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family, keeping fit and exploring rural B.C.


What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas

The welcome to Las Vegas sign is an invitation for many people to release their inhibitions.

For many, this sign is an invitation to release their inhibitions.

I went to Vegas with some friends last year and it was actually pretty good (which is a Scot’s way of saying awesome!). We took in many great shows and even saw the Chieftains, who are still going strong after almost 40 years! Our trip wasn’t quite like the movie The Hangover, but we had our moments. It was a brilliant time.

Vegas is glitz to the extreme. But underneath that shine is a dark side that can’t be ignored. It’s called “Sin City” for a reason – actually several reasons: gambling, drugs and alcohol, and sex – which Vegas is riddled with. Whether you’re going to Vegas or any other exciting destination, it’s often easy for people to slip into some bad habits while on vacation. After my Vegas vacation, I started thinking about the dangers of the “darker sides” of vacations, like slipping back into tobacco addictions, or bringing a new addiction home. So, here are some helpful tips for avoiding some of the things that give Vegas its rather scandalous reputation, but these tips are really relevant to any vacation. No matter where you go, keep in mind that you’ll be going home soon. Each topic is linked to helpful resources for your reference.

Gambling – The slot machines and other games are unavoidable. From the time you check into your room they’re everywhere. Remember, gambling is an addiction. Don’t go overboard. Consider setting a budget ahead of time and stick to it. I managed to stick to about $30.

Drugs and alcohol – Both addictive items are plentiful on many vacations and will drain your bank account, as well as that of your family and friends in a hurry if either becomes a problem. This includes tobacco use; a vacation from the snow doesn’t have to mean a vacation from quitting.

Sex – Some people often think being on vacation is the perfect time to loosen their inhibitions. But sexually transmitted infections don’t take vacations. Do yourself a favour and get educated on the dangers of unsafe sex.

There are many great events that happen in Vegas; I found the fountains at Bellagio to be magical, and luckily I avoided all of the dangers above. Some of these events should, no doubt, stay in Vegas. You don’t want to bring home a whopping credit card bill, a reemergence of an old addiction, or something more novel, like a STI. Don’t forget, these tips extend beyond Vegas to whatever sunny destination you might be visiting during the snowy season.

Happy winter vacation.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Winter’s healthy opportunities

Julia snacks as she walks on a winter trail.

Enjoying a snack on a winter trail.

I must admit, when the first snowflakes fell this year, my face lit up with an ear-to-ear grin. Driving to work after the first snowfall and seeing children walking to school together, bundled in their matching snowsuits and scarves with the same grins that I had, made me so excited for this winter. I lived in Vancouver for the last two years where real winter just doesn’t happen. I had missed the feeling of waking to find myself in my own Christmas snow globe.

This is my first winter in northern BC and while I mentally prepare myself for its length, I can’t help but be excited about all there is to do. I got my first set of cross-country skis at the local ski swap and am looking forward to becoming a more competent and well-balanced cross-country skier. I borrow snowshoes from friends and enjoy taking walks through the same forests that I love to hike through in the spring, summer, and fall. I’ve also decided to continue running outdoors through the winter, which has required the addition of grips for my sneakers, cozy clothes, a headlamp, and some reflectors!

Winter here seems so different than the winters I had growing up in Ontario and at university in Montreal. I think it’s because, in the north, so much of what we do in our spare time is outdoors. On the weekends and after work or school, we go play outside, changing our whole range of options and activities. That’s exciting to me!

We can trade in our swimsuits for snowsuits, our canoes for cross-country skis, add snowshoes to our hiking boots, and grippers to our sneakers- all of this changing our outdoor experience and the potential for fun outside!

We have so many great places to explore at our fingertips: mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, hiking trails, walking trails, ski hills, and so much more! Our exploration of these places takes different forms in each season, and that’s what makes winter great: it challenges us to interact with our surroundings in new ways.

When I started working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games, their slogan “we are winter” resonated with me. In the north, it seems that there is a true sense of pride in thriving during the long, cold, snowy winters. Northerners are up to the challenge of taking on the winter climate, of enjoying sport, and activity with family and friends in our snowy landscapes. I am so looking forward to next winter when we will welcome the country and show them what “we are winter” really means.

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.


Indoors and in trouble

Sitting on the couch, laptop open, being sedentary.

This is where I was commonly found at my old residence.

I moved from Vancouver to Prince George in 2007. That year I experienced my first “Canadian winter”… and it was horrible. Because I didn’t know many people in town, my life consisted of working eight hours, going home to sit on the couch for a night of TV, and sleep. It was repetitive, monotonous, and boring. The basement suite that had seemed like a cozy place to hang my hat in the summer and fall had turned into a prison: its 70s wood panel walls like bars, my roommate a cellmate, its small windows offering a glimpse into a snowy world that I wished would melt away. Am I being a tad melodramatic? Without a doubt, but you get the point: cabin fever had set in. Sadly, I felt this way every winter for the first three years I lived in PG.

Today, I take advantage of winter, embracing it instead of dreading its arrival, and look back at how I used to feel with regret. So, what changed?

Thanks in large part to my girlfriend and her family, I’ve taken up ice fishing and snowmobiling, and, just last weekend, I went for my first snowshoe. Snowmobiling isn’t something everyone can afford; purchasing a snowmobile, buying gas, and maintaining the vehicle adds up. I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford it myself. But what was my reason for not fishing and snowshoeing sooner? Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case for me and it doesn’t have to be for you either.

Research shows that having a good social life has several benefits to your mental well-being, that an active lifestyle helps you live longer, and that getting outside to take in some vitamin D has numerous positive effects.

Winter has settled in and probably won’t be leaving for the better part of a couple months still. As I learned the hard way, that’s a long time to be held by the dull and rather depressing grip of cabin fever. With that in mind, please consider taking five minutes to plan an outdoor activity for this weekend (weather permitting, of course),  get a friend involved – perhaps someone you’ve been meaning to connect with for a while – and enjoy.

Do you or have you ever experienced cabin fever? How’d you overcome it? How do you take advantage of winter?

Be sure to caption about cabin fever in our caption contest to enter to win a $300 GC!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.


Your health HQ

A thumbs up in front of the health link BC website

A thumbs up for HealthLink BC.

Please tell me I am not the only one to ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of health information out there! A Google search for “health tips” will yield well over one million results in a quarter of a second. It doesn’t matter how good you are at making sense of information, even the savviest of researchers can be stunned.

Even for a healthy individual without a clinical diagnosis of disease, the situation can be confusing. For example, some of the things I wonder about:

  • How many servings of dark green vegetables should I get each day?
  • How many hours of sleep am I supposed to get?
  • Should I get a flu shot?
  • Is it better to walk 10 minutes each day, or 20 minutes every other day?

In one of my previous jobs, I worked with cancer survivors and learned about their experiences in northern BC. One of the interesting things that I took away from that job is that people care about finding quality information. That is, information that is trusted and true; people value information from a reliable source.

Have you ever heard of HealthLink BC? While it may not be as sexy as the cover model on the front of the magazine at the checkout stand, it is written by experts who live and work in your province and it’s developed with you in mind.

HealthLink BC is a free resource to all British Columbians where you can find any and all non-emergency health-related information. You can search healthy lifestyle tips, medications, and diseases and their symptoms. All information is medically-approved, so it can be trusted.

HealthLink BC is accessible. They have a user-friendly website and you can talk to a registered nurse (a real person!) on the phone any time of the day or night by calling 8-1-1. Translation services are available for more than 130 languages. They even have an app!

But, 8-1-1 is more than just nurses! When you first call, you will talk to a Health Service Representative. This person will talk to you about what you are looking for and get you in touch with the right people.

  • Pharmacists – talk about your medications (available every night, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
  • Dietitians – talk about healthy eating and nutrition (available Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Nurses – talk about symptoms, procedures, or whether you should go to the doctor for your inquiry (available all day, every day of the year!)

You can even call any time of the day or night to learn where the closest health services to you are, including walk-in clinics, travel clinics, and immunizations.

Bonus tip: Did you know that you can talk to an exercise specialist for free by calling the Physical Activity Line? By talking to them, you can get physical activity guidance tailored to your needs and lifestyle. Their number is 1-877-725-1149. They are available Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

I can hear that little voice in your head saying, “It’s great to know that these resources are there, but I’m not going to call them.” Why not?! I challenge you to pick up that phone and to call a nurse next time you are Googling a symptom. Chances are you will get better, more accurate information than using “Dr. Google.”

Have you ever been overwhelmed by health information? Do you think this resource might help you?

Win a $300 GC to help support your healthy habits in 2014!

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Health Promotions and Communications officer for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she is learning to take advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her husband. She stays active with CrossFit and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.


New habits; old friends

Pumpin' iron at CrossFit.

Pumpin’ iron at CrossFit.

Since finishing grad school, I’ve worked really hard to make physical activity a greater part of my life. It’s not easy making it a habit. I have to continuously work to motivate myself to keep the new habits. Willpower alone would not help me keep my habits; I need to create an environment to support my success.

I had found a great group of people that are totally supportive of my fitness endeavours. The community support is unlike any other “gym” I’ve ever been to. I’ve tried lots of fitness styles in the past: boot camps, spin class, and my own programming, but I, personally, like CrossFit the best (so far).

However, after I had finally made fitness part of my lifestyle and had maintained this for some time, I had coffee with an old friend and the conversation turned a corner in a way that I wasn’t expecting. This is my recollection of how it went down:

We met up like every other coffee date, ordered our drinks and settled in. When you try to catch up after a long time, it can take a while to come around to what is going on. The conversation finally came around to fitness and my friend told me she was a little offended by me.

I didn’t know what to say – I was shocked, I was confused, and I was a little mad. What did my health habits have to do with her? I had invited her to take part in my active hobbies on many occasions, but she had shown no interest what so ever. Why couldn’t my friend just be happy that I was doing so much better?!

After much thinking, I realized that my health habits had a lot to do with her and many of my other friends and family members. The friendships were based on similar lifestyles and habits and I had changed mine. In improving my personal health habits, I had found a new supportive network. In the eyes of my friends and family, I had left them behind.

None of this was intentional. My focus was on being healthier and I was spending more time with people who motivated and inspired me to change. The research shows that we need positive support networks to make health habit changes. The World Health Organization even states that “greater support from families, friends and communities is linked to better health.”

What the research doesn’t tell you is that sometimes, to make room for new healthy habits, you have to leave old (unhealthy) habits behind. You have to be open to developing new networks of support and – if you are not paying close attention – this can exclude people that you love and care about. You can do your best to bring them along, but what if they don’t want to come?

Have you made changes to support your health in the past? How did this change your relationships with “old” friends?

Enter our caption contest for your chance to win a $300 GC to help support your healthy habits.

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Health Promotions and Communications officer for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she is learning to take advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her husband. She stays active with CrossFit and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.


The realist and January’s contest

Suzanne on a ski trail

Suzanne takes to the trails to accomplish her healthy goals

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward. This wonderful quote always makes me smile, but it is only in the past year that I really understand how I have applied it to my own life.

Often it is a scare that prompts folks my age to get serious about health. I didn’t want to wait for a scare, so in 2012, I took action on my own and started my journey to improving my fitness level and health. Before I could go down this road, I needed to develop some tools to assist me; not just time to wing it! I decided to seek out some expert advice. The local sports centre offered a great venue for me to build some skills. Not being one for too much indoor activity, I quickly realized I could do many things outside. Beautiful trails abound in my neighbourhood and, after some quick lessons on injury prevention and proper footwear, I hit the trails – walking, running a bit and, sometimes, dragging myself along! Before I knew it, I could run up to five kms (and still breathe). I coupled that with some simple weight training and a few other handy exercise routines and was happy with my results! It is all about being active in my view.

Then the snow fell.  Not one to be easily discouraged, I investigated the Otway Ski Trails. I rented skis at first and not long after purchased a pair. As the year came to an end, I was ready to turn over the new year with gusto; no way was I giving up on my goals! Lots of snow that winter made for great skiing and ski I did.

Once the melt arrived so did those nasty little caterpillars! No one wants to share a trail with them, but what could I do until the caterpillar cycle ended? Unfortunately, I didn’t need to worry about that. I had a fall that injured my hand and required surgery. This put a big, wet blanket on my plans! I couldn’t even stay active in the garden, let alone on a trail. I was relegated to watching my husband do yard work, which is not very exciting, despite his good looks! I had to adjust my sails and my personal expectations. I modified my eating plan, walked and enjoyed the spring and summer as best I could, all the while accepting that my injury was a temporary delay. I was surprised at how long it took a thumb and a ligament to heal properly, but I didn’t let the pessimist sneak in! Even simple food prep was a challenge during the summer months; chopping vegetables and making salads really requires a strong thumb! Yet, when fall arrived again, I reflected back on the year and, despite my exercise hiatus over the summer, I still found myself energized to get back outdoors and onto the trails – albeit carefully.

As I write this blog, I am looking out my window at the most recent snowfall, considering what wax to put on my skis for the weekend!

How many times has the optimist in you wished you could snap your fingers and suddenly be healthy? How many times has the pessimist in you told you couldn’t because you didn’t succeed in the past? Be the realist and create attainable goals! Making these changes in my life has been a great decision for me. Because I am active and eating well, so is my husband! We’ve both benefited from this journey and are looking forward to continuing to challenge ourselves to make healthy changes in 2014.

This January, Northern Health is inviting you to help northerners find their motivation with our photo caption contest. By commenting on a caption, you can be instantly entered to win a $300 gift card or one of two $50 gift cards to help with your own journey to better health. All the details are available on the contest page. We look forward to your positive, motivational and fun captions!

Suzanne Johnston

About Suzanne Johnston

With more than 25 years of leadership experience in health care and government, Suzanne is Northern Health’s vice president of clinical programs and chief nursing officer. Suzanne obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of New Brunswick and completed her doctoral studies at the University of Arizona. Suzanne has a special interest in leadership development and is experienced as a facilitator in this area, and she has volunteered with United Way agencies to help build leadership capacity for non-profit boards. In her spare time, Suzanne loves to spend time outdoors with her husband and her golden retriever, Pirate.