Healthy Living in the North

Super Bowl Sunday: If you bring it, they will eat

Cupcakes topped with chocolate footballs

The Super Bowl tends to be all about excess so this Sunday, try something new! Instead of football-themed cupcakes and chicken wings, try a football-themed fruit tray and chicken skewers! And remember to plan ahead for a safe ride home!

I have to admit that when it comes to the Super Bowl, I can’t help but watch with mixed emotions. The thing is that as someone who listens to off-season podcasts and follows the draft; someone who reads pre-season reports and monitors every game, every Sunday; and someone who is as serious about his fantasy team as Jerry Jones is about his Cowboys, I can’t help but have respect for the Super Bowl’s history within the game while, at the same time, hating the spectacle that revolves around the big game.

Unlike a regular season game, or even a pre-Super Bowl playoff game, Super Bowl Sunday is an exaggeration of the NFL experience – it is to a regular game what Vegas is to a regular city. There are more viewers – last year’s Broncos/Seahawks matchup garnered 111.5 million viewers in 185 countries in 30 different languages; there’s more media coverage – basically two weeks leading up to the game; and, of course, there’s the star-studded halftime show (this year featuring Katy Perry… roar). Unfortunately, the theme of exaggeration isn’t limited to the game itself, extending to our food and alcohol consumption.

In fact, viewers who watched last year’s Super Bowl consumed more calories during the Super Bowl weekend than they did during “any other time of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.” Let’s stop to think about that for a sec. Consider what you ate this holiday season – the treats that started pouring into your office in early December, the baking at friends’ houses when you were out visiting, the mountain of food you called your turkey dinner. Now pack that into one weekend! Ron Burgundy might say he “isn’t even mad, that’s amazing”, but your arteries are definitely singing a different tune! If you’re thinking that can’t add up, chew on this: it’s estimated that Americans ate 1.23 billion wings, 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, and ordered over four million pizzas from Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s during the 2013 game!

Because the Super Bowl is a social event, there’s also a party aspect to it and that comes with increased alcohol consumption for many viewers. In America, 51.7 million cases of beer will be consumed this Sunday, which means even more calories and an increase in drunk drivers on the road. Make sure you aren’t one of them and plan for safe ride if you are having some drinks.

Yes, most of these stats are based on American viewers and they’d be significantly lower for Canadians, but the point remains: if you are going to a Super Bowl party, you’re probably eating poorly and your chances of drinking are higher, resulting in a ton of calories over the course of one football game. So, what can you do to make Super Bowl Sunday a healthier one? All you have to do is replace one thing that you love with a different thing that you love that happens to be healthier. For instance, instead of chicken wings, make chicken skewers; instead of nachos and cheese, make taco chips and hummus; and instead of bringing a meat and cheese tray to your friend’s place, bring a veggie tray.

If you’re worried about being that person who doesn’t bring something delicious, consider the Field of Dreams theory of food thought: if you bring it, they will eat it! Plus, making something is almost always cheaper, healthier, and far more appreciated. With all of that in mind, I’ll leave you with two predictions for the game:

  1. You’ll have a healthier Super Bowl if you try to, and
  2. The Seahawks repeat with a 24-20 victory over the stinkin’ Patriots.

Have a healthy game-day recipe you want to share? What about your own scoreboard prediction? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a safe and healthy Super Bowl!

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.

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Tales from the Man Cave: What’s so super about the Super Bowl anyway?

Photo of hockey game taken from the stands at CN Centre in Prince George

Jim may prefer watching hockey with the lads to watching the Super Bowl, but whatever the sport, he’s a huge fan of the chance to get together, talk, and socialize, which can have a positive impact on health!

I have to be honest. Although I have never been a big fan of American football, it has a great many enthusiastic followers, so there must be something to it.

Perhaps it’s just the American approach to sports. It’s terms like “World Series” when only one country is involved that fill me with laughter.

So when I was asked to write about the Super Bowl this week, I was admittedly a little annoyed at having to write about the “other” football (more on that later!). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what some gentle ribbing and some good old football banter could do for our health as guys. How often do you get the chance to spend a whole day with friends these days? Getting together and being social (and maybe even being active!) can do wonders for your mental wellness and in some cases may be just what the doctor ordered!

Now, for me, serious football (soccer, to this Scot), is one in which the whole world is involved, such as in World Cup soccer. That event truly deserves the name “world.” And if you want ferocious, just check out the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team for some really tough men with ugly tongues! Staring down those boys is no joke. These fellas mean business.

OK, I know you are probably inventing all of your little comeback lines and getting hot under the collar as you read this, but hold on a minute! Isn’t this the whole point? One of my favorite things about getting together with the lads for a good game (whether World Cup or, ahem, “World” Series) is the banter and camaraderie. Bring it on!

Also, the beauty of a great move such as the one by the Seahawks against the Packers last week that sealed the game at the last moment is incredibly exciting. It brings us all together! I still have not forgotten walking home with a group from a Glasgow Celtic game, either elated or in the deepest despair. We take our teams’ outcomes very seriously!

My son would say “old man, you don’t understand the game.” And he’d be right. But here’s the point: I don’t think that matters so much. Of course you will have the guys argue about specific plays in rugby, soccer, or American football and at least a bit of understanding is required to take part in that conversation so that you can show your opponent that he is wrong, but the sport around which that takes place is less important than the group of guys who sit together and argue the points. This opportunity to spend a whole day together just talking and hanging out is important for mental wellness and it’s something that we guys unfortunately don’t do enough of!

It’s all about getting together with folks and having some fun.

Imagine no hockey or football or rugby – I guarantee that something else would have taken its place. Maybe even another really exciting game like Irish football. Naw!

So, although this particular man is not a big fan of the Super Bowl, you might just find him with a group of guys watching the game and arguing the finer points of which he knows little. Getting together is the finer point.

So, guys, get together this Super Bowl and have a whale of a time with some good food, a few friends, and maybe the odd little manly tongue-in-cheek humorous argument. It’s all part of the package. Stay well.

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.

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Make halftime count!

Seattle Seahawks jersey on a couch.

This Super Bowl Sunday, make sure to get that jersey off of the couch! Try switching between standing and sitting every time possession changes, invent your own touchdown dance, or have a pushup contest during a commercial break. There are lots of ways to make sure that it isn’t just the players who are being active on Sunday!

Are you all set for this Sunday? Got your jersey, snacks, and a great group of friends to enjoy the game with? This year’s Super Bowl promises to bring even more excitement to the West Coast as our neighbours to the south and closest NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks, battle to defend their title as NFL champions!

Even those of us who aren’t diehard fans will likely participate in the annual ritual and let’s face it, it’s another excuse to have a party! As the spouse of a Seahawks fan, I’m often drawn into the games, but find the constant start-stop action and pauses for commercial breaks frustrating! During the Super Bowl, these commercial breaks are even longer (they’re known for their creative advertising) and they host a long, star-studded halftime show which, for many, is the highlight of the game.

So I ask you, what do we do with all the down time? Even though each quarter is just 15 minutes long, the average game can last up to four hours! Bathroom breaks aside, we all know that is way too long to be sitting. In fact, we’re starting to see more promotion of standing in the workplace (I’m standing as I type this), but what about at home? How many of us go home after a long day and just flop on the couch for hours on end? Is the Super Bowl just another group-sanctioned excuse to veg out?

It doesn’t have to be this way! My challenge to you is to make halftime (and commercial time) count! Get up and move around. Anyone can do it. You don’t need any fancy equipment. Just stand up. And no, that doesn’t mean you should go outside for a smoke break! Let’s face it, if you can last four hours without smoking, then you’re already on your way to quitting!

During the down time, make an effort to get up, stretch, and walk around. Why not even go outside and toss the pigskin around for a few minutes with your pals? With all the nice weather we’ve been having, for most of us in northern B.C., we can’t even complain that it’s too cold!

Looking for more creative ideas to get moving?

  • Celebrate touchdowns with your own endzone dance. There’s no such thing as excessive celebration in your living room!
  • Switch from sitting to standing each time possession changes.
  • Challenge a buddy to a pushup contest – see how many you can do during one commercial!

Make the most of your halftime and encourage others to join in. Support your team by getting on your feet and look to those guys on the TV for inspiration. They certainly didn’t get to where they are by sitting around!

Remember what I was saying about being on your way to quitting? If you are looking for more info and tools to help you quit smoking, check out the new QuitNowMen website and enter to win $2,500 by pledging to quit for one week!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is the NH Men's Health Coordinator. Previous to this, she worked as the school nutrition lead for Northern Health’s population health department. Her passion for food and health promotion drew her to the nutrition field and she relocated to northern B.C. from the east coast. Although she has fully embraced northern living, she enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She stays active by training for triathlons, and is looking forward to this year’s community garden harvest – a personal experiment that is so far succeeding!

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Tales from the Man Cave: Learn to quit by quitting

Woman smoking a cigarette beside a soccer field

What’s stopping you from quitting today? For Jim, it took several quit attempts. Remember to learn from those attempts! Learn to quit by quitting!

It was a day like any other day. But, as it happened, this day was going to be different.

I was typing on my home computer and then at precisely 3:00 p.m., I took a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, crushed them, and threw them in the trash. It was March 21, 2001, and I had just quit smoking, this time for good.

That was my hope, anyways, and that’s how it turned out.

I have heard it said many times that this is the way that some people stop. “Out of the blue, I just quit,” they say. I admire that. For me, that wasn’t quite the case. Yes, I crushed the smokes and yes, I quit, but I was using a nicotine patch and if memory serves me correctly, I may have been using one to reduce my intake just before I quit.

The day after my quit, after talking to my pharmacist, I wore two patches, a 21 mg and a 14 mg, and I gradually reduced these as the weeks off cigarettes turned to months and then to years.

I should say a little about using the nicotine patch before quitting. Although it’s best to stop smoking completely when you are using the patch, if you still smoke a few cigarettes, it’s okay as long as you are not getting more nicotine than your body is used to. I am speaking from experience here, of course, but studies have suggested that I might just be correct.

At the end of the day, this quit attempt for me was the last in a long history of multiple efforts over many years. I now know that I am the type of person who really needed to be pushed in order to quit. For most people, it takes an average of five quit attempts before they can stop for good.

So what’s the moral of this story? Well, it seems that for most smokers, we learn to stop by stopping.

In my experience, there are times in life when stopping might be even harder such as when there is major stress in your life. For example, for me, I wouldn’t have tried quitting during exams. Instead, wait till the sea calms a bit, then throw in your hook. Some people won’t agree with that statement but in my experience, it rings true. Remember that every quit attempt gets you closer to success but there is no value in needless suffering.

That said, this of course is why you need to stop: so that you do not bring needless suffering upon yourself in the form of lung disease or cancer.

Learn from your previous attempts. What went wrong? Did you tell yourself “just one”? Did you get so bad-tempered that just you “had” to have a cigarette and let everybody live in peace? Don’t look at those attempts as failures. Use that experience to help you quit for good this time!

As we settle into the new year – and given the fact that New Year’s resolutions are usually not all that successful – why not try to learn to stop by stopping again?

You never know – it might just be the last time you have to do it!

Do you need some resources to help you quit?

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.

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Keeping young men healthy

Young man having blood tested by lab technologist.

Regular checkups and tests are important to keeping young men healthy. What’s your maintenance schedule?

“The sooner the better.” Whether it’s when to start saving for retirement, or when to put on your winter tires (hey! we are in the north), these are words of advice that we hear regularly. The earlier you take action, the better it truly is for you – especially when it comes to your health!

Establishing healthy habits and checking in with your body on how things are running can not only improve your health in the short term, but help prevent illness later in life. This is especially important in northern B.C. where men are more likely than their southern counterparts to develop chronic diseases like diabetes, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and many types of cancers.

A great resource that Northern Health developed to support men’s health is the MANual. This guide covers many topics related to men’s health, from nutrition and physical activity, to mental wellness and specific disease information, such as prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. The information is developed for – and specific to – men, including young men!

Do you know your maintenance schedule?

Screenshot of health maintenance tips from Northern Health Man Maintenance Guide

Check out Northern Health’s men’s health survival guide, complete with the Man Maintenance Guide, at men.northernhealth.ca

The guide (developed by Northern Health’s own health professionals) suggests that “dudes” (guys aged 18-39) should have some regular maintenance, including:

Yearly:

  • Blood pressure check
  • Dental checkup
  • Testicular self-exam (optional)

Every 3-5 years:

  • Lipid (cholesterol) blood test
  • Diabetes check

If you have specific risk factors or symptoms, you may also want to look into:

  • Prostate checkup
  • Colon & rectal cancer screen
  • Depression screening
  • Influenza vaccine*
  • HIV test (if you are sexually active)

*Keeping all immunizations up-to-date is an important part of routine maintenance for all men. Generally, this means getting a tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis booster every 10 years and making sure you have the shots you need when you travel.

Have you talked to your doctor about any of these?

GOLFing for testicular cancer?
Did you know that testicular cancer more commonly affects younger men? This is one body part you definitely don’t want to ignore! You can grab your life by the … err … “horns” by performing regular self-exams! Just remember GOLF:

  • Groin
  • Only takes a moment
  • Look for changes
  • Feel for anything out of the ordinary

If you do find anything unusual or alarming, talk to your doctor today!

Talk to the experts

Regular maintenance, along with healthy eating and regular physical activity, will give you the chance to get ahead of a major break down. Frequent checkups with your doctor can help to keep your engine running like it just came off the lot!

 

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is the NH Men's Health Coordinator. Previous to this, she worked as the school nutrition lead for Northern Health’s population health department. Her passion for food and health promotion drew her to the nutrition field and she relocated to northern B.C. from the east coast. Although she has fully embraced northern living, she enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She stays active by training for triathlons, and is looking forward to this year’s community garden harvest – a personal experiment that is so far succeeding!

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Tales from the Man Cave: Winter blahs and humbugs

Sunset at a snowy tree farm

Feeling “unjolly” over the holidays can be especially difficult because everyone else can seem so joyful. This year, if you are feeling down, lonely, or isolated, talk to others about how you are feeling.

We don’t need a Charles Dickens story to realize that we all suffer from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future at times. In fact, the holiday season can unfortunately be a reminder for some that life in the past, present, or future was, is, or may be far from jolly.

This is a time when people remember loved ones lost. It is also a time of darkening skies and lower levels of sun. What’s worse, if you are feeling down this season, you can feel like a misfit – why is everybody going around celebrating and talking about doing good deeds?

Two holiday periods in my life stand out as pretty rough. The first is when I was looking after a dying woman who passed away as my hospital shift ended on Christmas Eve. When I got home, all I could do was cry as the children opened their presents. The other was when my kitchen caught fire during the week of Christmas and covered my house in soot. Both times, I felt seriously unjolly and, with so many others celebrating, like a misfit, too. It’s hard to be the life and soul of the party when you feel like that.

So, how can you cope with the holiday season if you are experiencing depression or loneliness?

If you are feeling very low in mood, find your sleep to be disturbed, can’t be bothered to do things, and feel as though everything is drudgery, then you may be suffering from depression. A counsellor or your doctor can help during this difficult period. Talk to someone. Don’t stay isolated and alone. Crisis lines are available throughout B.C. if you need to talk to someone confidentially, 24/7/365. In northern B.C., dial 250-563-1214, 1-888-562-1214, or visit the Crisis Prevention, Intervention & Information Centre for Northern BC. There is also a B.C.-wide line. For that, dial 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433), 310-6789, or visit the Crisis Line Association of BC.

You can’t be a party animal when you are feeling sad, depressed, lonely, or isolated – and the holiday season may make this worse. But perhaps Dickens has something to offer after all: even if your whole being is crying out to be old Scrooge, engage with others, talk to others about how you’re feeling, and try to take part in all of the different activities that the holidays can offer.

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.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Lung disease can suck the life out of you

Image of oxygen tank in front of a snowy background

Winter’s cold temperatures can make living with lung disease even harder. Jim knows the feeling and shares 13 tips to prevent exacerbations and improve lung health this winter.

People with chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma tend to have more episodes of worsening during winter months. So, with periods of deep freezing common during this time of year in northern B.C., it was suggested that I write about winter lung health. Having been diagnosed with emphysema for the last 20 years, it is a subject in which I am well versed!

The truth of the matter is this: when you can’t breathe properly, nothing else matters and a winter worsening of symptoms can see a person go from mild discomfort to all out panic and depression. For everybody who knows what that feels like, you know that it is an experience that can’t be put into words. This is why it is so important to ask: As winter kicks into high gear, what can those of us with lung disease do to try and avoid those exacerbations?

Here’s my short list of tips for winter lung health:

  1. We know that smoking is the worst thing that a person with chronic lung disease or asthma can do. I should not really have to say that but there are folks who have terrible difficulties quitting. To them, my advice is this: don’t feel guilty, just stop again and again and again. The carbon monoxide from cigarettes is robbing you of precious oxygen. I feel your pain, but stop and keep stopping if you have to. Look for supports to help you stop smoking, like nicotine replacement therapy. Visit quitnow.ca for great resources too.
  2. Watch your symptoms. If you’re asthmatic, you need to keep an eye on your peak flow meter. Make sure that you are taking any long-acting medication as prescribed and discussed with your doctor. Even if you are feeling OK, carry a rescue puffer with you.
  3. Air quality. Sometimes this is poorer in the winter so get into the habit of watching your local weather channel air quality report or visit bcairquality.ca, especially if you are carrying out any outdoor activity.
  4. Look out for those little increases in breathing difficulty during normal effort or slight exertion.
  5. Watch for an increase in cough or sputum. If it does not improve, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  6. Keep a thermometre in the house so that you can check if you are getting a fever.
  7. If you have chronic bronchitis, you will no doubt have an antibiotic on hand just in case of an attack. Don’t be afraid to use it and make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you do. If the intensity of the attack is unusual or feels really bad, don’t be afraid to go to your local emergency department. Better safe than sorry!
  8. If you have home oxygen, you should use it as prescribed by your doctor, especially during increased activity. By using your home oxygen, you are using less effort to get that necessary oxygen and important rest. Don’t smoke with your home oxygen tank on – it can catch on fire and there are several cases of this happening every year throughout the province.
  9. During winter months, some folks with COPD and asthma have a reaction to the cold. There are proprietary masks out there if you want to look for them but you should use at least a scarf to cover your mouth and nose when out in the cold if you can tolerate that.
  10. You can’t always avoid perfumes or smoke or other noxious smells that can trigger an attack but if you sense those around you, get out of that environment as quickly as you can.
  11. Keep as active as you can. One thing to watch is the buildup of body temperature when engaged in activities such as exercise or walking outside. It can creep up on you and really make you breathless all of a sudden, especially if you’re wrapped up against the cold. Find your tolerance and carry out those tasks in smaller bites to suit the disease you have.
  12. Eat a diet that’s full of nutritious food. Depending on how progressed your lung disease is, if eating makes you feel uncomfortable, you might have to have smaller, more frequent nutritious meals. If you are losing weight you should consult a doctor and dietitian.
  13. Learn to breathe. I know it’s something we do naturally and that we have no choice in the matter but with lung disease, we can start to develop a habit of breathing in a shallow fashion. For this, there is good advice all over the web (like at HealthLinkBC) but one way that can be doubly beneficial is to practice a relaxation-based technique such as yoga or meditation breathing. Learning to control your breathing might help to stop a panic in its tracks, even during a worsening of symptoms.

Winter can be a tough time for people with lung disease but we can still live a full life and, with the right preparations and precautions, even learn to push the envelope a little. I wish you well this winter.

For more information, visit:

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.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Motivation

Family walking outside. Text of the SMART goal acronym overlaid on picture

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For Jim, adding evaluation and repetition makes goals SMARTER!

I woke up this morning with a certain melancholy.

We all have days where we feel less motivated and more melancholic. As I sat and struggled to even begin to write, I suddenly knew that I had found my topic completely by chance: motivation.

Everything requires motivation and there is even a whole realm of psychology dedicated to it.

  • How do I make healthier choices?
  • How do I begin to eat healthier?
  • How do I get myself to move more often?

These are tough questions to tackle. I know that if I get up today, there is a good chance I will just continue on with my old habits. For lots of us, change is just not that easy.

I was looking for something different and I found it in SMART goals. SMART goals support healthy lifestyle changes by being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For me, I want my goals to be SMARTER, so I added Evaluate and Repeat.

Here are Jim’s SMARTER goals. Come on, Jim, let’s give it a try!

  • Make it specific, like walking for 20 minutes each day. Choose your desired change and set a goal for yourself.
  • Your goal needs to be measurable so you can see progress. Make a little chart. Put it somewhere you can tick off your progress.
  • Make sure it’s something achievable and that you can do it. Your goal might be to run the Boston marathon but you need to crawl before you can walk.
  • It’s very important that your goal is relevant to your main desire. Walking 20 minutes a day could be a relevant goal for the desire to run a marathon.
  • This leads us to the next piece: set an end date for your goal. Make sure you don’t sabotage yourself here. This is also a very important evaluation date.

Your goal should be realistic and be achievable within a certain time frame. This is a key element. Set small goals in small time periods.

In my example, I would say if the overall goal is to run a marathon, the specific goal might be to walk 20 minutes every day for three weeks. That’s all – but that’s also SMART.

For your goal to be SMARTER, the next step is to evaluate your progress. This is perhaps the most important part. Often when we do this, we may become disappointed. We may feel like we only achieved half our goal if we were only able to walk on certain days. If that was the case, I say: “Great! It was a success then. You moved!”

Your evaluation should accommodate this new information. Finally, you need to repeat the process.

If your first goal was not as realistic as you had hoped, set a more realistic goal, such as walking 20 minutes every other day. Create a new chart and tick those boxes. When you have achieved and evaluated your new goal, set another one and push the bar slightly higher than before.

Now it’s 25 minutes of walking every other day. Soon you will be jogging.

You can always shoot for the moon and land among the stars, but be sure to keep one solid, SMARTER foot on earth.

Good luck.

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.

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Life: Don’t get left behind

Football player scoring touchdown

Group environments and team sports helped Dan to get active again. What gets you moving?

There are many risks in life that we cannot control, but there are some we can control.

It is a little sad that it took a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) to start that train rolling for me, but here it is. In 2007, I exhibited some troubling symptoms and had them extensively checked out. The end result was MS. I am one of the lucky ones, I guess, since there have been no issues for me since the original event. With the shock of the diagnosis, I started eating better and slowly regained my interest in exercise.

But then, a position change at work and the arrival of our first child began to keep me very busy and my renewed focus on my personal health was pushed to the back of the line. As this work stress and new family stress increased, I slipped back into poor eating habits. I justified these habits by saying that I had a lack of time to prepare healthy meals. Now, I can stand up and say that my name is Dan and I am a stress eater. In the blink of an eye, I was over 350 lbs and my body hurt. I couldn’t kneel down to play with my children or walk with my family without extreme effort.

Jump forward to a change in employer and a new, supportive environment for workplace health. I could feel my sense of control increasing. I wanted to get active again but I struggled with going to a gym – it was not working for me. It took me a long time to realize what type of exercise was a good fit for me. I thought back to my university days and to playing on the rugby team, which had eventually led to me joining a men’s rugby team and winning three provincial championships. Then it hit me: right from high school (Go Prince Rupert Rainmakers!), I had always excelled at team sports in group environments. That’s what I needed back in my life to motivate me: groups and social support!

Fast forward to group fitness classes. I joined a gym to test the waters. Some old injuries resurfaced and tried to demotivate me, telling me “don’t do it, just rest.” But the functional fitness classes worked for me. I found a home and, wouldn’t you know it, the old injuries that I had relied on to stop me from getting off of the couch disappeared. I can now walk, run, and play with my kids and it feels great!

All of the things that I did in life that appeared as work when I was not healthy became easy and fun again. The weight loss that I achieved was not a goal of mine but a side effect. My story reminds me that there are always life and work events that pop up to slow down or turn back the progress to our personal health, so roll with the punches and plan your next move. I want to be around for a long time, not only for me, but for my family.

For more information and resources for men’s health, visit Northern Health’s Northern BC Man Challenge.

Dan Bomford

About Dan Bomford

Dan finds motivation through the effort expended by others. Group style fitness fits him well, as indicated by a long history of involvement in team sports: basketball, rugby, baseball, and handball. What fits you best? Finding the perfect work-life balance takes time and often risk. Currently, Dan is focused on his personal health and the health of his children and family. Cooking healthy meals for kids aged 5 and 2 is one of the most difficult tasks for Dan these days.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Laughter

Two men laughing.

Welshman Mike Kelly shares a laugh with Jim.

Who would have thought that laughing is good for your health? Well nowadays they say it is and there’s research to prove it.

I like to laugh. Actually, I need to laugh. Sometimes when I get together with friends, it can dissolve into silliness or go down the route towards toilet humour really fast. But it’s always a laugh and it can be really wonderful, even when it’s just us being silly. And laughter has all sorts of positive health benefits! Healthy Families BC calls it “one of the best energy boosters around” and the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre links laughter to reducing stress, building resilience, and decreasing symptoms of anxiety.

We have to remember, though, that there’s humour and laughter that’s healthy for everyone and laughter that isn’t healthy for everyone. I suspect the type that does you good does not involve poking fun at others.

This dark side of humour tends to uphold negative stereotypes and this should be avoided. Use humour that uplifts because then your humour will uplift you.

There are lots of funny things to say without offending others and laughter can help us get through tough times. Watch comedies and funny movies. Use puns. Laugh at yourself often but even then, only in a gentle way. Just get laughing to lower your blood pressure and get those lungs moving. You’ll be a happier and healthier man to be around – just look at the health benefits of laughter that the Mayo Clinic reports.

Being up on stage has taught me a lot about when laughter is healthy and when it’s not. I used to tell jokes about the Irish, Scots, and Welsh. People would come up to me and say that I was offending them with the jokes. This was obviously not healthy laughter for everyone. Now, I just tell silly jokes – some might call them stupid. Since making this switch, everyone’s been laughing and not a single person has approached me.

As I said, use humour that uplifts because then your humour will uplift you – and others.

Have a good week.

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.

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