Healthy Living in the North

Promoting mental wellness: 10 tips!

Quote from article over a background image of a snowy branch.

How can you promote mental wellness in your community?

I grew up in a household with parents who faced mental health issues at many points in their lives. To the outside world, they tried very hard at looking perfectly “normal”, even when they had their down episodes. They were very functional and had decent jobs.

Talking about and promoting mental well-being is important because one can be mentally unwell and not be diagnosed with an illness. This is a common issue in our society. The reality is that 1 in every 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Despite this, there is huge stigma associated with mental health. For more information about the scale and reach of mental health issues in Canada, check out this report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Evidence also shows that sustaining our positive mental health in rural communities appears to be harder compared to urban environments. This is not because there is more mental illness in rural communities, but rather because there are issues such as personal factors with stigma and low mental health literacy. In order to reduce this barrier, it is important to increase awareness about how to promote mental health. Talking openly about these ideas can also reduce the stigma of mental health issues.

So, I researched some ideas to promote mental wellness and here’s what I found. I’ve included a list of my research at the end of the article if you’d like to read more!

Healthy eating and physical activity

  • A daily intake of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables was shown to decrease psychological distress.
  • Exercising has been shown to increase hormones that make you feel happier like endorphins and monoamines.
  • Exercising can also act as a distraction from negative thoughts that may bring down a person’s mood.

Find an emotional balance

  • Balance your emotions through emotional expression of a range of emotions.
  • People who are firm and rigid about their opinion and refuse to change their views can develop mental health issues.

Make time for self and others

  • People who have healthy, supportive relationships are also able to balance how much they spend time with themselves and others.
  • Time spent at work, play, sleep, rest, and exercise, should all be balanced equally to avoid mental stress.

Reflect on your emotions

  • Having emotional literacy helps an individual to maintain mental health; this means that it is important to be aware of our emotional triggers, find ways to manage our emotions, practice self-motivation, and have empathy.
  • Try talking to a friend, counsellor or reflecting upon yourself to find out what brings out negative emotion, and make a list on how to reduce stress.

Have a positive lookout

  • Having a positive attitude is very important to mental health. Positive attitude and healthy thinking go hand-in-hand; it’s about thinking about something in a balanced way – looking at a situation in all aspects then deciding how you feel about it.

So … can you think of any other ways to support mental wellness?

If you want more information or the chance to talk with someone, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association. If you’re in Prince George, their office is at 1152 3rd Avenue.

Thanks for listening, cheers to happy thinking!

References

  • Austin, W., & Boyd, M. A. (2010). Psychiatric and mental health nursing for Canadian practice. Ontario: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Gulliver, A., Griffiths, K. M., & Christensen, H. (2010). Perceived barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking in young people: a systematic review. BMC psychiatry, 10(1), 113.
  • Cattan, M., & Tilford, S. (Eds.). (2006). Mental health promotion: a lifespan approach. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
  • Mental Health Commission of Canada (2010). Making the Case for investing in Mental Health in Canada.
  • Paykel, E. S., Abbott, R., Jenkins, R., Brugha, T. S., & Meltzer, H. (2000). Urban–rural mental health differences in Great Britain: findings from the National Morbidity Survey. Psychological medicine, 30(02), 269-280.
  • Richard, A., Rohrmann, S., Vandeleur, C. L., Mohler-Kuo, M., & Eichholzer, M. (2015). Associations between fruit and vegetable consumption and psychological distress: Results from a population-based study. BMC Psychiatry, 15.
  • Stuart, M. (2004). Promoting a family’s physical and mental health and well-being. Promoting the health and well-being of families during difficult times. The University of Arizona Cooperative extension.
  • Talen, M. R., & Mann, M. M. (2009). Obesity and mental health. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 36(2), 287-305.
Grace Gu

About Grace Gu

Grace is a fourth year nursing student at the University of Northern British Columbia. Grace stays healthy by eating healthy, exercising daily and listening to music and singing in her car. She enjoys going to church and staying in touch with her spirituality to find deeper meaning of life. She likes to spend time with her cat and family and enjoys helping people out in any way possible. Grace wants to work in the mental health field as her nursing specialty focus.

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Healthy living for healthy aging

Woman on a boat

“Food, lifestyle, getting back to the land, going for walks, being at peace and enjoying what’s around you – these do matter.” Judy Gerow shares her thoughts on health and aging.

Judy Gerow is member of the Kitselas First Nation and has been in Band Council for over 20 years: two years as Chief and the rest as Councillor. She is a mother of six, a stepmother of an additional six, and is also raising her granddaughter. Throughout her whole life, her health has been on her mind. I had the privilege of asking Judy a few questions about her experiences of health and aging and am excited to share her thoughts and story below.

Do you believe that health is a journey?

Yes, absolutely, I think it’s a journey! Your physical and mental health play a big part in your well-being and need to be in balance to be truly healthy.

When did you start really considering your health?

Even though I have always been thinking about my health, it was after I became a mother that I realized how important it was to take care of myself so that I was here for my children.

My kids are a real motivation for me. Now that I am raising my granddaughter, I want to take care of myself to make sure I am here for her until she can be on her own.

What things are you doing to keep you healthy?

I try to watch what I eat and I don’t drink alcohol or smoke. I keep myself involved in various activities, many of which are physical such as my volunteer role in the fire department. I like to fish and hunt and through this, challenge my body to keep up with others and carry what I can. I garden, too.

Family is also very important to me; we are a large and close family and look forward to getting together for family dinners. As I get older, I spend more time thinking about my life, what matters, and how I can live this to the fullest.

How does this healthy lifestyle make you feel?

I feel a sense of pride that I can still pull my own weight, even though I can’t carry as much as I could in my youth. My role model is my mother. She is 84 years old and she’s still going strong. When she was in her 60’s, I had a hard time keeping up to her. She would get up at dawn and preserve fruits and vegetables until late at night. She is slowing down now due to health concerns. She has macular degeneration but she still cuts fish, even though she does it now by feel.

When I’m out on the river or in the bush, I have time to reflect and focus on the land and the environment. I find that very spiritual and I get a sense of belonging when I’m out there. It’s like I can feel the presence of my ancestors who walked before me for thousands of years.

How do you think having a healthy lifestyle now will support your health in the future?

I think it will help me to live longer and to remain active. I couldn’t imagine not being active. I want to be just like my mom! When I was growing up, I used to tell my friends that I didn’t want to be like my mother. It’s ironic that no matter how hard I tried to do things differently, I end up like her! My mother is always there, a focus in my life.

What are you most looking forward to about being healthy as you age?

I look forward to being active and having a fulfilling life where I can do what I want and not be a burden to anyone. I want to remain independent as long as I can.

If you could share one message with others about your journey, what would that message be?

When you are younger, you don’t think about what it’s going to be like when you’re older. Choices one makes when they are young do matter in the future, that is the message I would like to share.

Every summer was like bootcamp for me. I was busy keeping up to my husband as we hunted or fished together. I wasn’t paying attention to my body. Parts of my body are starting to give me more problems now – like my knees and my elbows – from pushing myself too much then, packing heavy loads, and jumping off rocks.

My husband passed away five years ago from lung cancer. He was a smoker and a drinker. I chose not to so I could be there for my children. My current partner has diabetes and heart disease from not taking care earlier.

Everyone needs to start taking care of themselves and be more conscious of what’s around them. Food, lifestyle, getting back to the land, going for walks, being at peace and enjoying what’s around you – these do matter.

I never had an interest in gardening even when I had watched my mom do it. Yet, last year, we planted a garden and what came up was wonderful! I found it so relaxing; I could just get lost in it. I could sit in that garden, pulling weeds and not think of anything and before I knew it, four hours had passed! Work and other things in my life slipped away. We all need to do more of this. Life is too fast-paced. I’m going on a vacation soon. My partner and I are taking our motorhome and just going – no destination or timeline! Stress-free!

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Learning to listen to your body

Balance Rock

Just outside of Skidegate, Balance Rock is one of the pictures that might say it all …Finding balance. (photo credit Tony Carter)

For years, I had used exercise, in particular running, as a way to relieve stress, get calm and refocused. I welcomed seasonal changes: running past shrubs laden with hoar frost on icy roads, running on muddy trails, or trying to dodge mosquitoes in the early morning; these runs were my time. Before long, I was training for my first marathon. Then I started in on the V series, traveling to cities that started with a V, like Vancouver and Victoria in BC, or Vienna in Austria. Yes, this does sound a bit obsessive compulsive. If running one marathon per year seemed like a reasonable goal to me, running two or three per year seemed even better. Acquaintances would often ask me about my knees, but my knees were fine. What eventually did give me grief was the area around my Achilles tendon. Taking a week off did not result in lasting improvements, and I knew that I had to dial back my efforts. A few physiotherapy appointments provided me with exercise suggestions, and I set right to them, but there was no way that I was about to hit the pavement any time soon.

As a healthcare worker whose job involves a fair amount of deep listening, I seemed to have been doing a poor job of listening to my body. Luckily, I had also taken yoga over the years, and its subtle message helped me to deal with the restlessness and irritability that came with having to slow down. Initially, I couldn’t even do any of the standing yoga poses. Once the Achilles was healed, bursitis of the Trochanter dogged my efforts for another year and a half.

I am not unfamiliar with grief and loss; once I had reached acceptance of my physical state, I was able to recall what else gave me joy in life. I didn’t have to look far as our living room was built around a piano. A lot of people’s effort went into getting it there, but it hadn’t been played in years. An itinerant piano tuner gave it some love and attention, and I was able to coax a few sounds from it. Research on the aging brain suggests that important lifestyle changes can help us to keep ourselves in the best possible cognitive shape. Learning to dance, a new language, or playing an instrument all are fun ways of challenging your brain. Your local Alzheimer Society has a host of tips.

Once again, acceptance was critical. Beginner’s mistakes help me learn; and my partner, who has a solid musical background but no longer plays the trombone, remains remarkably tolerant. Now that I am back on the road, I can go for a short run, come home and play myself a lullaby.

“By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.”

-Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer

Astrid Egger

About Astrid Egger

Astrid Egger has been working with Northern Health since 2002 and is currently Team Leader for Haida Gwaii mental health and addiction services. She is active in the Haida Gwaii Arts Council and enjoys the changing wind and wave patterns on the inlet.

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Bringing back play

Slow...adults playing

Play isn’t just for kids! Adults, bring back play.

Play is just for kids….right? Wrong! As adults, it’s sometimes easy for us to get bogged down in the stresses of everyday life and responsibilities. We may find ourselves being caught up in personal and professional duties, such as being someone’s parent or being someone’s employee, and losing sight of ourselves as individuals. We may forget the importance of self-care, and living a truly balanced life.

For me, play has become an integral part of my life. There is something about devoting time to just having fun that helps create a sense of light-heartedness, that feeling like I’m a kid again which keeps me positive, smiling and happy. Often when I come home from work, I feel exhausted. Instantly, my mind and body go to battle as I try hard to resist the urge to pull on my sweats, curl up on the couch with the remote and a bowl of popcorn, watching some mind-numbing reality TV. Instead, I walk through the door, my kids come running, they wrestle me to the ground, and somehow I am instantly transformed into a human horse, toting a three-year-old around the house on my back as she laughs hysterically. I can feel the stress leave my body and I begin to relax, recharge, and revitalize. Other days, play may take the form of camping trips, kayaking, team sports, building blanket tents with my kids, summer BBQs with friends, and above all enjoying life surrounded by the people I love, doing the things I love to do.

Experts seem to agree that free, open-ended, pointless play is important to people of all ages. We stand to reap several benefits from play such as release from stress and anxiety, enjoyment, and enhancement of memory and imagination, all of which can help us to stay mentally fit.

I encourage everyone to start looking at play differently and not as something that is exclusively owned by children. Give yourself permission to have fun and make it part of your daily routine. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you in the end.

When was the last time you truly played?

Maria Bunkowski

About Maria Bunkowski

Maria Bunkowski is the Community Response Nurse for mental health and addictions services in Prince Rupert. She has been nursing since 2006 with a background primarily in internal medicine, and is really enjoying the challenge that this new position brings. When she isn't working, Maria enjoys spending time with her young family, interior design, and exploring the great outdoors.

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A balanced lifestyle for balanced mental health

mental wellness

Kerry’s key to mental wellness is being self aware – what’s yours?

When asked to write a post about staying mentally healthy, I initially thought I was going to write about an intense fitness program I recently completed or my new running schedule that allows me to burn off some “steam.” However, with a little more thought I realized that exercise alone is not what ensures my mental wellness; instead I determined that the key to my personal mental health is finding a healthy balance of lifestyle.

I’m the first to admit that having a healthy balance is very difficult to achieve especially with all that life entails – children, partners, family, work and everything else in between. Often, I might be overly concerned with making sure I get in a certain amount of exercise throughout the week not realizing that I have neglected other important aspects of my life, ultimately leaving me feeling mentally and physically unbalanced.

Therefore, I think the most important way that I ensure that I stay mentally healthy is by considering all facets of my life and ensuring that I am inclusive and thoughtful  of each of these areas in a balanced way. Some areas I consider are:

  • Quality time with loved ones and friends
  • Quiet relaxing time – time to let my mind rest
  • Physical exercise
  • Eating healthy
  • Connecting with my environment/mother nature
  • Finding time to laugh
  • Ensuring a healthy sleep schedule
  • Having a realistic work schedule
  • Being creative
  • Making space for music
  • Remembering to generally slow life down to provide time for gratitude and appreciation for all that I have

When I notice that I feel off balance, I do “a check” – what in my life is missing or what area is taking away from other important areas – where is the imbalance? I then ask myself: what needs to happen to achieve a sense of balance and how do I go about making this happen? In general, I think my key to mental wellness is being self-aware and remembering that we have to care for ourselves in order to have the ability to care for others. So keep running, but remember to stop to have tea and a good laugh with an old friend as well!

What’s your key to mental wellness?

Kerrie Scott

About Kerrie Scott

Kerrie Scott is a clinician within mental health and addictions services in Prince Rupert. She has a bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria from which she graduated in 2004. Kerrie keeps very busy and enjoys spending time with her two young children.

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Modeling healthy behaviours

Rai with her son and dog.

Rai with her son and dog. How do you model healthy behaviours?

Okay Rai, put down the delicious cake with chocolate marshmallow butter-cream and walk away. Seriously, keeping walking girl, keep walking. A little further, a little faster. Hey, this could turn into a cardio workout! What is it about chocolate cake that turns me into the equivalent of the cookie monster? I have always had a sweet tooth and it seems once I start eating, I struggle to stop. After I had my son two and half years ago, I strived to be a healthy role model for him. How can I tell him “no” to the cookies when I’m in the kitchen secretly trough-ing half a pack? So I decided enough was enough.  I’ll be honest: I can’t totally write chocolate out of my life. So let’s talk about implementing a little harm reduction, right? Now it’s about moderation and allowable only if I’ve exercised. So far it seems to be working, mostly…

As part of being a role model, I felt it was important to instill the value of exercise. But how do you exercise with a small child, and a dog? I see these elegant moms dressed in Lululemon, running effortlessly with their calm toddlers who sit in jogging strollers and their well-trained dogs trotting alongside. I tried this, once. We made it three houses down before my kid tried to throw himself out of the stroller and my dog? Well, he was so scared of the stroller he tried to drag us into a ditch. And once my kid started screaming, my dog did his usual howling chorus. Elegant huh?

So, what works for me? I work full-time, I have a toddler. I needed to look at what worked for my life style. I realized I had a great space in my basement and the previous homeowner kindly left a rather nice treadmill behind when they moved out. I complemented this with a spinning bike. I added an art easel and toys for my kid to keep himself occupied and I now have a safe space to work out. We make it a special time for my son to come down in the basement each evening after supper and we spend an hour or so down there while I exercise and he plays with his toys. My workouts are usually complemented with a 35lb+ toddler sitting on me – I think of him as a rather cute dumbbell. I don’t know if you ever tried cycling with a kid on your knee, but it really works those thigh muscles. To mix things up and keep me interested I alternate with one day running the treadmill the other on the spinning bike. I also found YouTube has a great variety of workouts to suit my needs. I am not the most coordinated of people; trust me I am no dancer. When I watch an exercise DVD, I usually go the wrong way and spend most of my time trying to figure out what my arms are supposed to be doing, but after searching I found a video that is an idiot’s guide to exercising and with numerous choices, you can tailor your workout.

I started by making small changes and looking at what would work for me. By making sure it’s a good fit it allows me to keep motivated. I can still make improvements and educating my son at this young age about healthy choices is a great way to start him on the road for healthy choices for life.

How do you model healthy behaviours?

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” -Steven Wright

Rai Read

About Rai Read

Rai has worked for Northern Health for nearly 18 months, starting out as the CRU (community response unit) clinician in Terrace before stepping into the interim team leader position. She came to Terrace after working in as a geriatric nurse in Edmonton, AB and prior to that, working as a psychiatric nurse in Cardiff, Wales. She is passionate about promoting healthy living and nutrition, and thinks it’s key to understand how hard it is to fit everything in to a busy life. Rai is a strong believer is making lots of small positive changes and keeping a good sense of humor.

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Running towards balance

Running decreases stress and increases energy.

Exercise assists with low mood, it helps with stress and anxiety, it improves self esteem, and it can actually increase your level of energy.

I’m not a runner. At least, that’s what I thought. Until a few months ago, the only circumstances I imagined doing any intense cardio were usually wrapped up in fantasies I had while watching The Walking Dead. I’m sure this resonates with many people, but by the end of my working day, I felt I simply didn’t have any extra energy to devote to exercise. I was content with shutting the blinds and jumping into some Black Ops matchmaking or watching TV in my evenings until I decided to call it a night.

I had plenty of excuses, too. Living in a new community, I didn’t know anyone to exercise with. I felt self conscious at the thought of being around strangers and exercising. I had too much stress, the last thing that I thought I needed was to add to that by trying to add an exercise regimen. Subtly, as the weeks went by, these types of excuses were easier to justify. However, one thing I was noticing was that I was becoming more and more unhappy and unhealthy. Even though I avoided my Wii because it called me overweight (we’re still not good friends), I was conscious of the fact that I was becoming larger and had lower energy. As a healthcare worker with knowledge in the field of mental health, I was doing the exact opposite of what I recommended to the people I worked with and it was showing in my physical and mental health.

You don’t have to look far to find information on links between exercise and mental wellness. The Canadian Mental Health Association and the Here to Help website, resources I would often share with individuals to promote mental wellness, have plenty of information about physical activity and the positive effects it has on our mental wellness. Exercise assists with low mood, it helps with stress and anxiety, it improves self esteem, and it can actually increase your level of energy. Even with this knowledge in my toolkit, the decision to remain inactive was easier (and less scary to me) than the alternative.

The catalyst for my change was hearing the experience of others who had made healthy changes and recognizing that the potential exists in all of us to make improvements in our lives. It came down to recognizing that I had the information, the tools I needed, and an activity where I could dictate my own pace. I started visualizing the changes I was hoping to make and that gave me my incentive. I started running in small increments – it didn’t matter that I was only running a couple hundred meters before I needed a break. I didn’t have to wait very long to notice some improvements. Taking on a new challenge and finding some success improved my outlook. I wasn’t winded by climbing a set of stairs anymore. I discovered for myself, that on days where I was particularly stressed, being active relieved some tension and also created a safe space where I could be productive with my stress and think things through before I took action.

After some considerable weight loss and some strides forward with finding balance in my lifestyle, I hope that by sharing a little bit of what I’ve found, others might find something that sparks a thought or resonates with them. I’m no fitness expert, but I can definitely attest to the fact that you stand to gain much more than you might initially think by increasing your level of activity.

So think it over. Take a walk, go for a hike, or give jogging a chance. Nido Qubein, author and motivational speaker, is quoted as saying, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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Tales from the man cave: Why should I care about my health?

rich is being healthy

“Rich” is being healthy in mind, body and spirit.

If I had a million dollars
I’d be rich the song tells us. But what really is being rich? Would a million make me happier? Oh yeah, but maybe just for a little while.

Being healthy is being rich
Rich in mind, body and spirit. Healthy in relationships at home, at work, and in the community, and for all this you need a good balance of work/rest, diet, exercise and self-care of the spiritual kind, whatever that means to you. That could be reading an inspirational book, looking at art going to musical shows or meditation and prayer. There are as many pathways to the spiritual as there are creatures.

Mental health
A colleague reminded me that when I disregard my own health, I am disregarding the health and well-being of those who love me. That startled me a little.

The story runs like this: I am tough, I only whine at my spouse when I have a cold, but out of the house I am a real hero and there is nothing wrong with me. Cool! That’s what men are like… or are we?

Men are not indestructible
We are not indestructible but each unique man is certainly irreplaceable. Men are under stress: working demanding jobs, being fathers, lovers, etc. Just being men is stressful, I suppose, dealing with an ever-changing world with its ever-changing values.

We are not weak
When we worry, we are not weak, but sometimes we just don’t want to know if there is something wrong.

Oh, if illness was so simple
We are at risk for prostate and colorectal cancer in greater numbers than before, as well as heart disease and lung disease, and alarmingly, increased suicide risk.

Visit our men’s health site for more info about this. You need to.

Some of the things we don’t want to know about can kill us, so it’s good to be aware of two things: our tendency towards toughing it out and our tendency to bury our heads in the sand.

Lads let’s get regular checkups even with the risk that they find ‘something.’ If not for ourselves then maybe, more importantly, let’s do it for those who love us.

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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Food: Much more than nutrition

Husking corn

Food prep can be a way to bring people together.

I’ve been following this month’s healthy living blog posts with great interest. I enjoy making efforts to live a healthy and active lifestyle and it makes me feel at home to see how other people are taking strides to do the same thing.

However, I’ve read a million times in a million places the message that “food is fuel” – we need healthy food to fuel our bodies with high-quality energy and nutrients. I’ve also heard the message that if the food is sourced close to home, then it’s a better choice for my community. The message that I feel is missing so far is that food is more than fuel.

Food is pleasurable; it’s a reflection of culture and plays a role in traditions and social settings. It can tantalize our senses with different tastes, smells, and textures. The Northern Health guidelines (position paper) on healthy eating also recognize this. Quoting a 2005 study from the Canadian Journal of Public Health on Aboriginal traditions, the paper notes:

…the consumption of traditional foods is more than just about eating; it is the endpoint of a series of culturally meaningful processes involved in the harvesting, processing, distribution, and preparation of these foods.

My family and I harvest and prepare foods together; in the summer we have a garden and, while it may or may not be fruitful, I enjoy the time that we spend together caring for the plants and watching them grow. Even if we are “harvesting” our food from the grocery store, I enjoy that time together, considering the food we’re buying and how we’re going to prepare it. Preparing and serving the food to family and friends serves as a gathering for conversations and sharing that may not happen otherwise.

Thinking about the pleasure that food can give us, I don’t know if there is a silver bullet solution to finding the balance between food as pleasure and food as fuel. However, I have learned a couple ways to help me find balance:

  • Exercise control (when you have it) – Most days (e.g. routine work days) I make every effort to eat the quality fuel we talk about from Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Savour social settings – Other days we have events or opportunities to savour things we may not get to on a regular basis (e.g. birthday parties or when travelling). In these settings, I take the opportunity to enjoy the pleasurable side of food (with moderation in mind).

This balance between exercising control and savouring the opportunities helps me to enjoy the pleasurable side of food and my physical and emotional well-being. What are some ways that you balance eating for health and eating for pleasure?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement 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 takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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Finding your own balance of health

Loraina with her horses

Loraina, shown here with her horses, offers eight points to help find healthy balance in your daily life.

To me, being healthy is a process and a goal to work towards and maintain. It’s about finding a balance that works for me and my family. As a mom of four kids, a wife, a Northern Health employee and a business owner, life is hectic. Today, it seems it’s harder to balance.  I’m always wondering, “How do we fit everything we need to do in a day, a week or a month anyway?”

I have listed eight points below that run through my head in my journey towards a better health balance. Being healthy, making healthy food choices and doing activities I like make it easier for me to make the healthy choice the easy choice!

  • Acknowledge – Yes, there is such a thing as work-life balance and procrastination.
  • Assess – I take time to sort out where I’m at with healthy eating and active living goals, thinking broader to physical, social, mental, and spiritual health. How does that compare with other family members?
  • Recognize – Each family member is at very different levels of success with healthy eating versus active living activities, and each of us has our own priorities. What’s key is to celebrate successes at all levels! Small changes can really help begin to balance the scale towards health.
  • Identify strengths – This helps me to focus on what I may need to work on more. If I’m good at one area, it doesn’t mean I’ll be as good in another area. I am amazing at packing healthy lunches for work and my colleagues will testify to that. However, I’m not doing as well at getting to my morning swim or the lunch-hour walk I really want to do. My strength is healthy eating but I need to focus on my physical activity levels and getting more movement every day.
  • Identify barriers – Figuring out what is supportive or what is not is pretty important.  Learning about why you’re not easily able to make the changes you want may help identify some solutions.
  • Try, learn and try again – Understand what motivates you (internally and externally) and don’t give up. Find ways to chuckle when you’re not doing as well as you want but also recognize that the goal is balance, not perfection.
  • Keep track – Moving plans into action and tracking them really helps me with healthy living goals – this is important for long-term behavior change. So I track my actions, challenges and try to celebrate successes. I often use my calendar for this and I find it helps me to check in on how I’m doing. I invite you to do the same and to share your ideas to connect, support and inspire others to understand that their health matters!
  • Take a peek into my world – These new guidelines around healthy living (the NH position papers) are something northerners can be really proud of. I must say, as an NH population health dietitian I have a bit of a bias towards the third one: eating, activity and weight.

How do you find a healthy balance?

[Editor’s note: Don’t forget to enter the Week 3 Challenge for your chance to win a selection of cookbooks!]

Loraina Stephen

About Loraina Stephen

Loraina is a population health dietitian working in a regional lead role for external food policy, which supports initiatives to develop healthy eating, community food security and food policy for the north. Loraina was born and raised in the north, and has a busy lifestyle. Having grown up enjoying food grown from family gardens, hunting, and gathering, and enjoying northern outdoor activities, she draws on those experiences to keep traditions strong for her family, in her work and at play. (Loraina no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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