Healthy Living in the North

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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Choosing the choice of health

Theresa Healy running

Theresa Healy, loving running her first 5km race.

In less than a year of starting to exercise regularly and adding healthier choices to her diet, Theresa Healy, Northern Health’s regional manager for healthy community development, says she feels physically and mentally stronger – the best she has felt in her whole life. Last summer, Theresa was diagnosed with a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. After receiving the news, and struggling to come to terms with such a startling shift in her identity, she decided it was time to take action. I had the privilege to talk to her about her initial struggle and personal health breakthrough.

The first move that Theresa made was to monitor her diet. She didn’t completely cut out some temptations, such as chocolate, but she was committed to moderation.

“If I cut it out completely, it would be impossible for me to stick with it but, telling myself I could have some, helps me say no, at least most of the time,” says Theresa.

The second change was to become more active. She started with taking her two little dogs for extra walks, and after awhile, decided she would up the ante and try running.

“I never thought running would appeal to me. It seemed the epitome of boredom. But I decided I would try. Surprise – I loved it!”

To start off, Theresa set a target of five kilometers as the distance she would like to run. At first, she became exhausted after trying to run for even one minute straight and would have to take a breather. That’s where technology kicked in. Theresa found a free app for her smart phone called “Couch to Five K,” which sets bench marks for a person getting back into running or trying it for the first time. It started off with a two minute run, five minute walk cycle, and eventually progressed to the point where Theresa can now complete a warm-up walk of five minutes, run steadily and easily for 30 minutes, and cool down with a walk for five minutes.

After she was able to successfully run for 30 minutes straight, Theresa needed a new challenge. To keep pushing herself, she decided to enter her first 5km race. She finished the race in just over 37 minutes, something Theresa is very proud of. Now she looks to not only improve her time on the 5km race, but also improve her stamina as she prepares for a half marathon that she will run next year.

Theresa’s drive and determination to meet and exceed her goals is inspiring. She also now attends a gym to lift weights and work out in various other ways to stay fit.

“I got six free sessions with a trainer who didn’t want me running every day,” she says. “I was pretty peeved at first. I had just found something I liked and I was being told not to do it. Of course now I enjoy the gym as much as the running. I don’t have a six pack yet, more like a three and a half pack, but feeling fit is an amazing sensation. I don’t think I have been this fit since I played field hockey for my school – at 14 years old!”

After talking to Theresa and hearing her story, I think the key points to take from her experience are to set an achievable goal, to make a plan on how you will get there (like finding an app or program that guides you through the process or a friend that will push you along), and to put in the work. If you don’t put in the work, you won’t get the results.

Working in the health care industry herself, Theresa believes in promoting healthy choices to others. “We have to do it too. In order to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk,” she says in regards to healthy eating and active living.

I can tell you, Theresa is definitely living up to what she is promoting!

Jonathon Dyck

About Jonathon Dyck

Jonathon is a communications officer at Northern Health. Originally from Airdrie, Alberta, Jonathon has a broadcasting diploma from Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and a BA with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Jonathon enjoys golf, hockey, curling, hiking, biking, and canoeing. He is also an avid sports fan and attends as many sporting events as humanly possible, including hockey, soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball, and lacrosse. (Jonathon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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