Healthy Living in the North

Moving and eating well on road trips

Lasalle Lake is pictured. There's a floating dock in the lake, and forest and mountains in the background.

The view of Lasalle Lake — a beautiful way to break up the trip between Prince George and Valemount!

Even though it feels like summer is flying by, it’s only mid-August, and there’s still plenty of summer-road-trip time before the weather turns! I love me a road trip: the conversation that arises from being in a car with someone for hours; the tunes and the awful, off-key karaoke; and all of the stops along the way!

Those stops are generally for any combination of food, scenery, or a bio-break, but there’s also a great health benefit. After hours of sitting, it’s important to move! The same concerns that you hear around sedentary workplaces and lifestyles apply to long-distance travel. While it’s great to get to your destination ASAP, sitting less and moving more is always a good choice.

Admittedly, I’m not great at making the kinds of stops that make for positive heath impacts, but my wife loves to get out and enjoy the scenery. Recently, before heading home to Prince George from Valemount, she asked a local if there was a good lake to stop at on our route home. He told us to check out Lasalle Lake, and it was gorgeous! On top of enjoying a stunning view, stopping gave us a chance to get some steps in (time that we counted towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week), have a stretch, and take a swim before carrying on. That stop added a nice “bonus” memory to the trip too! And it was as easy as asking someone, followed by a quick search on Google Maps. Just remember to always choose a location that suits your fitness level.

I also find planning to stop at an outdoor location challenges us to pack a lunch in a cooler, which usually ends up being healthier than the fast food options on the side of the highway. We usually do sandwiches, but sometimes we treat ourselves to a little meat and cheese board (nom-nom-nom!). Regardless of how healthy we pack, we always feel less rushed and enjoy our food more when we’ve found a nice spot to relax. As the primary driver, I always feel more refreshed and in a better headspace for driving too.

Do you have a favourite place to stop between destinations? What’s in your picnic basket when you stop for lunch? Let me know in the comments below, and safe travels!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Setting SMART goals

This article was written with the support of Mandy Levesque and Marianne Bloudoff. Visit our contributors page for more information about all of our blog authors.


With shorter days and cooler temperatures upon us, many will consider spending more time inside. However, it’s important to keep in mind that our bodies need to keep moving to stay healthy!

We now have more information about how spending the majority of our time sitting is not good for our health. We know that decreased physical activity raises our risk for a number of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can also affect our mental health.

This time of year provides us with a good opportunity to consider physical activity levels, and these tips will help steer you in the right direction:

Set goals for yourself and your family to meet Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.

Adults need 150 minutes of activity per week. Break that down and it’s just over 20 minutes per day, which should be achievable for most people.

If you’re just starting out, start slow. You can even break the guideline down to bouts of 10 minutes at a time, gradually working your way up to meet the recommendations. The biggest goal for all of us is to move more and sit less every day!

These goals apply to children as well. To achieve health benefits, kids need 60 minutes of activity per day. Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone!

Table defining the SMART goal acronym and providing a sample active living goal.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. What are your SMART goals for 2016?

Set SMART goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Grab a fitness buddy or activity partner.

Finding someone with whom to share our physical activity goals is one of the best motivators to keep us invested in staying active. Find someone who will go walking or try a new activity with you and make a plan! You’ll get to socialize with your friends or family and it won’t even seem like exercise! This goes for kids, too!

Wear proper footwear.

Having the right footwear for activity will ensure comfort and the ability to continue with the activity of choice. If you’re outside, make sure to have the appropriate footwear with good grip. You can also purchase additional grips for your shoes! Many communities offer indoor walking programs during the winter as well! Walking is one of the single most beneficial things for our health as almost anyone can do it and it’s free!

This winter, I would encourage you to take these tips, find an activity you enjoy, and have a very happy end to 2015 and start to 2016!

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.)


Helping or Harming:  Reflections from 20 years of being a Dietitian

A crowd of people attends a farmers' market

“Healthy” comes in all shapes and sizes.

Oh, the conviction of youth!  Long gone are the unshakable beliefs from my dietetic internship about how to define “healthy” and the importance of weight in preventing disease. Twenty years have passed and, in that time, I’ve worked in five different provinces with a variety of patients and partner organizations. For instance, young families; schools; clients living with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and disordered eating; and seniors in care homes, all of whom came from very diverse backgrounds.  In nearly every case, health was defined, in part, by weight. Today, I question that belief. Why? Because I’ve seen so many instances where a subtle emphasis on weight has contributed to some harm.

I’ve learned that while weight is often one of the first lines of treatment when someone is diagnosed with a chronic disease, research tells us that less than one percent of people successfully keep weight off after four years, and usually regain the lost weight plus some. In the end, after treatment, people are at a higher weight and often feel bad about themselves. This can’t be good for health.  Does it make sense to promote a treatment that is doomed to fail?

The recommendation to lose weight perpetuates something called the “thin ideal” (believing that a slim body is the standard for beauty and health), which is based on an assumption that people defined as “overweight” (as per the problematic standard of BMI or body mass index) eat poorly, too often, and do not move enough. My twenty years of experience tell me that this is not the case. Rather, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes and are supported by healthy and intuitive eating, active living, and positive self-esteem. Thus, a better plan is to focus on supporting everyone, no matter their size, to live well.

The “thin ideal” has normalized weight bias and stigma, where we live, work, play, and are cared for. What is weight bias and weight stigma?

  • Weight bias is a negative judgement of someone because of their weight, shape and/or size.
  • Weight stigma is what a person experiences when weight bias happens to them.

Weight bias and stigma can seem harmless and might even be done in the spirit of helpfulness, but it still hurts. Examples of weight stigma include:

  • Refusing to offer dessert to someone and/or questioning whether someone “needs” that serving of dessert because of their size.
  • Using headless images of “overweight” people or images of “overweight” people being sedentary in handouts and presentations.
  • Using the word “fat” as an insult instead of what it is, which is a physical description of body composition.
  • Assuming someone is unhealthy if “overweight” or healthy if “underweight” or “normal weight.”
  • Failing to offer healthy food at school because “we don’t have fat kids at our school” (yes, one school actually gave this as a reason why they didn’t need to follow the Guidelines for the Sale of Food and Beverages in BC Schools!).

Weight bias needs to stop.  It starts with us thinking about what our own biases and assumptions about weight might be (take the Weight Implicit Attitudes Test) and developing respect and empathy for people who are impacted by weight bias. Last week was Weight Stigma Awareness Week, but it’s an issue that we need to be aware of all year round. Learn more here.

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.


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 Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Getting off the couch

We want to see more empty couches!

We want to see more empty couches! Remember, every move counts!

We are all living increasingly busier lives, with work and family commitments taking up more and more of our time. After a long day of work, veggin’ out in front of a TV screen is usually the most attractive option. Since September is the Healthy Living Challenge month, I thought that I would try to use some of the key principles found in the Sedentary and Physical Inactivity position paper, which outlines some important points to help people thinking about increasing their physical activity during the day. I want to share with you two important principles that the position outlines:

  • Consider how ready you are for activity right now. Starting with what is comfortable now, increase either how long you’re active or how hard you work, as long as you are comfortable.
  • Set incremental, SMART goals (SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and are Time-bound); set a ultimate or long-term goal.

With this in mind, in September, I am going to use the gradual approach and engage in activities that interest me like golfing, fishing, and playing tennis. Over the course of the month I will gradually increase my activity levels.

It is important to note that getting active doesn’t necessarily mean buying a golf course membership, or purchasing expensive equipment – you just need to begin to replace inactive time with active time! I think if we all live under the principle that every move counts, we can find ways to increase activity and incorporate more movement throughout our day in a way that works for us and our individual lifestyles. When it comes to being active, there are many choices and in this case, being an individual is good; one size doesn’t fit all. Find what works best for you! Later this month, my colleagues will demonstrate in a blog post how you can incorporate movement in the office and during meetings.

Stay tuned this week when I post my progress increasing my activity levels by doing the things that interest me. I also encourage you to learn more about all of our guidelines for living a healthier life.

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling. (Brandon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)