Category Archives: Making Life Good Recommends

What to look for in a health and wellness professional

At this uncertain time in the world maintaining our health is more important than ever and in some ways it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the limitless amount of information coming through at our fingertips. One can use the internet to learn about almost any topic. When it comes to health, is internet research the best course of action? The short answer is no, it is not a good idea play Dr Google and become an overnight expert on your own condition. There is a lot of individuality in health and we all need guidance.

We all need good health and wellness professionals to help us take care of ourselves. Some of us are more privileged and can invest more in these services. In Canada, we have universal health care and it remains important to advocate for ourselves. We can better advocate for our own health and empower ourselves with knowledge by developing good relationships with health professionals.

Having been in the field of health and wellness for over 20 years, here are my recommendations on what to look for when you are seeking professional health related services:

Client/patient centred care: The professional prioritizes your needs and is dedicated to serving to your best interests. If a professional comes recommended by a friend, ask them about their experience with that professional. There are new professionals that are amazing right off the bat, so a long history in practice is not necessary. It is always about your comfort level with the professional.

Education: There are many forms of ‘alternative/natural’ health service offerings where the professional is trained with courses, certifications, degrees, diplomas and seminars of varying standards. More formal education for a professional in the field of health, shows a commitment to learning, which promotes improvement in practice. In an ideal world, we would have more integrated health care- a professional with education in science can help you receive the best of care in alternative health and conventional medicine. Most health services have a price range for that field, and generally speaking, the slightly higher investment in the more educated professional is an excellent value for the level of expertise they bring.

Communication and relational skills: The professional is an excellent listener, is able to understand your needs and concerns AND educate you on best practices to improve your condition. You need to feel comfortable with the professional and how they relate with you. A sense of humour always helps!

Integrity: Does this professional practice what they preach and lead by example? Adhering to ethical standards shows integrity- how does the professional handle various situations and potential conflicts of interest?

Empowerment and motivation: A great health and wellness professional is able to educate and advise you so that you gain an understanding on how to improve your health and feel motivated to do so for your own well being. Having been in the field of fitness for so long, I have heard many times, a trainer needs to look the part. I have never fully embraced this concept, as health cannot be judged by appearances alone. While there may be some short term motivation in seeing an ideal you wish to become, remember that our bodies are always changing. Learning ways to manage your own well being at any stage in life are lasting life skills, while looking great for a few months (especially if it involves a diet) is quite transient.

These are guidelines I have used myself in choosing various health professionals to work with to my great satisfaction, as I have worked with some wonderful people. As you may know, I have been studying Traditional Chinese Medicine the past 4 years and have recently started practicing acupuncture. Choosing a professional to give you acupuncture needs further guidance-although it may be a bit biased coming from me, since I am very sensitive to and afraid of needles! Acupuncture is a form of therapy where needles are inserted into specific sites to elicit some form of change in the body. Yes, a needle (hopefully fine and gently inserted) goes into your body(!) To me, this is a big deal, so I have been very picky about allowing needles to be inserted into my body. I have experienced a few mishaps with being needled and it took some time along with great beneficial effects before I became a believer in acupuncture. I actually went from being quite skeptical of acupuncture to being a believer, which amazes me. Many classmates learning of my aversion to needles asked why are you even studying acupuncture? I was interested in traditional chinese medicine first and foremost, herbs were the priority and acupuncture was part of the program. A young lady who is also afraid of needles mentioned acupuncture was recommended for her and she decided she needed to seek out a practitioner that specialized in giving acupuncture, which is an excellent plan in general and especially if you are nervous. Quite a few licensed health professionals are free to give acupuncture after weekend courses for training. This goes back to my recommendation above for education. Someone who has studied acupuncture for 4 years is different than someone who studied for 3 weeks. Feel free to ask questions. Your body is being ‘punctured’, so feeling comfortable with a practitioner takes on even more importance. If you are at all nervous or afraid of needles, it is imperative that the practitioner is empathetic and helps you feel comfortable. If you get the feeling they don’t really care about your concerns- run fast!

At this time of high stress, we really need to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. There is a health and wellness professional around you that can help you feel better.

Cheers to your journey towards making life good with maintaining your optimal health

https://www.mahayaforesthill.com/vivian-law/

Vivian Recommends September 2020

September marks the end of summer and the start of fall, a time of transition. In years past, I’ve seen people get more serious about their fitness at this time. Things seem different this year, so it is a good idea to work on the habit being active any time of the year. It’s not necessary to be serious, just get moving more regularly.

I’ve continued reading for fun and always for learning and last weekend I read an article where Warren Buffet highly endorses this habit as a way of going to bed smarter each day. Here are some books I recommend:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline-a fantastic read that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set in a not so distant future, which seems quite plausible at this time. Many thanks to my friend K who gave me this book years ago

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth-a serious and interesting book that gives insight on the assumptions made in the economic models that drive our society and self interest. We can all do our part to regenerate the earth and care for others.

Chaos Point 2012 and Beyond by Ernest Lazlo-this book was on my list for some time and the themes very much echoed those in Doughnut Economics in how we must consider our impact on the environment and our consciousness.

I’ve recommended the Centre of Humane Technology podcast and this month there was a film that featured Tristan Harris, which shows the impact of technology on our well being, the Social Dilemma is a must watch film:

https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224

Last week, a client recommended blue light glasses to use while on the computer. These glasses (available online and at Staples) have made such a difference in making computer work easier on my eyes. It’s kind of amazing to purchase a device that ‘protects’ me from technology, go figure.

Making Life Good Recommends August 2020

It has been lovely to enjoy the Canadian summer weather even although things are so different than summers past. Outdoor reading is best at this time.

Here are some books I enjoyed and recommend this month:

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan. Another fun and frivolous novel by the author of Crazy Rich Asians. Quite perfect escapism while travel is limited

Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza. This book was a truly inspiring read that combines technical understanding of what happens during deep meditation and real life stories of healing. Great reminder to meditate and open your mind daily.

Stand Out of Our Light by James Williams. Great quick read that shows us some ways technology affects our attention and our lives along with some philosophy

In relation to technology I have enjoyed many episodes of this podcast, this is of particular interest since I do not appreciate the auto recommendations on you tube or spotify. This podcast explains what is behind the autoplay:

https://www.humanetech.com/podcast/4-down-the-rabbit-hole-by-design

Being in the field of natural health, I have observed some a disturbing trend of adamant misinformation along with a lack of critical thinking. I’ve been following the Conspirituality podcast and it brings great discussion:

Making Life Good Recommends July 2020

This month marks 20 years of being a fitness trainer for me. With a worldwide pandemic, life certainly is very different, which requires adaptation and at the same time maintaining our health and fitness is more important than ever. Traditional chinese medicine acupuncture will soon be an additional service I offer. Fitness remains my first love and I very much hope to get back to teaching classes again soon.

It has been my habit to read every book that inspires me or comes highly recommended for many years now. I started keeping track of what I read over a decade ago when a friend asked how many books I read in a year. My answer was 20 and when I actually checked to be sure I was telling the truth…it was the truth and the number of books has only increased over the years. What is measured, improves-

Here are my book recommendations for this month:

Atomic Habits by James Clear-great book that breaks down how we can make effective small changes that add up to be consistent new habits that vastly improve our live.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg-I cannot recommend Atomic Habits without also recommending this book, as it was also an excellent perhaps slightly more entertaining book. I very much appreciated learning about the ways our habits are shaped without our knowing.

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols-this book came to by attention based on this clip: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts In this current environment of rampant misinformation, I found this book to be helpful in comprehending how we came to this sad state of affairs. I laughed a few times and also realized the gravity of having large groups of people be led by their feelings and bypassing any form of reasoning. One of the recommendations Tom Nichols had for having a more functional democracy is for the American population to be more engaged in civics and understand their political system. Interestingly, just before finishing the book, I learned of A Starting Point platform which Captain America (Chris Evans) launched for the purpose of educating and engaging more of the population https://www.astartingpoint.com

Being in the field of health and fitness, it has been so disheartening to find so much misinformation being shared on social media. This podcast was incredibly informative in understanding the forces behind the phenomenon: https://rebelwisdom.podbean.com/e/can-truth-survive-big-tech-tristan-harris/

This TED talk is shorter: https://www.ted.com/talks/tristan_harris_how_a_handful_of_tech_companies_control_billions_of_minds_every_day?language=en

So we really must be mindful of where we place our attention, plus sanity doesn’t sell

Vivian Recommends June 2020

This has been a challenging time, as gyms are still closed and I have been unable to engage with my pretend cult of fitness, a joke I like to tell at my classes. I thought about writing a rant or at least a strong statement for what I stand for and then realized I have had this blog for 8 years. I have held myself to the standard of speaking lasting truths and share positive energy, so this body of work can grow…I better stick with that and here are some recommendations I have:

I read a few books this month and I highly recommend:

Defending Jacob by William Landay. I watched the Apple Tv show of the same name first and found the emotional story along with the character’s perception of reality to be very engaging. Both the book and the show are great.

Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza. This is a fantastic book that goes into the neuroscience of how emotions are held in the body and how we can rewire our minds to build a better version of ourselves.

Deep and Simple by Bo Lozoff. This is a book that Mr Rogers bought many copies of to give away and he lived by the principle himself in his shows of delivering a message that was deep and simple. Great book on important philosophies to adopt in life

These articles:

It has been my experience lately and it has also been building up in the past few years that it has become more challenging to have a civil discussion, where both sides are actually heard. It seems more and more people are experts of their own right with no education in addition to feeling entitled to impose their opinions.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts

Looking deeper into the Buddhist philosophy I came across this article:

It’s a long one and such a great reminder in what a mindfulness practice actually involves.

Here is a hilarious album by Chromeo, a Canadian band my brother and I discovered at a Canadian music week many years ago. The name Quarantine Casanova says it all and my fave track is Roni’s Got me Stressed Out:

This meditation I have managed to do a few times this month and have found it to be so helpful, building on the practice of the concepts Joe Dispenza teaches:

https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/dr-joe-dispenza-guided-space-meditation/id955266444?i=1000335916470

Hope you find these recommendations helpful in making life good-

Mindful isolation living

Our daily in life in Canada changed very suddenly a couple weeks ago with the closing of schools and businesses. Having seen the lockdown that happened in China a couple months ago, it seemed implausible that we would see such restriction of freedom here in North America with our cultural norms being so different. When I saw the news of lockdown for friends in Italy, I learned there is no discrimination for a virus. This is a global issue that will be resolved most effectively with the collective cooperation of humanity as a whole.

The field of health and wellness involves connecting with and being around groups of people. Traditional chinese medicine which I’m about to start practicing involves physical touch for diagnosis. It has been a real adjustment to learn and accept that work I know as essential to being healthy is considered a health risk at the moment. All human contact is viewed as a potential health risk for now. How will this affect our psyche in the long term?

How do we cope with our world being so suddenly disrupted? Surely, we will be distracted on some level and we need to find a way to bring ourselves back to balance. The best way to optimize emotional, mental, physical balance and health is to focus on what is within our control. Top priority being how we utilize our time. Depending on our field of work and family situation, we may be busier than usual, adjusting to working from home or completely out of work with time on our hands. For all situations, we need to own our time and cultivate acceptance for the present moment.

Here are some mindful habits I recommend to feel more at peace at this uncertain time:

  • Practice meditation daily, any form for any length of time. I’ve made it a habit to start and end the day with meditation with additional short pieces at sunset and 3 minutes at 9pm daily to join in a collective meditation with friends around the world.
  • Prioritize sleep. With a pandemic illness circulating around the world and no treatment available, the defence is to be as strong and healthy as you can. Sleep is crucial to having optimal health and wellness.
  • Limit the amount of news or social media you consume as it can affect your emotional/mental well being and focus. I decided to stay away from one form of social media and notice feeling much better.
  • Get into a consistent hand washing habit and sanitize your smart phone and computer keyboard with alcohol frequently
  • Maintain healthy eating habits-drinking water, eating veggies and fruit daily, minimizing caffeine intake, and moderate alcohol intake
  • Get fresh air and physical activity daily. We have limited access to fitness facilities at the moment and we’ll need to be creative with the resources and space we have for now. A yoga mat is sufficient to practice yoga, some weights, gliders, tubing, anything that works in your space for strength training.
  • Be creative, try something new! Cook, dance, draw, garden, sing, write, anything that inspires you. Take the opportunity to work on something you’ve always meant to.
  • Most importantly connect with family and friends any way we can, practice gratitude together and reflect on how fortunate we are to be Canadian and we are all in this together with the world.

Healthy Eating On Holiday

It’s been a week of fun in the sun with my good friend and fellow fitness professional K here in Jamaica. We taught fitness classes and enjoyed some amazing food…all included! Being fitness professionals we need to stay in shape, so I’ll share my strategies for eating all you can within reason for the sake of being healthy:

-The buffet is your friend for healthy eating with the most choice of healthy foods- prepared vegetables and fruit. Take the great variety of food as a visual meditation to see which foods you will most enjoy for that meal.

-Make it your plan to have one plate of food with an additional plate for dessert or extra food you like.

-Your main plate, start with your choices for veggies first, then add your choices of carbs and protein to create your own custom meal.

-Take time to thoroughly enjoy your meal, then check in to see if you are still hungry. If so, get some more food, otherwise take a breather and enjoy another course.

-I love desserts, so that is always on my list at a buffet. Depending on the size of the treats, I choose one or two pieces and enjoy with some fruit at the end of a meal. Papaya and pineapple contain digestive enzymes to help digest food.

-Be sure to get some exercise in between enjoying all the delicious food

Exercise Intensity: the cult of sweat

Teaching more group classes I notice January can bring more people into the gym in developing a new habit of exercise. Exercise is a lifelong habit I believe in wholeheartedly. Last week I came to the conclusion I have a passion for exercise and physical education that can be humorously described as belonging to the ‘cult of sweat’.

There seems to be a general trend to ‘high intensity’ exercise which led me to look further at the research and various programs that are widely available. It seems the concept that short, high intensity interval workouts produced more ‘results’ of fat loss has been accepted as a most effective workout to achieve an ideal body composition and overall fitness.

‘High intensity’ exercises require you to utilize most major muscle groups of your body and some of the movements can be complex compound movements. For example, a ‘burpee’ requires a pushup, squat, moving into a plank, jump to a squat and vertical jump. Many new and seasoned exercisers need work to improve any of the above mentioned movements and the emphasis on ‘intensity’ allows for poorly executed movements.

There is no magic bullet to being fit and healthy. It requires commitment and regular practice to have exercise as a part of your lifestyle. Being fit, which I will define as being able to perform a variety of physical activities and movements requires BOTH cardio vascular and strength training. HIIT workouts can only be performed well once you have the fitness to sustain physical activity at a higher heart rate AND have developed the basic strength movement skills of squats, planks, pushups, lunges, etc.

Make it your goal to keep yourself healthy and moving well with a variety of exercise you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy exercise, you still need to move regularly to be healthy and maybe one day you will enjoy it.

The Best Pizza in Toronto

My bestie Kathryn and I love pizza. We have eaten a lot of pizza in our time around the world. She knows a pizza blogger and we’ve decided we need to share our pizza picks. We are qualified pizza connoisseurs because we’re living the dream when we eat pizza by a pool with Taylor Swift blaring. This project became more serious last year when we conducted a pizza taste test and were surprised to learn that Blaze pizza, a chain from the US was a real winner with their spicy sauce. Since then we have tried a few pizzas and here is our list so far, which will be updated as we try more pizza. 

  • 1. Blaze Pizza (150 John St)-We are huge fans of Blaze pizza for the spicy sauce, the gluten free crust option, and all the toppings you can choose for yourself. The pizzas are made to order and are thin crust deliciousness. 
  • 2. General Assembly Pizza (318 Adelaide St W)-This pizza is a winner with a light, thin, slightly chewy crust made to order from a menu of interesting topping combinations. The kale salad is excellent. 
  • 3. Via Mercanti (188 Augusta Ave)-Italian style pizza with just the right amount of chew that tastes homemade and professional, like nonna would make. 
  • 4. Farm Boy (1005 Lakeshore Boulevard E)-makes a pretty tasty cauliflower pizza for people on restricted carbohydrate diets. I was willing to eat this pizza and it was more than acceptable-good news!

Restful Sleep

As a traditional chinese medicine practitioner in training, natural wholistic health(lifestyle) is integral to the treatment approach. Having been in the field of health and fitness for 19 years this week, I learned many years ago that sleep is hugely important to being truly healthy. Sleep is a healthy habit that requires daily practice. Sleep restores your body and mind-it needs to be a priority. For many years I have advised people that quality sleep comes before the ambitious start to exercise first thing in the morning. It is also easier to make healthier food choices with better sleep. Sleep, exercise and nutrition are 3 pillars of being healthy.

Sleep has had much more air time in the field of health information in recent years. What actually happens with a person’s sleep is a different story, as sleep is a subjective experience. Here are my views on what quality sleep is:

  1. Falling asleep easily in a relaxed state
  2. Staying asleep with possible waking for urination
  3. Waking up feeling energized and well rested 7-8 hours later

This is the sleep standard I strive for. There are plenty of nights that are below this standard, and I keep practicing. Being able to manage your emotions and daily stressors is helpful to relaxing at the end of a day and letting go to fall asleep. Staying asleep and/or falling back asleep easily is a condition that I find traditional chinese medicine to be extremely helpful for. Waking up feeling energized, I find comes naturally with the habit of regular exercise, and being enthusiastic about life. Well rested, the science shows 7-8 hours of sleep is needed for optimal health. Consider it a required investment of 7-8 hours to start the day on the right track, so you can live well.