Obesity in Canada

Yesterday, the Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released their report on the state of obesity in Canada.

Included in that report is a series of 21 recommendations.

As a health/fitness/politics junkie, this report is like catnip to me, so I was pretty eager to get my grubby little paws on a copy.

Let’s take a look inside….

obesity in canada

The Cost of Obesity in Canada

The committee’s findings show the vast scope of this epidemic:

  • Each year 48,000 to 66,000 Canadians die from conditions linked to excess weight;
  • Nearly two thirds of adults and one third of children are obese or overweight; and
  • Obesity costs Canada between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion annually in health care and lost productivity

In short: Canada’s obesity problem is way too big to be ignored

How did this happen???

1. Nutrition

In terms of eating habits, the committee was told that since the 1980s, Canadians have decreased their intake of high fat foods and increased intakes of fruits and vegetables, as recommended by the food guide. However, consumption of processed, ready-to-eat and snack foods have shown the largest increase over this period.

Over this period of time (80s – present), a review of Canada’s food guide reveals that Canadians have been told to switch…

  • from a diet of a modest number of daily servings reflecting a balance of whole foods
  • to a low fat diet that permits significantly more servings per day, a large proportion of which should be grain products, or carbohydrates.

The committee was told that, as a result, the food guide may be recommending a diet that is nutritionally insufficient with respect to vitamins D and E, potassium and choline and that only by eating artificially fortified and highly-processed cereals can the diet provide adequate levels of calcium, iron and vitamin B12

  • According to 2012 data only 40% of Canadians are eating even the lower recommended number of fruit and vegetables per day, 5 servings.
  • The food guide recommends that adults should be consuming closer to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

At the same time, Manuel Arango, of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, indicated that as much as 62% of the Canadian diet can be categorized as highly-processed, a percentage that has been rising in recent decades at the expense of whole foods.

As a consequence of the increased intake of highly processed foods, sugar consumption has increased dramatically from 4 pounds annually per person 200 years ago to 151 pounds annually per person today.

The overwhelming consensus among witnesses with respect to food consumption trends was that the consequence of Health Canada’s evolving food guide and the increasing variety and availability of processed and ready-to-eat foods has been a pronounced decrease in consumption of whole foods and alarming increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods.

As a result, Canadians are eating too much calorie-rich and nutrient-poor food.

In short: Canadians eat too much processed food and not enough real food. 

2. Physical Activity (or lack thereof)

Regarding physical activity, the committee heard that the participation rate in organized sport among Canadians has not declined in recent decades, and may have increased. However, several witnesses emphasized that although participation in such activities is encouraged, it does not by itself ensure that Canadians, especially children, are getting sufficient exercise.

They described how many of these activities include a significant amount of sedentary time and that they tend to lead people into thinking that they are doing more than enough to be considered as being physically active. Members heard, for example, sports such as hockey, soccer or basketball include a lot of instruction time outside of games, and a lot of bench time during games, when participants are idle.

More importantly, several witnesses suggested that it is the decline in active, free play among children and a decline in the activities of daily living among adults that have primarily contributed to an overall decrease in physical activity.

In 2011 the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology  developed separate, evidence-based physical activity guidelines for four age-groups; children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

The physical activity guidelines recommend:

  • 180 minutes per day for toddlers and pre-schoolers,
  • 60 minutes a day for children and youth up to 17 years of age,
  • 150 minutes per week for adults aged 18-64 years including some bone and muscle strengthening exercises,
  • and similar guidance for seniors over 65 years with exercises aimed at improving balance and reducing the risk of falls.

In addition the guidelines recommend that:

  • children under four not be sedentary for more than one hour at a time.
  • Children and youth are advised to limit screen time to no more than two hours per day while limiting sedentary behaviour, indoor activities and motorized transport.

Unfortunately, a minority of Canadians are meeting these goals.

Although 50% of Canadians believe they meet the physical activity guidelines when asked, in fact, when objectively measured, only 15% of adults are actually getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

On average, Canadian adults obtain only 12 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day.

Similarly, children and youth are largely failing to meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise. According to Elio Antunes, President of ParticipACTION, less than 9% of children and youth are sufficiently active, and the proportion of active kids decreases with age.

The committee was told that only 7% of 5-11 years olds meet the physical activity guidelines and this proportion drops to only 4% for adolescents.

With respect to the sedentary guidelines, the committee heard that less than 15% of 3-4 year olds and only 24% of 5-17 year olds are meeting the recommendations.

In fact, members were told that children and youth are spending 38 to 42 hours per week in front of television, desktops, laptops, ipads and smartphones.

In short:  While we think we have increased our rates of physical activity via structured exercise (sports leagues, gym memberships, personal trainers, etc), we haven’t….our rates of daily physical activity continue to drop while our rates of sitting on our butts staring at screens have continued to rise.

To make it even worse, we are setting up our kids to be even lazier than we are.

So….what are we going to do about it???

In the discussions of what we can do to reverse the trend of obesity in Canada, participants kept coming back to Canada’s anti-smoking strategy.

Despite the obvious distinction that smoking is a completely unnecessary practice while eating is essential, witnesses noted several lessons that we have learned from the anti-smoking campaign:

  1. the anti-smoking strategy employed several different approaches implemented by different levels of government.
  2. the evidence-base of the negative health consequences had to be elucidated and presented clearly to Canadians.
  3. the strategy had to bring about a societal change in terms of how smoking was viewed.
  4. the change in behaviour would take time.
  5. the strategy would not be popular with the industry.
  6. and finally, the federal government provided the leadership for a pan-Canadian approach.

In their comparison of the anti-smoking strategy to any anti-obesity strategy, witnesses continued to emphasize the need for a comprehensive, health-in-all-policies, whole-of-society approach.

The committee was told that policies, wherever possible, should encourage or facilitate the pursuit of healthy lifestyles. In this regard, witnesses suggested that a health lens, should be applied to a range of policy development, across departments and across all levels of government. An effective all-of government platform would encourage the development of provincial and regional initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles. As such, the committee would like to see the federal government take aggressive measures to help Canadians achieve and maintain healthy weights.

In short:  While Canada’s successful anti-smoking strategy can serve as an effective model, we have to remember that obesity is a much more complex problem and as such requires a more comprehensive solution.

In that spirit, the “Obesity in Canada” Committee has come up with 21 suggestions for reversing Canada’s obesity problem.

Here’s the list….

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that the federal government, in partnership with the provinces and territories and in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, create and implement a National Campaign to Combat Obesity which includes goals, timelines and annual progress reports.

@healthhabits says:  This is exactly the kind of thing government should be good at. Bringing all sorts of disparate stakeholders together to work together towards a common goal. IMHO, this is a necessary step.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the federal government:

  • Immediately conduct a thorough assessment of the prohibition on advertising food to children in Quebec; and,
  • Design and implement a prohibition on the advertising of foods and beverages to children based on that assessment.

@healthhabits says:  Quebec has had a prohibition on the advertising of all food and beverages to children under the age of 13 under its Consumer Protection Act11 for many years. Studying the effectiveness of this program to determine if it should be rolled out nationwide makes sense to me.

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that the federal government:

  • Assess the options for taxation levers with a view to implementing a new tax on sugar-sweetened as well as artificially-sweetened beverages; and,
  • Conduct a study, and report back to this committee by December 2016, on potential means of increasing the affordability of healthy foods including, but not limited to, the role of marketing boards, food subsidies and the removal or reduction of existing taxes.

@healthhabits says:  Skip the study and just go ahead and slap a tax on sugar-sweetened as well as artificially-sweetened beverages AND take ALL of that money and use it to subsidize un-processed (aka real) food

Recommendation 4

The committee further recommends that the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada immediately:

  • Address the recommendations made by the Auditor General with respect to the Nutrition North program and report back to this committee on its progress by December 2016

@healthhabits says:  Northern communities are much worse off in terms of overall nutrition and the cost of nutritious food in particular. Canada’s north is one giant food desert. As such, it may require special (aka expensive) intervention.

Recommendation 5

The committee further recommends that the federal government conduct assessments of the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, the Working Income Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit with a view to determining how fiscal measures could be used to help Canadians of lower socio-economic status, including our Aboriginal population, choose healthy lifestyle options.

@healthhabits says:  Skip the assessment, ditch the tax credits. They are designed to reward the well off & ignore the poor…which is just plain stupid as the poor are the ones driving Canada’s obesity epidemic. If we want to save healthcare & improve economic productivity, any physical activity incentives need to be directed primarily at the poor & secondarily at more affluent Canadians.

Recommendation 6

The committee recommends that the Minister of Health immediately undertake a complete revision of Canada’s food guide in order that it better reflect the current state of scientific evidence. The revised food guide must:

  • Be evidence-based;
  • Apply meal-based rather than nutrient-based principles;
  • Effectively and prominently describe the benefits of fresh, whole foods compared to refined grains, ready-to-eat meals and processed foods; and,
  • Make strong statements about restricting consumption of highly processed foods.

@healthhabits says:  All of these four recommendations sound great. 

Recommendation 7

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health revise the food guide on the guidance of an advisory body which:

  • Comprises experts in relevant areas of study, including but not limited to nutrition, medicine, metabolism, biochemistry, and biology; and,
  • Does not include representatives of the food or agriculture industries.

@healthhabits says:  Agree 100%. Economic bias should not be allowed in Canada’s Food Guide…even if food lobbyists support an MPs re-election campaign.

Recommendation 8

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils, to minimize trans fat content in food, unless specifically permitted by regulation.

@healthhabits says:  Agree 100%

Recommendation 9

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health:

  • Reassess the daily value applied to total carbohydrates based on emerging evidence regarding dietary fat and the fat promoting nature of carbohydrates;
  • Ensure that the regulatory proposals for serving size have addressed all of the concerns raised by stakeholders during public consultation, and,
  • Require that the daily intake value for protein be included in the Nutrition Facts table.

@healthhabits says:  Every few years, nutrition experts flip-flop their positions on the relative healthfullness of the different macronutrients. One decade, we are supposed to avoid fat…then it’s carbs…then it’s “too much” protein, then we’re back to fats…and so on…

My suggestion is to avoid making blanket statements on the healthfullness (or lack thereof) of any macronutrient.

There is nothing wrong with eating fat or carbs or protein.

The problems start when people:

  • start eating excessive quantities of overall calories
  • demonize a single macronutrient and replace it with a highly-processed substitution
  • choose poor quality highly-processed food over real food – fruit, veg, seeds, meat, etc.

With all of this said, I think that the consumer needs as much info about the quality of the food they are eating AND the gov’t can help them by requiring a total nutritional profile of every food product be made available on the company’s website

Recommendation 10

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health assess whether sugar and starch should be combined under the heading of total carbohydrate within the Nutrition Facts table and report back to this committee by December 2016.

@healthhabits says:  Give us sugar totals, starch totals AND total carb totals.

Recommendation 11

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health implement strict limits on the use of permitted health claims and nutrient content claims based on a measure of a food’s energy density relative to its total nutrient content.

@healthhabits says:  Agree 100%. I would also require any nutritional claims require scientific proof. Links to that science should be available from the products page on the company website. Make a claim…back it up.

Recommendation 12

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health:

  • Immediately undertake a review of front-of-package labelling approaches that have been developed in other jurisdictions and identify the most effective one;
  • Report back to this committee on the results of the review by December 2016;
  • Amend the food regulations to mandate the use of the identified front-of-package approach on those foods that are required to display a Nutrition Facts table; and,
  • Encourage the use of this labelling scheme by food retailers and food service establishments on items not required to display a Nutrition Facts table.

@healthhabits says:  If you sell food in a package, you should be required to have a Nutrition Facts table as part of the packaging. As well, a website url pointing to a page with more complete nutrition info about the product should be included as well.

Recommendation 13

The committee therefore recommends that the Minister of Health encourage nutrition labelling on menus and menu boards in food service establishments.

@healthhabits says:  This is a little vague. How about something more specific like…calories, macronutrients, allergens listed in small print on the menu AND a more thorough nutritional analysis for each item on a separate booklet…and on their website as well.

Recommendation 14

The committee therefore recommends that the federal government increase funding to ParticipACTION to a level sufficient for the organization to:

  • Proceed with Active Canada 20/20; and
  • Become the national voice for Canada’s physical activity messaging.

@healthhabits says:  Based upon what I have seen from ParticipACTION in the past few years, I am not sure if giving them more money is the best idea. 

It may be simpler and more effective for Health Canada to hire the same PR flacks that put together Canada’s anti-smoking campaign and get them to focus on a “exercise more : play more : move more” style of message.

I’m not sure why we need ParticipACTION’s added layer of bureaucracy.

Why not…

  • hold a public contest for ad/pr/marketing firms to come up with their best message to get Canadian’s active again
  • have Canadians vote via the contest’s website/FB page/Twitter/etc
  • award the winner the contract
  • promote the heck out of the programs via internet, tv, radio and print.

And while we’re at it, why don’t we throw out a request to Canadian celebrities & athletes asking them to donate their time to film some short PSAs to add to the Health Canada Youtube channel.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about the fine folks who work for ParticipACTION. They may have exactly the kind of expertise to organize the kind of program needed to get Canadians active again.

Recommendation 15

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities together use the recently established National Health and Fitness Day to promote the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

@healthhabits says:  I didn’t even know there was a National Health & Fitness Day. I guess that’s why they need the promotion.

Recommendation 16

The committee further recommends that the Public Health Agency of Canada provide sustained or bridged funding for pilot projects that have been assessed as effective.

@healthhabits says:  Hmmmmmmm who’s making the assessments? And what happens when they haven’t be PROVEN effective after a year or two of government $$$$ in their bank accounts?

Recommendation 17

The committee further recommends that the Minister of Health in discussion with provincial and territorial counterparts as well as non-governmental organizations already engaged in these initiatives:

  • Encourage improved training for physicians regarding diet and physical activity; • Promote the use of physician counselling, including the use of prescriptions for exercise;
  • Bridge the gap between exercise professionals and the medical community by preparing and promoting qualified exercise professionals as a valuable part of the healthcare system and healthcare team;
  • Address vulnerable populations, such as Canadians of lower socio-economic status including Canada’s Aboriginal population, and pregnant women;
  • Advocate for childcare facility and school programs related to breakfast and lunch programs, improved physical education, physical activity and nutrition literacy courses; and,
  • Engage provincial governments in discussions about infrastructure requirements for communities that encourage active transportation and active play.

@healthhabits says:  All of the suggestions sound great…and yet they are couched in the kind of government bureaucracy speak that makes me lose all confidence. Can we please get a little less talk about what we want to do and a little more talk about how we’re going to do it!!!

Recommendation 18

The committee further recommends that the federal government provide funding under the New Building Canada Fund to communities for infrastructure that enables, facilitates and encourages an active lifestyle, both indoors and outdoors.

@healthhabits says:  If that means more walking paths, more bike paths and more walkable neighbourhoods…I am on board. If that means funding for arenas & pools…I have to disagree. We need to keep a focus on the cost : benefit ratio. Tax dollars don’t grow on trees.

Recommendation 19

The committee therefore recommends that the Public Health Agency of Canada implement a strategy to increase the visibility, uptake and use of the Best Practices Portal by stakeholders across the country.

@healthhabits says:  Never heard of the Best Practices Portal. At first glance, it seems a little meh, but the idea is solid. Give Canada’s docs a dedicated site to source info on reducing obesity & related diseases seems like a great idea.

Recommendation 20

The committee therefore recommends that Health Canada design and implement a public awareness campaign on healthy eating based on tested, simple messaging. These messages should relate to, but not be limited to:

  • Most of the healthiest food doesn’t require a label;
  • Meal preparation and enjoyment;
  • Reduced consumption of processed foods; and,
  • The link between poor diet and chronic disease.

@healthhabits says:  See my comments on funding ParticipACTION above. We don’t need multiple groups coming up with different public awareness campaigns. Have a contest, using the Canadian people as judges, ask Canadian celebrities & athletes for assistance

As well, bring back Home Ec in school.

Recommendation 21

The committee further recommends that Health Canada and other relevant departments and agencies, together with existing expertise and trusted organizations, implement a comprehensive public awareness campaign on healthy active lifestyles.

@healthhabits says:  See above….physical activity, diet and healthy active lifestyles should all be promoted AT THE SAME TIME.


What do you think???

Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook if you want to discuss.

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Happy Canada Day 2013!!!

Anniversaries are a great time to re-evaluate…looking forward to the future while learning from the lessons of the past.

And as today is Canada Day, and all Canadians are celebrating our national birthday, maybe it’s a good time to take a good, hard, long look at ourselves in the mirror and commit to making the coming year a healthier, fitter year for all Canadians.


After all, none of us want to look like the guy on the left.

99% of children are not getting enough exercise

Canada’s physical activity guidelines suggest that all children aged 5 to 17 years accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day.

Unfortunately,  99.5% of the 856 schoolkids (aged 10-12 years) enrolled in this study did NOT reach that 60 minute minimum.


In fact, of the average 16.7 hours per day of data collected per day, the average child spent…

  • 13.3 hours (79.6%) being sedentary.
  • 2.9 hours of their day (17.4%) engaged in light intensity activity
  • and only 35 minutes for boys and 24 minutes for girls in the moderate-to-vigorous and vigorous activity ranges

Sadly, none of the girls and only 0.5% of the boys met the required minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) every day.

[box type=”note”]If you’re wondering what happened to the 24 – 16.7 =  7.3 hours that weren’t tracked by pedometer…..these were the hours that the ‘average kid’ spent SLEEPING.[/box]

Here is some more data for you to chew on…

  • 22.6% of boys  performed 30 minutes of MVPA per day at least 6 days per week
  • 5.4% of girls performed 30 minutes of MVPA per day at least 6 days per week
  • 71.8% of boys accumulated 30 minutes of MVPA at least 3 days per week
  • 39.6% of girls accumulated 30 minutes of MVPA at least 3 days per week
  • Not a single child accumulated at least 90 minutes of MVPA at least 6 days of the week
  • Only 2% achieved 90 minutes of MVPA on at least 2 days of the week (3.3% of boys, 0.9% of girls)
  • When we drop the frequency down to 1 day per week, we see 16.8% of the kids performing 90 minutes of MVPA – with approximately 10% more boys than girls doing so (22.3% and 12.3%, respectively)


Our kids simply aren’t getting enough exercise….is it really so surprising that more and more of them are obese and being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.


This study was conducted in urban Toronto. I have no idea how directly to apply this data to rural communities of other communities outside of Ontario, Canada. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the kids in your hometown are just as lazy as the ones in Toronto.


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It’s Official….Canada is Fat

As Canadians, one of our favorite pastimes is poking fun at America’s shortcomings…gun violence, PED scandals, obesity, etc…

Unfortunately, according to new research out of UBC, Canadian obesity levels are at an all-time high. True, they’re not at American levels yet, but darn it all…we’re trying to catch up.


  • Published today in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, Dr. Carolyn Gotay’s study provides the first comprehensive look at adult obesity rates across Canada since 1998, complete with “obesity maps.”


  • And according to Prof. Gotay, “Our analysis shows that more Canadians are obese than ever before – on average, between one fourth and one third of Canadians are obese, depending on the region.”

The Maritimes and the two Territories had the highest obesity rates from 2000 to 2011 – more than 30 per cent of the population in these regions is estimated to be obese. British Columbia had the lowest overall rates, but obesity still increased from less than 20 per cent to almost 25 per cent. Meanwhile, rates in Quebec remained below 24 per cent.


And if it wasn’t bad enough that we’re turning all blubbery thanks to our poutine addiction, Dr. Gotay also reported that “in Canada, the estimated cost of obesity to the economy was $4.6 billion in 2008, up approximately 20% from the year 2000.

And at a time when Canadian governments are scrambling to balance budgets, that $4.6 billion could sure come in handy.


Before my American readers think all us Canadians are giant A-Holes for making fun of American culture, please try to remember that living next door to the world’s superest superpower sometimes makes us just a wee bit defensive. Don’t take it personally, some of us have transcended this inferiority complex and love our American neighbors…warts and all.

BTW, I just wanted to congratulate you on finally realizing that the Canadian style of football is waaaayyyy better than the old “3 yards and a cloud of dust” NFL. Maybe RG3 et al can send some of their fat contract money up to the Saskatchewan RoughRiders.

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Is Phys Ed Making a Comeback?

It feels like we have just entered into some sort of Bizarro world my friends.

We all know that politicians will say anything to get elected.

  • They’ll promise lower taxes
  • They’ll promise increased services
  • They’ll sell over their first-born child if it will get them into office.

Because of this, you can imagine my surprise when I read that the wanna-be Premier of Ontario, Mr. Tim Hudak, is promising that Ontario school kids would get 45 minutes of mandatory physical activity in school in addition to phys ed classes as part of a Progressive Conservative prescription for a healthier province“.


Which is weird considering that for years and years, school boards and politicians have been removing physical activity from schools as a non-essential part of the school day.

As if our overweight, diabetic, ADHD suffering kids couldn’t use a little extra bit of exercise.

Is common sense coming back to politics???


The Real Hockey Night in Canada

As a proud Canadian hockey fan, I thought that I should remind…

  1. the NHL team owners (billionaires)
  2. and the NHL players (millionaires)

…that even if the NHL strike never ends, there will always be Hockey Night in Canada.

Thanks to Sport Chek for organizing the best hockey games seen at the ACC and the Saddledome in a long, long time.

Are Overprotective Parents the Cause of Childhood Obesity?

Back in the olden days (the 1980s), me and my friends would race home from school, dump our schoolbags in our rooms, shove some leftovers down our gullets and run back outside to play road hockey (or baseball, football, etc) until…

  • it became too dark to see
  • or our Moms dragged us back inside for dinner & homework

Fast forward to 2012…

  • 46% of Canadian kids get 3 hours or less of active play per week
  • Only 35% of Canadian kids walk or ride their bikes to school
  • The average Canadian kid gets 7 hours and 48 minutes of screen time every day
  • As a result, Canadian kids spend 63% of their free time being sedentary
  • And they’re even less active on weekends than on school days

And according to Active Healthy Kids Canada, “two of the major barriers to regular, active play in Canadian kids are screen time and parental safety concerns. In combination, these societal realities force children and youth into highly-controlled environments, where they have little opportunity to let loose and just play“.

Play…like we all did back in the good old days…before the world became a scary place and we needed to start bubble-wrapping our kids to keep them safe.

Fifty-eight per cent of Canadian parents say they are very concerned about keeping their children safe and feel they “have to be over-protective of them in this world.” Safety concerns, whether or not they are founded, such as crime, traffic, neighbourhood danger, outdoor darkness and lack of supervision, discourage parents from letting their children and teens play outdoors.

And as a result, our precious little bundles of joy are fat and borderline diabetic.

NoteWhile this data is Canadian, I’m willing to bet that it isn’t unique to Canada.


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22 Recommendations for a Healthier Ontario

Earlier today, Cancer Care Ontario and Public Health Ontario released a report detailing 22 recommendations to improve the health of Ontario.

And some Ontarians are losing their minds over some of the “recommendations”

What do you think?


Canada's Health Ranking Falls Like a Fat Guy Through an Wicker Chair

Canadians love to talk about their healthcare system.

  • We love to brag about how much better it is than the American system, yet
  • We also love to complain about the long wait times and the imminent bankruptcy of the system.

Lately, it’s been more complaining than bragging.

  • We blame the nurses’ union for being greedy.
  • We blame the hospital bureaucrats for their big salaries and “obvious” incompetence.
  • We blame illegal immigrants and the poor for clogging up the emergency room instead of going to their GP.

We blame. We blame. We blame.

Problem is….we should be blaming ourselves.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, the real problem with the Canadian healthcare system isn’t the system…it’s the Canadian public and their lazy lifestyle that is ruining the healthcare system.

Canada’s 2012 Health Report Card

The Conference Board of Canada takes an annual look at 17 industrialized nations and compares them using 11 different markers of health.

  • In the 1990s, Canada was ranked 4th.
  • Today, Canada has fallen to 10th.

What gives? 

According to the research, while top-ranking countries like Japan, Switzerland & Norway have invested in programs designed to promote a healthy lifestyle, thereby lowering the economic impact of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, depression, dementia, osteoarthritis, and heart disease, Canada has virtually ignored health promotion.

And according to the Conference Board of Canada, “most top-performing countries have achieved better health outcomes through actions on the broader determinants of health such as environmental stewardship and health-promotion programs focusing on changes in lifestyle, including smoking cessation, increased activity, healthier diets, and safer driving habits.

Leading countries also focus on other determinants of health—such as education, early childhood development, income, and social status—to improve health outcomes”.

It’s a novel concept…spend a small amount of money preventing disease instead of spending a large amount of money treating disease.

What now?

The cynic in me believes that nobody is going to pay attention to this report and that the status quo will rule the day.

However, just last week, the federal government announced $4 million in additional federal money for Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Awareness and Education Initiative.  And while $4 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the total spending on healthcare, it’s a start and may represent a shift in government thinking.

Time will tell.

What can we do NOW?

You could write a letter to your MP or MPP or the appropriate federal/provincial Health Minister….and they might send you a nice form letter telling you how they take the health of Canadians seriously…yadda yadda.

Or you could use your Twitter and Facebook accounts to put a little heat under their seats.

  • Canada – Leona Aglukkaq – Federal Minister of Health and Long-Term Care – Facebook – Twitter
  • Alberta – Fred Horne – Minister of Health and Wellness – Facebook – Twitter
  • British Columbia – Michael de Jong – Minister of Health – Facebook – Twitter
  • Manitoba – Jim Rondeau – Minister of Healthy Living, Youth and Seniors – Facebook
  • New Brunswick – Madeline Dubé – Minister of Health – Facebook
  • Newfoundland – Susan Sullivan  – Minister of Health and Community Services – Facebook – Twitter
  • Northwest Territories – Tom Beaulieu – Minister of Health and Social Services  – website
  • Nova Scotia – Maureen MacDonald – Minister of Health and Wellness  – FacebookTwitter
  • Nunavut – Keith Peterson – Minister of Health and Social Services – website
  • Ontario –  Deb Matthews – Minister of Health – Facebook – Twitter
  • Prince Edward Island – Doug Currie – Minister of Health and Wellness – Facebook – Twitter
  • Quebec – Yves Bolduc  – Ministre de la Santé et des Services sociaux – Facebook
  • Saskatchewan – Don McMorris – Minister of Health – Facebook – Twitter
  • Yukon – Minister of Health and Social Services- Facebook – Twitter

NOTE – this problem isn’t unique to Canada. Other countries (like the US of A – #17 of 17) could use with a healthy dose of health promotion.

The Sport of Fitness

On Wednesday, February 22, Reebok is introducing Canadians to its new global campaign, The Sport of Fitness, through a one-of-a-kind stunt at Yonge and Dundas Square.

A 15,000-pound shipping container will be suspended by an industrial crane 20 feet in the air over the popular downtown landmark, dropping to the ground at noon EST for a public reveal.

This stunt is designed to highlight the relationship Reebok has created with the fine folks at Crossfit.

According to the marketing info, Reebok is aiming to change the way people perceive, define and experience fitness, and ultimately show the world that fitness can deliver everything they love about sport.

I will be there interviewing two badass Crossfitters – Rich Froning Jr., the 2011 Fittest Man on Earth, and Graham Holmberg, the 2010 Fittest Man on Earth.

I hope to see you there.

The Rob Ford Weight Loss Program

Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford is a big man.

And not just in a political “big man around town” kind of way, but in a 300+ lbs of former football player turned politician kind of way.

And in keeping with his political promise to stop the excessive “gravy train” spending at City Hall, the Mayor may be extending that agenda to include his own personal Gravy Train.

In an interview with Newstalk 1010, the mayor’s big brother (Councillor Doug Ford) said that the mayor is considering making a New Year’s resolution to drop some of his excess girth.

“In the new year, there is a chance, we could be seeing a slimmer, trimmer version of Toronto’s Mayor. Going further, the Councillor suggested that it’d be a good idea, and even suggested that he himself would join in and try and lose a few extra pounds. To add to the challenge, he suggested that they could make it a fundraiser, or a competition with proceeds going to a charity”.

So, as a public service to my home town, I’m gonna help the Mayor out.

I’ve decided that my next series of Best Body Workouts will be designed for trainees who need to make significant transformations to their health & physique.

  • Weight Loss
  • Cardiac Function
  • Pain caused by Muscular Imbalances
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • and generally feeling tired and crappy all the time

The program will include:

  • Daily Exercise Tips
  • 3 Custom Health Habits Workouts per week
  • Daily Nutrition / Diet Suggestions with links to recipes
  • Additional suggestions regarding motivation, supplements, physical therapies, etc…

And because I love my city so much, I will also have some suggestions of how a program such as this can and should be made available to all Torontonians

For now, I would like to suggest that the Mayor and his brother download my FREE eBook – A Paleo Diet for the 21st Century as well as take  a look at the Best Body workouts that I have been posting throughout 2011.

Would you vote for a Ban on Junk Food Advertising aimed at kids under 13?

I think that a ban / restriction is a good idea…in theory.

  • Advertisers would be free to continue to market to everyone over the age of 13
  • Childhood obesity is a growing problem around the world
  • Junk food is called junk food for a reason – it’s junk. And it contributes to making our kids fat, diabetic & lazy.
  • We already ban advertisers from targeting children from cigarette & alcohol.

Obviously, the biggest argument against this act is going to be the cry of “Nanny State”.

And while I agree that government at all levels need to be reminded periodically that their job is to serve the public and not attempt to control or re-engineer the public, we should also remember that the job of advertisers, marketers and manufacturers is to sell products & services to the public.

They have no responsibility to care for the health of our kids.

That’s the job of family.

And when Ontario’s families wanted to stop advertisers from targeting their kids with ads for booze & smokes, they used government legislation to ban the practice.

Toronto, outdoor ice rinks and a bunch of kids playing shinny

  • As of this Sunday, February 27, thirty-six of Toronto’s fifty-one outdoor ice rinks will be closing for the season. That’s just over 70%.
  • Starting March 14, every kid in Toronto begins their March Break holiday. That’s right around 100%

Now, I’m no genius, but it seems to me that leaving Toronto’s very popular outdoor ice rinks open during March Break might be a good idea.

If you take a look at the city’s webpage on outdoor rink availability, you will see the notice that:

*Seasonal open and close dates are weather permitting.

But that’s not exactly true is it?
When I took a look at the long term weather forecast for Toronto, I saw a string of projected daily high temperatures hovering around -2° celsius.
That’s cold enough for ice to stay frozen and for a bunch of kids to have fun playing outdoor hockey during their March Break.
  • And yet, 70% of Toronto’s outdoor rinks will close this Sunday…even if the weather is permitting.
  • And yes, I know that the city is broke and can’t afford to keep ice rinks open all year long.
  • And I also know that council has created a task force to explore private-public partnerships to build new rinks for the city.
But, what about this year?
Leave the rinks open until it gets too warm.
I will gladly pay my portion of the 0.003% increase in property taxes incurred by keeping the outdoor rinks open until after March Break.
Just how much can it cost to run a Zamboni?
  • We already own the darn things.
  • And the city employees who look after the rinks will get paid whether or not the rinks are open.
So, here’s what I think we should do.
Contact the Mayor – Facebook – Email – and tell him that you want the rinks kept open.
Maybe the Maple Leafs would be willing to kick in a few thousand to help keep the rinks open, so shoot them a message too. – Facebook
And if you haven’t been down to the new Figure 8 outdoor rink at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Etobicoke…you have to go, the figure 8 is a hoot.

Canadian Exercise Guidelines 2011

Later this month, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and ParticipACTION will release their official Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

And when you consider that:

  • FACT #1:  Canadians are less active than they have ever been.
  • FACT #2: This level of inactivity when combined with our poor dietary habits has led to a drastic increase in the rate of lifestyle related diseases like Type 2 Diabetes
  • FACT #3: This increase in lifestyle disease is threatening the viability of the Canadian public health care system

You would probably think that the fine folks at CSEP & ParticipACTION are going to recommend a drastic increase in the amount of exercise for all Canadians.


According to an interview in the Globe & Mail, CSEP & ParticipACTION are lowering their exercise recommendations to be more in line with those set by the WHO and other major developed countries like the United States, Australia & Britain.

Of course, the U.S., Australia & Great Britain are the #1, #5 and #4 most obese nations in the OECD…so maybe they aren’t the best role models when it comes to soliciting recommendations for physical activity.

The Old Recommendations

As of last year, CSEP and ParticipACTION recommended that kids get a minimum of 60 minutes, and up to several hours, of moderate physical activity (walking, skating, bike riding, etc…) each and every day. At that time, they also noted that very sedentary kids would begin to see health benefits with just 30 minutes per day.

or, in layman’s terms:

  • Hours of exercise for fit kids
  • 30 minutes for fat kids…until they turn themselves into fit kids

Adults were told to get 30-60 minutes of exercise per day and to reduce the amount of time sitting on their backsides.

Seniors were told to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (approx 20 min per day). They were also told that if activity is vigorous (such as jogging, fast swimming or fast dancing), health benefits can be achieved with 90 minutes per week (under 15 min per day)

The New Recommendations

This year, CSEP & ParticipACTION has lowered their recommendation to:

  • Adults: 150 minutes per week – that’s a reduction of between 60 – 270 minutes of physical activity per week.
  • Kids: 60 minutes per day for the fit kids & 30 minutes per day for the “less than fit” kids. What used to be the bare minimum is now the gold medal of achievement.
  • Seniors: The recommendation for the seniors stayed the same at 150 minutes per week.

And why have CSEP & ParticipACTION lowered their guidelines for physical activity?

The guidelines have been lowered because “Canadians are so inactive that even small amounts of exercise will make a difference in their risk for chronic disease”.

They actually said that in a press conference.

We’re in the worst physical shape in the entire history of our country….so we should exercise less.

What the heck are these people smoking?


Can someone explain this to me?


Village on a Diet

Canada is fat.

Maybe not Biggest Loser fat…but we have definitely reached the we can’t stand to look at our flabby bodies in the bathroom mirror level of of fatness.

Luckily for us, the residents of Taylor B.C. have stepped up and volunteered to serve as our collective weight loss role model.

As the stars of the new CBC reality show, Village on a Diet, 150 Taylorites are going to exercise and eat their way from fat to fit over the next 10 weeks.

Airing on Monday nights, Village on a Diet is just one part of CBC’s social initiative – Live Right Now.

Inspired by Canada’s growing obesity epidemic, Live Right Now is the CBC’s attempt at creating a national healthy living movement.

In addition to the “reality” show Village on a Diet, the Mother Corp has plans to leverage the celebrity credibility of numerous CBC personalities (Peter Mansbridge, George Stroumboulopoulos, et al) along with a full-on social media blitz (tv, website, blog, print, online challenges, facebook, twitter, corporate, medical & NGO partnerships, etc), to overwhelm our lazy lifestyles and re-create our national physique.

No more will we look like this guy.

After 12 weeks of Livin’ Right Now, the average Canadian will look more like this guy.

Perhaps minus the spandex jumpsuit.


But all kidding aside, while it is pretty easy to make fun of this grand social experiment, there may be something to it.

On numerous occasions, I have written about how obesity is much more emotional than logical. We all know that we should exercise and eat healthy food. And yet….we don’t.

And that is precisely why I believe that any successful weight loss program requires positive emotions to combat the negative emotions that caused the obesity in the first place.

And since we live in a society addicted to celebrity, we should be using celebrities to create those positive emotions towards living a healthy lifestyle.

And that is exactly what the CBC is doing…using established Canadian (CBC) celebrities in tandem with the creation of “reality” celebrities that we can more easily relate to.

Unfortunately, whether this initiative is successful or not may rely more on the delivery of the message than the message itself.

A 10 week program relying on the celebrity power of a handful of CBC personalities may not be enough.

Because as much as all Canadians love Peter Mansbridge, I am not sure that a 2 minute segment on the news about his recipe for vegetarian chili is going to change the obesity inducing emotions of a nation.

We need to use the type of big name celebrity power that drives trends around the world – movie stars, musicians, athletes, etc…

And not just for 10 weeks….more like 10 years.

And it’s got to be more than just a message.

We need to make living a healthy lifestyle easier by:

  • making our communities safer and walkable
  • removing government subsidies on processed food
  • shifting that money towards real food
  • using public facilities to encourage exercise


But maybe all of this can begin with a reality show about the residents of a small town in British Columbia trying to lose weight.


Toronto Health & Fitness Friday #2

Next summer, when your very expensive and very out of shape teenage children shuffle up to you and announce that they’re bored and that they have nothing to do, send them over to the nearest GoodLife Fitness club.

In concert with Teen Fitness Connection, GoodLife Fitness is offering free gym memberships to Canadian kids aged 14-17 during the months of July & August and between the hours of 8am & 4pm.

Here is a list of participating GoodLife Fitness clubs.

You will have to contact the clubs directly for the specific terms and conditions, but after speaking with the Corporate Manager for Teen Fitness International, I have been assured that the only other restrictions would include access to specific fitness classes and/or use of the pool/spa.

Now if only we could convince a few other health clubs in Toronto to offer similar programs, our kids could be the fittest in Canada.


Health Habits Workout – Week 39/Day 1

Last week with this workout – choose different Exercise Groups & different Exercises.

  • These workouts will require bodyweight and resistance bands only
  • They focus on muscular and anaerobic endurance
  • Are great fat-burners as long as you keep the intensity level turned up to 11
  • Allow you to get out of the gym and enjoy the weather before the snow starts to fly

The Workout

Warm-Up as per usual

After completing the warm-up, I want you to choose 1 exercise from 5 of the 7 groups listed below.

  • Complete the required reps as quickly as possible, minimizing rest periods.
  • How you organize the sets is up to you
  • Move quickly but with good form

Have fun.


BW Squat – 100 reps

1 Leg Squat (standing on bench) – 60 reps total both legs

Jumping Squats – 60 reps


1 Leg Deadlift – 100 reps – 50 per leg

Hip Thrust with feet or body elevated (lying on ball OR with feet on chair) – 100 reps

Hip Thrust – floor – 150 reps


Shuffle Lunges – 200 reps

Burpees – 60 reps

Hill Sprint – 6 x 10 sec sprint


Band Bicep Curl – 100 reps

BW Skullcrusher – 60 reps

1 Arm Band Shoulder Press – 80 reps total – 40 per arm


Horizontal Band Woodchop – 80 reps

2 Arm BW Row – 120 reps

Vertical Woodchop with band or Med Ball / Big Rock Slam – 80 reps


2 Arm Band Chest Press – 100 reps

1 Arm Band Chest Press – 100 reps – 50 per arm

Push-Up – 40 reps total

sorry about the music


Toes to the Sky – abs/core exercise – 100 reps

Ab Wheel Roll-Out – 100 reps

Rolling Like A Ball – 200 reps

In between work sets, use Standing Band Bridges to catch your breath

Putting the "Health" Back in Healthcare

Canada’s healthcare system may be on the verge of a massive change.

Instead of continuing to spend billions of dollars simply treating the symptoms of disease, Canada’s health ministers have agreed that:

the promotion of health and the prevention of disease, disability and injury are a priority and necessary to the sustainability of the health system.

They also agreed that the main causes of death, disease and disability in Canada today are chronic diseases and injuries, and that a large proportion of chronic diseases, disabilities and injuries can be prevented, or at least delayed.

They continued by saying that more emphasis needs to be placed on the promotion of health and on preventing or delaying chronic diseases, disabilities, and injuries.

Doing this will improve the quality of life of Canadians while reducing disparities in health and the impact these conditions have on individuals, families, communities, the health-care system and on society.

OMG … A healthcare system that focuses on health.

Fingers crossed people. Fingers crossed..


Heart Disease and Stroke Caused By Diet

Ontario is Fat

Up here in Canada (especially in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario), there is a large chunk of the population that considers itself “superior” to our American cousins.

We start fewer wars, we’re better educated, we have lower crime rates, we don’t watch Two and a Half Men, we’ve never elected a Bush and we’re not all fat & addicted to deep fried pizza.

U.S. Obesity Stats for 2009

Unfortunately, as it turns out…we did go to war in Afghanistan, our high school dropout rates are rising year after year, our favorite tv show is Survivor, we elected Stephen Harper and according to this study….

70% of Ontario adults are either overweight or obese, and have a strong prevalence of high blood pressure that could lead to heart attack or stroke.

And if my university mathematics are correct, that means that only 30% of Ontarians should be proud to take their shirts off at the beach.


Just like Mississippi…the fattest state in the republic.


Perhaps it’s time for my smug Canadian brothers & sisters to put down their wobbly pops, throw out that tub o’ poutine, get up off their rotund derrières and start developing some Health Habits.


Dalton McGuinty & his Children's Activity Tax Credit

image: Chris Doucette - Toronto Sun

Since July 1st, fitness-loving Ontarians have had to swallow an 8% increase in their gym memberships, workout gear, protein shakes, swimming lessons, etc……thanks to the HST.

Also since July 1st, industry groups like the  Fitness Industry Council of Canada along with some municipal governments have been pressuring the Ontario government to introduce a “non-refundable provincial income tax credit patterned after the federal “Children’s Fitness Tax Credit”.

So, it should come as no surprise that yesterday, Premier McGuinty held a press conference at a Toronto YMCA to announce his new brand spanking new Children’s Activity Tax Credit.

The Plan….

  • Allows parents to claim up to $500 of eligible expenses per child on sports, arts and other activities incurred on or after Jan. 1, 2010.
  • Families would receive a refundable tax credit worth up to $50 per child under 16 years of age, and up to $100 for a child under the age of 18 with a disability.
  • And according to the gov’t, this tax credit would provide about $75-million each year to assist the cost of registering kids in programs and would benefit 1.8 million children.

Analysis of “The Plan”

According to the official government opposition…

  • “The government basically put a tax on children’s activities and then a couple months later turns around and provides a tax credit,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
  • “The tax credit, in many cases, won’t make up for the amount of dollars being gouged from families,” she added.

Let’s test that theory…

  • If a parent spends $500 on her kid’s burgeoning hockey career, she pays an additional 8% or $40 in new HST tax – Boooo!!!!
  • But thanks to the new tax credit, she gets $50 back on her tax return – Woo Hoo!!! Free government money!!!

Unless….she keeps spending money on her kid’s physical fitness…and ends up paying more in HST than she receives via the tax credit.

And considering that the prototypical Canadian parent spends thousands of dollars on their little Crosbys & Ovechkins, odds are that the $50 Ontario tax credit is just going to be a proverbial drop in the HST bucket.

But, what about all of those low-income Canadian  parents who can’t afford to put their kids into hockey in the first place?

Maybe this tax credit was designed for them.

Maybe this tax credit is going to help Ontario’s low-income families become more active & reduce their high levels of obesity.

Or….maybe not.

According to this research, only 28.2 % of “low income” parents claimed the federal fitness tax credit for the 2007 tax year, while approximately 55 % of “high income” parents in the highest income quartile had claimed it.

Based on this data, the researchers concluded that “household income was a significant factor in whether Canadian parents were more likely to report their child being in organized physical activities, and if the parent was more likely to be aware of and claim the CFTC”.

“It appears that a tax credit such as the CFTC will only benefit those people who can afford to pay the costs of registration for a PA program and carry that burden through to the end of the tax year.”


I have no reason to doubt that Premier McGuinty is genuinely interested in helping Ontario’s kids become more physically active.

However, this tax credit idea seems:

  1. Politically self serving, and
  2. Ineffective.

And when you consider that 87% of Canadian kids are not getting their recommended daily amount of exercise, perhaps we should take the estimated $75 million in tax credits and spend them in a more effective fashion.

For example…. $75 million would pay for 1250 new fitness parks.…that Ontarians could use…for FREE.


The Deadpool Mega Muscle Mass Workout – Part Five

Get ready for the nastiest, sweatiest, most muscle-buildingest workout of all time.

Get ready for the workout guaranteed to turn the scrawniest fan boy into the ultra-quick, ultra-powerful, ultra-muscley bad-ass superhero of his dreams.

Get ready for Deadpool….bitches.

Alright, enough hype….let’s get down to business.

If you haven’t read the preceeding 4 posts, do so now – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, the Deadpool workout works because it focuses on your nervous system and your fast twitch muscle fibers.

And depending upon the techniques we use, we can train your muscles to be super fast, super strong, super powerful and/or super big.

It’s simply a matter of how we organize the techniques & how much effort & intensity you bring to the workout.

So, what kind of Deadpool body do you want?

  1. A lightly muscled, super quick, speed demon kind of body
  2. A heavily muscled, bodybuilder kind of physique
  3. A freakishly strong body – smaller than a bodybuilder…but scary strong
  4. The Ultimate Deadpool – a combination of scary strong & freaky fast

I have been beta testing all four workouts over the last 9 months and have seen some amazing results.

  • 2 NCAA track & field programs are now using Deadpool training techniques with their sprinters after a successful test with a small group of their freshmen athletes
  • A handful of veteran bodybuilders up here in Toronto are using Deadpool techniques to break through some really old, really stubborn plateaus. In fact, the two bodybuilders that I have worked with personally have added more mass in 12 weeks than they had added in the previous 2 years.
  • A whole bunch of my strongman & power lifting friends are using Deadpool techniques to increase their power & set new PBs.
  • And finally, dozens of my “normal” personal training clients are using aspects of the Ultimate Deadpool techniques to transform their formerly flabby fifty-something bodies into bodies that are leaner, stronger, healthier & more athletic than they have ever been.

One of my clients, a 40 something male who weighed 266 lbs and was initially unable to do a single chin up is now…

  • 40 lbs lighter,
  • able to do multiple sets of 5 rep chin ups with 90 lbs of weight hanging from his waist,
  • sprint hills faster than his teenage son,
  • bang out multiple sets of 5 rep push ups with 120 lbs of extra weight on his back,
  • able to quit taking medication for high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol.

So, if this has piqued your interest…stay tuned.

Because on Wednesday, I quit teasing you and lay out the Ultimate Deadpool Workout.

And on the following Monday, I will begin posting daily Deadpool workouts here and on the Facebook page.

Stay tuned.


Healthcare: Canada v.s the U.S.A.

According to the  USA Today, President Obama has begun his health care push.

child medicineAnd you know what that means.

Like it or not, President Obama wants to give you a great big taste of Canadian style healthcare.

So, I thought that I would take a few minutes to let you know a little bit about my experience with the Canadian health care system.

  1. It is a massive (government) bureaucracy that eats up a lot of money and can frustrate the people who rely upon it.
  2. It’s full of hardworking doctors/nurses/technicians/etc who work long hours trying to keep sick people from dying
  3. It’s seems to work fairly effectively – according to the CIA, Canadian life expectancy is 81.23 yrs. (#8 in the world)

So, let’s compare that to the current American health care system.

  1. It is a massive (medical insurance) bureaucracy that eats up a lot of money and can frustrate the people who rely upon it.
  2. It’s full of hardworking doctors/nurses/technicians/etc who work long hours trying to keep sick people from dying
  3. It’s seems to work fairly effectively – according to the CIA, American life expectancy is 78.11 yrs. (#50 in the world)

Hmmm, seems pretty similar to me.

Except of course, the Canadian system is a public health care system. And everyone knows that a public system is essentially socialist, which is another word for communist, and dammit, no way is America going to have a communist health care system.


I got a little excited there…sorry about that.

But seriously, other than this political/ideological argument, what are the differences between our two systems of health care?

1. Quantity of Life (longevity): We all want to live a long life. And without nitpicking, it looks like both countries are doing pretty good at increasing longevity.

Let’s call quantity of life a tie.

2.   Quality of Life: This one is a little trickier. Is there a difference between the general health & vitality of Canadians and Americans? According to all of the latest studies, both nations are growing more fat and less fit year after year. And as far as I can see, both of our health care systems are based on treating illness instead of  preventing illness.

fat couple exercise

So, once again, let’s call this a tie…both countries stink.

3.   Cost: In 2006, per-capita spending for health care in the U.S. was US$6,714; in Canada, US$3,678. (dollar amounts adjusted for purchasing power parity)

healthcare costs

Winner: Canada

And now for a personal story.

My wife blew out her back a few months ago…by sneezing.

I’m not kidding. Excrutiating pain, incapacitation, inability to work, sleep, sit, etc….

So, how did we deal with it?

Because of our personal experience with acute injuries such as my wife’s bad back, we knew that treatment needed to begin as soon as possible.We did not want this acute injury to become a chronic injury.

And that is the biggest problem with Canada’s public health care system. SPEED of SERVICE. Acute injuries become chronic injuries.

So, instead of going through the normal channels (go see the family doc, get an x-ray, wait for a consult, start public-pay physio, etc…), we began a series of physical therapy treatment – chiro, massage, acupuncture, laser and finally osteopathic. All on our dime. Yes, this is possible in socialist Canada.

We also made an appointment (the next day) with our publicly funded sports medicine doctor. Great guy, lots of experience working with professional athletes. And while my wife isn’t exactly an athlete, we like the fact that they focus on optimum health not just pain management.

At the sports medicine doc, my wife was assessed and given an x-ray at the first appointment.(public pay)

The x-ray showed nothing wrong…Yippee!!!

The next step was a requisition for an MRI. Here’s where it get’s interesting.

If we had followed the “normal” procedure, my wife would be getting her MRI in late November.

However, because my wife is in a lot of pain and is a pro-active kind of gal, she made a few phone calls, day after day and less than 2 weeks later, she had her MRI. (public pay)

Supposedly, this is impossible in the Canadian health care system. When I tell people that we got an MRI in 2 weeks, they don’t believe it. They have bought into the mind virus that Canadians are supposed to wait in line like a good little socialist patients and wait their turn.  Like sheep.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

The Canadian health care system isn’t perfect. But neither is the American system.

  • Wait times in Canada can be longer than in the U.S.
  • Medical expenses are the #1 cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. (Pre-Recession stats) That doesn’t happen in Canada.
  • Both systems ignore disease prevention
  • Both systems spend huge amounts of money trying to save very old, very sick patients
  • In a large part, the Canadian system is run by our government
  • In comparison, the American system is run by insurance companies

Pick your poison…I mean medicine.


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The only reason to hire a personal trainer is….

Results. toronto

Good results.Great results. Toronto

Certainly not Oprah Winfrey losing & gaining 40+ pounds in one year kind of results.

  • We’re talking about the kind of results that make you want to rush out and buy a brand new wardrobe to show off the brand new you.
  • We’re talking about the kind of results that have you staring at your reflection in the mirror like a modern day Narcissus.
  • We’re talking about the kind of results that have you singing the praises of your personal trainer to all of your friends and family and co-workers and strangers on the street and…

We’re talking about the kind of results that each and every personal trainer should strive for.

Unfortunately, most trainees don’t get those types of results from their personal trainers.

And why not?

  • Health clubs are making huge profits off of their personal training clients.
  • The obesity/weight loss industry is making trillions.
  • And yet, as a society, we’re fatter than ever.

But, if you ask your trainer (go ahead and ask) why you’re not transforming as quickly as you think you should be, I guarantee that you will hear some version of this answer:

  • I am with you for only (1, 2 or 3) hours a week. That leaves 165+ hours where you are on your own. I can’t be responsible for what you do when I am not around.


But of course, on one level, they are right.

Ultimately, you are responsible for the food that you eat, the Starbucks mocha lattes that you drink, the quantity and quality of your sleep, your daily activity, your thoughts, your feelings, etc….

However, if you are going to pay thousands of dollars of your hard earned, recession ravaged dollars in an attempt to ward off excess body-fat and coronary incidents, maybe your trainer should take some responsibility for those hours when you are away from him or her.

Remember, you are paying for results.

So, how do you get your moneys worth?

Talk with your trainer about your health/fitness/weight loss goals

  • Are they realistic?
  • If so, how long should it take to achieve those goal?
  • What are you going to have to do to achieve those goals?
  • What is the trainer going to do to help you achieve those goals?
  • What happens if you don’t achieve those goals?

Create a Body Transformation Plan

  • This plan, created jointly by you and your trainer, is your blueprint. Goals, timelines, workouts, nutrition,etc…
  • It should also detail the responsibilities, costs and penalties that the two of you have agreed upon.

And Follow Through with the Plan

  • All of my clients know what I expect of them and what happens if they don’t keep up their end of the bargain.
  • However, they also know that if they stick to the plan but don’t achieve 100% of their results, they WON’T be stuck paying for 100% of their training session fees.
  • They pay only for the results that we have achieved as a team.



While I seldom discuss it here on Health Habits, I have been a personal trainer for a long time. While I have worked in lots of different gyms, I have been out on my own, doing in-home personal training in downtown Toronto, for the past 6 years. During that time, I have met a lot of good personal trainers and a lot of bad personal trainers. And, I have seen a lot of those bad trainers make a lot of good money from people who think that a trainer with a life-long six-pack is better than one who has had to work hard for their fitness.

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National Heart Health Strategy


Canada may be on the verge of something revolutionary in the annals of Western Medicine.

Today, in Ottawa, Dr. Eldon R. Smith, chairman of the Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan steering committee, presented the federal government with a  new nationwide strategy aimed at combating heart disease and stroke.

The CHHS-AP plan would cost an estimated$700 million to implement over the next seven years.

However, by 2020, the plan could save Canada’s health care system over$22 billion in direct and indirect costs.

That’s over $30 of savings for every $1 invested in the plan.

And just how do they plan on saving all of those health care dollars?

According to Dr. Smith, “”We need to find ways to have people eat healthier foods, do more exercise, and we need to have less people smoking.”

“We think that with a combination of education, legislation, regulation, as we did for smoking in the past, and perhaps some incentives, that we’ll be able to create better environments for heart health in Canada.”

jaw-drop-genie-alladin<jaw drops to floor>


Promote a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent disease.

What a truly shocking and inspired idea!


The Plan

The plan makes six key recommendations to fight heart disease and stroke, including:

  1. Creating “heart-healthy” environments through education, legislation, regulation and policy.
  2. Helping Canadians lead healthier lives.
  3. Ending the cardiovascular disease crisis within Aboriginal communities.
  4. Continuing to reform health care with improved delivery of patient-centered services.
  5. Improving the surveillance and electronic medical records system to enhance prevention, care and research into vascular diseases.
  6. Developing the right number of health-care service providers with the right education and skills.

Okay, sounds good….a little vague, but good.

“The CHHS-AP will allow us to focus more on prevention, among other key areas, and tackle this health challenge head-on,” said Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, one of three lead organizations involved of the plan.

Still vague.

Seriously, we need some details.


According to the CHHS-AP, implementing this strategy will result in the following benefits:


  • By 2015, working with partners,
    • 20% more Canadians eating at least five servings of vegetables and fruit per day
    • 20% more physically-active Canadians
    • 20% fewer obese or overweight adults
    • fewer obese children (from 8% to 5%)
  • By 2020,
    • decrease annual rate of CV deaths by 25%
    • bring CV diseases burden among Aboriginal/indigenous populations in line with other Canadians
    • decrease prevalence of hypertension in adults by 32%
      • increase awareness by 64% among adults with hypertension
      • Increase by six-fold those hypertension treated to recommended targets
    • decrease (risk adjusted 30-day) hospital mortality rate
      • from heart attacks by 32%
      • from stroke by 25%
    • decrease hospitalizations for treatment of heart failure by 25
    • decrease hospitalizations for treatment of acute stroke by 25%
    • have 90% of Canadians aged 45+ with CV risk assessments
    • decrease (by working with partners) the smoking rate by 25%

The Economy

  • Significant savings in costs of CV diseases by 2020,
    • decrease $7.6 billion in direct costs  (2008 dollars)
    • decrease $14.6 billion in indirect costs (2008 dollars)

Canadians and our Country

  • Canadians will know their CV risk and how to reduce it to lead longer, healthier lives.
  • All regions of the country benefit from more sustainable health care systems.
  • Governments, the health care system, the private sector, communities and individuals work together, making a long-term commitment to change.
  • Patients will be partners in their own health and care.
  • Interprofessional health teams are well equipped to promote health, prevent CV disease, and provide timely, comprehensive, patient-centred care.
  • Canada is internationally recognized as a productive, economically competitive and heart healthy nation.

DETAILS!!!…for the love of god, less rhetoric and more details.

Seriously, two years and $2.5 million to come up with this?


So, where do we go from here?

According to the experts:

What needs to happen?

Work with federal Health Minister Aglukkaq to maintain momentum to:

  • Initiate the processes for change.
  • Develop effective partnerships, within and outside the health sector, to engage citizens, care providers, their professional organizations, non-governmental organizations, industry and the media to enable Canadians to become international leaders in heart health.


Please, somebody give me some details.


Oh, forget it. I ‘ll do it myself.

Here are some of my suggestions for how to spend the $700 million:

  • Tax refunds for participating regularly in exercise programs
  • Tax credits to private health clubs for administrating these exercise programs
  • Tax credits for private individuals organizing fitness clubs
  • Eliminate inequalities in federal food subsidy programs – quit subsidizing grains and soy at the expense of fruits and vegetables
  • Promote local and organic farming practices
  • Promote exercise and fitness – advertising, contests, athletes, amateur competitions
  • Tax credits to grocery chains to supply local and organic foods
  • Also, let’s stop listening to the same “experts” who have been telling us to follow those stupid healthy food pyramids all these years. Let’s talk to the fitness experts in the “real world” who get “real” changes out of their “real” clients in order to pay their “real” bills and keep “real” food on their “real” tables.
  • We should also structure the funding of these programs to encourage results. There will be lots and lots of experts lining up to collect their share of the $700 million. How many of them are willing to guarantee their work? How about we structure the contracts with a balloon payment to be paid at the end of the contract. The amount of that payment could be directly tied to the results that their program achieves.


Any other bright ideas?

And not just my Canadian readers.

Us Canucks are not the only overweight, diabetic, just waiting to have a heart attack, couch potatoes out there.


If you like what you see here, click here for updates


Related Posts

Canada: A Nation of Short, Fat Liars

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians are not as tall or thin as they think say they are.

This has caused Stats Can much consternation.

The data that Stats Can collects through it’s Canadian Community Health Survey and the National Population Health Survey rely on Canadians to provide their height and weight.

In 2005, 16% of Canadians were classified as obese; according to their self reported info.

But according to actual measurements, 8% of Canadians are not only fat, but big fat liars to boot.

Oh My God!

What could happen next?

Do you think Canadians lie about their age?

Their income?

Their penis size?

The Horror…..


If you like what you see here, click here for updates or Share this Post with the rest of the world.

If you are interested in a better way to eat, click here or here or here.


pills supplements nutrition fitness health

Canada’s War on Drugs…and Vitamins

On April 8, 2008, Canada’s federal government tabled bill Bill C-51, designed to “modernize the Food and Drugs Act”.

The Bill “proposes to maintain a rigorous assessment of health products prior to making them available. In addition, we’re proposing to gain the ability to continuously monitor the safety of products even after they are approved”.

Sounds good.

We don’t want any tainted vitamins, herbs, etc, getting into the marketplace. And if they do, the government has taken the power and responsibility of recall from the manufacturers and given it to themselves.

So, essentially what the government is doing is asking the natural health product industry to prove that their products will do no harm. Once proven, manufacturers will be able to make claims of efficacy like the pharmaceutical industry.

This may even improve the business model for nutritional supplements in Canada. Vetted health claims might increase the legitimacy of the industry in the public’s eye. And yet, something doesn’t seem right with this piece of legislation.

Here is my problem with Bill C-51 – What are they protecting us from?

  • In 2006, the U.S. reported one death associated with the ingestion of vitamins. Specifically, it was an unknown vitamin & it was reported that while the vitamin played a part, it was unlikely that it was the cause of death. How they would know that if the vitamin was unknown, I will never know.
  • Compare that to the 2006 data for Pharmaceutical deaths. The full report is here.

Here are the Pharmaceutical Categories associated with largest number of fatalities (Top 25)

Deaths – Substance
382- Sedative/hypnotics/antipsychotics
307 – Opioids
252 – Cardiovascular drugs
214 – Acetaminophen in combination
210 – Antidepressants
203 – Stimulants and street drugs
139 – Alcohols
138 – Acetaminophen only
98 – Muscle relaxants
93 – Anticonvulsants
75 – Cyclic antidepressants
69 – Fumes/gases/vapors
66 – Antihistamines
61 – Aspirin alone
55 – Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
49 – Unknown drug
38 – Chemicals
35 – Oral hypoglycemics
27 – Miscellaneous drugs
25 – Diuretics
25 – Automotive/aircraft/boat products
22 – Antihistamine/decongestant, without phenylpropanolamine
20 – Hormones and hormone antagonists
18- Anticoagulants

Vitamins – 1 death  :  Aspirin & Acetaminophen – 199 deaths

As far as I am concerned, that should be the end of the story. The government has no business creating a problem where none exists.



  • video of an anti Bill C-51 rally
  • Health Minister, Tony Clement’s press conference to discuss Bill C-51
  • article in the Globe and Mail
  • article in the Vancouver Sun
  • The (CHFA) Canadian Health Food Association’s submission to the House of Commons.
  • article by Andre Picard, Globe and Mail
  • CHFA response to Picard article