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Small steps toward a healthy lifestyle can make huge differences, says Pasadena man

“I kept telling myself that, when work slowed down and I finished school, I would focus on losing the weight,” he said. “But, that never really happened,” says Paul Harris.
“I kept telling myself that, when work slowed down and I finished school, I would focus on losing the weight,” he said. “But, that never really happened,” says Paul Harris. - Contributed

PASADENA

There can be many mental and physical obstacles preventing a person from becoming a healthier version of themselves, but Paul Harris believes desire and a support system can overcome all.

The Pasadena man claims to have been fairly active throughout his 20s, but ballooned to over 300 pounds as a healthy lifestyle fell to the wayside as life became busier.

Taking on a second job and returning to school, Harris dedicated his life to those ventures as he neglected others. He added several pounds per year for about a decade to a body that was once well under 200 pounds.

“I kept telling myself that, when work slowed down and I finished school, I would focus on losing the weight,” he said. “But, that never really happened.”

His work schedule did lighten and school finished, but motivation to change his lifestyle didn’t come. He made attempts to get more active and shed some weight over the years, but nothing lasted.

“With each unsuccessful attempt I become more discouraged, and that led me to gain even more weight,” Harris said.

The turning point came about 12 years ago. He changed jobs, and his new workplace placed a big emphasis on wellness. He watched co-workers spend lunch breaks walking, running or going to the gym. It provided the motivation he needed.

“Just as I had gained the weight slowly over time, I vowed to lose it slowly over time,” he said. “No crash diets. No hurrying out and joining a gym.”

He added a diet plan to an exercise routine, and, as the weight dropped, he progressed from walking to running and rediscovered long-lost passions like hiking and mountain biking. It didn’t happen overnight, but the results were undeniable.

Harris found additional motivation through activities sponsored by a wellness committee at his workplace. As part of a challenge, he stopped drinking soda and cut out adding salt to his foods.

He also signed up for a “boot camp” fitness class — something he did with the strong urging of his wife, Colleen. Colleen and this boot camp became the support system he needed.

“I highly recommend that anyone wanting to make some changes and get more active join some type of fitness group,” Harris said. “It is so much easier to stay motivated and committed to your goals when you have the support of a group who share the same goals as well as the same challenges.”

The process of changing an unhealthy lifestyle was not an easy one. On top of the mental challenges, there were physical ones. At one point, a stress fracture to his shin prevented him from even walking for about six months. He was disheartened, and thought all his hard work would be wasted because of an inability to stay active. Through his support system, he found alternative forms of low-impact cardio. Eventually, he regained the strength to resume all activities.

While accepting support is crucial, according to Harris, offering support is also something he believes in.

“Often unbeknownst to yourself, a simple word of encouragement really can make a world of difference in the lives of others,” he said.

While everybody’s journey may be different than his, Harris encourages commitment to achieving and maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.

“Small changes really do result in significant improvements in overall health and well-being,” he said. “I am now 180 pounds, and the journey to improved health and wellness started with those first small steps toward making positive changes in my lifestyle.”

Spring clean your routine

By Tanya Matthews

The transition to warmer weather and the end of winter brings on an annual urge for a ritual that dates back through many generations: Spring Cleaning.

For many, this is an indoor overhaul from the recesses of every closet right through the home to the front door. Consider this a call to action: instead of spring cleaning your home, spring clean your routine!

Hibernation needs to end; the channel and web surfing season has closed, and it is time to cleanse your activity pallet! There are many options to replace any inactive routines you developed over the past winter. Allow the sunshine filled evenings, warming temperatures and visible, non-slip surfaces of roads and sidewalks to entice you and your family out of the house and into the great outdoors.

Adults and seniors require 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. This amount of physical activity provides many health benefits and is part of a healthy lifestyle. Let’s use spring as the transition time to refresh and invigorate daily routines to become more active. There are some side effects to springing into an active routine that you should be aware of before embarking on this change. As little as 10 minutes of physical activity each day can put you to sleep, send you to the bathroom regularly and give you a boost of energy!

Being tired is often cited as a reason for not getting active, but activity can be the cure for the tiredness! Regular physical activity of any sort that appeals to you, such as walking, cycling or gardening can improve your nighttime sleep. Physical activity can reduce stress and tire your body. Getting outside in natural sunlight can help set your natural wake and sleep cycle. All combined, these things can improve your sleep quality and increase sleep duration. Other sleep habits such as regular bed and wake-up times (even on weekends and holidays) can really improve your sleep so that you feel well-rested, recharged and refreshed each day.

Physical activity can help keep you regular. Almost 25% of Canadians are constipated regularly. Stress, food choices, slight dehydration and hectic schedules can cause digestive interference for that daily event. The good news is, regular physical activity can keep your bowel movements regular. A ‘daily constitutional’ otherwise known as a walk, can help move food through the large intestine, and easier to pass. Yoga and swimming are other good options for that daily constitutional activity. Remember to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and drink water for digestive health.

In addition to supporting a well-rested and regular version of yourself, physical activity can have the side effect of boosting your energy levels. When you’re feeling sluggish, tired and sleepy it is easy to reach for sugar and caffeine, but these fixes do not last and create a cycle of highs and lows. Research has shown that physical activity will combat fatigue, improve mood and attentiveness and last longer than a caffeine rush. With boosted energy levels we are better able to manage the mental and physical tasks at work and home. The following suggestions might help get more activity into your day:

A morning workout or walk;

Move throughout the day at work (desk stretches, using stairs, lunch time walk);

An outdoor coffee break;

Don’t give yourself the chance to crash after work! Meet some friends for an after-work activity.

To get additional rewards from your increased physical activity, download the free Carrot Rewards App on your smartphone to collect Scene or Aeroplan points for your activities. There is so much to be gained by becoming more active this spring. Better sleep, bowel movements and energy is just the tip of the iceberg! Find out how everything gets better with physical activity at www.participaction.com.

Tanya Matthews is a regional health educator with Western Health.

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