53 tactics to stay healthy at work
Tiny, tactical changes in the way you live at work can have a significant impact on your health if repeated 365 times a year.
If you increase activity for just 4 minutes a day, over a year, that could be a pound of fat you kept off. Does a pound sound insignificant? Hold a pound of butter in your hand. You don’t want that on your body, do you?
Here are some ways that you can make minuscule changes to see results.
During your commute
- Park at the farthest end of the parking lot
- Get off one station before your subway stop and walk the rest of the way
- Stand up on the subway instead of sitting down – it burns more calories and strengthens leg muscles
- Always take the stairs over the elevator or escalator
- Put a small weight or heavy object in your briefcase and lift it a few times as you walk
- Strap velcro weights to your ankles
- Walk back and forth while you’re waiting for your train instead of sitting down – an extra 200 steps a day equals pounds per year
- Leave your heels or dress shoes at work and walk or bike home
At the office
- When you first arrive, fill up 2 pints of water and keep them at your desk
- Print to the farthest printer from your desk and walk the extra steps
- Instead of calling or emailing a co-worker, get up and walk to their desk
- Sit on a swiss ball instead of a regular chair to build core muscles
- Offer to help anytime someone is moving or lifting anything (safely – use your legs, not your back)
- Put a small aloe or cactus plant on your desk to improve air quality: CO2 in, O2 out
- Crack a window to let some fresh air circulate – outdoor air is cleaner than indoor air and helps you concentrate
- Clean out your desk of clutter – it’ll help you clear up mental clutter and focus on the moment
- Eat 15 minutes earlier than you normally do – when you’re starving, you’re more likely to make poor choices
- If you work late, go for a stroll around the block at 5pm when emails die down
- When cookies are floating around at the office, make sure they don’t park at your desk. Out of sight, out of mind
- Plan meetings with colleagues off-site at a local café – anything to get outside and walking
- Strive to meet with superiors over a game of squash, tennis, or golf instead of in a boardroom
- If you have input into the office social, suggest an activity like rock climbing, soccer, or volleyball
- Keep your healthy snacks on your desk within arm’s reach. How often have you eaten a bag of chips simply because the bowl was beside you at a party? Leverage that effect in a positive way
- Ditch the tray. If you eat at a cafeteria, using a tray makes it more likely for you to pile on items that you don’t need, just because you have the space. (Source)
- Avoid chairs like the plague. Stand up while you wait for someone in the lobby instead of using a chair. Offer your chair to others when there aren’t enough. Studies show that those who have to be on their feet at work have similar levels of cardio health as those who sit all day but work out at night (Source)
- Pack a healthy lunch. No time? Buy a bag of groceries and assemble it in your work kitchen
- If your workplace provides snacks, ask them to substitute healthier options in place of pastries without changing the budget
- Always keep lemons in the fridge to add to your water. This increases your vitamin C consumption and you’re more likely to burn more fat when you end up working out (Source)
- Set visual reminders: leaving post-it notes on your steering wheel or computer screen can increase motivation. Try: “book a tennis date”, “drink water at 2pm” or “pick up kale tonight.” (Source)
- If you have to buy your lunch, choose healthier restaurant chains such as Freshii, Fit for Life, Cruda or Fresh
- Reward yourself with a spa day after every batch of 20 workouts or 20 consecutive healthy lunches
- Make a deal with your manager where you may work-out during lunch for a hour, take lunch, and stay an extra hour at work. It also makes for a more productive afternoon
- “Keep the lid closed:” One study found that on days where a cafeteria left the lid open of their ice cream cooler produced twice as many sales of ice cream. When the lid was closed, sales were cut in half. Find ways to make it inconvenient for you to indulge
Using a health buddy
The buddy system – that is, getting a friend to partner in you in your health commitment – is a proven way to exercise more and eat healthier. Here are some ways to leverage it.
- Take turns making lunch. You make a healthy lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they get Mondays and Wednesdays. The more people are involved, the better this gets
- Call each other once a week to ask how much they exercised. One study showed that those who reported how much they exercised increased their activity levels
- If you keep delaying booking an appointment with a trainer or food allergist, book your friend’s and have your friend book yours
- Set gym dates or jump on the #morninglife trend: Wake up early, work out together, and share breakfast
- Buy a subscription to a health magazine for your buddy on their birthday. Have it delivered to the office so you can both enjoy the health inspiration
- Sign up for a triathlon together. If you back-out, you have to pay your friend’s entrance fee.
- Start an office competition — contribute a dollar every time you do not work out and top 3 contestants split the cash
- Start an office sports team
- Drink a pint of water as soon as you wake up and before you go to bed to clean up your system
- Set your alarm 5 minutes earlier to do 4 minutes of crunches and push-ups
- Get a mini trampoline: 10 minutes of jumping is the equivalent to 30 minutes of running (Source)
- On Sunday night, create Ziploc bags full of healthy snacks for the week
- Make a green smoothie in the morning – it kills cravings all day (Source)
- Carry a basket instead of pushing a cart at the grocery store to help build muscle
- Whatever’s on your shopping list, always fill half of your basket with produce
- Bring fresh workout clothes to the office so you’re always prepared for the gym
- Sleep in complete darkness to ensure circadian rhythms aren’t disrupted and thus, food cravings at a minimum (Source)
- Get your organic groceries delivered to your door. Discouraged by the delivery charge? Think about what happens if you don’t buy groceries and end up spending the $10 on junk food at work
- Get healthy meals or snacks delivered to your desk
- Studies show that willpower can be replenished and depleted. Replenish your willpower by delaying chores for an hour while you catch up on your favourite blogs or play with your kids (Source)
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How to Stay Healthy at Work I
Part 1: Damage Control
Let us assume the worst case scenario.
- You work 100 hours per week at Frito-Lay
- Part of your job is to test the new products
- Your boss likes to take the team out for beer and wings
- You come home exhausted with an urge to watch TV
There’s hope! We’ve seen 400lb truck drivers get healthy in the most damaging work environments:
There are many ways to stay healthy at work despite the worst case scenario. We’re going to divide this topic up into 3 parts: Damage Control, Tactical Efforts, and Long-Term Strategy.
Before you start: Stop stressing out that you’re unhealthy or overweight. Being stressed on top of eating poorly only makes you less well. Relax. You have plenty of time to get healthy and it will happen.
Here’s what to do in these derailing situations.
Situation 1: You’re stuck on a plane with unhealthy food
Damage control: Work out your brain
Working your brain burns more calories than your brain at rest. Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky has reported that an intense game of chess can burn loads of calories.
- Do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle
- Conduct a Google search on your smart phone for problems to solve
- Read the toughest article in the Financial Times
Situation 2: You’ve just eaten a business lunch which could very well land on thisiswhyyourefat.com.
Damage control: Take in as much oxygen as you can, then go and get some enzymes
Dr Brian Clement from the Hippocrates Health Institute advises that oxygen is highly effective at digesting food and metabolizing fats.
- Go outside and suck in air like you’ll never breathe again
- 30 minutes after the meal, get 2 pints of water and park it on your desk
- Water has a very high oxygen content and it helps to flush out toxins immediately
- Water also helps support your liver which processes the fats and toxins
- Do a workout that night – no time? Get 8 full hours of sleep – it’ll help to clean up the damage you’ve done.
Also, eating something with lots of enzymes – that is, any raw vegetable or fruit – helps to digest the indigestible food which you’ve just ingested. Otherwise, food can quickly turn into fat if left undigested.
Situation 3: You’ve had a rough day. You come home and have zero desire to make something healthy. All you want to do is eat a bag of nachos.
Damage control: Consume 1 cup of leafy greens
- Open your fridge (1 second)
- Take out a bunch of leafy greens (romaine, kale, parsley) and some fruit (2 seconds)
- Throw them in your blender with water (60 seconds)
- Throw your blender in the dishwasher (30 seconds)
In under 2 minutes, you’ve gone a tremendous way towards killing cravings for those nachos.
Even if you end up eating the nachos, you’ll eat less since you’ve already had something to eat. What’ll likely happen is that the greens will eliminate cravings and get you eating something healthier (find out how greens kill cravings here).
Situation 4: You have no time to work out
Damage control: You only need 3 minutes to see results
A recent study conducted at McMaster University found that short spurts of cardio training, performed at maximal capacity, is as effective as long-duration endurance training.
Professor Martin Gibala, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, had participants exercise for 30 seconds of maximal pedaling on a stationary bike followed by four minutes of recovery, and repeated 4-6 times. This added up to a total of 3 minutes of exercise at maximum effort, and the improvements to cardiovascular health were on par with those who had done moderate cardio training for about an hour, three times per week.
Situation 5: You’ve had a destructive day, but it’s now 11pm and gyms are closed.
Damage control: Take a 5 minute hot & cold shower
Minute 1 to 3: Stand in hot water
Minute 4 to 5: Turn the faucet to cold (as cold as you can take it)
Tempering your body in cold water is shown to be effective at reactivating capillaries (which have atrophied by age 30 with a poor diet), and therefore expediting the delivery of nutrients within your body, expelling toxins, and killing free radicals.
Situation 6: You’re about to fall asleep, and you feel guilty that you’ve had an unhealthy day.
Damage control: Tell someone that you love them
A healthy social life has a tremendous impact on well-being and it’s as important as eating well and exercising.
Remember the Rosetta Effect in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: people live longer, healthier lives when they have a strong and caring community around them.
Send a text to a loved one – you’ll likely get one back.
2 Ways to Self-Motivate
Yvonne Camus is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.
Yvonne competed in Mark Burnett’s televised Eco-Challenge, where she completed a 500km race in Borneo, racing 24 hours a day, and burning over 23,000 calories each day.
She’s also a mother, wife, successful nutritionist, and an agency-repped motivational speaker. She continuously pushes herself physically.
I asked Yvonne how she motivates herself to stay healthy, and she had some great insights.
“It’s about progress, not perfection,” says Yvonne. “A big misconception is that people ‘on the outside’ look at healthy individuals and assume that it’s easy for them to stay on track, and that they’re always perfect.
That’s not true – in fact, those people fall off the wagon as well. But those people are just better at bringing themselves back on track more often.”
A 2009 House of Verona Poll found that only 13% of self-defining “raw vegans” are actually 100% raw. The reality is that people fluctuate between 50% and 90% raw, and have ways to get back on track when they’ve eaten a little too much SAD food.
#2 – Talk Yourself Into It
Yvonne goes on: “I’ve noticed that when you’re at a place of indecision, you either talk yourself into something or talk yourself out of it.
With healthy eating, I’m amazed at how many people talk themselves out of eating well. For example, ‘I had a glass of wine, so I might as well give up on the whole day.’”
Practice talking yourself into healthy eating; build up ammunition of talking points. Here’s what has worked for me in the past:
- If I work out, I’ll naturally wake up early, and stamp out some negative thoughts.
- If I eat that burger, I’ll have indigestion. But if I have the salad, I’ll feel light and energetic.
- If I have even a small green smoothie in the morning, I’ll be in a happier mood.
- If I bring easy-to-carry fruit to the office, I won’t crave something sweet at 3pm.
The very inspiring Yvonne can be reached for nutritional consultations in Toronto at 416-618-9242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s never, ever too late
Many of us beat up on ourselves for slipping on our health plans. Or maybe letting go for the whole summer. Or maybe it’s been 5 years since you’ve had a shot of wheatgrass.
We’ve met plenty of women at the House of Verona who are in their 50s and just did their first Triathlon this summer. They have a day job, kids, a cottage, and some of them never joined a single sport growing up.
How cumin prevents wrinkles
The University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at a University in India recently found that ingesting cumin immediately after being exposed to UV rays significantly prevented photoaging to the skin.
Photoaging is simply skin aging, which induces wrinkles, leathery skin, collagen damage, age spots, and cancer due to exposure to the sun.
The researchers studied what happened to the skin of mice when exposed to UV rays and then immediately ingested cumin capsules, compared with those who received a topical cream mixed with cumin. The cream did not significantly change the results; however, ingesting cumin significantly prevented the formation of lesions and other damage. (Please note that the House of Verona does not advocate the exploitative use of animals in medical testing when harm is incurred.)
Here are some of the favourite raw food recipes from the House of Verona kitchen which incorporate cumin:
Raw vegan sprouted hummus recipe
1 handful sprouted chickpeas
2 tbsp raw tahini
4 tbsp soaked sesame seeds (optional, but gives it a calcium boost)
Half a zucchini
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp hemp or flax oil
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp cumin
Sea or rock salt
Combine in a food processor [or blender, but add some water to start the process] and serve.
Raw vegan falafel recipe
1 handful sprouted chickpeas
2 handfuls soaked walnuts (any other nut or seed can be substituted)
Half an onion
1 clove garlic
Quarter bunch of parsley
Quarter bunch of cilantro
Quarter cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp hemp or flax oil
1 tbsp cumin
Sea or rock salt
Combine in a food processor [or blender, but add some water to start the process], form into balls and serve.
Raw vegan Moroccan vegetables
Half head broccoli
1 bunch bok choy
4 stalks celery
Half head cauliflower
Handful soaked seaweed of choice (ex. wakame or arame)
4 tbsp hemp or flax oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
1 clove garlic
Dash of your sweetener of choice
Half a handful of raisins
4 black mission figs, quartered
Fistful of chopped mint leaves
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cinnamon
For the sauce, combine the cinnamon, cayenne, sweetener, garlic, curry powder, cumin, lemon and oil into the bottom of a large bowl and let it marinate while you wash and chop the other vegetables.
Chop the broccoli, bok choy, celery, cauliflower, mint, and figs. Throw them into the bowl along with the raisins and seaweed. Combine and serve.
How chlorophyll inhibits cancer
The link between chlorophyll and cancer has been studied in the scientific community since the early 1900s, and studies consitently show that it has powerful anti-cancer properties.
Most recently, the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State University found that chlorophyll provided significant protection against a very potent carcinogen called DBP (found in nail polish) in pregnant mice. Chlorphyll also reduced lung cancer multiplicity by 50% (Source).
Another recent study from the same university found that chlorophyll greatly reduced the expression of human colon cancer cells (Source).
One of the easiest ways to obtain natural chlorophyll is to consume fresh, organic dark leafy greens in liquid form.
Although greens can have a bitter taste, there are many ways to prepare them raw in a way that’s palatable. If you’ve never done this before, a great starting point is Nutritionist Meghan Telpner CNP’s Green Smoothie Cleanse. It’s packed with 100 pages of tremendously valuable information, and definitely provided me with a boost of health inspiration when I read it. Meghan is also running a group cleanse starting on August 6th where her and her staff will provide support along the way.
Fresh or Frozen?
Fresh. Definitely Fresh.
Ask any food scientist – all food manufacturers must blanch produce before freezing them.
We recently sat down with Food Scientist Jinny Lok, B.Sc., MBA. She explains, “vegetables contain enzymes. If enzymes are not deactivated through blanching prior to freezing, they can cause vegetables to rot, lose colour and flavour even after the vegetables are frozen.”
“Blanching vegetables means submitting them briefly to boiling water or steam. The heat treatment destroys the enzymes, changes the texture and sets the color. For extended storage, this improves the keeping quality of the vegetables.”
In addition to the loss of nutrients due to blanching, the freezing process also degrades certain vitamins. An Italian university published a finding in the Journal of Food Science that freezing broccoli caused a decrease of 39% of vitamin C and a 29% decrease of sulforaphane (an anti-cancer compound).
The argument against eating fresh produce stems from a concern that produce loses nutrients when it travels for a week across a continent, as well as the fact that unripe fruits are more acidic than ripe ones.
If you’re able to buy locally grown produce, and eat it fresh, you are able to save a large amount of nutrition versus eating frozen vegetables.
Here are some links to farmer’s markets in Canada and the U.S. to find a market near your home:
High Tea Recipes
We served a raw vegan High Tea this weekend while the football game was on. It went over so well, so we thought we’d share the weekend’s favourites with you.
We’ve designed them to be easy, quick, and require minimal kitchen equipment.
It’s very easy and inexpensive to make your own tea. Here’s what we came up with.
The House of Verona Costa Rican Blend – the crowd favourite
- Green tea leaves
- Cacao nibs
- Whole vanilla bean, chopped into little pieces
- Dried mangoes
- Whole cinnamon sticks, chopped small pieces
The House of Verona Ontaio Cottage Blend
- Green tea leaves
- Fresh mint
- Chamomile flowers
- Lavender petals
- Dried cherries
Mix ingredients together and steep as you would any other loose-leaf tea.
- Cucumber gazpacho cup
- Herbed salad in a sesame-date crust
- Fresh organic watermelon slices
- Cacao-maple brazil nut truffles
Cucumber gazpacho cups
- Slice an English cucumber into 1-inch pieces. Scoop out the centre with a spoon.
- In a blender, blend the cucumber centres with half an English cucumber, half a tomato, half a red pepper, a bunch of mint, sea salt, ground pepper, flax oil, and a spoonful raw honey.
- Spoon the gazpacho into the cups and chill until you’re ready to serve.
Herbed salad in a sesame-date crust
- Create your favourite salad
- In a food processor, add in 1 cup of sesame seeds until they are slightly ground. Add in 10-15 soft medjool dates one at a time until the mixture becomes a mould-able crust.
- Press the crust into small bowls and fill with the salad you created. Serve with forks.
Cacao-maple brazil nut truffles
- In a mixing bowl, add in 4 heaping tablespoons of cacao powder
- Add in 4 tablespoons of maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of liquid coconut oil
- Mix until it forms a chocolate sauce.
- Add in chopped brazil nuts, and any other nut or seed you like. Coat with the chocolate sauce and serve in small paper cupcake cups.
An Inspiring Guest Who Eliminated Cravings
One of our retreat guests inspired our team so much that I want to share her story with you all.
In 1982, she was 5’5” and weighed 230 lbs. Being overweight was causing her some depression and low self-esteem.
One day, in 1982, she was sitting on the subway, eating a chocolate bar, and thinking about how she desperately needed to lose weight.
Suddenly, in a moment of clarity, she looked at the chocolate and realized that junk food certainly wasn’t helping her lose weight. In that moment, she resolved to stop eating all types of dessert altogether, and see what happened. She didn’t change anything else – just eliminated sugar.
Amazingly, she stuck to it: she hasn’t had a drop of sugar since that day in 1982. For 28 years, she has been ‘sugar sober’.
What is wonderful is that she didn’t set out to cut out sugar for life – she just took it one day at a time.
When we hosted her, she was as slim as can be – not too skinny, but absolutely within her normal BMI range.
The other guests were curious when she declined all raw desserts that were offered – she simply explained that she treats herself as a recovering alcoholic would treat alcohol – not one drop.
“Don’t you miss desserts?” they’d ask. “Not at all – I don’t even notice it. I much prefer being healthy and happy.”
The thought of cutting out sugar completely can be scary when we’re starting a new cleanse. However, every single person I know who has cut out sugar or junk food reports:
- After 1-2 weeks, cravings vanish
- They have a higher level of happiness
- They can enjoy the smell of tempting foods without needing to eat them
- They are infinitely happier this way than experiencing mood swings which sugar contributes to
To learn more about how to kill cravings, have a look at our 3-part series here:
French Countryside Raw Recipes
I made dinner for my housemates last night – who aren’t raw vegans – and they adored the recipes, inspired from the French countryside. I looked through Julia Child’s classic French cookbook and modified recipes – for example, by using healthy raw fats instead of butter (i.e. macadamia nuts), and eliminating the heating process. Et voila.
The menu (all raw vegan):
- Creamy leek soup
- Loaf of sprouted bread with a strong ‘cheese’
- Friseé salad with almonds, raspberries & ice-wine vinaigrette
- Summer vegetables in a basil cream sauce
- Red ice wine gelato
I’d love to share these recipes with you. All are for 4 people. If all you have is a blender, you’re good to go.
Creamy leek soup
- 1 large leek
- Handful Brazil nuts
- Salt & pepper
- Spoonful honey
- 1 shallot
- 1 bunch basil
- Spoonful olive oil
- Cup of water
Garnish with chopped Brazil nuts and sliced basil leaves.
Throw these in the food processor:
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 tbsp macadamia nuts
- A whole lime, with the peel chopped off
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch basil
- A little water to get it all going
- 1 clove garlic
I purchased the sprouted loaf of bread from The Big Carrot, who sources them from Patricia – here’s her website: http://www.naturallyalive.ca/Products.aspx
Blend these together for the dressing:
- 1 whole lemon, peel removed
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp white ice wine (or regular wine if unavailable in your region)
- 2 tsp salt
- Ground pepper
- 1 tbsp honey
- 10 macadamia nuts
- Friseé, washed and chopped into very small pieces
- 1 large bunch of fresh mint
- 1 carton of raspberries
- 1 handful of chopped almonds
Pour the dressing over the body of the salad and serve. Mmm.
Summer vegetables in a basil cream sauce
This was everyone’s favourite, by far.
The vegetables I used:
- Asparagus (each spear sliced into 4 long strips)
- Snow peas (each sliced into 4 strips)
- Heirloom carrots (sliced into strips)
- Radishes (cubed)
- Shallots (sliced into thin coins)
- Endive (sliced into thin strips)
Marinate the vegetables in olive oil, lemon juice, and honey while you prepare the sauce.
The sauce: throw the following into a blender:
- 2 cups water
- Handful macadamia nuts
- Whole lemon (peel removed)
- Salt & pepper
- 1 bunch basil
- Clove garlic
- 1 small spoonful nutritional yeast
Pour the cream sauce over the vegetables and serve. If you have time, let marinate for 30 minutes.
Red ice wine gelato
Blend the following together:
- 1 branch of red grapes
- Half cup almonds
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp red ice wine
Pour into a container and freeze, stirring every hour if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, after it’s frozen, place it in the fridge to thaw for a few hours, or outside for 1-2 hours. Serve into bowls and before giving to guests, add on 1 tbsp red ice wine and a few grapes.