Years Employed at HHS: 28 years (Teresa); 29 years (Mark)
After being encouraged by Jessica (me!) to sign up for Financial Fitness, Teresa Dawson registered for the spring 2015 session and has never looked back! For those who aren’t aware, Financial Fitness is a 9-week personal finance course offered to HHS staff and their family members. Six rounds of the class have now been completed with hundreds of your colleagues having gone through this life-transforming class. Because her husband, Mark, did not attend the class with her, Teresa admits that it was a bit more difficult to get him to get on board with the program right away. To help reduce the learning curve for Mark, she immediately purchased the book, “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey so he could read it, become familiar with the same concepts she learned in class, and understand the importance of working together to improve their finances.
The first thing they did was crate a budget to see where their money was going. Teresa admits that she didn’t really pay attention to finances before taking the class. It was Mark who took care of the finances in their home for the most part. “I asked Mark, ‘Do you know if something happens to you, I don’t know how to use the online banking, I have no clue where we are at, what bills we have to pay or anything.’ He said ‘Really? Well, what could possibly happen to me?’ And then just a few months later, Mark was injured in a car accident and was unable to work.” Thankfully, before the accident and as a result of their conversation and new outlook on their finances, they sat down and Mark showed Teresa how to do the banking and went over the details of their accounts and monthly bills. Mark assured Teresa that he already did have a budget, but the problem was that they didn’t really stick to it. It was then that they decided actually live by their budget and see what would happen.
Side note: In my (Jessica’s) experience having taught six rounds of the Financial Fitness course, it is not uncommon for people to actually track their spending and have some idea of what they buy and how much their bills are. However, that’s where it stops. It is not really a budget in the sense that they are telling every dollar that comes into their household where to go before the month begins; rather, it is simply a tracking system of their spending, but without any real goals or boundaries in place to not overspend. Maybe that's you?
After Teresa and Mark created their first budget, they were off to tackle baby step 1 taught in the course: building a starter emergency fund. The money they saved and set aside really came in handy when their dog hurt his leg, resulting in an unexpected, fairly hefty vet bill. After that incident, they were bought in to the rationale behind needing an emergency fund—because life happens and it can be expensive. So they quickly built their emergency fund back up before heading into the next step of the program: paying off debt!
The first debts they paid off were their two credit cards. This was accomplished by heeding the advice of one of the financial advisors who was part of the “Expert Panel Q &A Session” on the final evening of the class. He recommended Teresa use her Canada Savings Bonds to pay off a high interest credit card versus letting it just sitting in an account doing nothing. Teresa cut up her one and only credit card and has never had one regret about performing that “plastic surgery”. While Mark has not had to use his credit card since starting their debt-free journey, he is not quite ready to give it up just yet. However, Teresa is very much enjoying the freedom from credit and does not feel a need to have one. They have an emergency fund, so if something unexpected comes up, she knows they are prepared and won’t have to turn to credit to get them through a hard time. That security brings a great sense of peace to her life!
Shortly after the credit cards were paid off, Mark was involved in a motor vehicle collision where he sustained some head injuries and has been unable to return to work since that time. While he is recovering and hoping to be back at work soon, this unfortunate accident has slowed down their debt-payoff. That being said, having the plan already in place allowed Teresa and Mark to keep going and continue to make progress even though Marks’s income had dipped to 70% (his disability income). Not being willing to give up, they tweaked their budget and continued their debt-free journey. After the credit cards were out of the way, the non-mortgage debt they still had to conquer consisted of two lines of credit and a car loan. The first line of credit was next on the chopping block and got rid of it quickly. Next, they paid off the balance of the car loan….a year earlier than anticipated! Teresa proudly reports that “it drives much smoother now!” They are now on their last debt, the second line of credit. It is taking a little bit longer because Mark is still off work, but they are determined to finish it off before the end of 2018!
One of the topics covered in Financial Fitness covers insurance: why you need insurance, the right kinds of insurance, how it works and how much is recommended. This lesson includes teaching on two very important types of insurance—long term disability and life insurance. Teresa and Mark learned first-hand how vital it is to have long term disability insurance in place, which in their case is furnished by HHS as part of their employee benefits plan. “We were blindsided by the accident. You just don’t know if you are going to make it home safely everyday. You can’t control other drivers on the road.” Long term disability is essential. If you and/or your partner don’t have it through work, you need to have some coverage in place. Marks’ accident also made them grateful that they both had adequate life insurance in place—not only through work, but additional coverage to make up the shortfall. If, God forbid, Mark’s life was taken in the collision, Teresa would have been able to, at least financially, take care of their household and future needs because they both have additional term life insurance in place.
When asked what the key to getting out of debt is, Teresa did not hesitate to say that the budgeting process was vital to their success. While doing a budget together initially brought some conflict into their marriage—like it would with any couple trying to make changes to their spending habits—it was a crucial step to creating space in their spending to allow for aggressive debt payoff. Because Mark had always taken care of the budget, when Teresa came in with her new interest in their finances, Mark was somewhat taken aback. However, he was also relieved when Teresa was able enter more fully into the situation and they could then start working more cohesively as a team to reach their agreed upon goals and dreams for their future.
While two years later, Teresa wishes she and Mark would be further ahead, she recognizes that Mark’s accident and recovery time has had an impact on the speed at which they have been able to pay down their debt. That being said, she is very grateful she had taken Financial Fitness when she did as she and Mark were on the same page, had an emergency fund, and now had a solid plan in place to tackle debt. In fact, she is not sure where they would be if she had not taken the class, shared her learning with Mark, and were working together before the accident occurred.
Teresa and Mark also have three adult children. A daughter who is in Ottawa in college and two sons who are working and out on their own now. She gave all three of them a copy of the “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey to read in hopes that they would get on the right financial foot at a young age and never have to struggle with debt or money issues. Teresa and Mark’s new outlook on their finances and the changes they have made in their lives has not gone unnoticed by their children. In fact, their younger son has been learning the value of money. She laughs, “I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said he didn’t really need anything and that he now realized how much money we spent over the years on his hockey. I told my son that while that money is gone and never coming back, I am glad he realizes the sacrifice it required from us to give him that experience. I am happy to give those types of opportunities to my kids, help them pay for school, etc., but it’s nice to know that they appreciate it and understand that you can’t have everything that you want all the time. There are always trade offs—if you want to have money in the future and not go into debt, you have to spend wisely, have a plan in place to save up and actually pay for larger items, as well as put money away for retirement.”
Teresa and Mark’s Budget Saving Strategies:
They are looking forward to when Mark will be able to go back to work and get their income back to where it was. At the top of Teresa and Mark’s plans for 2018 is to finish paying off debt and get the emergency fund up to 3-6 months of expenses. Teresa would also like to put some focus on building up their RRSPs. “We don’t know where Mark’s health is going to go, so I would like to get us in the best position possible for the future. I am not going to put all my eggs in the potential settlement basket (from the accident). Even with a pension, the future is unknown and we want to be prepared for whatever may come our way. We are on track to be completely consumer debt-free by the end of the year. Then it will be time to finish off the final big one—the mortgage! The past two years have been transformative not only for our finances, but also our marriage, health and family.” Teresa is so grateful to have taken Financial Fitness when she did. “Having a handle on and a plan for our money has made dealing with Mark’s health issues so much easier and even likely helped us avoid a financial crisis. It has taken so much of the stress out of our lives not having to wonder how we are going to pay for things or where the money will come from.”
Teresa’s Top Tips for Winning with money:
Teresa’s last words: “I would highly recommend everyone, no matter what their age or financial situation, to take the Financial Fitness course offered through work. It has changed our lives…we can’t believe how much we’ve accomplished in just two years and can’t wait to see what the future has in store. We are dreaming big and know that it can be a reality if we keep working the steps as a team and get debt out of our lives once and for all!”
Congratulations, Teresa and Mark! You are an inspiration and you are wished continued success as you finish paying down your last debt and work towards true financial freedom!
If you would like to make a change in your finances in 2018, registration is now open for the Spring 2018 Financial Fitness session. Get all the details and register today!
Years Employed at HHS: 26.5 years
JG: Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to make a change to your health?
FD: I am an Executive Assistant to the VP Quality and Performance and CNE and work at the Hamilton General site and have been with HHS for 26.5 years. There are a few reasons I wanted to make a change to my health. First, I have struggled with my weight for many years (menopause didn’t help!), but I made a commitment to myself that as I got closer to retirement, I wanted to be healthier, fitter and stronger. I wanted to avoid certain health issues e.g. late onset of diabetes, and wanted to lower my blood pressure.
JG: When did you start making these changes?
FD: My first step to better health started in September 2016 when I joined Weight Watchers at work. Shortly after, I joined a boot camp facility and participated in a challenge they were promoting among all its members. I had success in the challenge which helped increase my confidence in my ability to continue the path I was on and accomplish even greater goals.
JG: What health goals did you achieve this past year?
|FD: Over the past year, I have lost over 25lbs and 25 inches. As I mentioned, I am a member at a boot camp facility and have participated in many member challenges over the past year. My favourite was the 40 day Strong Challenge and accomplished many things I never thought possible. I’ve gone from not being able to squat with a bar to squatting with the bar PLUS additional weight. As time goes on, I can tell that my endurance is getting better, core is stronger—which has translated into less back pain!
I also participated in the Mud Hero event this past August, which was such a fantastic time! I managed all the obstacles with the exception of two—which I fully intend to conquer next year! I feel incredibly accomplished and has put a checkmark on yet another goal of mine. It’s fun to create non-weight loss goals and focus on performance instead. Increased fitness and a lower weight are welcome byproducts though!
JG: When it comes to eating well what are your top 3 recommendations?
FD: First, I have found meal planning to be a must! My husband and I sit down every Sunday and make a meal plan for the week. That way, there is less guess work when grocery shopping and it ensures we have all the ingredients we need to cook. Also, it is SO much easier to stick to a plan when you write it down and work as a team to execute! Second, food prep is also essential. For example, we chop up veggies, precook lunch items to make assembly easier, and do our best to ensure there is always a healthy option when ‘grab and go’ is all we have time for. Lastly, I have found that including a cheat meal every week (usually on Saturday) is helpful from a psychological standpoint. It’s important not to be too restrictive and allow yourself to enjoy your favourite not-so-healthy foods too. When I know that cheat meal is coming later in the week, it helps me stay in better control of my choices leading up to that meal. Food is meant to be enjoyed, so while I still very much enjoy my healthy meals and snacks, I also make room in my diet to indulge in moderation—and in a way that doesn’t derail my progress.
JG: What is your favourite healthy meal?
FD: My favourite healthy meal is turkey parmesan meatloaf. It’s actually a Weight Watchers recipe and makes a pretty regular appearance in my weekly menus. Here is the recipe!)
JG: What is your favourite form of exercise to do and why?
|FD: I like the boot camp circuit at the gym. It is short (30 minutes) and effective, and flexible with time…I can show up and start up right away. I also like to strength train and I love to walk. I get to the gym almost every weekday, whether it’s hitting the weight room, jumping on a cardio machine, working with a trainer, or doing the boot camp circuit. The weekends can be tricky for me, especially in the summer, as I head to our trailer almost every weekend. This past summer, I made sure that not being home was not an excuse. Without access to a gym, I would set up my own circuit (using bands, weights, boot camp drills, etc.) and also go on a lot of walks. While I am happy I have lost weight, the best part about staying active is that I feel better, have more energy, and my normal daily activities are so much easier!|
JG: Have you encountered any obstacles in maintaining your new healthy habits? If so, how have/do you overcome them?
FD: There are always obstacles in the way, especially during the summer months with vacations and many social functions happening. If I fall off, which has happened, I get right back on the next day. I’ve also learned that it is okay not to be perfect. I have also had to deal with a few injuries along the way. I fell and badly hurt my left arm which left me not able to do any form of strength for quite a few weeks. Despite the setback, I was able to adapt by building in a more intense walking program and stayed focused on eating well. I have learned to listen to my body and do the appropriate modifications or rest.
JG: How, if at all, would you say that the Shine Wellness program supported you along this journey?
FD: The Shine Wellness Program helped support me with the wellness centre downstairs. If for any reason I wasn’t able to get to my gym, I was able to go and workout at lunch. The classes offered were also a great change to my usual routine. I also visited the Shine website to find out what other programs were being offered at work (like Weight Watchers), as well as to find new healthy recipes to try. I am also a regular attender of the Shine Lunchtime Sessions and find the topics and speakers helpful and informative. I enjoy learning new things and even if some of the material is something I already know, hearing it again reinforces and validates the healthy habits I have incorporated into my life.
JG: Anything else you would like to share?
FD: Keep going! Even on your bad days or when you slip up, you can always decide to make your next decision a better one. It’s important to take rest days and listen to your body.
Fiona’s Additional Tips for Success:
What do you do if (when!) a craving does hit? First wait for 20 minutes to see if it passes. If the craving persists, try to find a healthier alternative. I find fruit works to satisfy a sweet tooth. If that won’t do I will just have the thing I am craving, but in moderation. Sometimes it’s better if I just have the food I am craving rather than try five other ‘healthier’ foods on my way to ultimately eat what I wanted in the first place.
What do you do when you don’t feel like working out? I find having a workout buddy is incredibly powerful to help me stay accountable. If I know someone is waiting for me at the gym, I don’t want to disappoint them. I also have a competitive streak, so if I know my friend(s) will be there, I don’t want to be left behind. I also head straight to the gym right after work so I don’t get distracted at home or change my mind about going later on. Another helpful strategy is to always keep top of mind how much better I will feel after the workout.
What is your best piece of advice for those just starting to exercise? Take it slowly, do what you can, and progress every day. Remember to take rest days. Find something you enjoy and you are way more likely to stick with it. I actually look forward to my workouts and find it fun!
What is your next goal? Short-term? Long-term? My goal is to continue with my fitness routine, continue to lose weight, and continue to get stronger. Over time I know this will help me not only physically, but it also provides great stress relief which helps me in all areas of life. I also plan to train for and compete in another Mud Hero event next year. Having something to work towards will keep me going and provide extra motivation to work hard over the next year. It’s my goal to improve my performance (complete all the obstacles) and set a new personal best.
Congratulations on all your success, Fiona! You are wished continued fun and progress on your wellness journey!
Years Employed at HHS: 15 years
LG: Kelly, with such a busy job how do you find time to look after yourself?
KC: I have always been committed to fitness and finding time each day to be active. It was challenging when my kids were younger and I was always rushing between daycare, school, work, and after school activities. As a single mom, some days were crazy and there wasn’t much time to get in a workout. I had to plan ahead and be creative to assure I got some kind of activity in each day. The key was to make fitness it a priority, setting small realistic goals that I could achieve without being overwhelming.
I always start my day with a 20 minute walk first thing in the morning. That way, regardless of how busy my day is, I know I have gotten some activity in. It relieves the stress of trying to work something in later in the day. In the evening, when my kids were younger, I would often walk again, taking the kids with me in a stroller, wagon, scooter or bikes as they got older. On the weekends, I was able to get to the gym, taking the kids with me and using child care there.
Now that my kids are grown, I don’t have the same home responsibilities and I have a little more flexibility. It can still be challenging and just getting to the gym is half the battle. I find the key to this is planning. I look at my schedule in advance and plan for times when I can go to the gym. I keep a gym bag in my car so that I am able to go when I have the time. Sometimes, my days are long at work but if I have a break in my schedule, I will go to the gym and get my workout in over lunch time.
LG: What are your favorite activities to stay active?
KC: I still walk every morning and really enjoy this time for my mental well-being. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I am able to go to the gym more frequently now and enjoy doing group fitness classes, especially yoga and strength training with weights. I don’t go crazy but try to keep a balanced program focusing on flexibility, strength and cardio. My gym (Goodlife) recently made virtual classes available, so I can do these classes on my own schedule whenever I have the time.
LG: What are you most proud of?
KC: I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to influence my kids with a commitment to fitness. Both of my kids work out at the same gym as me and they attend regularly. They believe in the benefits of good nutrition, exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle, and sometimes will even still go for a walk with me!
LG: What advice would you have for someone who was trying to become more active?
KC: My advice is to plan in advance, set small achievable goals, be creative, take advantage of small blocks of time and most importantly, find something you like to do. It doesn’t have to be going to the gym, just something you enjoy. Commit to it and make it important in your schedule. Lifelong fitness is the greatest investment you can make in yourself.
Kelly's No Bake Peanut Fudge Protein Bars
Shine Spotlight - Spring 2017
Name: Jill Horning
JG: How would you describe mindfulness meditation to someone who has no knowledge of the subject?
JH: Mindfulness is the opposite of living mindlessly. Mindlessness is when you don’t pay attention to what is happening here and now in your life because you are distracted by the stresses and concerns of the past and future. In contrast, mindfulness is living in a state of active, open awareness of the internal and external experience of the present moment.
Mindfulness meditation is about engaging your awareness by focusing on the body’s sensory experience and the rhythm of the breath as a means to bring your attention to the present moment. Staying in this state of present moment awareness can be challenging as the mind tends to drift back to the past and future, mentally writing out a grocery list or worrying about a problem at work instead of focusing on what is happening in front of you. The key to mindfulness meditation is to notice when your mind is wandering and bring your attention back to the present. It’s an exercise that you have to do over and over again, which is why mindfulness meditation is often referred to as a “practice”.
One of the key components of a mindfulness practice is learning to come back to yourself in the present moment with an attitude of compassion and non-judgement. It may be an automatic reaction to judge yourself as ‘failing’ when you are unable to keep your attention on the present moment, but this is a necessary step to developing the skill of mindfulness. The act of catching yourself and consciously bringing your awareness back to the present moment is how mindfulness is learned and cultivated.
JG: How did you discover mindfulness meditation and how long have you been practicing it?
JH: I discovered mindfulness meditation when I was looking for ways to reduce my stress and anxiety levels about four years ago. At the time my mind tended to ruminate endlessly on whatever difficulties I was facing which disrupted my sleep, school work, and general wellbeing. I took an introductory course to mindfulness-based stress reduction and was immediately hooked by the simplicity of the wisdom I learned. In that class I realized that I was living my life rarely mindful of the present moment, which is the only time that life really happens! Most recently I completed a new 8 week Mindful Self-Compassion class offered by HHS’ Centre for People Development. This class gave me tools and practices to help me be more mindful when difficult emotions arise. By sitting with and accepting my negative feelings I am able to respond with better awareness, compassion, and loving-kindness for myself and others.
JG: Where do you use mindfulness and how often do you practice?
JH: Mindfulness practice can be broken down into formal and informal practice. Formal practice is what we typically think of as meditation. I try to do this type of practice every day in the mornings before I leave for work. I take about ten minutes to sit and focus on my breath and intentions for the day so that I am refreshed and centered in the moment. I try to do a longer structured practice on the weekends where I often use guided meditations that I find online.
However, I have found that my informal practice is the most important to my daily life.
Informal practice can be done at any time and is simply bringing yourself back to the moment whenever you notice that your mind has left, even if it’s just for a few seconds. I do informal mindfulness practice during those little moment during the day when I find myself waiting, automatically reaching for my phone, or absent-mindedly looking for a distraction. I try to practice whenever stress or negative emotions comes up in my day-to-day experience, but I also practice informally when I encounter happiness in my life - mindfulness isn’t only for when you’re stressed! My informal practice helps me be more aware of the joys in my life so that I can really savor and be thankful for each moment.
JG: How has mindfulness benefited you personally?
JH: My practice has had positive consequences for my whole health and wellbeing. I feel that I am able to better identify how my mind effects my emotions and body. Mindfulness has increased my resilience and ability to intentionally manage my stress. Since starting my practice I find it much easier to return my awareness to the present moment and keep my footing during the ups and downs of life. When I am mindful I am more aware of how my body and mind interact and what they both need to work and rest effectively. This has been beneficial to my personal and work relationships and has bolstered my patience and ability to intentionally focus on the challenges I am tackling. Mindful awareness has helped me improve my posture, slow down and enjoy my food, listen more effectively, keep my cool in difficult situations, and be more thankful. I’ve found that the implications that mindfulness has for my life are truly endless.
JG: Have you encountered any obstacles in maintaining your practice? If so, how have/do you overcome them?
JH: When I am busy and stressed I still find it difficult to be mindful and am tempted to set aside my practice, even though I know that’s when it’s most helpful! My mind tries to convince itself that practicing will take too much effort and resources away from the ‘real’ and ‘important’ things. I have started treating these feelings as warning sign to trigger me to bring my awareness to the moment, even if it’s only for a few seconds. I find that even a tiny practice is often enough to break my initial reactive cycle and remind me how important mindfulness is, especially when I think I don’t have the time or energy.
I also can be a perfectionist and get frustrated with myself when my practice is far from flawless and I find myself struggling to stay aware of the present. When this happens, which is all the time, I give myself permission to be a slow learner since there is no such thing as time wasted in meditation and try to accept that at every step my practice is perfectly imperfect. I feel that I have a lot more to learn and a long way to go, but it is gets easier all the time to be at peace with the journey.
JG: How, if at all, would you say that mindfulness has changed your life?
JH: It has provided me with a new framework to approach the challenges in my daily life and has given me the tools I needed to constructively cope with stress so that it doesn’t become distress. Over time, my practice has taught me to notice and pause when my mind is distracted and pulling my attention into the past or future. I have learned to sit without judging what I am feeling and focus my awareness on the moment in front of me so that I can act intentionally instead of reactively. I find that I can self-reflect more effectively which has facilitated my personal growth and development. I believe that my mindfulness practice has taught me to connect my mind, body, and soul through awareness of the present moment and has helped me become a more conscious and balanced person.
JG: Anything else you would like to share?
JH: Mindfulness is really something that anyone can learn and benefit from. The tools and skills I developed from my mindfulness practice are widely applicable and have created systemic positive changes in my life. I think mindfulness is especially helpful for people working with a lot of stress, like those in the helping professions. Learning to be mindfully aware of the present moment is an essential skill to maintaining health and resilience and, in my opinion, is important for everyone to learn.
Heather is a married mother of three. Her weight loss journey began almost two years ago when she became frustrated when she couldn't lose the weight she had gained during while pregnant with her youngest son (that was 4 years ago). As a registered nurse in the Recovery Room, Heather works shift work and found herself not going to the gym like she used to. Before kids, she was active in baseball, swimming, and water aerobics. Once kids came, she put her needs last. After her third child, she let her eating habits go and she wasn’t moving as much.
Heather started exercising in February 2015. She found the Shine Wellness Centre at work convenient and started working out before her shift. However, after a whole year of consistent exercise, she still wasn’t seeing as much progress as she thought she would. She came to the realization that even though she was putting all this hard work in the gym, she also needed to change her eating habits if she was going to get the results she desired. Since that time, she has cut out junk food (except for the occasional treat) and is eating more vegetables. She educated herself on nutrition and found strategies that worked for her. She has lost a total of 45lbs since March 2016 and plans to maintain her lifestyle.
Heather exercises 4-5 times a week. She spends an hour before work in the wellness center, alternating between the treadmill and elliptical. Music fuels her workout and often reads to pass the time. At home, she lifts weight before hitting the gym or after her shift. She found exercise gives her more energy once she got into a routine. She enjoys walking, doing anything outdoors and playing with her son on the playground. She feels lighter and healthier!
Heather’s New Way of Eating
Heather realized the fast food she ate once a week with her kids was not helping her reach her goals. Instead, she started preparing her own meals and snacks loaded with vegetables. She often hides vegetables in her meals and her family doesn’t even know! She makes large freezer meals, such as lasagna and shepherd’s pie (with cauliflower mashed "potatoes"), which her older kids can prepare if she is not home in time. To help curb her appetite between meals, she enjoys a protein shake or bar that prevents her from reaching for junk food. She cut down on her carbohydrate intake and added vegetables to her diet. She is eating more often and has found her sugar cravings have disappeared! She writes down everything she eats to hold herself accountable. She loves finding new recipes and switches her diet up to avoid boredom. She has also ramped up her daily water intake to stay hydrated, and to help her avoid confusing thirst for hunger. For a easy snacks on the go she’ll pack cheese strings, grapes, chopped up cucumbers and her protein bar.
So it was easy?
Heather’s journey has not been easy. There are many temptations at work and finds shift work can disrupt her routine and eating habits. She has hit plateaus, which has caused her frustration. However, she doesn't let disappointment take her down or away from keeping after her goals. She often engages in positive self-talk to remind herself of where she started and how she got to where she was today. She is happy in her new lifestyle and reminds herself to keep going. She often encourages coworkers to start their own health journey. Although her husband may not be following her new healthy path, she feels she is good role model for her children and they have started to follow in her footsteps.
Advice to others:
“You have to mentally say, ‘Yes, I’m ready.’ Some want to start, but are not really serious about it. They aren’t quite ready to change. That is key. You have to plan and prepare. If you aren’t willing to make the time, you won’t succeed. No one is going to do it for you. Most people are looking for a quick fix. My journey was not quick…it happened two pounds at a time over many months. You have to do something that you can maintain for the long-term and will enjoy. You can still enjoy your favourite foods, but it has to be in moderation and not everyday.
Go slow! Write everything down, because it keeps you accountable. And don’t expect an overnight transformation. There is no quick fix. Slow and steady wins the race. When I get bored, that can be a temptation to look through the fridge. I now grab water, or to try to find something productive to do to keep me occupied. My rule: the kitchen is closed at 7PM. Unless I’m on nights, but that is a guideline I adhere to. Its hard, but worth it.”
BONUS: Heather’s Grocery Shopping Tips:
• Go with a list (and stick to it!)
• Don’t go hungry.
• Price match to save money!
Congratulations on your great success, Heather! Thank your for sharing your story....continue on with your new healthy lifestyle and thank you for being an inspiration to others. Keep shining at HHS!
Kathleen operating the heart-lung machine, Nothing can stop Kathleen!
a.k.a. "the Pump" as she and her team call it!
Tell someone that you’ve paid off all your debt and don’t have a payment in the world, and you’re likely to get responses like these:
1. How did you do it?
2. How long did it take?
3. I wish I could do that.
Well, let me speak to that last response first: You CAN get out of debt. You don’t need debt to get ahead, or to buy the things you want or think you “need”. Keeping up with the Jones’ is actually keeping most people down and drowning in a sea of debt. You CAN get out of the rat race and onto the path to financial freedom. You CAN save for emergencies and the things you’d love to do and have (all the things you probably can’t do very easily right now because of all the payments you’re making!). All you need is the willingness to do what it takes and a plan that will get you to where you want to go.
Now, to back up a bit and speak to the first two responses we haven’t covered yet, let me introduce you to one of your colleagues, Kathleen Mech.
Kathleen is a Cardiovascular Perfusionist at the Hamilton General Hospital. In case you aren’t familiar with what a perfusionist is or does (I certainly wasn’t, but feel much smarter now that I do!), they operate an incredibly complex piece of equipment called a heart-lung machine, and are responsible for closely monitoring and controlling the patient’s blood flow and other vital signs during open heart surgery. Despite Kathleen’s remarkable skill and ability to control and manage the physiological and metabolic demands of a patient undergoing heart surgery, she was losing control over her own life when it came to managing her finances.
It all started about two and a half years ago when her beloved partner of 26 years passed away suddenly from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm at the age of 61. As a result, Kathleen’s own heart had become shattered and broken by grief. For the next six months, she lived in a state of shock and despondency that is hard for her to describe.
Unable to effectively deal with her loss, she began spending a lot of money trying to find ways to cope and not have to face her bereavement. She spent frivolously on entertainment, socializing, picking up bills for friends, purchasing a motorcycle, being generous beyond her means, traveling in limos, etc.—all in an attempt to avoid facing her new reality of life without her partner. Without any accountability and caught in a mindset focused solely on feeling good in the here and now, she was willing to spend any amount in the hope that more “stuff and experiences” would outweigh the pain from which she was trying so desperately to escape. At the same time, she found herself down to one salary, maintaining a large home and property on her own, dealing with a flood in the basement, caught in the middle of landscaping project, and utterly exhausted!
Weary and overwhelmed, Kathleen was forced to come to the realization that no amount of “stuff” could cure her from grief. She was also faced with the harsh reality that she was deeply in debt and scared about her financial future. Within just one year of luxurious living, she had piled up a significant amount of debt in the form of various credit cards, a line of credit and a consolidation loan. While we won’t let you in on specific amounts, let’s just say it wasn’t chump change and she had certainly dug herself into quite a financial hole.
Knowing that she was struggling, a friend at work told Kathleen about a course called “Financial Fitness” that was starting up at HHS and recommended she take it. Kathleen looked into it without any trepidation, and registered right away knowing that she needed help. What she didn’t know was that in doing so, life as she knew it would never be the same: “I think that if it wasn’t for this course, I would have doubled my debt by now, maybe even more. I realized I needed to stop it, but didn’t know how to fix it fast, or even where to start. This program helped me fix it fast.”
Before starting the Financial Fitness course, Kathleen had never made a budget. “I just figured I should start to pay extra on this or that” she recalls. “What I didn’t realize is that I would actually have to be intentional and make some sacrifices.” Kathleen didn’t just learn the importance of budgeting, but also learned HOW to budget and has started budgeting for the first time in her entire life. She has cut up her credit cards, is now using the cash envelope system for a number of her budget categories and, most importantly, has vowed that once the entire debt is paid off she is done with debt FOREVER. “I have already paid off over 40% of my debt since the course started, which was just over 4 months ago, and have no intentions of slowing down.”
By working the debt snowball, Kathleen has already paid off her credit cards and line of credit and continues to be very strategic about knocking out her last debt. She has already applied a 15% lump sum on the loan, and will do so again later on this month (September) when the option renews. She has made arrangements with the bank to increase her weekly payments by 15%, and fully intends to make double payments every week she can afford to do so. Kathleen is now excited for the future, “Seeing the balance go down so quickly is definitely a huge motivator and I know it will only be a matter of time before I am totally debt-free and in a financial situation I never thought possible, even just a few short months ago.”
Kathleen has learned many lessons about money and gained so much insight into her own spending behaviours from taking this course. Here are just some of the most important learnings she wanted to share that have helped her pay off such a significant amount of debt in a short time:
To elaborate on that last point, Kathleen admits that she would always think or rationalize that she deserved more stuff:
“I would tell myself that the thing I wanted would make me feel better, or that I deserved it because ‘I worked hard’, or justify that ‘It’s my money’, or convince myself that ‘If I want those earrings, I can buy them!’. What I didn’t realize was how much the things I ‘deserved’ were actually costing me—in the form of accumulating massive debt and impacting my stress levels. Even the quality of my sleep suffered from all my money worries. In fact, I was just about to buy a $400 pair of earrings, but Jessica told me not to make any major financial decisions or purchases during the course, so I didn’t buy them. That was the first step. It killed me at first, but now I don’t even think about them. Now all I think about is getting rid of this debt. I am sharing everything that I can with people all around me, and they’re listening.”
|Kathleen is on Baby Step 2 (of 7), but knows exactly what each step is and how to get to the next one. “I definitely don’t go out as often, I eat at home almost all the time now and am eating much healthier as a result. I sold my Mustang, which was a great car (my friends think I’m crazy for giving it up), but I do not regret that decision one bit. The chunk it took out of my debt was well worth the sacrifice. Sometimes my friends make jokes about my new frugal lifestyle, but I am okay with that and know I am making the right decisions that will help move me along the Baby Steps.” Another motivation for Kathleen to pay off her debt is that, long term, she is going to be able to respect the inheritance from her partner by not cashing out RRSPs to take the easy (but very expensive) way out.|
After seeing the dramatic change in her behaviour, even Kathleen’s mother asked her what the catch was—what the course was trying to sell. “I said, ‘Mom, you want to know what the course is trying to sell me? If you don’t have it, don’t’ spend it. And get out of debt as quickly as you can so all your money is coming to you.’ Where is the trick in that? There is no trick. In a nutshell the course is selling financial peace!”
Budgeting, for Kathleen, is one of the biggest keys to her success. Not only is she budgeting each and every month; more importantly, she is sticking to her budget and has learned not to let a single dollar slip through her fingers without giving it an assignment. She has also starting to take her overtime in pay rather than lieu time: “I rationalized to take it as lieu because ‘I deserved that day off…I worked hard’, but when you’re deeply in debt, that is no longer a reasonable attitude. Now all my OT goes straight to the debt.”
While Kathleen has been through a long and painful grieving process, she has found great strength and hope in the fact that she is now in control of her financial future. Without the added stress of living beyond her means she is able to focus on continued healing, and is moving past her grief in a way that would have made her partner proud. Kathleen is not only driven and determined to make the most of this life, but is also well on her way to finding true financial freedom. Kathleen is a shining example of someone who has sacrificed to win and is securing a future that will allow her to retire with great wealth and dignity, and have even greater fun being outrageously generous along the way!
Congratulations, Kathleen, on your hard work and dedication towards becoming and staying debt-free. Thank you for sharing your amazing story. You are an inspiration and are wished much continued success!
Kathleen’s Last Words: I would highly recommend this course to everyone. I am teaching my parents, nephews, siblings, friends and colleagues about the program and encouraging them to get on a budget, pay off their debt and start learning about personal finance. I even tell the people at the bank about it! While my family is supportive and ready to start their own debt-free journey, the people at the bank don’t like it so much! You know why? They don’t make any money off me when I’m not in debt! I can't wait to do my debt-free scream!
Financial Fitness is a 9 week course offered as part of the Shine Wellness program to HHS employees and their family members. In 9 lessons, you'll learn to take control of your money, invest for the future, and give like never before! The course will walk you through the basics of budgeting, dumping debt, planning for the future, and much more! If you want to start winning with money, watch for the next registration opening (new course will begin in Spring 2018). Financial Fitness uses Dave Ramey's Financial Peace University curriculum.
After a back injury a few years ago sidelined him from his usual activity, Mike Freeborn gained over 30 pounds and his blood pressure started to get out of control. He is also type 2 diabetic which made maintaining a healthy weight more difficult, especially post- back injury. Knowing that a career in nursing can make it challenging to lead a healthy lifestyle, Mike decided to take advantage of all the opportunities at HHS to get active before, after and during shift.
Last fall, one of Mike’s coworkers on B2N signed up for an online 30 day challenge competition which included an exercise and diet program. She worked hard, got great results and ended up winning the contest. This led Mike to ask about her impressive results and she introduced him to the contest. Being well-aware of his increased risk of heart attack and stroke as a type 2 diabetic, having elevated blood pressure, and from being over weight—most of it around the waistline, Mike knew he had to make some changes to improve his health.
In order to get some guidance and accountability, Mike decided to take the same 30 day challenge in November 2015, where he was set up with an exercise and diet program to follow. He spent the next 30 days incorporating multiple mini daily workouts at the Shine Wellness Centres, cooking and eating healthy meals and snacks, and drinking lots of water. At the end of the 30 days, he had lost an impressive 25 pounds, and both his blood pressure and blood sugars had stabilized. Not only did Mike regain his health, he also won 1st place in the challenge and received the grand prize of $5000USD.
Throughout the challenge, Mike relied on the Shine Wellness Centres to fit in his workouts: “I could not have achieved this without the use of the Wellness Centers, especially at the General and Juravinski sites. Working 12 hour shifts as a nurse, I was able to go on my breaks and right after work to use the gyms. I would not have had the time to exercise if I had to go to a private gym. As an HHS employee, I am so appreciative for the use of the Wellness Centers and hope more people take advantage of this great opportunity we have to stay active at work!”
I had the pleasure of diving a bit deeper in an interview with Mike and asked him some additional questions to help shed more light on his success:
JG: When it comes to eating well, what are your top 3 recommendations?
MF: First, eat lots of vegetables. My favourites include celery, broccoli and cauliflower. Second, I found eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day worked well for me. This strategy helped me avoid overeating later on. Third, drink LOTS of water, and don’t drink juice as it’s full of sugar.
JG: How do you manage to eat healthy with a busy schedule?
MF: I make a point of prepping meals in advance with batch cooking. I use my crockpot often to make large batches of healthy stews and other meals that I can freeze and use for weeks to come.
JG: What is your favourite form of exercise to do and why?
MF: I found dumbbell circuits to be very effective for me during the challenge. With only 15-30 minutes to spend at the wellness centre on my breaks, this style of training allowed me to get in a tough workout without spending hours at the gym. I also enjoy walking and biking and make an active commute to work (I live near the Juravinski and work at the General).
JG: What is your best piece of advice for those just starting to exercise?
MF: Try not to overdo it. The ”no pain, no gain” mantra is nonsense—don’t push through pain. Instead, listen to your body and be consistent. Perform a combination of weight training and cardio conditioning that challenges you at your current fitness level. It’s also important to find something you actually like to do. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it.
JG: What motivates you to continue with this lifestyle?
MF: I want to have the energy I used to have, and stay as healthy as possible so I can enjoy a high quality of life. When I retire, I want to be able to do things and not have chronic conditions hold me back from any opportunities that come my way, or prevent me from accomplishing my goals.
Congratulations on your transformation, Mike! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with your coworkers. Keep up the great work and you are wished much continued success!
Want to share your own success story? You can nominate yourself for the Shine Spotlight here. We'd love to hear from you!
Years Employed at HHS: 15
Work Site: JHCC
Position: Medical Lab Technician
Favourite way to stay active: Hockey
Favourite Healthy Snack: Blackberries
Diana Alampi has a smile that lights up the room and beautiful brown eyes that sparkle. And yet, over the past 7 years, those same sparkling eyes have produced and shed many tears of frustration, sadness and even fear. And those same eyelids, which are meant to be a shield of protection, have also caused her world to go dark without any warning or reason. This is because Diana is one of the estimated 20,000 Canadians living with an uncommon sleep disorder called narcolepsy.
Despite the fact that there is no known cure for narcolepsy, Diana has not let this debilitating condition determine her destiny. Instead she is living well with narcolepsy, and has bravely chosen to share her experience—one that has led her on a journey from an existence of endless fatigue to a life of unstoppable strength. It is Diana’s mission to not only increase awareness about narcolepsy, but also provide inspiration and hope to many others who find themselves in the midst of a life-changing diagnosis. Here is her incredible story:
While it may seem a little odd to nominate myself for the Shine Spotlight, I have a story I been wanting to share for some time now—not only to bring awareness, but also to provide inspiration to those who hear it. First, working in a cancer hospital is an amazing privilege. To be a witness to so many people fighting to beat whatever illness is trying to beat them is inspiring.
My name is Diana. I worked in outpatient specimen collection as a phlebotomist for 14 years. In 2012, I was diagnosed with a condition that many people choose to keep silent about. I have a disorder that many are embarrassed to talk about, one of the reasons being that it isn't taken seriously. Yet we all have a challenge. Life is a challenge. My fight is narcolepsy.
In 2009, I started to feel very run down. Even to the point that I couldn't wake up. At that time, my shifts began at 6:00AM and I was tumbling in at 6:20, sometimes 6:30 despite my best efforts. I was literally going home from work and sleeping for the rest of the day. I knew I had three children that would soon be coming home from school, so I slept as much as I could in order to muster what little energy I had for my next job—which was caring for my children. But no matter how much I slept, I was constantly exhausted. My muscles were weak, my legs were weak and my heart was breaking. Sometimes I would come home from work crying asking myself, ‘What is wrong with me?” or “How can I feel like this when people are fighting to live?” Little did I know I had my own battle waging war inside of me.
One day I was taking blood from a patient, wondering to myself about how a person fighting cancer could look so good and here I am, looking and feeling like I’ve been awake for 72 hours straight. What I didn’t know at the time is that I felt that way because, according to my body, I had not slept for days. Despite trying to get to figure out what was going on with my health, my blood tests kept coming back normal. My family doctor also never suspected depression, yet part of me was depressed because of how I felt and not knowing why I felt that way. But the fact that I still wanted to get up and go to work, keep exercising, and take care of family did not indicate depression. I think I was looking for the diagnosis just so I could say, “Yes, I am depressed…this is why I am feeling so awful.”
My turn around came unexpectedly when my son came home from school one day. He said "Mommy we did a bio today about our parent’s hobbies and what they like to do". I read my son’s and it said, "mommy likes to sleep". I remember breaking down in tears, knowing I needed to fix this…and I did.
I began by writing down all my symptoms and booking an appointment with a neurologist. Dr. Savelli was my saving grace. She pretty much diagnosed me with narcolepsy right from the first time reading my symptoms. I was referred to a sleep study, completing both a nighttime and daytime study. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2012.
My sleep specialist, Dr. Gottschalk, has truly been one of my anchors throughout all the ups and downs since my diagnosis. He is not just a doctor who diagnoses and treats sleep disorders—he genuinely cares about and is compassionate towards his patients. Dr. Gottschalk has helped me remain strong and manage my symptoms well by always encouraging me to describe exactly how I feel on my medication. Being honest about how I feel is what allows us to make sure I am balanced on the right medication. He is an incredible doctor and would not be in the place that I am today without his ongoing support.
Because I didn't know anything about narcolepsy at the time of my diagnosis, I did a lot of research to better understand what was happening to my body and to learn what to expect going forward. This passion for learning more about narcolepsy has only intensified over the years, and it is one of my life’s missions to bring awareness about the disorder to help others.
I also had a desire to take on a personal challenge—one that was bigger than my challenge with narcolepsy. While all three of my children play hockey, I had actually never skated before. I’m not quite sure what motivated me to choose a sport as my personal goal, but I bought hockey gear and learned to skate and even joined a woman’s hockey league. Hockey has been an integral part in my fight to live not merely a normal life, but a FULL life. I have been fighting my condition with something I ended up falling in love with…a sport that my children ultimately inspired me to try by witnessing their enjoyment and passion.
You may not see me as the type who would be lacing up hockey skates and gearing up for games on a regular basis, but I have been playing hockey for over three years now. I want to encourage all who read my story that if you put your mind to winning a fight, no matter how defeated you may feel when you start, you can accomplish anything if you believe in yourself.
My children were the catalyst for my fight—they are my life and my inspiration. I know that I must make the most of life and strive to be a good role model for them so that they will follow their dreams and succeed, no matter what challenges they may face along the way. Today, I am working in malignant hematology at JCC and love my job. I am treated with medication and maintain a work-life balance that allows me to fulfill my duties and contribute to the team. My colleagues are amazing and I am so thankful for the acceptance and support I receive from everyone. I am in a safe place to continue to fight this and go home to a safe place. If you do the things you love, keep your mind focused on all the things in your life to be grateful for, then the difficulties and trials of life begin to fade more and more into the background. There is more to life than your hardships…as long as you believe, you can overcome.
My sincere to thanks to all the caring, supportive people in my life….my family, friends, coworkers. And many thanks to the hockey rink!
If you would like to learn more about narcolepsy or want to contact Diana, please email her at email@example.com
Years Employed at HHS: 10
Work Site: General
Position: Personal Support Worker for the Nursing Resource Team
Favourite way to stay active: Zumba classes when I am able to.
Favourite Healthy Snack: Mango and Pineapple Salad
Shauntel Baird is on a mission to become smoke-free for good. She entered the Shine Quit & Win Contest in the fall of 2015 and was declared the winner after staying smoke-free for the month of October. There were almost 30 HHS employees who entered the first-ever Shine Quit & Win Contest (in partnership with Hamilton Public Health Services).
Each person who showed up to one of the two on-site clinics (held at HGH and JHCC) in September received 5 weeks of FREE nicotine patches and were entered into a draw to win the $250 grand prize. To be eligible to win the prize, the contest participant had to prove that they were smoke-free for the entire month of October.
Shauntel worked hard and stayed quit for over 7 weeks before a brief relapse, but she is now back on the road to becoming smoke-free for good! We had a chance to interview Shauntel to learn more about her journey, what she hopes for in 2016, and her advice to others who want to quit. Read on to hear her inspiring story:
JG: Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to make a change to improve your health and quit smoking?
SB: I started smoking at an early age. I quit a couple times over the years but it wasn’t that important to me. As I get older and I work in the health field, I see what good health means to a person as they age, and the importance staying healthy and preventing illness.
JG: How did you hear about the Shine Wellness Program at HHS and how have you participated?
SB: I heard about the program from Jessica Galopoulos, Healthy Workplace Coordinator while I was having a cigarette outside with one of my colleagues. She mentioned the Quit and Win program and we decided to give it a try.
JG: How did quitting affect your life (work, personal, otherwise) and how did you cope with those changes?
SB: Quitting definitely made me feel better. I found I had more energy and was less tired. I could do more physical activity without getting winded as quickly.
JG: Did you introduce any new healthy behaviours to replace smoking? If so, please elaborate and explain how/if it was helpful.
SB: I’ve tried working out a little more and I also try my best not to eat junk food. Since I’ve stopped smoking, I found I craved sweets a little more. I try to find a healthier choice to satisfy the craving such as sweet fruit.
JG: You mentioned you had a brief relapse following the contest. What lessons did you learn from that and what steps are you taking to move forward and stay motivated?
SB: I stopped smoking for 7 weeks. I started smoking again when I went out with some friends for a Birthday celebration. I had been around a bunch of friends before, but this time there was some drinking. I found myself back into my old habits. Even though I didn’t feel that great the next day, I continued smoking. I had to get it back in my mind how much better I felt when I wasn’t smoking. It took week or so but managed to get back on the no smoking path.
JG: What is your best piece of advice for those who want to quit smoking? You may list as many tips/suggestions as you would like.
SB: My best advice for anyone trying to quit is if you not ready, don’t try. Set a date for when you are ready to quit and stick to it. Also if there are things you do that you associate with smoking, i.e. a cigarette with your morning coffee, try to change your routine. Also if you get a craving for one while you are in the process, remember cravings only last for a little bit. Do something to distract yourself.
JG: What motivates you to continue with this lifestyle?
SB: I am getting older and one day I hope to have grandchildren. I would like to be around to spend time and play with them, and watch them grow. I would like to be a healthy role model for them too.
JG: What is/are your wellness goal(s) for the coming year?
SB: My goals for 2016 are to remain smoke free and be much healthier!
Congratulations Shauntel—we wish you continued success in reaching all of your health and wellness goals!
Chedoke Weight Watchers at Work Group Gets Results!
You may not know it, but deep in the basement of the Southam Building at Chedoke, lives are being changed. Your colleagues—real people just like you—found success with Weight Watchers at Work (322 pounds worth of success, which represents an average weight loss of over 30 pounds per member!). How did they do it? Read on to learn, straight from the sources and in their own words, how Weight Watchers helped them achieve such amazing results.
How has the Weight Watchers at Work program helped you achieve your success?
“It was very convenient and I felt more accountable because my work colleagues keep me coming to the meetings. I did not have an excuse. I have now reached my goal weight and am still losing (setting a new personal goal).”
“I have lost nearly 30 lbs since starting the program in May. I feel healthier.”
“The program does not require you to purchase program specific foods but rather look at portions and rethink your options in order to make the healthier choice.”
“Having the At Work program helps eliminate some of the excuses people tend to use when faced with deciding whether or not to start dieting. Oftentimes people will say that they don’t have time to join a program such as WW because life is busy outside of work. I felt I was more successful with sticking with the program because I could attend WW meetings during my lunch. Having to weigh in every week with the same group of colleagues helped make me feel more accountable for the food choices I made everyday. I knew in the end that my choices would be reflected in the numbers on that scale.”
“I am a believer in the accountability model. Having people at work to encourage, challenge and support me was valuable. I did not have to wait for my next meeting because we work together every day.”
What happens in a meeting?
In addition to being weighed in each week to monitor progress, the weekly meeting provides members so much more:
“Our WW leader provides us with a ‘Weight Watchers Weekly’ booklet which deals with a specific topic and offers ideas and suggestions to keep on track and keep you motivated. Also, we are given the opportunity to share with the group any successes or challenges we encountered during that week. “
“Lots and lots of support, encouragement to keep on track, new ways of thinking about what you eat and getting exercise in. Learning ways to keep motivated.”
What do you find to be the most valuable aspects of Weight Watchers?
“It’s not a ‘diet’ in that you are not limited in food choices. Instead, it makes you aware of what you eat and how to prepare in advance so it’s easier to make healthy choices.”
“My youngest son and I needed to lose weight. I was looking for a strategy that I could live with after it was over. I wanted a lifestyle change and not a list of don’ts that I will end up quitting.”
“It’s a healthy way of losing weight. It’s sustainable and it does not make you feel like you’re depriving yourself of foods you enjoy. Rather, the program gives you the tools to help you look at portions, look at the nutritional values in your choices and change the way you think about the food choices you make.”
“At work is convenient and having coworkers around you helps keeps you on track more. We have a supportive and positive leader who has a great personal connection with everyone – she understands just how difficult it can be and really wants to help you achieve your goals.”
“Employees should know that if you are already going to WW outside of the work location that you can change and come to the work meetings. I did not know that. I thought because I was going outside and had not committed to the work sessions at the beginning, that I couldn’t join. I did not come to the work one until May (it started in February). Coming to the work session is probably the main reason I have reached my goal quicker than going to the outside meetings."
|When it comes to eating well, what are your top strategies or tips?
What is your favourite form of exercise:
What motivates you to continue with this healthy lifestyle?
“Energy, compliments, and fit into clothes.”
“ I feel better about myself and I have a higher level of energy. I like where I’m at right now.”
“I feel better and am looking forward to eating because of the variety. Food actually tastes better! I have really enjoyed discovering new fruits and vegetables. Dragon fruit, for example. Dinner has become an adventure.”
What is your best piece of advice for those just starting make healthy lifestyle changes?
Would you recommend Weight Watchers at Work to other HHS staff?
“I would absolutely recommend WW to other HHS employees. If you want to commit yourself to losing weight and making healthy choices that you can maintain, WW is a great program.”
Congratulations again to the Weight Watchers group at Chedoke. You are all an inspiration and we wish you continued success! Thank you for sharing your experience and offering such great advice.
If this group has inspired you and you want to share in their accomplishment, be sure to register for Weight Watchers at your work site...new meeting series starts in mid-September. Surround yourself with like-minded colleagues and get the support and encouragement you need to create your own success story!
Step Up & Shine Stair Climb Challenge Participants
This Shine Spotlight features the Step Up & Shine Stair Climb Challenge participants who "stepped up" to the challenge of taking the stairs during the month of February. Over 270 HHS staff, physicians and volunteers took part in the 4-week challenge, pledging to track the number of flights of stairs they took each day they were at work.
Here’s a look at some of your colleagues’ incredible achievements over the 4 weeks of the challenge:
• Average number of flights climbed per participant: 225 total flights over 4 weeks (15 steps = 1 flight)
• Average of over 56 flights climbed per participant each week!
• Average of over 11 flights climbed per day per participant (based on 5 working days/week)
Wow….congratulations to everyone on rising to the challenge this winter and reaching new heights in your fitness. Stair climbing is a great way to not only get fit, but is also usually fast than taking the stairs (as many came to realize by taking on this challenge!).
In addition to reaping the benefits of stair climbing and increased physical activity, participants were entered into a random draw at the end of the challenge for the chance to win one of 20 prizes!
Congrats to our lucky winners:
|$25 Sport Chek gift card||Towel / Technical Socks
||Travel Mug||Water Bottle|
|Victoria MacDonald, Chedoke
Michelle Stephenson, MUMC
Karin Weinberger, MUMC
|Kym Brettell, PHRI
Alysan Rouble, JHCC
Melyssa Cook, Chedoke
Vanessa Cheng, HGH
Nate Seroski, MUMC
|Teresa DeCoste, Chedoke
Pamela Pagunsan HGH
Fiona Dawson, HGH
Chrystal Woodside, MUMC
Sara Goslling-Cannell, HGH
Jordan Knapman, HGH
Allison Stoneburgh, SPH
Holly Prine, MUMC
|Valerie Carroll, MUMC
Lowana Lee, Chedoke
Jennifer Leroux, MUMC
Jason Killing, JHCC
And now for the testimonials of those who participated….here are just some of your colleagues' inspiring comments:
"Thank-you for providing this challenge as it made me realize that taking the stairs is actually faster than waiting for an elevator. It was a motivation to start to increase my fitness routine."
"LOVE these challenges. Think they are a great motivator. Fun and easy to do."
"I've learned that even if a co-worker says they are taking the elevator I shouldn't feel guilty or pressured into taking it to and say, ‘That's okay…I'll take the stairs!’"
"You gave us a challenge and I gladly accepted! During the last four weeks, I challenged myself to climb our building (143 steps) ten times daily (95 flights) in order to improve my overall health. Both Herbert Mawema and myself also challenged each other and pledged to continue our workout regime even after the challenge ended. It is great to work for an organization that challenges their employee to improve their daily routine!"
"Great motivation, will take part next year for sure!"
"This has made me aware of how out of shape I am. Never realized what stairs CAN do for you. I am now more conscious of taking the stairs wherever I am.”
“Just walked the mall this weekend and took the stairs not the escalator...never would have before.
I park a little further, walk a little longer, and WILL increase my stairs! Thanks for the challenge. I didn't reach my pledge but am thankful I joined."
“I really enjoyed the challenge! It got me thinking more about my level of activity at work and made me notice just how much time I spend sitting in front of a computer each day. "
"Thank you for challenging me to increase my activity. I usually take the stairs but I made sure that I used them a lot more…even when I did not need to get to another floor, I just made a point of getting out of my office to get moving.”
“It was great! I had a lot of fun switching to stairs”
“Great organization, information, and challenge! Just the little nudge I needed. I'm a stair regular now :)”
“It made me stop and think before I took the elevator even if it meant walking a little further to find stairs that would go where I wanted to go.”
“The first week was my usual stair climbing but as the week went by, I decided to use the basements photocopier machine so I could do extra stair climbing. By the next week, I had to do the stairs on m lunch to keep up with the extra set of stairs that I promised myself I would do. It was really tough the last week, but I DID IT! I feel so much better!”
“In addition to taking the stairs on the days I was at work, I challenged myself to use the stairs on the days I did not work as well and this has started me onto a path of active living. Thank you for the challenge.”
"I think this challenge was a great opportunity for people to feel good about how they feel and knowing they can finish a challenge... Great start to getting ready for spring and summer :)"
“I was totally amazed to see how many flights I did at the end of the month. "
"I found the biggest thing was breaking the elevator habit; but it does get better. Thanks for drawing attention to the small things we can do. It was especially helpful to me in getting me moving. “
“My total was 47 flights and I am delighted because before this started it would have probably been a 1/4 of that or less. THANKS."
“It was really helpful to have in February in particular! I signed up because I'm pregnant and needed extra motivation to stay active, and it definitely was a good motivator.”
“I didn't realize how out of shape I was until I started the stair challenged ... well done. Myself and Peers worked together to keep motivated.”
|In this photo, Susan and Christina are climbing the Wilcox stairs at Chedoke campus.
“I thought it was great. I have been a tunnel walker at Chedoke of years, and this challenge got me to step it up a notch by adding the stairs.”
- Susan Whiteside, Audiologist (left)
Lots of fun! I will try to continue through March until warm enough to get outside and do the stairs at Upper Paradise and walk the trail.- Christina Mellies, Speech Pathologist (right)
“This was fun. I always take the stairs, but have never paid attention to how many I actually climb during the workday, and I'm impressed with the total numbers. Enjoyed it, and many of my team members participated as well so we could encourage each other. The weekly reminder emails were helpful. Thanks!”
“At first I was rising up to the challenge and was very excited. Although I didn't achieve the results I expected, I am still grateful for the exercise and the increased awareness this has brought me. Since the stair challenge I have started to make healthier choices.”
“I started taking the stairs after getting a job at this site about 1.5 years ago. My old job was sitting and talking to Doctors for 12 hour shifts. Since I got here I've felt more energetic and began working out at home, but it all started with the stairs. I've lost roughly 25lbs now, elevators... a thing of the past for me.”
“Great way to be mindful about daily physical movement. Some days were difficult to manage with competing clinical responsibilities. Good idea to do the challenge:)”
“It was great, reminded me to take the stairs more often and I even did a few dates of stairs at the end of the day with some colleagues.”
“I pledged to not take the elevator for the month of February and was successful. :)”
“It was fun to connect with others and do the challenge together.”
“A good way to get started (sometimes starting is hard)!”
“I enjoyed a structured way to increase activity at work and an incentive to do so. “
“I enjoyed the challenge! My legs feel stronger and in the future on my breaks, I think I will walk a few flights to get some exercise. “
“This was a great reason to create a group that walks every day. Hopefully this will keep going now that the challenge is over.”
“I really enjoyed the challenge. Having a coworker take the stairs with me was the easiest way to stay motivated (even though she wasn't participating).”
“Great idea, I hardly ever took the stairs up, only down lol and this made me get in the habit of doing both now!!”
“I love this challenge. It inspires me to take the stairs and if I fall off track, it gives me an additional reason to get back on track!”
“Great challenge, it was just a small change that hopefully will contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Happy to have been able to set my own goals, as I cannot leave my office frequently, so multiple sets of stairs daily would have been unrealistic to maintain, and would have been discouraging overall. By being able to set my own goals, I was able to achieve and surpass them without any pressure.”
“It was fun and we ended up making it a bit of a challenge between some of the people on the floor. We incorporated some stairs into our morning and afternoon walk. It provided a break from the monotony of the hall.”
Congratulations again to all of our participants (and prize winners). If you are reading this and did not participate in the Challenge, then be sure to watch for announcements in early 2016. Join us next winter as HHS staff, physicians and volunteers “step up” and pledge to choose the stairs during the month of February. Better yet, get started today and make the stairs a regular habit for the long term!
“Every journey begins with just a single step.”
Nominated by for the Shine Spotlight by an inspired colleague, we had the pleasure of interviewing Brigida Dimitriou to learn more about her weight loss journey. Read on to hear how she changed her lifestyle, lost over 30 pounds in the process, and has no intentions of going back!
Name: Brigida Dimitriou
Years Employed at HHS: almost 35 years!
Work Site: MUMC
Position: Executive Assistant to the President and CEO
Favourite way to stay active: walking
Currently in her 35th year of service, Brigida has and continues to be a valuable member of the Hamilton Health Sciences team. Although her role throughout the years has evolved, she has been working for the past 24 years as Executive Assistant to the CEOs of Chedoke-McMaster Hospitals and HHS. Her career in the CEO’s office began with Ray Walker in 1990 and has continued to present day, supporting our current President and CEO, Rob MacIsaac.
Brigida’s wellness journey began almost two years ago when her husband Carl, a recently retired HHS staff member, began to experience some health issues, leading to a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. Not wanting to be reliant on insulin injections and medication, Carl began to research diabetes and educated himself on how to manage the disease through lifestyle changes and better nutrition.
Brigida got right on board by supporting Carl and recognized that diabetes has no borders. She also knew that in order to achieve her goal of permanent weight loss, she would have to alter her lifestyle, but in a way that she could reasonably maintain. After many failed attempts at weight loss, she knew that going to extreme measures for a “quick fix” was not the answer for long term success. She and Carl made the decision to do things the right way this time around and so began their weight loss journey together.
The first thing that changed was their grocery list. Brigida says that keeping junk food out of the house, increasing veggies, eating less meat, and being more mindful of condiment choices has made a huge impact. They also made a conscious effort to reduce their portion sizes; avoid high-carb foods like pasta, breads, and refined sugars; and switched from regular milk to almond/coconut milk. Brigida admits that she does enjoy small treats, and savours a piece of dark chocolate most days. Balance is key!
While she does not adhere to a specific workout program, she has become much more intentionally active at home. For example, she’ll regularly perform squats and calf raises while brushing her teeth, or get in a set of push-ups using the kitchen counter. Brigida also uses her lunch break to go for a walk outside, and plans to put her treadmill at home to good use now that the winter weather has set in.
All of her efforts have brought her to a remarkable weight loss of over 30 pounds since she and Carl set out on their new healthy journey. Carl has also seen great success and has already lost over 60 pounds and is managing his diabetes well and without medication.
With a combined total weight loss of nearly 100 pounds, it is clear that they are spurring each other on and make a fabulous team!
Brigida would still like to lose a few more pounds, but is confident she will achieve her goals in time. She knows that by maintaining her current healthy habits and establishing new ones, having a supportive husband to love her and keep her accountable, and being surrounded at work by colleagues who have encouraged and inspired her along the way will motivate her to keep pursuing wellness for the rest of her life.
Brigida’s Weight Loss Advice, Step-By-Step:
• First step is to recognize and acknowledge you lead an unhealthy lifestyle
• Second step is to purge your cupboard/fridge/freezer of unhealthy items
• Third step is try and remove one to two items out of your life, first I removed as much refined sugar as I could, then I focused on carbs
• Fourth step is to become more active, by taking the stairs or parking your car away from entrances
• Fifth step seek inspiration from those that have already achieved a healthy lifestyle
• Last step is you must stay true to yourself if you want to succeed!
Way to go, Brigida! We wish you (and Carl) the best for 2015! Thank you for sharing your incredible story.
BRIGIDA'S SPOTLIGHT SOUP
This soup recipe provides balance, good taste and lots of nutrition. I make a big batch that lasts a week.
• 4 Litres of water
• 2 tablespoons of low sodium chicken stock (I use Vegeta), or you can use stock made with lean chicken)
• 1 onion - chopped
• 3-4 celery stalks - chopped
• 1 butternut squash – chopped
• 1 can of rinsed broad beans
• 1.75 kg of frozen vegetables or same amount of fresh vegetables
• Red chilli pepper flakes, to taste
1. Fill large pot with the 4 litres of water and begin to heat on stovetop at med-high heat.
2. Add onion, celery and butternut squash and cook until very soft
3. Puree these three items in the stock
4. Add beans, frozen or fresh vegetables (I prefer the frozen oriental vegetables)
5. Add chilli pepper flakes, to taste
6. Cook until tender and your soup is ready
7. Spoon in bowl and if it requires a bit more salt, I use Parmesan/Romano grated cheese for added flavour.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Janet Willms, now smoke-free and full of energy, to learn more about how she successfully quit after more than three decades of smoking. Read on to hear how she kicked the habit for good!...
Name: Janet Willms
Years Employed at HHS: 25 years!
Work Site: Chedoke
Position: Accounts Receivable Collector, Finance Department
Favourite way to stay active: Walking and biking
Janet started smoking at the young age of 14 when she and her friend at the time thought it would be cool. Little did she know that learning to inhale a cigarette with a classmate 36 years ago was a decision that would stay with her for decades to come. Janet loved smoking, or so she thought, and believed she would never quit.
However, life doesn’t always go according to plan. After having lost both her 56 year old mother to lung cancer (she was also a smoker) and her 62 year old father to a heart attack when Janet was just 35, she knew that illness and even premature death could also be her fate if she didn’t take steps to protect her health. But knowing and doing are two different things. So, although she wanted to quit, she also didn’t want to lose the life she had always known and was comfortable with as a smoker.
Not only did the death of her parents give her a wake-up call, but her children were also a big influence as they encouraged (or rather, guilt-tripped) her into trying to give up smoking. So, over a span of several years, Janet tried to quit many times…and she tried EVERYTHING! Whether attempting to quit cold turkey, trying various forms of nicotine replacement therapy (the patch, gum, inhaler, etc.) to curb cravings, even hypnosis—none of these strategies ended up working for her over the long term. Her quit attempts would last anywhere from a few hours to a stretch of about 2 years, but did not ultimately stick. Even though she wasn’t able to quit during these attempts, she did manage to cut down from smoking one full pack a day to half a pack a day, which was at least one step in the right direction to eventually becoming smoke-free.
As Janet was nearing 50 years old, she took part in the Couch to 5km program at Chedoke in an effort to improve her fitness. And while she truly enjoyed running, she felt the effects of her smoking while being active more than ever. She was wheezy, found it difficult to breathe, and eventually ended up taking a breathing test a St. Joe’s and discovered she had developed asthma. While relieved it was not something more serious, she knew that she needed to quit once and for all.
In addition to her breathing issues, Janet was also beginning to feel more uncomfortable going for a smoke in her usual social settings with friends. She recalls, “Many of my friends I used to smoke with had quit for one reason or another and then I found myself being the only one that was still smoking.” At work she did have a regular “smoking buddy” to go out with for breaks, but with the new Smoke-Free Ontario Act in place, they were forced to smoke on the side walk where everyone could see. Janet became increasingly uncomfortable and didn’t want others to know about her smoking habit so openly.
The turning point really occurred while taking part in a local running group. At one of the runs, a friend in the group told her about the smoking cessation medication called Champix. She had tried everything else, so Janet decided to give it a whirl too and see if it would help her quit for good. She liked the fact that there was flexibility in the quit date and didn’t feel so pressured. She also received regular calls from her Pharmacist (which annoyed her at the time), but found the encouragement and accountability provided helpful overall.
Now, 1 year and 8 months later, Janet is completely smoke-free. She feels better, sleeps better, has more energy, and enjoys a sense of freedom that she hasn’t felt in a long time. That being said, the path to get where she is today has not been easy, and she would be the first to admit that quitting is hard and a life-long process, “No one can do it for you and there is no such thing as an easy fix. It’s really one moment at a time, one craving at a time. Each day you have to make the decision to be smoke-free. Your entire thought pattern needs to change and it requires you to take smoking completely off the table as an option.” She now enjoys an active lifestyle—biking or walking to work almost everyday—and also participates in a number of fitness classes offered at work through the Shine Wellness Program.
When asked what advice she would give to others who are trying to quite smoking she did not hesitate, “My piece of advice is for you to do it when you’re ready. Trust me, you’ll know when that is. And when it’s time for you, you will find the strength and determination to succeed. You need to find out what you really want in life, where you want to be, and then set out to accomplish your goals. Only you can make the healthy change.”
Congratulations, Janet, on this incredible accomplishment and for all your hard work and perseverance that has led you to be where you are today—smoke-free and thrilled about it! You are an inspiration and you are wished much success as you continue on your wellness journey.
We followed up with Rob Pearce, winner of the 2014 HHS Winning at Losing Weight Loss Challenge, to discover how he accomplished such incredible results during the 10 week challenge. Read on to hear how he lost over 10% of his body weight…
Name: Rob Pearce
Years Employed at HHS: 11 years
Work Site: St. Peter's Hospital
Position: Electrician, Engineering Department
Favourite way to stay active: Running, biking, and team sports
Rob is certainly not one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, challenges are what inspire and motivate him, and his competitive spirit drives him to go above and beyond to achieve his goals. This same spirit is what helped him edge out the competition in the online 2014 Winning at Losing Weight Loss Challenge offered as part of the HHS Shine Wellness Program. This was Rob’s first time entering the Challenge (it was also offered in 2013) and at the end of the 10 weeks, he found himself about 23 pounds lighter—which represented a loss of just over 10% of his total bodyweight. What’s equally impressive is that the end of the challenge did not diminish his efforts or desire to keep making progress. In fact, at the time of this interview, he had lost an additional 5 pounds and planned to keep on going!
So how did Rob accomplish this level of weight loss? For one, he made some intentional changes in his level of physical activity and says that remaining consistent in those efforts is what led to his great results. “Having a specific timeline was key...knowing that the challenge was 10 weeks helped make the sacrifices I knew I was going to have to make seem doable. I was coming off a season of holiday weight gain and this was the perfect opportunity to get back to a healthier weight.”
Rob didn’t let the cruel winter hinder his plan and created a daily habit of running 1 - 1.5 miles on his treadmill (remarkably, he only missed his run two days over the entire course of the challenge!). He also performed 600 crunches everyday using his ab roller. Rob is also a fan of team sports and has a network of family and friends who also lead active lifestyles. Therefore, much of his social and leisure time includes playing sports. Rob is part of a dodgeball league and, if you’re ever looking for him on a Friday night, you’ll find him at a nearby school gym playing volleyball with his friends and family. If that’s not enough, Rob also bikes 10km to and from work everyday now that the nicer weather has arrived and he doesn’t have to contend with the winter snow.
In terms of his nutrition, he always makes a point of eating breakfast which typically includes oatmeal or toast with peanut butter. He noted that lunch was a little less consistent, but made up for it with a hearty dinner and even dessert most days. Being as active as he is afforded a bit more leniency in his nutrition choices without hindering his weight loss efforts. When asked about his favourite healthy meals, Rob commented that he is not picky when it comes to food—he really enjoys salads, but is happy to eat just about anything put in front of him (including vegetables!).
Rob also found the Winning at Losing online tracking tools very helpful in keeping him on target throughout the challenge: “Having to record my weight on a regular basis kept me accountable and seeing the number go down helped me stay motivated to keep going”. He is already looking forward to participating in the challenge again next year and would encourage anyone hoping to shed some extra pounds to take advantage of the programs offered through the Shine Employee Wellness Program at HHS.
Congratulations Rob and keep up the great work!
We had the privilege of spending some time with Penny LeFebour, both a colleague and talented athlete, to learn more about her path to wellness through sport, a positive attitude, and the courage to challenge her herself to become the best she can be. Read on to hear her story…
Name: Penny LeFebour
Years Employed at HHS: 4 years
Work Site: St. Peter's Hospital
Position: Contract Analyst, Purchasing
Favourite way to stay active: Sports (soccer and hockey) and cycling
Penny post-game Penny...always ready! Great save!
Prior to her employment at Hamilton Health Sciences, Penny worked in the automotive industry which she found very stressful and had difficulty achieving any level of work/life balance—something she greatly desired and knew was necessary for her to be healthy. At that time, she smoked and desperately wanted to quit, but was concerned about gaining weight during the process. Penny did not do any form of physical activity at the time, but at age 42 decided that she not only wanted to quit smoking, but also wanted to get in shape.
An opportunity came around that same time for Penny to join a women’s hockey league in Hamilton. The league catered to all levels of skill and the social aspect of team sports appealed to her, so at age 42 with no prior hockey experience, Penny laced up her skates, challenging her physical and mental fortitude, and has not looked back since. It has been more than a decade since her first game and, in addition to playing every season, has now begun volunteering to help convene and organize the entire league so that more women who want to play have an opportunity to enjoy sport beyond the bleachers and “soccer mom” status.
Penny wants to make it clear to all those (women especially) who don’t think they can do it that there are no prerequisites for starting hockey (or any sport) at any season of life—it is for all walks of life, fitness levels, sizes, and ages. She is living proof that it is never too late to start (and even excel) if you have the desire and right mindset: “You don’t have to work up to a specific level of fitness, or down to a certain size first”, she says, “the important thing is to just start and begin to move in the right direction.”
However, Penny didn’t stop there. Only 4 years after her hockey debut, she decided she wanted to expand her horizons beyond the ice rink and onto the soccer pitch. Soccer is now her greatest passion and plays 3 times a week, year-round. Penny says that playing often and consistently has allowed her to increase her skill greatly over a short period of time. So much, in fact, that she trained hard and earned the opportunity to represent Canada at the World Masters Games (Olympic level for those 30 years and over) this past August, 2013 in Torino, Italy. Penny plays the goalie position and loves that even while she fearlessly protects her net, she is also able to build up her team with encouragement and a positive attitude throughout the game.
Reflecting on the past decade, Penny says that becoming more active has not only brought her to be in the best shape of her life, but she no longer suffers from the knee and back pain she experienced in her 20s and 30s caused by arthritis. She maintains that her knee problems have disappeared, she has more energy, and feels a sense of accomplishment that creates positive reinforcement to continue in leading a healthy, active lifestyle.
When asked for a concluding thought, Penny offered this advice: “Find an activity you enjoy and never be afraid of trying something new. Challenge yourself—at any age or fitness level—and to never let physical limitations prevent you from being the best you can be.”
Name: Kim Rynn
Years Employed at HHS: 22 months
Work Site: Chedoke
Position: Manager, Client Services
Favourite Healthy Snack: plain low fat Greek yogurt with a little vanilla protein powder, and fruit mixed in
Kim in August 2012 Kim now...45lbs lost! What a transformation!
Over the last 6 months I have lost 45 pounds and completely changed my fitness level! I decided over the Christmas season that I had to reverse my progressive weight gain as my doctor had already told me my cholesterol was becoming a problem. I set out tentatively with a goal to lose 20-25 pounds by summer. I never imagined that I could accomplish double that goal!
I knew I had to make some dramatic changes to my lifestyle…one of those changes being getting active and exercising more regularly. As a result, I made a decision and commitment to get help—first by joining a gym and then working with a personal trainer. My trainer continues to challenge me every week with new workouts helping me to progress quickly. He has encouraged me all the way and motivated me to follow up with the workouts on my own. I even started a cardio kickboxing class twice a week which is fun and provides another great way to condition. Adding the workouts to my daily routine was a bit of a challenge at first, but what worked for me was that every time I made an excuse not to go – I went anyways. So it didn’t take long to make this a habit and, in fact, I now prioritize that time and work it into my schedule everyday, except for 1 day off.
Along with physical activity, I have also made changes to my eating habits. I received some nutrition advice which has helped ensure I am eating the right foods to support healthy weight loss and my level of activity, as well as putting me on the path to healthy eating for life. This has probably been the hardest part, as it meant letting go of old eating habits, still cooking for a family and sticking to a restricted menu. I fall off every once in a while, but the trick has been not to get down about it and, instead, regain my focus and move on.
Not only have I seen great progress in what I can do in the gym, my stress level is much lower, I sleep better, any aches and pains I used to experience have disappeared, and overall I am more positive and confident. I have more energy and enjoy walking, biking, and gardening more now that I can do them with ease.
A few months ago, I never imagined I could feel this great, have so much energy, and take such enjoyment in activities I used to do. My family and co-workers have really helped me by supporting my efforts and cheering me on all the way. Having the support network at the gym—from the trainer, staff and other people who had already done this journey—was really critical too. Now that I have achieved my goal weight, I am continuing to learn how to adjust my eating to support the level of toning and conditioning I desire and the healthy lifestyle I intend to keep for life!