Nutrition

Learn more about Nutrition and it’s effect on living a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition is a factor in stress and weight gain.

Q&A: How Do I Stop My After-Work Wine Habit?

Pretty, young woman drinking some nice red wine at home, in the evening after work on her sofa (color toned image; shallow DOF)

Q: How do I stop my after-work wine habit?

A: Making new choices isn’t easy, even when we consciously know what we might prefer to do—such as kicking the after-work wine habit (substitute any post-work relaxation habit you may wish to replace). We are wired, by our survival instincts, to hunt down carbs, fats, and salts, so it’s no wonder our taste buds are a primary means for rest and relaxation in our culture—eating tells us we’re safe. But being seduced by our tongue will often derail our evenings and, subsequently, affect our sleep and following day. If this pattern repeats we will typically wake up one day and find ourselves in a hole that is tough to climb out of. However, one of the blessings of our new work-from-home reality is that we have newfound time to cement new healthy habits. With the additional time once spent on commute and travel, we can now repeat a new action more frequently and anchor it into a healthy lifestyle habit in less time.

Know it’s a need, not a want

It’s very common to want to relax and reward our efforts at the end of the day. Come 5 pm or 8 pm, or whenever it is you get home from work, cortisol (our stress hormone) has been elevated all day, helping us stay focused and on-task with zoom meetings, calls, and a mountain of emails, we’ve made thousands of choices and decisions, and our willpower is spent. Now, our brain is craving a relaxing bath of feel-good neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—to help us let go of it all. This craving to feel good is actually a “need” we need to be conscious of if we want to make different choices at the end of the day to unwind. Our bodies need to unwind after a full day spent in a stressful, vigilant state. We are wired this way in order to regain some semblance of balance and not physically burn out (aka survive). So, whether it’s that glass of wine or perhaps some chips and guacamole, know that you are consuming these carbs, fats, and salts because of a primal need to slow down and find balance.

Rather than thinking about your post-work choice as a “should” (e.g. I should go work out, or I should eat a healthy snack), remember it’s a “need”. If you don’t proactively answer that need, your body will resort to those feel-good fats, carbs, and salts to comfort itself. Take time to honestly reflect on what need is not being met. Then you can more easily find other sources of pleasure to satiate this need.

Find Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives that could be woven into your workweek as a replacement to snacks and alcohol—proactive, healthy alternatives that will fill your need for feeling good at the end of a stressful workday, lower your cortisol levels, and bathe your body with ‘feel good’ hormones:

  • Pet an animal lovingly for 10 minutes.
  • Go for a 20-minute walk in nature. “Warm-up” your hike by spending the first 5 minutes focusing your awareness on sights, sounds, smells, and even touch. This will slow your mind down and bring it to the present moment, reducing cortisol and anxiety.
  • Meditate in a quiet nurturing place for 5 minutes.
  • Spend 20 minutes working on something creative to get into the ‘flow state’. Some great options are gardening, playing an instrument, writing poetry, or tying fishing flies—anything that captures your attention and is solely for your joy.
  • Connect your mind and body with your breath while unwinding on the yoga mat for 20 minutes.

Document Your Intentions and Experience

Make a list of 3-5 benefits that you might receive by altering your after-work routine. This will give your effort significantly more meaning. Next, write down three obstacles that could derail your efforts and match each of those obstacles with three solutions (contingency options determined in advance). Now you’re fully prepared for any curveballs.

Frequently stop, take a few breaths, and notice thoughts and feelings. Journal (before bed or after awakening is best) the insights you have noticed about your sleep, digestion, moods, mental focus, energy levels, and replacement choices. Be curious. This will help you notice and appreciate the benefits of your new habit-to-be.

Manage Cues

Cues are triggers for your bad habit. Common cues are time of day, such as happy hour, physically seeing your favorite bottle sitting on the counter when you walk in from work, your emotions, such as stress or exhaustion, and people that you may typically drink with. You should let your best friends know that you’re working on changing your habits, so when you decline their invites for happy hour, they understand why.

Create Your Own Positive Cues

Replace negative cues with positive ones. Consider setting an alarm on your phone right at 5 pm reminding you of your goals and suggesting one of your replacement actions. Write a note to yourself and stick it to your wine fridge. Put a sticky note on your office door that reminds you of your goals right as you leave work. There are so many other creative ways to help you snap out of the post-work trance and make a mindful decision on how you want to spend your evening.

Be Kind To Yourself

Do your best to be kind to yourself as you start the processes of nurturing yourself (rather than soothing or numbing) after work. Strive not for perfection, or you can certainly expect internal rebellion. Take baby steps on your journey up the mountain. Begin by setting goals that are seemingly trivial—e.g. one night a week where you have a healthy after-work activity. Then, after a few weeks of this, move on to two nights a week. Stop at no more than 5 nights a week to leave yourself room to be human.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: Why is sugar bad?

Q: Why is sugar so bad for us, and why is it so hard to avoid?

A: First, let’s redefine “bad”. Sugar, or glucose, is not “bad” for us—in fact, it is an essential form of energy for the cells of our brain and body. Our tongue even has a specific taste bud allocated to finding it for our survival. The problem with sugar is when it’s added in addition to naturally occurring sugars. This “added-sugar” is so prevalent in our manufactured food that we are taking in way too much, way too often. Let’s shed some light on “too much”; in the year 1700, the average amount of sugar intake, including natural sugars, was approximately 4lbs per person annually. That like two nalgenes full of sugar. In the year 1800, sugar cane plantations made it more available than just to the wealthy, and the average increased to 18lbs. By 1900 it was around 40lbs per person per year. Today? Depending on the study you read, the American consumes between 60 and 150lbs per adult annually! That’s like a wheelbarrow full of sugar…

This number is so high because sugar is now added to everything. The American Heart Association has put out a recommendation to limit added-sugar to no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) of added-sugar per day for men, and 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) for women. That gets immediately allocated with just one 12oz can of soda. Forget the fat-free salad dressing or ketchep for our french fries or vanilla yogurt that all have equal amounts of sugar. Today, almost everything that has been prepared for us has sugar added to enhance flavor or shelf-life.

To be fair, a vast amount of our food contains natural sugars. The obvious is fruit. The less obvious, however—starchy “simple carbs” like pasta, white rice, bread, crackers, and so on. The starch in these carbohydrates is a carbon chain of sugar molecules that is broken down into blood sugar by the amalayse in our saliva. By the time these foods are broken down they aren’t much different than table sugar.

But there’s a massive difference between whole natural sources of sugar like fruit or fiber covered carbohydrates like whole grains and the sugar added to soda. These natural sources of sugar come with an added benefit of fiber, which helps us avoid the ‘sugar bomb’ by slowing down the digestion of sugar, which avoids a blood sugar spike and the consequential insulin spike which leads to insulin resistance the main cause of type 2 diabetes. So, this leaves us with added-sugar and simple carbs as leading causes why Harvard labeled sugar as one of the greatest threats to our cardiovascular health. 

Some other negative health symptoms from eating too much sugar or simple carbs are:
– Premature aging as sugar can damage skin proteins, collagen, and elastin leading to premature wrinkles.
– Increased inflammation, weakened immune and hormonal imbalance as undesirable gut bacteria and yeasts that live off sugar out-compete our fiber eating positive flora communities.
– Constant cravings are a part of the dopamine reward system that our brain has been wired for survival. The Food industry capitalizes on the addictive quality of sugar in processed food.
– Inconsistent energy levels as our pancreas manages the sugar bomb with insulin and we experience an energy spike followed by a drop and crash.
– Bloating from sugar bugs off-gassing and of course belly fat
– Diseases like Heart and Cardiovascular disease, Fatty Liver, and Diabetes

To avoid excess sugar intake, avoid the top processed food sources; soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices, grain- and dairy-based desserts. But be aware that even ketchup has as much added sugar per gram as a soda!

To add to the fact that sugar is now present in nearly everything we eat, it also elicits a dopamine response when consumed. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone, so we can actually get addicted to sugar because of the chemical response it causes. To work with dopamine-driven sugar cravings, employ mindfulness moments to ask the following questions before reaching into the fridge:

  • “Is this really what I need right now (or is it a want)?
  • what am I feeling?
  • what am I thinking?
  • what do I really need right now (if I feel, exhausted, bored, overworked, lonely, sad, etc)? Perhaps a glass of water or a crisp apple and a few nuts could meet my hunger and energy needs while connecting with a close friend could help on the emotional side.

We hope this article helps you curb your sugar intake!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Pros and Cons of Keto, Whole30 + Intermittent Fasting

cutting board and knife with healthy nutritious vegetables and eggs

Are you thinking about trying a new diet? Quick fixes that jolt our systems are tempting to turn to, but we encourage lasting lifestyle changes. While fad diets may be tempting, there are both pros and cons to Keto, Whole30, and Intermittent Fasting.

No diet is worth doing if you can’t do it for the rest of your life.

We asked our nutritionist Jenn Keirstead to weigh in on a couple of popular diet fads. She details how restrictive programs can lead to yo-yo dieting – rapid weight loss followed by a rebound that sees you gaining everything, and sometimes even more, back – and why you should invest in a sustainable long-term nutrition plan.

Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet

The Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates.

At its core, this is an extreme version of the low-carb diet. When you deprive your body of all carbohydrates, your body must use ketones as fuel. To put your body in a state of ketosis, around 80% of your diet must come from fat.

Pros of Keto

Promotes healthy fats

In the 90s, fat got a bad rap, but it’s crucial to our bodies. Fats, (animal-sourced or otherwise) can offer an excellent variety of fat, protein, and vitamins. However, it’s extremely important to source the highest quality. Look for certified organic, grass-fed/pasture-raised, or visit your local Farmers’ Market and talk to people responsible for raising your food.

Besides promoting a diet ample in healthy fats, there’s not much else that is terribly healthy or sustainable about this highly restrictive eating style.

Cons of Keto

Cuts out key nutrients

The Ketogenic diet is one of the most restrictive diets on the market. Your diet is limited to 15-20 grams of carbohydrates/day — the equivalent of a small handful of baby carrots. This leaves out most fruits and vegetables, which can deliver crucial nutrients.

Unsustainable

This biggest issue with this diet is what will happen once the person adds carbohydrates back into their diets. Hint: you might gain some of that weight back.

Pros and Cons of the Whole30 Diet

Whole30 is a 30-day fad diet that emphasizes whole foods and during which participants eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from their diets. Whole30 is similar to but more restrictive than the paleo diet, as adherents may not eat natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Whole30 has gained popularity due to its “challenge program” style, which is designed to restart your body and change how you think about food. This diet is described as a whole foods approach to eating, and I’m certainly an advocate of eating real food.

Pros of Whole30

Introduces a variety of whole foods

The advantage of experimenting with a diet such as this is that you’re introduced to many new, healthful foods. Whole food types of diets tend to involve more time spent in the kitchen. Cooking from home can be a wonderful way to gain more control over the quality of your food, which of course, is a fantastic advantage to your health.

Cons of Whole30

Cuts out food groups we love

The challenge is not just to eliminate processed and packaged foods from your life for 30 days — You are also instructed to avoid beans/legumes, starchy vegetables, dairy, grains, sugar (including natural sweeteners), and alcohol. From our vantage point, moderate amounts of beans, legumes, dairy, and grains are good for your body. Unless you plan on never eating them again, you risk putting the weight right back on once you reintroduce them.

Too restrictive

One of the common cautions you’ll hear related to Whole30 is how restrictive it is. It’s a diet based on highly rigid rules and “slip-ups” are unfortunately unacceptable. If you “slip” you start over. The rules may make it feel impossible to be successful on a diet like this, and like many challenges or diets, that can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem. Restrictive behaviors with food may also trigger disordered eating in susceptible individuals.

Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, or intermittent calorie restriction, is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period.

Intermittent fasting includes everything from periodic multi-day fasts to skipping a meal or two on certain days of the week. The theory is that this type of diet will help decrease appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism.

Pros of Intermittent Fasting

The body should take some breaks between eating

Fasting can be beneficial, and we believe it’s best done in the evening, continuing on throughout the night while you’re sleeping. An earlier dinner allows for 3-4 hours before bed without food, which helps support proper digestion and — as an added bonus —potentially a much deeper sleep.

You’ll feel hungry when you wake

Another benefit is you will feel hungry when you wake and therefore be encouraged to eat during the earlier part of the day when you’re more likely to burn the calories off. Studies also show that our hormones, enzymes, and digestive systems are biologically best prepared for food intake in the morning and early afternoon.

Cons of Intermittent Fasting

Can cause overeating

There’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and the hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food.

Unbalances blood sugar levels

Restricting calories during the day can lead to unbalanced blood sugar levels, which not only promotes low energy levels but the desire to overeat at the end of the day when the body is gearing down for sleep. The idea of “rest, not digest” is a concept that assists in the digestion of your food hours before bedtime, so that your body can fall into a deep sleep on an empty stomach. This also promotes hunger in the early morning, when your body needs the calories the most.

In a nutshell, fads deliver quick results – they don’t provide long-term solutions. Rapid health resets can be beneficial, but know what you’re getting into. Find a wellness approach you can commit to, if not for life, for the foreseeable future. Learn more about our approach to balanced nutrition.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia and featuring daily sunrise yoga and night-time restorative yoga, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What is OMAD and is it healthy?

Plate with cooked salmon and veggies on blank table

Q: What is OMAD and is it healthy?

A: OMAD means One Meal A Day. The “One Meal a Day” diet is gaining popularity for its simplicity and supposed benefits. The premise behind this eating plan is that you eat one meal a day—ONE meal, that’s it! You have a 1-hour eating window, where you consume your single meal, but the other 23 hours are spent in a fasted state. This means no calories whatsoever, including beverages!

During this 1-hour eating window, you can eat and drink whatever and as much as you want. This includes ice cream, french fries, and wine. Yes, that right, any food, and any amount—as long as you do so during your scheduled mealtime. Some modifications include only eating as much as you can fit on one dinner plate, or only piling your plate up to 3″ high. Regardless of the specifics, the underlying belief is that you can only consume so many calories in one hour. That amount of calories will always be less than you burn for the other 23, therefore having a calorie deficit for the day and leading to weight loss.

An Expert’s Opinion

We took this question straight to our nutritionist, Jenn. Here is what she had to say:

This 23:1 fasting:eating plan screams extreme to me! Here are some reasons why:

  • In terms of blood sugar management, this eating style could be very damaging. During the one hour window in which any food—in any amount—is consumed, your blood sugar levels would spike substantially.
  • When I try and imagine someone spending nearly the entire day avoiding food and beverages altogether, I see a trend that’s entirely unsustainable in the long term.
  • Eating in this way could be very isolating; resulting in missed social engagements, due to food avoidance.
  • Such dietary restriction could encourage an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • A diet such as this could lead to binge eating, a preoccupation with food in general, extreme hunger, and low energy during the 23 hour fasting period.
  • If someone was to choose highly processed foods (high in refined sugar and salt) for their one-meal, it could easily lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Here is our favorite quote from Jenn: it all just seems so ridiculous! As I’m researching this, I feel like I’m being punked!

Healthy and Sustainable Choices for Results

We agree with you, Jenn. This diet seems about as far from balanced as you can get. At Mountain Trek, we believe and have proven, that eating a balanced diet is not only the most effective for increasing energy levels, balancing hormones, and weight loss, it is sustainable. Our plan incorporates intermittent fasting, but we follow a “12 on, 12 off” schedule, eating for the first 12 hours of our day (ideally from 6 am to 6 pm) and then fasting for the next 12 hours. This promotes better sleep, reduces calorie storage, lowers LDL cholesterol levels, and reduces the potential for insulin resistance (precursor to type 2 diabetes).

Eating during the day is important. Your body and brain are most active for the first 12 hours of your day, and they both need fuel to operate. We break our calorie intake during those 12 hours into 6 meals, starting with a smoothie immediately upon waking (ideally within 30 minutes). Continuing to eat every 2-3 hours allows us to stay ahead of hunger (when we make poor decisions) and ultimately, balance both our energy levels (no highs and crashes) and hormones. The end result is a sustainable balanced, nutritious plan that feeds our bodies the calories we need when we need them.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

The Truth About Superfoods

The term “superfood” has taken on a life of its own.

Superfoods are commonly defined as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” They consist primarily of dark green leafy vegetables, berries, fish, nuts, healthy oils (e.g. olive oil or avocado oil), and a few other nutrient power-houses.

What is a Superfood?

There is an alternate definition, however, that you should be aware of. “Superfood is a marketing term for food assumed to confer health benefits resulting from an exceptional nutrient density.” There are a couple of critical words in that definition; “marketing term” and “assumed”.

Harvard Medical school points out, in the first line of their article on superfoods, “No single food — not even a superfood — can offer all the nutrition, health benefits, and energy we need to nourish ourselves”. The idea that the term superfood is being used as a trendy marketing tool gives us cause for concern—not with the superfoods themselves, but with our understanding and knowledge of how to include superfoods into our diet. We want to avoid the belief that one food provides a healthy diet, prevents illness, and elongates your life.

For example, take the company Laird Superfood. The company was founded by surf legend Laird Hamilton on the principle that if he added some superfood nutrients to his coffee, his day would be off to an optimal start. Although this may increase the nutritional value of your coffee, it by no means replaces a proper, wholesome breakfast, as it’s advertised. It’s this type of thinking we want to prevent. In reality, breakfast is the most critical meal of the day. Eating a balanced, whole-food breakfast will help balance your hormones and has been proven to increase anabolic metabolism by 15%. It should be so much more than just a cup of coffee supplemented with a few nutrients.

Superfoods can certainly be nutritious, but the term can often be more useful for driving sales than providing optimal nutrition recommendations

When food is given superfood status, it causes people to fixate on a few specific foods. Thus limiting them from eating other equally nutritious options that aren’t as hyped. Variety in your diet is important not only to gain the benefit of eating a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals but also to prevent one from eating too much (or too little) of a particular nutrient. It also keeps your meals interesting and flavorful!

Eat Super-plates, not just Superfoods

All whole, unprocessed foods are super in different ways! The more diversity of whole foods you consume, the more varied your nutrient profile will be. Increased varieties of nutrients in your diet offers more protection against disease and illness. Instead of focusing on just one superfood, we suggest thinking about creating Superplates by incorporating a wide variety of whole foods.

The healthiest diets of the world are all different and include a wide variety of foods that offer diverse nutrient profiles. When studying cultural diets across the globe, you’ll see that there’s no one perfect diet. Each diet offers different food grown in those specific regions. In other words, you don’t need the Himalayan goji berry in your diet to achieve your best health. Goji berries are called a superfood because they contain chemical compounds called phytochemicals that are produced by plants. You can find similar health benefits in everyday fruits and veggies, like organic rainbow carrots, fresh leafy green vegetables, and even cauliflower and broccoli.

A delicious blueberry is another great example of a holy grail superfood that ranks high on superfood lists. For good reason, yes! Purple and dark red colored foods are the signatures of a special class of natural antioxidants called anthocyanins. Antioxidants are extremely important, as they reduce inflammation, and help to remove harmful substances from the body. However, blueberries aren’t the only food with this color. You’ll also find anthocyanins in red cabbage, red onion, purple carrots, and beautiful beets.

Balanced plates lead to balanced health

Over two decades of helping people reset their health and find a sustainable lifestyle, we have found that in order to reach our most optimal health it’s best to have a balance of fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and detoxification. Someone who is fit and able to run a marathon, but only sleeps 4 hours a night, is not healthy. Someone who eats properly, but sits all day, is not healthy. So too goes this principle of balance for nutrition and superfoods—we cannot just eat one superfood and be healthy. We must eat a balanced super-plate, with a variety of whole foods for a sustainable diet that provides tons of energy, nutrients, and antioxidants. A diet that will leave YOU feeling SUPER.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How To Reset Your Health In 48 Hours

a woman sitting on a hiking trail meditating

It’s perfectly understandable that spending an entire week eating healthfully, hiking through lush nature, sleeping well, exercising, and detoxifying will do wonders for your mind and body. But you might be shocked to hear that with the right strategy and a little bit of motivation, you can make a profound impact on your health in just 48 hours. That means that in just one weekend, you can right the ship, take the reins, and restore the balance of your health. It’s not a walk in the park (well, you actually might take a walk in the park) but your body will thank you for dedicating just one single weekend to yourself.

We’ve been running our Basecamp weekend retreats in response to the COVID crisis. Guests spend one weekend (Friday 3 pm – Sunday evening) following our program and working virtually alongside our expert team. And we have to say—the results have been absolutely amazing. Participants are feeling significantly lighter, recharged, and reset. We’ve distilled this amazing weekend into an easy to follow 4-step guide so you can reset your health in the span of 48 hours, and emerge from a healthy weekend feeling like the best version of yourself.

Step 1) Make a bulletproof schedule

The last thing you want to be doing all weekend is constantly trying to decide “what’s next”. This will prevent you from fully sinking into the weekend. Sit down and write your 48-hour schedule on a piece of paper. Make sure to include the following critical elements:

Nutrition

Eat 6 times per day, starting immediately upon waking, and consume your calories within a 12-hour window. Give your metabolism a break for the other 12 hours (Intermittent Fasting). Eat most of your calories early in the day and then taper off moving towards night-time. Eat organic, plant-based food when available, and avoid processed food, added sugar, and alcohol.

Fitness

Move your body as much as possible throughout the day. We weren’t designed to sit, so let’s try to do as little of that as possible this weekend. Time your exercise for after your meals to begin understanding the value of food as fuel, not a coping mechanism. Begin your day with yoga (after a smoothie), then after breakfast do a HIIT or other functional fitness class. After lunch, spend a long time outside in nature, walking for either 40 minutes at a vigorous pace, or 90 minutes at a leisurely rate. Then, following dinner, tackle one more functional fitness class and end your night with restorative yoga.

Sleep

After a full day of exercise and eating properly, you have some building blocks for great sleep. Ensure you not only get enough hours of sleep, but also a deep sleep. Take a warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil 90 minutes prior to bed, don’t let your phone cross the threshold of your room, ensure your room is the right temperature and is dark, and do a relaxation technique while laying down. Read our full guide to great sleep for more tips.

Stress relief/management

Make sure to include relaxation time. Mindfulness is a highly potent tool for stress relief. If you already have a practice, carve out a large chunk of time of your weekend to dive deeper than you have in the past. If mindfulness is new to you, take this weekend as an opportunity to dip your toes in. Schedule a couple of 5-10 minute guided meditations sessions, ideally early in the morning and then again before bed.

Creating a schedule can be difficult, so we’re happy to share ours. If you actually want to follow along, all of the recipes and exercises are linked (click the image first), and you can find a shopping list below

Step 2) Prepare for success

Once your schedule is in place, it’s time to commit and get ready to immerse in the weekend. There are three critical components to preparing:

Ensure you have the right equipment—for our schedule, you need the following:

  • Kitchen with basic cooking tools
  • Blender
  • Yoga mat
  • Yoga strap (could be a belt or tie, etc.)
  • Firm blanket or pillow (for morning yoga)
  • 3 large firm pillows (e.g. couch cushions—for restorative yoga)
  • Light weights (2-5lbs) or substitute (soup cans or water bottles)
  • Running shoes
  • A chair (used for stability during exercise classes)
  • Water bottle

Shop for your ingredients 2-3 days prior to the weekend

View a shopping list for our schedule

Remove as many distractions as possible

Carve out this time for you. It’s only 48 hours, so almost everything can wait. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues that you are going to immerse yourself in this experience and request they only call, text, or email if it’s an emergency. This will reduce your stress and anxiety. Get baby sitters for the kids if you have them, or make a plan with your partner to watch them for the weekend. Be selfish for just this one weekend.

Step 3) Instill accountability

We’ve talked the talk. It’s time to walk the walk. While investing in an experience like Mountain Trek and spending time with our expert staff, whether that be a full week at the lodge to really dive deep into your health transformation or just a weekend for a quick tune-up, will provide you the accountability you need to succeed, it isn’t always an option. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and tricks to instill accountability on your own:

Form a “tribe”

The best thing you could possibly do is gather a small group of your closest allies and do the healthy weekend reset together. Sharing your experience with others has been proven to dramatically increase your chances of success and will make the experience more memorable and enriching. Create a group text thread dedicated to the weekend and have nightly Zoom calls to touch base and discuss your experience and progress.

Share your intentions

If no one is able to join you, share what you are attempting to accomplish with a close friend, family member, or colleague. Detail to them what you are doing the healthy weekend and what you are hoping to accomplish. Ask them to check in with you on Sunday about how it went. Just knowing that someone else is aware of your goals will hold you accountable.

Set a reward

Completing your healthy weekend reset is a big deal and a positive experience. These accomplishments deserve rewards, not only to keep you working towards the goal but to create a positive association with accomplishing such endeavors. Write your reward down prior to beginning your weekend and stick it on the fridge as a reminder.

Step 4) Turn healthy actions into habits

Once your 48-hours are up, you need to capture the momentum you worked so hard to create to ensure your health stays pointed in the right direction. A 48-hour reset is not a justification to go binge on bad habits—it is a leveling-up, a beginning of a new chapter, a fresh start. To keep your compass pointed towards your “true north”, we need to cement your new habits so they become part of your lifestyle.

Building habits is a skill and can be tricky at times. At Mountain Trek, we follow a six-step process to build healthy habits—ones that are truly sustainable:

1. Identify your health and wellness goals

This one is easy. Just write down all of your goals. Try to be as specific as possible, however.

2. Redesign your goals to optimize for success

Make sure your goal is SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-anchored. Setting a SMART goal immediately doubles your chance of success.

3. Simplify

Pick a maximum of two goals from step 1.

4. Set a weekly target

Start small. Aim for doing your healthy action two, maybe three times each week, then grow from there.

5. Monitor your progress and adjust if needed

Write your goal down in a journal, keep a piece of paper handy with a tally, track it using your online calendar, or, you can use either Mountain Trek’s Health & Habit Building App, which will keep track of your progress for you, or our simple goal tracker. Whatever tool you decide to use, it’s important to monitor your activity, notice when you’re falling behind and congratulate yourself when you are achieving your goals.

6. Reward your intention

Whether you are successful or not, you need to reward yourself for your intention to do your best. Rewards can be small or big, simple, or complex.

You now have a proven strategy to reset your health in the course of just one weekend. We hope you take the time to invest in your health, you need and deserve it now more than ever. Be compassionate to yourself throughout the process and don’t worry if it doesn’t all go to plan. There will most likely be hiccups along the way. The important part is that you committed to a healthy weekend—to yourself—and you made your best effort.

If the above is daunting to tackle on your own, we would be more than honored to have you join us for one of our upcoming Basecamp weekend retreats, where our expert team will do all of the work listed above for you, so all you need to do is show up and give it your best.

Good luck, stay healthy, and keep moving!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I make or break a habit?

image of dice spelling old habits

Q: How can I use this period of isolation and working from home, to make or break some healthy habits?

A: This time of restricted travel and socializing is an ideal time to add or delete 1-2 behaviors that we want to change. Creating or breaking a habit requires consistency and repetition, but this isn’t usually easy. With this mandated break, we have the benefit of consistency right now. Without racing to the airport, commuting to work, or feeling obligated to attend an event, it’s easier to set a routine.

To fully capitalize on our newfound stability, there are a few things we can do to increase our chances to form a new habit or break an old one.

Pick Two Actions

First, focus your attention on a maximum of two specific actions that you can commit to daily for the next 4 weeks. Before COVID, we needed 3-6 months to solidify an action into a habit because our work life was in constant flux and flow. By embracing more time at home, we can significantly shorten the time needed to make or break a habit.

Are they Sustainable

Next, ensure you could continue your specific actions into your lifestyle once the travel and work restrictions are lifted.

Are they Achievable

Third, call it a 30-day ‘experiment’, to take the pressure of perfectionism off.

Make Yourself Accountable 

Fourth, set a 2-week reminder in case you fall off the wagon.

Reward and Temptation

Fifth, take a tip from Ultralearning, by Scott H Young, and remove an unwanted habit by understanding and replacing the needs that it services. For example, if eating Ben & Jerry’s while watching Netflix gives you a sense of reward and relaxation after a productive day of work, you could replace those needs with some restorative yoga and a candlelit Epsom salt bath—both great ways to reward yourself and relax. Another of his suggestions that we support at Mountain Trek, would be to remove the temptation altogether in the first place. Meaning, don’t purchase the ice cream.

I suggest diving deeper into proper habit formation by reading our article: Building Healthy Habits in 6 Easy Steps


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I control my snacking?

Young man taking potato chip out of glass bowl while sitting on sofa in front of laptop on table and having snack

Q: Why do I crave snacking so much now that I’m working from home because of coronavirus and how can I stop it?

A: Firstly, Mountain Trek supports snacking! In fact, in our approach to mindful Balanced Health, we don’t judge food or eating to be “good” or “bad”. It’s all about what, how much, and when that makes what we choose to eat either positive and healthy, or derailing. If you’ve ever been to Mountain Trek, you have heard our nutritionist, Jenn, say to eat a mix of foods every 3-4 hrs up until dinner in order to maintain consistent blood sugar (energy requirements) throughout the day. Varying blood sugar is what gets us in trouble with caffeine (hello, 2 pm crash) and snacking. This means we actually need to snack in order to optimize our mental and physical health and vitality! But we need to ensure we’re eating the right amount, of the right thing, at the right time. 

Snacking between Meals

Ideally, each meal or snack will have a little protein with a variety of colorful items from the plant kingdom. As stated above, we should be eating snacks 3-4 hours after breakfast and then again after lunch. Timing our snacks will balance our energy levels and prevent over-snacking. If we can take the time to organize our snacks on the weekend, we can make healthy and timely grazing even easier. Pre-cut and containerized veggies and protein dips and a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butter, hard-boiled eggs are all great, healthy snack options.

Why we crave the “Trifecta”

As for your “craving”, the reason you find tasty but unhealthy snacks on your mind is that we all get attracted to the “Carb-Fat-Salt Trifecta”. There is biological wiring from our tongue’s taste buds to the neurotransmitter release of our “feel-good” hormones, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These mood enhancers bathe our brain with an uplifting break from our stress-filled day. So eating potato chips, which hit the trifecta on the head, makes us happier, chemically at least. Emotional eating is real! When we feel depressed, disconnected, lonely, bored, exhausted, we are emotionally stressed. It is normal to unconsciously reach for a little something-something to pick our mood up and feel satisfied. But that short term pleasure turns to long term pain.

Habituate Healthy Choices 

Setting ourselves up with actions that we can habituate, while we have the kitchen so close to work, can pay dividends when we go back to the office or begin traveling again. 

  • Prepare snacks and set timers to remind yourself to step away from the screen to refuel. By preparing in advance with a healthy mindset, it makes your healthy snack a satisfying, easy and quick option instead of reaching for a bag of chips. 
  • Make your snacks nutritional, but also pleasurable. Include a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butter, and hard-boiled eggs. These are all great, healthy snack options.
  • Pre-cut and containerize veggies with protein dips. The combination of a fibrous snack with protein is nutritious and will provide you lasting energy.

To get started, here is a 2-day healthy meal plan. Learn more about how to develop a nutritional diet from home during one of our Basecamp Retreats.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

What is Intermittent Fasting and How to Do it Right

 

looking at wrist watch in nature

At Mountain Trek, we hear a lot of guests say they’re “intermittent fasting.” To some, this means skipping breakfast; to others, this means eating just dinner. Which is right? Which is wrong? Mountain Trek also practices intermittent fasting (IF) and has developed a specific method over the past 20 years proven to help guests ignite their metabolism. Here, our Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Jenn Keirstead, gives us the scoop on Mountain Trek’s approach to IF:

Jennifer-Keirstead-Nutritionist

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting has become the latest health fad that allegedly assists with weight loss. It has even ranked as the “trendiest” weight loss search of 2019. The dietary term is used to describe the cycle between periods of fasting and eating.

Experts say: it’s not all hype. In fact, many agree that the diet can be helpful in boosting longevity, maintaining blood sugar levels, and reaching a healthy weight.

Not surprisingly, given the popularity, several different types or methods of IF have been established. Explained below, are a few of the most popular methods:

Time-restricted eating: Fast for 16+ hours each day

This method involves fasting every day 16+ hours and restricting your daily “eating window” to 8 hours. For example, if you finish your last meal at 8 p.m. and don’t eat until noon the next day, you’re technically fasting for 16 hours.

The 5:2 diet: Fast for 2 days per week

For one to two nonconsecutive days per week, you consume just water plus 500 calories, (200 of which are protein), either in one meal or spread out over the day. The other five or six days a week, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

Alternate-day fasting: Fast every other day

For the first 24 hours, you consume just water plus 500 calories, (200 of which are protein), either in one meal or spread out over the day. For the second 24 hours, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Repeat the cycle every two days.

After reading about a trend, I always like to ask myself: is this diet restrictive in any way, and is it sustainable long term? These are always good points to ponder before you find yourself in yet another diet + binge cycle.

Also, a word of caution from Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Hu explains: “It’s human nature for people to want to reward themselves after doing very hard work, such as exercise or fasting for a long period of time; so there is a danger of indulging in unhealthy dietary habits on non-fasting days. In addition, there’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food. He also comments, “Part of the fascination with IF arises from research with animals showing that fasting may reduce cancer risk and slow aging. One hypothesis is that fasting can activate cellular mechanisms that help boost immune function and reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease.”

How to do Intermittent Fasting correctly

Here at Mountain Trek, we too have our opinions about the structured fasting and eating cycles. Program Director, Kirkland Shave, describes our version as a, “12 on, 12 off.” He explains how, “The Mountain Trek program, where we take a 12-hour break without food (glucose) at night, aids in deeper sleep, less calorie storage, less LDL cholesterol production, and lowering the potential for Insulin Resistance (precursor to type 2 diabetes).” We also believe that fasting is beneficial in supporting the anti-inflammatory response of cellular autophagy (self-eating). According to Priya Khorana, PhD, in nutrition education from Columbia University, this is the body’s way of, “Cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.” Autophagy occurs when sleeping—another reason to fast at night.

The idea of eating during the day makes sense to us. This is because you’re eating when your body and brain are most active. This way you consume your calories when your body needs them the most. You are literally fueling your metabolic engine as it needs energy, rather than operating on a full tank all the time. When done correctly, with proper portions and timing, this means your engine will be running as clean and efficient as possible. No build-up, no excess.

We support a daily 12-hour fast, for our reasons above—we’ve just restructured the guidelines, to encourage a more healthful, sustainable, and practical approach.

Break your fast first thing in the morning

Let’s begin by “breaking the fast.” Once you’re up and ready to roll, consider breaking your fast with food. Real food first please, not coffee! Ideally, this happens within 30 minutes of rising.

There are options here. If you’re the exercise-before-work type, you can grab a quick snack consisting of a fruit/veggie, with a protein. Some examples include: apple + seeds, carrots + nut butter, or a 5 oz smoothie made from frozen berries, spinach, banana + hemp hearts. This amount of nutrition is enough to boost your anabolic metabolism by supporting the steroids that stimulate protein synthesis, muscle growth, and insulin production.

You can also break your fast with actual breakfast. Fantastic examples include: a veggie omelette with sprouted, whole grain bread, or a bowl of oatmeal with berries and seeds.

Eat every 3-4 hours for 12 hours

We suggest that you continue on throughout your day with both lunch and dinner, including 1 snack in between each meal. This means you’re eating every 3 – 4 hours during the waking hours, which will continue to support blood sugar levels, leaving you more satiated and energized.

If you intend to adhere to the 12 hour fasting window, dinner is required to be an earlier meal. This may take the most planning. To enjoy dinner at a more reasonable hour, you may want to try batch cooking on the weekends, a crock-pot meal, or one of the many convenient, health-supporting Apps, in which you can pre-order food right to your door. Do whatever it takes to make having an earlier dinner easier!

Fast for 12 hours overnight

That brings you to your “12 hour nighttime break without food.” This might feel challenging at first, as many of us are accustomed to late-night eating and snacking. Many people find themselves mindlessly eating late at night, even when they aren’t hungry.

Something to consider is that nighttime eating may be the result of an overly restricted daytime food intake, leading to ravenous hunger at night. You may find that more consistent eating throughout the day helps curb the out-of-control feeling around food in the evening—ideally you will leave at least 3-4 hours to digest before going to sleep. Speaking of sleep you may notice your sleep improves, as you’ll get to truly rest, instead of digest. Learn more about our sleep program.

Another bonus of IF and eating dinner earlier: after 12 hours food-free, you’re actually hungry when you wake up! This helps make the breaking-the-fast upon rising a breeze.

To learn more about proper nutrition and living a healthy, balanced life, read more of our articles or join us for a week-long health-immersion at our retreat. More below.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below: