Tips & Advice

Get Tips and Advice from the guides at Mountain Trek. Nutrition, Hiking, Sleep, Detox and Fitness are just some of the topics we cover.

the truth about super foods

Various superfoods in bowl on gray background

To be truly super, create a super-plate!

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,” and consist primarily of dark green leafy vegetables, berries, fish, nuts, healthy oils (e.g. olive oil or avocado oil), and few other nutrient power-houses.

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. What we want to avoid is the belief that a single food, a Superfood, is all you need to have a healthy diet that prevents illness and disease and elongates your life.

Take the company Laird Superfood, for example. Their 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. While this may increase the nutritional value of your coffee, this should by no means replace 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 may cause people to focus on a few specific foods, 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. When there are increased varieties of nutrients in your diet, it 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 often 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, the blueberry isn’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 Superplate, full of a wonderful variety of whole foods, to have 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:

Q&A: How do I stay safe and cool when hiking in the summer heat?

Q: I am aching to go hiking and get out of the house, but it’s hot out. How do I stay safe and cool when hiking in the summer heat?

A: Exercising outdoors has multiple health benefits including a 30% increase in calorie burn (compared to the same exercise and exertion indoors), a lowering of the stress hormone cortisol, and brain bathing of our “feel-good” neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. However, if we are used to a temperature and humidity controlled environment (gym or home), we need to incorporate some care before launching ourselves into mother nature’s arms as heat exhaustion or worse, heatstroke, can be dangerous and debilitating. Consider these tips:

Pre-hike:

  • Check the forecast and choose your days and activities when there is cloud cover and the UV index is lower. Be especially careful if going out on days when the UV index is 7 or higher.
  • Avoid mid-day sun, when UV rays are the strongest. Plan your hike for earlier in the day (early bird gets the worm!) or later to catch a sunset (bring a headlamp in this case).
  • If the humidity is high, lower your workout intensity to avoid overheating. Sweating, our body’s cooling mechanism, is more difficult when it is humid.
  • Make sure to hydrate and eat before heading out. Beyond energy requirements, proper nutrition will help with hydration.
  • Take a high-quality electrolyte 1-2 hours before going out on the trail (we use Vega products, which don’t have added sugar, making them much healthier than an alternative electrolyte drink like Gatorade). Electrolytes help your body retain moisture.
  • Wear the proper clothing for hot weather hiking. A wide-brimmed hat will keep the sun off of your face and neck. Light colors will reflect the sun. Loose, breathable clothing will allow ventilation. And a neck cover, such as a bandana, will come in handy. We typically recommend wool, but it’s a hot fabric, so for really hot weather, opt for thin cotton or a synthetic fabric. However, always wear a high-quality pair of wool socks, no matter what the temperature. Proper foot care is critical!

During-hike:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated on the trail. At Mountain Trek, we have a few sayings to help guests remember to drink water while hiking. “See water, hear water, drink water” is a favorite if you’re hiking along a creek or in the alpine amongst lakes. Another tip is to use a water bladder (one that holds at least 3 liters). If positioned correctly, the hose can be a constant reminder to hydrate, and to do so without stopping! You should aim to drink half of a liter per hour, but when it’s hot, you may need to increase that amount.
  • Look for shade to protect your skin. Stop in the shade for your longer water and snack breaks.
  • Wet your hat or bandanna in a cool stream or with your water bottle to keep your head and neck cool, two areas that significantly dictate our overall body temperature.
  • Acclimatize to the heat by incrementally increasing your exercise intensity over a few days. This will get your body used to the experience of exercising in the heat and will help you practice for longer days out on the trail.
  • Go with a friend for support and safety. It’s always a good idea to hike with a buddy.
  • Be aware of early warning signs of heat exhaustion: muscle cramping, lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, excessive sweating, confusion or irritability, increased heart rate, vision problems. If sensing any of these, stop in a shaded area, hydrate, and cool off.

Post-hike:

  • Continue to hydrate for the remainder of the day.
  • Keep a cooler in your car with icepacks, cold drinks and a cold washcloth. When you return, place the cool washcloth on your head or neck and enjoy your cold beverage, allowing your core temperature to lower again before driving home.

We hope these tips and tricks help you enjoy the summer heat safely. Enjoy your time on the trail.


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:

Q&A: What is inflammation, and how do I reduce it?

Exhausted businesswoman having a headache in modern office. Mature creative woman working at office desk with spectacles on head feeling tired. Stressed casual business woman feeling eye pain while overworking on desktop computer.

Q: What is inflammation, and how do I reduce it?

A: Acute inflammation is a natural healing and protection response from our immune system. Think of your ankle swelling from an accidental roll on the tennis court. The body floods the joint with plasma and immune repair cells to inhibit movement so the soft tissue can mend. Or, perhaps you get a seasonal runny nose when pollens enter your sinuses and the mucous membranes swell and release antibodies to remove the unwanted threatening pollen antigens that your body deems dangerous. In both these instances, the immune system creates inflammation in a response to danger or injury. This is healthy.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not healthy and is the root cause of 75-90% of today’s illnesses (according to the Cleveland Clinic). If our immune system is continuously taxed as it fights to remove incoming viruses, bacteria, antigens (foreign particles dangerous to our unique body), chemicals or plastics, we can trigger stress on our organs and endocrine (hormone) system.

Research is now seeing Chronic Inflammation as the underlying stress leading to heart disease, metabolic disease, cancers, and even depression and anxiety. The same triggers that lead to ongoing inflammation are also seen as potential contributors to autoimmune illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism), and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBS). And, autoimmune diseases also create more inflammation as the body’s immune cells get confused and start attacking the body instead of the intruders.

Unmanaged Stress from trauma, whether psycho-emotional or physical is a key factor in inflammation. Research is showing an extremely strong connection between the nervous system, hormonal system, and immune systems. Chronic stressors that come into the body through the digestive, and respiratory systems, or absorbed through the skin like toxic chemicals, food Allergens, or bacteria have an easier time defeating a suppressed immune system when Cortisol is continuously elevated.

It all may sound a bit of doom and gloom, but fear not! Here are a few strategies to support your immune system and lower inflammation. Some of these strategies are also beneficial to those suffering from autoimmune illnesses to support a state of remission.

How to Reduce Inflammation

  • Support the eliminatory system with a fiber and probiotic-rich plant-based diet, and lots of fresh water
  • Minimize the ‘sour 8’ foods(gluten, lactose, casein, soy, corn syrup, alcohol, sugar, nightshade vegetables) and other unique dietary antigens, after having a food sensitivity test by a certified Naturopathic ND
  • Consider mineral supplements like vitamin D and C to support immune cells and the B’s to lower stress.
  • Add anti-inflammatory foods into your diet… turmeric, omega 3 oil, brassica vegetables, and sauerkraut
  • Get regular exercise and target 10,000 steps a day to keep the circulatory system moving toxins out of the body
  • Sleep deeply and regularly 7-9 hrs, as deep non-REM sleep is when the immune system goes to work
  • Intermittent fast for 12 hrs between dinner and breakfast allowing cells to ‘clean-up and recycle’ via autophagy
  • Manage mental and psycho-emotional stress with meditation, nature immersion, massage, and somatic therapy
  • Avoid petrochemicals, pesticides, and plastics as much as possible, as most are considered hormone disruptors
  • Support your eliminatory system to release toxic chemistry with infrared saunas or steams, massage and chelation foods like cilantro and spirulina

We hope that this gives you a good understanding of what causes inflammation in the body and how to reduce it.


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
While you might be able to buy into the idea that spending an entire week eating healthfully, hiking through lush nature, sleeping well, exercising, and detoxifying will do wonders for your mind and body (what we do here at Mountain Trek on a weekly basis), 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 it.

We’ve been running our weekend-long virtual health resets in response to COVID, where guests spend one weekend (Friday 4 pm—Sunday 4 pm) following our program and working, virtually, alongside our expert staff, and we have to say—the results have been absolutely amazing. Participants are feeling significantly lighter, recharged, and reset—genuinely excited to be back on the horse and galloping towards a healthier, happier version of themselves. We’ve distilled what happens during this amazing weekend into an easy to follow 4-step guide, so you can reset your health in the span of 48 hours, on your own, 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 of the building blocks for great sleep. Go the extra mile to ensure not only enough sleep hours, but enough depth. 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 our 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 into 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 our next 48-hour reset retreat, where our expert staff 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: What is a benchmark workout?

woman running outside with beautiful summer evening in the mountains

Q: What is a benchmark workout and is it important?

A: You’ve probably heard of the term benchmark. Whether it be CrossFit and maintaining a WOD, achieving a lower boy fat percentage on a body composition analysis, or a fitness test compromising of a series of bodyweight exercise repetitions to complete according to age/sex, benchmarks are simply the finish line. Benchmark is a term that factors in measurements regardless of the category. It can range from numbers on the scale, girth of your waist, or repetitions in your bench press.

Most can likely recall physical fitness testing in grade and high school. The 12-minute run, beep test, chin-ups, sit and reach, and body fat % to name a few. These kinds of values can give a starting point and upon working on our fitness level, can retest and compare to test for improvements.

A benchmark is also considered a milestone, synonymous to a goal, the means to the end of the achievement. This is a great way to improve current fitness levels because the body is constantly adapting to new stimuli. What once was difficult, say running a mile, after time becomes an easily achievable parameter. Just don’t set your sights too high from your current level. Be realistic and meet your body where it’s at.

An important factor to consider is your level of fitness. If you have been sedentary (a couch potato, if you will) you can simply set a goal for how many times a week you break a sweat or participate in continuous activity. According to the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine, guidelines recommend that all healthy adults 18-65 engage in either 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio 5 days a week or intense cardio for 20 minutes 3 days a week. So for a beginner, these benchmarks could be a great starting point. At Mountain Trek, we recommend upping that to 40 minutes and shooting for a “perceived rate of exertion” of between 6.5-8.5 out of 10. That means you are exerting between 65% and 85% of your maximum output for 40 minutes straight. This will go beyond just maintaining your cardio health and will give you the opportunity to get to a “fat-flush” state, where you will reduce your body fat percentage.

There are a number of physical factors you can test, mainly: strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and body composition. Average norms can be found for comparative values. For example, the Mayo Clinic uses the push up for the Muscular Strength and Endurance Test. They also provide “good fitness results” for both men and women according to age. So for a 45-year-old woman, 14 push-ups and 16 for a man would be considered “good muscular strength and endurance”. They also suggest retesting yourself on physical parameters every 6 weeks to check for improvement. Again, at Mountain Trek our goal is to push you past “maintenance” and into “growth” so we can increase muscle mass and help balance hormones, especially as we age, so we might raise the bar on these standards, again.

A franchise that loves their benchmarks WODs (workout of the day) is CrossFit. Named after traditional women’s names such as Fran and Angie, these workouts have very specific parameters and standard units of measurement, so strength and endurance can easily be measured and compared over time. The workouts hold space for improvement from beginner through advanced by adjusting the workout through duration, weight, or reps. Each successive benchmark workout should surpass the last—that is when you know you are making progress.

Elite athletes also use benchmarking as a way to monitor improvement over time. Standards specific to any sport are available at all levels, including World, Olympic and National records that they can use for comparison to train for competitions.

In summary, a benchmark is a standard exercise that you repeat in order to measure progress. Benchmark workouts should be very personal, and regardless of the category of fitness you fall under, it’s all about setting both short-term and long-term goals and reaching them all in the name of health and fitness progress. Whatever the goal, it should be relatable to your life and needs, whether it be being able to pick up the grandkids or benchpress 250 lbs. To learn how to set a good goal, read our article, How to Build Healthy Habits in 6 Steps.


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 can I balance my hormones as I enter mid-life?

Q: How can I balance my hormones as I enter mid-life?

A: If you have difficulty falling asleep, managing food cravings, feel like you’re at the mercy of mood swings, are noticing muscle loss, have excessive sweating, low energy or libido, can’t seem to lose belly fat, or have unusual weight loss or gain, your hormones may be out of balance. Hormones are little chemical messengers that initiate and maintain all the systems in our body. For survival, we’ve been blessed (rather unfortunately) with an override system—a giant red panic button of sorts—that is triggered when we’re stressed or notice we’re in danger. You’ve probably heard of it—it’s our flight, fight, or freeze response—and when faced with a stressor, such as a mountain lion—or an irate client or teenage son or daughter—our sympathetic nervous systems cause a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (a.k.a adrenaline), as well as various endorphins, to be released, giving us a magic jolt of power to either high tail it out of there, stand our ground and fight off the stressor, or rev up to take action (freeze). This cocktail of survival hormones is akin to downing a case of Red Bull. It ramps up energy, but at the same time, it shuts down digestion and immune functions, as these are not critical for survival at that exact moment. There’s the catch—this response is meant only for that exact moment—a finite one-time event.

Cue up today’s norm, when we have ongoing, relentless stressors bombarding us, both emotional and physical. Since these stressors are not finite, one-time events, our stress hormones have no chance of neutralizing. Herein lies the problem…

In a natural circadian day, the stress hormone cortisol rises to help us wake up and focus, allowing us to go work to bring home the calories necessary to survive (and the money to pay the mortgage). Cortisol levels naturally lower as atmospheric light changes in the afternoon, and are eventually replaced by our sleep beckoning hormone, melatonin. Without proper hormone balance, we don’t sleep correctly, and our immune system doesn’t perform well at its key tasks; fighting viruses, bacteria, cancers, and repairing damaged tissue. Sound important? You betcha.

During this same day, a series of thyroid hormones control our metabolism, while our blood sugar is managed by the hormones insulin and glucagon. The effects of these being out of balance? obesity, diabetes, fatigue, irritability, to just name a few.

Meanwhile, our sex hormones, estrogen (primarily estrone, estradiol, and estriol), progesterone, and testosterone are all being created from our youth hormone DHEA. And if our sex hormones are out of balance, the side effects are numerous, the worse case being cancer.

If we are under continuous stress (“chronic stress”), our youth hormone, DHEA—which, don’t forget, is the precursor to our sex hormones—takes a back seat to cortisol production, as cortisol is technically more important to survival—we have to survive first, so we can reproduce second! Ultimately, if we want to balance our sleep, sex, and metabolic hormones we need to manage our chronic stress. Only once we’ve lowered our cortisol levels throughout the day do our other critical hormones have the chance to balance out.

Since all of our various hormones are created from the building blocks of our nutrition, eating a balanced diet—with an emphasis on the plant kingdom—is essential to keeping our hormone production up as we age. Exercise is also critical—especially strength training to momentary muscular failure (the point at which no more reps can be performed with perfect form)—and will help slow the decline of human growth hormone production, a natural process occurring from middle-age onward, but one that we should attempt to counteract.

As we enter midlife, it’s critical to monitor our hormone levels so we can effectively manage our energy, moods, sleep, and body composition. The endocrine system is amazingly complex, so we recommend getting a thorough baseline measurement from your doctor of all of your hormones and their precursors. Since our hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the day and night, we recommend a test that takes multiple samples over a 24-hour period in order to properly map the rise and fall.


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: What is Positive Psychology? And can it help me during this time of stress?

Happy woman standing with her back on the sunset in nature in summer with open hands

Q: What is Positive Psychology? And can it help me during this time of stress?

A: Positive Psychology is a relatively new field of study that focuses on improving our mental health by means of “building what’s strong”—a term coined by Martin E.P. Seligman, one of the foremost advocates of positive psychology. It encourages patients to focus on positive emotions and mental states, such as happiness, joy, compassion, love, and “flow” (a state of being undistracted by thought), in contrast to the traditional psychotherapy that focuses on negative emotions, like anger and sorrow.

Although the majority of research in mental health over the last 100 yrs has focused on pathology and “fixing what’s wrong”, or identifying and treating disease and disorders, modern research is showing that augmenting the traditional psychotherapy approach with positive psychology can contribute to long-lasting peace, calm, connectedness, joy… and even longevity!

Positive psychology is also beneficial to advance the well-being and optimal functioning in healthy people. Some psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers, saw early on that there was a benefit to studying the holistic nature of our mental health and created popular theories such as Maslow’s Hierarchy, which shows a hierarchy of what makes people happy and the things that they do to achieve that happiness. Today, we continue to learn and study less clinical forms of positive psychology that can be practiced daily, and eventually formed into positive habits (learn how to form healthy habits in 6 easy steps).

Almost 25 yrs ago, National Geographic did a study on populations with a high rate of Centenarians (people who live to over 100), because not only do these populations live longer, but they are also considered the happiest people on earth. Their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, radiate vitality, calm, peace, joy, and connectedness. There is a correlation between their positivity and their longevity (to be fully transparent, there are a host of other lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and work habits). If you want to dig into this some more, the findings and the continued research can be found on Bluezones.com.

Now, each year, the United Nations rates the “Happiest Nations on Earth”, and is finding that these “Blue Zones” are constantly topping the charts. For relevance, Canada currently ranks 6th behind the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 18th. So what do these populations do differently? Below are 6 mental health behaviors that are found in the Blue Zones that you can implement to counter mental and emotional stress, anxiety, and depression, while contributing to a deep satisfaction with ourselves and our life’s circumstances:

Smile

It takes less muscles than a frown and is infectious. Consider making a practice of smiling at the first 5 people you see in a day. You’ll likely receive one in return.

Practice Gratitude

Finish your day by journaling 5 experiences or people you appreciated in your day… completing your day with your ‘glass half full’.

Savor

Slow down to bring as much presence as possible to a pleasurable experience. Relish in it with as many senses as possible. This builds your enjoyment of being singularly focused in the present.

Flow

Revisit or start fresh with an activity that seduces you into full engagement. It could be creative or physical. Immerse yourself so deeply that you lose track of time and self-consciousness or mundane thought.

Connect

Trade an hour of social media engagement for an hour of face to face sharing. We are wired for attachment to others through our limbic, emotional-social brain. Cues from facial expression, body language, and voice inflection are essential for all trusting relationships.

Be Mindful

Employing the same mindful presence that we use when we savor a pleasurable experience, practice 5 minutes of deep breathing while staying present, curious, and self-compassionate for any quality of thought or feeling that arises while you are still. Notice, allow, and let it go.

Exercising these positive psychology tools will deepen happiness, contentment, and peace of mind, and will enrich our lives, and those around us, with the key elements for joy and longevity.


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: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

Sad woman looking out of the window in loft apartment

Q: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

A: More research is confirming that physical isolation and emotional aloneness can contribute to premature death at the same rate as sedentarism and obesity, which have been proven to cause a 30% increase in premature death. Eliminating social interaction entirely dramatically heightens one of our greatest fears—dying alone. This constant fear—which underpins many of the feelings, thoughts, choices, behaviors, and habits in our life—spikes anxiety and cortisol, which when chronically elevated, decreases immune function, deteriorates sleep quality, drives emotional food cravings, and increases the incidence of depression. This is why, say during a pandemic that mandates isolation and restricts social gatherings, a lot of news is turned to mental health.

However, it’s equally as possible to turn isolation and aloneness into an opportunity for growth.

Even though we are wired for relationships via our social and emotional limbic brain to mitigate the fear of dying alone, we also have a need for ‘me time’. Whether we take alone time to meditate, contemplate, take a walk, go for a run, or commune with nature, this time affords us the opportunity to build a deep relationship with ourselves. In fact, we all probably know of individuals who live alone and are very comfortable with themselves and go on to live long lives. Why? They exhibit many lifestyle traits of a positive mental attitude, like gratitude, self-confidence based on self-appreciation, savoring life’s little pleasures, connecting to ‘flow’, and going for joy over happiness. We will share more of these traits when we discuss positive psychology and it’s findings for mental and emotional health in our next Health Talk Happy Hour.

If we invest in “in-the-moment” alone-time (whether we live alone or not) to notice the thoughts and feelings that arise in relation to being isolated or feeling alone, we can learn a lot about ourselves. We can choose to become curious about the various ways we all avoid the discomfort that connects to our deepest existential fears, and the feelings of heartache, boredom, and anxiety that are connected to those fears. We can also see how our hardwired habits of desire, craving, compulsion, and even addiction are tied to avoiding these uncomfortable feelings. Through compassionate (non-judgmental) self-observation, we can be curious about what is underneath our feelings and actions. This mindful self-awareness expands our sense of self and gives us the freedom to make different choices. And when we make choices that are aligned with our core values, we build a positive mental attitude, which ultimately, supports longevity.


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: Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

Overworked woman with back pain in office sitting on chair with bad posture

Q: My posture at work is terrible. Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

A: Back pain is now the second most common reason North Americans visit the doctor (after the common cold). With an estimated 80% of North Americans sitting for their work and with screen viewing averaging more than 11 hours per day (we have never been so stationary in our entire existence!), it’s no wonder that posture-related health issues are going through the roof—but no matter how much our parents have nagged us to “sit up straight”, our bodies weren’t designed to sit, they were designed to move!

Almost all previous work involved moving constantly (bending, lifting, standing, walking), so posture-related pain in the workplace is a relatively new thing. When our spine is chronically out of its natural alignment (hunching over our laptop or looking down at our phone), the muscles that support our spine become imbalanced. Some muscles atrophy while others are in constant strain. The result is pain, lack of energy flow, muscle exhaustion, headaches, bad mood, osteoporosis, a lack of balance, and even compromised immune function.

Recently there have been a plethora of products invented to remind us to get up and move, buzz us to straighten up, alert us to stretch, or brace us into a ‘neutral spine’. While these devices can give us a glimpse of correct posture, they do not fix the underlying issues—they are like bandaids, and should only be used temporarily. Here are 6 actions that you should try to habituate to make your good posture permanent:

  • Learn what neutral spine is (get a C.H.E.K postural alignment assessment)
  • Lengthen some of our chronically tight muscles (sign up for weekly gentle Hatha Yoga class)
  • Strengthen our core and stabilizing muscles (sign up for a weekly pilates class and strengthen your back and neck muscles, not just the chest)
  • Move (functional fitness and HIIT classes), and remind yourself to stand and walk whenever you are on a phone call
  • Ergonomically adjust our workspace (standing desks, elevated computer screens, forearm supported keyboard)
  • Build your mindfulness practice to constantly scan and readjust our body posture until it becomes habituated

Once you implement the above, you will notice your back and neck pain subsiding substantially. If you’d like to read more about the dangers of sitting, read our article, Why Sitting Is Bad For You and 5 Ways To Fix It.


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: