Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncturist and Hypnotherapist
Photo Credit: Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND
Dr. Natalie Cheng-Kai-On, ND has practiced naturopathic medicine and acupuncture for the last fifteen years and is available for Telemedicine (video conference or by phone) appointments in Ontario. She focuses on diet and exercise – the foundation of health, to help people reach their health goals. She became a Certified Coach with FASTer Way to Fat Loss®, to help people make lasting lifestyle changes with the program’s signature six-week new client experience.
It may sound shocking, but fast food doesn’t have to be expensive or unhealthy.
As a mother of two children and a naturopathic doctor, I understand that life is busier than ever and people often don’t have time to take care of themselves. But that doesn’t mean that it’s hard to eat a balanced meal. Of course, you can sign up for some healthy meal guides or meal delivery kits, but they can get expensive. So what can you do? Whether you live alone or you are in charge of meal planning for a household, here are three simple tips to make healthy food fast.
When you eat balanced and healthy meals, you should notice better digestion, improved sleep, more energy, better skin, less pain and the list goes on. If you eat clean for a month, but don’t notice any improvement in your health, then you should seek help from a health practitioner or naturopathic doctor. You may have underlying nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalance or other conditions that need medical supervision.
Divide your plate.
1/2 leafy veggies
1/4 starchy veggies or grains
1/4 protein rich legumes and beans
Top with nuts, seeds and cold pressed oil. Eat fruit in between meals. With this strategy, there’s no need to weigh food or count calories. The proportion of food is what makes this a balanced meal.
Season your food.
Use herbs, spices, lemon and lime to season your food. You can also add coconut or soy aminos for extra flavour.
Eat a whole food diet and eat enough.
When you eat a colourful rainbow of food, you will get a variety of vitamins and minerals. These are called micronutrients. Usually, people crave sugary and fatty foods because they don’t get enough nutrients or calories. I’ve seen so many people who claim to eat healthy during the day and then can’t stop their cravings at night. When you fill up on nutrients, you will notice that you won’t crave the extra junk.
Note from Monica Ng (website creator): Dr. Cheng-Kai-On, ND is my naturopathic doctor. I got a lot of helpful information from her during my consults, so I reached out to her to write an article for my site.
It’s important to stay on top of your own health and find out the best ways to maintain your body and improve your health naturally. For myself, life is extremely busy and I spend a lot of time hiking and biking. I need lots of energy to keep going. Where possible, I use natural products and stay away from chemicals. I try to eat whole foods (i.e. food that is in its original form such as vegetables) vs. packaged/processed foods and avoid food containing ingredients that I can’t pronounce. Take some time to read food labels – you might be surprised at how many additives there are.
Since I’m vegan and there is a massive movement towards eating a plant-based diet (perhaps for health, environmental reasons and ending animal cruelty), I asked Dr. Cheng-Kai-On, ND, to write this article keeping a plant-based diet in mind.
Maz Alinejad, is a co-owner of Anytime Fitness (Richmond Hill) at Yonge & Elgin Mills. Growing up, Maz was an athlete who loved football, baseball, bodybuilding and anything sports related. He also trained and coached martial arts for over twenty years. Even after obtaining his Bachelor degree in Aerospace Engineering and working in the field for over a decade, Maz’s appetite for health, fitness and learning about the complexities of the human body, led him to open his own fitness facility. He’s committed to teaching and guiding others to achieve their fitness goals and living a healthy and active lifestyle.
Top 10 fitness tips
Written by Maz Alinejad
Set realistic goals.
While it’s great to have a goal that motivates you, you also need to measure it against the level of sacrifice it takes to achieve that goal.
First figure out what you’re trying to achieve – fat loss, leaner look, build a lot of muscle, improve your health, compete in a sport, just being more active, etc., then decide what you’re willing to change from your normal routine to achieve the objective. Any change that you want to make in life will require your daily habits to align, so it’s important to evaluate which habits you’re willing to take on and what you’re not willing to give up. Finally, adjust and reassess your goals based on the comforts you’re willing to sacrifice and the amount of routine you’re willing to change. Don’t let this step scare you. The great news is that most health and fitness goals that don’t involve high level competition, can be achieved in about 3-5 hours per week if you stay consistent.
Find an activity that you enjoy.
If you don’t like running, try swimming or cycling. If you don’t like exercising by yourself, try joining a group fitness class, running club or team sport. There are endless ways to keep active.
As the saying goes, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to follow a strict diet at all times, but you should be following the basic concepts of nutrition to make sure you’re getting the right amount of micro and macro nutrients needed to nourish your body and achieve your goal.
Your goal, nutrition and activity of choice should be compatible.
Going back to the first point, if your goal is to gain a bunch of muscle but you don’t enjoy lifting weights and eating lots of protein, I have some bad news… you’ll have to either learn to love those things or alter your goal. Similarly, if you dream of running a marathon but don’t like the feeling of getting winded during a run, then either the dream has to change or you need to push past that dreaded feeling.
Make time for exercise.
We live in a modern world of comfort and many of us work in front of a computer. The pandemic has exasperated the problem even more. We don’t move enough and delicious foods are both cheap and easy to purchase. Getting some level of exercise has become as much a necessity in modern life as brushing your teeth or showering. This is why finding an activity that you enjoy is so important. And if you can’t find something that you like, then treat exercise like you would a visit to the dentist or doctor – not your favourite thing to do, but something that needs to get done.
Rest, recovery and stress management.
Whenever you start an exercise program, you must allow your body the appropriate time to recover and repair itself. The amount of rest required will vary depending on the intensity of your exercise and state of your health. While a daily walk may not require a tremendous amount of recovery time, a two hour boxing class or heavy leg workout probably would. And when it comes to stress management, it’s a large enough topic that deserves its own top ten list, but many people find exercise to be beneficial towards helping them calm their nerves. On the flip side, a very stressful life can make it difficult to prioritize health, which causes a vicious cycle with lack of self-care, leading to poorer health which in turn increases stress levels and dissatisfaction even further. Balance your physical health with emotional needs.
Have a learning mindset and be curious.
Fitness and nutrition are still relatively new sciences and new discoveries are being made all the time. Be willing to learn, seek out coaches who study and keep up with the latest science. Don’t be afraid to try out a new activity or an expert suggestion.
Importance of a social support system.
If you’re lucky, you have family or friends who are into fitness and healthy living. But for many, this support system may come in the form of gym buddies, online training groups or a sports team. This doesn’t mean that you’re replacing your friends and family – instead you’re finding a group with similar interests who can help you achieve your goals. We are social creatures that adhere to standards of the tribe. Find your fitness tribe!
Perfection is the enemy of progress.
Doing something is better than nothing. You don’t have to be perfect. Becoming more fit is not an all or nothing contest. I would rather have a client be consistent 70% of the time over the course of two years, instead of a client who goes all out for eight weeks and gets burnt out taking too many changes at one time.
Track and review your progress.
One thing that I always emphasize to our coaches is the importance of objective measurables when assessing clients. This is especially important if your goal is to change something about your body. Objective measurements help you see your progress and can be very motivating to track over time. We look at ourselves every day in the mirror and get used to all the little changes that are happening. This is why people don’t realize when they are getting out of shape until reality smacks them in the face in the form of an off-hand comment or a doctor’s warning, or not fitting into any of their clothes. Most know more about the state of their cars and details of their home insurance than they do about their body. Our memories are fallible, so take advantage of all the information, apps and journals available to keep track of your health. Alternatively, you can join a gym or program that is focused on the success of their clients and keeps track of measurables for you.
Today marks Day 15 of my life as a vegan. Honestly, the main change that I have made is cutting out food that contains milk ingredients and eggs. I have to read labels more carefully now – which is not all that bad, considering all the miscellaneous chemicals that are put in our food these days.
I have been spending a lot of time doing research about plant-based diets and health.
@patriapower on Instagram reached out to me and recommended that I watch “What the Health” (I watched it on Netflix -but if you don’t have Netflix, I am sure it is on YouTube or somewhere). Watching that film was a real eye-opener. We have been so heavily programmed to accept certain things – such as the benefit of drinking milk from another species. Sigh!
In a nutshell (and in my own words), here is what I learned from the film “What the Health”:
Diabetes in not caused by eating too much sugar alone (but rather caused by consuming meat products). But obviously eating too much sugar is not good for the health.
Meat protein is linked with increase in production of cancer cells in the body. Research was done on rats that I believe were injected with cancer cells. Some of the rats were injected with 20% casein (meat protein) and others 5% casein. The rats that were injected with 20% casein had an increase in the growth of the cancer cells. The rats injected with 5% casein did not experience any increase in cancer cells.
A plant-based diet does provide sufficient protein and helps to repair the body. This was evidenced by testimonials of people struggling with their health and taking tons of medication. After a short period of time, their health improved significantly and they were able to get off their meds. This also happened to one of my friends. After cutting out meat, her health improved and she was able to get off her medication. Keep in mind anytime you try to get off your medications, you should get medication supervision.
Watch “What the Health” for yourself. Link to the film is in the website below:
I write this blog, hoping that family/caregiver(s) of a stroke victim (or if you know someone who suffered from a stroke), can find resources quickly to maximize the stroke victim’s chance of recovery. Timing is critical post-stroke. Getting treatment early, within the first few months, can make a huge difference for the stroke victim.
I have been researching and looking for new chances for my dad for the past five years. Everything that comes along is truly a second chance for my dad, and I embrace it dearly.
The day I will never forget
I still remember the phone call from my mom on November 4, 2013. I was sitting at my office desk. I don’t normally get phone calls from my mom during the daytime, so I worry that something is wrong. My parents lived in Montreal and I was in Toronto. Finally, she spits it out, that my dad was in the hospital. Not only that, but already one day passed since he was there. I was so angry that she waited to call. She told me that he had a stroke, but that everything was ok. Of course, I was in a panic and couldn’t believe my ears. I was pregnant at the time and balling my eyes out.
Background: my dad has always had high blood pressure, but it was not properly treated. He is also the type to stress over everything. So his stroke was likely due to high blood pressure.
My sister called the hospital to get more information. The nurse said that he had a hemorrhagic stroke and was in extremely critical condition. There was bleeding in his brain in a very complex area (a pathway to many areas) on the right-side. My sister and I set out to Montreal that evening by car, driving in the rain, crying the whole way about the unknown. My other sister flew to Montreal from Calgary the following day.
Hanging onto life
My dad was in intensive care when we arrived at the hospital. The neurosurgeon had put in a shunt (a tube basically) to drain the fluids from his swelling brain. The shunt was inserted through a hole that they had drilled in his skull. He lay on the hospital bed, lifeless with tubes all over his body and in his throat. He also had a tracheotomy at some point because he could not breathe properly (or something like that). It was too early to know what would happen to him because he was just hanging onto life at that time.
He stayed in intensive care for almost 3 months. His neurosurgeon told us he had full left-side paralysis and may never walk again or use his left arm.
As his condition improved, we found that my dad was super lucky. He did not have any real speech difficulty and had little trouble eating. He also retained his long-term memory. And did not lose any right-side mobility.
In the clear
After he left intensive care, he continued to stay in the hospital for many months. Finally, he progressed to the in-patient rehab. Of course, with publicly funded hospitals, patients are rushed to leave as soon as possible.
Making living accommodations
My parents lived in a three-level apartment, of course on the top floor. The only access to the apartment was by stairs. My mom was in denial and thought the other residents could help to lift my dad up two flights of stairs. Of course, we were violently against this, but being in Toronto it was difficult to help with making arrangements.
We were lucky to find a senior’s home on very short notice, with elevator access and a cafeteria on the ground floor. We moved my parents in upon my dad’s discharge from the hospital. The social worker helped to arrange social assistance three days a week, plus an extra nurse to administer Fragmin (anti-blood clot vaccine) into his stomach once a day. My parents needed extra help. My sisters, my cousins, my uncles and myself, all took as much time as possible to help my parents in Montreal, but it was not sustainable. My parents really needed 24/7 help.
The big move to Toronto
My sisters and I, finally convinced our parents to make the move to Toronto. Because my sister had a main floor full bathroom, my dad went to stay with her; and my mom stayed with me. It was a very tough period. It was stressful dropping my mom off every morning at my sister’s place, so she could stay with my dad while we went to work, and picking her up every night. You wonder why my mom did not stay at my sister’s place? Well, her situation could be its own blog! In a nutshell, my parents needed physical separation from one another.
Upon my parents’ move to Toronto, my dad began his out-patient rehab therapy at St. John’s Rehab in Toronto. A wonderful facility with really caring staff (a big hello and thank you to Betty and Mitch, if you read this). (www.sunnybrook.ca)
OHIP allotted 3 months of free treatment. By the time he finished there, he could stand and balance himself a bit. That means that he got some movement back in his left leg. Hooray!
A lot of hard work
Despite my dad’s stroke, he was very positive. To this day, he still works hard at his recovery.
I was very lucky to find Neurocore Physiotherapy and Pilates Centre (www.neurocore.ca), which happened to be about 15 minutes from home and just a few minutes away from work. My dad began intensive twice-weekly sessions at Neurocore. Thank you to the amazing co-owner, Carol, my dad’s physiotherapist, Michelle, massage therapists, Robbie and Hubert for all the work they put in over the years.
On top of that, he went out weekly for acupuncture sessions.
Over the past few years, he has tried physio, massage (with registered massage therapist), acupuncture, MyndMove and FitMi.
Devices of Interest
My dad is much stronger after all the treatments. Today he can walk (albeit with some difficulty). He has not recovered mobility in his left arm, but has sensation and can move his entire arm from the shoulder – so I am not giving up!
A few years after his stroke, I was lucky also to come across another device called FitMi (www.flintrehab.com). Flint Rehab is based in the USA, but can ship devices to Canada.
FitMi is a device that has two pucks that interact with a tablet. The idea is that through repetition, you can increase neuro-plasticity in the brain (basically the ability for the brain to find new pathways if there is a repetition of movement). You repeat exercises on the screen, and it gives you a score (for motivation). At least this way, between physio/massage/acupuncture, he could work by himself at home. I am not sure if this device has made a huge difference, but was definitely worth a try.
I am getting teary just writing this blog. I have been with my dad this whole five years, taking him to most of the therapy sessions. I have seen his progress and backward steps as well. During the winter months, I have arranged for on-site treatment for physio/massage, but this year it was not possible due to tight scheduling at the clinics. Then my relative came across something called neurofeedback and found a place that was again – minutes away from my office – like a gift to us. The place is called Optimum Edge (www.optimumedge.ca).
My dad just started a ten-block treatment. His is doing intensive twice-weekly sessions to increase the chances of progress. He has completed two sessions so far, plus we got one free session/consult. On the first consult session, his arm was locked into position (so kinda like an “L” shape with elbow tight and fingers curled in) and I could stick a piece of tissue paper between his arm and his body and the tissue would not fall. The day of the first actual session, I could no longer put a tissue between, because his arm was looser and away from his body.
After the second session, he said he slept for 11 hours on one night. For someone that slept terribly before, this was a breakthrough. I noticed other small changes, such as being more mentally aware and engaged in conversation. My dad also reported that during the session his fingers were super loose.
The idea with the neurofeedback machine is that music helps to re-balance/heal the brain. You listen to music through earbuds and hear static sounds at certain intervals. Anne and Reid at Optimum Edge, were gracious enough to let me try a session as well. I didn’t really notice much, but maybe my creative juices are flowing like crazy now! I feel that I can write forever…
My dad also uses a machine called Dynavision at Optimum Edge, which has little squares that light up at various places around the board, and you focus on pressing them as fast as you can within a time-frame. You are supposed to focus on a centre square at the same time and read off the numbers that disappear in a flash. This machine is supposed to help with peripheral vision, concentration, the speed of processing things and stimulate the brain accordingly.
Full steam ahead
I really look forward to seeing changes in my dad over the next few weeks.
My only advice to everyone out there: manage ones’ health before it is too late.
What to look out for…
Great news! A device called PoNs has just been approved for use in Canada. Apparently, there are currently two clinics in Canada (British Columbia and Montreal) that are authorized to use the device. But there is a huge wait-list right now. Based on what I read – the hope is for about 20-30 clinics to open up across Canada. Check out www.heliusmedical.com
2020 update: PoNs device has been approved for use in Canada. You can look for an authorized PoNs clinic near you.
It’s dark outside in the morning and almost wintertime again. I have been feeling a bit ‘ho-hum’ (a bit low energy and unmotivated). Nevermind, the lingering thoughts of the last stubborn 10 pounds that I want to lose. I reflect on the past year and a half, and I know that I have come a long way. BTW – my initial goal was to lose 25-30 pounds.
In June of 2017, I hit rock bottom with my weight. I realized this when I was sitting down for dinner with my sister and her friends. I was literally uncomfortable sitting and my legs and arms were getting numb and tingly; and I couldn’t sit comfortably. I knew that my body couldn’t support any more weight. I was never heavier my whole life. It was time for a change.
In September, 2017, I tried committed myself to a paleo diet (basically cutting sugary items and carbs like pasta and rice). After just two days of eating eggs/protein for breakfast or any other food other than carbs, my stomach was much flatter and I felt like a new person. In a few months I lost about 10 pounds.
Of course, as you are losing weight, there seems to be a ‘plateau’ – where nothing you do reduces your weight more. Then, my relative mentioned the Bulletproof Coffee (www.bulletproof.com). Bulletproof coffee is made with brewed coffee (you can use your own coffee beans if you don’t want to buy the Bulletproof brand name coffee), high concentration MCT pure coconut oil, and grass-fed butter). I tried this with reluctance at first, but the coffee actually tasted good. I drank 3/4 cup every morning instead of eating solids. In a couple of weeks, I lost about 5 pounds.
Fast forward a year and a half, I have lost about 20 pounds and managed to keep it off. I am lucky not to have any major health issues. I am working on prevention of diseases related to poor diet.
In September, 2018, I cut out my meat intake and ate a vegetarian diet (no meat, but vegetables, eggs and seafood).
Health is no. 1!
Losing weight for health reasons and eating healthier are my number one goals. After my father had a stroke five years ago and finding out my mother has Type 2 diabetes (suffering loss of vision) and high cholesterol, I think about my health every day. Good sleep, balanced diet and daily exercise are something to strive for.
Why try a 3-day cleanse?
Sometimes the mind and body just need to be ‘reset’. Our bodies work so hard to eliminate toxins and other junk, but we make them work so hard. I have checked out other companies offering juice cleanses, but they didn’t seem as practical because you have to pick up your juices daily, and you do not get a lovely salad for dinner. It’s easier to stick to a juice cleanse (and any diet) if it is convenient. I made up my mind to try Freshii’s 3-day cleanse. Check out: www.freshii.com
I just completed my 3rd day yesterday.
Pictured above: lovely dinner salad
What do you need for your cleanse?
You get a total of 12 bottles of juice (4 for each day) and three large salads (one for each day) for dinner.
What is the cost?
The 3-day cleanse cost me $85+HST.
It thought it would be a pain to go to Freshii each day to get the supplies for the cleanse, but they have mastered the cold-pressing technique to allow juices to stay fresh in a bottle for a couple of months. This makes sticking to a cleanse easy. I collected the supply for the 3 days and went home. FYI – Freshii offers a 5-day cleanse as well, but I definitely do not have the willpower to do that.
What is the plan?
1) first thing when you wake up in the morning, you drink one cup of warm lemon water; 2) drink “Green Genius” which contains green apple, spinach, kale, celery, lemon and ginger, maybe 15-20 minutes after the lemon water; 3) for your morning snack (say around 10am), drink the “Reset” which contains apple juice, pineapple, cucumber and mint; 4) for your lunch (say around 12pm), drink “Renew” which contains carrot, orange juice, lemon and turmeric; 5) for your midday snack (say around 3pm), drink “Recharge” which contains carrot, apple, beet, lemon and ginger; 6) then enjoy a huge delish salad for your dinner. There is even salad dressing! 7) Freshii’s FAQs says if you are really hungry still, you can eat some raw veggies/fruit. 8) it’s important to drink a lot of water throughout the day (Freshii recommends 8-10 cups of water each day). 9) don’t overdo it on the exercise. Mild to moderate exercise is recommended as you have cut your calories down a lot. You may experience dizziness if you overexert yourself. 10) try to be somewhere close to the washroom during your 3-day cleanse. You won’t regret this advice…
VERY IMPORTANT: before starting any juice cleanses you should consult your doctor. You should also read Freshii’s FAQs in their brochure about juice cleansing.
Actually, for someone that doesn’t like smoothies, thick juices or vegetable juice, the taste of the juices was surprisingly nice. But, because of the amount of liquid going into my body, I actually found that I felt like vomiting on the second day. I also lost my appetite just thinking that I had to drink another juice, and was unable to drink the midday drink at all. Drinking thick juice reminds me of being in a hospital.
Excited, but a bit worried about the duration of the cleanse. I love food so much, that eating often consumes my thoughts. I started Day 1 on a Sunday. By the time I had my third juice, I was starving and looking for something to eat. I later found out that I missed one juice – No wonder! I think the whole cleansing process is about re-focusing the mind and severing ones’ emotional tie to food. All I could think about was going to bed, so that I didn’t need to think about food. But I was doing this for me…
This was me on Day 2 at work. I wasn’t hungry at all on this day, because so much liquid made me feel like vomiting. By the time I drank one juice (it takes me a long time to finish one), it was time to drink another. So by the time it was time for the fourth drink, I couldn’t drink it. I had no appetite at all. I did look forward to my salad though. This is mentally the worst day. Seeing everyone eat delish food and cooking meals for my family was definitely tough. Also, at the end of the day, my stomach was kinda queezy. I ended the day with diarrhea (sorry, I had to write this!).
Finally – last day. Again, I could only get through the first 3 juices and did not feel hungry. I very much enjoyed my last salad.
At the end of the day – I am proud to say, I fended off a great temptation to grab a bunch of Harvey’s onion rings sitting next to me. That was the true test of mental strength and willpower for me.
Was it worth it?
Definitely. I feel more energetic and mentally refreshed. And on a bonus, I lost 3.5 lbs. Could be just water though? For me it was really mind over matter.
Cheers to empty bottles and your health!
2020 update: I have managed to keep off the 35lbs that I lost and now maintain my weight through lifestyle changes (diet, exercise and sleep) and am now vegan!
Quick note: some Walmarts sell the bottled juice at a fraction of the price – you can just pick up the number of bottles you need for the cleanse and just buy a salad from Freshii (they taste yummy!). I did that for my second cleanse.