Health and Safety

Why I Get the Flu Shot (And Why You Should Too)

Vaccination Distrust and Herd Immunity CompromiseI'll keep this brief, because it's become an annual event on this blog. If you want a longer version, read "Vaccination Myths Compromise Herd Immunity".

I always get the flu shot and my kids always get the flu shot. My mom and brothers get the flu shot as well, but I promised I'd keep this brief, so on to the highlights...

3 reasons you should get the flu shot:

It's the best show in town
No, the flu shot isn't perfect, but it's the best show in town. Even if it's only 65% accurate that's far better than 0% and even if you are in the group that gets sick despite a vaccine, your illness will be milder and shorter. Why get sick if you don't have to?

Do it for others
Even if you're as healthy as a horse and never get sick, do it for those you come in contact with who are less healthy, very young or very old. Do it for them if you're too stubborn to do it for yourself. Why be a carrier? Getting a flu shot is simply good citizenship.

The flu shot won't make you sick
This might be my biggest pet peeve at this time of year. Otherwise intelligent people will tell you they don't want to get the flu shot because it puts the virus in your body. A flu shot is made with dead virus cells and cannot and will not make you sick. It's an impossibility. Dead virus cells are dead. Period.

Do yourself and others a favour this year and get your flu shot. It will even reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke...

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Dr. Donald Low's Sensible Plea

Dr. Donald Low's Sensible PleaDr. Donald Low, chief microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital for more than 25 years, passed away last week. Brain cancer took him at the age of 68.

8 days before he passed, he recorded this most sensible plea for the legalization of assisted suicide. He just wanted to die with dignity.

It's such a sensible plea and so humane. I personally want the option to die with dignity. It's time we stop treating our pets better than our loved ones.

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Why I Track My Workouts

Tracking WorkoutsWhen it comes to working out in the traditional sense, I've never been able to stick to a routine. I'm talking about lifting weights or aerobic fitness routines you might do in a gym or at home. I might try a routine, I might even do it for an entire week, but I always bail for one reason: it's not enjoyable.

Since I got serious about keeping fit, I've learned to stick to scheduled workouts I actually enjoy. In addition to sports like baseball, hockey and volleyball, these activities are:

  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Walking

For a solid 10 months I swam a kilometre a day every weekday. Recently, I've swapped the pool for the bike. I track all of it, every ride, every swim and every long walk, using MapMyRun. Here's what August 2013 looks like.

Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 12.45.12 PM

Why do I track each workout? I do it for two reasons:

  1. It's fun
  2. I like to compete against myself

When I tackle a defined route, I'll compare my split times to the last time I rode it. I aim to kick my own ass.

Do you track your workouts?

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Ranking My Sports Injuries

medicalI wake up every morning with pain in my left shoulder. I've accepted the fact I'll have this pain for the rest of my life, the result of a separated shoulder from a hockey game in 2009.

Listening to the Humble and Fred podcast today, they were talking about their worst injuries. I thought I'd rank mine.

1. The broken leg and torn ACL from playing ball in 2003 that kept me sports-less for six months
2. The mysterious running injury in 2007 I've never recovered from
3. The broken leg in grade two that had me on crutches for six weeks
4. The separated shoulder from a hockey game in 2009 that I still feel today
5. The infected gaping wound from sliding into third base in 2010 that had me in the Emergency Room every night for a week
6. The ankle sprain in grade nine that had me on crutches for two weeks

What's your worst sports injury?

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One Year of Weight Loss and Maintenance

One Year of Weight Loss and MaintenanceI think my 2-year old nephew's birthday party last year was the last straw. I had just come back from Berlin feeling bloated and slow, and then I pigged out on pizza, chips and brownies at Nate's birthday party. That Monday, I decided to change things up.

I was going to start doing three things:

  1. I was going to modify my diet. Essentially, less sugar and junk food and smaller portions of the foods I love. I was going to be smarter about what I put in my body.
  2. I was going to exercise more - more walking, biking all summer long and now swimming every weekday
  3. I was going to weigh-in every morning, documenting my progress via Wii Fit

Below is how my weight chart looks after this morning's weigh-in. I bounced off the bottom in September and started building mass with the swimming.

Wii Fit

Here's the tale of the tape:

  • Feb 3, 2012: 86 kg (189.5 lbs)
  • Jan 31, 2013: 66.3 kg (146.1 lbs)

I still eat lots of pizza and pasta, and if you bake me cookies, I'll have a few, I'm just aware of what my decisions do to my body. It's simple math: calories consumed - calories burned.

I've never felt better.

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My Burgers Then vs. My Burgers Now

My Burgers Then vs. My Burgers NowIt's the May 2-4 long weekend, and most of us will enjoy at least one BBQ. Who doesn't love a tasty barbecued hamburger?

In the good old days, when I didn't give a hot damn about nutrition labels, I'd likely gravitate towards the Presidents Choice Gigantico burgers. Don't they look good?


Each Gigantico hamburger contains 34 grams of fat. 34!

This weekend, I'll enjoy Presidents Choice Blue Menu Sirloin lean beef burgers. These, I must admit, are also very, very good.


Oh... and each Blue Menu hamburger only contains 8 grams of fat.

Ignorance is bliss, but awareness is essential. And that's one to grow on.

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Who Eats Nutella?

nutellaI was reminded of something I wrote back in 2003. I had just seen an ad for Nutella, and felt compelled to write this.

What's the deal with Nutella? When I was a kid, I was always envious of my classmates who would bring Nutella sandwiches for lunch. What could look better to an 8 year old than a chocolate sandwich? Nevertheless, Nutella was never part of my family's diet and to this day I've never had a taste.

When advertisements for Nutella come on the television, I watch with wonderment. The entire concept baffles me. Who's eating this illogical bread spread? What parent thinks this is a good lunch for their child? I don't get it at all.

Today I learned that Nutella must pay parents who thought the chocolate spread was a healthy choice.

A California class-action lawsuit that slammed the makers of Nutella for ads suggesting the spread was a healthy food was settled this week in favour of consumers. About $2.5-million (U.S.) will now be divided among folks who file a claim and join the suit, according The Consumerist.

I'm sorry, but these parents deserve nothing. It's chocolate, people. You're spreading chocolate on bread and that doesn't sound very healthy, does it?

Blogger Annie Urban even undertook a nutritional comparison of Nutella and cheap chocolate frosting, finding that the frosting had fewer calories, less fat and more iron, of all things.

It's healthier to spread cheap chocolate frosting on your sandwiches than Nutella. Now there's an idea!

Fess up... who eats Nutella?

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Awareness as a Weight Loss Tool

foodWorking from home, I found I spent most of the day sitting in front of the PC. Sitting all day will kill ya. Combine that with the usual holiday gluttony and the fact I spent a week in Germany where I drank and ate like a pig, and by the end of January I was carrying an extra 15-20 lbs and I didn't like how it felt.

Following one last pig-out at my nephew's birthday party, I knew I had to make a change. I avoided scales like the plague, never counted a calorie or read a food label and was completely unaware of how overeating and exercise affected my weight / BMI. I decided to try using awareness as a weight loss tool.

The first step would be a documented weigh-in every morning. I decided to take advantage of my MarioKart machine a.k.a. the Nintendo Wii and monitor my weight and BMI with Wii Fit. Every morning at about 8:45am I step on the Wii Fit Balance Board and monitor my progress. My goal was to lose 10kg in three months, a healthy amount in a reasonable amount of time and just enough to get me out of the overweight section on my chart.

After a few weeks, I could predict my weight loss or gain based on what I ate and how much I exercised. For me, this was everything. I was completely aware of cause and effect. If I lost control on a pizza, I saw the jump the next morning. If I controlled my portions and made sensible decisions, I saw the drop. It's been awesome.

It's worth noting I haven't drastically increased my work outs. I try to walk more, and I do a little more lifting than I used to (I used to do zero lifting), but the biggest change I've made is dietary. I don't snack, I've drastically reduced my sugar intake, my beverage of choice is now water and I try to eat 50%-75% of what I used to when I do succumb to my carb addiction.

It's the awareness that I credit for the 8.2kg I've lost since I made this change in late January. For me, being aware of what happens when I eat poorly or don't exercise prevents me from repeating those mistakes.

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Bone Marrow Registry: Way Easier Than You Think

megaphoneI worked with Uwe for years. Uwe's a great guy, one of those guys you can rely on if you need help building something or want to hear a great story. Actually, he'd be great if you need help building something and want to hear a great story. Uwe's son, Andrew Brode, has a story to share.

I'll leave the rest of this story to Andrew...

My name is Andrew Brode, and I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia 2 months after my 30th Birthday, in June of 2011. What a roller coaster ride of emotions it's been, too. Within 2 weeks of finding out that I had a 60% chance of survival, I was getting some of the strongest chemotherapy treatments currently used. I was in hospital for a month (induction), followed by 2 separate rounds of chemo as an outpatient (consolidation). Thankfully, by November I was one of the lucky few who went into remission.

What I didn't know going in, is that common protocol for leukemia patients (along with many other types of cancer and other diseases) is a bone marrow transplant. This is where they take the bone marrow of a healthy person, and via a procedure similar to a blood transfusion, they inject those healthy cells into your body. This basically means the recipient (me) is getting a new immune system. The procedure has it's risks, but often it will completely CURE the recipient of his/her cancer.

Now, onto the not so good news. Currently, there are 18 million people worldwide (and counting) on the national bone marrow registry. I don't have 1 single perfect match, which I may require at some point in the future. If I receive a perfect match, my Doctor suggests that I go through with the procedure, but, because I don't, that isn't an option right now.

The Canadian Registry can be found at, and the registration/donation process is completely simplified compared to what the common perception is of this type of donation. Essentially, to get onto the registry you Register on the website, and they'll in return send you a swab kit. You take the kit they send you, swab your cheeks, and mail it back. That's it. Once you've been added to the system, if you ever get called, the donation process is as simple as donating blood. The days of getting drilled into your hip and put out for surgery are long over.

The Canadian Registry has just over 300,000 people on it, compared to a national population of 25+ million. There are more than 10 times the amount of Facebook users in Canada as there are on the National Registry.

Please visit today, and make a difference. You can be the one match that saves someone's life.

Oh, and Andrew... congrats!

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Do You Smoke?

Do You Smoke?There are over 1.6 million smokers in Ontario. And while Toronto’s smoking rate is typically lower than that of the Ontario population, the population is very dense, which means there are more smokers in this city than elsewhere in the province. I'll bet at least a few of you smoke.

My friend works for the Canadian Cancer Society and she's like me to mention their Driven to Quit Challenge. If you stay smoke-free for the month of March, you’ll be eligible to win amazing prizes (like your choice between a brand new Ford Fusion Hybrid or a Ford Edge, a $5000 vacation getaway, or one of seven $2000 cash prizes).

Not a smoker? That’s cool, challenge a friend to sign up and sign up as their support buddy. If they win, then you win $200 (and the proud feeling of helping someone quit)!

C’mon people, sign up. Get your friend to sign up. With over 13,000 deaths in Ontario related to tobacco this is something you should take advantage of.

Registration ends Feb 29, so be sure to sign up before then. And if you have any questions or want free help quitting, you can call their toll-free quit line at 1 877 513-5333 or go to their site.


p.s. If you are in the vicinity of Yonge-Dundas Square this Saturday between 2-6pm look for the Driven to Quit street team - they’ll be handing out swag and stuff.

Confession time: Do you smoke?

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