Eat Well to Live Well: Celebrating Nutrition Month (Webinar Recap)

Five friends cooking

Written by Brett MacDonald

We had a great webinar in March, in honour of Nutrition Month. I sat down with Optimity’s Client Success Advisor, Mira Levine, to talk about how cooking at home is good for not only your body, but also your wallet. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:

Understanding the big picture and how the world wide physical burden is influenced by our dietary choices:


worldwide physical burden

  • Report made by The Guardian summarizing Global Burden of Disease Study showed that 20% of deaths world wide are attributable to poor diet
  • The biggest concern from these poor nutrition eating habits is a diet high in sodium

Not only does poor nutritional eating habits cost us physically, but there is also a financial burden associated:

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  • In Canada, the economic burden attributable to poor nutrition is estimated to be over CAD$13.8 billion/year
  • In America:
    • Medical cost associated with obesity is estimated to be US$147 billion/year
    • Medical cost associated with diagnosed diabetes is estimated to be US$254 billion/year
  • It’s important to note the difference in these monetary values, as America has a larger population and a different healthcare system compared to Canada which influences these values. However, it’s clear that regardless of this there is still a financial burden associated to poor nutrition

 

It’s essential to understand that poor nutrition costs us both physically and financially. See what can you do to ameliorate your eating habits and what the benefits of home cooking are:

Harvard School of Public Health Healthy Eating Plate

healthy eating plate

This is an excellent guide to help you understand what a healthy eating plate looks like and how you can adopt these practices when preparing your own meals.

 

Top 5 Benefits of Home Cooking

  1. Saves Money
  2. Saves Time
  3. Healthier Ingredients
  4. Portion Control
  5. Social Impact

 

What to Look for When Grocery Shopping

grocery list

 

Optimity’s Zero Restaurants Challenge

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Optimity has a large library of activities and challenges related to nutrition such as our Zero Restaurants Challenge, where individuals try cut down their eating and spending at restaurants to zero for 30 days. We had a client from Linedrive join us during our webinar to talk about his positive experience with the challenge.

 

Establishing new healthy eating habits can be difficult at first. However, much like we learned from our January webinar on habits, small micro-changes to your diet and lifestyle will have the biggest impact on your health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

An Upstream Approach for a Healthy Heart

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Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya

In honor of heart awareness month, we will be discussing why it’s important for employers to focus on an upstream approach to a healthy heart.

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Heart disease is costing companies billions of dollars in loss of productivity and absenteeism.

Workplace wellness program can help prevent heart disease for their employees and in return bring down cost.

It’s essential to understand that heart disease can easily be prevented by making small behaviour changes.

See what can you do to prevent heart disease:
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Physical Activity

  • Physical activity elevates your heart rate, which is essential for keeping your heart in shape.
  • Something as simple as taking the stairs, does wonders for your heart. To read more on helpful tips on how to get physically active, especially in the colder months, check out our blog post here on exercise.

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Nutrition

  • Nutrition is key to a healthy life.
  • Some helpful tips in eating healthy is avoiding the foods that are big contributors to heart disease. Processed foods are high in sugar, fat, and sodium, so these should be kept to a minimum.
  • Cook your own food, it allows you to eat as clean as possible when using raw ingredients to make your meal.
  • Eating with others makes you more mindful of what you’re eating, and how much you’re eating. For more information on healthy eating for employees, check out one of our popular webinars on nutrition and mindful eating the workplace for more insightful tips.

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Stress Less

  • Identify your stressors in order to avoid them or create coping mechanisms that work for you.
  • Physical behaviours such as stretching and yoga can help relieve stress.
  • Change your thinking: see if your stressor is actually rational or if you’re just blowing it out of proportion. Try to make your thinking more positive.
  • Meditation is a great technique that can be done just about anywhere, and is proven to reduce stress. Here is another great webinar we’ve done on mindfulness and meditation in the workplace.

It’s cheaper to prevent heart disease than to treat it! Simple lifestyle changes can have the biggest positive impact financially and on the individuals health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

Or sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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2-Minute Meditation for a Positive Attitude

Meditation

Posted by Abena Osei-Kwabena

From cultivating greater awareness of self to relieving stress, meditation has numerous physical and mental health benefits. The practice conjures a sense of something related to spirituality, but is actually an extreme form of concentration that tones and strengthens the mind. It promises to promote inner peace and a positive outlook towards life.

Given the countless problems that work and life hurl at us on a daily basis, and the impact they have on our minds, meditation can be an excellent way to appreciate promote inner peace and living in the moment. Even a few minutes of meditation regularly can be transformative. Here is a 2-minute meditation routine for beginners.

  1. First, find a quiet and peaceful place in your home or outside, where it is easy for you to shift your focus inwards. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine in a straight but relaxed position. When you sit in a peaceful space with good posture, you will be able to enjoy the process more freely and have a deeper sense of calmness and tranquillity.
  2. Concentrate on your breathing. Try to take long and deep breaths while you focus on slowing down your breath. You can also chant an uplifting phrase or word like “relax” while breathing in order to center your attention. Try to block all distracting sounds, paying full attention to your your breathing and the word you are chanting.
  3. Next, try to enter into a quiet state of mind, while remaining relaxed and mindful of your centre of gravity. Observe any feelings, thoughts, or physical vibrations that arise in your consciousness. Eventually, you will be able increase your concentration one session at a time.

There is no set time to meditate, so you can start with 2 minutes daily and progress slowly. Let your comfort level decide what amount of meditation is right for you, but stay persistent in order to witness results.
Abena is a Client Services Associate at Optimity. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc in Global Health. She is passionate about human rights and health education, and hopes to develop tailored interventions to combat health inequities around the globe. Her interests include story writing, camping and exploring different cultures on her travels.

 

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5 ways to stick to your New Years Resolutions

TIME STAMP: 3 MINUTE READ

Posted by Jeff Cai 

A new year signifies a new start for a lot of people, and you have probably made a few goals or resolutions that you want to achieve by the end of 2019. These New Year’s resolutions always seem to motivate us during January, but can often be forgotten about come late February. Did you know that only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their resolutions? If you want to be a part of this small percentage, then see below for our top 5 tips on how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions.

 

SHARE YOUR GOALS

Achieving your New Years resolutions can be a lot easier, and more motivating when you have someone to experience it with. When you have someone to share your struggles, and victories it can make the journey a little less scary. Share your goals with your friends and family and find a buddy to accompany you. For example, if you and your friend both commit to attending 3 workout classes per week, you both have someone to lean on for support or motivation when one of you is feeling a little lazy. You could even join a support group to help you reach your goals. This will help you to stay accountable for your actions and set measurable steps toward your final goal.

 

KEEP THEM REALISTIC

If your goals aren’t realistic, then they can be hard to stick to. Keep them manageable and easy to start, then once you begin to form a habit, you can continue to build. If you have never been to the gym before, then creating a goal that says you are going to go 7 days a week simply isn’t realistic. Start with 3 days a week, and then after a few months see if you can increase it to 4. You need to believe that you can actually reach these goals, not be put off by setting the bar too high before you even start.

 

FOCUS ON YOUR PROGRESS

Nothing is ever perfect, so don’t get down on yourself because you have experienced a setback. You are bound to have ups and downs throughout the year, so learn from your mistakes and get yourself back on track as soon as you can. If your goal was to run 10km’s by the end of the year and you only got to 8km’s, that is still amazing! That is 8km’s more than you could run at the start of the year. Don’t forget to be grateful for what you can already do, whilst striving to do more.

 

BET ON YOURSELF

Research has proven that people who had a financial incentive to lose weight lost 14 more pounds than those who didn’t! You can use money to reward yourself for reaching certain milestones throughout the year. For example, if by the end of March you have stuck to your New Years resolution of attending 3 workout classes per week, reward yourself with $50 to buy a new pair of workout tights, or new top. Not only does this motivate you to keep going, but it’s a nice gift to yourself for hitting your targets.

 

KEEP YOUR GOALS DISPLAYED

It is so easy to write down your goals on December 31st and then leave them in a notepad under all your other paperwork to be forgotten about. Treat your New Year’s resolutions seriously and with respect. Write them out neatly on a nice piece of paper, or type them up on your computer and display them somewhere that you will notice every single day. They could go on your bed side table, or on your fridge. This gives you no excuse to forget about them and will be a constant reminder to keep working towards them every day.

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions this year and how do you plan on sticking to them? Remember, even if you do not reach one of your goals, the important thing is that you try, and keep going when you get off track.

Sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards:

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Laughter: Enemy of Stress

Everyday problems, like work pressure and family responsibilities, can get us down and cause unnecessary stress. Stress isn’t always a big deal. But chronic stress can lead to serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure or heart attack.

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Many studies have suggested that a good laugh may be the key to decreasing elevated stress levels. Apart from improving your emotional wellbeing, a giggle here and there can have a great impact on your mental and physical health. Laughter increases your breathing rate, increasing your intake of oxygen, which stimulates parts of your body like your heart, lungs and muscles. Laughter also releases endorphins—responsible for pleasure and euphoria—into your brain. We all know that laughter is contagious. But more importantly, it induces a state of relaxation while reducing your stress and tension. Here are a few tips to help you laugh off that stress!

Try laughter therapy!

You can try it at home yourself or with a group of family and friends. There are many classes for laughter therapy available, so find the one that works for you and make it a part of your schedule.

Include humour in your everyday life!

Take the time to read those jokes that your friends forward you or watch a funny video on your Facebook newsfeed! Don’t shy away from laughing! There’s something funny for everyone!

Socialize!

Spend time with your most lighthearted friends and share some fun memories from the past. Laughter is contagious and spending time with people who make you smile is one of the best things you could do for yourself. Spending time with kids can also do the trick; they are experts at being silly making people laugh!

 

Laugh at yourself!

Learning to laugh at ourselves is also really important. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Make other people laugh then join in on the laughter at your own jokes. This can be an amazing way of cheering yourself up and maybe even give your confidence a boost!

It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe in time we’ll start believing it. There is nothing as simple and as natural as laughter when it comes to reducing stress. So, keep smiling!

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How Optimity Helped Me Lose Weight!

I got in touch with one of our Optimity users over the week and asked how Optimity has played apart in their life. Today I’m joined by Stephanie, who has been an Optimity user since early 2017, to share her user experience.

Hi, I’m Stephanie, and I’m really happy to be able to share my health journey with everyone.  I’m 24 years old and Optimity helped me get healthy during my last year of University! Growing up I’ve always been a little bit “bigger”. It was normal for me to think being overweight was genetics and there was no way around it. So I ate the same food my family was eating, which obviously didn’t help because they were on the heavy spectrum. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I realized that I was heavier than my other friends.

I went through some high and lows throughout my teen year because of my weight, I always felt a little insecure about the way I looked. It also didn’t help that my relationship with food wasn’t all that great. I had tried different dieting techniques, and weight loss programs but would just give up easily and the weight would come back on. I have unhealthy parents and I could see their health deteriorating as they got older with their unhealthy habits.   

I decided it was about time I did something about how I looked, but more importantly, how I felt inside. I didn’t want to get old and regret not trying to improve my overall health when I had the opportunity. I’d tried a lot of fad diets and the newest gadgets and they were great at first, until I would quit or stop using them. My biggest problem was about keeping a sustainable healthy lifestyle, with constant tips and reminders to stay on target with my goals. I was in this for the long run and I needed something that would help me continuously improve my health.

It was about a year ago when I had a friend introduce me to Optimity, I never took it seriously at first, it was just a great tool that provided me with useful notifications to help me build healthier habits and had a huge library of content. It wasn’t until a quarter way through the year that I noticed I developed a lot of new habits and I was actually losing weight! I was sitting in the library one night studying when I got a sudden urge to get a snack, and the old me would have went straight to the vending machine but instead, I walked to the nearby cafeteria to buy myself a yogurt parfait and some water! Who would have thought that I would one day walk right past the vending machine. It was then that I realized all those small quick activities I was doing from the Optimity app actually helped me develop new nutritious habits and help curb my usual unhealthy snack cravings. Thanks Optimity!

Tasneem: Wow! That honestly so amazing I’m so happy for your healthy progress and that Optimity was able to help you on your journey. Can you share some of your top activity packs that really helped you get to where you on now?

Stephanie: Ya for sure! So time was a big issue for me, I was still in school and working at the same time so I really utilized the activity packs that I could have done from anywhere and that were quick. My top 3 activity packs that I would highly recommend is: 60 Second Workout, Eat well, and Energize With food. These 3 are my holy grail activity packs, they made me squeeze in quick workouts literally anywhere, even when I was sitting in one of my lectures, I would do seated leg raises. The last 2 activity packs really helped me improve my relationship with food, I no longer looked at unhealthy food as “bad” it just became high calorie, low nutritious food. This outlook helped me figure out which food worked for me and when.

Tasneem: Thanks so much for all that Stephanie, I’m really happy you’re in a healthier place now and are happy with your experience with Optimity!

 

We’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to share your experience with using Optimity and how it impacted your life, please reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com.

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Not yet a user? Sign up now to join people like Stephanie and the rest of the Optimity Community to start getting healthier and claiming free rewards along the way!  

The State of Affairs with Engagement for Corporate Wellness Programs

Posted by Jane Wang 
Your people are your corporate competitive advantage. Most progressive leaders are actively investing in employee wellness. However, despite the amount of work that goes into implementing on-site and digital wellness programs, most corporate initiatives fail to engage 3 out of 4 employees. Let’s spend a little time dissecting what is happening and offer some food for thought.

The Gallup RAND Health Workplace Wellness Study has shown only 24% of employees at companies that offer wellness programs actually participate.We surveyed 200 professional services employees and there were many reasons why they didn’t participate in the 5K runs, yoga classes, & other wellness initiatives. The top 6 themes are:

  • not aware of the program
  • there was a lack of incentives to sign up
  • activities offered were not interesting to them personally
  • don’t have time
  • don’t know how to access the program
  • no one else is doing the program (lack of a wellness community)

More from the RAND study: Over 85% of companies offer some form of wellness program, with awareness levels with often less than 60% of employees.  40% of the employees who are aware, actually a sign up; and 30-40% of those who sign up end up not logistically able to show up to the actual events because of work priorities.

With another 10-40% simply forgetting, depending on the internal marketing efforts of the wellness champions on the day off, it is no surprise that companies with 200-1000 employees can’t get more than 50 people to any wellness event.
Health costs are rising, mental health and financial wellness training sessions coming up… it is time that you drive a paradigm shift in how you engage your employees in health & wellness.  Here are 3 quick tips on how to lead a movement of wellness and positively impact the bottom-line for your organization.
1. Build Momentum
Before launching or updating your wellness program this year, ensure that you take the opportunity to build awareness with 100% of your employee-base.Reach out to employees a couple of weeks prior to the launch date with on-site posters, email memos,  newsletters and on-site media outlets. A message, short video or presentation from your CEO, senior leadership or HR team supporting the program is always positive PR internally and externally. Remember to always add a call-to-action to each piece of your awareness campaign.
2. Make it Universal
Deliver wellness to your employees wherever they are. Design your program with context  and environment in mind.Leverage common technology they are already using, such as their mobile phone or computer. Provide practical activities that employees can fit into their 9-to-5, such as reminders to grab a drink of water, instructions for quick back stretches, and challenges to meditate for 60 seconds. These effective micro-actions are known to boost health & productivity, and can be quite engaging for even the most sedentary of office-potatoes.
3. Recognize Employees’ Individual Efforts
The majority of your employee base already use consumer health apps and wearable devices for activities tracking such as step counting, exercise logging, or nutrition journalling. Why not align your employees’ individual efforts to your organizational goals?If a fitbit is too restrictive in function or too expensive, Optimity also offer a great array of fitbit alternatives such as Apple Watches with more functionality, directly integrated with calendars or Optimity Mi Bands at just $30/band and with a 30-day battery life until the next recharge!
Recognize the activities they are already doing with your wellness platform’s points and prizes. We can connect your community by uniting them onto the same platform and gamify their work experience.Companies that employ this strategy has 2-5x more people participate in their programs!

 

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