Don’t worry, be healthier — one small step at a time

 

Canadian comedian shares his journey from worried dad to man with a plan to make manageable lifestyle changes.

For many Canadian guys, this bit from Toby Hargrave’s stand-up comedy routine is funny because it’s true: “I’m at that age where sometimes things hurt and I have no idea why. If you’re 20 and you show up to work with a limp there’s always some kind of epic adventure behind it. Today I show up with a limp and people are like, “What happened?” And I’m like, “I don’t know!”

Toby, 44, describes himself as “spectacularly average.” The actor and comedian, who lives with his young family on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, carries about 265 pounds on his six-foot-tall frame. He has spent most of his adult life drinking alcohol almost every day, and does most of the cooking in his household. With “comfort foods like ribs, roasts and pierogies” among his favourite dishes, counting calories has been a foreign concept. With a family to support and career to pursue, exercise tends to end up on the back burner.

About a year ago, following the birth of his second child, Toby began to worry about his health (or lack thereof). That’s when he got in touch with the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation — the organisation behind the blog you’re reading — to make the documentary video posted at the top of this page. His goal: Learn how to be healthier and lose weight, one small step at a time.

Toby Hargrave in his garage thinking

Step 1: YouCheck

Before his concerns arose, Toby jokes that “an undiagnosed case of lazy” prevented him from learning more about the state of his health and how to improve it. His first move, then, is to assess his health using the CMHF’s YouCheck tool. The free online survey asks 18 questions about health history and lifestyle, and then assesses the risk of developing eight of the most common diseases and conditions among Canadian men.

“That first step wasn’t so hard,” Toby says after using YouCheck. With a couple of flags raised, but no imminent dangers detected, he moves on to Step 2…

Toby Hargrave by beach standing tall on a log

Step 2: See your doctor

Next Toby meets with Dr. Robert Menzies, a Vancouver-based family doctor. As part of the appointment Toby had already undergone a battery of standard medical tests, and is clearly relieved when Dr. Menzies gives him the all-clear. “It’s freeing when you have all this information that you need to know,” Toby says. “I’m not saying I don’t have to worry about my health, but I’m now not worried that my liver is about to fail. I’m not worried I’m about to develop Type 2 Diabetes by next week.”

However, Dr. Menzies does have some important suggestions. “We try to encourage people to drink no more than two drinks a day as an adult male,” he says. Toby chuckles in response, but the message is clear: Less alcohol, even a little bit less each day, can have big health benefits.

Losing a few pounds would also improve Toby’s health, the GP says, adding that “the main thing is that you stay fit and active and watch what you eat. If you do that, usually, you’ll find that the pounds do come off. It’s not about making a huge change, it’s about making a bunch of little changes here and there.”

What kind of little changes? Watch the video, or keep reading…

Step 3: Re-think the supermarket

Toby heads to a local supermarket with Ned Bell, the Vancouver Aquarium’s executive chef. Ned nudges Toby away from his favourite section of the store — the red meat section — and into the seafood section. “We have this idea that (meals) need to be big, but I’d prefer you to eat quality,” Ned says, encouraging Toby to try healthier fish instead of massive steaks. If he wants to eat more of something, Ned adds, he can always enjoy as many fruits and vegetables as he wants!

Toby is skeptical at first, but when his four-year-old daughter asks for a second helping of asparagus, “I realized that I might be doing something right,” he says. Since then, Toby has “rediscovered salads,” and makes meals that incorporate ingredients like pita bread, small amounts of feta cheese, tomatoes, olives and chicken. “After you’re done eating,” he quips, “you don’t feel like you ate a bowling ball.” He has also reduced his alcohol intake, as Dr. Menzies suggested, and swapped sugary soda pop for water.

Toby Hargrave biking with dog

Step 4: Exercise

The cameras follow Toby to a barbecue restaurant, where he meets with two buddies. They discuss their efforts to live healthier, with Toby saying that the biggest bombshell from his recent medical checkup “was that there were no bombshells.”

When the topic of exercise comes up, Toby admits that he doesn’t do much. That’s when the offer is made: Would Toby like to join one of his friends for a run in the park?  

See how that pans out, and check out more easy steps for getting fit, by watching the video.

Photography by: Ken Cheng / kenchengphotography.com

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