Canadian comedian shares his journey from a worried dad to a man with a plan, who made simple lifestyle changes to be healthier.
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, 46, 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 a career to pursue, exercise tends to end up on the back burner.
Following the birth of his second child, Toby began to worry about his health (or lack thereof). Then he was informed about a partnership between Telus Corp. and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation — the organization behind the blog you’re reading — to produce a men’s health documentary. Toby’s goal of learning simple ways to be healthier and lose weight turned out to be a perfect fit for the video at the top of this page, while his hilarious credentials speak for themselves.
Step 1: Men’s Health Check Tool
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, was to assess his health using the free Men’s Health Check Tool. The online survey asks 18 questions about health history and lifestyle and then assesses your 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…
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 simple changes? Keep reading Toby’s health story…
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, roasted veggies, 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.
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?
Father’s Day gifts are awesome no matter what. Even if your kids bring you burnt toast and eggshell-filled omelettes, your day is still made because it’s the thought that counts. In cases like these, the thoughts revolve around the importance of family. They show their love and appreciation for none other than you, a.k.a. Dad.
What can you do for your family in return? Ultimately, the best gift you can give them is the gift of time. Spending time with your kids is great because it’s natural, free and fun — as these easy ideas show:
Do you have a driveway or live in a cul-de-sac? Is there a schoolyard or park nearby? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re a few hockey sticks and a tennis ball away from hosting your own Stanley Cup Finals. Teaching your kids new skills and watching them improve is incredibly rewarding, and is one of the easiest ways to connect with your child. Plus, you never know, you might end up with the next Sydney Crosby or Hayley Wickenheiser.
Whether you’ve bolted a net to your garage or there’s a court in a nearby park, a game of 21 with your son or daughter lets everyone channel their inner Raptor.
A Quick Game of Tag
No child under the age of 12 can resist joining in when you simply tag them and holler, “You’re it!” You better run fast, though, those kids can move!
Google “charades clues” on your computer or smartphone, and you’ll get dozens of lists you can use to stage a spirited game. If your teen claims charades are “lame,” get the ball rolling yourself. If they guess correctly, they’ll get into it. If not, at least you’ve shown them that dad can loosen up.
Walk it off
Okay, we know we said time was the greatest gift of all, but that doesn’t mean your family won’t appreciate a frozen yogurt or ice cream after some active Father’s Day fun. Walk with them, talk with them, and who knows? Maybe they will teach you a thing or two!
What’s the best Father’s Day gift you’ve ever received or given? Share your faves in the comments below!
This article was originally published on February 17, 2017.
How can you make those memories if you aren’t staying healthy and at the top of your game? We’ve got your back!
Download the free “Dad’s Guide to Being Awesome” ebook right now.
Whether it appears on a coffee mug, T-shirt or oversized belt buckle, the phrase “World’s Greatest Dad” gets plenty of use on Father’s Day. Having guided their families through the COVID-19 crisis, dads across Canada deserve extra props this year!
If you’re wondering how so many dads can be ranked No. 1, here’s the deal: to their own kids, every single one of them really IS the greatest! Of course, there’s always room for improvement in the father-child relationship, and that’s where our good friends and collaborators over at The Men’s Initiative (TMI) come in. As fathers themselves, the organization’s three founders offer these 10 great tips for being a better “World’s Greatest Dad.”
Dr. John Izzo: Quality time meets hugs
As a “founding father” of the Vancouver-based TMI, Dr. John Izzo is all about bringing people together to improve guys’ lives. As a dad himself, John knows plenty about the power of a child’s love, and offers these tips on helping this love grow and thrive:
“Spend a few one-on-one minutes each day with each of your children. Be 100 percent focused. Ask them how they are doing and how their day was.”
“Ask them to tell you one way they would like you to be an even better dad. Listen deeply and don’t defend. Then act on their feedback.”
“When one of your children hugs you, no matter how old they are, don’t let go until they do. You might be surprised how much longer they want your hug!”
There are so many benefits of spending time with your child: Building their self-esteem, strengthening family bonds, developing good behaviour, encouraging communication, improving their school work, and forming positive relationships with others. The list goes on and on. And let’s not forget having a ton of fun!
Dr. Duncan Shields: Curiosity meets self-esteem
“Find things that your kids are doing right, and compliment them on that. Kids will grow in the direction of your pride.”
“Be the father you wish you’d had. When your kids remember being stuck at home during the COVID-19 crisis or look back on their early life, what stories will they tell about their time with you?”
“Give your kids the gift of your quality attention. Don’t just tell them what to do or how to behave. Listening to them and being curious about how they think teaches them they’re worth listening to. Your children are your footprints in the future, and your job is to set them up to go further than you have been able to go.”
“I have fond memories of growing up on the skating rink that my Dad made for us in our backyard.”
NHL All-Star P.K. Subban
P.K.’s father, Karl Subban, was born and raised in Jamaica. How many backyard rinks are there in Jamaica? You guessed it: Zero! Not only did Karl immigrate to Canada to start a new life, he also dedicated himself to learning skills that would help send THREE of his sons to the National Hockey League. Wow!
“Family is so important. If I can’t be part of their lives because of my health condition, that was one of the things I had to work through.”
Like so many dads across Canada, Karl inspires us all with his dedication to others. This Father’s Day, however, Karl’s own healthy efforts to control his type 2 diabetes are inspiring other guys to take care of themselves, as well as the people they love, one easy step at a time. What kind of small healthy steps can you take? You’ve come to the right place to get started!
As Karl says in this awesome new video, “family is so important. If I can’t be part of their lives because of my health condition, that was one of the things I had to work through.”
So as well as looking after yourself this Father’s Day, encourage your own Dad to look after himself, too! It’s as easy as doing something healthy together. For instance:
Take a stroll
One of the best things about Father’s Day is that it takes place in June, when the snow has melted, the sun is (hopefully) shining, and spring is in full swing. What better time, then, to take a walk with pops in a nearby park or nature preserve? Plus, there’s more to walking than enjoying time together: Doing it briskly for 30 minutes burns around 250 calories, with guys who do it regularly lowering their risk of heart attack by 25 percent. Nothing says “I love you Dad” quite like that…
Tidy up the yard
If Dad is a “getting things done” kind of guy, helping him whip the yard into shape can help improve the shape both of you are in. Climbing ladders to clean eavestroughs, for instance, burns around 320 calories an hour, and moving the ladder more often than usual will boost that number significantly. Shovelling soil burns more than 400 calories an hour, and if you lift the load to chest height and hold it for 10 seconds it works all your major muscle groups: legs, core, back, shoulders and arms. Then there’s the lawn: Pushing a gas-powered mower burns 300-plus calories per hour, with a manual mower adding nearly 200 calories to that figure. You do the back yard, and Dad can do the front. Just don’t miss a spot, because he’s sure to notice!
Make Father’s Day lunch together
Does Dad know that guys are deemed sexiest by their significant others when they’re whipping up meals? If he does, he may go on to tell you that’s how you were conceived! If he doesn’t know this very fun fact, what better way to get him into the kitchen? Seriously though, there are plenty of satisfying, easy-to-prepare lunch dishes that are bound to impress friends and family joining in the Father’s Day festivities.
CFL alumnus Joe Sardo shares a family man’s trick to keeping active
For some professional athletes, saying goodbye to the game can lead to a sense of loss of self-esteem and identity, as well as the close-knit camaraderie that unites team members.
Leaving the Toronto Argonauts in 1995, after four years as a pro linebacker, was tough, admits Joe Sardo of Hamilton, Ont. “The people and the relationships, the locker room, the coaches, the guys — you miss that,” says Sardo, who today is Vice-President and Portfolio Manager with RBC Dominion Securities. Another thing Sardo misses is the level of fitness that the game requires. Still, he says, becoming “an investment advisor was a good move for my family.”
Finding time as a dad is challenging
You’d think that staying fit would be a breeze for Sardo following years as an elite athlete: a football scholarship to the University of Hawaii, followed by a four-year career that included the Ottawa Rough Riders. It wasn’t. For Sardo, life’s demands took over, as they do for many Canadian men. Sardo’s wife, Arlene, who he first met in Hawaii, had two sets of twins — three boys and a girl — within three years. Months of sleepless nights, then chaos as the babies grew into rowdy toddlers, and “we both got a little bit heavier than we would have liked. Physical fitness took a back seat.”
Exercise is important for your mental health
“The biggest thing I learned is that you need to schedule,” says Sardo, whose dad, Joe Sr., played for the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the late 1950s and at 80 is still physically active.
The importance of exercise for mental health should not be overlooked. Fitness, says Sardo, should be approached the same way as your finances, the golden rule being “pay yourself first as a way of saving. Take that same approach and put it into a physical and mental health perspective. Whether you’re an athlete, a businessman or a stay-at-home mom, you need to build fitness into your day.”
Being active also doesn’t have to mean logging hour-long Crossfit sessions. A workout can be 20 minutes, half an hour, or even 45 minutes of just walking, says Sardo, a volunteer linebacker coach with the University of Guelph Gryphons. What’s important is “getting off the couch.”
“What’s important is just “getting off the couch.”
Joe Sardo, CFL alumnus
This is often easier said than done. It requires discipline, or what Sardo calls “good mental health. To exercise, you have to be mentally strong.” If the sofa beckons, nurture mental toughness by becoming involved with community and bonding with family — “thinking about other people and how your decisions affect them.”
Don’t forget this amazing tip
Being mentally strong and having discipline doesn’t mean turning into a drill sergeant, for yourself or the family, Sardo adds. “Decompression” — the ability to have fun and embrace “cheat days” — is all part of maintaining good mental health and long-term physical fitness. “A couple times a month we’ll make a run for some junk food and have a couple bags of chips and some popcorn with a movie,” Sardo says of his active family. “I define it as our decompression time.”
How does your family like to get active? Trips to the park? Epic games of tag? Share the fun in the comments below!
This article was originally published on October 10, 2017.
Photo credit: Lisa & Karen of Twintage Photography