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?
Who works harder than Santa Claus over the holidays? OK, your liver’s not a person (or even an elf), but it does give St. Nick a run for his money.
Santa has lots of gifts to deliver, no doubt, but your liver never takes a break from performing the 500-plus functions that are vital to keeping you alive. Screening and processing food and drink, cleaning your blood of toxins, keeping your hormones and cholesterol in check – your liver does it all, and much more, around the clock. Santa, meanwhile, has one big night, and then he mails it in for months!
Now, we all know that too much alcohol is not good for your liver, so it’s not a bad idea to drink less and give yourself breaks from time-to-time. Did you know that some foods can also be hard on the liver? Because of this, your liver may have to work extra hard over the holidays if you knock back more alcohol and eat more salty, sugary, and fatty fare than you normally would.
As well as producing hangovers and holiday bloat that makes Santa look slim, pushing your liver too hard can have serious health consequences. That’s why it’s important to know what to do for liver health and how to give it a break when it needs one.
It’s time to show your liver the respect it deserves. Here are some tips for good liver health.
Dial down the drinking
Because the liver has so much to do, it can only handle so much alcohol at once. One rum and eggnog? Of course! A second rum and eggnog? It’s the holidays, so why not? But drinking more than this in one sitting, or having multiple drinks every day, forces your liver to work overtime. This can result in the destruction of liver cells and a build-up of fat deposits that, if left unchecked, can lead to much worse.
Also, remember that no form of alcohol is less harmful to the liver than another. A bottle of beer, a glass of wine, a shot of spirits – each has the same effect, whether mixed or taken straight. The takeaway here: Drinking in moderation is a good thing to do for liver health.
Never mix alcohol and medication
This one’s straightforward: mixing over-the-counter painkillers, for example, can lead to liver failure. So if you have a winter cold and need to take decongestants, be sure to steer clear of alcohol. When in doubt, play it safe until you speak to your doctor about mixing specific medications with alcohol.
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Studies have shown that people pour less wine into narrow glasses than wide ones, which reduces the rate of consumption, and that leaving a glass on the table instead of holding it yields a smaller pour. Likewise, straight-sided beer glasses with measurement markings slow down the rate at which we drink.
Glasses half full:
Again, studies have shown that filling a glass only halfway up results in significant booze intake reductions.
Stop equating fun with alcohol:
Make a list of festive activities you enjoy that don’t have to involve booze – tobogganing, skating, post-mistletoe-sex, the list goes on – and slot them in at those times when you’re likely to be tempted to drink.
Many popular cocktails can be just as tasty with less or no alcohol. Pack a glass with ice cubes, pour tonic water or Clamato over top, and squeeze in some fresh lime or lemon. The result is just as refreshing and tasty as a regular gin and tonic, vodka and cola, or bloody Caesar. If you miss that hint of booze, use one ounce, or even just a splash, instead of two ounces.
Tips for eating less sugar, fat, and salt over the holidays
Too much sugar and saturated fat in your diet can have a similar effect as too much alcohol: fat build-up in the liver. Too much salt, meanwhile, can worsen liver problems. So, to keep your liver healthy over the holidays, there are two effective, easy strategies: eat less overall — as holiday food tends to be sugary (shortbread), fatty (gravy), and salty (stuffing) — and favour healthier liver-friendly foods.
Drink more water:
Drinking water fills up your stomach, which makes you feel less hungry. Studies have also shown that drinking water reduces our intake of sugary alcohol and soda pop. Aiming to drink five tall glasses each day can help you eat less and is a simple, easy, no-cost way to actually lose weight over the holidays. Now that’s a Christmas miracle!
Eat smaller portions:
The wonderful thing about eating smaller portions is that you can still eat the stuff you love; you simply need to train yourself to eat less of it in one sitting. Try this simple tip: fill up half of your plate with veggies or greens, then one quarter for grains, and one quarter for protein.
Watch your side dishes:
Swap out butter-drenched mashed potatoes, salty stuffing and cheesy casseroles for delicious festive vegetables such as mashed sweet potato, spaghetti squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.
Snack throughout the day:
Noshing on healthy snacks after breakfast and lunch may help prevent overeating at dinner. On that note…
Watch your snacks:
Swap fatty potato chips, salty pretzels and sugary shortbread for healthy, tasty snacks such as popcorn, pistachio nuts, veggie sticks with tzatziki, or whole-wheat crackers with hummus. For more delicious and healthy snack options for the morning, afternoon and evening, you can check our free ebook on healthy snacking.
Best foods for liver health
If you’ve been overindulging lately and want to give your liver a little TLC, here are some good foods to help improve your liver’s health:
Pretty much any vegetables and fruit. Mom was right!
Whole-grain foods like brown rice, oatmeal, multigrain bread, and whole wheat pasta
Skim milk and other lower-fat dairy products
Leaner cuts of meat
Did you know that a top sirloin steak has less fat than ribs? Choosing lower-fat options doesn’t mean you need to eat only veggies and beans!
With everything going on with COVID right now, it can seem like a good idea to eat and drink your worries away. But all that does is make you feel even crappier. Since you probably won’t be socializing as much over the holidays this year, why not give your liver a bit of a break.
What are some of your favourite non-alcoholic drinks to make? We want to hear your ideas in the comments below!
Watch any movie or TV show from Marvel or DC, and you almost never see superheroes chowing down. Don’t they get SUPER hungry?
On the other hand, regular guys like you need plenty of fuel for your everyday heroics: shovelling sidewalks, mowing lawns, keeping spiders at bay, you know the deal. When you put healthy food in your tank instead of junk food, you get benefits that can make those everyday tasks so much easier. Eat healthier, and you could end up feeling like a member of the Justice League!
Why is it important to eat healthy? Check out these awesome benefits:
It’s no secret that eating fewer fatty, salty and sugary foods can help you lose weight. Eating more fibre-rich foods and drinking plenty of water, on the other hand, can help control your appetite. Put those easy changes together, and a slimmer, trimmer physique is bound to follow.
A trimmer bod is associated with attractiveness. What’s associated with attractiveness? You guessed it: getting more sexy looks from your significant other! And we all know where THAT can lead…
At the same time, replacing the unhealthy foods you ditched with protein-packed ones — think lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts and eggs — can help build muscle. Adding muscle to that slimmer physique is sure to turn more heads and get you some positive comments.
Looking better can give you a serious shot of confidence, and this alone can make you feel better. Meanwhile, dropping a few pounds can reduce joint pain, improve the quality of your sleep, and chase away fatigue and grogginess. Oh, and speaking of feeling better, your sex life may even improve.
Keep your heart healthy
You’re looking and feeling great, and by eating healthier, you may get more time to enjoy these benefits. Filling your plate with fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts lower your heart attack risk by about 30 percent.
Superman gets many of his powers from Earth’s yellow sun. Thor gets many of his powers from his mighty hammer (the one made of mythical ore, not his OTHER hammer). And YOU can get powers galore simply by eating healthier!
Just don’t try to lift a locomotive, OK?
Do you have a great healthy recipe you’d like to share? Let other guys know in the comments below!
This article was originally published on February 13, 2019.
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Q: What do you call cheese that doesn’t belong to you?
A: Nacho cheese!
The good news (after that bad joke) is that the mouth-watering melted cheese in this recipe for Epic Nacho is all yours — unless you choose to share with your lucky buddies.
Even better, shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack are just the beginning. This gooey goodness fuses together a feast of delicious, healthy ingredients such as tangy guacamole, juicy chipotle chicken, lip-smacking salsa, creamy Greek yogurt, zesty jalapeño peppers…in short, your buddies will be blown away when you pull this snack-stravaganza from the oven during the Grey Cup playoffs!
Last but not least, these Epic Nachos are so easy to prepare — just chop and LOAD up the baking sheet!
What you need
1 large bag of unsalted corn tortilla chips
1 large package of pre-shredded Mexican cheese (usually a blend of Cheddar and Monterey Jack)
1 small jar or tin of chopped Jalapeño peppers
1 small jar or tin of chopped black or green olives
1 medium-sized tub of Greek yogurt
1 red onion
1 green pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
2 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder
1 large jar of salsa
1 large tub of guacamole
Time needed: 20 minutes.
Step by step instructions to prepare Epic Nachos
Prepare the chicken
Warm the cooking oil in a pan on the stove. Cook the chicken breasts on medium heat, turning often, for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the chicken with chipotle chili powder every time you turn it.
Shred cooked chicken
Using a cutting board, pull the cooked chicken into shredded pieces using a fork. Set the chicken-covered board aside when you’re done.
Baking the tortilla chips
Evenly spread HALF the tortilla chips on a large baking sheet, and cover them evenly with half the cheese. Bake in a 300-degree oven for a couple minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
Prepare the veggies
Chop the red onion, green pepper, and tomato into dime-sized chunks, dump the Jalapeño peppers and olives into a strainer, and cover the chips and melted cheese with HALF the peppers, olives, onion, and chicken. Why only half? All will be revealed…
Repeat steps 3 & 4
Pour the OTHER HALF of the tortilla chips on top of everything, and repeat Steps 3 and 4 with the remaining cheese, peppers, tomatoes, olives, onion, and chicken. That way, the toppings are spread evenly throughout the nachos. Sneaky, but SO effective!
Put the whole shebang in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Remove & Enjoy!
Remove your Epic Nachos from the oven, let everyone admire their true epicness, let them cool for a couple minutes, and then serve them with man-sized bowls of salsa, guacamole and Greek yogurt for dipping. You are now officially THE MAN!
If there was ever any doubt, these Epic Nachos highlight the fact that 2019 is the #YearOfEpicFood. (Well played, Kristina Costabile, well played…)
For more easy game-day recipes, keep the #YearOfEpicFood rolling by downloading the free “8 Healthy Game Day Recipes” ebook right now!
What is the best nacho recipe? Are these nachos missing anything? Go ahead and share your secret ingredients in the comments below…
Want to make a full spread of crowd-pleasing game day food? Get the free handy booklet.
Download “8 Delicious Recipes for a Healthier Game Day” ebook right now.
Can’t see it? Like you needed ANOTHER reason to shed those last few holiday inches. The thing is guys, a waist size over 38” could spell trouble. It’s never too late to make small, easy changes to get a bit healthier though.
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This article was originally published on January 28, 2018.
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