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Don’t fall for the fads this New Years, Toronto

I was watching television last night when it started — the parade of weight loss commercials encouraging women to join and lose those 10 pounds. The sheer number of advertisements being pushed on social media is just as disgusting. I can only imagine the affect this has on younger women who are already struggling with their body image.

To be clear, I am not opposed to seeking out aide in weight loss. Some weight loss programs can be incredibly helpful and can offer support to those struggling with their journey. But, these decisions are incredibly personal, and women (and men for that matter) should know there is no such thing as a quick fix. Any program promising you a 10lb loss in one or two weeks is bullshit — which means that most of them are bullshit.

This is the biggest problem with New Years. Most people treat January 1 as a reset, a time to set goals and work towards becoming your “ideal self”. It’s like all of a sudden, people reflect on the worst parts of themselves and try to come up with a plan to change them.

What some fail to realize is that things like the happiness that comes from something like changing your appearance can also come from confidence and acceptance. Instead of focusing on a number on a scale, try to learn something new. Set a goal to run a 5k, learn to skate, or go on a hike every month. Maybe it is something artistic like painting or taking up creative writing? By becoming active in something new, you gain confidence and focus that you can channel to other areas of your life.

It’s also about knowing that you can’t change overnight. If change is really what you want, you have to take it in steps. You need to be content with the journey or else you will become disappointed when you don’t achieve your goals quickly enough. Be kind to yourself. Be confident in your abilities. And know that you are perfect the way you are.

But, if weight loss is your goal for 2018 — and there is nothing I can say to change your mind — here are a few things you need to know:

  1. A program can help, but it is not a magic solution. Do your research and make sure your program does not deprive you of a whole food group and that it works for your lifestyle. Remember that whatever you choose, you must also be able to afford it financially. Many of these programs are not cheap in the long run, despite the New Year discounts available.
  2. A safe and steady weight loss is 1-2 lbs a week. Sometimes, it is less, and that is okay! Remember,  it is better to lose slowly than to lose quickly — as most people who do lose weight quickly gain it all back within a year.
  3. Anything with a pill is most likely not good for you. The same goes for any company that insists juices and cleanses that promise you a drop on the scale.
  4. The best way to lose weight is to eat healthier and move your body. Be active. Enjoy life to the fullest.

I am, of course, not an expert. The advice above is from personal experience. Please consult your doctor for more information.

Best of luck in the New Year!

5 food trends you need to leave behind in 2017

Another week and another chance to list five irritating things to leave behind in 2017. Last week, Women’s Post decided to target five beauty trends and this week it’s all about those ‘insta-worthy’ food trends we have been seeing on our timelines. Let us give food a chance to be food in 2018@

Charcoal Ice Cream

I love ice cream. It’s the perfect creamy treat in the summer (and in the winter). But, then something happened in the summer of 2017 I didn’t quite understand. ‘Charcoal infused’ found its way to this delicious dessert. Ice cream became dark — literally the colour of midnight. While this made for lovely images and witty captions like ‘an ice-cream to match my soul’, it kind of left you with a black tongue, which is never attractive. Plus, standing in line for hours for a pile of black sweet cream was not worth it.

Oversized Foods

While we are on the topic of ice cream, I came across a food video featuring a cafe in Chicago that serves up an ice cream sundae with 25… yes 25… scoops. Are we living in an age where we are so gluttonous we need 25 scoops of ice cream at once?. Maybe this works for a table of 20, but for one or two people, this is definitely insulting. Other oversized food trends include giant pizza slices offered by Lamanna Bakery in Toronto. It has 3 cups of cheese, 50 pepperoni slices, and weighs 5,5lbs.

Rainbow Bagels

The Bagel Store in Brooklyn, New York had been known to offer their famous rainbow bagel. This is not just any rainbow bread, The unicorn rainbow bagel offers rainbow, or funfetti, cream cheese, rainbow sprinkles, and rainbow sugar. While this bagel looks fascinating, many people are just getting these bagels to post an ‘insta-worthy’ picture. It is also closely related to the unicorn trend, which seems un-ending.

Gold Flaked/Crusted – ‘ I just want to show off my money’ anything

Edible gold. What is this ridiculousness? A few sprinkles of some 24-carat edible gold leaves on your food and you’ve turned it into the most expensive food. I am talking about the $2000 pizza topped with flakes of edible gold. While it looks good, nutritionists deem it tasteless and just decorative. There is the $666 ‘Douche Burger’ that features a beef patty wrapped in 6 sheets of gold leaf, and topped with lobster, caviar and truffles. Are all these overly expensive foods necessary?  I rather wear my gold than eat it.

‘Poke’ me one more time 

I’m talking about those poke bowls (pronounced po-kayy). Over the months, I’ve been slowly watching this food trend gain momentum. Shop after shop has opened up on Yonge street in downtown Toronto. Maybe it’s because I am not a fan of sashimi, but I just don’t get the appeal of colourful raw fish and vegetables displayed beautifully in a bowl. In my opinion, the poke bowl has taken the place of several other trending bowls we have seen over the years — acai bowl, chia pudding bowls? While I have full respect for this popular dish in Hawaii, why is it suddenly so popular in this form?

What other trends would you like to see left behind in 2017. Comment below!

Canada ranks number one for civil service gender equality

By Leanne Benn

The Global Government Forum, an organization that measures standards for gender- equality worldwide, ranks Canada as number one out of any G20 country. This ranking places Canada at the top of the civil service sector for having women in leadership positions.

According to the Women Leaders Index, released in September 2017, 46.4 per cent of senior civil servants in Canada are women. There is a 3.3 percentage point difference between Canada and Australia and the gap has been slowly closing over the past few years.

The data was gathered over three years from 2013 to 2016 and measured gender equality in leadership roles in G20 and EU countries. The goal of this forum is to highlight the countries that are leading the way for gender equal roles in federal or national governments, therefore encouraging other countries to do the same.

This is the first year the data has included research from countries outside the G20 with the inclusion of European Union countries. The data collected from the EU shows that these countries are more advanced in terms of gender equality than those included in the G20. Among 28 EU nations the average is 40 per cent high-ranking women.

This data analysis covers a broader base and as a result new fields of analysis were included this year. In addition to civil service leadership and women elected into political office, the forum examined women on private sector boards. It should be noted that in these sub-sector datas collections, Canada ranked low for women in private sector boards.

The discussion of gender inequality for high ranking positions has been long analyzed and female talent should be promoted within government structures. Canada’s most senior civil servant as of January 2016 was Janice Charette. Charette, in response to the index, said public service should represent the population in order to show they are doing the best job possible. The polices and the practices of high ranking countries can have an internal impact on HR management, staff development, recruitment, and the promotion of women.

“If you look at all the research on this, the value proposition for gender equality and diversity in leadership positions, whether in the public sector or the private sector, is very clear,” she said in the report. “And I would say that in the public sector it’s even more important, because if we are to have credible public service structures and institutions that are able to give good, thoughtful, strategic advice to governments, they have to understand and represent the population they are there to serve. That’s absolutely critical.”

However, there must be a political appetite in order to change the public leadership roles for women. For instance, both Canada and France have a cabinet that includes 50 per cent women. A strong political role is required for gender diversity and this is the only way conditions may improve.

How do you feel about Canada’s ranking and what are your thought on gender equality on a global level?

How to make moving schools an adventure

Moving schools as a kid can be daunting and scary. It can also be daunting as a parent, watching your child walk away into a new place.

My daughter and I are moving across town and she will be starting a new school in a week. It is going to be a tough transition from school to school, but I have a few ideas on how to make the change smoother. The number one priority for me is making sure my daughter feels that moving is an adventure rather than a terrifying reality. I’ve been really positive about the move every time we talk about it (though as we all know, moving can be VERY stressful), and I tell her the fun and new recreational activities and school events she will be a part of in our new neighbourhood.

In a sense I feel like a real estate agent who is selling the neighbourhood to a five-year old. She’s had the official tour of the street, seen the school, and I’m taking her along with us through all the steps so that she feels involved. Oftentimes, I think what scares children is feeling out of control of their own lives. As parents, we take our children from place to place without considering their choices. Though I can’t let my kindergartener make our life decisions, I can make her feel like she is a part of the change. When it comes to my daughter’s new recreation activities, it is her choice.  She gets to feel like she is in control.

Another way to help children move is to listen to how they feel about it. I like to get down on my daughter’s level (my little three-footer) and ask her how she is doing. Sharing feelings is empowering and often helps more than faking it. I’ve always asked my daughter how she feels, and it helps her feel better. She has admitted she is sad about leaving her friends at school, for example, and I responded by saying that is okay. I let her know it is perfectly acceptable to express tough emotions and responding to them is the best way to show empathy for her feelings. After discovering she is sad about leaving, I asked her if visiting her friends at her old school would make her feel better. She decided that was a good idea, and felt better after we talked and made a plan.

If kids can’t visit their old school, another method is to give your child a picture of their old school, or to make sure that your child can stay in touch with friends after you part ways. This helps the transition and makes kids feel they aren’t losing their whole lives. I have a pretty social child, but if you have a shy kid then sometimes drawing a picture also helps to communicate the feelings surrounding the move.

Even if all of these steps are taken, the reality is that the first few weeks of school will still be difficult. Change is hard, and being surrounded with new children is a transition. I plan on being very patient with my daughter in the first couple weeks of school, and if she is more testy than usual, it will be easy to see why. With social children, I hope she will make friends. If she is struggling though, planning a playdate with another child or joining activities with other kids from the school might help her along in her adjustment.

At the end of the day, change is a part of life, and all of us big and small have to figure out how to adjust to it. Even though I can still take every step possible to make sure my daughter is protected from feeling the negative side effects of moving, she has to experience it for herself. The best I can do as a mom is to love her and support her however she needs. I know I’ll tell her on the way to school that she is a great little girl and doesn’t need to worry. If she struggles to make friends at first, I’ll sit down and play dolls with her more often than usual to make her feel better. No matter what, she has me and everything else will fall into place naturally if she has support and love by her side.

What do you think is the most important step to take when moving kids from school to school? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Merging music and charity: why does it work?

Music has the power to make you feel, think, and come together with other people. But, what if it had the power to make you give?

Music and charity work is an inspiring combination. Between spewing heavy lyrics or strumming sweet melodies about important world issues, it can teach people to make a difference. Many Canadian musicians have caught on to to this phenomenon and have decided to make stirring changes in the world rather than keeping fortune and fame for themselves.

Two such artists are singer Nelly Furtado and Billy Talent drummer Aaron Solowoniuk. I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion called Musicians & Charity: Finding a Way to Give Back through the three-day music summit at Canadian Music Week. Free the Children founder, Craig Kielburger and President for Artists for Peace and Justice Canada, Natasha Koifman, joined Furtado and Solowoniuk to talk about the causes closest to their hearts.

Nelly Furtado has been a long-time artist in Canada, but was very down to earth in person, smiling and laughing comfortably while she discussed the importance of charity work in her music. “There are so many great charities, as an artist you ask yourself what is this amounting to? Above all, it is your intention that matters,” she said. “What makes you feel angry? What gives you that fire in your belly? If you can’t align your career and success with something bigger than that, it is really unfulfilling.” Furtado’s success with her charity work reflects the global reach that musicians can have in leading people to donate and make a difference in the world.

Furtado recently received the 2016 Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award for her work with Free the Children. Furtado traveled to Kenya with the charity in 2011 to build a school. Her last album, The Spirit Indestructible also raised money to open an all-girls school in Oleleshwa, Kenya.

Furtado explained that you don’t need to have a lot of money to make a difference through music either, just passion. Local charity events are always in need of entertainment and it is a good way to practice your skills as a budding artist. There is also an opportunity to dedicate funds from a song or album to a cause. For example, Canadian musician Anjulie is a friend of Furtado’s and recently released the song, “Dragonflies”. The funds from the song will go to support the Canadian Women Foundation’s Campaign against Violence.

Solowoniuk, who is the long-time drummer of Billy Talent, is also a strong supporter of merging charity and the music industry. The drummer was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998 when he was in his late 20’s. Solowoniuk is a soft-spoken man dressed in casual clothes, but sincere when he talks about his disease.

In 2006 he founded F.U.M.S, a charity dedicated to help youth with MS go to university. On behalf of Solowoniuk, Billy Talent puts on an annual concert on boxing day to help the organization.  “As a young adult, it was hard to go through a change in my life dealing with a disease that doesn’t have a cure, I just thought I’m going to put on a punk rock show,” he said. “People grabbed onto that when they found out I wanted to donate money and start these youth programs. We started a camp for kids with MS too. It has grown into something beautiful. When you believe in it, it will go so much further.”

Free the Children is arguably one of the most successful charities in Canada and Kielburger, who was only 12 years old when he founded the charity, is constantly thinking of innovative ways to help different causes worldwide. WE Day is one of the ways that Free the Children is helping kids take part in making a difference in the world in a fun way.

The annual event is hosted in 14 stadiums in North America and a variety of famous musicians and celebrities perform. The kids attend for free when they commit to work for a charitable cause through their school.  Last year, in Toronto, WE Day was held at the Molson Amphitheatre and featured performers like Hozier, Carly Ray Jepson, Demi Lavato, Magic Johnson.

Music is no doubt a powerful tool. Musicians have large social media followings and are able to influence people around the world to help make a difference. They also have the financial backing to make a credible difference and can use songs or albums to disseminate integral messages about global issues.

What fascinates me is why musicians with so much power and money have a desire to participate in charity work. Furtado spoke of the lack of ultimate fulfillment that results from fame. When you reach your pinnacle of success, if you don’t do anything with that power and resources, it can be unsatisfactory. Instead, charity work is humbling and artists a way to share their success and achieve true greatness through their work. If every musician thought this way, imagine the changes that could be achieved in the world. Furtado, and other musicians who do charity work as well, are truly incredible.

All of the inspiring panelists emphasized the importance of helping a cause you believe in. If you find something that impassions you to make a difference it won’t feel like a sacrifice, but instead a worthy project to take part in. Seeing famous musicians passionately support further impacts other people’s faith in supporting charity work and makes you realize that everyone is capable of making a difference. We all have an obligation to help people and the planet even in a small way.

How would you change the world? Once you find out, the rest will fall into place and you can make a much-needed difference.

Meeting Mr. Williams

Last November, I had the pleasure of visiting Atlanta for a tradeshow my company was exhibiting in. It’s been a long time since I had been there, and much had changed. I was impressed with its parks and buildings, its air of confidence, and the friendliness of its people. When it comes right down to it though, great cities are made by the people that live there.

I met Mr. Williams shortly after I parked my car. I had a lot on my mind – I had to get registered, find my booth, and figure out a way to tote all my stuff there, and all in less than an hour. Mr. Williams started the conversation. “Excuse me sir. It was really cold last night, and I’m hungry. I was wondering if you could help me out.”

It was hard to guess his age – he could have been forty, he could’ve been sixty. The only thing that seemed obvious, from his appearance and his manner, was that he has lived this way for many years.

I am not shocked or surprised when this happens, because it’s a fact of life in our society, especially in the larger cities. I have spent some time in various community organizations that focus on the issue of homelessness. Through this, and the wise insights of some really dedicated people, I have gained a sense for some of the reasons a person might end up on the street. It’s not as easy as “drugs”, or “alcohol”, or “laziness”, or even “choices”. For many, it’s a mental or emotional health issue. For others, it was a matter of having no choice; home was not a safe place. And for others, likely Mr. Williams, it’s a trans-generational issue; their grandparents were jobless and largely homeless, their parents were born into that state, and then they were too. It’s hard to break the cycle, and safety nets alone won’t fix it.

I usually keep a few loose bills in my pocket, but the moment I heard his polite petition, I knew I was caught in an awkward state; I only had Canadian money in my pocket, and a couple $20 US bills in my wallet safely tucked in my inside jacket pocket. I answered as kindly as I could; “all I have is a few Canadian dollars, if you want them, you can have them.” I lied. He started walking away. But then he turned and came back, and as if he didn’t hear or understand my explanation (or perhaps he didn’t believe it), he asked again, “please sir, can you help me?” I knew what the answer was – it was ‘yes’, of course I could help him. The real question to me was would I help him, or would I lie again? At the same moment, another business traveller a couple of parking spaces away yelled out, “hey! Quit bothering those people. Why don’t you get a job!”

In that moment, I realized I can be part of the continuing broken paradigm, where the beggars beg and the rest of us don’t have the energy to really understand, or I could slow down for a moment and see him as an individual, not all that different from me. “What’s your name?” I said, I as began the process of fishing out my wallet. “Mr. Williams”, he answered. “Mr. Williams” I said, “I’m sorry I lied.” I gave him twenty bucks, and then continued to load marketing material and a computer screen on a dolly I brought with me. He asked to help, but I told him I had it covered. He insisted, nearly begging me to accept his help. I was worried about the screen falling off the dolly, and said I’d prefer to do it myself. I hope he understood, but I realized afterward that my accepting his help would’ve been a bigger blessing to him than the money I gave him.

We, the manufacturers, the entrepreneurs, the business leaders and the workers – we are the true wealth generators of our society. It’s not Wall Street or Bay Street, or the government, it’s us. We also are the beginning of the solution – not the whole solution, but the start. We can’t cure society’s problems with our money, no matter how much we might make or give away. Where we need to be more generous however, is with our time, our caring, and our understanding. Mr. Williams might have been asking for a few dollars, but what he really needed was to matter to someone – in that morning, me. I don’t know what needs to be done to change his life, but I think spending a bit of time with him may have changed his day a bit – and who knows what happens from there. (I do know it changed my day – and who knows what happens from there.) Changes are needed in our society, but I think it starts with us, at a more personal level.

Thank you, Mr. Williams. I hope you are doing well.

Paul Hogendoorn is cofounder of FreePoint Technologies. “Measure. Analyze. Share.” (Don’t forget to share!) He can be reached at paulh@getfreepoint.com  or www.getfreepoint.com