In March 2020, Oral Health published my most-viewed article. Surprisingly, it wasn’t about preparing, marketing and selling a dental practice. Apparently, in-depth talks about taxes, practice values, employment contracts and leases aren’t that sexy. It actually was a weight-loss piece entitled “Paying It Forward: 8 Ideas That Helped Me Lose 50 lbs in 6 months”. In the article, I shared a number of techniques I learned from dentists to body-hack myself. I burned fat quickly, experienced near endless amounts of energy, and enjoyed a positive attitude and clear focus (and looked great too, if I say so myself). Even I was impressed by what I was able to accomplish.
But, alas, my newly discovered shortcuts to get cut in shorts were cut short.
Enter COVID-19. Suddenly, we all found ourselves locked down. Hilton cookies, social distancing, runs on toilet paper, Zoom and “Netflix and Chill” became the thing. We stopped leaving our houses to socialize. Gyms were shut down or severely restricted. Normal attire was replaced with sweaters and sweatpants. Some of us became anxious and depressed. And the two years since then have certainly stretched things out for some of us; or dare I say the pandemic started to grow on us? (Get it?)
Naturally, many of us lost motivation, relaxed our healthy routines and turned to food as comfort to cope with the tsunami of stress. But with most of the COVID-19 negatives now in the background, it’s time to re-focus on our physical and mental well-being. But where to begin? How do we get motivated and what routines actually work?
I reached out to a few dentists to find out how they are getting back to their “normal” healthy lifestyles. They presented fresh ideas – traditional, trendy and even taboo – to sink my mind into.
Before we dig in, in typical dental lawyer fashion, I hereby disclaim: I am not your guru. What worked for me or others may not work for you. Family health history, medication, stress levels, sleep and what we consume all have an impact on our bodies and minds. So take what I write with a grain of salt. And please talk to your doctor first before embarking on your own health and fitness journey.
Dr. XXX: Flirting with Fitness
Well, if I’m going to start with a bang, this dentist’s perspective should come out on top.
Dr. XXX (who shall remain nameless and, no, it isn’t me) admitted to me that they inadvertently started to use flirting to help motivate them to live a healthier lifestyle. That’s right: flirting! Remember that thing some of us used to do (and remember how terrible we were at it?)
Per Dr. XXX, “It started off with simply sharing a few pics with a fitness friend of the opposite sex – mostly photos of salads and proteins, then workout results, like caloric burn. They would show me theirs, too. And we’d kind of motivate each other almost to eat clean and exercise regularly. It was a win-win. We held each other to account. And it was fun, too.”
But then something “extra” started to creep into the equation. Per Dr. XXX: “I started to feel a little naughty, a little dangerous, but also super energized. The feeling of wanting to impress, and maybe even be accountable to someone of the opposite sex, is kind of a kinky motivator. Who knew? But it actually worked really well to get me the best results in the quickest time.”
“Flirting with fitness,” Dr. XXX says, “is not recommended for everyone. You’re operating in the grey zone when you toy with concepts like showing off your Chef-Ramsay-level cooking skills, discussing your body weight and physical appearance, and sending sweaty or maybe even revealing pics of yourself after a long and hard work-out or at the beach. There’s huge potential for mixed messaging – especially if one or both of you is in a relationship. But when done properly, it is totally innocent and fun.”
It goes without saying: this approach isn’t for the faint of heart. But after seeing some of Dr. XXX’s results and hearing about their newfound dedication, I must admit it was all quite exciting. Especially when compared to the more typical “guilt” some may feel when begrudgingly dragging their feet to the gym because of hefty monthly membership and personal trainer fees.
Flirt with fitness at your own risk! You’ve been warned.
Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta: Feeling It
Don’t measure. Don’t count. Don’t think. Just feel it.
That’s what Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta (GP, Brampton, Ont.) does. But it all started out much differently. Sanj (as her friends call her) grew up as a little “chubby kid” (her words, not mine). She was never picked to play sports. Her job was to referee and get the ball when it went over the fence. When the streetlights came on and everyone went home, Sanj found herself sitting in front of the TV, watching sitcoms while eating an entire row of Fudgeeos. She never wore a team jersey. Never got a trophy. Never wanted her friends to see her in a bathing suit.
When she left home to go to university, cookies and comedies became less accessible. She began cooking for herself. There was also a gym across the street from her residence; she started going because her roommates went. They would do the 30-minute circuit, alternating between weights and floor exercises every minute. For Sanj, the whole experience helped raise the bar while taking a huge weight off her shoulders.
Sanj followed the workout routine and was happy socializing in the process. After a few weeks, she noticed that she had better sleep, more energy and more focus in class. She wasn’t trying to look better on the surface, but after several months she noticed she was.
It’s been 30 years and Sanj hasn’t looked back. She’s healthy and fit because she’s been internally motivated to feel good from her university years (not externally motivated to achieve a certain look or weight).
In terms of exercise tips, she likes to mix up her routine. “I work out at the gym four times a week for at least an hour. I lift weights while listening to my favourite songs or doing a class such as hot yoga, spin or cardio boxing.” Sanj also walks Dude, her female Goldendoodle, every day to maintain a paw-sitively healthy lifestyle.
The variety allows her different muscles to strengthen and be challenged without being strained. She credits this approach for giving her a pain-free experience practicing dentistry for the past 20 years.
Dr. Aleem Zakaria: Playing the Yo-Yo
You’ve heard of so-called “Yo-Yo Dieting” – gaining weight unintentionally and then dieting in response, only to repeat the cycle. It’s often discussed in passing with guilt and resentment. Because no matter how hard we try, our bodies try just as hard to hijack our minds to undo our results. It’s a constant struggle.
But when you hear Dr. Aleem Zakaria (GP, Burlington and Waterdown, Ont.) talk about his particular approach to dieting, it’s actually quite novel: he unapologetically goes through cycles of weight loss and gain. In essence, playing the yo-yo.
Per Dr. Zakaria: “Once I lose the weight, I’ll go into this phase of strict dieting where meals are made up equally of protein, carbs and fat. Salad, a handful of nuts, and some tea is included. My dinner and last meal is at 6:00 pm and I don’t indulge in snacks. Before breakfast for just a few minutes, I add only push-ups, squats and plank. That’s it. No need to give yourself a run for your money with an expensive treadmill. It’s so easy. No thinking involved.”
And with that, Dr. Zakaria says he can lose a whopping 5 to 10 lbs in just a month. But once he’s achieved his goal of dropping 30–40 lbs and back to wearing size 36” pants, he’s ready to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labour.
“Once I get to my goal, I have no problem gaining the weight back,” he says. “There’s no temptation or guilt while I’m dieting and exercising because I know I’ll indulge right around the corner. I look forward to it. But I don’t think about it. I just let it happen naturally, slowly, over time”.
Indeed, his cue to going back on his strict diet and workout regime is which sized pants he’ll wear when he goes to Costco. Once he’s putting on his 40” pants, he knows it’s time to re-focus on diet and exercise; the indulging is over…. for now. Dr. Zakaria feels no pressure and is happy to both take the weight off and put it on. No guilt. No embracing defeat.
Actively playing the yo-yo resembles what professional bodybuilders do: off-season cycling to bulk up muscle and fat and then on-season cycling to get “shredded” for competitions (and then repeat). Putting your body through large swings of weight gain and loss is definitely not recommended for the average person and especially those with pre-existing health issues.
Dr. Victoria Razon-Clemente: Following the fads
One can’t talk about health and fitness these days without mentioning what’s hip and trendy.
Before COVID-19, Dr. Victoria Razon-Clemente (GP, Toronto) ate what she thought was healthy. Lots of fruits. Slices of homemade bread. Or a bag of nacho chips containing flax seeds. But she was constantly tired.
Then came the wake-up call from her doctor at a routine check-up: “Your cholesterol is too high. If you’re not going to exercise or watch what you eat, I’m going to give you pills”.
Dr. Razon-Clemente was shocked. She didn’t want pills. She thought she was doing everything right.
So she started doing some research and discovered the somewhat controversial KETO diet. KETO is about putting the body into a state of ketosis by depriving it of starchy and sugary carbs so that it has no choice but to burn what we give it (a.k.a. external healthy fats) and internal visceral fat as its energy source. KETO-friendly foods include grass-fed meat, eggs, avocado, nuts, certain hard cheeses, high-fat cream and plain yogurt, various high-quality vegetable oils, fatty wild fish, etc. KETO also includes eating above-ground veggies to get nutrients and fibre. Think leafy greens, cucumber, asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, etc. And minimal fruits and booze because of all the sugar.
“I replaced fruits, homemade bread and nacho chips with a lot more vegetables,” says Dr. Razon-Clemente. “Like 8 cups of veggies each day! And I have way more energy than ever before. I am also super focussed at the office. And I sleep much better too. And, of course, everything in moderation.”
After doing some more research, she also learned about another popular lifestyle enhancer: intermittent fasting. Per Dr. Razon-Clemente: “At first, I didn’t think I could NOT eat for 12 hours straight. But I saw my older sister – who was doing KETO with intermittent fasting – and she looked younger than me and had way more energy! So I followed her and now I am getting the same look, energy, and reactions from others”.
KETO and intermittent fasting are definitely the diets du-jour, and again, not for everyone. Anyone with liver or pancreatic conditions should avoid this form of diet, along with diabetics, pregnant women and anyone at risk of heart disease. Speak to your doctor before jumping on any fad – they may be able to modify the plan specifically for you.
Flirting with fitness. Feeling it. Playing the yo-yo. Following the fads – there’s no one-size-fits-all nutrition or exercise routine. The end-game for all of these methods is to maintain a healthy lifestyle – mentally and physically – while adding energy and vitality to your day. With advice from your doctor, and maybe some tips from your dentist friends, you’ll be on the road to your healthiest self. Try on some fresh ideas and see what fits!
About the Author
Michael Carabash, BA, LLB, JD, MBA, CDPM, is a founding partner of DMC LLP, Canada’s largest dental-only law firm that helps dentists prepare, market and sell practices in Ontario. Michael leads DMC’s annual dental mission trips (Grenada, Jamaica and Turks & Caicos). Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 647.680.9530.