John Oliver Bitch Slaps the Sugar Industrial Complex

healthhabits corn sugar nutrition health

For years & years & years, health nerds like me have used websites like this to:

  1. inform the public about the health problems caused by the over-consumption of sugar, and
  2. shame the processed food industry into cutting back on added sugars

And for years & years & years, most “normal” people never heard our tiny online cries from the health & fitness wilderness. The fact is, no one likes to be told that everything we eat is bad for us…especially from a bunch of health nazis with six-packs and personal trainers.

But recently, the mainstream media has (finally) caught on to what us health nazis have been saying…that processed foods loaded with extra sugar (and chemicals & crappy fats) are really, really bad for us.

And it’s not just the news networks and the documentary filmmakers. It’s political comedians like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert & John Oliver…

And this is fantastic news for the health of the nation…and really, really bad news for processed food producers who pump loads of extra sugars (and chemicals and crappy fats) into their products.

Because when a guy like John Oliver can…

  1. make you laugh out loud, while
  2. getting you really pissed off at the Sugar Industrial Complex (aka Big Food…aka the people who sell food in boxes with lots of ingredients that no one can pronounce)

…you can bet that a lot more “normal” people are going to get the message.

And as they say, laughter is the best medicine.

A Technological Revolution for Health and Fitness Nerds

Quick post for all you fitness nerds out there.

Today is the day that I finally get my greedy little hands on a Push Strength workout/fitness tracker. As an early indiegogo supporter, I am one of the first people to have one of these bad-boys and because I love y’all so much, I am going to share the wealth.

Starting tonight, I am going to use my Push Strength band to start testing:

  • The real-world effectiveness of different exercise tools – machines vs free weights vs bands vs body-weight
  • The real-world effectiveness of different training routines
  • The real-world effectiveness of different exercises – pistol squats vs bodybuilding squats vs power squats

And because I love all my fitness friends, I will be sharing all that glorious data here at Health Habits.

But that’s not all….

Later this month, I will be meeting with the CEO of Tell Spec to discuss when I can expect to get my grubby paws on one of the beta units as well as organizing a series of amazing tests with all the other beta testers.

For those of who who don’t already know, Tell Spec uses a handheld scanner in concert with a learning algorithm and a cloud-based database to create a tool that will tell you exactly what is in the food you eat…or don’t eat.

At present, the “TellSpec BETA identifies calories, macronutrients (fats, protein and carbohydrates) and a limited number of ingredients all at reasonable concentrations in food”. And while that would be cool enough, it’s going to get way, way cooler.

As us beta-testers start scanning different foods, we are building the database, pushing the algorithm to evolve…and improving the scope & accuracy of the technology. This means that by the time TellSpec is ready for sale to the general public, it will be able to tell you exactly is in those chicken mcnuggets you scarfed down for lunch.

And while that is amazing enough for us health nerds, what it also means is that the entire processed food industry is going to be in for a rude awakening. Instead of having to deal with a small group of health nuts trying to spread the gospel of healthy eating, they are going to have to deal with a LOT of normal Moms & Dads who are going to be pissed off with the crap they are being sold.


And if that wasn’t cool enough, the Tell Spec could be a actual lifesaver for all those kids with serious food allergies. Instead of trusting labels, kids armed with a Tell Spec scanner can make sure that that nut-free cookie is actually nut free.

How cool is that?

Stay tuned…the technological revolution for us health nerds has just begun.

The Journey from Fat to Fit


Every January, bookstore shelves groan under the weight of the hundreds of brand-new weight loss/diet/exercise/nutrition/snake-oil books.

And every January, millions of people…unhappy with their bodies…spend bazillions of dollars…in the hope that one of those books will contain some magical insight that will allow them to transform their bodies from fat to fit…without having to sweat…eat spinach…or lever their butts off the sofa.


The journey from fat to fit is never going to be that easy.

  • You’re going to sweat.
  • You’re going to eat healthy.
  • And you’re going to stop spending every night on the couch watching tv and/or playing XBox.

But in return, you’re going to…

And to help you get there, I have put together the “From Fat to Fit” roadmap…

Consisting of a series of 4 meta-steps, this DIY infographic will make your transformation from fat to fit simpler, faster and much, much, much more effective….I promise.


Step 1 – Follow a plan

I don’t really care which plan you follow.

  • If you want to combine an Atkins diet with a yoga routine, go for it.
  • If you want to become a Vegan who does Crossfit, go for it.
  • If you want to count calories and do exercise videos at home, go for it.
  • If you want to join Weight Watchers, perform EFT tapping, go to AquaFit classes with the little old ladies at my gym, go for it.

In my 20+ years as a personal trainer, I have helped people transform their bodies using all sorts of different plans. In my experience, finding a plan that works best with the client’s lifestyle is infinitely more important than the plan itself.

And science finally agrees with me.

According to researchers at McMaster University, all diets work…if you can stick to them.

Conducting a meta-analysis of 48 randomized clinical trials of branded diets – Atkins, Weight Watchers, Zone, Jenny Craig, LEARN, Nutrisystem, Ornish, Volumetrics, Rosemary Conley, Slimming World and South Beach – Mac researchers found that any weight loss differences between these popular diets are minimal and likely of little importance to those wanting to lose weight.

What was important for weight-loss success is the ability of people to stick with the diet.

  • People who stuck with the diet, lost weight.
  • People who didn’t…didn’t.

What this means to you

This means that instead of following the latest & greatest weight loss program, find a program that works best with YOUR current lifestyle.

  • How much time do you have for exercise, meal prep, etc?
  • How much money can you put into the program?
  • What kind of foods do you love/like/hate?
  • Do you prefer group activities or are you a lone wolf?
  • Do you like lifting weights & sprinting or would you rather go for a walk with your dog/spouse?

Be picky. For the plan to work, we NEED it to be a custom-fit it to YOUR lifestyle.

It’s like buying a new pair of shoes. No matter how awesome they look on the shelf, if they don’t have your size, you’re not buying them. 

Step 2 – Cook & eat real food

Back in the olden days, Moms taught their daughters how to shop for, prepare and cook complete, nutritious & yummy meals from scratch. Aside from the obvious gender role sexism, this was a great thing for the health, wealth & appearance of the whole family.

And it’s going to be a great thing for you too.

  • Cooking real food costs less than frozen diet meals
  • Cooking real food costs less than diet-delivery meals
  • Cooking real food lets you modify meals to fit perfectly with your tastebuds
  • Cooking real food will give you complete ownership of your plan and will make you proud of yourself
  • Cooking real food gives you control over the quality of ingredients
  • Cooking real food gives you control over calories
  • Cooking real food gives you control over macro & micronutrients
  • Cooking real food teaches you a skill that you can give to others (kids, friends)
  • Cooking real food can be a very calming, zen experience…helping to reduce day to day stress
  • Cooking real food for friends & family is great for expressing & receiving love…and that’s a heck of a great feeling
  • Cooking real food means no more artificial flavors & colors
  • Cooking real food means you can invent new recipes and try new flavors
  • Cooking real food means that your kids will learn how to cook real food, eat healthy, be healthy, be fit

And that’s just off the top of my head. There are so many more benefits to learning how to cook like Grandma did.

Luckily for you, Youtube has a ton of “How to Cook” instructional videos. Here are a few to check out.

Step 3 – Non-Workout physical activity

On the infographic, I ask the question: After dinner, are you more likely to go for a walk, or sit on the couch and watch tv?

If you answered sit on the couch and watch tv, I am 99.99% sure that you will never achieve your weight loss goals.

There are two reasons why I believe that:

  1. Sitting on the couch at night watching tv (or playing XBox, or surfing the net, or some other form of inactivity) means more calories consumed via snacking & less calories burned as you sit on your keester. Over time, this caloric sabotage is going to make a major difference in your body transformation.
  2. Being inactive during your “leisure time” means much more than just calories in : calories out. It is a symbol that bleeds into the rest of your life, sabotaging your food choices and influencing your decision to skip your early-morning workout or replace your home-made healthy breakfast with a muffin from Starbucks.

On the flipside, being physically active (walking, cycling, cleaning the house,etc) after dinner is guaranteed to have a positive impact on your body transformation.

  • In addition to the calories burned and the snack foods not consumed, going for a walk with your spouse/kids/friend is hugely beneficial to your mental and emotional health.
  • As well, this “non-exercise” exercise has a sneaky way transforming your overall point of view towards leisure time. Watching becomes doing. Instead of staring at a screen, shared experiences become the new normal. The entire family becomes more active and interactive.

Step 4 – What do you do when stress hits?

Nothing wrecks a healthy diet faster than a crappy day at work…or a sick kid…or an overdue pile of bills…or some other emotional catastrophe.

While your logical mind is calmly & rationally telling you how important it is to stick with the plan and eat healthy…your out of control emotions are screaming at you to wolf down a dozen donuts, an extra-large pizza and a six-pack of beer.

Can you guess who is going to win that argument?

Without a pre-existing plan to handle life’s rainy days, your weight loss / getting healthy plans are going to take the occasional beating from your emotions.

Here are a few techniques for controlling your emotions when life punches you in the face

Note: All of these techniques may seem different but they all work on the same principles:

  1. They distract you from the emotional thoughts
  2. They prevent you from obsessing & bring you back into the present moment
  3. They give you time for the emotions to die down & your conscious mind to regain control

My advice: find something that works best for you & your unique lifestyle

  • If you’re religious…pray
  • If you carry a smartphone with headphones…load it up with meditation or brain wave entrainment mp3s
  • If you don’t buy into this new-agey, crunchy-granola stuff…drop to the floor and do push-ups & ab exercises until you are a sweaty mess.

The how is irrelevant…all we care about is short-circuiting your emotions & regaining conscious control of your mind.


Getting lean, fit & healthy isn’t rocket science.

  1. Find a plan that works for YOU
  2. Cook real / healthy food
  3. Increase your “non-exercise” physical activity
  4. Learn to control your emotions

And feel free to contact me with questions (Twitter / Facebook) if you need to chat.

Truvia is NOT Stevia…but it is a fantastic insecticide

According to Cargill, the European Food Safety Association, and a bunch of independent researchers¹²³Truvia, Coca-Cola’s calorie-free sugar substitute is safe for human consumption.

According to researchers at Drexel University, Truvia is an excellent insecticide.

Wait a second. How can Truvia be safe for me to eat and yet it kills fruit flies like Dexter Morgan on crystal meth???

According to study authors Sean O’Donnell and Daniel Marenda, “during an examination of the effects of commonly used non-nutritive sweeteners on the longevity of Drosophila melanogaster (aka the Fruit Fly), they discovered that erythritol, the main component of the sweetener Truvia, was toxic when ingested by fruit flies as compared to similar concentrations of nutritive sugar controls (sucrose, corn syrup) and other non-nutritive sweeteners.”

  • In their study, they found that fruit flies raised in tubes containing Truvia (see above), lived for an average of 5.8 days.
  • The average fruit fly lives 45 to 60 days.

They also found that Truvia-fed flies had difficulty in climbing up a small vial, indicating impaired motor function.

The problem, the team discovered, lies in an ingredient present in Truvia but not in the other six sweeteners: erythritol, a commonly used food additive approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This is the same erythritol that has been found to be safe for rats, dogs, humans, etc in previous studies referenced by the fine people at Coca-Cola and Cargill.

What does all this science this mean???

  • If you’re a fly, this is bad news.
  • If you’re a human who hates fruit flies buzzing around the bananas on your kitchen counter, it’s good news. According to the science, we now have evidence that erythritol baits could be used as effective insecticide against fruit flies.

However, if you’re a consumer of food products containing Truvia, you have a choice to make.

One of the core assumptions of modern toxicology is “the dose makes the poison.” Drinking a glass of water is good for you – Drinking a barrel of water is toxic to you. Conversely, the most acutely lethal toxin known to science is the botulinum toxin – the same toxin used millions of times around the world to get rid of wrinkles.

Based upon this assumption (and the safety studies mentioned previously), Erythritol, and by extension Truvia, is…

  1. Safe to humans
  2. Deadly to fruit flies

However, not every scientist in the world believes in the infallibility of “the dose makes the poison.”

  • Some scientists question whether doses that are “safe for human consumption” are equally safe for babies in the womb.

For example, this study found that a dose of atrazine (a commonly used herbicide) 20,000 times lower than the lowest level known to affect adult frogs caused 20% of tadpoles to become hermaphroditic in adulthood.

And it’s not just the effect of toxins on our little frog babies. Not all toxins follow the “normal” monotonic curve in which the response to a dose of toxin increases with the size of the dose. Some toxins respond as per the non-monotonic curves pictured below.

For example, this study found that lower doses of BPA (bisphenol A) can have larger impacts upon the proliferation of prostate tumors in adult male humans than higher doses. Weird but true.

At the end of the day, what does all of this mean to you???

  • Should you buy and consume products containing Truvia and/or Erythritol?
  • Should you buy and consume products containing Truvia and/or Erythritol if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant?
  • Should you buy a jar of Truvia and leave it open in your kitchen to kill fruit flies?


  • I would rather drink water
  • If I had to choose a calorie-free sweetener, I would choose stevia over Truvia
  • I would also advise all potential parents to follow my lead.

What about you?

  • What do you think of the research?
  • Do you consume Truvia?
  • Will you continue to consume Truvia?


How to Get a Tan Without Risking Skin Cancer

  • You know that you look better with a bit of a tan.
  • But, you’re worried about getting skin cancer.

What would you say if I told you that there is some pretty solid science showing that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is more effecting at improving skin colour than suntanning?

The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior showed that (Caucasian) people who eat lots of fruit and vegetables have a more golden skin colour thanks to the high levels of carotenoids.

Most widely known for their presence in carrots, carotenoids are a type of antioxidant that helps reverse the oxidative damage we incur in our daily lives. In particular, carotenoids have a powerful effect on our immune and reproductive systems.

Lead author Dr Ian Stephen said: “We found that, given the choice between skin colour caused by suntan and skin colour caused by carotenoids, people preferred the carotenoid skin colour, so if you want a healthier and more attractive skin colour, you are better off eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables than lying in the sun.”

Dr Stephen suggests that the study is important because evolution would favour individuals who choose to form alliances or mate with healthier individuals over unhealthy individuals.

We should note that while this study looked exclusively at Caucasian faces, it may be true that a study of other racial groups would produce similar results.

Previous studies have shown similar preferences for skin yellowness to be found in an African population.

For more info on this study;

If you want to participate in future studies regarding health & beauty, check out The Perception Lab.

The Best Tasting Fruit You Have Never Tasted

What do you think of when I say the word – FRUIT?

If you’re like the vast, vast majority of North Americans, you are now thinking of…

  • Apples,
  • Bananas,
  • Oranges,
  • Grapes,
  • Watermelon,
  • Strawberries, or
  • Peaches

And that’s okay.

There are lots of reasons why the fruits listed above are North America’s most popular.

  • They taste great.
  • They’re portable.
  • And they have transitioned well to industrial farming techniques.

However….after 40-something years of crunching apples in the fall, slurping watermelon in the summer and blending up berries & bananas in my smoothies year-round, my taste-buds started to become bored with the Top 10 fruits & vegetables.

Luckily for me, the solution to my gustatory ennui was a brisk 20 minute walk down Spadina Ave to Toronto’s Chinatown and it’s vast array of produce vendors and exotic fruits & veg.

Luckily for all of us, if you can’t find the following fruits in your hometown, there are a LOT of online produce peddlers who will pack & ship fresh produce direct to your door. As I have access here in Toronto, I haven’t ordered online and as such, can’t recommend any particular vendors.

Note: This list of my favorite fruit will continue to grow as I try & fall in love with new products. Whenever I add a new fruit, I will re-post the article. If you want to be updated, sign up for an email subscription to the blog and you will get new article updates.

Alright…here we go….introducing the best tasting fruit you have never tasted. 


durian fruit health nutrition healthhabits

Some of you have already heard of Durian fruit. More specifically, you may have heard about how Durian smells like:

  • rotten onions,
  • pig-shit,  
  • vomit,
  • skunk spray,
  • turpentine,
  • raw sewage,
  • gym socks, etc.

Seriously…this thing is so stinky, it has been banned from hotels and public transportation systems all over Southeast Asia.  But the taste more than makes up for the odor. Durian fruit offers a taste that is unlike any other thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. 

A taste that was best described by a British naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace way back in 1856:

The five cells within are silky-white, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes.

Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. … as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed

Because of the stink, I don’t eat Durian as often as I like.

To make life easier (and to keep my wife happy), I prefer to head down to Chinatown and have it prepared for me in one of the nearby restaurants. That way I get all the yummy flavor and don’t have to deal with the prep or the stinky leftovers

Next Page – Sugar Apple (aka Sweetsop and/or Custard Apple)

More best tasting fruit you have never tasted.

Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks – good idea, bad idea???


Last Friday, California’s State Senate Appropriations Committee voted (5-2) to pass a measure requiring distributors of bottled or canned sugary drinks to put a warning label on their beverage container.

SB1000 would require a warning label to be placed on the front of all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories in every 12 ounces.

Not too surprisingly, America’s soda pop producers were not amused. The California Beverage Association issued the following statement.

“We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue,” the group said in a statement, calling the proposed bill “misleading” claiming that “just 6 percent of calories in the average American’s diet come from soda, fruit, sports and energy drinks, compared with 11 percent in sweets and deserts. Moreover, it said most calories are consumed in the form of fats, oils and starches in food”.

Translation: We agree that our product is crap and directly contributes to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer, but…we’re not as bad as the guys who sell candy bars, potato chips, pizza, etc.

What happens next?

  • SB1000 requires a majority vote of the full Senate before it can become law. That vote is scheduled to occur in the next two weeks. In the meantime…
  • Supporters of the bill (California Medical Association, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, the California Black Health Network and supporting Senators) will issue public statements supporting the bill and it’s health & financial benefits.
  • Critics of the bill (California Beverage Association) will defend their position on health promotion, question the effectiveness of warning labels and raise the issue of potential job losses due to the cost associated with placing warning labels on their products.

Will the Bill become Law?

Who knows?  Going up against the processed food industry is no easy task. Pepsico and Coca Cola have lobbied and defeated previous labelling and “soda tax” bills in states across the nation.

Still, proponents of the bill are hopeful. California’s Democrats hold a super-majority in the Legislature and are traditionally more supportive of this type of motion.

Will the Warning Labels Have Any Effect?

Once again…who knows?

In a recent study,  researchers concluded that if the USA had adopted cigarette package warning labels in 2012 (when Canada enacted tobacco labelling legislation), the number of adult smokers in the USA would have decreased by 5.3–8.6 million by 2013….meaning that there would have been 5.3–8.6 million Americans with a reduced chance of dying from lung cancer.

Health warnings on cigarette packages saved lives in Canada and would have saved lives in the U.S. of A. And that sounds like a pretty darn good return on investment.

So….is it really such a jump in logic to assume that health warnings on sugary drinks would also reduce consumption of said sugary drinks…thereby improving American rates of insulin resistance, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, cancer???

Are all Warning Labels equally effective?

After looking at Canada’s gnarly anti-smoking images, I started wondering if California’s proposed sugary drink warning label….

…will be as effective?

Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks

Will a text-based warning be as effective as pictures of cancerous lungs and impotent cigarettes?

Methinks that California’s legislators need to go back to ye olde Photoshop drawing board and bedazzle their warning labels.

Let’s see if we can come up with something better

Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks

Nothing like a little parental awareness (guilt?) to help spark better shopping habits.

Somehow, I doubt that Pepsi will re-work their logo to create this custom sugary drink warning label.

If morbid obesity isn’t a strong enough warning, how about neuropathic foot ulcers and leg amputations???


There is nothing like a juice box full of chemicals & high fructose corn syrup to show that you don’t give a shit about your kid.

What do YOU think?

  • Are warning labels on sugary drinks a good idea?
  • Is a text-only label as effective as labels with scary pictures?
  • Can you come up with any better labels?
  • Would you like to see these labels where you live?
  • If so, would you be willing to email your gov’t representative RIGHT NOW and tell them that you want warning labels on sugary drinks?