Best Advice for Healthy Living From a Naturopathic Doctor

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Sara Celik is a busy naturopathic doctor practicing in Toronto who encourages women not to shy away from getting fit by training with weights.

Q: Does being a role model give you added incentive to eat well and exercise?

A: As a naturopathic doctor, fitness instructor and by virtue of doing seminars, advertisements and various other media engagements, I am in the public eye with some frequency and do recognize that I may be looked upon as a role model. However, my incentive to eat well and exercise comes primarily from the fact that it’s right for me and is a way of life that I believe in. It honors me as a person, both who I am today and the “me” that I wish to journey towards in the future.

Q: What is your exercise regiment?

A: Variety is the spice of life! I teach interval type fitness classes that combine cardio bursts with lighter weights. My personal training program incorporates compound movements (think squat, deadlift, dumbbell benching and shoulder presses), done in antagonistic pairings (e.g. for example upper body push movement followed by a lower body pull movement) with relatively heavy weight for multiple sets of low reps (think 5 sets of 5 or 10 sets of 3). Ladies, don’t be scared of heavy weights! Most females are afraid that using heavy weights will get them “bulky”. For the most part, this fear is unfounded. Women generally do not have enough endogenously (naturally) occurring free testosterone to get bulky and heavy weight training with compound movements (i.e. that those engage muscles crossing more than one joint) have major health benefits, that are particularly important for females, as females are generally subject to decline in bone density and osteoarthritis processes earlier in life than males.

Q: What foods do you typically include on your shopping list?

A: I believe strongly that the right food is the best, most powerful medicine. I shop for whole foods that are organically grown and that have high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) as often as possible. These include legumes and lentils for protein (I’m not a big meat eater and when I do have meat it is, typically, chicken), some fruits (particularly berries, like blueberries) and green, leafy vegetables such as kale, , etc). I usually pick up almond milk, almond butter and brown rice cakes too.

Q: Do you have any food weaknesses?

A: Absolutely. I’m only human. Dark chocolate and organic popcorn are my biggest weaknesses.

Q: Does anything hold you back from a healthy diet/routine? How do you deal with it?

A: Social gatherings and traveling are sometimes challenging. To overcome these challenges, I often eat a little bit before I go out or plan to meet with friends at health-conscious restaurants in the city. When traveling, I always make sure the hotel has a well-equipped gym and just in case, I travel with my skipping rope and resistance band.

Q: When you get sick, are there any foods you use to self-medicate?

A: Of course. Let food be thy medicine. When I’m sick, I prepare vegetable soup with lots of garlic and onions and sip on immune-boosting herbal teas. I avoid sugary treats which only work to depress the immune system and delay recovery.

Q: You’ve worked with plenty of people who are striving for a healthier lifestyle. If you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?

A: It’s a journey. Don’t base everything on achieving an end goal – acknowledge, enjoy and celebrate every step forward. With training and nutrition, as with most other things in life, a sustainable pattern of behavior and a good long term outcome depend upon WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Understanding is an important first step on your journey. Get informed. Take the time to understand. Love yourself and heal yourself. Your whole self.

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