Dr. Kim Foster

What Is Your Thyroid? [New Video!]

Have you noticed how often people talk about thyroid health these days? Several years ago people hardly knew the word, but now everyone seems to be talking about it. A lot of this talk, however, assumes you know the basics about the thyroid. And you may not.

Do you feel sheepish because you’re not really sure what a thyroid is? What it does?

In my latest video, I break down these basics. Like a mini med school!

Here are some of the issues I address:

  • what is the thyroid gland?
  • where is it in the body?
  • how does it work?
  • why is it important?

I’d love you to check it out! And let me know what you thought!! Even if you feel like you DO already know what the thyroid is, I invite you to check it out anyway…you may learn a thing or two you didn’t already know. At the very least–it will serve as a refresher. When I was in medical school, we all recognized that you need to learn or encounter a thing several times before it really sticks.

P.S. Have you subscribed to my channel yet? I’ll love ya forever if you do 🙂

 

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[New Video] How To Deal With Stress

Stress is, unfortunately, a significant part of our modern lives. Do you feel stressed out sometimes? Most of the time? Even if you can’t change the circumstances that are causing you to feel stressed, there are several things you can do to cope better with your stress.

In this week’s video on my YouTube channel, I delve into this exact topic. I discuss four of my favorite stress-busting strategies that you can easily adopt to help manage your stress, feel calmer, and improve your quality of life.

Hope you enjoy this week’s video!

(At the end of the video I also mention my Top 10 Stress Detox Tools PDF that you can download for free, and here’s the link to grab your copy.) 

 

How To Stay Healthy On Vacation [new YouTube video]

Over on my new YouTube channel I just uploaded my third video, in which I talk about how to stay healthy while on vacation. If you know me at all (especially if you follow me on Instagram), you know I love to travel. But I also recognize how challenging it is to maintain your healthy lifestyle while traveling!

In this week’s video, I cover four tips to help you stay healthy while on the road. Go ahead and check it out!

P.S. If you liked this video and want to see more health & wellness videos from me, I invite you to subscribe to my channel so you’re notified every time I upload something new! 

P.P.S. One of the key components of health I often talk about is sleep. Is sleep something you could improve? Click here to download my free 14-step sleep checklist.

 

How Do French Women Stay So Slim?

Yesterday I uploaded my second YouTube video, in which I talk about a topic I love diving into: French Health Secrets! It seems that ever since visiting France again this summer, I’ve been thinking and writing about this subject even more than usual.

In this week’s video, I break down some of the eating habits of the French in an attempt to crack the code of how the French enjoy such amazing food on a regular basis (croissants, cheese, chocolate…) all while staying thin!

I reveal four very specific tips in the video, so if that interests you–I encourage you to go check it out!

Also, in the video I mention a cheatsheet I put together with 12 French Health Secrets…and here’s the link to grab that PDF.

P.S. If you like this video and want to see more health & wellness videos from me, I invite you to subscribe to my channel so you’re notified every time I upload something new!

How To Beat Jet Lag [YouTube Video]

So I’ve got exciting news: I’ve decided to start making YouTube videos! Funnily enough, it was something my husband suggested. In recent months I’ve become hooked on YouTube videos for all kinds of things (makeup tutorials, travel vlogs, cooking shows…) and my husband noticed this, of course, and one day he said: you’ve got info to share, Kim, why don’t you make your own videos? So I thought about it, did a little research (via YouTube tutorials, of course!) and decided to give it a shot.

To test whether it was a viable idea, I brainstormed a list of potential video topics…and forced myself to stop after I hit about 125. So I won’t be running out of topics anytime soon! Mostly I’ll be talking about health and wellness, with some lifestyle stuff thrown in there, a bit of personal development sprinkled in, plus some videos specifically directed toward health coaches and wellness entrepreneurs. I’m going to try to release one video per week, as ambitious as that may seem–especially as I’m on this very steep learning curve of figuring out everything from scratch–but we’ll see how it goes! If it sounds like something you might be interested in, maybe you’d consider subscribing to my channel so you get notified when I release a new video? I’ll love ya forever if you do 🙂

Anyway, I just uploaded my very first video–yay!!! For this video, I was inspired by my trip to Europe this summer to cover the topic of JET LAG. I talk about 9 ways to beat jet lag. That’s right, NINE! I’d love for you to check it out. I’m sure my early videos will be a little…amateur-ish…but I decided to not let that stop me. (Plus I’m hoping I’ll improve as I go!)

And, PS. the downloadable cheatsheet I mention at the end of the video, my Sleep Checklist…you can grab that by clicking right here.

 

How To Grow Your Health Coaching Business With MD Referrals

Are you a health coach frustrated with the constant struggle to find clients? Have you ever thought about connecting with MDs to set up a referral system into your coaching practice?

I am of the opinion that this is an untapped partnership. Truth is, MDs are typically run off their feet trying to deal with packed waiting rooms and have far too little time with patients, given the structure of our current healthcare system. They certainly don’t have sufficient time to tackle preventive and lifestyle issues with their patients…which means: frazzled doctors and frustrated patients with unmet needs. In contrast, health coaches—willing and able to take the time to coach people through the complex journey of lifestyle change—struggle to find enough clients to grow their businesses and fill their client list. It seems like the perfect set-up for a symbiotic relationship, no?

This is an important issue I discussed in detail during a recent Facebook Live interview with Lori Kennedy of the Wellness Business Hub. Because I’m a family physician in addition to my work in the wellness sphere, my perspective gives me an insider’s view of how this system works.

If you’re curious about the pathway to getting referrals from MDs into your health coaching business, I invite you to check out that interview!

And if you’re keen to take this further and actually make this happen for your business, I’d love for you to grab a copy (for free!) of my Guide for Health Coaches: How To Get MD Referrals which walks you through the action steps of how to get this kind of system set up—including the critical mindset shift you need to make (something I talk about a lot in the video interview)!

 

How To Stay Fit Like The French (without even trying)

I was in France this summer and it’s something I notice every time I’m there: the slimness of the French people. It’s really quite incredible. By now, I suspect we’re all familiar with the French Paradox. It’s the fact that the traditional French diet is filled with goodies we North Americans tend to view as waistline disasters: butter, cream, cheese, croissants, chocolate, rich sauces, foie gras

And yet, the people of France are slim and gorgeous. When Mireille Guilliano wrote her NYT bestselling book “French Women Don’t Get Fat” many years ago, she attempted to explain this phenomenon to a North American audience. And because I was just in France for our family summer holiday, I’m going to devote the next few weeks’ worth of blog posts to this intriguing phenomenon.


Grab my free PDF cheatsheet: French Health Secrets


HOW THE FRENCH STAY IN SHAPE WITHOUT EVEN TRYING

What I’ve noticed about France is that while there is no shortage of bread and crepes and croissants and wine and cheese (thank heaven!) there is also this little phenomenon: the French don’t exercise.

Not in the way we think of exercise in North America, at least. Here, exercise seems to be synonymous with “the gym”. When I ask patients if they exercise, they always assume I mean going to the gym. 

In France, you are hard pressed to find an actual gym.

In the average Parisian block, you’ll trip over ten places to have coffee, get a fresh baguette, watch a film, enjoy a spectacular lunch…but no gyms. There may be a couple of yoga studios or very small boutique fitness studios. But that will be about it. So how are the French staying fit?

EXERCISE À LA FRANÇAISE

This is how the French exercise: they walk. They walk EVERYWHERE. They walk to their local food market—everyday (something I’ll talk about in a future post in this series, because it’s key!). They walk to the cafe, to museums, to work, to meet friends for lunch. The French are constantly out on the streets.

Jogging, non. At least, not as much as you would see in North America. When I go for a run along the Vancouver waterfront—especially if it’s a beautiful summer day—I’m surrounded by a mob of fellow runners (if it’s a rainy day, only slightly fewer). In contrast, when I went for a run in Paris last month along the Seine, there were definitely other runners but not nearly as many as you’d expect (plus a few rollerbladers, clearly transported there from the mid-1990s). I definitely noted more runners this time than I’ve seen in previous visits, although perhaps they were all expats and tourists. In other parts of France, however, I received plenty of confused and vaguely discouraging looks from the locals walkers on the streets when I’d go for a run.

Besides walking, the French also bicycle. Cycling is a passion and a way of life there. We happened to be lucky enough to be in Paris this time when the Tour de France entered the city for the grand finale—an amazing spectacle. Clearly, the French are serious about the sport of cycling. But it’s not just for athletes. You will see all kinds of cyclists in the cities and the countryside alike: women in dresses with little dogs in baskets, schoolboys, men in suits, cycling to work. Paris has a fantastic bike rental system, the Velib, so you can hop on and off a rented bicycle anywhere you want to go.

HOW TO APPLY THIS PRINCIPLE TO YOUR OWN LIFE

You might be wondering: can cycling to the market from time to time really take the place of my gym workouts?

Here’s what the research is showing: 

A little while ago, a study looked at the health benefits of riding a bicycle to do errands, like going to the store. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin statistically analyzed what would happen if the 31 million people living in the Upper Midwest did some of their short-distance errands (defined as 2.5 miles one way) by bike instead of by car. Their conclusions? If people ran even half these errands by bike instead of car, 1,100 deaths would be avoided each year. And there would be a $7 billion savings in health-care costs.

So how can we use this information?

Now that we’re in the dog days of summer—which likely means there’s a farmer’s market somewhere in your area—why not be inspired by that French habit of cycling to the market or on short errands? It’s much more stylish and glamorous than taking the car, and it’s a pleasurable way of living…which is something else I’ll be writing about a lot more as we go this month.

Bonne continuation!


If you like the idea of adopting a more French approach to healthy living, I’ve put something together for you: a free printable PDF cheatsheet of French Health Secrets. 

 

 

 

Q & A: Can I be a health coach if I’m not in perfect health myself?

 

If you’re trying to get a health coaching business off the ground, I think you’ll appreciate today’s question.

Q:

I’m trying to build a business as a health coach, but I have a dark secret. I’m not in perfect health myself. I mean, I’m working on it! I love everything about nutrition, leading an active life, and working on my self-care…but I’m not in peak shape. I see all these people on my Instagram feed, these young, gorgeous nutritionists who look like model-perfect athletes and…well, that’s not me. I worry that clients will look at me and think—why would I take advice from HER?

A:

I definitely have some thoughts on this issue. And to be clear, this is MY opinion only. Other people may have a different perspective, which is fine! But here’s my point of view.

First, whether you use the term “wellness coach” or “health coach”, the common theme, obviously, is the word “coach”. So let’s look at that. What does it mean to be a coach?

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”*

In their definition, they go further to distinguish the ways a coach functions differently than other service professionals. In other words, they specify what coaching is NOT. For example, coaching is not therapy (which deals with healing pain, dysfunction, and conflict). And coaching is not consulting, where the consultant is an EXPERT who diagnoses problems and prescribes/oversees change. They explain it like this:

“With coaching, the assumption is that individuals or teams are capable of generating their own solutions, with the coach supplying supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks.”

Also, coaching is not MENTORING. ”A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience. Mentoring may include advising, counseling and coaching. The coaching process does not include advising or counseling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives.”

Nowhere in any of that does it state that a coach needs to be an expert or an ideal role model.

The whole basis of coaching is to work collaboratively with clients—to discover options, co-create a plan, and provide accountability and support throughout the process of change. Again, none of that requires a coach to have it “all figured out” for themselves.

So that’s my answer to the question above: no, you do not need to be in perfect health to be a health coach.

Now, granted, there does seem to be a highly visible set of health coaches in the wellness sphere who are in pristine shape, have impeccable diets, unimpeachable habits, and are model-gorgeous. And if you happen to be one of those people—that’s amazing!! I know you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, and this topic is not meant to detract from your efforts in any way. However, to the rest of you who don’t fall into that category, don’t sweat it! To be an effective coach, you do not need to be in Instagram-perfect health.

In fact, it could be argued that for some clients, a “perfect” coach—however you define that—is not the best fit. Someone who appears perfect (at least on the outside) can be intimidating. All kinds of things may come up in coaching sessions, where the client wants to please the coach who is perhaps up on a pedestal. A client may strive to come across more together than they truly feel, and may be inhibited from admitting the full truth to their coach (as in: I ate an entire pizza last night….I blew off all my workouts last week and went on a House of Cards binge instead…). These are topics that would be great for growth, for learning, for collaboration. They are the exact things a client needs to feel comfortable divulging.

On the other hand, some people enjoy the inspiration of their ideal role model pushing them harder (#fitnessgoals, right?). But that’s okay. You will not be able to coach everyone. You don’t need the world as your clientele. Much of this comes down to choosing a niche.


try this next: 5 STEPS TO CHOOSING A HEALTH COACHING NICHE (article & worksheet)


For many people, a more human, infallible, relatable coach is one we can identify with, connect with, and feel a collaborative relationship with. A coaching relationship built on *those* tenets may have a stronger chance of achieving success, which is the whole point.

And from a business-building point of view, if you wait to get into “perfect shape” before marketing yourself as a health coach…well, you just might be waiting forever. Don’t put it off, just get going. Get yourself out there. There are people to help—and they really don’t need you to lose those last 5 pounds before you can serve them.

Bottom line: if you feel like you’re not in “perfect health” yourself, do NOT let that stop you from pursuing a path as a health coach. Truth is, we are all a work-in-progress. And don’t forget—even people whose Instagram feeds show nothing but perfection…well, we all know they have their own issues going on, too. We all do.

“Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” – Anne Lamott

In my opinion, the idea that “I can’t become a health coach because I’m not in my peak health yet” is a myth. The truth? This is not something that should stop you from pursuing a career as a health coach! Being in tip-top health is NOT a requirement. It’s perfectly okay—encouraged, even—to continue to do your own work and to evolve right along with your clients! Life, health, happiness…it’s a journey, not a destination.

*ICF definitions

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my free PDF guide for health coaches: HOW TO GET MD REFERRALS.

Cheers! Dr. Kim xo

 

It was the first day of my clerkship—the 3rd year of medical school when you rotate through different hospital placements—and my first rotation was in pediatrics.

I showed up bright and early, wearing my brand new white lab coat, the pockets stuffed with handbooks, cheat sheets, and a variety of medical instruments, trying to look more confident than I felt. Our chief resident gathered us in the conference room and promptly handed out the call schedule, informing us that call would be starting right away. One of us, within our little group of clinical clerks, would be staying all night that night. I scanned the schedule to see who the poor bugger was.

That’s right. It was me.

I stared at the page knowing at the end of the (very stressful) day, I wouldn’t be going home. I’d be up all night, continuing to work on the hospital ward. And then, when everyone else turned up the next morning, I’d be staying all the next day, too. I was facing the beginning of a 32-hour shift. And I hadn’t even brought a toothbrush.

By the end of the following day I felt like I’d been in a car wreck. I had that hangover fog and malaise—without any of the preceding fun. I could barely see straight, let alone listen to the staff pediatrician who took no pity and didn’t let up one iota on his quizzing, questioning, and belittling  teaching.

After that, 32-hour shifts became normal. A weekly occurrence—sometimes twice a week. Each time I survived another one, I would go home, numbly eat a sandwich, try to stave off sleep for a few extra minutes and not drown in the bathtub before slipping into bed for several blissful hours. Only to do it all over again. For three years.

SURVIVING SLEEP WHIPLASH

Sometimes I would be awake for 32 hours straight, and then I’d sleep for 12. And then the next night was more normal: 8 hours or so. But then back to a 32-hour stint.

It was all over the map and it was not good. I came to think of it as sleep whiplash. Fortunately it was just a temporary phase: one year in med school like that, and then a 2-year residency…but it did, mercifully, end. And not all my rotations were so grueling.

Some of my rotations contained a more normal schedule. Long days, sure, but an END to the day, time to rest, and then back to it. More of a 24-hour routine.

Which is something I came to treasure. Never had I realized the value of regular sleep habits so deeply. Even when you’re not getting quite enough sleep, as long as it’s coming on a regular routine, your body can adapt.

At the university clinic where I work now, a lot of the students have sleep schedules that are all over the map. Sometimes they stay up until 4 am, studying or partying (or both?)…and sometimes they sleep from 6 pm to 11 am the next day.

Unsurprisingly, some of the most common reasons for my visits at the university clinic are: fatigue. GI complaints. Headaches.

Why is it so bad for us to live like this?

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM AND WHAT IT DOES

Well, it just so happens that there is an area in the brain that regulates our day-night rhythms, or circadian clock. When that center receives information it’s morning (primarily through an input of sunlight), that sets the clock, triggering a bunch of changes in the body: it raises body temperature, inhibits release of melatonin (the sleep hormone), and basically tells our system it’s time to be awake. Everything is then set on a cycle that will run roughly 24 hours. At night-time, there will be a set of changes set in motion that trigger a sleep cycle, and then the whole thing resets in the morning again.

But the circadian rhythm/body clock affects more than just our sleepiness/wakefulness. Other systems also operate on a daily rhythm: mood, stress, heart function, GI function, immunity, hunger…

For example, research has shown that the immune system and inflammatory compounds fluctuate over the course of the 24-hour circadian rhythm. The inflammatory response increases at night (explaining why fevers typically peak in the middle of the night). Hormones controlling metabolism and hunger wax and wane through the 24-hour cycle. Digestive functioning goes through day-night cycles. Blood sugar is influenced by our body clock; cortisol release is affected by our circadian rhythm.

Basically, our bodies are designed to function like a finely-tuned machine in sync with a 24-hour cycle. Or, as aptly put by an article in the Atlantic: your body wants to run like a Swiss watch.


FREE: Download my 14-Step Sleep Checklist (PDF)


HOW WE MESS WITH THE MECHANISM

Trouble is, things in our lives can seriously disrupt that system. Jet lag is one example. Shift work. A newborn baby. Even the adjustment to the one-hour shift of daylight savings time can have a significant effect we feel for days afterward.

But we also manipulate it ourselves—through electricity, using screens (ie. blue light), staying up too late sometimes (and not others)…basically interfering with our bodies’ own systems through our choices and lifestyles.

It comes back to the concept of sleep whiplash. Our bodies and minds do not do well when we don’t allow its natural circadian rhythms to function as it should. And I’m talking every day. Seven days a week. Your body does not care (or know) if it’s Tuesday or Sunday. It wants to do the same things, go through the same cycles, every 24 hours without variation.

What I often say to patients: if you don’t follow a sleep schedule, you’re basically subjecting your system to jet lag on a weekly basis—and most of us know how awful that feels.

Don’t get me wrong, a little flexibility is fine. Staying up late for a special occasion every once in a while? You’ll bounce back from that. But making it a habit, not respecting your body’s own needs…you’ll pay a price for that.

And what sort of price, you ask? Here’s what some of the research has shown on what circadian disruption does to us:

  • worsens GI disease, like IBS, reflux, and peptic ulcer disease
  • accelerates aging
  • leads to body weight increase and obesity (by shifting food intake schedules and otherwise altering metabolism)
  • increases the risk of car accidents & workplace injuries (as shown by stats on these when we spring forward at Daylight Savings and lose an hour of sleep)
  • increases the risk of having a heart attack (as shown in people with heart disease, the week after the Daylight Savings time shift)
  • may promote cancer genesis (research has demonstrated an increased risk of GI cancer, but there may be others)

Let’s face it, nobody wants any of that. So what to do to maintain a healthy sleep schedule and keep your body running like that Swiss watch?

HOW TO STAY IN SYNC

It starts with sleep hygiene—something I’ve written about many times on this site and others.

Here are some tips:

  • adhere to a regular wake up time, and a regular bedtime
  • ensure you’re getting enough hours (7-9 for most adults)
  • minimize substances that can interfere with proper sleep (caffeine, alcohol)
  • set up a sleep-promoting bedroom: sufficiently dark, cool, and quiet

These are just the basics, and there are many more things you can do to promote healthy sleep habits.

In fact, I’ve created a handy PDF checklist with 14 steps to healthier sleep. Click here for the FREE download!

 

Have you ever been listening to the radio and the promo jingle for the station comes on, claiming their music selection can “make your workday go faster”? It’s the kind of thing that makes me feel incredibly sad whenever I hear it. Over our lifetimes, we spend a huge proportion of our waking hours at work. Do we really want to simply get through it faster? Grit our teeth and make it end as quickly as possible?

It’s like wishing your own life away.

Truth is, I see so many people who are miserable in their work. Of course they haven’t come to see me—their family doctor—for that issue, per se. Typically, they’ve booked an appointment to talk about their insomnia, depression, anxiety, stress, headaches, or other similar symptom. As we dig deeper, though, the problem so often at the heart of everything is a soul-sucking job.

But not everyone is like that.

Sometimes I meet people who have are different. They are calmer, more confident, more at ease. If they’re sick, they want to get better as quickly as possible—not because the boss is giving them a hard time, or because they’ll be forced to complete a disability form if their illness goes on much longer—but because they love their work. It’s fulfilling. It’s meaningful. It’s what they were called to do.

So what’s the difference? Why are some people fulfilled by their work, happy in their careers, uplifted by their jobs?

There are many possible reasons, of course, but one that commonly stands out for me is this: the fulfilled people are often the ones who are working for themselves, whether they’re freelancers or running their own business.

And this happiness difference is not just my own observation. Growing research has demonstrated the same thing.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT & HAPPINESS

Australian surveys have shown that self-employed people are the happiest, a result replicated by UK studies.

And the World Happiness Report, a comprehensive report presented to the UN every year for the past 5 years had this to say in their most recent report:

“Being self-employed tends to be associated with higher life evaluation and positive affect (as compared to being a full-time employee) across Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and East Asia.”

While they do conclude in this study that people who are self-employed are more satisfied with their lives than people who are traditionally employed, they do mention the downside. They comment that self-employed people report more stress and worry associated with running one’s own business. Which makes sense.

Being your own boss is not for everyone. There’s a dark side, of course, and it basically boils down to the Spiderman mantra: With great power comes great responsibility.

When the buck stops with you…well, there’s a certain stress and pressure that comes with that. Which means it’s important to look at the potential cost and benefit of being self-employed, and whether it works for you. Do the pros outweigh the cons? For many of us, they do. For many of us, self-employment is the true path to happiness and fulfillment. (Even if it’s not always an easy path.)


Click here to download a free copy of my miniguide: HOW TO BECOME A HEALTH COACH 


WHY BEING YOUR OWN BOSS CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY

So what are the reasons self-employed people give for being happier, more fulfilled?

Improved flexibility of schedule

Keen to try that mid-afternoon yoga class or walk your kids to school before starting your workday? You’re in charge of that.

More creative freedom

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you get to set your own goals and work on the projects that most excite you. No more catering to externally-mandated sales goals or tasks that you loathe.

Being your own boss

A boss you dislike or don’t respect can be a nightmare. One less thing to worry about when you’re self-employed!

Lack of negative office politics

Clashes with co-workers, toxic workplace culture, office drama…no thank you.

Overall greater autonomy

You get to set the priorities, the focus, and the pace. You get to decide when something’s not working. You get to shift a project’s timeline and budget, if you wish. It’s all up to you!

SO HOW ABOUT YOU?

Are you considering making the jump from employed worker to self-employed freelancer or entrepreneur?

If you suspect your route to happiness involves starting your own business and/or working for yourself in some capacity, watch this space. I’m going to be talking much more on this website about job satisfaction, entrepreneurship, happiness, and the intersection of all those things.

AND, if your interest particularly lies in the wellness sphere, you might be interested in reading these next:

And if you’re feeling ready to take the next step, I invite you to download my free miniguide: How To Become A Health Coach