Posts Tagged "Experts"


Consent may not be ‘truly possible’ in some office romances: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Workplace couples are often romanticized — think Bill and Melinda Gates or Michelle and Barack Obama. But when the relationship involves two people with unequal power, it can also be fraught with peril, especially in the #MeToo era.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook is only the latest chief executive to be ousted over a consensual relationship with an employee. Increasingly, U.S. companies are adopting policies addressing workplace romances, a trend that began well before the #MeToo movement galvanized a national conversation surrounding sexual misconduct.

Addressing workplace romance can be complicated, but many companies remove any grey areas by forbidding managers, especially C-suite executives, from having relationships with subordinates given the potential for favouritism or lawsuits if the relationship sours.

READ MORE: Second McDonald’s exec leaves after CEO was fired over consensual relationship with employee

There are questions about whether consent is truly possible when the power imbalance is especially great. Many women who have come forward to share their #MeToo stories have said that they feared the consequences of saying no to a powerful person who could influence their careers.

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“That power difference can create a dynamic where the relationship can never truly be consensual,” said Debra Katz, a founder partner of the law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks who has represented women in several prominent sexual harassment cases.

“The #MeToo movement has shown how quickly it can go from consensual in the beginning to a huge problem when the relationship goes awry.”

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Easterbrook’s departure comes as McDonald’s steps up its efforts to stop sexual harassment after dozens of employee complaints.

McDonald’s CEO parts ways with company after breaking policy

McDonald’s CEO parts ways with company after breaking policy

A timeline for McDonald’s

Over the last three years, more than 50 McDonald’s employees have filed cases alleging sexual harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in state courts, according to Fight for $15, a labour advocacy group.

In August, the hamburger chain unveiled a program to teach its 850,000 U.S. employees how to recognize and report harassment and bullying. Franchisees — who own 95 per cent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants — aren’t required to offer the training, but the company expects them to provide it.

READ MORE: McDonald’s CEO resigns over consensual relationship with employee

McDonald’s said Easterbrook violated company policy forbidding managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect subordinates. In an email to employees, Easterbrook said the relationship was a mistake and he agreed “it is time for me to move on.” He was replaced by Chris Kempczinski, who recently served as president of McDonald’s USA.

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Time’s Up, a group that fights harassment and has been supporting workers’ legal cases, said Easterbrook’s departure should provide an opportunity for McDonald’s to do more, including making sexual harassment training mandatory.

“Under the new leadership of Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s has an opportunity, and obligation, to act to ensure that all of its locations are safe and equitable for all,” said Jennifer Klein, chief strategy and policy officer at Time’s Up.

Complications around policy

Easterbrook followed in the footsteps of Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich, who resigned last year after the chipmaker found he engaged in a relationship that violated a “non-fraternization” policy that applies to all managers.

Other CEOs who have been pushed out over consensual relationships include Darren Huston of online travel company Priceline, Brian Dunn of Best Buy and Harry Stonecipher of aerospace company Boeing.

READ MORE: The ins and outs of dating a co-worker

In 2005 — the year Stonecipher was pushed out — just a quarter of U.S. workplaces had policies addressing consensual relationships, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the world’s largest group of human resources professionals.

By 2013, the number had jumped to 42 per cent, according to an SHRM survey that year of 384 of its members. Of those workplaces, 99 per cent prohibited romance between a supervisor and a direct report.

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SHRM has not conducted a more recent survey on the issue, but other research suggests such policies are even more common now. In a 2018 survey of 150 human resources executives, the executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 78 per cent of companies had policies discouraging dating between subordinates and managers.

Much more complicated is how far to go with such policies. Not all policies pertain just to bosses and their underlings.

The SHRM study found that 45 per cent of employers with workplace romance policies forbid relationships between employees of significant rank differences, while 35 per cent prohibited them between employees who report to the same supervisor.

Many human resources professionals, however, believe it’s unrealistic to adopt a blanket ban on workplace romance.

Office holiday parties in the #MeToo era

Office holiday parties in the #MeToo era

An SHRM survey from January 2019 found that one-third of American adults have been in a romantic relationship with someone at work.

“People meet at work. It’s not an uncommon place for romantic relationships to start,” said John Gannon, an employment law attorney with Skoler Abbott in Springfield, Mass.

A growing trend among small companies is to sponsor happy hours for their staffers to increase camaraderie, said David Lewis, CEO of HR provider OperationsInc, based in Norwalk, Conn. Those events can be fertile ground for romantic relationships so it’s hard for a business owner to then tell staffers to break up or quit, he said.

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Some companies have what are known as “love contract,” which require disclosing relationships to the company and agreeing to act appropriately.

Lewis said he has seen a big increase in business owners asking for on-site training sessions for employees to raise their awareness on what constitutes harassment. Those sessions discuss relationships between staffers and warn that both partners in a relationship must act professionally with no public displays of affection. And they’re expected to remain professional if they break up.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Eating alone may not be good for your health: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Plenty of people eat lunch at their desk or gobble down a takeout dinner between driving their kids to extracurricular activities.

More Canadians are living alone than ever before, too, government data shows, meaning many home-cooked meals are eaten solo.

While attention is often focused on seniors eating and living alone, Kate Mulligan, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health, says the issue affects everyone.

“We see younger people — millennials, for example, or even younger — who are ordering in a lot or may not even have cooking facilities in their apartments,” Mulligan said.

READ MORE: Why aren’t Canadians cooking anymore?

But is eating alone actually that bad for your health? According to research, the harms may outweigh the benefits.

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How eating alone can harm you

“Eating alone is associated with a whole range of poor outcomes, and they’re correlated with similar outcomes for loneliness in general,” Mulligan said.

“When you eat alone, you’re more likely to eat standing up, you’re more likely to eat junk food and you’re less likely to think about mindful consumption.”

Benefits of shopping for your own food

Benefits of shopping for your own food

Because food can be a social experience, missing out on eating with others can make people feel isolated. One study out of Japan found that living and eating alone may increase the risk of depression in older adults.

Canada’s Food Guide also encourages people to eat with others. The guide says eating alone can lead to feelings of loneliness, especially for seniors.

The physical implications vary, but research suggests solo dining habits can negatively impact a person’s health.

One Korean report concluded that eating alone may be a potential risk factor for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems including too much fat around the waist and elevated blood pressure. The condition — which can be caused by poor diet and lack of exercise — increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, HealthLink BC points out.

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READ MORE: Spending time alone isn’t weird or sad — it’s actually healthy

Eating alone can also affect what you eat.

A U.K. study found that older adults were at risk of having a lower-quality diet if they lived and ate alone.

Researchers found that being single or widowed was associated with a lower food variety score, especially for men. The study also found that lower levels of friend contact were linked to eating a reduced variety of fruits and vegetables.

Another Korean study concluded that people who eat alone have a nutritional intake below the recommended amount.

Easy meal prep for students

Easy meal prep for students

According to Mulligan, people may be more inclined to mindlessly eat or snack when they are by themselves compared to when they’re enjoying food with others. This can result in poorer food choices.

“We’re less conscious of what we’re doing when we’re alone or when we’re in a rush or in transit,” Mulligan said.

“With isolated seniors, for example, they often just don’t feel it is worth the effort to go through and prepare healthier foods when they’re alone.”

There’s also the impact on the planet. A recent article published in Quartz pointed out that solo eating can contribute to food waste.

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Research shows that more than half of food produced in Canada is wasted. Furthermore, avoidable food waste in the country produces more than 22 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions.

How eating alone can benefit you

There are certainly benefits to spending time alone and learning to enjoy your own company.

A recent article published in the New York Times unpacked the ways people can enjoy eating alone and highlighted its benefits: a sense of self-indulgence and needed quiet time.

READ MORE: Men struggle to keep friends — and it’s hurting their mental health

Eating alone while travelling is often unavoidable and can be a great opportunity to connect with others.

Mulligan says for parents with young children, a meal alone can be an enjoyable break.

Still, this doesn’t mean solo dining should be the norm.

10 things you need to know before buying a meal kit

10 things you need to know before buying a meal kit

“I’m sure for some people and in some circumstances, it can be quite joyful to eat alone,” she said. “But that doesn’t make it healthier in the long run.”

To combat the effects of eating alone, Canada’s Food Guide suggests making plans to meet with friends or family members for meals and participating in community celebrations. It’s also a good idea to organize a rotating dinner event where people take turns hosting meals.

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At work, try to eat lunch in a common space with a colleague.

Mulligan puts it this way: “The evidence is pretty clear: in general, eating with other people is good for us.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Cursing helps you crush your workout, experts say – National

by BBG Hub

Do you feel like swearing whenever you’re on a stair climber? If so, it may be a good idea to let those F-bombs out.

Research from the U.K.’s Keele University and Long Island University Brooklyn has found that swearing during exercise can improve performance and even help you deal with pain. The findings, recently published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, say cussing can boost both physical power and strength.

During one experiment, researchers asked participants on a stationary bike to swear while peddling. They found that using foul language produced a 4.6 per cent increase in initial power during a 30-second cycling test compared to those who didn’t curse.

READ MORE: New to working out? Here’s how to overcome exercise anxiety

In a separate test, swearing also resulted in an eight per cent increase in maximum handgrip strength over non-swearing subjects.

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“Swearing appears to be able to bring about improvements in physical performance that may not be solely dependent on a stress response arising out of the shock value of the swearing,” Richard Stephens, the study’s co-author and professor of psychology at Keele University, said in a statement.

“We know that swearing appears to be handled in brain regions not usually associated with language processing. It is possible that activation of these areas by swearing could produce performance improvements across many different domains.”

Wait, so how does swearing boost workouts?

One reason why swearing can improve workouts is because it raises our pain threshold, research suggests.

Previous research done by Stephens found that cursing can have a “pain-lessening effect.”

How exercise can help students get better grades

How exercise can help students get better grades

In one study, Stephens and his research team asked some participants to stick their hand in ice-cold water and cuss, then do it again using non-offensive words.

The team found that “swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing.”

Researchers aren’t entirely sure why bad words are linked to a reduction in pain but think swearing can trigger humans’ “fight-or-flight” response.

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When our bodies are in this heightened mode, certain hormones are released that help the body react to possible danger. This state can help us perform in tough situations.

READ MORE: Here’s why you might ‘black out’ when you’re anxious

Researchers suggest the accelerated heart rates of the volunteers who swore indicate an increase in aggression, which reflects the common fight-or-flight response of “downplaying feebleness” to appear stronger and more pain-tolerant.

“What is clear is that swearing triggers not only an emotional response but a physical one, too, which may explain why the centuries-old practice of cursing developed and still persists today,” researchers wrote.

Swearing may also be a distraction method.

If obesity runs in your family, you may want to start jogging

If obesity runs in your family, you may want to start jogging

According to David Spierer, the co-author of the swearing and exercise study and a professor health science at Long Island University, using curse words during exercise might divert your attention.

“Cursing may allow people to shut down their inhibitions and somewhat veil the effort and the pain of this really difficult task,” Spierer said in a statement.

“Using swear words might be helpful in any circumstance where muscle strength and a sudden burst of force or speed is required.”

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So next time you’re at the gym, try letting out a few curse words — just be sure you don’t scream them.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Instagram therapy’ is on the rise, but experts say it could be harmful – National

by BBG Hub

Caroline was in an abusive marriage for 27 years.

The 50-year-old got divorced about six years ago, but as a result of the abuse, Caroline, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, was left with severe depression. The diagnosis affected her diet, weight and sleep, and she has been hospitalized three times.

“He spent a large part of our marriage gaslighting me,” she told Global News. “I had often been suspicious of his behaviour, but he always had a good, convincing explanation — which I’d fall for. It’s only with hindsight that I realize to what extent he’d lied and cheated on me.

“I lost a lot of weight and hope.”

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Watch: Selfie dysmorphia, explained

In the time since she and her husband divorced, Caroline has focused on getting better. She’s tried both in-person and video therapy but prefers the latter because she can do it in the comfort of her own home.

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READ MORE: Instagram wants to hide ‘likes.’ Here’s what influencers think about that

As part of her recovery process, Caroline started using Twitter as a way to raise awareness around abusive relationships. In the process, she stumbled upon a large community of men and women with similar experiences.

“I post daily … I prepare my own graphics and choose a quote that speaks to me on that day,” she said. “We support each other through comments and sometimes via [direct message].”

“We know each others’ stories, we provide helpful advice and feedback and we generally just root for each other on our healing journeys.”

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In Caroline’s experience, Twitter has proven to be an “amazing” place to share educational information and inspiring quotes with others.

How to join the social media conversation during the federal election

How to join the social media conversation during the federal election

“It has really helped me on my healing journey,” she said.

Like Caroline, many people have found solace in online communities.

While they are typically considered positive interactions, sometimes the discussions between peers are misrepresented as a form of therapy.

It’s a phenomenon happening across all social media platforms, but it’s commonly referred to as “Instagram therapy” — and experts worry it could be doing more harm than good.

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Online support groups aren’t the same as therapy

Online peer-to-peer support groups can be an amazing place to find community.

“The benefits of this are, obviously, hearing that other people are going through a similar struggle,” said Miriam Kirmayer, a therapist in Montreal. “That can be very validating, normalizing and reduce feelings of shame.”

However, Kirmayer emphasizes that support groups are not the same as therapy.

READ MORE: Instagram can be bad for mental health — but this company wants to fix that

“Therapy doesn’t happen over social media, and it shouldn’t,” she said.

“Just because it’s not therapy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be helpful or healing.”

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In her experience, Kirmayer has seen folks like Caroline share articles that they’ve read or tips that work for them, ultimately cultivating a warm, accepting environment.

What you need to know about mental health and EMDR therapy

What you need to know about mental health and EMDR therapy

“There’s certainly a space for that,” she said. “But therapy is much more than meaningful quotes … it’s about having a very personal safe space where there’s an element of collaboration [with your therapist].”

It’s important to Kirmayer that a distinction is clearly drawn between therapy and what’s happening online.

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She uses social media to “share information that will help normalize hardships and common struggles people go through,” but what she does in her practice is very different.

READ MORE: Unplugged — Why these people deleted social media and prefer life offline

“We work together to figure out what your individual or unique experience has been as opposed to this kind of collective struggle we’re talking about online,” she said.

Registered psychotherapist Joshua Peters agrees: “You’re receiving advice [online] but you’re not actually contextualizing it to your experience, which is at the core of therapy.

“No one rule is going to make everyone’s life good.”

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Aimée Morrison, social media expert and associate professor at the University of Waterloo, says pseudo-therapy on social media lacks any room for reality or negativity, which can lead to unrealistic expectations for one’s own life.

ParityBOT uses AI to combat abusive tweets to female election candidates

ParityBOT uses AI to combat abusive tweets to female election candidates

“The virtue of the platform [Instagram] doesn’t let you do anything that’s ugly. You can’t be real on Instagram,” she said.

“We know that has negative effects, and it’s getting increasingly more prominent with this generation and how intensely they’re curating things.”

The spread of misinformation

Inspirational meme accounts are a growing trend on social media, and they can be a great tool for finding connection.

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However, Kirmayer is worried that some online spaces advertised as being similar to therapy are actually devoid of any licensed mental health-care professionals.

This can leave such groups more susceptible to the spread of misinformation.

READ MORE: Social media marks new battleground as Canada’s federal election looms

“This is why you see more and more licensed mental health professionals stepping into the online [space],” said Kirmayer.

“There’s this feeling that this is [the] way people are getting and sharing information, and [we need] to make it a space with accurate information.”

A common example is the use of psychological disorders — like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or bipolar disorder — in casual discourse.

“These labels are [often used to mean] something that isn’t exactly what they represent. It can be very stigmatizing,” said Kirmayer. She and other therapists have entered the online space with the goal of educating users about what these labels actually mean — and why they shouldn’t be used lightly.

Emergency room staff caution against taking photos there

Emergency room staff caution against taking photos there

Morrison fears that social media allows for mental illness to be trivialized. She recently learned that some young people are using meme culture as a defence mechanism.

“It’s a way of joking away serious things in this joke forum. There’s something kind of serious underlying that,” Morrison said. “It’s a way of having currency with your peers, where you’re like, ‘I’m so depressed’ with a Kermit meme or [something].

“It’s making light of mental health, which is a serious concern.”

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Calls for more regulation online

Peters says social media is often regarded as the “wild west” by those in his field.

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“It’s an unregulated area of therapy and psychology in general,” Peters said. “One of the major components that’s missing is that many of the regulatory boards [in Canada] haven’t created much guidance on the right end result.

“There are a lot of people out there giving therapeutic advice, [and] they themselves may not actually have the right accreditation.”

Peters worries the general public can’t differentiate between a licensed therapist and someone who is just sharing their thoughts online.

READ MORE: How does using social media affect our mental health?

“People confuse psycho-education with therapy,” he said. “When you’re scrolling through Instagram and there’s some post that gives you advice for living a better life, that’s psycho-educational, not therapeutic.”

This can trick users into thinking they’re receiving professional treatment, and as a result, placing them in danger.

Understanding ABA therapy for children with autism

Understanding ABA therapy for children with autism

“When people connect with those [accounts], they feel less lonely, but nothing actually changes,” he said.

“We want them to actually get to a point where they’re less lonely and they’re actually able to work through some of the stress with [the tools they learn in therapy].”

Peters is a firm believer that most people would benefit from actual therapy.

“Life is hard,” he said. “Human beings have an incredibly complex amount of variables thrown at them these days.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Asking an employee to get a sick note is a ‘public health risk,’ experts say – National

by BBG Hub

With flu season rearing its ugly head, the hotly debated topic of whether employers should be able to require sick notes for missed work has returned.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has called the practice a “public health risk” — and there’s data to support those fears.

2018 survey conducted by IPSOS found that eight in 10 Canadians would go to work sick if their employer required sick notes for minor illnesses.

READ MORE: How to make the most of your doctor’s appointment

To Dr. Gigi Osler, this reality presents a number of risks for sick people and the general public alike. She’s an ear, nose and throat surgeon and the former president of the CMA.

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“Requiring sick notes … introduces an unnecessary public health risk, if you now have sick people who would’ve otherwise stayed home going to doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics or emergency rooms just to get [one],” Osler said.

“If someone has an illness like the flu or a cold, our medical advice would be to stay at home, rest, recover and not go out in public.”

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The risks are worse for Canadians who are precariously employed, as well as those without immediate and easy access to health care.

Sick notes pose a threat

The Decent Work & Health Network (DWHN) advocates for better employment conditions in Ontario. They believe workplace policy directly impacts employee health, and members have expressed concern over sick note policy.

“Work is one of the biggest things that Canadians spend their lives doing. It has a tremendous impact on their health,” said Dr. Kate Hayman, an emergency doctor at the University Health Network in Toronto and a member of the DWHN.

“We consider work to be a major social determinant of health … and that workplace policy really impacts people’s health.”

2019 Federal Election: Trudeau pressed on promise to provide access to family doctors

2019 Federal Election: Trudeau pressed on promise to provide access to family doctors

The DWHN firmly believes requiring a sick note presents a danger to both sick people and the public.

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“From my perspective in the E.R., we worry when people are coming in sick with viral illnesses or infectious diseases,” Hayman said.

“We see a lot of people who are immune-compromised because of their chronic conditions. If a worker is coming to get a note because their employer requires it and they’re coughing and sneezing in the waiting room, that puts other people at risk.”

READ MORE: ‘There is a huge need’ — Why this Nova Scotia doctor says she can’t leave her patients behind

Ultimately, Hayman believes that requiring a sick employee to obtain a sick note also places undue pressure on an already strained health-care system.

“Having good job protections when you’re sick can actually decrease emergency room utilization,” she said.

“Paid sick days actually help prevent emergency department visits.”

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This is an accessibility issue

There are a number of roadblocks that can prevent access to obtaining a sick note from a physician.

For starters, some people don’t know where to get one. But even for those who do know where to go, whether they can do so in a timely manner is of concern.

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“There are definitely people who don’t have access to their primary care provider in the amount of time they need to get documentation,” said Hayman.

Big pharma paying big bucks to doctors, hospitals

Big pharma paying big bucks to doctors, hospitals

“Then, of course, there’s the financial cost,” she said. “The amount that a health provider charges for a sick note varies drastically, from free to much higher.”

Some people will also need to take public transit to get the note — a service that will cost them more money, time and energy, all things a sick, low-income employee probably won’t have.

“That’s a huge out-of-pocket expense, particularly for a minimum wage worker.”

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READ MORE: Female surgeons in Ontario earn 24 per cent less per hour than male peers, study says

Osler said this places an “unfair financial burden” on sick employees.

“[They] may be losing their day salary or wage because they’re sick,” she said. “They may have to pay the cost of transportation to get there, as well as pay for the cost of the sick note.”

For many people, as revealed by the IPSOS poll, getting a sick note can be more difficult than simply going to work sick — which can lead to longer leaves of absence over time.

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Doctors say many still don’t know if they have the ‘silent killer’ of high blood pressure

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“People who are under considerable physiologic stress — for example, with the flu … may be more likely to have a workplace injury, which could potentially be catastrophic,” said Hayman.

Working while sick can also make other employees sick, increasing the number of absences taken across teams. It’s ultimately counter-productive.

“Think about how contagious … the common cold is,” said Osler. “As an employer, instead of having one person in the workplace sick, now you’re looking at multiple people getting sick.”

What’s the solution?

In an effort to alleviate the pressure placed on employees, some doctors have begun charging employers directly.

While Hayman agrees the onus to pay for a sick note shouldn’t be on the employee, she doesn’t think having employers pay is much of an improvement.

“It still doesn’t solve the issues of placing an undue burden on someone who should be resting at home,” she said.

“It doesn’t actually help to alleviate the burden on the health system or decrease the risk associated with that person being in a waiting room, potentially spreading their illness.”

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READ MORE: Federal parties promise more family doctors — but that won’t necessarily improve access

In Hayman’s view, paid sick days are decent alternative.

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A 2016 study looked at the impact of allowing workers paid sick days by analyzing the results of the Earned Sick Time Act, which took effect New York City in 2014.

Critics of the law argued that employees would abuse the entitlement and that it would result in a cost burden on employers. However, researchers found that those fears were proven “unfounded.”

“It didn’t have a large impact on workplaces, and it had a positive impact on workers,” said Hayman. “Workers weren’t taking all of the sick leave they had access to — they were taking sick leave when they needed it to get better and avoid infecting others.”

Money 123: Why workplace disability insurance may not be enough

Money 123: Why workplace disability insurance may not be enough

Whether there’s a better alternative to the current sick-note model remains unclear, although Hayman said some Canadian universities are moving in the right direction with a “self-verification” option for students.

“Some universities … as part of their mental health strategy … have now launched a self-verification of illness, which essentially means the student just reports that they’re sick, but they don’t have to go see a doctor,” she said.

“They fill out a form that says ‘I’m sick.’”

“The feeling is that, particularly for students who have a lot of mental health reasons for missing things, this will potentially help to alleviate some of the stress.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada’s health-care system isn’t designed for parents with disabilities: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Jessica Vliegenthart was 20 years old when she became paraplegic after suffering a severe spinal cord injury.

Doctors said she was still able to have children, but she struggled to see how parenting could fit into her new life.

“I always sort of thought, you know, at some point in my life, I would probably [want kids]… but after my injury, I immediately wrote it off,” she told Global News.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to add to this nightmare.’”

READ MORE: Children with disabilities were excluded from B.C. schools more than 3,000 times last year: report

Vliegenthart says it took five years after the accident before she felt like herself again. “Spinal cord injuries are a massive physical trauma,” she said.

“I was lucky, I escaped a lot of the psychological trauma that can go along with it — I never experienced depression or anxiety or fear or anything like that — but it took me five years to re-calibrate.”

Around that time, Vliegenthart married her husband. Slowly, having kids was back on her mind.

“It was almost just like the next thing to do in life,” she said.

WATCH (Sept. 2, 2019): Kingston teen creates app to help open doors for people with disabilities

But starting the process to have children was more complicated for Vliegenthart because of her disability.

“I had to go off some medication I’m on that makes my life livable. That was really hard.”

She was also worried about re-learning things as a mom who is also paraplegic.

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t believe it’: Why disability claims for mental health are often a struggle

“I’m a super active person… I had been travelling the world playing sports, now I have a full-time demanding legal career. I had gotten my life dialed in so well with my disability,” Vilegenthart said. “I was worried I was setting a bomb off.”

It didn’t help that, throughout her pregnancy, she had a lot of questions her doctors couldn’t answer.

“For moms with disabilities, especially when the mom has a (physical) disability and is carrying the child, trying to get the answers to questions about what’s going to happen and how things work… that data simply doesn’t exist,” she explained.

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She had the pre-baby jitters like most other expectant mothers, but they were compounded by fear about how her disability could affect her pregnancy.

“Not being able to look it up and have an answer sitting there was really frustrating.”

Lesley Tarasoff can attest to a major lack of data about pregnancy and disability in Canada.

For her research as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Toronto, she has interviewed dozens of Ontario women with different types of disabilities about their pregnancy care experiences. One common thread exists: there’s very little information about it.

READ MORE: New rules present some greater barriers to air travel, disabled passengers say

“Just in general, a lot of health-care providers don’t receive a lot of training (or) education around disability broadly,” said Tarasoff.

Nearly 12 per cent of Canadian women of reproductive age has a disability… (but) we know very few doctors, nurses, social workers, et cetera have training around disability and pregnancy, specifically.”

This can contribute to feelings of confusion, fear and anxiety in expectant mothers who have a disability. It also makes it difficult to advocate for better health-care services — ultimately, it can perpetuate the barriers to adequate care that disabled parents sometimes experience.

Barriers to access

The needs of a parent with a disability will vary depending on the kind of disability they have, but one thing is clear to Tarasoff: most maternity care settings “aren’t really set up for women with disabilities in mind.”

“This is in terms of physical accessibility, but also around the different ways (people) communicate in learning and reading levels,” said Tarasoff.

Each time Vilegenthart saw a doctor, she was frustrated to find that the bed height wasn’t adjustable.

“For some reason, they don’t exist. Trying to get gynecological (and) obstetrician care… when you can’t get up on those beds is a challenge,” she said.

WATCH: Half of fathers admit to being criticized about parenting: poll

“I want to make it clear that my medical team did the best they could. I don’t want to make it sound like it was their fault, because, to be honest, they were kind of pioneers.”

The physical barriers continued after Vilegenthart had her son. She quickly realized that she couldn’t wear her baby in a carrier and also push her wheelchair — a reality which confined her to her house.

“The first six months was really challenging for me. It was like a force… I had to slow down,” she said.

READ MORE: Cancer patient was cut off from work disability benefits for 10 months — his story has warning for everyone

Access is worse the farther away you live from major cities.

“I’ve interviewed women as far as two and half hours away from Toronto who (…) come to Toronto for care because their community doesn’t have a specialist,” said Tarasoff.

Living in Kamloops, B.C., Vilegenthart had to travel to Vancouver for appointments regarding her pregnancy and her spinal cord injury. “You have to live in those places (or) you’re kind of stuck making it up as you go,” she said.

Everyone’s needs are different

“People with disabilities often make really great parents,” said Kristy Brosz, a medical social worker in Calgary.

She works with patients and their families after there is a diagnosis of disability or chronic illness.

“They’re very thoughtful about their priorities… they’re used to having to prioritize their day and be vulnerable.”

But these parents have unique needs, and Brosz says the medical system rarely provides specialized support for the pregnancy and parenting phases in a patient’s life.

“Often, patients are looking long-term (and want help) making choices about having kids or not… but a lot of times, the medical system is just saying ‘let’s focus on your diagnosis and treatment.’”

WATCH (Aug. 6, 2019): How to world school

In her work, Brosz tries to prioritize concerns like these, but it can be difficult to provide resources for people with lesser-known disabilities and illnesses. “In some ways, it does depend on what your diagnosis is (when it comes to) how much support you’re going to get.”

In reality, the needs of two patients with the same disability will be drastically different, which is why Brosz says there needs to be a more individualized approach to treatment.

“How do we capitalize on the strengths of a loving family?” she said. “A lot of patients have been living (with these symptoms) for a while, so they already know what they need,” and any external supports should focus on maximizing the systems a family already has in place.

READ MORE: Expert raises disability over proposed single-use plastics ban 

In Vilegenthart’s experience, having a community of other parents with disabilities has been life-changing.

“The single greatest resource out there is other people who have done it in your situation. Once I found a network of women with spinal cord injuries who had young kids… it was amazing,” she said.

“We ask each other questions about everything from labour and delivery to how to handle a kid’s birthday party when the place isn’t accessible to you.”

“Find other parents with disabilities who have figured it out, because somebody has figured it out.”


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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘No means no’ consent training overlooks nuances of sex: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Most campuses across Canada now require students to take consent training, in an effort to better protect students.

Research has found one in five women studying at a post-secondary institution in North America will be the victim of sexual violence over the course of her studies, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.

However, some experts say the traditional “no means no” curriculum is no longer sufficient because it overlooks the ways young people communicate during sex.

READ MORE: Schools tackle sexual assault even before students hit campus

A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research asked 615 university students to describe a time when they refused sex in the past.

Authors found a surprising number of young adults never used the word “no,” and some didn’t use any words at all. Roughly 53 per cent of the reported refusals included some variation of the word “no,” but 37 per cent involved excuses or non-verbal cues.

Among the wide range of responses were actions like telling their partner they weren’t in the mood, lying about not having a condom and physically pushing their partners away to signal that they didn’t want to have sex.

WATCH BELOW: Universities struggling to confront sexual harassment reality, prof says

As a result, researchers are calling for consent training that includes less explicit and non-verbal refusals, too.

The new way to talk about consent

Educator and sexual violence support worker Farrah Khan says calculating for nuance during sex is a step in the right direction — and several Canadian campuses have already begun to do so.

As the manager of Consent Comes First Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University in Toronto, she is responsible for awareness, education, training, support and response to sexual violence on campus.

READ MORE: Man’s decision not to wear a condom, after agreeing to, is sexual assault: Ontario judge

Campaigns like “no means no” and “yes means yes,” she adds, fail to see that consent can also be communicated in other ways, like through body language.

It also makes consent seem static, which it isn’t. Consent should be “freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific,” said Khan.

Part of teaching this to students is teaching them that “it’s a normal part of a relationship to have rejection,” she said.

“Somebody saying to you ‘actually, I’m not feeling this’ or ‘this doesn’t feel good to me’ isn’t saying ‘the sum of you is horrible’ or ‘I don’t want to be with you,’” she said.

“It’s saying, ‘I don’t want to do this.’”

WATCH BELOW: How to talk to your partner about your STI and the legalities around disclosing

Khan also worries about treating consent as a “checkbox,” because she worries it makes consent “an obstacle that you just have to get over to get to the sex.”

In her view, sex education needs to move beyond risk aversion to include pleasure, too. Students need a place to find answers to questions like, “How do I know that something feels good? [or] How do I know that I want to have this sexual activity?” Khan said.

She believes this is starting to happen on campuses across Canada. “Students and educators are starting to recognize that it doesn’t resonate to just say ‘OK, you need to know what consent is… this is the law… don’t do it.”

READ MORE: What the Brett Kavanaugh allegations reveal about alcohol and sexual assault

Consent training also needs to discuss sexual stereotypes.

“For young men, there’s a sexual stereotype that they’re always up for sex,” said Khan. She frequently receives messages from young men across the country asking if it’s OK that they don’t want to have sex sometimes.

“We have to demystify the things we’ve been told about sex,” she said.

Not everyone can just say ‘no’

Uche Umolu is the founder of the Consent Workshop, a Canadian organization that provides education and resources so youth can make healthier, sex-positive decisions.

During training with the Consent Workshop, it’s assumed that “not everyone can just say no,” Umolu said. “Lots of university students find themselves in very complicated types of situations,” and they aim to address the subtle differences that can arise.

To do so, they prioritize an “interactive approach” with activities and conversations designed to reflect possible scenarios — and appropriate reactions to those scenarios.

WATCH BELOW: STI rates in Canadian teens going up; how to talk about safe sex

Instead of using what she calls “cliche lines” like “consent is sexy,” Umolu aims to help students arrive at these understandings on their own.

For example, training focuses on “body language… and how to know when you’re making someone uncomfortable,” she said. “Only then can students start to realize the difference between, let’s say, sexual coercion and rape.”

The Consent Workshop also works to dispel stereotypes about perpetrators and victims. “Traditional consent training has this stereotype… but both come in different forms,” she said.

READ MORE: Even in a #MeToo climate, only 28% of Canadians understand consent

Khan and Umolu both agree: consent training needs to focus less on risk aversion and more on healthy relationships.

“We actually teach people how to recognize positive body language and… how to always check in with your partner,” said Umolu.

“Nobody is having a conversation like, ‘should we go ahead and have sex?’ before they have sex. Now, we should be teaching kids how to foster positive relationships and how to be more aware of other people’s needs and wants.”

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

Ending Violence Association of Canada, Assaulted Women’s Helpline (Ontario) and the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

— With files from Mike Le Couteur


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Imaginary friends can have ‘real life’ benefits for your child, experts say – National

by BBG Hub

Whether it’s an alien from another planet, a stuffed teddy bear come to life or just a play pal from summer camp who lives far away during the school year, it’s very common for children to have imaginary companions in their lives.

In fact, a study by psychologists at the University of Washington and the University of Oregon found that, by age seven, 65 per cent of kids have had one.

And, according to parenting expert Alyson Schafer, they’re also completely normal. “Oh, the beauty of a young mind that’s still fresh and open and creative!” she told Global News.

READ MORE: ‘You’re going to see a different kid’: Why sleep should come before activities

“Play is the language of understanding for children. They learn through play and they’ll turn anything into play, if you give them the opportunity,” said Schafer.

For some kids, this could mean “typical” play activities, like building blocks or dolls. For other kids, their creativity is so strong that they create a brand new persona out of thin air.

“This is a creative choice that they make… they don’t need a physical object, much like a favourite stuffed bunny or a love blanket,” Schafer said.

“There’s nothing abnormal about it — it’s really brilliance, because they’re not constrained by other social norms.”

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Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and professor at the University of Victoria, agrees. “Kids are highly imaginative… one of the wonders of childhood,” she said.

According to Roberts, a child’s capacity for imagination increases a great deal in the pre-kindergarten years (roughly between the ages of two and four).

“It actually helps to eventually build the foundation for abstract thought, which comes to fruition in the tween to early-teen period of time,” said Roberts.

“Imaginary friends give [kids] an opportunity to practice their budding social skills in a safe environment they can control.”

However, there’s no reason to worry about your child’s imagination if they don’t have a pretend friend. “All sorts of children with varying levels of creativity may develop imaginary friends,” she said.

Should I be concerned if my child has an imaginary friend?

In Schafer’s view, imaginary friendships are to be encouraged.

“If you watch how they interact with their imaginary friend, a lot of times, because they have to play both themselves and create the world of their imaginary friend, they’re learning different perspectives,” she said.

READ MORE: Meet the parents who homeschooled their kids while travelling the world

“They’re problem-solving and learning to deal with one another, because the imaginary friend often takes a different perspective.”

In situations when the imaginary friend gets in trouble or plays cooperatively, your child is actually rehearsing real social situations.

WATCH BELOW: Why training your child like a dog may be a bad idea

“That’s wonderful practice for social skills in life and trying on different outcomes,” said Schafer.

“They’re getting these enriched experiences through this form of play… it’s something to be celebrated.”

However, Roberts believes there could be cause for concern if your child struggles to make friends in “real life.”

READ MORE: Caring for the caregiver: Raising children with a disability or chronic disease

“If that were the case, I would work to build their social network and also work on the development of social [and] friendship skills,” she said.

“Scouts and Brownies and Beavers… are all good programs for that purpose. You can also speak to the school counsellor.”

If your child has an imaginary friend beyond the age of 10, Roberts recommends a psychological consult “to ensure that overall development is on track,” she said. “But overall, I wouldn’t worry.”

Pay attention to the content of the play

Imaginary friends offer endless opportunity to your child: opportunity to practice playing nicely with others, to flex creative muscles and to deal with confusing emotions.

Schafer encourages caregivers to pay attention to the content of a child’s imaginary play, because if they’ve been traumatized, it will likely come through in their play.

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“For example, children who have been traumatized [by] seeing [things like] domestic violence or sexual abuse,” said Schafer. “You’re going to see that in their play. That’s something that would set off alarm bells.”

She also warns that sometimes, children can use imaginary friends as a means to manipulate parents or caregivers — and that’s when a line needs to be drawn.

“It can get in [the way] of relationships in the family,” said Schafer. “If a child wants to bring an extra chair to the table and feed their imaginary friend, I’m fine with that. What I’m not OK with is wasting food.”

READ MORE: The cost of raising a child? Now there’s a calculator for that

In her view, if the imaginary friend starts to disturb the family order, something needs to change.

“You don’t want to give the child so much power for the reality of their imaginary friend that their imaginary friend is no longer being a co-operating member of the family,” she said. “They can’t be used as an alibi.”

How to treat your child’s imaginary friend

There are some things parents can do to further encourage curiosity and imaginative play.

For Roberts, this means not making a big deal out of the new imaginary friend.

“If your child wants to talk about their imaginary friend, fine,” she said. “But don’t force them to.”

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Schafer takes this one step further and recommends asking questions about the imaginary friend.

“Tell me about your friend. What do they look like? What does your friend like?” she said.

“There’s no right or wrong.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Dating too young is still taboo, but some experts say ‘connection’ matters more – National

by BBG Hub

Divorce can be ugly and dating after a long-term relationship isn’t easy, either.

Often, people turn to dating apps to find companionship or love again, and for some, this could mean dating someone years younger. While there’s still a stigma for men and women who date younger — women are often called “cougars” — others believe it could be a sign of a mid-life crisis.

Natasha Sharma, relationship and parenting expert and creator of The Kindness Journal, told Global News a mid-life “crisis” occurs when one or a series of decisions are made in or around the midpoint of someone’s life, usually over the age of 50.

“This could be based on changes like divorce, job change or retirement, children moving on, etc, or nothing at all,” she explained.

“Sudden onset of existential angst around the awareness of one’s own impending death/mortality and these feelings of angst and insecurity lead to poor decisions.”

Some say it is ‘liberating’

But in a recent column in The Telegraph, author Lauren Libbert said dating someone younger after divorce could be liberating. 

“What those near me hadn’t realized, was that after years of being trapped in a failing domestic relationship, I had now discovered a new, more confident, midlife self. It was sad our marriage hadn’t lasted, but I also felt liberated and free,” she wrote.

READ MORE: Sex hygiene — Best ways to stay fresh when getting frisky

Exiting an ailing marriage and moving into a new dating lane is quite the opposite of a crisis. It’s like finally Marie-Kondo-ing a comfy cardigan that has shrunk in the wash and lost a few buttons.

“It no longer fits. It no longer sparks joy. It’s time to move on.”

Libbert continued she wasn’t looking for a father for her children, she was looking for someone for herself. “As people we grow and change with the years and, if a marriage can’t grow and change with us, is it such a bad thing to find new relationships that do?”

But there is still a stigma that exists when people date people “too young.” You often see examples in the celebrity world, like singer Katharine McPhee, 35, marrying David Foster, 69, earlier this year.

More famously, there’s the example of the 15-year difference between Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. The two divorced in 2013.

Sharma said there is still a legitimate concern over dating someone who is “too young,” beyond being the legal age of consent.

“I believe many people still find it to be a social faux-pas for ridicule and joke-jabs,” she said. “We are definitely loosening some of the strict traditional views of relationships that don’t make much sense today, but we still hold some conventional ideas close at hand, whether we are aware of this or not.”

But for some, it can just come down to attractiveness and desirability. As a previous New York Times piece noted, one study of online dating found women “peak” at 18, when men peak at 50, making it hard for some older women to find men their age.

But is it a midlife crisis?

But would this be considered a mid-life crisis? Sharma doesn’t think so.

“In fact, the entire idea behind the prototypical ‘midlife crisis’ is something I challenge in general,” she continued. “Experiencing a period of adjustment, transition, and hopefully, subsequent growth after significant changes to one’s life around the ‘mid-point’ hardly constitutes a crisis.”

She adds people at mid-life are much more aware of who they are and what their individual needs and boundaries are.

“They are better equipped to make more informed life choices at that stage versus when they were younger,” she said.

“In addition, our needs themselves have often changed. The decisions we did make in our late teens or early 20s may have been perfectly suitable at that time, but don’t necessary fit at midlife or beyond, and there is no shame in that.”

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When we are young, she argues, we try to fit into society’s standards or social norms, but when we are older, we are financially and socially equipped to make decisions that work for us. A mid-life crisis is also often the case when someone buys a fancy car or a luxury item.

“This may include purchasing a certain item, making over one’s appearance, just feeling more liberated to be free to choose as one wants. The only problem I see in this is if the choices one makes are unaffordable, or cause harm to oneself or others.”

And when it comes to dating, Sharma believes it can be a result of connecting with someone positive — which often isn’t the case in a older dating pool.

“Connection is connection, and as long as the two  people who are involved in the relationship are of legal age, one is not vulnerable/being taken advantage of, and they both have the capacity to consent to said relationship, it should not necessarily be written off as a crisis,” she said.

READ MORE: ‘Can I fully commit?’: The millennials who have never been in a relationship

“Sometimes you just want physical and/or emotional connection to someone, [and] this should not be boxed into a certain age bracket.”

She argues women in particularly are subject to this judgment when dating younger men, whereas men tend to be applauded for it.

“That said, I do believe that we are more likely to experience deeper success and satisfaction in a longer-term relationship with someone who is in or about our age group, for the purposes of experiencing the journey of life together, and it’s moments, at or around the same times,” she explained.

“Shared experience is part of what deepens and strengthens connection and relationships. However this does not necessarily hold true in each and every case. Every relationship is unique and independent.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Vegans, vegetarians may have higher risk of stroke — but experts argue balance is key – National

by BBG Hub

People who have plant-based diets may be more likely to suffer from a stroke.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journey, however, found vegan and vegetarians still had a lower risk of heart disease overall.

“Vegetarian and vegan diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly due to perceived health benefits, as well as concerns about the environment and animal welfare,” authors wrote in the study.

READ MORE: Is a plant-based patty always better for you than beef?

“Evidence suggests that vegetarians might have different disease risks compared with non-vegetarians but data from large scale prospective studies are limited, because few studies have recruited sufficient numbers of vegetarian participants.”

The study looked at data from more than 48,000 people in the U.K. over an 18-year period. And while they tracked participant’s eating habits, they could not directly link their diets with their heart disease or stroke risks, the BBC added.

Participants were asked about their diets, medical history, smoking habits and how much they exercised.

READ MORE: Alicia Silverstone says a vegan diet prevents illness, but is she right?

“Future work should include further measurements of circulating levels of cholesterol subfractions, vitamin B12, amino acids, and fatty acids in the cohort to identify which factors might mediate the observed associations,” authors concluded.

Shahzadi Devje, a registered dietitian and creator of The Desi~licious Den: Dietitian on Demand, told Global News these findings don’t surprise her. But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions so soon.

“Let’s not forget, the science of nutrition can be messy and we must learn to dig for the facts — beyond the headlines,” she said. “Just because one observational study suggests that those on plant-based diets have a risk of stroke, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case.”

Eating a balanced-meal

But Devje says when it comes to changing your diet (or adjusting your current vegan and vegetarian one), it all comes down to balance.

“For newbie vegans, there’s certainly some learning that needs to take place,” she explained. “After all, it’s the strictest form of vegetarianism.”

Devje says, in general, more people are considering plant-based diets. Young people are concerned about the planet, and with more vegan-friendly options on the market, it’s easier for people to access meals and ingredients. But the popularity and arguable trendiness of the diet also means people don’t have access to the best information.

For example, vegan-based recipe accounts on social media are often run by influencers or people without the credentials.

READ MORE: Is access to vegan food a human rights issue? Experts weigh in

“Like with any other diet, there are drawbacks,” Devje said. “It’s important to actively plan your meals, otherwise there’s a chance you’ll lack variety, and increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Not to mention, lack of planning can lead to a greater chance of boredom.”

Vegans and vegetarians need to make sure there is a balance of protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as carbs.

READ MORE: Vegetarian and vegan ‘meats’ are more popular than ever, but are they good for you?

“If you’re following a vegan diet, you may want to be a bit more careful to ensure you don’t miss out on sufficient iron, zinc, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids,” she continued.

“Vegans are at high risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to anemia and nervous system damage. B12 is naturally found in animal foods, and the only reliable sources of B12 for vegans are foods fortified with B12 (for example some plant milks, and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements.”

Starting a new plant-based diet

Below, she shares some tips for people interested in trying a plant-based diet.

Ease into it: A healthy diet is a sustainable diet. “There’s no need to overhaul your diet overnight. Be kind to yourself, and take it slow. That way, it feels enjoyable and not burdensome. Simple steps, such as embracing meatless Mondays or swapping out meat for a vegetarian meal in your week will go a long way in setting you up for success.”

Do the work: To achieve a healthy balanced diet, that’s sustainable requires work. “Take the time to meal plan, explore different foods and build your cooking skills.”

READ MORE: Is it healthy to put children on a vegan or gluten-free diet?

Veganism doesn’t equate to the healthiest diet: “Don’t forget, a plant-based diet is typically rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. But that’s not always the case. If you’re fueling up on mostly refined carbs full of sugar, saturated fat and salt, you’re not doing your health any favours.”

Mix it up: No one food provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. “Eat different types of plant foods (beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds, wholegrain, fruits and vegetables) daily to ensure you don’t miss out on any important nutrients.”

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