Most people think of Toronto as the financial center of the North with Bay Street and the TSX as the main draw, combined with culture vulturing for festivals from food to music, but who knew it is also a wellness destination complete with world-class clinics and experts in diet and fitness?
My recent sojourn to Toronto took me to Yorkville, a village within the metropolis. Once the realm of hippiedom spawning counter-culturists like Joni Mitchell, it is now the realm of uber hip and ultra chic. The Victorian architecture has been maintained and upgraded in an enclave of exclusive retail and services a world away from the skyscrapers of downtown. While there is still plenty of funky to go around, like Ezra Pound café for cappuccino and people watching, it is also the home to a roster of wellness opportunities in the area, such as reconstructive and dental surgery, counselling for all that ails you, and Clear Medicine clinic for natural health.
It was here that I interviewed Dr. Natasha Turner ND, author of the best-seller The Hormone Diet. The book is riding the wave of Oprah’s epiphany about the role of bio-available hormones in women’s body weight and health.
“Oprah may have made the message international, but we have been working with these principles for 12 years,” says Dr. Turner, a poster girl for her program and clinic. In her late thirties, she has been suffering from hypothyroidism since her twenties. You would never know it by looking at her slight, small stature. Full of energy, Dr. Turner is also brilliant in her field.
“Everything that happens in the body happens for a reason and is linked to other occurrences, often at the hormonal level. ‘Calories in calories out’ for weight management and wellness simply does not work for most women, or men for that matter,” she told me in her office.
Dr. Turner’s book focuses on a wellness lifestyle with one of the most important and overlooked aspects of health and weight management, a good night’s sleep.
“Uninterrupted sleep is necessary for the body to release melatonin and growth hormone. I cannot accent sleep enough,” says Dr. Turner. “Growth hormone release declines as we age, but poor quality sleep and low melatonin can cause its production to drop off even further. Without sufficient melatonin, we lose the rejuvenating and thermogenic benefits of growth hormone and become susceptible to abdominal weight gain.” For those of us who travel frequently, melatonin also aids in adjusting to jet lag and time zone changes.
Chronic stress can also be a factor in health if not checked. The stress hormone cortisol, if chronically high, can affect weight gain. Stress in general can also have an effect on other hormones such as progesterone and estrogen.
Dr. Turner says that she looks at the whole person’s history and listens to their story before prescribing supplements if needed and individuates the hormone diet for clients, but that the book is comprehensive enough that people will have success even without consultation.
Onsite fitness trainers take a similar approach in listening to the client and design a program that fits their lifestyle and needs.
“There’s no point insisting on joining a gym if the person is happier working out from home, because work, family life and commuting time are factors,” says Dr. Michelle Crispe, elite trainer and Chiropractor for Clear Medicine, as well as an accomplished natural bodybuilder.
Programs can be as little as 30 minutes three times per week to start, from a walk after dinner to building core strength with a tailor-made plan.
For a visit to Clear Medicine, book in advance, because they are always busy, with clients chatting at the reception desk about their success.
“My husband’s colleague came to dinner one night and he had lost 30 pounds,” exclaims one woman to another. “I asked him how and he told me about the clinic. Doctors never told me that I need to change what and how often I eat, not just how much. Who knew?” This conversation actually took place while I was there.
If looking to stay at the perfect hormone diet friendly hotel during your Toronto visit, the Fairmont Royal York is a $12 cab or a $3 subway ride away. Many meals in the onsite Epic restaurant already seem custom made to accompany the plan.
“Organic chicken, free range eggs, organic greens grown on our rooftop garden and honey made by bees in our apiary are all simple delicious ingredients we use,” says Chef Ryan Gustafson.
All my meals at the Epic were fresh, organic and divine. The rooftop garden sports close-in views of sparkling Lake Ontario and the CN Tower.
You can save room in your suitcase for take home supplements from Dr. Turner, because the Fairmont President’s Club also provides full Adidas fitness gear and sneakers to use while a guest. The onsite spa, pool, fitness room, steam, sauna and BMW bicycles for use complete the wellness package.
If you are waiting until you get home to start the hormone diet, toast your good intentions in the Library Bar with a specially designed cocktail by local celebrity mixologist Mike Astins. Mike is whipping up a new summer cocktail incorporating Xante, a gorgeous pear liqueur; all dressed up with sweet glazed organic flowers from Dress the Drink. If you want to go real native while in Toronto, Mike is also lead singer for The Dirty Decibels, an Iggy Pop/New York Dolls style band that can be found playing clubs all over town.
Toronto the good was always good but it has never been better for fitness and fun.