Body Break! Hal Johnson & Joanne McLeod’s Top 5 Tips for Healthy Living

Now 30 years into their careers, Body Break’s Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod share their key tips for living a healthy, fit life.

Body Break, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod in red tracksuitsphoto credit: body break

Getting fit and having fun isn’t as easy as it used to be…

Since they met in 1988 and fell in love (yes, they’re married!), Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod of Body Break have been bringing Canadians of all ages and abilities one key message: “Get fit and have fun.” Over the years, they’ve affected the lives of kids and adults of generations, especially those born in the late ’80s and ’90s who needed a little direction. “That generation grew up with more fast food, with more accessibility to television and computers, to things that pull them away from being active and eating healthy,” says Joanne. “But your body is like a car. If, when you were born, you were given a vehicle and it had to last your whole life, I bet you that you would do anything to keep it running: proper fuel, tune-ups and maintenance. Well, you were given one body, and that body has to last a lifetime.”

Over the last three decades, the pair has accumulated a lot of knowledge, and they believe that sharing their insights (and even making people feel a little guilty for sitting on the couch or pigging out on pizza) can make a world of difference in helping people live longer and better. “My dad is 86,” says Hal. “He played 92 rounds of golf last year. He was one of seven and all of his siblings died before they were 70. They all had Type II Diabetes and they died of complications from heart disease. Fortunately, my dad met my mom and she had a healthy lifestyle. We often think about genes being extremely important, and they are. But lifestyle represents about 70 percent of your future self.”

And the sooner you start making those healthy choices, the better. Here are a few of Hal and Joanne’s key tips for whipping your diet and exercise regimen into shape:

Body Break tip 1: Beware sugar, seriously

“There is one thing you should really try to avoid, and it’s sugar,” says Hal. “Sugar is the major culprit of a lot of disease and inflammation. It’s really harmful. When you go to the supermarket, that’s the one thing on a package you should look for. How much sugar? Whether it’s soup, salad dressings or ketchup. The average Canadian consumes 80 grams a day. That’s 20 teaspoons per day. Over the course of a year, you’re upwards of 90 pounds or so of sugar. The average female only needs 24 grams and the average male needs 36 grams a day. But we’re double and triple that on average.”

“I think the biggest thing is that when you go in the grocery store, shop the perimeter first,” says Joanne. “Now you’ve got your fruits, vegetables, milk, grains — your four food groups. Don’t even go down the aisles like the pop aisle, the chip aisle. Those are occasional treats. Just stay away from processed food. If it’s packaged, it’s probably got sugar in it.”

Body Break tip 2: Don’t drink your cals

“When we drink our calories, we don’t even count them,” says Joanne. “I think smoothies are great if you use them properly, like in the morning. You put in fruit and ice and protein powder. But that’s a meal. That’s your breakfast. Don’t have a muffin, too. People don’t think of liquid calories when they’re thinking about their total caloric intake in a day.”

“We were approached by the orange juice industry to be spokespeople,” says Hal, “and we turned it down because of the sugar content. We appreciated the opportunity, but it’s better to have an orange than orange juice. I haven’t drank juice in 15 or 18 years.”

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Body Break tip 3: Diet is more important than exercise

“We used to think that exercise and healthy eating were basically the same [in terms of benefits],” says Joanne. “Whereas now because of the changes over the last 30 years in the food industry, we have to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating. There are landmines every time you go in the grocery store that you have to be aware of. Now we put a lot more emphasis on the foods that we eat rather than the amount of exercise — because a poor diet is going to ruin any kind of exercise program.”

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Body Break tip 4: Make tiny tweaks

“During the day, how much movement do you have?” says Joanne. “Take the stairs instead of the elevator. The more times you take the stairs, the better your overall fitness level. When you’re driving, park further away from the entrance so you can get more steps into your day. Plus, you have to be that 10-year-old kid that wants to go out and play. Get on the bike and go for a ride.”

Body Break tip 5: Give yourself healthy habit triggers

“The big habit trigger for me is certain people,” says Hal. “If certain friends are speed walkers and other friends like to go to the bar, which friends are going to have a positive impact on my lifestyle? When you think about what you do and why you do it, think about the trigger. My dogs are a trigger. I take them out for a 10-kilometre walk around the valley. I try to do that every day. They don’t say, “We can go for a walk later.” They say, “Get up. Let’s go now!” That’s the trigger for me to get out there.”

These 5 tips will help your healthy habits stick.