• 18-04-2017

    Weight Loss Support Group Provides Many Benefits

    On the second Monday of each month, Polo Health + Longevity holds a FREE Weight Loss Support Group. The group is led by me, Francesca Tomas, RPC. I am one of the counsellors here at Polo Health + Longevity. I specialize in depression, addiction, and disordered eating, which is why I wanted to create this group.

    If you are already part of the Facebook group, Polo Weight Loss Group, you may have found support online among the members there. But regardless of whether or not you are on Facebook, coming to the in-person meetings is a great way to tangibly meet others who are on a similar journey, where you not only receive support, but have a chance to offer support to your peers as well.

    Anyone who is on a journey toward better health through weight loss is encouraged to join. There are countless benefits to attending a support group, that extend beyond what you might think of when you hear the words “support group” and in particular this group has grown into something so much more.

    Studies show that a support group can reduce stigma and feelings of isolation. Many members who come to the group talk about hearing their own struggles in another person’s story, or about how they did not realize other people thought or acted the same way they did. It is comforting to know that you are not alone. 

    Not only do you have the support of your peers, but as mentioned, the Weight Loss Support Group is facilitated by me, so when you come to these sessions, you receive professional guidance and care from a certified counsellor as well.

    The Weight Loss Support Group offers the opportunity to learn new things about yourself as well as your peers. We often hear that individual realizations are made when listening to someone else’s story. Something they say might resonate with you or “click” in a way that didn’t make sense before. Being part of the Weight Loss Support Group may be able to give you valuable insight that you may not have reached on your own. 

    When you feel supported by your peers, you feel less alone in your goals, fears, and struggles. Often this gives you a much needed lift that can really help propel you on your journey. One client said that being part of the Weight Loss Support Group, has helped her make recognitions within herself that have made the difference in her success, after years of trying to lose weight on her own. 

    The Weight Loss Support Group acts as a sounding board for the members who attend. Peers share their successes, struggles, and the lessons they’ve learned. Members often are able to shift their thinking from using words like “failure”, to talking about the lessons that are born from any setbacks. It is motivating to see the great ideas and healthy coping skills that group members come up with during these sessions.

    All in all when you share your story with others, you find that you are able to put your struggles and your successes into words, which may have been difficult to do on your own. You make realizations and find insights that you hadn’t before, and you may even be able to finally pinpoint the very reason you struggle with food. But most importantly, in a Weight Loss Support Group session, you are likely to discover that the struggles you have been facing are less about dieting or food itself, and more about how you view or feel about yourself deep down.

    Once you’ve identified the reason through the Weight Loss Support Group, you will have a built-in network to sound off on ideas for creating healthier habits and coping skills, which is more likely to lead to permanent results. 

    If you’re ready to meet people who are in the same struggle, share ideas, and create a healthier way of living, sign up for the next Weight Loss Support Group by calling the clinic! 604-544-7656.

    Find out more here.

    Francesca Tomas RPC, RTC


    • 23-03-2017

    Maintaining Mental Wellness While Traveling: A Guide

    Spring break season is upon us, and summer is quickly approaching. With the promise of warmer weather comes the tantalizing dream of getting away for a few days on a sun-soaked vacation. However, the allure of seasonal travel hides the reality that going on vacation is never as simple as the commercials make it seem, especially for those that struggle with chronic anxiety or depression.

    The idea of going on vacation may leave you with questions. Is it safe to go on a trip that keeps you away from your regular support group? Can you cope with the changes in your routine that travel will cause? Let's look at some of the ways that traveling can trigger anxiety and depression, and look at what you can do to ensure you experience the best trip possible, no matter what.

    Traveling Is Stressful For Everyone

    As much as we all go on vacation to get away from the stress of our daily lives, there's no denying that the process of traveling comes with its own set of difficulties. Leaving your daily routine to travel is full of uncertainties for everyone, but the things that stress one person out might have little effect on another, meaning that the pressure of catching flights, navigating an unfamiliar city or trying to speak a new language might heighten your stress levels to the point that your anxiety or depression might become worse. 

    For this reason, if you know that you're susceptible to anxiety attacks or are familiar with days when getting out of bed feels like too much effort, it's important to take some extra planning steps before leaving on your vacation to ensure you stay healthy and happy.

    If this sounds like you, here are some important considerations you should make for your health before starting your trip.

    Dealing With Depression

    When you suffer from depression, it can quickly take over much of your life. You don't have to let it control your travel dreams too. About eight percent of Canadians experience bouts of depression throughout their lives, but there is plenty you can do to keep it from compromising your trip. Below are some tips that will help you keep your spirits high while traveling to prevent a depressive mood from settling in. 

    - Travel during the day: Depressed people often find it hard to motivate themselves in the mornings and evening, so plan your trips during the daylight hours as much as possible. Not only does this match your body's natural rhythms, it also helps you adjust better to time zone differences.

    - Stay away from excessive alcohol: Nothing can wreck your travel mood more than overdoing it on alcohol, especially if you mix your booze with anti-depression meds. Work hard to moderate yourself, and you'll feel better throughout your trip.

    - Be realistic about your energy levels: If If you've been struggling to find the energy to get out of bed at home, don't book a busy trip that never allows time for a break. Instead, keep your schedule manageable and focus on living in the moment. You'll get the recharge you need without pushing yourself beyond what you can handle.

    - Stay on a routine: Routine is essential for staying healthy, but traveling can quickly throw your daily schedule out of whack. If you struggle with depression you need to go the extra step to keep their routines as functional as possible. Make sure you bring all your medications with you, and set alerts on your phone to remind you to take them at your normal time.

    - Bring enough medicine with you: Careful planning beforehand will prevent you from experiencing an antidepressant shortage later on. Make sure to bring all the medication you need beforehand and have a letter on you from your doctor explaining that you need it for medicinal reasons. This will make it easier to get through security.

    Coping With Chronic Anxiety

    While travel can be a stressful experience for just about anyone, it can be positively paralyzing for those that suffer from chronic anxiety. Roughly twenty five percent of Canadians will suffer from an anxiety disorder during their lifetime, and many people allow it to control what they can do. You don't need to live like this. It's more than possible to enjoy a trip if even the idea of stepping on a plane fills you with dread, but you'll need to take some important steps to keep your anxiety under control.   

    - Visualize Your Trip Beforehand: If the idea of navigating an unfamiliar city leaves you in a panic, take the time to think through every step of the process before you even leave. This creates circuits in your brain that it will rely on during the real time, making it a less stressful experience in the long run.

    - Practice Breathing: It's easy to start hyperventilating without even realizing it, so work to keep your anxiety under control by taking slow, deep breathes every time you feel your pulse start to quicken.

    - Pay For Stress-Reducing Services: No need to feel guilty if you opt for a fancier hotel or fast track passes to get to the front of lines; any money that you spend to reduce your travel anxiety is money well spent. Opting for a massage or exercise class is also a great idea.

    - Bring Your Comfort Clothes: Looking classy while traveling is overrated. Instead pack your favorite pair of sweats and the big blanket that always keeps you feeling safe. Not only will you stay more comfortable on the trip, you won't have the pressure of putting an outfit together.

    In Summary: Seek the Guidance of a Professional 

    Everyone can benefit from a break away from their daily lives, and you shouldn't let your concerns about depression or anxiety keep you from taking the trip you crave. These common conditions are no reason to not take a vacation, so long as you carefully plan out a strategy for staying healthy.

    Before you make your travel plans, it's always smart to talk with your mental health care provider to get tips and advice. If you live in the New Westminster and Surrey, BC area, I am more than happy to meet with you and discuss some health solutions for traveling. To learn more about Follow Your Own Star Counseling or to schedule an appointment, you can get in touch at http://www.followyourownstarcounselling.com/contact/

    • 17-12-2015

    Reduce Stress and Enjoy the Real Spirit of the Holidays.

    By Francesca Tomas

    There are lots of distractions at this time of year. However, the real celebration of the holidays occurs when family, friends, and communities get together and share quality time. Try to simplify your preparations, minimize your stress, and maximize your enjoyment of this really special time.

    Do less, enjoy more

    Rethink your holiday habits. Be more selective this year if you normally overdo it with the shopping, cooking, sending cards, and going to every event. Focus more on the enjoyment and celebration and less on the minutia.

    Don’t try to be perfect

    Stop obsessing over making everything perfect. Focus on enjoying the people in your life. Don't worry about the small stuff and your holiday will be much more enjoyable.

    Don't focus on "the perfect Christmas day." It's a day to relax with your family or friends. Spend some time being present.

    Be Present

    Remind yourself "It's one day." For just one day, relax and be happy. Don't worry about debt, work, or anything else. It's one day, so just enjoy it. Today's moments are tomorrow's memories. These days will be your children's childhood memories and your memories of them as children.

    Eat and Drink Mindfully

    Enjoy the holiday decorations, the special dinner, and the holiday baking. Try to eat and drink within your concept of moderation. 

    Think Positive

    Don’t focus on any bad behavior around you. Celebrate with your family and friends even if they stress you out. You can't control what others say or do. You can control how you react. React calmly and smile. Commit to optimism and you can cope with the temporary challenges.

    Be Grateful

    Focus on the positive. Focus on what's going right in your life. Be aware of what you have to be grateful for.

    Appreciate the Thought Behind the Gift

    Keep your focus on thoughtfulness and caring instead of material goods. Open your presents with no expectations. It doesn't have to be an item that was on your list. Say something appreciative about everything. It’s the thought that counts.

    Be a Giver

    Give your time, items, or cash donations to people who have less. Sharing goods and goodwill brings us all together in the spirit of the holiday season.

    I hope that all of you have a very Happy Holiday!

    You might also like to read: 

    Holiday Wellness Tips

    Stress Relief Strategies

    How Stress Causes Weight Gain


    ©Francesca Tomas 2015




    Photo Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

    • 13-10-2015

    One Thought Away - Stress Relief Strategies

    By Francesca Tomas, RPC                                   

    According to the US National Safety Council, stress contributes to as much as 80% of all diseases and illness!  

    In our fast paced lives, it’s difficult to identify what triggers the unrelenting stress in our lives. We often contribute to our own stress by not questioning the filters we use to see and judge everyone around us.

    This is where I’d like to start.

    Dr. Wayne Dyer was a prolific speaker and a writer who challenged us to adjust our filters, and to lose our kneejerk thoughts and reactions. He asserted these patterns ultimately set us up for stress and misery. Wayne passed this August 30th.  His insightful lessons on how to live a happier more fulfilling life continue to inspire internationally.

    Here are a few of his most frequently quoted teachings:

    “You don’t attract what you want. You attract what you are.”

    This is the real law of attraction.

    “How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.”

    This encourages us to drop grievances quickly, to stop telling stories; to let go of the past, and to focus on what we know is real.

    “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

    It’s only when we stop judging that we can see, understand, and appreciate each other. 

    My favorite Wayne Dyer quote is:

    “You’re only one thought away from changing your life.”

    Wow! Many of us would love to change our lives. How do we choose that powerful one thought and change our life for the better?

    I challenge you to start this journey today. Here are some simple techniques you can start now to lose stress quickly and move yourself toward a more optimistic and promising future. Choose at least five of your favorites to do every day.

    - Call a close friend. – A quick conversation with someone you care about is often an instant mood booster.

    - Stretch. – When you feel stressed, get up, reach toward the sky, bend down and touch your toes, then stretch from side to side.

    - Go outdoors. – Get some fresh air outdoors to perk you up and clear your mind.

    - Take a light exercise break – Do a few of your favorite exercises to get your blood moving, or take a walk.  Even very moderate exercise reduces stress and re-energizes your mind.

    - Play your favorite song – Listening to music releases endorphins and makes you happy. It’s that simple.

    - Have a good laugh. – Watch a funny movie or your favorite stand-up comedian.  A good laugh stimulates your mind and gives you a renewed sense of optimism.

    - Take a few really deep, controlled breaths. – Deep breathing reduces stress, a source of fatigue, and increases the oxygen level in the blood. Inhale for five seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and exhale slowly for five seconds. 

    - Smile more!! – Smiling, even if you’re not in a good mood, makes your brain THINK you’re in a good mood, and releases happy endorphins. Smile at strangers!

    - Express gratitude. – Expressing gratitude changes your brain chemistry! When you pay attention to the good things in your life, you experience a powerful effect.

    - Raise a real sweat - Exercise increases both dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain! Exercise daily to experience radical positive effects on your anxiety symptoms.

    - Help someone in need. –When you help improve someone else’s life, you improve your own life too.  

    - Act like today is an awesome day! – If you act like it’s awesome, it will be. Research shows that we often feel the way that we act. A great attitude always leads to great experiences.

    Try to integrate at least five of these stress busters into your daily life. I'd love to hear how it works for you.

    Greek philosopher Epictetus said "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."

    Most of us have experienced personal ups and downs. You can let this failure or upheaval derail you. Or you can take the healthier path, move on, and try a different more upbeat approach to accomplish your goals. I encourage you to take the upbeat path.

    Remember Dr. Wayne Dyer's advice: "You are only one thought away from changing your life."

    Photo Copyright: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

    • 15-07-2015

    How Stress Causes Weight Gain

    By Francesca Tomas

    Have you been trying to lose weight but you just aren’t seeing any results?

    This may be because of a culprit called stress. If your life is full of stress, your body is responding by cranking up your stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can undo all of your weight loss efforts. It increases your appetite and cravings, it causes you to lose muscle mass, impacts your sex drive, and your bone density. It also can contribute to depression and memory loss. What's the take home message? Chronic stress makes you soft, flabby, and old before your time.

    Can you actually see the effects of cortisol? Yes, take a look at your waist. Cortisol causes abdominal fat – even in people who are usually thin. The link between cortisol and increased storage of abdominal fat has been confirmed by science.

    Extra belly fat is not just a bad fashion statement. It slows your metabolism and increases your risk for heart disease and cancer.

    The good news is that the answer to this problem is easy and it costs you nothing.

    Make A Commitment Today to Begin One or More of These Proven Daily Relaxation Techniques

    If you practice at least one of these techniques daily, you will begin to shift your body from the stress response to the relaxation response. When you do, your cortisol levels will drop and your body’s self-repair mechanisms get back to work healing you. You'll be able to say goodbye to abdominal fat.

    Set Up A Healthy Sleep Schedule

    Decide on a bedtime that will guarantee you will sleep 7.5 to 9 hours per night. Sleep deprivation makes us wake up with higher amounts of cortisol. Cortisol fuels appetite and increases our cravings, particularly for refined sugar and carb-laden treats, even when we've eaten enough. Poor sleep packs on the pounds.

    Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine found that subjects who slept only five hours per night experienced an increase in their Body Mass Index regardless of diet and exercise. Good sleep actually helps you to lose weight by influencing the hormones that control your appetite and increase your metabolism. Sleep boosts leptin, the hormone that tells you it's time to stop eating.

    Laugh More

    Laughter and humor increase the release of your feel good hormones – endorphins and dopamine. Laughing increases relaxation and reduces pain, stress, and depression. Think of what tickles your funny bone and plan to see it, do it, or read it.

    Play with Animals

    Getting up close and personal with your pets releases your oxytocin, endorphins, and other healing hormones that support your body’s healing mechanisms. This is why pet therapy is so effective, both mentally and physically. It's now been proven to have the same positive effect on our pets. Pet your kitty or brush your dog every day to lower your cortisol dramatically. 

    Move Your Body

    Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind, so commit to the exercise you can stick with. A good workout has been proven to be better than or equal to prescription meds for treating depression. If you have physical issues that prevent you from vigorous exercise, you're not off the hook. Other powerful stress busters include body massage, yoga, meditation, and guided imagery.

    Optimize Your Nutrition

    Commit to a healthy diet. Make a list to take with you when you buy groceries. Avoid junk food, refined sugar and carbs, and fast food. Eat regularly to avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body.

    Express Yourself Creatively

    Creative expression releases endorphins, improves your immune function, relieves physical pain and depression. It also lowers your cortisol, your heart rate, and your blood pressure, and slows your breathing down.

    Have a Healthy Sexual Relationship

    Those with healthy sex lives have lower cortisol levels. They also tend to live longer, have lower risk of health problems, look younger, have higher fitness and less pain, and enjoy an improved quality of life.

    Strengthen Your Social Network

    Connect with others by taking a class, joining a support group or an organization. Research suggests that having friends and a social network is more important to a healthy lifestyle than quitting smoking or starting to exercise. Joining a group is an easy first step to reduce your stress.

    Try to Resolve Stressful Situations 

    Don't let stressful situations continue on and on. This includes present dilemmas and remnants from your past. Decide to let go of grudges and past conflicts even if you were wronged. Forgiveness is a powerful stress reliever. 

    Practice Gratefulness

    Keep a gratefulness journal and use it every day. Write down three things you're grateful for in your life. Research has now shown this simple practice can reduce your cortisol by 23%.  

    These are a few ideas to get you started.  I hope you commit to practice one or more of these to ramp up your health and to accelerate your weight loss. 

    If you think one-to-one counseling might help you to transition to a less stressful lifestyle, I invite you to have a counselling session with me.

    Contact me anytime:


    604-544-7657 or 604-314-8063

    Also by Francesca: Are you an emotional eater?

    9 Ways to Reduce Stress



    Photo Copyright: rostislavsedlacek / 123RF Stock Photo

    • 04-06-2015

    Are You an Emotional Eater?

    By Francesca Tomas, RPC RTC

    When you crave food, you're often at your weakest point. You feel stressed, bored, tired, depressed, or like you are in a difficult situation. When these feelings trigger your need to eat, you are experiencing emotional eating.

    When you eat because of emotions instead of hunger, it's common to eat too much and to reach for starchy and sugary foods that give you a temporary mood lift. You can end up consuming an enormous amount of calories and unhealthy fats. This frequently triggers the cycle of weight gain, depression caused by poor body image, and an increasing need to eat more emotionally. This is a really tough cycle to be caught up in.

    Emotional eating can temporarily suppress or soothe negative emotions including: 





    Anger; and


    Everyday life and major life events can trigger these negative emotions. They can spiral you into emotional eating and can sabotage your weight loss efforts.

    These triggers include:

    Work and or family stress;

    Relationship difficulty;

    Health problems;

    Sleeplessness; and

    Financial pressure.

    When you eat emotionally, you are trying to cope. This binge eating or rapid eating may help push down the uncomfortable emotions that you're trying to escape. What began as a single bout of overeating can easily become a pattern. You may begin to use food automatically whenever you feel an uncomfortable emotion like sadness, anger, or fear.

    When your emotions drive you to overeat, it only provides brief relief. But you'll always end up in the same place. You'll feel guilty, helpless, hopeless, and predictably gain weight. So, you overeat again. Are you ready to break this unhealthy cycle?

    Here are tips for breaking the cycle of emotional eating 

    Keep a food diary. This requires you to honestly track your caloric intake;

    Manage your stress through better sleep, diet, and exercise;

    Fight boredom - analyze when and why you feel bored and plan alternative activities;

    Keep unhealthy foods that are high in fat and sugar out of your house;

    Have an occasional treat if you can really keep it an infrequent pleasure;

    Have healthy food available to snack on;

    Find alternative ways to feel better quickly such as exercise, socializing, and watching comedy;

    Pack your own healthy lunch and snacks for work;

    Get support from friends, family, or support groups;

    Learn from your setbacks;

    Keep a journal to release emotions; 

    Seek professional help.

    If you still can’t end your emotional eating, consider therapy with a professional mental health provider. Therapy can help you work through negative emotions that keep you stuck. It can also help you develop a plan to end the behavior successfully. 


    Francesca is hosting a 2-session workshop June 2015, "End Your Battle with Food and Lose Weight." Learn more here.

    Photo Copyright: bds / 123RF Stock Photo

    Copyright © Francesca Tomas RPC, RTC 2015

    • 11-02-2015

    9 Ways to Reduce Stress

    By Francesca Tomas, Registered Professional Counsellor

    Sometimes a little stress can be helpful. However, many of us frequently experience stress overload. Remember, stress puts your health at risk. Stress is linked to the leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, and lung disease. Stress causes headaches, muscle tension, depression, and anxiety. Stress also takes a big bite out of your productivity, creativity, and motivation. So, what can you do? 

    You can't just walk away from your job or responsibilities. But you can put into action a personal stress reduction plan, and I am here to help you do just that.  

    Here's my short list of 9 easy ways to reduce stress.

    Healthy Diet

    Stick to a healthy diet. Eat more leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. Eliminate or cut back on refined carbohydrates, like sugary cereals, chips, and desserts. Read labels on cans and packages. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. If you have emotional eating issues, get these under control to feel the rewards of a balanced diet. 


    Exercise 20 minutes daily to brighten your mood and relieve your stress. For optimal health benefits, try to raise your heart rate while you exercise. Do something you enjoy like brisk walking, playing tennis, or swimming. An indoor treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike can be handy in cold weather.


    Yes, sleep. The sweet spot is 7.5 to 8 hours per night. Sleep lets your body rest and repair, and helps reboot you for the next day. Not enough sleep can make you irritable and slow your thinking.

    Take Care of Your Emotions

    Be present in the moment. Check your body several times a day. How do you feel? Is your neck tight? Are your shoulders tense?

    If you feel tense, take a break or a short walk. Breathe deeply and exhale slowly to help release the tension. Be concious of your feelings and work with someone to better understand how they are affecting your life in the big picture.

    Write a Daily To-Do List

    Trying to remember everything you need to do each day increases your stress. Writing a list simplifies the process and helps you prioritize your tasks. This avoids stress. 


    Laughter releases feel-good hormones that help you release stress. Watch a comedy, read funny books or get together and share funny stories with a friend or family member. 

    Pay Attention to Your Self-Talk.  

    What are you saying to yourself? Is your self-talk negative? 

    If it is, you will feel worse if you listen. It will also ramp up your stress. Practice stopping the negative self-talk when it begins and finding positive things to say to yourself instead.

    Keep a Journal. 

    Before you go to bed at night, write down anything that comes to your mind.

    How was your day? Debriefing at night helps you get a better night's sleep. It's therapeutic to clear your mind of stressors and put in on paper. Once out of your head, negative thoughts no longer have a place to expand. 

    Write Five Things You are Grateful For

    This could be a daily gratitude journal or a once a week practice. Writing gratitude statements has been closely linked to increased happiness and contentment. Statements can range from someone holding the door open for you to someone taking the time to listen to your story. 

    Implement these 9 strategies for reducing your stress, and be sure to be honest with yourself. If you are consistently overwhelmed by life, perhaps you need to work with someone to target the root of your troubles. It is always good to get in touch with your feelings and thoughts, which itself can reduce a lot of stress.

    This has been one entry in our detox series. See our 7 pillars of detox, of which "rest" and living stress-free is one pillar. You might also like to read: eliminate, and sweat.

    Photo Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo