I’ve been told that I seem like a contradiction: I’m passionate about health and nutrition yet I’m the resident chocolate monster, happy to celebrate an occasion with a decadent dessert. I don’t shy away from manually-intensive projects but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been on a treadmill. To me, health is much more than the sum of conventionally-accepted ‘healthy activities’; connecting with people over delicious foods, taking time to celebrate every day and being in-tune with nature’s cycles are just as important to health.

Over the years no one has influenced this perspective on health more than my parents.

Norio and Jo-AnneMy parents, both healthy and active seniors, come from two different cultures: My dad, Norio, (or Otosan, as we call him) is Japanese, born during World War II and continues to live in Japan. My mom, Jo-Anne, is a 3rd generation Canadian, a baby boomer, raised in the interior of BC and later East Vancouver. Although they are both health conscious, their approaches to health differ in the extreme having given me the chance to see different models of health. On reflection, I consider both approaches to have healthy qualities. But, most importantly, I’ve found that the things they have in common have made the largest impact on my own perspective and approach to health.

Some of the earliest impressions I formed about my health as a child came from how my parents would respond when I became sick or injured. I recall whenever I had a cut or scrape, my mom would calmly clean and dress the wound. If it was painful or more serious she would remind me that I was “strong and tough”, reinforcing for me that I was healthy and that I would recover. While my mom was taking care of me, my dad would go inspect whatever caused the accident, a broken step, a loose pedal, and fix it. Through their actions they communicated compassion while also reinforcing the body’s innate ability to heal.

Later in life while sailing across the Atlantic in a 48ft sailboat with my parents I sustained a serious injury to my hands. I was holding onto a line attached to a sail in rough tropical weather when it pulled though my hands, taking my skin with it. We were weeks away from port and infection was a serious concern in the wet humid conditions. Still my parents approached treating the injury in the same calm approach. On top of that, it was clear to me that my parents were very conscious of the strong forces of nature at work. My mom spent hours every day preparing sterile water to wash and dress my injured hands to help fight off infection.

BCIT grad

My mom graduating from BCIT Medical Radiography

Interestingly, as much as my mom and dad were consistent in their measured approach to dealing with injury they came to it from differing perspectives. My mom has a background in medicine having worked as an X-Ray technician at Vancouver General Hospital. My dad on the other hand would often draw attention to how people would have managed 100+ years ago. Growing up he would often remind my siblings and I that going to bed at 11 o’clock is a recent development in human history. Before electricity and modern conveniences people slept when the sun went down and, true to form, he’s in bed by 8:00 PM every night.

Both my parents are proactive about their health but the way that is evidenced in their lives is very different. My mom loves to take on projects and is always curious about ways to improve overall health. Over the years she’s made her own yogurt, wet sourdough, kombucha, ginger beer, and all kinds of fermented vegetables. She constantly experiments with different forms of exercise: golf, qi gong, step class, yoga, gardening, etc. My mom’s never been afraid of tackling the physical jobs required to maintain her house and upkeep on the property. I think her approach is one that’s more familiar to people growing up in a western tradition.

dad in japan

My dad walking through downtown Himeji, Japan with Himeji Castle in the background

My dad is also very proactive about his health but his approach is perhaps less familiar. My dad lived and worked as a businessman in Japan. He’ll intentionally smoke a cigarette with the same sense of ritual and ceremony that he does when preparing and drinking green tea each morning. While he doesn’t see much point to jogging he does make a point to exercise every day. He’ll do something physically demanding, whether it’s a job around the house or a brisk walk taking long intentional strides. My dad is always conscious of his posture, how he sits, how he stands and the “ki” energy he exchanges with the world around him. In addition, every day my dad drinks Sake (or Scotch or something similar). While some may consider this an unhealthy habit, for my dad drinking is a means of intentionally celebrating the accomplishments of the day and the abundance in life. While my dad doesn’t speak much English he loves to share his “happy hour” time with others. (It’s amazing how unimportant language barriers are when everyone celebrates together.)

Both my parents have different approaches to health through life. While they differed in cultural influences, medical perspectives and personal interests they both live to be healthy active seniors (now in their 70’s). Watching my parents apply their health perspectives though their lives I found the things they had in common left the largest impact on me. They both have a deep respect for nature including our bodies; they both regularly cultivate a feeling of gratitude for the abundance in their lives (by enjoying “happy hour” or following their dream to sail the open ocean); they both value relationships above anything else and look to be generous in all of them. And today I find myself striving to apply these principles in my daily life and practice.


My dad’s pet monkey, Ambon. He was traded for 6 pairs of old trousers on Ambon Island, Indonesia and returned to Himeji, Japan with my dad by sailboat in 1972. He lived until he was 10 years old.

Otosan in Kiribati

Despite only speaking Japanese, my dad seems to connect with locals wherever he goes. Here fishermen clean their catch in the ocean while my dad chats with a local boy from Tarawa, Kiribati.