Olivia Newton John On Life, Love and Healing from Cancer

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: Life, Love, and Healing from Cancer

By Carol Crenna

Chosen by People Magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN (nicknamed Olivia Neutron-Bomb), is still as vibrant and lovely as she was when she starred with John Travolta in Grease in 1978. The film catapulted her to stardom and led to the most successful movie musical soundtrack in history, with songs including “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” For its 20th anniversary, the film was re-released to even more acclaim.

In a career spanning over three decades, OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN was bestowed an Order Of The British Empire and Officer of the Order of Australia by the Queen, was invited by the Vatican on behalf of the Pope to perform, carried the Olympic Torch at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and had 25 Top 40 singles.

Yet NEWTON JOHN has also aided many humanitarian and environmental causes, and after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, has helped women globally by speaking openly about her experience and launching a prevention programme. She lives in Los Angeles and Australia.

CAROL: My favourite quote from you is: “There’s a rumor going around that I’m Miss Goody-Two-Shoes from Australia. Well, that’s a laugh. I’m really Miss Goody-Two-Shoes from England!” Growing up in England, was health a priority with your family?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: Though my mother was German (the daughter of Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Born), she was adamant about healthy eating. She would only steam and grill food; no frying. She only let us eat pumpernickel bread, used the water that she cooked vegetables with to make gravy, and cooked potatoes with skins on, saying that the nutrients were there. She lived until she was 89, and was very healthy apart from her bad back, but that was caused when she lost a bone during the war. She instilled good habits in me and though I rebelled when I was young (I wanted to eat the white bread that other kids ate), I came around, and am now very health-conscious.

CAROL: Why did you openly talk about your cancer?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: I wasn’t going to speak about it, but when I heard that the press was going to distribute a news story that I was “going to die of breast cancer,” my publicist and I made the decision to talk about it rather than let the scary, untrue article appear.

CAROL: How did the press hear about it?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: They have spies at x-ray centres and hospitals in LA just waiting to spot someone, and they can get hold of that type of information. It’s very disturbing, isn’t it? So I decided to confront it, making a clean breast of it, so to speak. It was difficult at the time because I was very private. But looking back, I’m grateful that I was open. It helped me to be able to discuss it. I also feel fortunate to help others and introduce the OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN Breast Kit (a self-exam guide).

CAROL: Do you mean that talking about it helped you through it?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: Yes. It helped me to thrive in it rather than wallow, and feel sorry for myself. When I got it in 1992 cancer was called “the big C” and had such stigma attached that women wouldn’t talk about it even to close friends. The more education people have the more they understand it, and it makes it less scary. Now we talk about breasts quite openly in magazines — after all, half the species have them! They’re beautiful and they need to be taken care of. I find that women my age are hesitant to examine their breasts because they’re afraid to find something. I understand the thinking but it’s better to find something early.

CAROL: How did it change you?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: My life is amazing. And the experience of having to go through cancer opened up a whole world for me that I wouldn’t have had. It made me more appreciative of my life and everything in it, though it took years to get to the point where I realized that. Every year that I’m here, I’m grateful. I may sometimes be afraid to get old, but the alternative isn’t very good! We should be happy to get older and be healthy as we age.

CAROL: You said it helped you to gain self-awareness. How?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: I’ve been through other experiences, tests, in my life that I found even more difficult — emotional challenges can be harder than physical ones, though they’re all tied together. But going through pain we get stronger and gain wisdom. Very often we surprise ourselves with our strength. Women say to me, “I don’t know how you made it through.” But you could, too. It’s when we’re faced with these things that we find out who we really are. We all have strength if we dig down to look for it. I’ve got a hat that says, “The only way through difficulty is to go through it.” You can’t try to avoid it by going around it, above it or below it.

CAROL: Do you think you’ve had more difficulty than most? (Though we didn’t discuss it, OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN has also dealt with divorce, the tragic deaths of friends Karen Carpenter, John Denver, her daughter Chloe’s best friend, and in 2005, the mysterious disappearance of her long-time boyfriend who has still not been found after going on a fishing trip.)

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: I don’t think so, but I have had extreme ones. Perhaps since I’ve been so fortunate in many areas of life it all has to balance!

CAROL: Do you think the circumstances at the time you were diagnosed had anything to do with the illness?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: I think stress played a major role. At the time a girlfriend took me to see a therapist and they said that I needed to start “weaning people off of me.” That was an interesting metaphor. A doctor with experience in Eastern philosophy asked if I was having emotional troubles with men, which was also interesting. (She divorced three years after the diagnosis.) I believe there are a lot of links between mind and body and that the body holds emotion. Stress affects the immune system, and since it’s always fighting cancer cells in all of us, when we’re compromised by an emotional event it affects our defenses.

CAROL: Your “Grace and Gratitude” CD is promoted to help restore spiritual balance and healing.

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: It’s based on the seven chakras and each song relates to a different part of our body and a different feeling, showing how we’re connected emotionally to our organs, which I find fascinating. I did the album as a healing tool for myself and in doing so I hope it helps others. As the title reflects, the most important thing is in having gratitude at all times about what you’ve got. It makes you feel good, releasing healthy chemicals in your body. There is something to be grateful for each day, whether you believe in God, Buddha, Allah, or not.

CAROL: How did you learn about this?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: Through reading and spiritual experiences. It’s “a knowing” that feels true for me. If you’re anxious, you get a stomach ache; if you feel tense you get a headache — basic things can be related to mind body connection. But it can be expanded: if you have a sore throat, what haven’t you told somebody that you need to? Someone gave me a book by Louise Hay when I was going through cancer, and it rang a bell. I think that’s how everyone discovers their own belief system. If you don’t believe it then it’s not true for you. I believe that we’re made of energy and blocks in energy channels within the body can relate to illness. I think that as medicine advances, we will see this proven. But since it’s on a subconscious level, women shouldn’t blame themselves, feeling that it’s their fault that they’re ill. It’s simply awareness.

CAROL: Does singing help you?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: Singing is spiritual for me. There was a time in my life when I stopped singing. Then I started to have serious trouble with my throat — there was a tumour in it. I was going to different healers and suddenly realized that I hadn’t been singing, and had a vision that it was what I needed to do. I started singing again and it disappeared. That was more proof to me of the manifestation of something in me that needed to be expressed but I wasn’t allowing.

CAROL: What type of exercise works well for you?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: I walk my dog two or three times a day. I take a hike or play tennis three times a week. I have a treadmill at home and I do my own version of pilates. I’m not a fanatic but I know what my body needs. My body is one that needs to move, to get out in nature, because that’s what makes me feel good.

CAROL: And your diet?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: I have a no-wheat, no-dairy diet. But I’ve been taking digestive enzymes with meals made by Amazon Herb Co. When I take them I can eat anything I like! Since our stomachs lose their digestive juices as we get older we start to have problems like allergies. I’ve always had problems with wheat and dairy, though. I was eating a lot of soy as an alternative but one day I knew I needed to change. My body tells me.

CAROL: Do you use complementary treatments?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: My doctor in Los Angeles gives homeopathic, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture treatments, muscle testing and conventional medicine. If I want to check something he covers all the basics. But I’m very healthy! I also take a lot of (Amazon brand) herbs.

CAROL: Are you very involved with the OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN CANCER CENTER at the Austin Campus in Melbourne?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN NEWTON JOHN: Yes. We haven’t raised all of the funds for it yet. When they asked me to lend my name to it, I stipulated that I would only if they added a wellness centre. Now the wellness centre has become a huge part of the hospital. They have incorporated some complementary therapies but in the new centre people will be able to recuperate: have tea, talk to others in treatment, have a foot massage and aromatherapy to help them heal. I had chemotherapy but I also did homeopathy, acupuncture and meditation, and now these things will be offered in addition to conventional treatments.

 CAROL: You even have your own retreat.

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: I started Gaia Retreat and Spa with three friends, a beautiful resort in the hinterlands of ByronBay, close to Brisbane. It’s the highest point in the area, has no TVs, has incredible food, and features several healers. It’s near my home so I go when I’m there.

CAROL: Why do you think Grease was such a hit?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: It went way beyond our expectations. I would never have believed that a new generation of kids would be discovering it now. We relate to the characters, who are similar to people we all knew at school, and it was a larger-than-life musical with good music.

CAROL: What was a favourite moment in Xanadu (though you fractured your coccyx while filming a dance sequence)?

OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN: Can you imagine dancing with Gene Kelly when I’d never tapped in my life? Though I worked on it for three months beforehand, the first day of filming I was very intimidated. But he was such a lovely man; I’m lucky that the amazing experience was captured forever on film to remember it.

Originally written by Carol Crenna as a feature in VISTA Magazine 

Healthy Restaurant Food?


Very healthy pizza from the cookbook “Slice: Health Inspired Food”

By Carol Crenna


Eating in a restaurant is healthy and unhealthy. It entirely depends on what you order. Restaurant meals have been scrutinized in the media lately; particularly those waist-widening salads, fajitas, rice bowls and vegetarian curries that we considered healthier options.

The Vancouver Sun’s expose on restaurant food reported that an order of barbecue ribs contains 1,975 calories – almost equivalent to four Big Macs and a day’s worth of calories – and a chicken fillet with gravy contains 6,691 milligrams of sodium (salt), three times the maximum daily recommended amount.

Considering that the RDA is 2,000 calories per day (for those not trying to lose weight), 2,400 milligrams of sodium, and 65 grams of fat, it was disheartening to learn that a hot chicken Caesar salad at the Earls chain has 76.8 grams of fat, which is the same amount of fat as 40 Panago chicken wings or 15 Subway six-inch chicken teriyaki subs. A Greek calamari (deep-fried) appetizer at a Joey’s chain is 1,880 calories with 74 grams of fat and 1,880 milligrams of sodium, which means that you won’t go over your limits if you eat nothing else that day.

If you thought thin-crust pizza was healthier, individual pesto chicken pizza at Macaroni Grill is 1,550 calories with 72 grams of fat and 3,710 milligrams of sodium. That’s more than a day’s worth of fat, 80 percent of daily calories, and a day and a half’s worth of salt.

In Canada, restaurants are not required to provide nutritional information. Those that do provide it usually refer customers to websites and don’t display it. According to another article in The Vancouver Sun, former Liberal MP Tom Wappel tried to get national legislation to force restaurants to provide nutritional information but was defeated by powerful industry lobby, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA).

Wappel said the reason for opposition is due to fears that consumers may eat out less often. New York City approved a law in 2008 requiring chains to display calories. The labelling changed consumer habits. Surveys of 12,000 customers showed they bought food with significantly fewer calories (at spots including McDonald’s, KFC and Starbucks). (Reuters, December 2009)

A restaurateur in Detroit transformed his barbecue joint Ridley’s Home Cookin’ in 2005, which served fried chicken, ribs and meatloaf, into a health-food haven after his food almost killed him. Diabetes and high blood pressure led to kidney failure for owner William Parker. After it donned on him that food might be the culprit, he said, “I couldn’t in good conscience serve something to people that is no good for them.”

He revamped his menu to feature lean bison, veggie burgers, steamed vegetables and whole wheat pasta. He knew many original customers wouldn’t line up for the new fare, but he persisted, and now the bustling spot is called Ridley’s Real Food.

Hopefully, other restaurateurs won’t need a personal health crisis to consider that there may be a vast untapped market of diners who don’t want to be paying for their meal long after they’ve left.

Eating healthy at a restaurant doesn’t have to mean throwing your good eating habits out the window. Simply choose consciously and be a little high maintenance with your waiter. More on this next blog…




How Much Do Genes Determine Health and Weight?

By Carol Crenna 

Do you think you’re stuck with what you got from your parents? You may feel that genes play a pretty big role in your health – you’re overweight because your parents are overweight, or it’s a roll of the dice whether you’ll get your mother’s breast cancer or your father’s hypertension. But that’s not the case.

Genetics only have a 20 to 25 percent influence on your life, according to Dr. John Diamond from Intemedica Clinic in Reno. It’s more the fact that you’ve inherited parents’ ways of thinking and of living which can amount to the same results.

Genes influence every part of your being. But there are two aspects: The genetic “type”– those genes given by parents, and the genetic “activity”, meaning which genes become active in your body, showing up and being expressed.

This means, for instance, if a high blood pressure gene inherited from your father is never given the right environment to become activated, you’ll never show signs or feel its ill effects throughout your lifetime even though have that gene. If the under-active thyroid gene from your mother is not called to express itself, then you won’t show symptoms such as lethargy and weight gain.

You are responsible for turning your genes “on” or “off”. If you live your life in a healthy way – fresh food, fresh air and exercise, and a fresh, positive outlook – you’re apt to express only your healthier genes. According to Dr. Mark Hyman (The Five Forces of Wellness), every single thing you do, eat, drink, feel and think causes different reactions in your genes that change from moment to moment in your body.

But Dr. Hyman says we’re like polar bears living in the desert, describing how our diet has changed from our ancestor’s, and our genes are suffering for it. He uses the plight of Arizona’s Pima Indians as an example. They thrived for thousands of years in the desert, eating very little, foraging for food in a scarce environment, with almost no disease. About 50 years ago they were introduced to white flour, white sugar and fat and their gene expression totally changed. They’re now the second most obese population in the world (second to Samoans), 30 percent suffering from diabetes, with a life expectancy of 46. Therefore, you are what you eat, but you’re also what you were born to eat.

Does your diet fit your genes?

According to an article in Time Magazine (June 2006), depending on your genes, certain foods are worse for some people than others. Nutrigenomics scientists say there are complex interactions between compounds found in your diet and your DNA. Jose Ordovas, a geneticist at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts, states in the article, “We want to understand why nutrients do what they do and to whom–why a low-fat diet may not work for some but works for others.”

If you drink three cups of coffee a day, genetic tests can determine whether you, like 20 percent of the population, have a gene variation that makes it hard for you to absorb calcium if you drink caffeine. That can dramatically affect your teeth, muscles, and increase your bone loss. Are you getting enough B vitamins? Many people have a genetic predisposition that makes them absorb B vitamins poorly, putting stress on their nervous system, and in the case of folic acid, putting them at greater risk of heart disease. Is a high-fat diet worse for you than others, given your genetic makeup? About 15 percent are born with a liver enzyme that causes their HDL (good cholesterol) to go down when they eat fat.

Of the 25,000 genes of the human genome, tests have so far identified 19 that have a clear response to diet and lifestyle. They can test for calcium absorption, B vitamins, diabetes risk, Alzheimer’s risk, heart disease risk, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol levels and more. But they’ve just begun and comprehensive tests are still in the works. And since food also has hundreds of compounds with different reactions, it will take a while. In the end you’ll probably still need to eat your fruits and vegetables. But at least you’ll know which ones and why.


W. Brett Wilson: On Health, Home Life, Relationships and the Meaning of Success



By Carol Crenna

 Calgary’s W. Brett Wilson, former panelist on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, is a highly successful entrepreneur and Chairman at Canoe Financial LP, and runs his Prairie Merchant Corporation that is focused on energy, real estate, sports and entertainment investments.

He has shared podiums with Bill Clinton, both Bush’s and Donald Trump. Called a “capitalist with a heart,” he’s given away, and mobilized others to give, tens of millions of dollars.

He’s shaved his head, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, built homes in Mexico, hosted annual celebrity events at his own home, and organized a joint 50th birthday party (raising over $3 million) for worthy causes.

Then there’s the Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence and the Wilson Centre for Domestic Abuse Studies. But Brett Wilson has also overcome devastating personal challenges. Here, he talks with Carol Crenna about his life.

 CAROL: Did you always have such ambition and passion?

BRETT WILSON: My passion developed over time. As I began accomplishing more, I realized I had the capability to accomplish even more than I was already doing. But the early drive was to be successful based on the measures that I now make fun of — money and power.

CAROL: You admit to still being driven.

BRETT WILSON: If there is such a thing as an AA type personality, I would qualify at times. I “retired” at age 50, and I’ve never been busier. But I’m evolving.

Now much of my time is spent pursuing my personal interests – my children, friends, passions, and having fun. I manage to fit in business opportunities and investment in real estate, energy, and oil and gas; I haven’t abandoned that world but have a different set of priorities.  

 CAROL: You climbed Kilimanjaro twice. Are you fit?

BRETT WILSON: I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2002, and when I got back I told my friends that I would never do that again. Then my three children asked if I would go back to climb with them and I said, of course I would. We went in July 2010, so I trained for that and for a biathlon with my daughter that June.

I’m reasonably fit. Last month was fabulous for fitness; this month is terrible, since I’m traveling most of the month. I travel with my running and swimming gear; as a former competitive swimmer, I love swimming.

 CAROL: You openly regret your early parenting.

BRETT WILSON: I chose work over parenting for many years. It wasn’t until I separated from my wife that I recognized the gap in my life, and really became a parent.

My ex-wife observes that she went from being a “single mother” (while married) to having her kids half-time when divorced. Before, weeks would go by when I would be in town (in Calgary), but I wouldn’t see my family because I’d be living at the office, up early and out before they woke and home after they went to sleep.

The business was growing and needed attention, but it came at a cost.

CAROL: You admitted yourself to a centre for therapy?

BRETT WILSON: I attended The Meadows, a well-known addiction and trauma treatment centre in Arizona, to deal with issues surrounding work addiction. There I realized that the cost it had on my relationships wasn’t worth it.

I knew changing my priorities wasn’t going to be easy, and if changes were to be sustainable, they would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

My wife felt that type of change wouldn’t be enough to sustain us, so our marriage ended. I began evolving, recognizing that without my physical, emotional, and intellectual health, I was of no use to anyone including myself.

CAROL: How have you evolved so far? 

BRETT WILSON: I consciously try to improve myself through training, personal development programs, and working with a coach for life planning.

If the top golfers in the world still need three coaches (a putting, swing, and drive coach) it must mean that using a coach is okay. First, you need the awareness of problems, and then you need to take the time to do something about them.

CAROL: As an investor, how have you invested in yourself?

BRETT WILSON: I pay attention to what I eat. Though I eat out a lot, we have a full-time office chef to ensure that my entire team eats well. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the more food is processed the less healthy it is.

Eating organic or vegetarian isn’t as much the issue as the fact that the closer food is to nature the more it has what man needs; though man has been around for a long time, processing – and illnesses (like obesity) related to it – have been around for a short time.

CAROL: Why did you decide to go public with your cancer story?

BRETT WILSON: I couldn’t disappear from the workforce to have treatments without telling others. I wasn’t embarrassed by it, and spoke about it publicly because, particularly with prostate cancer, awareness is the key to early detection.

Over the years, I have spoken to many patients about my experience and still receive feedback about an internet video that discusses my journey.

CAROL: Did you use treatments other than conventional ones?

BRETT WILSON: I worked with a healer, a naturopathic doctor, and an acupuncturist and was very open to complementary modalities. I feel that western medicine is fairly closed minded to alternative therapies, yet those practising alternative therapies are fairly open to all forms of treatment.

Within the medical system I became very frustrated: two professional groups – one supporting surgery and the other radiation therapy – were arguing, both convinced that if I didn’t use their treatment methodology, I was going to die.

CAROL: What advice do you give others?

BRETT WILSON:Do your homework. Dr. Peter Scardino’s Prostate Book: The Complete Guide to Overcoming Prostate Cancer is a well written, balanced point of view. Find the treatment that suits you. The earlier you catch it the more options you have, but in my (advanced) case I felt that I didn’t have a choice in my options.

I chose radiation therapy. But no one should have to worry that they’ve chosen badly.

CAROL: How did having cancer affect you?

 BRETT WILSON: You take a closer look at your own mortality. After living through cancer, it’s a rare person who wouldn’t come to the conclusion that there is more to life than the life you were leading. This, like a major injury or death in the family, becomes a wakeup call.

CAROL: You have given millions to nonprofits. How did you become interested in philanthropy?

BRETT WILSON: Twenty years ago my wife and I began giving 1 percent of our pre-tax income to charity, and, appreciating how good it felt, realized that we could afford to increase that. Over time we became more involved and it became more interesting.

A pet peeve is the concept of “corporate social responsibility”: if you feel that it’s a responsibility, it means that you’re getting it wrong. Anything you do out of responsibility carries with it a sense of obligation. If you look at it as an opportunity rather than obligation, you will also look at the outcome differently. 

CAROL: How is it an opportunity?

BRETT WILSON: By realizing the influence that directing your wealth has on your client relationships and your staff’s good will. FirstEnergy supported over 250 charities — a lot for a relatively small organization. The reason we chose breadth over depth – giving less money to many rather than more to a few – was all about marketing.

We were extraordinarily proactive in supporting charities that our clients and community leaders were involved with, which became vital for networking and connections. Using unique ways to make our contributions known to them became a branding opportunity. It’s a matter of being a little more creative at distributing funds.

CAROL: Why are you single?

BRETT WILSON:  It’s the pace I keep, and the amount of travelling I do. My priorities right now are to make the most of my time, and spend time with my three children. But I would I like to have a partner to wander beaches with in my twilight years.

CAROL: What’s the most romantic thing that you have ever done?

BRETT WILSON: I rented an entire ballroom and had dinner catered for two. (He won’t confirm or deny it was with former girlfriend Sarah McLachlan.)

CAROL: As a marketing expert, how would you market health to create change? 

BRETT WILSON: A lot of change occurs in this world with awareness. It’s a matter of raising the profile of the results of living a healthier life, keeping it at the front of everyone’s consciousness. Then maybe a health scare wouldn’t be needed, like it was for me, to make people change. 

CAROL: Why were you on Dragon’s Den?

BRETT WILSON: I’ve been doing for many years what Dragon’s Den does – investing in small companies that may turn into large companies, or early-stage investing – so the show is a logical extension.

It provided a national platform to celebrate entrepreneurship. And the profile it developed for me was extraordinary. 

CAROL: Why did you buy your hundred year old home (a four-level brick mansion on a treed hillside overlooking the city) in Calgary? 

BRETT WILSON: For me, this house was a trip home. On Sunday evenings when I was a child, the kids would have a bath, get into our pyjamas, jump into our family Volkswagen, go for a drive from North Battleford to Battleford, Saskatchewan, and pass by Grandpa’s house.

When I moved to Calgary, I used to drive by this house in awe because it’s a sister to the one my great grandfather (a senator) built in Battleford in 1908.

CAROL: You have a large collection of Saskatchewan artists’ work created from 1900 to 1960, particularly Ernest Lindner and Joe Fafard.

BRETT WILSON: Saskatchewan art means far more within the Canadian historical context than most people realize, including the Regina Five abstract painters and landscape artist James Henderson, who worked with the Group of Seven.

I have approximately 30 Lindner landscapes in my home and a prized sculpture by Joe Fafard, a self-portrait. 

CAROL: I also like your life-sized, colourful art-cows, like the one staring in the window… 

BRETT WILSON: It’s one of nine that graze on the veranda and balconies. I purchased them at Calgary’s Udderly Art fundraising auctions to support various charities.

CAROL: You like your downtime. Right now your bedroom is packed with camping gear?

BRETT WILSON: I am packing for myself and children in preparation for traveling. We have trekked up Mount Kilimanjaro, took a trip to the Middle East, gone on a Safari in Africa. When I’m here and my kids are home, my time is organized around the kids.

 CAROL: Your bedroom has a stately, old-fashioned feel (with four poster bed and original fireplace) … except for the master bathroom.

BRETT WILSON: Grandma (Dorthea) McCoullough died in my bedroom, but she died a happy woman, and the energy here is wonderful. The house and the family know that I came to take care of it.

The master bathroom’s mahogany brown stone tile covers floors, walls, and even the door. I tiled the inside of the door so that when I’m in the soaker tub, the door disappears into the walls when closed, and you get a spa-like setting that’s very private.

CAROL: At 54, what are your future plans?

BRETT WILSON: I hope to have another 46 years to go; the last 10 will be in a reclining chair watching home movies of the previous 90. I’m currently working on two books.

One, with the working title Doing What’s Right, is about redefining the ethics of success — not defining it by the size of your wallet, car or office, but by the size of the smile: happiness as the highest priority. The other measures aren’t irrelevant, but if they’re the only ones, your life might be lacking.

The other book will be about philanthropy.



Originally written by Carol Crenna, with parts featured in VISTA Magazine, March 2010, Canada Wide Media’s Alberta Home Magazine, March 2010, and Home & Mortgage Magazine March 2011, and MORE Magazine, September 2011.




Can You Change? Making Healthy Changes


By Carol Crenna

MARGARET MEAD ONCE SAID, “It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.” She was right according to CBC News, which reports that, for the majority of the population, knowing the risks doesn’t stop poor eating habits.


Dr. Cindy Jardine at U of Alberta, who conducted studies about habitual behaviour, says health educators aren’t touching on underlying reasons because they can’t get beyond the theory, “If they understood the facts, they’d change.” She found that in aboriginal communities 96 to 100 percent of respondents understood risks of alcohol, and 80 percent said smoking was “very dangerous.”

But without addressing causes (like abuse and unemployment), they aren’t going to change. 

IT’S HARD TO CHANGE…She also says it’s hard to change accepted social behaviour, whether it’s overeating or overworking. “Stress is bad for us, yet we wear it as a badge of honour. And most of us don’t like to be preached to, so we rationalize bad habits. We all have a bit of recalcitrant child in us. We keep smoking with the excuse ‘It hasn’t hurt me so far,’ or ‘It helps control my stress or weight.’ “

Alan Deutschman, author of the book Change or Die,  says (In Fast Company Magazine (Jan 07) that if you were told to change or be killed, you’d probably die. Scientifically studied odds are nine to one against you.

EIGHTY PERCENT OF THE $2.1 TRILLION A YEAR US HEALTH BUDGET IS SPENT ON DISEASES CAUSED BY FIVE BEHAVIOURS – too much smoking, drinking, eating and stress, and not enough exercise.

For example, over 1.5 million people undergo coronary bypass or angioplasty annually, costing $60 billion, but they’re temporary fixes – fewer than 3 percent of surgeries prevent heart attacks or prolong lives.

Doctors explain these stats to patients and say that to stop heart disease before it kills them they have to change their lifestyle. But two years after surgery, 90 percent haven’t changed. They know their chances, and experience excruciating pain, but for whatever reason, they can’t.


Alan Deutschman wanted to find out. He said that Dr. Dean Ornish, professor of medicine at U of C, conducted a successful experiment in 1993 on 194 patients who suffered from severely clogged arteries. They were given help to quit smoking and switch to an extreme vegetarian diet with fewer than 10 percent of calories from fat. Patients had group conversations, and took meditation, relaxation, yoga, exercise classes.

After the year-long programme they were on their own, and three years later, 77 percent had stuck with the lifestyle transformation and avoided surgery. They’d halted or, in many cases, reversed the disease.

DEUTSCHMAN DOESN’T BELIEVE IN “MORE INFORMATION” OR SCARE TACTICS (the idea that change is motivated by fear, and the strongest force for change is crisis). He’s researched many cases proving that dramatic change is possible in seemingly hopeless situations. He’s not talking about natural change that happens throughout life, but when you’re stuck; you’ve tried overcoming difficulties but they stubbornly persist.

He says the reason that people fail to realize goals is that they don’t have the tools. His book Change or Die replaces the “facts, fear and force” with “three Rs” – relate, repeat and reframe – to change deep-rooted patterns of how you think, feel and act.

He also says seemingly impossible tasks like changing a loved one or a company’s actions are done using the same principles that can be grasped easily by anyone.

RELATE: You form a relationship with a person or group that gives you new found hope. If you face a situation that “reasonable people” would consider hopeless, you need the influence of a person with different ideas, even seemingly unorthodox, to make you believe and expect that you will change.

You trust their expertise; the key is the emotional chemistry of the relationship, not specific techniques. It’s like your fourth grade teacher or little league coach telling you that you would do well, and you did what you were told, so you did well.

REPEAT: This coach or mentor helps you to learn new skills or tools that are repeated until you do them without thinking about it. They give you guidance, encouragement, and training – enabling you to do something differently because you perform it often enough that it becomes a habit.

REFRAME: The person or therapy forces you to completely re-think your ideas, helping you learn new ways of considering your situation. You look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn’t have made sense before.

NEW HOPE, NEW SKILLS, AND NEW THINKING. This sounds simple, but if it is then why hasn’t the health care system figured it out?

For more, read the book, Change or Die, by Alan Deutschman. This article originally appeared in VISTA Magazine by Carol Crenna.


Randy Bachman on Health, Weight Loss and His Passions


By Carol Crenna

Former lead guitarist for the Guess Who and founder of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Randy Bachman has become a legendary rock and roll figure and Canadian music icon. He has earned over 120 gold and platinum album and singles awards worldwide for performing and producing. His songwriting has garnered the number one spot on radio play lists in 20 countries, with over 40 million records sold. I interviewed Randy Bachman about his other passions which include the environment, health and art.

CAROL: In your mid 60s you are still in the spotlight – recently interviewed by David Letterman on The Late Show and currently doing a US-Canada tour. Where do you get your energy from? 

RANDY: I feel very fortunate to have discovered music as a child; from the age of five, and every day after that, and for every tomorrow, I will love what I do. That being said, my body maintenance schedule now includes workouts, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, vitamins and supplements. That and trying to eat right and sleep well keep me feeling good.

CAROL:  Your bio says, “Due to health concerns and desiring a change in lifestyle, Randy left the Guess Who at the height of their success.” What health concerns did you have at such an early age?

RANDY: I had gall bladder attacks every night on the road and couldn’t get treated by any emergency hospitals. I had to quit to go home to see my family doctor and to the local hospital for tests. The pain from the attacks every night was unbelievable.

CAROL:  How did you change your lifestyle?

RANDY: I was in New York City when 9/11 happened. We thought it was the end of the world. We were trapped in a tour bus there and couldn’t get back home to Canada. I ate myself into oblivion. Then, we realized it wasn’t the end of the world but I had become super huge and totally out of shape. I saw Brian Wilson’s daughter, Carnie, on TV saying she’d had a gastric bypass operation. I emailed her and she sent me to her doctor. Dr. Alan Whitgrove at AlvaredoCenter, San Diego helped me through this procedure that radically changed and saved my life. Along with this change, I also became acquainted with Sam Graci who formulated and started the Greens + line of health products and has written many great books. I consulted with him and he helped me a lot. For eight years now I have kept to a regular regime: I work out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and then I have a drink of Transform + with added liquid glucosamine-chondroitin-MSM and other supplements. An hour after that, I eat organic blueberries, strawberries or raspberries on cottage cheese.

CAROL:  Is your family very health conscious now? 

RANDY: Yes. My wife eats very healthily, my daughter is vegan, and I do my best. My wife has a great organic vegetable garden that we eat produce from each summer and fall. Health is everything in life because it makes everything else possible.
CAROL:  How did having children change you?

RANDY: I don’t think anyone can truly “grow up” until they have a child. That’s when you lose the child you are and replace it with another child that you care about. It makes you think of someone besides yourself. The more children one has, the more this transformation takes place.

CAROL:  You used to play the violin? How old were you when you started to sing?

RANDY: I started violin at age five and quit at 14 when I switched to guitar. I became a singer on stage quite by accident when some songs I’d written and recorded became hits. I then had to sing them on stage and voila! – I became a “singer,” but totally untrained. However, it transformed my personality because in between songs I then had to talk to the audience and voila! – I became an emcee. Now I do a radio show. Who would have guessed this would happen?

CAROL:  Growing up on the prairies, you liked country music. Why haven’t you released country songs?

RANDY: After The Guess Who, my band Brave Belt did release two albums of country rock in the vein of Poco or Buffalo Springfield with pedal steel, violin, accordion and harmonies. We suffered financially. Wrong music, wrong place, wrong time. But with the same personnel and a name change, two years later as Bachman-Turner Overdrive we had a number one album, and the single “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” was number one in 21 countries. Suddenly BTO had outdone The Guess Who in record sales. 
CAROL:  When did you become interested in the environment?

RANDY: When you travel the world as I have done, it becomes easier to see the pollution, the destruction, and desecration on the road that big business and poor government has lead us down. When you see it happening in your own neighbourhood it makes you angry and you have to do something. Together we can make a change – one act at a time. We need stricter laws and harsher penalties and fines on the big polluting corporations who are killing us by poisoning the air, water and soil.

CAROL:  Why did you used to live on Salt Spring Island? Was the commute difficult?

RANDY: We came to SaltSpringIsland to go camping one summer. We all loved it, and the people on it, and kept coming back. The move there was slow and steady but very natural for the whole family. The commute was worth it although I feel the BC Ferry system could do a lot to improve the schedules for passengers like me who depend on making the right connections for business and airport travel.

CAROL:  Why did you choose to build your unique eco-friendly home from “rammed earth construction” on the island?

(Randy built a 6,000 sq. ft., $3 million home on Salt Spring Island, BC, requiring hundreds of artists and trades people, installing curved walls and staircases coloured with bands of crushed rock and shells. Rammed earth is an ancient method of building using wooden forms. Damp earth mixed with concrete is loaded into the forms and compacted. When the forms are removed, the wall is complete.)

RANDY: We wanted to build a house that was Earth-friendly, non-polluting, all natural and organic, and we hoped that it would be a model for others to follow. Our builder Meror Krayenhoff and designer Phillip Van Horn were futuristic thinkers with the same goals as my wife. Together they built an amazing house for us, and since then have built many more. Meror’s company Terra Firma Builders has many patents on the technologies he’s developed, which are now being launched throughout the world. It truly is amazing and the most sensible and conscientious way to build a house. Rammed earth isn’t the same as hay bale houses but they are both eco-friendly, fireproof, extremely well insulated with two- to three-foot thick walls and use very few trees in the construction.

CAROL:  How do you keep the passion alive for your work? Lots of people love their jobs but don’t do the same thing with as much zeal for over 40 years.

RANDY: There are so many aspects of music available. I bounce around from songwriting and producing to recording and performing. And there is always the challenge to get that next hit song. It never feels like a job; it’s a joy. The travelling gets tiresome at times, but you learn to get through it.

CAROL:  Your record label Guitarchives rescues archival guitar music. Why?
RANDY: Everyone’s past history is who they currently are. Life is a summation of everything you do, and to have it documented in song and music is something to be cherished. Nobody else was doing it so I felt an obligation to be the caretaker of most of the early music of The Guess Who and my friend and mentor, Lenny Breau. It means a lot to me to receive thank-yous from fans who treasure some of that previously lost music.

CAROL: You’re a mentor for up-and-coming Canadian artists. Who is good?

RANDY: Watch for Lindsay Ell from Calgary, Alberta. She just turned 19, plays great guitar, has a great voice, co-wrote her album with me and my wife, Denise McCann, and has the “it” factor. She has the potential to become a Sheryl Crow or Bonnie Raitt. I call her music “Americana” or “Canadiana.” We’re signing her to a major Nashville label.

CAROL:  What is the best part about doing your CBC Vinyl Tap radio show (which airs throughout North America on Sirius Satellite Radio)?
RANDY: The best part about Vinyl Tap is that I get to visit all of my old vinyl memories and share my personal stories about each song with the “tap heads.” Since I do the show with my wife, it’s a fun ride to take together every week. I plan the music and put it in sequence and then go into CBC studios with producer Tod Elvidge and Denise, who is responsible for research and mail. Tod chooses what to keep and cut so when we listen to the show on Saturdays we’re sometimes as surprised as the listeners what the final result turns out to be.

CAROL:  You toured recently with Burton Cummings performing your collective hits. What was that like — have things changed?

RANDY: It is a joy to play and share the stage with Burton Cummings, my friend since we were teenagers. He has one of the top 10 greatest rock voices alongside Elvis Presley, Robert Plant, Elton John, John Lennon, Stephen Tyler, and Little Richard. We got to cheat time every night and travel back decades together to play our old songs that have become soundtracks to most people’s lives – including our own.

CAROL:  What other creative interests do you have? 

RANDY: I do rubbings or impressions of manhole covers all over the world. This is to honour art that has been overlooked by most people. Look down at the sidewalks when you’re out walking and you’ll see these cool, very strong images of bronze or iron. I capture them on fabric with black crayon. I’ve recently come to an arrangement with 1921 Jeans in Winnipeg which is going to put my impressions on a line of T-shirts. These will be made in Canada out of hemp and bamboo fibre featuring my “captured art.” 

This article originally appeared by Carol Crenna in VISTA Magazine. 




By Carol Crenna

Health doesn’t have to be hard work. It simply takes a little motivation. As an international lifestyles and celebrity journalist, certified nutritionist and health lecturer, I will be offering  personal interviews with well known and respected celebrities from across the US and Canada to help you to get that motivation.

I have conducted dozens of interviews with celebrities about their health and lifestyle. These Q & A profiles offer an intimate look into the personal struggles and health successes of celebrities. Learn how celebrities who have had cancer and other serious diseases not only survived, but thrived; learn how Olympic athletes get motivated to train when they’re feeling lazy, and work through their fear of injuries;  learn how those in the public eye deal with weight gain, emotional issues, lack of sleep, and travel fatigue; learn why and how some have become vegetarian and raw food enthusiasts.


  • Musician Bryan Adams, with a rare disclosure about his acne, and the food issues that relate to it
  • Musician Randy Bachman, who admitted that his gastric bypass surgery was a desperate attempt to lose 100 pounds that he gained after his traumatic experience while in New York on 911
  • Producer David Foster, who stated that his heart trouble is probably due to his former heart (love-life) trouble before he met his current wife; that he is extremely claustrophobic; and that he lost weight by forgoing foods that make him “bloat”
  • Artist Robert Bateman, who disclosed that he had cancer on his painting finger, and that his decision to move to a remote area was due to his fear of electromagnetic frequencies as much as a longing to be near nature
  • Home design icon Debbie Travis, who said “I have cried myself to sleep; I have told my children I loathe them; and I have thrown things at my husband during a fight and even wrecked the paint on a new kitchen wall after a mug missed him. And that’s normal”
  • Singer Olivia Newton John, who believes that her breast cancer was partly caused by the stress of “not weaning those from her life that drained her,” words of wisdom given to her by a naturopathic doctor


  • Alannah Myles
  • Bryan Adams
  • Belinda Stronach
  • Bif Naked
  • Cheryl Hickey
  • Catriona LeMay Doan
  • Debbie Travis
  • David Foster
  • Erica Ehm
  • Eric McCormack
  • Ed Begley Junior
  • Ian Hanomansing
  • Justin Trudeau
  • Jian Ghomeshi
  • Jimmy Pattison
  • John Tesh
  • Les Stroud (Survivorman)
  • Mario Lemieux
  • Margot Kidder
  • Marla Shapiro
  • Meg Tilly
  • Olivia Newton John
  • Olympic Athletes
  • Pamela Wallin
  • Premier Gordon Campbell
  • Premier Dalton McGuinty
  • Premier Ed Stelmach
  • Rick Hansen
  • Rich Little
  • Raffi
  • Robert Bateman
  • Sass Jordan
  • Sarah Chalke
  • Steven Page
  • The Canadian Tenors
  • The Shopping Bags
  • Terri Clarke
  • W. Brett Wilson
  • Wendy Mesley