Chapter 1 – January Reflections

As a person who enjoys setting goals and dreaming, I like to make a regular practice of reflecting on my progress so that I can make intentional choices about the direction I am heading moving forward.

I am happy to say that January 2020 was a great start to a new year for me.  Here’s why:

Mindset Work
For a few years now, I have found the week between Christmas and New Year’s to be a time of dreaming, goal setting, and inspiration. This year was no different. I spent the week reading personal development, journalling, creating my vision board, setting goals, and dreaming BIG.  The difference between this year and last (or any year before that) is that this year, thanks to the mindset work I have been doing, I have not allowed my limiting beliefs to shut down my dreams.  In the past, I’d enjoy my time dreaming and goal-setting and within no time, my own self-doubt and limiting beliefs would convince me that my dreams were unattainable, unrealistic, or impossible. I’d start to play small, settle in my regular routine, and forget about the idea that I (like everyone) am made for more.

But over the past few years, I have been training my brain to think differently and it’s made THE biggest impact in my life. I am now aware of those limiting beliefs and can stop them before they take over.  It’s been a long process – and one that I believe we never stop practicing – but the positive effects it has had on my life are undeniable.

Clarity Workshop
That leads me to my next big thing in January which is that I feel like I finally have some clarity.  As I mentioned, I love to dream. I often think about what other possibilities and opportunities are out there for me.  In my head, I come up with a million little puzzle pieces but they never seemed to fit together. I needed clarity. What is it that I am really made for? Where is my path leading me? What BIG DREAMS do I have ?  In which direction am I headed? I struggled to answer these questions and then…

I Accepted God
Enter my brand new relationship with God. For the record, I prefer to call him God but this is new to me and still somewhat scary (although I am trying really hard to believe). I sometimes think of God as Source Energy or the Universe or whatever power larger than us that is out there. Because there is a power and he/she/it works in mysterious and wonderful ways and when you start really truly believing ….. well, it’s utterly amazing!

Anyway, I found myself struggling personally at the end of 2019 and had a moment where I felt so desperate and lost that I didn’t know what to do except pray (I have never really been a person to pray so this was a breakthrough moment). I called out to God and prayed, and prayed, and prayed so hard. I poured my heart, my fears, my worries, my concerns out to him and basically begged him to hear me and help me.

And guess what?

He did.  The very next day.  To say I was shocked and amazed is a major understatement. It was a massive awakening for me.

And then, I had an even bigger realization –   He had been there all along!  I had simply never reached out to him before.  He was always there, waiting and watching and all I had to do was speak to him through my heart for him to show himself to me. (Mind blown!)

As you can probably tell, this experience was profound for me, but as I said it’s still a little scary and uncertain. I have never been a religious person but as I begin to form a brand new relationship with God it’s pretty fascinating.  And it takes me back to my original point – clarity.

When we start to listen to what God places on our heart, we start to gain massive amounts of clarity.  But we can’t just listen. We have to believe. We have to believe in the path he has put us on and in the direction he is leading us. We have to believe the voice that speaks to us when we get really silent and listen to what’s on our heart.  So that’s what I did, and for the first time in a long time, I felt so clear and so excited about the path I am on and the direction I am heading.

Stepping out of my Comfort Zone
Once I started to be clear on my dreams and really, truly believe in them, I knew I had to take some action. This is another step that I have never taken before. Last summer, I had an opportunity that would have been amazing, but I let my self-doubts talk me out of it and never pursued it.  But this time, as soon as I started to believe, I began to be presented with opportunities that I knew I couldn’t say no to.  I said yes and believed I would figure it out. Of course, my old limiting beliefs and fear started popping up, but I paid attention to it and turned my thoughts around.  Am I scared?  Absolutely.  Terrified would be a more appropriate word to describe how Iam feeling. But am I going to do it anyway?  100% yes. 

I also wanted to take the time here to say  that stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be big, terryifing things.  It can be small and simple.  For example, I often think of something nice to say to strangers (“I love your shirt”, “your baby is so cute”, “I love your hair – where do you get it done?) but usually stop myself from saying it over the fear that they might think I am weird/strange/crazy. Now that I am aware of how silly this is, I have opened myself up and just say what’s on my mind!  Just think of the positive impact giving a compliment to a stranger can have!

Personal Development Books
Almost any personal development book will tell you that nothing great comes from your comfort zone. They will tell you that you should believe in your BIGGEST dreams and that you should take any action – no matter how small – to move towards them. They will tell you that you are capable, amazing, and made for more.  They will teach you how to train your brain to be aware of your negative self-talk and how to turn it into something positive.  Personal development books are pretty much amazing, and empowering, and full of such incredible information that I believe everybody should be reading them on a regular basis.
If you don’t like to read, you could also listen to any one of thousands of amazing podcasts, videos, or webinars.  I believe in personal development so strongly that I am working on a whole blog post on what it is, why you need to be engaging with it, and where you can find it. Stay tuned!

Made for More Facebook Group
Another big win for me last month was that I created a health and wellness Facebook group for women who have similar goals. The intention behind it was that I wanted a space where like-minded women could come together to support, motivate, and inspire each other to get healthier and to believe in themselves and their goals. At first, I had some self-doubt (would anyone be interested? Who am I to give “advice”? This has already been done) – but I decided to give it a shot anyway.  Within just a few days I had nearly 100 women signed up to the group!  We’re now a month in and not only do I absolutely love creating inspirational content for the group, but many women are still actively engaging with it on a daily basis! I’ve even had individual women reach out and thank me for creating the group and tell me how it has encouraged them and motivated them. Now I call that a win!

Morning Routine
Another big success for me in January was my commitment to my morning routine.  A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop and  felt like I found the missing pieces to my morning routine puzzle.  Because of my morning routine, I now have time every single day to do what I refer to as my heart work –  the reading, journalling, writing, and creating that sets my heart on fire and fills my cup so that it’s overflowing.  It’s amazing and if you don’t have a morning routine that lights up your soul and is the reason you spring out of bed in the morning, I highly suggest you start working on one.  Now.

Consistent Exercise
In January I also celebrated six months of consistent exercise!  I am finally at a point where I feel comfortable saying that exericse is a regular part of my routine and I am so proud of that!  I have exercised off and on for years but last July I made a commitment to a 100-day workout program – Beachbody’s  Morning Meltdown 100 – that changed everything. I built so much momentum with that program (not to mention endurance, strength + flexibility) that I knew I had to keep going.  So I did.  Since then I have completed an 8-week program and am going into my third week of the 8-week program for a second time.

The biggest thing that keeps me coming back to my work outs over and over again is the positive impact it has had on my mental health.  Exercise is my stress relief.  It is my proof that I can do hard things. It makes me feel strong and fierce physically and mentally. It’s true what they say about the power of endorphins after exericse – there really is nothing quite like it.

Nutrition
My biggest nutrition win in January was signing back up for Weight Watchers and beginning to track my food again. Tracking helps me to be more mindful of my food choices and to more frequently make better choices. It helps guide me towards healthier food options and away from mindless eating. I still really feel like healthy eating is the missing link in my health and wellness journey. Eating right has always been my biggest struggle. Even with all the exercise  I have been doing, my physical results have been slow because of the way I eat. I know that, and I continue to work on it.  Some days are better than others but I am not giving up and know that it’s the area I need to work on the most.

As you can see, I am celebrating a lot of wins for the month of January. For that, I am extremely grateful because I know that it was not that way for everybody. Many people struggle through this season when the days are long, dark, and dreary.  I saw family members, friends, and colleagues face their own challenges this month. And it’s not to say that I didn’t face any of my own. But overall, it was a positive month and for now I am choosing to focus on the good.

Life is full of ups and downs and I fully believe that when we are moving upward we need to celebrate and soak it all in. We need to do the work to strengthen our mind, body, and soul so that when life takes a downturn (as it inevitably will) we can move through it with grace and strength.

I’m ready February –  bring it on! 

xoxo

Rise + Shine – A Peek Inside My Morning Routine

Do you feel like there’s never enough time in the day to do the stuff that truly fills you up and sets your heart on fire?  Do you feel pulled in every direction, by all kinds of people, all day long?  Do you feel like you never get a moment to yourself?

These are some of the struggles many people (especially women) feel on a daily basis.  Not only are we constantly needed (by our kids, our spouses, our family members, our friends, our colleagues, etc) but we live in a society where we are constantly bombarded by external stimuli.  Unless we make time to fill our own cup, we can be easily left feeling depleted, drained, and exhausted.

Enter: the morning routine.

A morning routine is the practice of setting aside intentional time for yourself before the rest of the world needs you.  It’s about getting up early to the do the things that make you the happiest but that you never seem to have the time or energy for.   It’s about filling your own cup and setting your heart on fire, so that you can shine more brightly for others.

The morning routine is something we are starting to hear more about as we begin to realize that intentional time to fulfill our own needs is not only enjoyable, it’s critical for our mental health and overall wellbeing.

I have been hearing about – and working on implementing my own – morning routine for at least a year now.  Although I am always tweaking it to meet my own needs and to best serve the season of life I am currently in, here’s an idea of what it can look like.

(Disclaimer: The key to a successful morning routine is to do the things that fill YOU up and what sets YOUR heart on fire.  YOUR morning routine may look different than mine, but I’ll share mine just to give you some ideas and because I believe that some of my own personal practices should be part of every woman’s morning routine.)

No phone in the bedroom

My morning routine actuallly starts the night before and that’s with a good night’s sleep. For awhile now, I’ve made the commitment to leave my cell phone out of the bedroom.  Not only does the blue light from the screen negatively affect our sleep, but I know that I will stay up way later if I am scrolling mindlessly on my phone.  Instead, I use my Alexa Amazon for my alarm. If you don’t have an Echo you could get an old-fashioned alarm clock or I’ve heard about these really great alarm clocks that are available on Amazon that emulate a sunset so that you can wake up to the room gradually getting lighter rather than a blaring alarm!

Say no to snooze

The second part of my morning routine goes hand in hand with the alarm clock and that is that I do not snooze (or at least I try really hard not to!) There is a lot of research out there about how detrimental snoozing is and how it negatively affects your day!  The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins and The Ripple Effect by Greg Wells both have awesome information about why you should not snooze.  Make it part of your morning routine – your alarm goes off and you get up and get your day started!  Really, your morning routine should be so fulfilling  that you can’t wait to get up and get started!

Start your Power Hour

I always try to wake up so that I have at least an hour for my favourite activities before I need to start getting ready for my day.  Lately, 5:30 has been working well for me. When my alarm goes off at 5:30, I get out of bed and know I have the next hour (or more) to do the activities that make me the happiest.  Between 6:30-7:00, I start getting ready for work (hair, makeup, breakfast, dressed, brush teeth, etc) so that I can be out the door just after 8:00.

Meditate/ Quiet Time/ Pray

When that alarm goes off and I am out of bed the first things I do are pee, wash my face, and drink some water.  Then I head to my home office where I light a scented candle, turn on some relaxing music, and sit in silence for anywhere from one to five minutes (or more if I am really feeling it).  During this time, I am basically practicing meditation.  Other than  the music (which you can eliminate if you prefer total silence) the house is silent because everyone else is still sleeping. I focus on my breath (without forcing anything unnatural) and use this time to listen to the voice inside my heart – aka my intuition.  I listen to my inner voice (my thoughts) and acknowledge them without judgement. Then I let them go.  Recently, I’ve also started exploring my spirituality so I sometimes use this time to talk to God -whether it’s sharing what’s on my heart or thanking him for all my  blessings.  Although this is a fairly new practice for me, it’s incredible how amazing it feels to just sit and be with myself and my thoughts + feelings.  After all, it’s really the only time in my day when I am not reacting to or responding to external factors!

Journaling + Writing time 

Next in my routine, comes my favourite part – coffee + journalling!  I am a writer at heart so writing has never been an issue for me.   Sipping on a warm mug of coffee while writing?  Even better! Normally, I write what I call my ”morning pages”. Basically, I just sit at my iPad and write about whatever comes to my mind.  This is a free-flow type of writing that I find helps me to sort through my thoughts. Sometimes I will reflect on thoughts that came to me during meditation, other times I will write about how I am feeling about the upcoming day.  Other times, I have written out prayers, a list of goals that I am working towards, or read a religious devotional and write a quick reflection on it. I also enjoy writing out a list of positive affirmations so that I go into my day feeling confident + positive.

Another thing that I have just started doing is  writing my gratitude list at this time. I used to do it at the end of each day (as part of my nighttime routine – stay tuned for a future post!) until someone suggested writing about the day’s ‘wins” at night. That idea really resonated with me so now I write my gratitude list in the morning.

Personal Development

The next part of my morning routine has been an absolute game changer for me and that is reading (or listening to) personal development. Personal development is basically a more modern term for “self-help”.  I feel like my own personal development has been a journey on its own (again, stay tuned for future blog post) so I could go on and on, but basically what I do in the morning is either read a personal development book (my most favourite so far is You are a Badass by Jenn Sincero) or listen to a podcast and take notes.  The nuggets of information I get are absolutely amazing and have brought me miles on my personal wellness journey.  Like I said, I will write a post soon where I share my own personal development journey and share lots of great resources for you to check out!

Another thing I like to do during my personal development time, is work on skills or projects that I call my “heart work”.  My heart work is like work but it totally sets my heart on fire.  It lights me up and makes me so excited.  It is my passion. Lately for me,  this is planning + creating content for my health + wellness Facebook group Made for More (if you are not part of the group, and want in, message me!)  I’m also going to be using this time to plan my very first workshop I’ll be leading coming up in April!  I’m parterning with Rebel Soul Tribe and going to be talking about the power of a positive mindset when it comes to healthy eating!  I am totally terrified but also really excited – I’ll share more details as I know them!

Movement

I’ve included movement here because most people who have an intentional morning routine include some sort of exericse or movement and swear by the benefits of exercise in the morning. For me, personally, I have a pretty well established evening workout routine.  I prefer working out in the evening because  it helps me blow off any stress I’ve experienced that day, and I prefer to shower at night so it makes sense to work out before I shower.  What’s most important about movement and exercise though is that you find a routine that works for you!  Who knows, maybe some day I will try incorporating it in my morning routine. For now though, this works for me and that’s what’s most important!

So there you have it!  Like I mentioned above, this is my morning routine and yours won’t necessarily look the same. I would encourage you to try getting up even 15 minutes earlier and seeing what you can incorporate in the morning to fill yourself up before you have to face the demands of the day!

If you do try to incorporate a more intentional morning routine, I’d love to hear about it!  Or if you already have an established morning routine, please tell me all about it!  As I said, it’s one of my most favourite times of day because there’s really nothing better than filling my own cup so that I can pour into others!

xoxo

K.

My Personal Reasons To Exercise: What Are Yours?

Over the years, I have tried many different types of exercise ~ running, Zumba, yoga, weight lifting, rollerblading, walking, biking, cardio classes, dance, cross-country skiing, soccer, baseball, plyometrics, home DVDs… the list goes on!

But when it came to why I exercised, I only ever saw it as a means to an end – a way to lose weight. For most of my adult life I have battled my weight and I learned early on that exercise is a key component to any weight loss endeavour.  So throughout all those years, and many different types of exercise, I always had one goal in mind – If I do this, I will lose weight and if I lose weight I will look better.

Sure, sometimes I also told myself that exericse would make me feel better too, but I don’t think I ever truly paid attention to what that meant.

Until recently…

This past winter was the first time in my thirty-six years of life that I ever realized there is far more to exercise than simply being a tool to lose weight (nevermind the fact that there are far more important things to our health than simply losing weight – that’s another blog all on it’s own) This past winter was about the third year in a row where I noticed a marked difference in my mental state.  As late fall/ winter rolled around, along with it came a dark cloud over my head.  I lost my normal ambition and positive mindset, and felt unmotivated, anxious, and very, very exhausted all the time.  I hated how I felt and it dragged on for months – until summer rolled around.

At one point though, it started to become clear to me that just as my mood and mental state could be linked to the poor weather, it could also be linked to my lack of exercise.  Since then I’ve been doing more research and am reminded again and again that there are myriad reasons to exercise – and that some are far more important in our lives than the size of our waistline!

A couple of the people I have learned this from best are my former Beachbody coach Melanie Watson and a wonderful lady I follow on Instagram (Check her out: moms.can.be.fit – she is such an inspiration!) Both of these incredible woman are constantly preaching the real reasons to work out ~ not just to lose weight (although that can certainly be a positive side effect) but to have the right kind of mindset that will get us through life! Plus, so many other reasons that help us to achieve overall vibrant health.

With this, I started to consider my own personal reasons for working out.  Although I still have weight to lose, this alone hasn’t been enough to motivate me to exericse lately (yes, I’d like to lose some weight but at the same time, I’m sort of comfortable with the weight I am now. Also, I’ve been trying really hard not to focus on my “weight” and to focus on my health so this could be why too….).

But what got me started back to exercising this morning, after being off again for a couple of weeks, was the realization that just around the corner is back-to-school/ work!  Whether I like to admit it or not, I am about to enter a season where the lazy days of summer are going to come to an abrupt end and our days will be filled to the max with schedules, work, and responsibilities.  (I’m also preparing myself for a challenging year as I will have thirty sixth-graders which is the most kids I’ve ever had in a class!)

I know that the best way for me to handle the upcoming challenges of back-to-school/work (combined with some other challenges happening in our personal lives), is to get into a regular workout routine. That led me to start thinking about all my personal reasons for working out.  You’ll see that losing weight is on the list but there’s now so much more to it than that.  I hope that when I feel the urge to skip a workout or fall off the wagon next time, I can look to this list to keep myself on track!

My Personal Reasons To Exercise

1. Happy endorphins!

2. Mental clarity and focus!

3. To feel proud of myself!

4. Mental strength!

5. Positive mindset!

6. To gain physical strength and to feel strong!

7. So I don’t feel lazy! (A feeling I loathe)

8. It motivates me to make better food choices!

9. It gives me way more energy ~ I hate the feeling of constant exhaustion!

10. To lose and/or maintain weight

11. To overcome challenges (see: mental focus!)

12. To prove to myself that I can do what I couldn’t do before ( physically and/or mentally)

13. To make some things in life easier (ie. climbing stairs, walking long distances on hot/humid days)

14. To be overall healthy, vibrant, and positive!

15. To have confidence!

16.  To look good in cute clothes!

17. To like what I see in the mirror!

18. To feel accomplished!

19. To be an inspiration to others!

20. To be an inspiration to myself!

Are there other reasons you would add to this list?  I’d love to hear them! 

 

 

Consistency is Key: Perfection is Impossible

I am feeling very upset with myself tonight.  Frustrated and angry would more accurately describe it.  I just got back from another failed run.  I picked running back up earlier this summer and while some days of my new training program have been awesome, some have been really, really hard.  Today happened to be one of the hard ones. I was supposed to do a combined total of 34 minutes of running and about 18 minutes of walking (including warm-up and cool-down) but I didn’t even make it through half of the run before my body just couldn’t do it.

And while I know that this is just the way training goes (some days are good, some days are not), I’m also feeling frustrated because I know this is mostly my fault.  It’s no surprise that my body could not perform optimally tonight (as badly as I wanted it to), when I haven’t been taking care of it nutritionally.

Several months ago, I was put on a fairly restrictive nutrition plan by my naturopath.  The initial reasons for doing so were to heal my ulcerative colitis, overcome the extreme fatigue I’d been having, and to lose weight in a healthy way.  After doing food sensitivity and blood testing, my naturopath eliminated the following from my diet: wheat/gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, peanuts, chickpeas, and cane sugar.  It was discovered that I have a high amount of yeast in my gut (causing too much bad bacteria which causes my inflammation and ulcers) so she also put me on a yeast therapy treatment and gave me strict instructions to drastically cut back on sugar (which feeds the growth of yeast).  I was also put on a hemoglobin supplement (my low hemoglobin would be one cause of my extreme fatigue and probiotics  which would help boost healthy bacteria in the gut.

For a good while, I stuck pretty faithfully to this plan (with only a few minor cheats here and there) and took my supplements and treatments regularly. I saw almost immediate results – my boating and gas went down drastically, energy levels went up slightly, even my skin got clearer.

 

But, over the last few weeks I have lost my way.  It started when we went on vacation and I told myself I could have more “treats”,  but since coming home over a week ago, I just can not seem to get back on my nutrition plan.  In fact, I shamefully admit I have gone completely off of it.  I’ve been eating everything that hurts my body (white bread, bagels, crackers, peanut butter, tons of sugar, ice cream, cheese, fast food….) The hard thing is, I don’t know why I do this because nearly every time I do, I become consumed with guilt.  I tell myself I shouldn’t have it but I do anyway, and then I feel badly.  I tell myself I will eat healthier at the next meal, and then I don’t.  I buy healthy foods when I go grocery shopping, but then they go back on my counter while I eat junk instead.  And since my UC symptoms haven’t been drastic lately, it’s been easier for me to say “f*&$ it” and consumer whatever junk I want.

So it shouldn’t have came as a surprise that when I set out for my run tonight, I was battling some indigestion and my stomach was bloated.  And when I started the running intervals, I felt like I was carrying a load of bricks around my middle.  I felt heavy and sluggish.  On top of that, since the weather was overcast, I had way underestimated the humidity and was sweating within minutes. Guys, I loathe being hot.  Yes, I know you’re supposed to sweat when working out, but humidity just kills me!

Needless to say, about halfway through my run, I gave up and walked the rest of the way.  I instantly felt hot tears of frustration welling in my eyes.  The negative self-talk started up as I blamed myself for eating poorly and for not being able to fulfill the run I had hoped to do.

Maybe I am just not cut out for running, I thought. I’ve been dreading all my runs lately anyway.  Maybe I am better off just being fat and out of shape. This is your fault, you should have known better…. Maybe I need to get a modified program, this one is too hard. All you did was eat carbs and sugar all day and you thought you could get away with it!  You know better!  What were you thinking?!  You should have known this would catch up to you eventually!

But fortunately, my only saving grace tonight was that I’ve been working really hard on overcoming negative thoughts with positive ones.  Sure, that harsh, judgemental, “you’re-not-good-enough-and-never-will-be” voice immediately piped up in my head, but then moments later so did the inner voice I like to think of as “my friend”.

Today is just not your day but not every day will be perfect. Forgive yourself. Yes you haven’t been making the best food choices but you can change that.  It’s okay. You win some and you lose some, next time will be better.  You are going to keep trying.  Consistency will get you where you want to be.  You can do it, don’t give up on yourself.  Make one or two small changes every day and you will get there. Don’t give up.

And thankfully this positive, encouraging inner voice took over (and just so you know, I have to make a real effort for the positive voice to over-power the negative one, it’s not easy) because now I have had some time to reflect and to see that perfection is impossible but consistency is key and it’s never too late to get back on track.

What I have learned is that I need to remind myself why I started this nutrition plan in the first place.  It wasn’t primarily to lose weight as I’ve been thinking of it lately (and somehow I had foolishly convinced myself that I can “cheat” with my food as long as I am working out and won’t gain weight… even though I know that’s not the truth!)  The real reason I started this plan was to optimize my health.  Even though, I am not currently experiencing the severe symptoms of ulcerative colitis, I am definitely starting to notice some of the warning signs since I have been eating poorly again.  I’ve had far more gas and bloating lately, and am even starting to get bouts of indigestion again (something that I used to get so badly that I was taken to the hospital in the ambulance a few times because I thought I was having a gall bladder attack!)  And while my energy levels have been better lately, I know that is primarily because it’s summer (which means I’m off work and it’s sunny alot!) If I were working and eating this way, I’d be feeling sluggish, tired, or even depressed.  I know that if I clean up my diet, I will start to feel better.  My bloating will go down (one step closer to a flat stomach!) and the digestive pain and discomfort I have will go away.  My skin will clear, my energy levels will continue to increase, and it will get easier and easier to maintain the positive attitude that is so important to a journey of good health.

So although I may be feeling frustrated and angry with myself, I am grateful tonight that I know not to beat myself up (for too long anyway, haha!) and to take this as a learning experience.  It’s time to put my health (in particular my gut health) at the forefront again and to know that some days just aren’t my day, but that there’s always tomorrow and that I WLL NOT GIVE UP on my goals!

xo

 

Trials and Triumphs

In a follow-up to the post I wrote yesterday about my new-found passion for health and wellness, I wanted to share with you something I have been experiencing for the last week or so.

Two weeks ago, I decided to fully jump back on the “eating right and exercising” bandwagon (yep, story of my life!) I am kind of following the 21 Day Fix program, although I am not using the coloured containers.  I am using the food lists as guides and trying to reduce the amount of wheat, dairy, sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods I am eating.  I am doing the 21 Day Fix workouts although the program suggests you work out every day, and I have admittedly skipped a day here or there.

The first week was fantastic.  My motivation was high, I was eager to learn, and I jumped in with both feet.  I did meal prep, journalled all my meals, and even tried to make the best choices when I was out of town for a 3-day work conference.  But here we are at the end of Week 2 and wow, it’s been tough.

Like so many others in today’s society, I have a major sugar addiction. If it’s sweet, I love it.  If it’s white and carb-y, I love it.  For months, I subsisted on a diet of pizza, bagels, pasta, and fries.  Yum.  But the entire time I was devouring those delicious foods, I knew that they were not only wreaking havoc on my physical body, but on my health overall.

It’s been brought to my attention lately just how badly unhealthy foods can affect us.  I have started learning and doing some research about holistic nutrition and when I heard that unhealthy foods can also cause mental health problems, mood swings, and skin problems (just a few examples), it was like a light bulb clicked.

For months, I struggled with depression, lack of motivation, extreme fatigue, and just overall feeling terrible.  My colitis has flared up leaving my stomach bloated and gassy and causing frequent trips to the bathroom.  I am so fed up.  Now I am finally starting to understand that my food choices directly affect everything related to my health – whether it be physical health, mental health, emotional health, or spiritual health.

So all the more reason, to get educated and to try to make some serious changes in my life.  As previously mentioned the first week was pretty easy.  I was highly motivated and eager to get started.  But this past week, has been a little bit like a drug addict coming off drugs.

First of all, the cravings I’ve had for carbs and sugar have been mad crazy, especially in the evening.  When the day’s work is done, and I finally sit down to relax, the thought of anything carb-y consumes me – PB & J sandwiches…. big ol’ bag of chips…. pudding cups…. ice cream…. let’s be honest, anything.

On top of that, I have been experiencing crazy mood swing, most of which have made me irritable, resentful, sad, and just downright, miserable.  My brain has been screaming at me, angry with me for not feeding it the junk I normally feed it.  I get mad and ask myself why this has to be so hard?  Maybe I should just give up?  I could go grab a bowl of sugary cereal right now.  Screw it!  I think.  I feel down in the dumps, frustrated, and sad.  A couple of times this weekend I have burst into tears for no apparent reason except that I feel like total and utter crap.  Thank goodness, my sweet and supportive husband has been by my side to talk me through it and to encourage me along.  Because of him, and because of the inkling of determination that still exists inside of me, I am thrilled to say I’ve mostly overcome these tough battles.

The good news is that I am learning.  I know recognize that these physical cravings and mood swings (oh and the raging headache I had last night) are my brain’s way of trying to trick me into feeding it the crap it so desperately wants.  And my logic tells me that if I just keep fighting and pushing past it, eventually I will overcome this hurdle and come out stronger on the other side.

So now I am focussed on one day at a time.  I am going to continue to educate myself about what fuels and energizes my body from the inside out, and what turns it into a sugar-addicted, miserable monster.  I know it won’t be easy, but at least my determination is still high.

Eyes Wide Open: Discovering My Personal Passion

Recently at a professional book club meeting, the topic of passion came up. One of the questions was what are you passionate about personally?  The question kind of took me by surprise because I had always related passion to work.  When you are growing up and planning your future, you always hear the advice “Find something you are passionate about and then figure out how to make a job out of it.”  For me, teaching is definitely one of my passions.  And just recently I’ve recognized some things that have driven my level of passion with teaching sky-high (another blog post on that coming soon!) But when I was asked “What are you passionate about in your personal life?” I was really taken aback – what am I passionate about?

Of course, the most natural of answers came to me right away – I’m passionate about my family, about spending time with loved ones, and making sure they are taken care of.  But is that really a passion?  Sure, I care immensely about my family, but what interests do I have that excite me, inspire me, light a fire within me on a daily basis?

My colleague suggested my love for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I am definitely a huge fan.  I watch games religiously on television, attend as many games as I can throughout the summer, and proudly wear my Jays gear whenever given the opportunity.  I can name all the players, know what position they play, and know the basic stats.  But I don’t live for the Toronto Blue Jays.  It’s an interest but it doesn’t create a burning desire inside of me.  Watching the Jays doesn’t inspire me, it’s more just like a really enjoyable passtime.

So what is my passion?  I started to think about things I am good at and enjoy doing.  I know, I thought, my passion is writing!  It’s true I’ve had many fantasies about making a living as a writer – spending my days in a quiet room, alone, sipping flavoured coffee, and lighting my keyboard on fire as thoughts and ideas come flowing out of me and onto the screen.  I do feel I express myself best in writing. I do get great satisfaction from writing blog posts and putting my ideas into words.  But is it my passion?

I started thinking of a passion as that one thing you can’t stop thinking about.  It permeates your life every single day.  It makes you feel excited, inspired, thoughtful… but sometimes overwhelmed, confused, and scared.  Then it hit me!   I think I know what my passion is…..

Health and Wellness!

For years, I have been interested in health and wellness.  For the most part, I have been interested in health as it relates to weight-loss.  The story of my adult life is that I am consistently trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.  I am constantly seeking out the right plan to follow that will help me to look and feel great.  But more recently, the idea of health and wellness has evolves into something different.  Yes, I still want (and need) to lose weight.  But more importantly, I have recently become more interested in simply making myself healthy.

This has stemmed predominantly from my diagnosis a few years ago with ulcerative colitis.  I consider myself lucky in the fact that my colitis is fairly mild compared to some others.  Most of my symptoms include bloating, a lot of foul-smelling gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation.  At it’s worst, I’ve also experience severe abdominal pain that has landed me in the emergency room.  I’ve also experienced severe urgency that has disrupted my workdays and interfered with social activities.

What I didn’t realize until recently though, was that some of the other symptoms I’ve been having could be directly related to the inflammation in my gut.  I’ve had excema, skin problems, achy joints, headaches, extreme fatigue, and mood swings.  These things are all symptoms of inflammation (mind blown!)

My most latest motivation to get back on the “healthy eating/exercise bandwagon” has been not only to lose weight, but to heal my gut and to feel better overall.  I am tired of being tired.  I am fed up with the mood swings (irritability, crankiness, anger, sadness).  I want to feel energized, positive, and happy – every day, all of the time!

This has inspired me to start a kind of “new” health journey.  In order not to overwhelm myself (which can happen so easily), I have decided to focus on nutrition and making better food choices, not only for weight loss, but also as a means to heal my body from the inside out.  I am slowly starting to learn about whole foods, natural ingredients, eliminating sugar, processed foods, wheat, and dairy, eating more plant-based foods, and feeding my body so that I can feel energetic, vibrant, and strong rather than bloated, tired, and irritable!

I have chosen nutrition because there are SO many areas of health and wellness that if I jump into too much of it, I will totally overwhelm myself and may give up altogether.  But that’s not to say I am not dabbling and looking into other areas of health and wellness (mindfulness, meditation, exercise, to name a few).  I am so enthusiastic about this topic that it’s actually kind of hard to rein myself in but I do have to remember that it’s a HUGE learning process.  Lord knows, I have a LOT to learn.  But the most important part is, I am not only open and willing to educating myself, I am so excited to do it!  I have this strong natural urge, this passion burning inside of me that wants to know all I can about how to live the best life I can!

Whether it’s articles, videos, books, websites, social media pages, internet sources, or people… if it has to do with health and wellness I am interested!   Here are just some of the topics that have grabbed my attention, that I’ve experimented with, researched, read about, or thought about so you can get the idea of how interested I really am!

Nutrition – gluten-free, elimination diets, anti-dairy, the wheat belly diet, holistic approaches, Weight Watchers, eliminating sugar, processed foods, 21 Day Fix (Beachbody), Shakeology, supplements, anti-inflammatory foods, recipes, plant-based foods, whole foods, Paleo diet…..

Fitness – going to the gym, walking, running, yoga, 21 Day Fix, home workouts, Tai Chi, pilates, weight lifting, heavy lifting, CrossFit, Pure Barre, ballet, dance, hiking, paddling, skiing, baseball, soccer….

Spiritual/Mental Wellness – mental health illnesses/conditions, mindfulness, mindful vs. Mind full, coping with stress, anxiety, depression, yoga, meditation, self-care routines, prayer, journaling, grounding techniques, therapy/counselling…

Wellness – natural self-care products, natural cleaning products, environmental factors, essential oils, sleep, balance, self-care, time spent in nature, self-help books, self improvement, positive thinking, mindset

No matter what it is whenever one of these topics comes up, I find myself wanting to know more.  I ask questions, I think, I reflect, I analyze, I read, I consider… and most of all,  I get so excited and so emotional!  If that doesn’t describe a person passion, I am not sure what does!

 

Just Do It: Doing the Work Even When I Don’t Feel Like It

Ok guys, after months and months of being in a “slump” and feeling like I will never successfully get back on my weight loss journey, I finally feel like I’m about to make a comeback!   It’s all thanks to my Beachbody coach Melanie Watson who reached out to me and introduced me to author/ motivational speaker/ media personality Mel Robbins.  But before I get into that, let me tell the story from the beginning.

Back in early January, like so many others I made the resolution to get back on track with my weight loss journey.  After years of doing Weight Watchers, I decided to shake things up and signed up with Beachbody.  I started using the containers of the 21 Day Fix program and purchased Beachbody On Demand so I could workout whenever I wanted in my basement.  I easily found the Beachbody community online – literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other people trying to do the exact same thing I was trying to do.  It was online that I found and “met” my coach Melanie Watson.  Melanie seemed to “get” my struggles right away and had experienced many of them herself!  At the time, I was struggling with the winter blues, mild depression, and a major lack of motivation to do anything.   Despite being a complete stranger, Melanie seemed to know me so well and understood all my goals – plus she had the tools to get me there.   I signed up to her Facebook groups and followed her on Instragram eager to be successful. But after about the first month, things started sliding and I lost my motivation.  The winter blues were overwhelming and nights on the coach won over working out in my basement.  Carb-heavy, comfort food beat out nutritious and heart-healthy meals.  I started to tell myself that all the hard work and sacrifices it took to lose weight weren’t worth it.  Life was too short not to eat sweets. I should just learn to love myself the way I am.  Maybe for the first time in my adult life I could not be on a diet program and actually just learn to accept myself. But something deep inside me, an inner voice (or as Mel Robbins’ would call my inner wisdom) was still there.  No matter how much I tried to convince myself that I could feel satisfied, fulfilled and confident without losing weight, my inner wisdom was telling me differently. But still, nothing changed.  I still consumed calorie-rich foods all day long and snuggled into the couch as soon as humanly possible after work.  Every day I thought about working out but talked myself out of it within seconds.  I knew what I had to do to lose weight (and had all the programs and supports imaginable) but I still wasn’t doing it.

But the inner voice continued to talk.  I considered emailing Melanie.  By this point, I had completely turned my back on the Beachbody program.  I had unfollowed some of the groups online and began to feel resentful towards the cheery messages of success others were sharing in the groups.  I even contemplated unfollowing Melanie’s profile.  I was feeling so overwhelmed by all the messages about what I knew I had to do, but still, did not feel like doing. Then, last week, Melanie reached out to me.  I was shocked but so pleasantly surprised.  Although she had been so good to me previously, I had assumed I was just another “customer” helping to grow her business.  But by reaching out to me after weeks of not hearing from me or seeing my posts in group, Melanie proved that she actually wants me to be successful I immediately responded, openly expressing to her the struggle I had been experiencing.  I wrote about not being in the right “mindset” to get started and how I’d been struggling for months to get there. This is when Melanie gifted me with the invitation to check out Mel Robbins’ work.  As I mentioned earlier, Robbins is a media personality, motivational speaker, and author.  She wrote The Five Second Rule which I am currently devouring and taking copious notes from.  The minute I read Melanie’s email, I started obsessively watching Robbins’ videos on YouTube and spent my two-hour drive yesterday listening to her podcasts. It is like Mel Robbin’s was living inside my head.  So much of what she has to say is exactly what I have been struggling with for months!  And the fact that Melanie knew to suggest her work to me blows my mind even more.  How can a complete stranger know just what I needed?!

So what is this Five-Second Rule and why am I so excited about it?  As I mentioned, I just started reading the book to fully understand the concept but I am so excited by it that I felt I had to write a blog post right now.   Here are some of the main principles I’ve taken from Robbins’ work so far including how they relate to my life.

1. You will never feel like doing it, you have to do it anyway. Robbins speaks about the notion that we all know what we should do.  And we know how to do it.  For example, the Weight Watchers program (which I have been a member of for years), or the Beachbody program tell you exactly how to lose weight.  But yet I don’t do it.  Why not?  Because I don’t feel like it.   Robbins’ says that we’ll never feel like it but that we have to just start doing it anyway.  That’s why she says motivation is garbage.  Because we will never truly feel like doing things in the  moment that we should.

2. The Five Second Rule In a nutshell, the five second rule is a theory that you can train your brain to listen to your inner wisdom and do what you know you have to do, rather than hold yourself back from doing it.  It’s kind of like the Nike slogan Just Do It (which Robbins also refers to in the book).  Robbin’s tells of her personal struggles and how she discovered that by simply counting down 5-4-3-2-1 you can distract your brain and refocus on doing what you need to do.

3. Get out of your own head. Robbins says that our inner wisdom is constantly telling us what we should do to lead a healthier, happier, fulfilled, and satisfying life but that we have the habit of talking ourselves out of following through on these ideas.  As soon as we start thinking about the idea too much, we easily and effortlessly talk ourselves out of it.  The magic of the Five Second Rule is that we can change that!

4. Your have to parent yourself. I love where Robbins talks about how no one tells us when we become an adult that now we are going to have to parent ourselves.  When we are kids, our parents are there to tell us no.  They are there to make sure we do the things we are supposed to do.  As adults, there is no one to do that, so we have to do it ourselves.  We have to learn to tell ourselves no and to do the work even when we don’t want to.

All this being said, I want to recognize that I probably just did a terrible job of summarizing some of Robbins’ main ideas.  Also, please take into consideration my other disclaimer – I just started reading the book.  I know I have just scraped the surface of some of this woman’s amazing ideas!  I can’t wait to learn more.

But more importantly, I feel like I have been given a tool that is finally going to get me out of this slump that I’ve been in.  I’ve spent all winter making excuses for myself, talking myself out of doing the work, holding myself back, trying to convince myself that I could be happy without losing weight. Now I see that I need to get out of my own head.  I always overthink everything and I’ve been overthinking my weight loss journey for years.  What I am starting to see now is that I will never truly be ready so why am I still waiting?  Just last week, I wrote to Melanie that I needed to be in the right “mindset” before I could get started!  What I see now is that by just doing it, by just getting started, the actions I need to take will put me in the right mindset! Most importantly, what I see now is that making change is hard work and our brain is pre-wired to protect ourselves from hard work.  Our brain doesn’t want us to be uncomfortable.  Therefore, it will try to talk me out of everything that I need to do in order to lose weight successfully.  Also, I am never going to feel like doing the things I know I should do (eat healthfully, plan meals, go for a run, workout) but I just have to put on my big girl panties and do it anyway.  After all without hard work, there is no reward. So instead of thinking about things, I have to just start doing.  And the best way to do that (according to both Robbins’ and coach Melanie), is to do it one day at a time.  Every time my instinct kicks in to do something healthy, I have to get my ass in gear and do it before my mind takes over and talks me out of it!  I have to parent myself, tell myself no, and just do what needs to be done. The best part of all this is if I do the actions that I need to do, the positive, happy, self-loving mindset that I thought I needed to get started, will develop all on it’s own!  Wow!

One last thing about all this.  I couldn’t help but think of a Weight Watchers leader I had years ago.  At the time, I knew I loved her approach, I just didn’t understand why.  Every week at our regular meeting, she would tell us what we had to do.  “Eat your fruit and vegetables.” “Drink your water”.  “Move every day”.  Now I realize that her no-nonsense approach is what helped me to be so successful.  She didn’t give us a choice. She didn’t give us time to think about things, she simply told us to Just Do It.