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move to heal

Meet Alli. This is her Story

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Meet Alli. This is her Story

August 8th, 2004 is a day that will forever leave a painful mark on my heart.


It was a Sunday morning that started like many other mornings; I slept in, grabbed a glass of water and went downstairs to find my parents to start our day. I picked up my pace heading down the stairs, and that’s when I heard some painful gasps- which I soon learned was coming from my Dad. I walked into his office in the basement to find him hunched over in my Moms arms, crying (which I had never seen) and I knew.


To give you some context, let me tell you about Garrett.


Garrett was my half brother (we shared the same amazing Dad). We had a big age difference and lived in different cities- but we were very close. Garrett was a top shelf, full package guy. He was tall, good looking, had killer hair, was active, a marathon runner, loved to cook, drove a Volkswagen and a motorcycle, had great style, was kind, thoughtful, knew his wines and was an Air Canada Pilot. Pretty solid line up, right?


This is why I was beyond excited to move to Toronto (where Garrett lived) after being accepted into Ryerson University. Not only that, Garrett lived in a loft near the Campus so I was going to get to see him regularly- team workouts, team dinners, you name it... there was so much to look forward to!


We first learned of Garrett’s battle with Bipolar Disorder when he was diagnosed with the illness in the year 2000. What followed was a four year battle for Garrett and our family that had many peaks and valleys. Garrett was very aware of his battle and looked for some alternative therapies to help him through his illness; this is where he developed a love for running. Like many things Garrett did, he nailed the whole marathon running thing pretty much immediately! He ran the Toronto Marathon, New York City Marathon and always dreamed of doing the Boston Marathon.


My parents and I lived in Winnipeg during this time, so my dad was making regular visits to Toronto to spend time with Garrett. Garrett also spent time flying back and forth to Winnipeg.


Garrett had planned to attend my high school graduation in June of 2004 but unfortunately wasn’t able to make it. He was feeling very “off” that month and admitted himself to the hospital to seek appropriate treatment. Though I missed having him join us for that milestone, I understood. I had already been accepted to Ryerson by that time so we knew we had lots to look forward to....


On August 8th, 2004 Garrett took his own life.


Despite a lot of opinions and questions, I moved to Toronto at the end of August 2004 and completed my four year Fashion Communications program at Ryerson.


I have since had some incredible career experiences, met some very special friends, met my husband, bought a house and have run 10K and 15K races in memory of Garrett. Fitness became a very powerful outlet for me throughout my grieving process and more so a way for me to feel connected to him. Running to a good playlist will make me think of him, boxing will release any pent up emotions or anger and yoga helps me to connect my mind + body and feel deep gratitude for a beautiful life.


There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my brother. Losing someone to suicide leaves you with so many unanswered questions and painful feelings.
Though I miss Garrett terribly, I know he is at peace and watching over me and my family.
We talk about Garrett often and toast him on his birthday, Christmas and even the anniversary of his passing.

Life is still meant to be celebrated.

 When we celebrated Garrett’s 10 year anniversary, I wanted to celebrate it on a bigger level and do an event in his honour and in support of Mental Health. I had the opportunity to partner with the incredible team at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for this event, as well as many others these last few years.


Mental health awareness has become a big passion of mine and something that I will always support. I have found that being open and honest about my experience with losing Garrett has not only helped my grieving process over the years but I have been able to use it to help others.


Losing Garrett has taught me many life lessons- but most of all to appreciate and enjoy life.

You only get one, so be sure to live it to the fullest.

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Body Balance + Blood Sugar

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Body Balance + Blood Sugar

 

Written by Amber McKenna R.H.N


[This article is not about weight loss, BUT] I am frequently about tips and tricks for weight loss.

I have heard every outrageous claim from, “Wrap yourself in plastic while you sleep” to “High doses of cinnamon” that a certain famous, television Doctor claimed will melt away body fat.

(I consider this to be a few degrees of separation from what Cinnamon will actually do:
Help to balance your blood sugar).

 

Lets talk about Blood Sugar + Mood for a second:


Balancing your blood sugar throughout the day actually WILL help you live a healthier, happier, more mood stable and energy stable life.


When we eat carbohydrates, which break down into sugars or glucose in the body, our pancreas secretes the hormone Insulin in an effort to control that spike in blood glucose, or blood sugar levels.


Insulin carries glucose to our cells to be utilized for energy. Unfortunately, if that glucose isn’t used up for energy immediately, it will be carried into the liver where it’s converted into glycogen which is then stored as fat. If we were ever to be without food, this would be awesome and our body would burn the fat stores for energy — but we see a lot of feast, and not a lot of famine these days.

In order to maintain a healthy blood sugar balance, keep energy stable and to keep metabolic functions optimal, a trifold of macronutrients in a healthy balance at every meal is necessary; Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.


Carbohydrates provide you with fuel to convert to glucose, Protein helps the body utilize glucose for energy in a slow-release capacity, and Fat helps to slow down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream and leaves you feeling satiated.

Without this delicate balance things can go a little squirrely; Our blood sugar can spike and crash, we can experience mental fogginess, fatigue, mood swings, and even weight gain.

I recommend maintaining a healthy balance at every meal that includes all three vital macronutrients. For example, fueling the body at the beginning of each day with a protein heavy meal will balance and moderate blood sugar throughout the day.


TRY: A small portion of sugar-free, organic Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and cinnamon
TRY: A spinach smoothie with a TBSP of your favourite natural nut butter.
I also recommend finishing the day with a light protein based snack, which helps moderate blood sugar as you sleep, and will help you to wake up hungry.
TRY: A handful of almonds or a tablespoon of hummus with carrots

I tend to lean towards recommending a balance of a few servings of animal based protein a week (if that’s your thing) with veggie proteins found in beans and legumes.


Go get your balance on!

 

**************************************8

If you have ANY questions at all for Amber, hop over to our CONTACT page and send them our way

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Meet Jenna. This is her Story

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Meet Jenna. This is her Story

By Jenna Kress

 

Not cool enough. Not strong enough.  Not fast enough. Not skinny enough. Not talented enough.

The feeling of never being enough or doing good enough.

That is the story of my life.  

I was once a young girl with a creative mind and imagination; I dreamed of being on Broadway, was somewhat shy, and quieter than the rest of my family.  I also spent a lot of time in front of the mirror cutting myself down for being too fat.  I had some talents and hobbies but never really succeeded in one. I really struggled with putting myself out there because of how I felt about myself – fat, ugly, I had bad acne, weak, and what I would call “socially awkward.”   

Me. I'm the biggest thing that has ever held me back.

I do have to give myself credit because after hitting my heaviest weight, I did do something to change it.  I changed my diet and started exercising. I started University, got into a serious relationship, and became physically unrecognizable

I learned that if I work really hard at something, if I’m persistent, and if I really want it, I’ll succeed.  However, there was a lot of struggle during this time as well. I lost a lot of weight.  It became an obsession.  I exercised a lot, skipped meals, rationed my portions, and continued to shrink to a point where I knew people were saying things but never to my face- with the exception of my boyfriend at the time calling me a skeleton; “It’s like having sex with a Skeleton” he would say.  I vividly remember a point that hit me before I started losing a lot of weight – my boyfriend had accidently slipped on a pair of my jeans and then went on to make fun of me for that fact that he could fit into them- So I went from too big to too skinny.  Sadly my ex-boyfriend was more concerned that people thought he was the cause of my low weight, than he was about my health.

I tried bulimia.  I remember shoving my fingers down my throat.  That didn’t work.  I tried the back of my toothbrush.  That also didn’t work.  I remember how my throat felt.  Raw.   

Since bulimia didn’t work, I continued to eat very little, so eventually I ended up with anorexia. One of the scariest things that I vividly remember was weighing myself in my parent’s bathroom and seeing 95 lbs (I am 5’7”)- the scary thing about it is I remember smiling because I was pleased with this outcome.  

My mind was always on food – about when the next allotted time came up that I could eat and how many calories it would cost me.  I suffered from depression and anxiety, which I was taking a prescription for, but this further declined my appetite and gave me terrible tremors.  

I was very skinny but I never felt skinny enough.  

I was never good enough even though I excelled at school and landed a great job after I finished my degree.  I just wasn’t happy.  I began to drink more – often skipping food to offset the extra calories from booze.  

I can’t tell you how exactly how I made the switch to choose a healthier lifestyle, but I’ve made and continue to make a lot of changes to get where I am – I am a heathier body weight now and doing things I never believed I could.  I am very active being an indoor spin (i.e. Ride, cycle) instructor (‘Motivator’) at Wheelhouse Cycle Club.  Being up on the podium as a Motivator – leader – has given another level of purpose and self-worth to my life.  I have confidence on the bike- I can dance, move and be who I want to be.

The adrenaline that I get from these high energy rides keeps my energy and mood up for days.

My rides are intense, fast, dance-y and frickin' hard, but I love it.  I am continually surprised by my own capabilities. Riding and exercising has provided me both physical and mental benefits- but more importantly are the mental benefits I have gained.

On days that I have felt mental pain and fatigue- Riding has helped release that.

I have a better relationship with food because I know without it, I wouldn’t be as strong on the bike and wouldn’t be able to keep up with my active and busy lifestyle (I am also a Registered Dietitian and Certified Makeup Artist).

I have also been able to connect with others and am now part of a positive supportive community.

Leading rides has become part of the biggest thing that helps me love myself more- I love helping and empowering others to be their healthiest and happiest versions of themselves.  

My personal journey includes experiences of struggles and successes. I’ve loved, lost, laughed, and ugly cried probably more than the average person. I still have failures but I continue to learn from them, take risks, get stronger, and happier.  I am thankful for this body and that I can ride, I can run, I can do yoga, I can lift weights heavier than I ever imagined for myself.  And finally, I am getting better at appreciating myself and recognizing that I AM already enough, I’m more than enough.  

If you don’t believe in you, how is anyone  else supposed to?

Be excited about yourself! xo Jenna

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How Your Living Space Affects your Mental Health

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How Your Living Space Affects your Mental Health

 Hey everyone - Kiki here! I am the Founder and CEO of Spaces Simplified - a Professional Organizing Service. I jumped at the opportunity to write a post as a guest blogger at my friend Cayla's request. I hope everyone can take something from this post, and do your very best to create and recognize happiness in your lives!

 

Today’s focus: “When people are happy in their homes, it spills out into the rest of their lives”

 

Like anything else there are so many factors that affect our happiness: Our relationships, our careers, our education, our experiences, our goals, our locations and the spaces around us. All of these things shape us, some more than others at different instances due to varied consistencies, but the one I’d like to focus on is the home.

When people are happy in their homes, it spills out into the rest of their lives.

 

Home can mean many different things to different people. For me home is a haven, it’s a place a seek solace in and feel safe in. It’s also a place where I dream and grind out some crazy hard work! You can see where I’m going with this - different spaces allow us to feel different things and accomplish specific goals. I hope that for everyone the ultimate goal is always happiness!

 

Here are 3 ways to keep your home a happy space to be:

 

1. The Hub

 

Everyone (hopefully) has a space like this in their homes. The place where everyone gets together to catch up and chill out. If you feel like your home is lacking one, don’t hesitate to create it. In my experience I’ve found that kitchens are one of the most popular spaces (probably because there are snacks there), or anywhere there’s a snuggly sectional. In regard to fostering happiness, it’s not so much about the physical space as it is what the space represents. It’s a space to connect - a place to reflect. This day in age there are so many moving parts and full schedules. Establish a hub, and allow yourself to spend time there connecting with the people you care about.

 

2. Eliminate Clutter & Chaos

 

Simple fact: If your surroundings are chaotic, your life will feel chaotic.

If you have one or multiple overwhelming areas in your home or work space don’t underestimate how much it will affect you. It can constantly weigh on your shoulders or you could avoid it completely, both of which will directly affect your happiness and even your mental health. It’s been proven (and is fairly obvious) that those who describe their spaces as “cluttered” or “disorganized” or full of “unfinished projects” are more likely to experience feelings of fatigue, overwhelm, hopelessness and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. All of these things can affect your mood, sleep, health, relationships and self-esteem.  Don’t underestimate the importance of surrounding yourself with enough organization and order to thrive!

 

3. Exterior Love

 

Curb appeal = First Impressions. As much as I love to focus on the interior of homes, there is something to be said for investing time and energy into the upkeep of the exterior of your home - a simple place to start: landscaping. Keep your greenspaces well kept and tidy. Depending on how green your thumb is, design your lawn and garden spaces to suit how much time you want to spend maintaining it. Add pops of colour with easy to maintain flowers and plants like sunflowers or sweet peas. Feel good about your home every time you come and go! Be proud that it’s yours and enjoy the happiness this brings you.

 

4. Maintain Your Own Independent Space

Having your own domain allows you to have a place to retire to and genuinely unwind. Make it your own, design it according to your style. Allow yourself the luxury of reveling in something that’s just yours!

The spaces we retreat to and from each day are without a doubt one of the biggest contributing factors to our mood, our energy and how we live our lives. My hope is that everyone can surround themselves with a space that energizes them for the day, and allows them the opportunity to unwind and seek solace in at the end of the day.

 

Remember your home and your spaces are what you make them.

 

Aim for happiness.

 

Xx M

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Meet Becca. This is her Story

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Meet Becca. This is her Story

I move, I breathe, I feel, I heal.

I repeat.

By Bec Isaacs

When I think about my life, I see so many chapters. Chapters of love, of loss, of pain, of joy, of trauma, of heartache and heartbreak. Chapters of insecurity and doubt, pride and passion, strength and weakness. Chapters of being somewhere in between all of these things. But all of these chapters have made me who I am today, and all of these chapters have helped me appreciate that person. The thing is, there has always been one common thread in each of these chapters. A thread that has helped me deal with life. A thread that has helped me heal. A thread that at certain times, was the only thing keeping me alive.

This thread transformed my life, and continues to support me today. It has taught me about strength, patience, failure, discipline, acceptance, vulnerability, and joy. It has been the key player in minimizing chronic pain in my body, which has contributed to the happy and healthy life I live today.

This thread, is movement.

This is my story.

I was a mover my whole life. When I was younger I was a dancer, a gymnast, a skier, snowboarder, soccer player and some would have said, a free spirit. I was the kid who was running around and climbing trees in the forest every time I had the chance. I even had reoccurring dreams that I could fly (I still have these dreams today). Basically, I was always moving.

In 2007 I got pretty sick. I spent two years in and out of pain and depression. I was low in energy. I spent more time with my toilet than with my friends. My weeks consisted of headaches, migraines and emotional episodes. I was bloated, malnourished, and my energy had flatlined. I was on a soccer scholarship at university and was struggling to perform. I was struggling to even get out of bed. Soccer wasn’t the only thing that suffered, I was having trouble in school and couldn’t engage properly in personal relationships. I wasn’t myself. I was so under-nourished I felt paralysed.  It got to a point where I could hardly walk or see...speech was difficult, and every muscle and bone in my body was aching as if it was about to explode. After some tests, observation and re-hydration, the doctors told me I had celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that is much more commonly known today, and relatively easy to mange with dietary techniques.

While all of this was happening I was also dealing with daily headaches. In fact, I didn’t know what it felt like spend a whole day headache free. The headaches became migraines 2-3 times per week, and I had excessive pain in my jaw. This pain was part of my life consistently for seven years and onward. A some point throughout those seven years I was diagnosed with TMJD, an umbrella term for pain and discomfort in the muscles responsible for moving the jaw, and the muscles that connect the jaw to the skull. It was torture.

Needless to say, I was in pain. I was laughing less, my eyes were dull and lifeless, and although I was doing my best to enjoy life despite the physical distress I was experiencing in my body, the headaches made it impossible to participate in the world.

During this time I went through an ass-kicking of a break up. It kicked my ass so hard that I felt like I never learned how to breathe, and that I would never breathe again. But deep down I knew I would breathe again. In fact, I knew I was still breathing... even though it felt really really hard. Whatever this feeling was, I wanted to beat it. I wanted to heal.

And then the yoga happened.

I had been to some yoga classes before, but it was mostly for exercise. So when I decided to get back on the mat, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or why. But I got on the mat, and moved my body based on what I interpreted from the teachers instructions, and something felt different. I was starting to understand the practice a little more and my body felt so at ease after every class that I kept going back for more. The movement also reminded me of my days as a dancer, which made me feel joyful.

After the break up I made a commitment to myself that every time I felt anger or pain, or resentment.. I would go to yoga. I also promised myself every time I wanted to text my ex, I would go to yoga instead. Let’s just say I went to yoga... a lot.

After some serious time on the mat, life decided to kick my ass again. My aunt who I was very close with was losing her battle to cancer. My father’s memory was starting to fail him, and my headaches and migraines were becoming increasingly debilitating. With everything that was going on, I knew I needed to move home. When my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis became official, there was no question that it was the right thing to do.

I packed up, moved home. And my days looked a little something like this.

Wake up. Go to yoga. Go to the hospital for the afternoon to be by my aunts side. Go to work. Go to party and make questionable decisions. Go to sleep. Repeat.

The questionable decisions started to overtake the yoga. I was losing my practice and myself. I was sad, angry and heartbroken. I was in physical and emotional pain and I was losing the two most important people in my life. I just couldn’t seem to find my own two feet.

I remember this chapter so clearly. My aunt passed away, I was trying to hold onto my dad while trying to hold my mother together in her state of denial and emotional collapse, and my life that was spinning out of control. I made some horrible decisions. I wasn’t taking care of my body or my heart. I lost my passion, my pride and I wasn’t getting on my mat. It was clear I had lost my way.

I remember driving around the city one day, my eyes full of tears, thinking “how could all of this possibly be happening? ... and then saying to myself “you don’t even have it that bad!” This was the conversation in my head for a while...it went back and forth, back and forth. I stopped paying attention to what I was doing so I pulled over and parked the car. Wiped my tears and looked out the window. I had parked right in front of the yoga studio. It was clear what I needed to do.

It was that very moment that I decided to shift my victim mentality from “why is this happening to me” to “this is happening, so get your shit together and figure out how are you going to deal with it”. I had lost my aunt, I was losing my dad, my mom was falling apart... I didn’t want to lose myself too. I knew I needed to move my body.

I gave away the only pack of cigarettes I ever owned... I had it stashed in my drawer from one of the nights I had one too many drinks. I decided to stop having one too many drinks. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, renewed my yoga membership despite the cost, and committed to loving myself so I could start helping my family (which was the whole reason I moved home in the first place). I knew in order to help them, I needed to stop hurting myself first.

Things started to shift. I started taking my yoga more seriously. There were days where nothing made sense... except for yoga. So I went back to the mat and moved, every single day, over and over again. Before every practice I would say mentally to myself “ I move, I breathe, I feel, I heal”.

I was getting stronger. I was becoming more patient. I was clearer and more motivated. My headaches and jaw pain were still prevalent but I was more able to manage the pain because of the benefits of my consistent yoga practice. I would move, and things would just feel better.

Now lets fast forward to 2015. I had been through the ringer with specialists and doctors back in Canada to try and figure out how to manage my headaches and jaw pain, nothing was working. What I really wanted to do was see the world. So I left home, traveled through Asia for a while and then spent a year in Australia. I was still practicing yoga, but not in a consistent way. But in June of 2015 a friend of mine set me up with the Byron Yoga Centre, where I lived for 3 months. I woke up every day, and moved my body. I was spending anywhere from 4-6 hours a day on my mat. I was under the guidance of some incredibly experienced teachers, and I was starting to understand that the physical part of the practice was simply the gateway into something much bigger. Something shifted, and I began practicing CONSCIOUSLY. For the first time in my practice I was fully aware of my movements and my breath. I was slowing down and tuning into my body. I was listening. I was moving enough that I could be still. It was like I was dancing the pain out of my body, one posture, transition, and breath at a time.

I ventured back to Canada and realized that I had been headache free for a period of time without realizing it. The pain in my jaw had subsided, and my eyes started to shine. I felt lighter, and stronger at the same time. Since then I have been back and forth between Canada and Australia, and have had a consistent daily practice of asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation. I move my body every single day, in a conscious, loving and nourishing way. Some days I push, some days I pull back, but I move, every day.

Here’s the thing... my yoga practice hasn’t healed my pain completely and it doesn’t promise me a pain free life. It hasn’t brought my aunt back, or reversed my father’s Alzheimer’s disease. It also hasn’t erased all of the poor decisions I’ve made in my life or the heartbreaks I have experienced. What my yoga practice has done is taught me how to breathe. It’s taught me that although I will never be able to control what happens around me, I can control what happens within me, which means I can control how I respond to life when it is challenging AF. The physical benefits of the practice have given me enough space from my pain to get to know myself as a human being, instead of as the shell of the human being that I was. It also helps me appreciate the days I am pain free even more, while doing my best to honour the days I am not.

Although there have been many factors to my healing, the consistent thread that I keep coming back to is movement, and for me that is yoga. Conscious movement has literally saved me from a life pain. It is my therapy, my best friend, and my lifeline. It is the biggest and brightest tool I have which has lead me to a life of inspiration, pleasure, joy, and purpose.

Today, I am a certified yoga teacher, spending a lot of my time studying and exploring functional movement patterns so I can teach others how to move functionally and consciously in their own unique bodies. I directly recognize the power of this process through my own experiences, and I hope that my story will inspire others to do the same.

 

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