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Music, Mood, + Your Monday Wind Down Playlist

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Music, Mood, + Your Monday Wind Down Playlist

By Kristy Carson @kcarsonfit

Music has always been an integral part of my life, probably more so than what would be considered normal.

I attribute it to dancing since the age of three; that early on it became more to me than just melodies and lyrics or background noise. For me, dancing creates a special relationship with music where I feel every emotion, every lyric, every beat throughout my entire body.

Growing up my school books were always littered with song lyrics written out over and over on scrap pieces of paper, my agenda, my binders, and eventually in my phones notes app (oh how times have evolved). When there was something special about a song that I heard, I would hold onto it and it would stick with me. There are still lines today that bring me back to an exact place and time to where I felt something so special from it.

To me, music is a little like magic in that way.

Over the years my love for music made me really want to pursue it for a career. Opening my own record label was a big goal of mine, but of course I was young and lived in a small city and it didn't seem realistic. Starting a music blog helped give me an outlet for that passion but eventually life gets busy and different dreams are formed.

Fortunately, at this point in my life music still plays a large roll in my job; just under different circumstances.

Instructing in fitness and choosing music for classes is probably pretty standard for most. You pick the genres you like and put on playlists in shuffle. That is certainly how I started, but it has grown into something I probably now spend way too much time on.

Being able to perfectly craft a playlist so that the timing is all lined up and it ebbs and flows with the movements and duration of a class is something truly special. I love being able to express myself through music and sharing what fires up my soul to other people through my classes.

Although my tastes may differ vastly from other people, that is okay. We all are such different people and will find joy in such a range of things.

To me, what I've found over the years is the songs that seem to impact me the most are the ones that really make me feel something.

That can be a country ballad, an EDM banger, or a bone chilling singer-songwriter track - but it's the way they make me feel that sticks to my bones and fills me up the most.

I have put together two playlists for the Move To Heal family.

The first is a Sleepy Times playlist; I say this loosely as it's more of a chill vibe playlist that I would listen to over a cup of coffee on a quiet Sunday morning. These songs are some of my absolute favourites and I hope you find even ONE that sparks your heart like they have mine.

The second is a Happy Times playlist. That doesn't mean workout, or that they're even all happy and upbeat songs, but more so a jumbled combination of some of my all-time favourites in life, mixed with some of my current obsessions that I can't seem to turn off.

Music in my opinion can change your life.

Sometimes that song you didn’t even know you needed to hear comes on. The words make complete sense to you in the moment or the melodies fuel your soul in such a powerful way. It is always evolving and limitless in what can be created. I feel honoured to get to share some of my favourites here with you and that you enjoy some of them as well.

Kristy


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Meet Kourtney: On Conquering Mountains + Learning to Rest

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Meet Kourtney: On Conquering Mountains + Learning to Rest

BY: Kourtney Meldrum


Early in the Summer of 2016, in the middle of the night, my best friend and I stood at the base of a mountain. It was pitch black, and the only light came from our headlamps. We started the ascent up to the peak; feeling lost in the dark, following a path that often diverged, bears and cougars looming in the back of our minds, we hiked through the dark, and halfway through falling snow. It was an uphill battle (literally). When we wanted to quit, we pushed through. After scrambling up the loose rock the mountain dropped off into a sheer cliff, and the world opened up.


In the very early hours of the morning, I stared at the sun rise and explode into water-colour pastels over the rocky mountains. I wanted to cry. We had made it. We’d pushed through, refused to quit- we made it.

This moment changed my life in so many ways.


At this point in time I was just shy of 19 years old and finishing my first year of university. I had just begun to love fitness as it helped me work through depression and was quickly becoming obsessed with the outdoors. The cumulation of those things is what brought me to the peak of a mountain at 6am, taking in the world in a way I’d never experienced it before.


This experience became a mantra for my life- When you want to quit you keep going. You take one step at a  time, then one more, then one more, until you reach the top. This was proof that I could make it to the top of grandiose mountains; any mental mountain I faced in my life would pale in comparison.

I. Could. Conquer. Mountains.


This became my mindset going forward and is responsible for so many of the great things in my life. I felt empowered to take on more, to accomplish more, to prove myself wrong when I didn’t believe I could do things. I could conquer mountains, I could do anything.


On a trip to Africa with my father, we hiked up a mountain in Mauritius. As I dragged my father up a mountain in the sweltering heat of the early morning, I thought many times that this might actually kill him. I told him we could stop, go back, we didn’t have to finish the hike. As my father took a final step to the top, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more proud. My father turned to me and said, “I am a finisher, not a quitter.” This became another mantra for my life.


I’ve created a mentality that has pushed me forward in life to chase after my goals and dreams with an intense ferocity. I crave to feel challenged and uncomfortable as I searched for growth and accomplishments. I have pushed myself hard because I could, and I knew I could handle it. I never quit, I never rested, because I knew that I could do more.


In the past few months, all of that changed.


Some health issues surrounding the migraines I’ve experienced for over a decade forced me to slow down my life. I’ve been exhausted, in pain, and sick. I’ve been so mad at myself. I’ve felt like a quitter. I’ve felt like a failure.


Most days I don’t feel my best and consequently, am not performing at my best. I’ve said no to opportunities, lessened my responsibilities, and done the bare minimum to get by. I’ve done this because I physically have not been able to live my life the way I was before.


I didn’t even have the option to make a choice to take care of myself; I’ve had to. I’ve been so exhausted for months and in daily pain that I’ve had to learn to rest more and put taking care of myself a priority so that I can perform the tasks I do have to the best of my ability.


It’s hard for me to even put into words how tough this has been for me. Resting is the antithesis to how I’ve lived my life for years. It’s been mentally draining to not push for my best. In many ways, I feel like significant parts of who I am as a person have been stripped from me in this period. If I’m not someone who can conquer mountains, who is a finisher, who doesn’t quit, then who am I?


I’ve had to learn to rest, and I’m still accepting that that is okay.

I’ve been learning that putting myself and my health first is not only okay but essential. I’ve found solace in the community of people who love me and support me. I’ve found a degree of acceptance in sharing where I am, and how I’m feeling.


I am not a failure. I am not a quitter. I am a finisher, and I can conquer mountains. My new mantra has shifted, but it has the same sentiments. As I ground myself by placing my hands on my knees, I say “These legs have carried me up mountains, and they can make it through this day.”


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Meet Ariella. This is her Story of Dysthymia,  Suicide and Anxiety + How She Continues to Find Comfort in Exercise

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Meet Ariella. This is her Story of Dysthymia, Suicide and Anxiety + How She Continues to Find Comfort in Exercise

Lesson no. 1: never judge a book by its cover.

 

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and am the eldest of three children.  My father is a physician, mother a nurse, brother a 22 year old division 1 hockey player “life of the party”, and sister the full package of beauty and brains at 20.  Then there’s me, Ariella- 25 years old with a mind comparable to a watch that continues to tell time even when the battery dies.  But that’s not all; there is more, so much more.

 

Since before I can remember, I have always felt different.

Not different in the way I looked or acted, but different in the way my mind worked.  Let’s be real – what kid doesn’t feel like an outcast at one point or another?  I convinced myself I was just like everybody else and kept on keeping on with my life because at the end of the day, the mind is an inanimate object that couldn’t be operated on to change it’s makeup.  And physical medicine was all I had known being raised by two parents in the medical field.  

 

As the years passed and I moved through milestone stages in my life, this feeling of being different seemed to become more prevalent on a day to day basis and the struggle became very real.  But-nobody would know, because from the outside, my life was perfect.  I was a goody two-shoes- a sociable, intelligent pretty girl, with a dream wardrobe, a cookie cutter family, and a smile on my face.  Always.

What could possibly be wrong with someone who is always happy and has it all, am I right? 

 

Let’s jump to the part of the story where Ariella is in her third year of high school (sorry for the weird third person interjection – sometimes I like talking about myself as if I’m someone else doing it).  The word “therapist” was one that I began to learn more about and thought maybe I should see one.  Speaking to someone about this weird feeling that wouldn’t go away, but kept getting worse, sounded like a good idea.  

 

At my first session, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, persistent mild depression.  Keep in mind – nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors and there were many things other than my genetic makeup that were affecting my feelings.  Well, okay, I guess that made sense considering staying in my bedroom watching TV was always the better alternative to doing pretty much anything else.  I continued going to therapy as needed and felt little improvement.  It was a bonus to have an unbiased ear to listen to your problems that nobody knows about-

But this did not fix me. 

 

Off to college I went; my first semester was spent in London, England.  That’s when I really began understanding depression because I felt different in more than just my own mind; my physical self was beginning to have a tough time as well.  It was a very long and dragged out slippery slope, but it was only the beginning of what hell I was about to go through.  When I returned from London, I FINALLY had a word for my overall feeling of being different: Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

 

My third semester of college was in the fall of 2012.  I was going through the motions of being a college student.  Going to class, doing my homework, partying, breaking rules, and “living it up”.  That is far from what I felt like I was doing though, I felt more down and out than ever before.  I began Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a private therapist near my school.  Then the straw broke the camel’s back. I lost all sense of myself and felt like more of a black sheep in a world of white sheep than I ever had before.

I had a full on mental breakdown my spring semester of 2013.  

 

The crying spells were endless, my appetite nonexistent, and here comes that S word- Suicide was all I could think about.  I didn’t want to be here anymore.  I found the idea of being somewhere other than in my physical body much more beautiful.  I had no plan and did not want to die, but I just wanted to be gone.  I wanted to be in a place where my mind didn’t make things so fucking complicated for me at every second of every day.  

 

I spent 24 hours in a Psychiatric hospital after insisting on going to the ER.  It led to my decision to take the semester off of school and get my feet back on the ground again.  What the actual fuck was I doing?  Here I am about to embarrass my parents for having a kid with a mental illness.  My friends are going to cut me off because who wants to be friends with a crazy girl?  Everyone is going to think that either I have been living a lie or am lying about what I am going through.  I’ll never be able to live my “normal” life again.

 

Oh to have the brain of someone with GAD … Meanwhile, back on the ranch (in Buffalo, not at school), I began to see a Psychiatrist and spent months testing and disputing different medications because I concluded after being in years of therapy, I needed a bit of extra help.

 And so began my road to recovery, a recovery that is lifelong.

 

That was 5 years ago. I was younger then and new to the mental illness club.  (I hate to call it that, a mental illness.  It’s such a degrading and ugly phrase.  You will often hear me refer to it as being different and mental health issues because in my eyes, it’s just like any other illness, but with a not so nice title.)  Every day brings about new obstacles, but every day I am learning what helps me be able to function.

Writing is my love.  I began writing during my semester off from school about my experience and have been writing ever since.  It’s scary as shit talking about something that is not accepted by most of society, but it’s opened up my eyes to how many people I can help by simply sharing my story.  Being consistent with it is not my strong suit, but getting my body moving serves as an instant mood boost.  Some days getting out of bed is what I consider to be exercise, but on other days I go on long walks, do a SoulCycle class, or a virtual workout.

Exercise has never failed to comfort me.

 

There are so many things I can and want to say about my experience living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression, but I can’t give away every detail that I want to include in my (one day) book.  So I will leave you with an easy to read bulleted list for those struggling with their mental health and those who know someone who is.

 

If it’s YOU:

• You are not alone.  I know first hand that more often than not it feels like you are in isolation, but I promise you are not alone.

• You are allowed to talk about it.  People will always hear what they want to hear and refute what they disagree with.  Guess what – this is your life and not for them to decide how you are supposed to live it.

• Not everyone will understand what you go through day in and day out, and some may not even accept it.  Don’t be discouraged by it.

• You are just as much a human as everybody else.  If others are going to treat you differently for opening up, change your surroundings.

 

If it’s a LOVED ONE:

• Don’t take anything personally.  When you are not wanted around, it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how your loved one is feeling.

• Don’t tell without being asked.  Suggesting ways to deal with their mental health to loved ones may seem to be in their best interest, but it’s not the case.  Chances are they have tried everything in the book at one point or another, especially if their diagnosis is nothing new.

• Just be there.  When I am not in a good place, sometimes all I need is someone to physically be there, even if it means sitting on the couch with me in silence. 

• Educate yourself.  It’s hard to relate to something you don’t experience first hand, but there are so many resources available for you to learn more about mental ailments. 

 

Being you is the best you can be.

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Meet Fran. This is her Story

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Meet Fran. This is her Story

In the beginning months of 2016, I can honestly say I was the worst version of myself.

I was stressed out unnecessarily at a job that didn’t fulfill me (or treat me well for that matter) and I let that flood of anxiety trickle into every facet of my life- making my thoughts and behaviours unrecognizable.

I was diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) in third year university, and although I handled it well for several years, the flare ups started to make it feel unmanageable.

I often sought refuge in exercise and movement.

However, Yoga-which had often been a ‘cure-all’ for the ailments in my body and mind-no longer helped soothe me; so much so that I dropped out of my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training (something I had wanted to do for SO long). On top of that, I couldn’t focus at work or at home and was constantly angst- ridden- to the point where my physical health fell apart. I was sick constantly, not sleeping, exhausted and eating sparingly or not at all. Because of what was going on in my mind, it felt like my sense of self and my life were spiralling out of control.

My anxiety eventually got so out of control that my doctor recommended I consider anti-anxiety medication.

On April 4th 2016, I held my Dad in my arms as he passed suddenly from a aortic aneurism.

In that instant, the safe, comfortable, self-indulgent 20-something life I had known had vanished forever — and in a way so did the anxiety that I had been struggling with. His passing came as such a shock to my system, that it caused a full body and mind reset. The day of his passing felt like the first day of the rest of my life.

And in the midst of that restart, I felt myself go numb.

There’s no guidebook for life, and even less of a guidebook for when someone dies. In the immediate moment you’re surrounded by so many friends and family. But- then the funeral passes and friends and family fade into the background as they resume their normal lives. The person who is grieving is left surrounded by a pile of tiny shattered fragments of their former life with no instruction as to how to rebuild it again. Although well intentioned, folks will share their thoughts as to to how to pick up the pieces, which looks a little something like:

“You should go out more”

“You definitely need to stay in more”

“Maybe therapy would help”

“I’m starting a new XYZ cleanse I think it could help you too”

“You should try and push yourself”

I think you get the idea. Sadly, not one of these stamens is a ‘cure-all’ for tragedy.

At the time of my Dad’s passing it made sense to withdraw a bit and to take stock of my life, my goals and my relationships. I knew movement had played an important part in managing my mental health in the past, but something about this circumstance was different.

Due to the sudden nature of my Dad’s passing, and having had to respond to his calls of distress, I developed severe anxiety around being away from my phone. In my mind, if I was near my phone I could react and help if someone needed me. “What if something happened to my mom?” I would think. Because of this, my regular yoga classes weren’t an option. I remember trying to go to yoga a few days after his passing to clear my mind and having severe panic attacks because of not knowing what was going on in the outside world. Classes were no longer an option for me.

However- I was still operating with an urge to move- so I began running 5k a day. Just far enough from my house that I could make it back in time (should something happen). Those runs were my time to feel free, to think, to cry and to sweat. I became so focused on making each run better than the last. It was the one thing I had control over while my life seemed to be spiralling out of control.

I was at a followup appointment with my naturopath in the spring of 2017 when she suggested I try a mix of HIIT, weight training and intensive cardio in order to better manage my stress. The thought of trying a class worried me, but I was also committed to getting myself on a healthier path.

Indoor cycling was becoming popular in Toronto and my friend encouraged me to try a class at Spokehaüs with her. I wish I could say it was love at first pedal-stroke; but it wasn’t. I was out of breath, my lungs burned, I couldn’t keep up with the class at all and I kept panicking about not being able to get to my phone.

It was a mess.

However, something sparked in me — if I was struggling to keep up with a class like this, it meant that I needed to boost my cardio health. For obvious reasons, heart health had become very important to me since my dad’s passing. I knew I had to keep at this.

In the following summer I began bouncing around a few indoor cycling studios during my lunch hour at MOVE. During this time, my Mom began experiencing severe back pain- so between her doctors appointments and visits to the emergency room, I was finding it hard to commit to class times. From June to August we were back and forth between Doctors, Physiotherapists, Acupuncturists and Orthopaedic Surgeons.

My Mom was rushed to hospital the last weekend of August 2017 for emergency surgery after she had lost feeling in both legs.

During her surgery, they found a tumour. A biopsy and more waiting lead to the news that would again, alter my life forever: The excruciating pain my Mom had been experiencing was a rare, incurable cancer known as multiple myeloma. She would have to stay in hospital till she was strong enough to come home.

In that moment, our roles became reversed. My childhood officially ended.

I was no longer a daughter, but a caregiver to my Mother. I made it my mission to ensure she received the best care possible. My brother and I couldn’t afford to lose her, especially so soon after losing my dad. This meant doing things like attending any and all doctors appointments, coordinating second opinions, cooking or picking up dinner along with anything else she needed everyday after work and keeping her company on the weekends. It was a role I slipped into wholeheartedly. It was difficult but I was determined. And she was too.

I knew I didn’t want to slip back into a state of acute anxiety, so I knew I had to keep moving. Worries about not being close to my phone became an afterthought after my Mom was diagnosed.

Phone or not, if life was going to change, there would be nothing I could do to control it.

In addition to weight training, I pushed myself to attend my first class at SoulCycle. It had taken me a few indoor cycling classes to psych myself up for it and (truthfully) it was also conveniently along my commute to the east end of Toronto for work.

Before I knew it, 7am SoulCycle classes became part of my routine.

I would call my Mom and the nursing station at 6am to check in on her before going into class. Within the dark room, those 45min became my refuge — in my SoulCycle class there was no cancer, no sickness, no anxiety.

Just me, the bike and my breath.

I left each class feeling a little bit lighter. I was able to leave everything that weighed me down in that rom. In a way, SoulCycle became my good luck charm. Before any big follow up appointment of my Mom’s at Princess Margaret Hospital (appointments that were truly life and death) I would be sure to book a morning class so that I would be in the best headspace possible to ask the doctor questions and advocate for her care.

On one such appointment, however, it seemed that my good luck charm had run out.

“You have one more line of treatment left to try, but if it doesn’t work and it doesn’t seem probable then we will have to have conversations around palliative care.”

Time froze as the words left my Mom’s oncologist’s mouth.

It couldn’t be. I had made sure to do everything right. I got my Mom a second opinion at the best cancer centre in Canada, I had done my research, I made sure she was eating the right foods, I was trying to take care of myself — how could this be?

One thing I knew, is that we weren’t giving up. Following that final follow up at Princess Margaret Hospital, I began researching doctors and hospitals in the USA. Call it fate or circumstance, but I was connected to one of the top specialists and grandfathers in the treatment of multiple myeloma, Dr. Barlogie who worked out of The Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC.

Within a week, I was riding in the back of an ambulance transport in the middle of the night with my Mom in a stretcher as we made our way to New York City. My caregiving commitment went from the after work, weekends and the odd workday to 14-hour-a-day bedside care. My Mom had received a second chance and I wanted to be there for every moment. She needed me, and I needed her.

The highs and low’s of a cancer journey are so incredibly extreme. The highs of a successful round of chemo are euphoric and intoxicating. The lows of recurring disease or complications are so bad that you find it hard to even wake up in the morning. Also as an aside, that’s just my caregiver’s perspective. The patient feels these peaks and valleys tenfold.

After a particularly difficult day, Anna, my Mom’s Physiotherapist noticed me upset in the hallway and came over to comfort me. She asked me what I had been doing for myself since moving to NYC to be with my Mom.

“Nothing,” I said simply. “But I was really enjoying SoulCycle when I was back in Toronto.”

“Oh no way!” She said, “My friend is an instructor there, I should connect you.”

I didn’t think anything of the gesture until she found me in the hallway a few days later and told me that she had told her instructor friend Becca about me. She handed me Becca’s number.

“She’s expecting you to message her.” Anna said.

I knew I had met someone special within the first few exchanges I had with Becca that evening. She was positive, kind, vibrant and it felt like her loving heart radiated through the phone. She invited me to ride in her class anytime I needed to as a guest. I couldn’t believe it.

During the 4 months I was in NYC with my Mom, I rode with Becca as much as possible. My days were committed to the hospital and her care, but my mornings became time for me. Time to just let go, connect to myself and centre my mind for the gruelling days ahead.

Outside of class, Becca and I became fast friends. She was a constant reminder of how important it was to take time for myself amidst my circumstances. She also gave me support in remembering who I was before my Mom’s illness. It gave my Mom and boyfriend comfort to know that I had made a friend in the city that could support me.

On July 13th, 2018 in the Intensive Care Unit at The Mount Sinai Hospital, I held my Mom as she passed away from complications due to her stem cell transplant. She had achieved her long sought after remission, obtained her healthy stem cells but succumbed to a virus due to her compromised immune system. Again, only 2 years after losing my Dad my world was shattered.

I had lost both parents before turning 30.

I was silent most of the car ride home to Toronto. My boyfriend, his uncle and his Mom tried their best to keep my spirits up and positive. But all I could feel was disappointment. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had let my Mom down.

I returned to SoulCycle a few days after coming home to Toronto with a few friends. I needed a place that felt familiar and like home. I walked into the studio to find ‘Welcome Home Fran!” spelled out in big letters under the front desk. My eyes welled with tears. Becca had told Jenna — our instructor in Toronto- that I was coming home that day.

I knew my SoulCycle bike would always feel like a safe place for me.

After the funeral had passed, and ‘normal’ life began to resume again, I was left with thousands of pieces. Some that were leftover from when I had lost my Dad- but now, there were new pieces to fit together: those of having lost my Mom and those from losing both my parents. I began feeling very, very low.

One Friday evening, my friend Chelsea told me a few of my friends wanted to take me for dinner. I was told I didn’t have to plan anything and was told she would meet me after work that day and walk me to dinner. As we were walking up King Street, Chelsea said she had to run into SoulCycle to buy a few credits because the site wasn’t working.

I walked into the studio to see a crowd of people. After a few moments I realized the studio was not hosting a Media event and the crowd of people that had formed was everyone near and dear to me!

As I looked around the room, I took in what Chelsea had organized: A raffle to collect money (to be donated to the International Myeloma Foundation), a hair braiding station (my Mom LOVED braiding my hair) complete with monarch butterfly hair clips (I’ve seen so many butterflies since my Mom passed) and most importantly: the space was full of love.

“Get ready to ride!” Everyone exclaimed!

In my shock I managed to change into workout clothes and head into the studio.

I was still in tears as Jenna began to lead us in a ride in memory of Maria.

But the best surprise was yet to come.

The doors opened after the second song and a silhouette appeared. As it moved towards the room, I unclipped right off my bike and ran towards it for a big sweaty hug.

It was Becca.

For her last week working at SoulCycle, she had asked to be flown to Toronto to ride for Maria. She took the podium and I rode (read; cried) my heart out.

For me, SoulCycle and really any of the movement I undertook to heal was never about the equipment, the physical gains or the athleisure. It was always about love — for myself and for the community I cultivated and gained.

We often don’t realize how much we receive when we put our bodies and minds into a beautiful space through movement.

The healing journey ahead of me now is one that will last a lifetime. Each day will be different with it’s own advances and detours. Healing is the furthest thing from a linear process.

What I can always come back to is this small space in the world I chose to carve out for me:

45 minutes in the dark to think, cry and breathe.


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Meet Lindsay. This is her Story.

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Meet Lindsay. This is her Story.

Let me start out by introducing myself.

My name is Lindsay Coulter and I’m a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Waterloo.

I’ve always been a happy person. Each report card ever sent home to my parents used words like bubbly, energetic, joyful. I felt grateful for the cushy, “normal” life I had been blessed with. Sure, I worked hard, but I was also very aware that I was lucky. I had two parents who loved me, had completed university, gotten a cat, a dog and had a fiance who loved me. Honestly, everything was falling in to place like some kind of hollywood script. I’m sure I had normal bumps in the road just like anyone else, but really my life was good. I’m sure you’re wondering when the shoe drops, because as my naive self learned, it always does. 


 

In December of 2016 my whole world fell apart. My best friend of 25 years, Kristen, passed away suddenly. I had just gotten home from a Christmas trip to New York with my fiance Taylor, and opened my laptop to a message from a friend of hers in Australia (where she was living) looking for Kristen’s parent’s phone number. My heart sank. I knew that it wasn’t going to be good news. I sat on the couch frozen, unable to type.

Finally a few moments without breathing later I responded and asked her to just tell me what was going on. Kristen and I were like sisters; we had grown up in each other’s homes, we met at daycare when we were less than 2 years old, and had been practically inseparable ever since. Although it was selfish, I just wanted to know she was okay, so I could go on with giving her their number. Eventually they connected, but I knew whatever it was I didn't want to find out over the phone. So Taylor and I drove straight to her parents house.

When we got there, they told us she had died.


That was it.

The world froze.

I went through the many phases of grief - denial, anger, erratic behaviour, sadness, anxiety, extreme fear of losing anyone else, guilt… the books about grieving really had it right.

But what the books about grieving don’t really tell you is how to come out on the other side of it.

I was incredibly grateful for my self-employment in those next few weeks, so I could take some time to process. To be totally honest, I went through a cycle of sleeping, crying, and drinking for a few weeks. It was really strange, it didn’t matter how much I drank, I still felt sober. It was almost like nothing was going to cut through the reality of this loss. 


Luckily for my health and my relationships, that phase only lasted a few weeks. Once I stopped that cycle and realized I needed to continue working and getting up each day, I became numb. I wasn’t happy, I didn’t smile. The only jokes I could make were morbid, and I’m fairly certain most of my friends and family thought I had totally lost my mind. How I kept my business going in 2016, while trying to plan a wedding is nothing short of a miracle. I have no doubt that Kristen was asking the universe to help me out during that time. 


After about 3 months of just merely existing, I decided to go see my doctor. I told her “I don’t have time to feel like this, I need to get back to normal”. (As if anyone has time for this). My doctor gave me a couple of prescriptions, and also referred me to a counsellor. I was happy to have medication to take for when panic attacks took over, but I knew I needed to speak to someone in order to fully move on.

When a 25 year old dies, they don’t leave a neat and tidy package.

They leave a path of pain and destruction and 5 million unanswered questions.

I knew a pill wasn’t going to help. 


So I went to a counsellor. I asked her if I would get myself back. I wanted to know if the happy person I once was would ever come back, to which her answer was “Maybe, maybe not. This might just be your new reality”. *Note, if you’re a counsellor dealing with someone with severe depression, telling someone there’s maybe no way out of this, is definitely not the answer. At our next appointment, she told me I probably just needed to take more naps and drink more water. She obviously hadn’t listened when I told her I was sleeping 8+ hours a day. So I got up in the middle of our session, told her I needed to go for lunch, and never went back.

It was a weird time.


Finally, the light came.

Near the end of 2016 I had agreed to trade services with a personal trainer in the area. She was pregnant with her second daughter, and wanted maternity photos. She knew I had a wedding coming up and wanted to get in shape, so it was the perfect fit. Her baby arrived in May of 2017, and we started training together a few weeks after. She brought Baby T to all of my workouts for the first few months, and her little face was all I needed on the hardest of days. For the first time in 5 months, I was moving. I was getting out of bed at 7, I was putting on clean clothes, and I was seeing progress. Not just physically, but emotionally. 


 

I worked through my fears of having a wedding without her by my side, of losing another loved one, or dealing with any other kind of tragedy.

I had no idea that lifting weights and running would be all the therapy I would need.

I had been a yoga instructor throughout university, so I knew there was power in movement, but yoga wasn’t calling to me this time. I needed to feel strong. I needed to believe in my body. I needed to appreciate my health and not take it for granted like I had been. I needed to feel connected to the shell that carried me around- since the trauma of losing Kristen it had felt like a foreign entity.


I listened to my body, and forced my mind to play along.

Alicia and I trained together 2-3 times a week, every week, and we haven’t stopped since. What started as something I wanted to do to look nice in a wedding dress became something I needed to do to be a great partner to my now-husband, a better friend, and effective business owner. My clients needed me to show up to their wedding as the joyful, bubbly, happy person they hired a year and a half before, and I needed that girl back too. 


The idea of not only losing Kristen but losing myself was something I couldn’t manage. I couldn’t control Kristen’s death, but I could fight to get myself back.

And so I did. That was the beginning of finding myself, not the previous version but a newer version of myself. This new version of me still cries almost daily, and misses her girl like crazy. But this new version is also grateful with a new sense of awareness.

Before I was grateful for the life I had, but now I’m grateful having known loss, and having fought through it.

In December Kristen will have been gone for two years, and it still feels like it was just a few months ago. I will not pretend to know the answers to loss or trauma, but I will say that the advice given to me over and over again “one step at a time, one foot in front of the other” is exactly what got me through. 


 

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Meet Azra. This is her Story

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Meet Azra. This is her Story

 Home.

What is it - really? Rather than a physical place, it’s a feeling for most of us.

It’s that random scent you come across at the age of 30 that brings you back to your mom hanging up laundry on a clothesline.

For the majority of people home is a large puzzle made up of our values, instilled beliefs, memories and other things that cocoon our worldly identity.

Home, then, is home base. The sphere that influences all of our decisions, the friends we make, jobs we take on, partners we choose and so on. It’s the well that we drink from that determines our character.

But home for a Bosnian refugee? An immigrant child? It’s also a puzzle but one that’s missing some pieces - so you never get the see the full picture. Your entire life you end up searching for these lost links to get a sense of what home at its full realization is.

There is a burning question in your heart that nothing seems to answer, I know.

Today, I’m here to tell you it’s a futile exercise to go into the past seeking those answers.

I was born in Bosnia, moved to Germany at the brink of the Bosnian War and eventually came to Canada with my parents and brother. My mom and dad went from owning nothing but two suitcases to making their version of the Canadian Dream come true. As a child I never felt that we were lacking anything. If anything, my parents overcompensated to give us the things they never had themselves. They did the best they could with the level of awareness they had.

The rub, though, is that nothing materialistic heals wounds that non-materialistic things caused. No material thing can reverse the repercussions of the diaspora of your people.

My love for writing has always been an innate part of my nature. From the age of 6, I would write out details of my days and reflect on the relationships around me. Over the years, I’ve accumulated half a dozen journals before eventually taking my stories and poetry online. These days, I write about the transition into motherhood I’ve lived through the past 3 years.

But as time went on, my mindset has changed - and alongside it, so has my writing. And simultaneously, whether I was aware of it or not, my idea of that word, home, has transformed, as well.

Something about motherhood gave me a different perspective on it all. I recognized very quickly, I wasn’t alone in my feelings, whether it came to those that longed for my home land or those that mourned my life (and freedom) before kids. And I began understanding that my desire for something unfulfilled could only be dealt with in the present moment - not digging for it in the graveyard of the past.

I used to find solace in getting my emotions out on paper and creating fictions that I would weave anecdotal pieces into. But as good as it would feel at the time, the hurt never truly went away and would inevitably re-surface again. I recognized that my best writing came to me at my darkest moments - and I began to feel chained to the pieces, in a way someone becomes enamoured with their captivator over a period of time. The writer’s version of Stockholm syndrome. I would use my hurt as energy to create beautiful pieces and purge that burden in my chest but every time I re-read my work, I’d be transported to the exact instance that begot that piece initially. And like I said before, usually it wasn’t inspired by something chipper.

 

 The other day someone said to me - storytelling is a good thing, as long as you can separate your ego from your story. As long as your story serves a greater purpose. I took it to mean that as long as you’re writing about the past, and taking inspiration from the past, that you will wallow in that world and be unable to progress. You’ll be unable to heal and evolve to a state of inner peace. It was the first time I thought about my writing from this point of view - and surely, this piece I’m writing right now for you would’ve looked completely different if I had written it before that conversation.

I knew the identity I was creating for myself for so long was bound into my writing. Yet, it didn’t do me justice. Home, I’ve realized since, is where you feel the most yourself - without the influence of others or memories. It isn’t the place you are when you feel you need to appease others or the place you have a massive amount of guilt or sadness in. Home is being on your most authentic path, and the core of your nature aligned with that path is only exposed to you when you peel off the veils you’ve hidden behind for so long. The facade most of us operate under to keep in line with societal standards and familial tradition. Home is ahead of us.

I’m still very much a writer, a poet. A storyteller. I’m still in the deep trenches of matrescence, as well - that evolution that all women go through once becoming mothers. What has changed, for me, however, is that I’ve recognized words can be used for more than just reflection. Once you have insight and willingness to truly heal, your focus should be on the road ahead of you, starting with your present moment. It’s the only thing we really have and everything is possible in it.

My name is Azra and I do write to heal - but instead of using the scars of my past as feed for my stories anymore, I’m inspired by a higher vibration. I now plant seeds into my plots that are encased in the energy I’ve always wanted to feel. The things that were apparent at my own genesis, before memories and life warped my vision and created hurt, and the only things that will remain with my spirit once this physical world is over.

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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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I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

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I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

 

When I was little, my Mom told me I was what the doctors called "flop-jointed"- which essentially means that I moved like I had no bones. I could easily put my leg behind my head, do the splits, distort my body in whatever way I wanted and I didn’t feel a thing.

I used to move like I had no bones.

Now, Twenty-two years later all I am is bone.

Life can feel so sadistic.

 

Chapter 2

 

I am lying in a heated room in the middle of Montreal, drenched in sweat.

I’ve been here for 22 days. Not 'here' in this room- but here in this training where I am learning how to teach hot yoga.

I know we left off around the time I was sitting in the car, staring at the windshield.
The story may eventually loop back here- it may not.

But for now all you need to know is that the intense pain that was plaguing me in the car is still present . On top of that, I'm starting to become aware of more pain in my body, and how I have learned to live with it; sit inside it. Sometimes the pain is systemic- sometimes it shifts into certain parts of my body. Today it has shifted from my stomach and into my wrists.

This pain is deep and stiff and lingering so bad I can barely wrap my fingers around the yoga block that is strewn on the floor next to my mat.

When I was young and learning how to Rollerblade, I never learned how to brake properly. Instead, I’d hold my hands out in front of me and my wrists would snap back whenever they caught the wall in order for me to fully stop.

Up until now, this is the narrative I have been telling myself as to why I live with pain in my wrists.

Isn’t it funny, the stories we tell ourselves, in order to avoid facing the truth?

The air is foggy and thick and the longer I am lying here the more my mind drifts off and for one full minute I am mentally pulled out of the yoga room and flashback into my old bedroom where I am lying directly on my wrists.

It’s 530am and I can hear her in the kitchen. She is rustling around looking for a spoon- presumably to stir her coffee, which she takes with her every morning she works in the OR.
I am definitely not sleeping.
I’m not even half asleep.
My body is flexed the way one might hold themselves as they prepare to walk down a back alley in the middle of an unknown city.
My jaw is clenched. My right cheek is pushed into the pillow and my eyes are fixed on a streetlamp that is still lit in the dark light of the morning, just beyond our house, just beyond my window, just beyond the blinds.

All of a sudden the clink clink clink of the spoon in the coffee stops, the rustling stops, and I hear that swishing noise paper makes when it lifts off a surface and I know now she is reading the note I have written her, the bomb I am dropping on her, the family tree I am uprooting in this exact moment.

My eyes are fixed on the street lamp and, although the entire weight of my body is on my hands right now I can feel my fingers instinctively curl around the sheets beneath me.

She’s coming.

My friend that is a dancer told me you can always tell how someone is feeling by the weight in their footsteps, and the weight that is drawing nearer to my bedroom door is heavy, thumping, filled with rage.

What little feeling I have left in my arms drains out of my body.

The colour drains out of my skin.

I hear the door fly open.

I pretend to be asleep. Which is funny in hindsight, because the adrenaline rushing through my veins is so strong I wouldn’t be able to close my eyes even if I wanted to.

So maybe a better way of putting it is:

I am immobile and praying she won’t ask questions.

“What the f*ck is this?”.

Her voice is stern, loud, hot water about to boil over.

I can’t see her in my peripheral but I know she is fisting the paper with one hand, holding her coffee spoon in the other, a dark shadow in scrubs standing in the light of the hallway, in the small glowing slivers of streetlamp.

I don’t respond, which pushes her over the edge.

She screams my name and when I remain unresponsive she grabs the corner of my duvet and yanks it completely off my bed exposing my body- rigid, frozen, distorted.

“ANSWER ME”.

She orders me to follow her into the kitchen, she turns to exit the room, she is a dark outline in the doorway just like he was- and for one moment she is Him, and He is here and I am small and clenching the sheets and curled into a ball pretending to sleep while his 6 foot frame engulfs me.

Everyone knows he is here, but no one knows what he's doing except for me.

I am both the witness and the victim.

His arms are long, clenched, immobile, and they are stretched over the top of my head like a bear trap. I feel his breath slink across the back of my neck and into my ear. I crank my head to the right, I cross my arms into an X, I roll onto my wrists to try and keep him out. I search the room for something to land my eyes on so I don't have to look at him.

There is a stationary bike in the corner. It's white and blue. I focus on that.


There are cut-outs in the white wall, they are filled with Grandmas jewelry. It's ornate, elaborate costume jewelry and I imagine myself wearing it. I focus on that.


I climb out of my body, and all of a sudden the next few moments aren't moments, they're polaroid's.


Bike. Jewelry. Him. Window. Door. Darkness.


I focus on that.


He has evil rushing like water underneath his skin. When he touches me my skin crawls and hours later when it's still crawling I question whether his evil has become a part of me.


I easily detach from my body now.


Some nights I just stand in the shower until the hot water runs cold. I stare at the droplets of water running down the white tile. I lose track of time, of feeling, of space. I learn to avoid mirrors because I see the grooves of his face in my jawline and it reminds me I will never fully be free, because blood is thicker than water.


In a small moment of email confrontation he denies everything, his girlfriend speaks up, says he was only acting in love.


"Do you have children?" I type, my blood boiling.


"Allow me to demonstrate on your children, exactly how he was being loving" I reply. There is sarcasm rushing off my tongue, vengeance running through my veins.


I press send. I dry heave into a garbage can.

 

I feel small, I am still. The air is foggy and thick. I have grown used to seeing the shadow of Him exiting the door.
My Moms voice, panicked, angry, prying, calls to me from the kitchen.
I grab my duvet off the floor. I wrap it around me, walk out the door and down the flight of stairs.


I'll probably need therapy for this, I quip

 

I am lying on my yoga mat. The air is foggy and thick.

I take my left hand and use it to bend my right wrist back and forth, back and forth. It's thin; frail. Exactly as I would expect it to be after sleeping on it for 15 years. The pain is pointed, raw, inscribed. I keep bending.

It's slow and methodical at first but then it builds into hysterical flapping because maybe if I bend it enough the stories will release from the fascia, pour out of my bones, I'll be free.

My teacher Dina- her footsteps are soft and kind and she comes over to me as I'm lying in Savasana the way a Mother moves to protect her cub. She places her hand on my knee, I deflate, I begin to cry. Tears spill out of me the way my sweat is pouring off my skin- quickly and without permission. 

This is the first time I have allowed myself to cry. In my entire life.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she mouths.

 



 

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Meet Ali. This is her Story

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Meet Ali. This is her Story

 

As a kid I remember my emotions feeling so big it seemed they couldn’t physically be contained in the room I was in. To me, they were palpable, and taking up space, big and heavy, they surrounded me.

I guess that I have always been like this- feeling in a big, intense way.

While this certainly has its advantages in the pleasant and joyful contexts, when things swing the other way it’s hard to feel something so deep and so painful; especially when it appears from the outside that the circumstance just doesn’t seem to call for it.

 

As a teen I remember literally, running away from these deep feelings when they became too much. As in, I would actually head out the door in whatever I was wearing and run as far as I could, “away” from the pain I was feeling. Usually, after a few blocks, I couldn’t breathe very well and not being in proper footwear and attire led to extreme discomfort. But for a few minutes, being sweaty and out of breath gave me something else to think about- it released me from whatever pain I was feeling, without actually having to truly confront it and deal with it.

 

This worked for a while here and there until I experienced a period of pain as an undergrad so deep that I could not run away from it. After a particularly bad week of sleeping all day, a friend dragged me to the gym with her where we participated in a kickboxing class. For the first time in weeks I was actually moving my body and getting the blood flowing. It was tough, I didn’t want to do it, but with each shadow jab I felt a little lighter.

By the end of the class I remember feeling good, so good, that I cried on the way back to my dorm room.

I just wanted to feel this good more often, but it seemed so impossible. I remember later that day talking to a friend and saying out loud the words I was never able to say before; “I think I’m depressed”.  She encouraged me to seek help, and thankfully I did.

 

My story does not end there of course. While I had quickly learned that staying active played a key part in getting my life together again as a depressed undergrad, my depression didn’t just go away one day because I decided to work out regularly. In fact, while I continued to remain very active in my early 20s, the next obstacle that was thrown my way was uncontrollable anxiety that felt like it was just handed to me one day, out of the blue.

 

At first, I was not able to fully recognize that something was not quite right. I began making lists for everything, always worried, terrified, that I would forget something. These lists began to control my life in a way that I couldn’t explain. Some days and even some vacations were spent just making sure things were crossed off, instead of actually living in the moment and enjoying each “item”.

 

This sense of overwhelm and desire to complete what I felt I “needed” to was all-consuming at times. At first, it was easy to blame it on my perfectionism and Type A personality. But as this spilled into every other area of my life I realized that these feelings of trying to control everything were not normal. It reached a tipping point when I would drive to my internship every morning with butterflies in my stomach and then sit in my car once parked for a good 15 minutes convincing myself to go inside. There was no real “reason” to feel this way and I could not control it. In a sense, my lists were a way I was able to feel control over my life at this time.

 

I would sweat every time my phone rang, worried that the person calling me was going to tell me a family member had died. I was afraid to get in a car with another driver in fear of getting in an accident.

 

My fear of the unknown and all possible terrible outcomes sent my head in spirals, I had trouble sleeping and would often feel on the verge of a panic attack when I thought about anything beyond my current task at hand or day. Unfortunately, regular physical activity had taken a backseat to graduate school and juggling two part-time jobs. But one day, I felt the overwhelm and lack of control bubble over and was reminded of my childhood feelings- I could not keep them in the room and I just need to get away from everything. I laced up my shoes and headed outside, telling myself that maybe I  would just feel a little bit better if I went for a run.

 

It sucked. I was breathless within 3 minutes and sweating through my shirt. I stopped to walk every few minutes and cursed myself for thinking this was a good idea. However, after a few minutes I realized the feeling of panic had subsided.

I probably only ran about 2km that day, but I returned home with a clearer mind and a sense of calm I hadn’t felt in weeks.

 

A few days later when I started feeling the same way, I laced up my shoes again. I don’t know what came over me, but for some reason I told myself that day that I would train for a 10k race. Over the next few weeks, I started to run regularly when I felt overwhelmed. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the feeling of getting out there. I fell in love with running the way I fall in love with most things in life- obsessively, completely and all at once.

 

At first, I loved how it humbled me, I had thought I was fairly athletic and in shape, but running seriously kicked my ass . Over time though, it gave me a sense of control as things became slightly easier. When I laced up my shoes, I knew what to expect. I knew when I would tire and where I would turn around and how far I could do. Eventually, I was able to start pushing myself more and more- conving myself to run 100 more meters when my mind was yelling “STOP!”.

For the first time in my life, I realized I could challenge my thoughts and push beyond them, and, that my thoughts were not always right- I COULD run a little bit further if I wanted to.

 

After a few months, I found myself in a place where running gave me space to actually work through things. Instead of trying not to die with each painful breath, I was able to fall in to a rhythm, to run and think and recognize my obsessive thoughts as merely thoughts. I was able to be in that moment while correspondingly work through the unpleasant physical feelings it gave me- and I realized how much that related to my anxiety that I dealt with in my day to day life. It was okay to feel unpleasant things, accept them for what they are (temporary) and keep pushing through them.

 

Running has since become a major part of my life. As soon as I feel myself slipping, I know what I have to do to feel better. That’s not to say it’s easy to just lace up my shoes when I feel my mind take over with negativity and worry. Sometimes it takes everything I have to lace up my shoes and get out the door. It has also helped to have a community to push me and support me and get me out there on the days when I would really rather not. Running has challenged me to push beyond my self-imposed limitations and not let thoughts define me. In running away from myself, I have actually learned to not shy away from myself.

I have learned to come home to my body and my breath and who I am- anxiety and all.

 

While there is no question that professional help and medication can turn a life around, it is the feeling of pounding concrete that has truly changed me.

It is so easy to look at physical activity as a way to look a certain way, but in reality, it has the power to not only change your body but change how you FEEL. Learning the connection between mind and body has been the most pivotal and important lesson I have learned in my life.

 

My depression and anxiety are parts of me that I have learned to live with, and physical activity is an important piece of my toolbox that I often reach for when life just seems to be too much. Running is always there for me, steady as can be. One foot in front of the other. Left foot, right foot, breathe in, breathe out and repeat. It pulls me back to the ground when I need it the most.
 

 

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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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Meet Nolan. This is his Story

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Meet Nolan. This is his Story

I’ve always felt a bit sad; Not the 'breaking up with your first love'/ 'not receiving the mark you thought you deserved' kind of sadness, but a sadness that I can only describe as a rotting feeling that plagued my entire perception of happiness.
 
                  When I was in high school, the words 'depression' and 'anxiety' were terms most definitely not universally used to describe the mental agony people could feel. Instead, they were used as placeholders for when students were feeling a sense of nerve or disappointment.
 
“Ugh. I’m so depressed. This gives me anxiety,” became a sentence I became far too familiar with.
 
During this time, the best example actually came from my parents when I told them that I was sad but couldn’t explain why:
 
“Son. You’re just in a rut. You’re fine and you’ll get out of it. Depression isn’t real,”
 
With stigmas surrounding these words, where did it leave the small margin of people who actually identified with these forms of mental health?
 
I carried this feeling of deep uncertainty inside me for years. It wasn’t until I moved out of my parents’ house and fled to Toronto when I accepted that I was living with both depression and anxiety. Over the years I had spent countless moments buried in self-loathing, emptiness, exhaustion, frustration, and pain. There was once a point when I wouldn’t even allow myself to feel happiness because I was convinced that it was temporary and unrealistic. As I'm writing this, my mind is running 1000KM/h and my fingers are flying across my keyboard; even I’m in disbelief that I have felt this way too many times over.
 
Although my mental health latches on like weights on my shoulders every single day, today I am a stronger person.
 
The key to a resilient and fit mind is treating your body in the same respect. Although I have been boxing on-and-off since I was 11, I dove heavily back into the art when I began to feel myself slipping away like sand through my fingers—contained yet falling beyond control. For the first six months getting back into it, I vividly remember mentally projecting myself at the end of each jab; each hook; each over-hand right; hoping to beat my demons out from within. I was frustrated. Mad. Hurting. I wanted change so badly.
 
Through boxing I restored my body with discipline, a hard-work ethic, drive, passion, and purpose. Today I am reminded of all these things: I AM FUCKING STRONG. I AM A WARRIOR. AND NOT A GOD DAMN PERSON WILL EVER TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. To my friends who seek change mentally and physically, TOMORROW IS TODAY. Get after it. Move your body. Every day is your chance to make things count.
 
-n

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Meet Lauren. This is her story

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Meet Lauren. This is her story

I am a woman. And one thing I know for sure, we women have a special war we wage against ourselves. Body image, self love, acceptance. The struggle is real and society wants a lot from us. For as long as I can remember, I have been my worst critic and downright enemy. 

Going through your 20s is turbulent, beautiful, and fucking crazy. I discovered yoga in University. It was an emotional time when I first stepped on my mat, and I was ignoring my pain. I think that was the first time I really noticed my breath, or how I moved. I started listening to my body... slowly... and then, suddenly.... sending her little love notes. I couldn't believe how much of a difference a one hour practice had on my mood and mindset. I was kinder, happier, more grounded.

I never want to give the impression that taking a yoga class will solve your life problems and make you like Gandhi ..I still struggle with giving myself the same loving I give to others. But, it helps...oh how it helps! When I am feeling off, I strap on my running shoes or unroll my mat, and suddenly things feel a little better.

Movement is the medicine I know my body and soul need, and ultimately it connects me to myself.

When I move now, I love to recognize the way my body shows up for me DAILY...even when I chastise her for not fitting into a certain pair of jeans.

I am running...thank you legs for taking me places

I am downward dogging....thank you arms for holding space

I am stretching...thank you breath for always being there

 

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Meet Gillian. This is her Story

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Meet Gillian. This is her Story

As the Move to Heal Project begins to unfold, I've found myself reaching out to a lot of people that I have met at different points in my life.

Someone once told me that the energy you put out will attract similar energy, and as time goes on I am beginning to believe in that whole-heartedly.

I met Gillian and her friend Marisa filming the Food Network a few years ago, and both of them still continue to inspire me to be the best version of myself.

Below, Gillian shares how she began 2018- committing to do yoga every day for 365 days- and how it is helping her find clarity + surrender amidst the heaviness.

 

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I recently surrendered to the mat.

 

December got heavy for me. Life forced me to re-evaluate myself, my decisions, my past and my goals.

 

As one does, I kept myself busy and dismissed self questioning in exchange for Christmas parties and heavy pours of wine.

 

By the end of it all, I was ready to get clear. Yoga had been sneaking into my life subtly but the voice inside of me was getting louder:

“Make it a practice.”

 

And when a bourbon infused version of myself declared boldly on New Year’s Eve “I’m going to do 365 days of yoga!” I took my hungover limbs to yoga the next day, and decided that since I am a woman of my word, I would do exactly that.

 

When you get clear about what you want, you get it. So when I reached out to my favorite yoga studio and owner, and asked if I could work in exchange for classes, she welcomed the idea.

 

I realized that first day that yoga with a hangover really sucks.

 

I also remembered from previous times practicing that it always took away from the depth of my practice. When I was treating my body right on all accounts, I was able to get into the postures and my meditation on a whole new level.

 

So like any all or nothing gal (I live to self-experiment), I decided I would also cut out alcohol and coffee. At least for the first 30 days of my #365daysofyoga.

 

I can only describe the first two weeks as ugly but beautiful.

 

Whenever I do any kind of “detox” I always feel like crap at first. Normally, during this time, I hide from the world. But I was committed. So there I was on days when I was severely depressed, bloated, gassy, stinky from sweating it all out...you name it. I was there. Awkwardly unwinding my body and surrendering to the mat. I held back tears in child’s pose. I laughed. I felt embarrassed and I felt proud.

 

But no matter what I was going through physically or emotionally, I always left feeling calm and centered. I also found warmth in the community of the studio, appropriately called “Union”, and a sense of belonging I hadn’t felt since I moved to California.

 

One night after class my favorite yoga teacher looked at me before leaving and said, “You inspire me. You show up every day.” And I felt so humbled that even this wounded version of myself could somehow inspire.

 

I’m on day 17 now. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, so I’m almost there.

 

Every day is different. Every class is different. I’m always humbled and fascinated by where my body and mind will take me. Some days it is (almost) effortless. Most days I struggle with my ego and remind myself not to compare my practice to others. But every day I leave feeling better. I am more and more mentally free. I am more and more me.

 

One of my teachers describes yoga as returning to your most natural state of being, and I couldn’t describe it any better way.

 

I am so grateful for this surrender. To the mat. To myself. To finding some inner peace during challenging times in such a sweet way. 

 

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Gillian Young Barkalow is my beautiful, wonderful friend and also a Health & Fitness Coach that is doing some pretty amazing stuff.

Find her on Instagram: @gybstrength

AND check out her 4 week online workshop that she'll be doing this February (details in the poster below!)

 

gilly2.jpg
gilly3.png

 


 

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Eating for Energy: Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl

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Eating for Energy: Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl

For todays post, I've paired up with Alyssa, founder of The Running Kitchen! Alyssa and I both agree that our lives began to shift when we began to pay attention to what we were eating, and how we were choosing to fuel our bodies.

Below she shares a little bit of her story, and what she likes to eat when she needs a pick-me-up:

I’ve dealt with weight issues my entire life. I’d feel upset after eating too much, and then I’d feel even worse when I stepped on the scale or looked at myself in the mirror. So after years of struggling, and practically starving myself to maintain what I thought was a healthy weight, I finally decided to make healthy eating and staying active a priority.

Even though I eat (mostly) healthy and regularly workout, there are times when my mood still feels completely off. Between balancing my career in advertising as a copywriter, starting The Running Kitchen and finding time to meal prep and workout – I’m often exhausted and completely stressed. That doesn’t even factor in spending time with friends or family. I wanted to find a natural way to easily help boost my mood, and give me a bit more energy. That’s why I decided to give Maca a try.


Maca is considered a herbal adaptogen. That means it can change the balance of your hormones, adapt to stress and help balance anxiety. I find that it has a nutty flavour, making it perfect to add to smoothies and other treats. Since it’s rich in magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, and B12, it’s also a natural energy booster.  


Maca has actually been around for thousands of years. It’s pretty interesting that warriors consumed maca in ancient times to boost stamina before going into battle. So you can imagine how beneficial it could be if you’re training for a race and need to increase your endurance, or just looking for some extra energy to prevent an afternoon slump.


I’ve created this nutritious and energy-boosting Raspberry Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl full of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and of course maca. It’s perfect to help re-fuel post workout, first thing in the morning, or just as a snack. I hope you enjoy it!


*It’s recommended to take smaller amounts of maca when you first start using it, so around ½ tsp. is a great way to start.

Raspberry Maca Energy Smoothie Bowl
INGREDIENTS
- 1/2 Cup milk (I use homemade cashew coconut milk) 
- ½ Cup frozen cauliflower
- Handful frozen avocado
- 1/2 Frozen banana
- 1/2 Cup frozen raspberries
-  1Scoop vanilla protein (I use Genuine Health vegan fermented protein) 
- ½- 1 Tsp. Maca
- 1 Spoonful almond butter
Suggested toppings
- Granola
- Chia seeds
- Coconut flakes
- Fresh raspberries
- Hemp seeds

INSTRUCTIONS
Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend for 2 minutes or until fully smooth and creamy. Add your favourite toppings and enjoy! 

smoothie bowl.JPG

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Serotonin Smoothie *

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Serotonin Smoothie *

One of my favourite ways to incorporate protein into my diet is in a SMOOTHIE! And just like Camille talked about in her article on Protein and Serotonin (posted May 15th), incorporating protein into your breakfast can be pivotal in terms of how you feel on a day to day basis.

One of my favourite smoothie recipes was concocted by my friend Mel at our local run club. It has the perfect amount of antioxidants (hemp seeds), protein (bee pollen), and electrolytes (coconut water).

One of the biggest changes I've made in my life over the past few years has been paying attention to my diet. I began to notice a connection between food and mood. Ie I noticed a boost and felt more uplifted when my diet contained more whole, nourishing foods and less sugar and caffeine.

This blog post just scratches the surface but the FUEL TO HEAL section of this site will be a continual dialogue on how what we eat relates to how we feel.

The smoothie recipe is listed below. Happy fueling :)

 

Super Serotonin Smoothie:

1.5 cups spinach

1 banana

half an English cucumber

1 peeled lime

5 basil leaves

2 Tbs bee pollen

pinch of Himalayan sea salt

1 cup coconut water

1/2 cup coconut milk

GARNISH: toasted coconut flakes// hemp seed with cacao// bee pollen

 

Photo cred: @acqtastemag

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