The Holidays are Here

Lights are up. Trees are decorated. Everyone is in the full swing of events, presents and more.

But wait?

When will we get a few minutes to breathe?

Well, I have something to share with you. If YOU don’t create space for those moments, they won’t happen. Whoa whoa, I know. Crazy. ;)

I’m not always great at staring at the wall and breathing solo, and at this time of year, love connecting with others over both the calm and the chaos.

If you’re keen to do the same, check out one or two of the events in our community:

Additional mindful holiday vibes:

Wishing you chill vibes and allllll the breathing.

It’s Do What You Want To Do December

How is it December? I don’t even know – but some how it is…

Now we must rally together to get through holiday parties, friend festivities, and all the events that usually come with end of year. Right?!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I have to do vs. what I want to do.

And you know what I’ve (finally at the age of 32) realized? If you don’t want to to go to the party, you don’t have to go to the party. If you don’t want to buy a gift, you don’t have to buy a gift.

If you (err, I mean, me) need anything, it’s to do more of what you actually want to do. 

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Back to the Grind

ForScreenshot 2016-04-12 18.16.13 the last 10 days we’ve been on “vacation.” Not that kind of vacation where you book time off to escape, travel the world, or staycation tho…

We are lucky to work for companies that recognize that closing up shop (over the holidays) is important — and encouraging “employees” (bleh, so formal) to recharge, relax and reflect on the last year (and the year to come!) is super important!

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Expand Your Mind – Best Reads of 2013

Last week I was giving myself a hard time because I hadn’t finished a single book in 2013. Gah. I have been given books. I have been lent books. I have bought books. YET, NONE READ. {None finished would actually be more accurate. Been working on Steve Jobs’ biography for like 10 months}. I am the kind of person who gets super caught up in a book. I love reading and once I get started, I usually can’t put the book down. I’m often hesitant to start a book during the work week as I always have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to affect how much sleep I get. And hell, I’ve needed all the sleep I can get this past year.

A few days after I was getting all mental on myself for not reading, I arrived back on planet earth. It only took a quick browse through my Evernote and Twitter favourites to remember that I read ALL THE TIME — just not books. :) Articles, posts and random doses of inspirations fly through my social media feeds every moment of every day {often in a somewhat overwhelming way}. Every now and again, I’ll click a link and be swept away. Whether it be a post that completely resonates with where I’m at today {or where I want to be tomorrow} or a big reality check in the face or something that gets my creative juices flowing… I read, re-read and share it with anyone I think might love it.

While I’ve been reflecting on 2013, some of my favourite posts of the year have come top of mind {in no particular order}:

If you’re keen on being a better human, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, thinking outside the box and drilling down on what’s most important, than you’ll likely enjoy some of these reads.

“A good book is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility what human nature is of what happens in the world. It’s a creator of inwardness.” — Susan Sontag

Do you have a favourite post {or book} from last year? Spread the love. Share it with me.

PS – Since last week I’ve finished 2 books — “Doppler” by Erlend Loe and “Start” by Jon Acuff. Hurrah! Books {and sleeping} will be a part of my 2014. Setting that intention right now.

You Are More Beautiful Than You Think

A few years back I was involved with a real beauty Campaign by Dove Canada. I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the work Dove has been doing in regards to body image, self-esteem and perception — and also had the privilege of working with 10+ beautiful women from across the country who are role models for myself and many.

This afternoon a few girls from the #RunCrew posted this video from Dove on Facebook:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk]

A powerful message to the community, a must watch for women {and men} and an exceptional well done by Dove.

I thought to myself – would I be as harsh on myself as these women were – yes, I believe I would.

My biggest cheerleader is a friend named Jen. She’s a high achieving corporate dynamo, exceptional public speaker, mom to the cutest kids in town, a beautiful force to be reckoned with and someone who gives with her whole heart. The two things I admire the most about her:

  1. She is completely transparent that she is always evolving – always growing – always learning. She’s not perfect and she doesn’t expect anyone else to be.
  2. She is every girls biggest champion. She is an advocate for women, a role model in the community and continually voices her on gender rights and equality.

Jen is always telling me to give myself a high five — and most importantly, be ok with where I’m at. I look at her like she’s crazy, respond to her texts with a ‘uh huh’ and at the end of the day — know she is right. I’m hard on myself and I know it.

Body image and self-esteem is a complicated one. Family, friends, the situations we’ve been through in life — all contribute to how we define ourselves. Our perception is shaped from our past — both good and bad. I admire campaigns like this one because they draw light on a real big problem that is taking place in our homes, schools and communities. I believe that negative body image is a disease and that education {and speaking up} is the way we will bring positivity and confidence back into women’s lives.

4% of women in the world consider themselves beautiful.

Proof that we’re too critical on ourselves. Proof that we’re battling insecurities. Proof that we’re getting caught up in negativity.

Change doesn’t happen overnight — but it does over time. 

You’re not defined by your looks, you’re defined by your actions. The negativity, the hate, the criticism… let it all go.

Not because I told you to, because Jen told you to. She wouldn’t want anything less.

Listen. Really, Listen.

There have been many times over the past few weeks where my body has given me a big eff you. Whether it be a spitting headache or angry calves or a right ankle that freaks out with every step forward… all symptoms have a root cause.

I believe that the nicer you are to your body, the nicer it will be to you. Fill your body with the nutrients it needs. Eat clean, eat local and eat smart. Sweat once a day. Get your heart rate up and give your lungs a work out. Challenge your mind. Spend time with those you love. Stretch — and sleep.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in a mad case of go – go – go. Work. Train. Sleep. Repeat. On the countdown to race day. Currently I’m laying on my bathroom floor, wrapped in a towel, writing this blog post. Why? I was mid-shower when all of a sudden I thought I was going to faint. I got light headed, felt weak and nausea took over my belly. For a girl that pretends she’s amazon strong, fainting is a weird and a highly uncomfortable experience. All of a sudden I succumbed to the weak little girl who just wanted an “it’s all going to be ok,” coupled with a monster hug.

Once the feeling of “I’m going to die” passed, I took a picture of my legs and thought — Boom. Your body is speaking to you. Now, listen. My auto-immune system is a delicate little fairy at the best of times — and now I’m putting it through the ringer and not giving it any love. I’m running at max without the fuel. A trip to the doctor and some blood work confirmed that yep, the tank is low.

Last week my physio man and I were chatting about balance, priorities and mastery. If you let one thing fall, you’ll notice the consequences.

Today was proof. Now to make some changes.

Don’t fall. Breathe.

St Pauls - CardiologyThe last week has been a whirlwind.

One thing I know for sure is that falling on your face is quite disruptive to life. :) A weekend in the hospital {and the fall itself} left me completely drained and I had a brutal start to the week.

While in the hospital, the doctor said he would write me off work for a week. Tough girl Jillian said to him, “oh no… I don’t need that. I’ll be good to go for Monday.”

Truth be told, I probably needed one day. One day to process what had happened. One day to realize that I was totally scared to put on my runners again. One day to get some sleep and ice my face.

After I was discharged from St. Paul’s, I was given instructions to complete a round of Cardiology-related tests as an outpatient. The plan was I would get an ultrasound of my heart, spend 24 hours hooked up to a holter heart monitor and complete a heart stress test.

The tests went well and all I kept on thinking was – I’ve never had any issues with my heart, this ticker better be healthy. The heart stress test was by far the hardest. It was my first time putting on my runners since the accident and the nurse challenged me to hit up a hardcore incline on the treadmill. My knees are pretty banged up still and my legs are achy as hell, but I told her I’d give it my best shot. I made it to level 4 out of 7. 12 minutes. 16% incline. 5 miles per hour. 182 beats per minute.

While in the hospital, I don’t think I realized how much the accident screwed with my head. My immediate concerns were: 1) Is anything broken? 2) Can I still {physically} run? I didn’t think once about the impact falling on my face would have on my mental game.

I’ve had crazy anxiety all week. I’ve been thinking about my run goals for the year. I’ve been thinking about my upcoming half marathon in 2 weeks. And honestly, I’ve been debating if I’m capable of where I’m headed.

A week later, the doctors are still up in the air about how I fell, but leaning towards me fainting or that I had a cardiac issue. They told me that the tests may come back totally fine and I’ll have to accept the unknown.

Well I’ll know you what… the unknown is a scary place. It’s hard to accept the diagnosis of a ‘freak accident’.

Why?

Because who knows when it might happen again.

This morning I told myself that I had to run today. Just slip on those running shoes, layer up and get out there. I went back and forth in my head all day… to run… to not run… what if something happens?

Before you knew it, the clock struck 4:30pm and I still hadn’t left the house {doctor’s orders were to not run solo at night for a little bit}. Gah. Fail.

The fading blue sky was all I needed to motor out the door. I headed up the Granville Bridge and I just kept on repeating:

265021_4880030652076_69860305_n

Don’t fall. Breathe.

Don’t fall. Breathe.

Don’t fall. Breathe.

Most anxious run of my life.

Slowest 8k since I began this running journey. But I think I’m ok with that.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”  – Helen Keller

Back to the grind.

Note: A few days later, I was given the all clear from the Cardiologist. Tests came back a-ok and his advice was to be careful and keep running.

Trading Baguettes for Buckwheat

Just over a month ago, I was chatting with my friend about our careers, life, boyfriends {or lack of ;)} — and we got on the topic of her Naturopath. She raved about how Dr. Alea Gill at Vancouver Naturopathic Clinic is the bees knees of Naturopaths.

About 5 years ago, I dabbled in the naturopathic world — nothing really came of it and I honestly put in zero effort. Over the last few years, I’ve struggled with my blood counts {generally run on empty — white blood cells, neutrophils and ferritin}… and have yet to receive a diagnosis from a GP. Some have told that my low blood counts are now my normal, others have said I need to get blood transfusions and others think I have an auto-immune disease. My last Hematologist in Calgary was convinced I had celiac disease — and that my consumption of gluten was preventing iron absorption {and the like}. Celiac screen — negative. Celiac scope — negative.

So anyways, add in the Scoliosis and I’ve been around the block when it comes to doctors. :) The good news is that I know my health history off the top of my head and I’m totally up for exploring any type of alternative health practitioner.

I booked an appointment with Alea and thought if she can figure me out, I’ll heart her forever. I filled out the application form in advance {tough questions on there!} and patiently waited for October 22nd! Something I love about the field of naturopathic medicine is that it’s a holistic approach to the body — Alea wanted to know everything from physical health history to major life stresses to health habits to expectations.

Mind – body – soul treatment is totally up my alley.

I made it to my first appointment and we had quite the heart to heart. I’m convinced that Alea is going to be able to get to the root of the low blood counts… we both agreed that something internal is preventing absorption. I’m thinking it may be trial and error for the next few months, but my goal is to get everything sorted by late Spring. Alea challenged me to do a few things — and asked me if I’d be willing to take a food allergy and sensitivity test… To date, I’ve never been told I have an allergy, but I’ve always been curious about the test and thought why not!

A week later I went in for the Vega testing. I was already on a mission to cut dairy out of my diet — see 2012 goals… but I didn’t want to be told that I was allergic to bananas, tomatoes, avocados or any of my favourite things.

The results surprised me… officially allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, chocolate, sugar, MSG, cats and dogs. Oh man, eh.

This is how the results were processed in my brain: I love bread. LOVE BREAD. WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT BREAD? I’m already planning on cutting out dairy. No biggie. Never really liked eggs — talk myself into eating them usually. Sigh, peanut butter, sigh. :| Chocolate? Meh, not a fan anyways. Sugar… ok. MSG… don’t like Chinese food. Not a cat person. Dogs? … ok.

I met with Alea after the test was done and she walked through next steps. The plan would be to cut all of the sensitivities out for the next 3 months and determine how my body reacted. Apparently sometimes you are able to reintroduce sensitivities back into your diet once your body has sorted itself out.

I went home that day excited about the change. I thought this is not big deal, as long as I start to feel better. My biggest complaint on a day to day basis is that I’m freaking tired — all the time. Yes, many of you are reading these words right now thinking — slow the eff down. I know, I know. But to my core, I know that there is more to my constant state of tired. Something is going on in the le body.

Over the next few days I planned how the wheat-free, dairy-free life would look… I wanted to be prepared and organized for November 1st {diet change day}. Yes I sure did have a baguette in my final days with wheat haha. Regardless of my good intentions, the first few days of November were TERRIBLE. I was not organized — and VERY hungry. On around day 4, I realized that this diet change was going to mean a lot more cooking at home, packed lunches and weekly grocery shopping. I took this lifestyle change as an opportunity to get back in the kitchen and enjoy cooking again. I’m a big ‘everything happens for a reason’ person — so I do think this is probably the kick in the pants I needed to find a bit of routine in my life.

“What is always speaking silently is the body.”

– Norman Brown

On a wheat-free diet, you can still have kamut, spelt, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, coconut flour and nut flours. Surprisingly, lots of options — I can still have bread! Dairy-free has been no big deal, as I’d already made the switch to almond milk, coconut milk yogurt and soy-free Earth Balance! I picked up some Daiya cheese and I was good to go. No need to bring up the brie that will arrive at my Mom’s house over the holidays next month please and thank you. I tossed the peanut butter and bought almond butter — which I find nasty by the way {apparently it’s best if you make it yourself} and I’ve just become aware of my sugar intake. I am a brown sugar in black tea kinda girl — but that’s an easy habit to switch.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

For the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting — and totally loving it! Not ever dish I’ve tried has been a success, but these ones sure have:

The easiest way to be successful with diet changes is discipline and routine. I created a recipe vortex in Evernote — and it’s been a lifesaver for ideas and last minute meal planning on the way home from work.

I updated my pantry with some new staples: buckwheat flour, coconut flour, oats, chickpeas, red quinoa, chia seeds, nutritional yeast and all sorts of nuts. One of my favourite food blogs is Oh She Glows — and Angela has a great post on the vegan pantry {for the most part I would consider myself to be a wheat-free pescatarian who dabbles in the raw and vegan world}. A few people have said to me — ‘instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can eat.‘ BUT WHAT ABOUT MY BRIE AND BAGUETTE? ;) I’ve taken away bread, couscous, milk and cheese — but I’ve added way more foods! Way more!

For the most part I have followed the diet to a tee — yes, I did have a mini chocolate bar a few days after Halloween and I did go to La Taqueria one day for lunch {flour tortillas… boo}. I have been craving all sorts of things that I’ve never craved before — and I think it’s just psychologically because I can’t have it. I’m not going to get all psycho on myself when I slip up {it’s bound to happen}, but I do know that I feel ass-tastic when I eat wheat or dairy. That’s what has stopped me from going to Finch’s for a baguette these past few weeks– so good, yet so bad now…

The hardest part of this whole adventure is leaving the house — ha ha. Yes, you read that correctly! All is well when you’re whipping up delicious meals under your own roof. As soon as you leave the house though? You’re not in control and it’s stressful. I now know that I need to find the restaurants in the city that cater to my lifestyle and stick with them. Vancouver is actually a really easy city to be vegetarian and/or gluten free — lots of options {Acorn, Heirloom, Naam, Nuba, East is East and the list goes on}. Last weekend I had a brunch date at Harvest Union and devoured gluten free waffles. So legit — better than the real deal.

Quinoa Cakes

I have no idea where this new lifestyle will head in the coming months — but what I do know is that I feel the best I’ve felt in months — maybe even years. Crazy, eh? Perhaps it’s the paying attention to my body… perhaps it’s the new diet… perhaps it’s a combination of a whole lot of other things going on in my life… I’ve got no idea.

Feeling good is a great thing though.

Regardless if you’re a carnivore, vegetable addict or baguette and brie lover… do what you gotta do to live your best life.

Note: Some people don’t believe in naturopathic medicine, some do. Some people don’t support food allergy and sensitivity testing, some do. Some people don’t support a ‘vegan’ diet, some do. Figure out where you stand and just do what’s right for you. :)

Body Love

This afternoon, I was on my way back from Horseshoe Bay — and started thinking about technology and the Internet. I spent the hour commute back into downtown Vancouver on my iPhone.

Everyone on the bus was on their phone.

No one was reading. No one was talking.

Or were they?

I was texting, tweeting, reading articles and writing emails. I assume people were doing the same — probably playing games too.

I started thinking about what life would be like without technology? I hardly remember those days… and you know what, that somewhat terrifies me.

I am attached to my phone and the Internet. I live and breathe it — day in and day out. 

Is the dependency on technology healthy? I’ve got no idea…

I remember long play dates with friends when I was in elementary school. I remember writing in journals and having a pen pal in middle school. I remember when I used to chat with my girlfriends for 4+ hours on the phone in high school — every, single, night. All of that has been bundled up into Facebook, Twitter and beyond.

We’ve changed the way we communicate and we need to accept it.  The Internet — it’s not good or bad — it’s just different. Time and time again the world has shown me that the Internet is a powerful tool to get your message out to the masses.

An image that came through my Facebook feed today — was that of Stella Boonshoft. An 18 year old student from New York City who was recently featured on Humans of New York {an amazing blog and must subscribe}.

Stella tells a story of bullying and body image. A month ago she posted her picture on her blog with a statement to the world that pretty much said — Leave me alone and let me be. Stop judging. Accept me for who I am.

Kudos to Stella for finding her voice and taking a stance — brave young woman.

“There is no such thing as a good or bad body. Our bodies are all beautiful because they are vessels for our souls. They allow us to feel, express, hurt, love, laugh, cry, and most importantly create change in the world.” – Stella Boonshoft

Since then hundreds of thousands of people have seen her photo and given their opinion {both positive and negative}. She has been called fat and unhealthy. She has accused of wanting to be famous or using the ‘tell all’ as a motive to gain attention.

The Internet can be a beast.

One thing that has continually been reinforced to me over the years is… “if one person learns, you’ve done your job.” Not everyone is going to understand your message or be in a place where it’s relevant to them. We have to accept that for what it is and truck forward.

If someone is learning — continue.

Stella stood up and said what so many people in the world are thinking. With one post, she made a difference in the lives of others. With one post, she made an impact on the community. With one post, she gave young women all over the world — hope.

Vulnerability is hard. It’s important because it forces you to grow.

Vulnerability gives you the power to accept you for who you are — and just be.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Learn more about Stella and her mission to change the way we think about our bodies:

http://thebodyloveblog.tumblr.com

{… thank you Internet. Blessed to learn about Stella. Blessed to share her message with others.}

Turning Oppression into Opportunity

Years ago I read the book… tonight the documentary premieres on PBS. Half the Sky is about leaving the past and the past and paying attention to what is going on in the world — now. Women across the globe are pushing past societal norms and making change in their communities. Now it’s time for the world to learn about how women are seizing opportunity!

Part 1 of the documentary airs at 9pm PST tonight, with Part 2 taking place at 9pm PST tomorrow {check your local listings here}.

The 4 hour segment will absolutely enlighten your day, week and year.

“Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide was filmed in 10 countries and follows Kristof, WuDunn, and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. Across the globe oppression is being confronted, and real meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls. The linked problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality — which needlessly claim one woman every 90 seconds — present to us the single most vital opportunity of our time: the opportunity to make a change.” – Independent Lens | PBS

To learn more:

And don’t forget to set tune in or set your PVR!