Communication Skills, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, time management

A Tool for Parents Interested in Better Time Management and Lifestyle Design.

Takeaway: This article shows how to gain some awareness (and better choices) in your schedule by becoming more aware of your speech

Copy of Copy of Copy of saturdaymarch 23, 20194_00 pm

Have you ever been at a friends’ house for a playdate and you wind up observing the interactions between your friend and their partner, noticing the differences, or maybe similarities in how they talk to each other versus how you talk to your partner?

It’s easy to observe others talking, but with practice, we can turn this same observation on ourselves, and in here is massive personal growth and self development.  The technique of becoming an observer of your own speech is powerful when it comes to better time management and lifestyle design.

Read on, especially if you struggle with saying yes, or you find yourself frequently overcommitted or overbooked and frustrated that you don’t have the space to act on things that are of higher priority (or interest) in your life.

If you think about it, we walk around with many thoughts and ideas in our head.  More than 40,000 of them in a day, actually.

Out of all of those thoughts and ideas, which ones do we choose to put out there into the world?  Which ones remain our “inside voice” ‘and which ones become our “outside voice.”  When you think about it that way, you realize that speech is powerful.

Nobody knows what is going on inside of us until we speak.

Technically ,we don’t commit to anything in our outside world, or bring our future into existence until we speak.

When you think about next week, you’re just visualizing it.

When you talk about next week, you are designing next week by talking about things, committing to things, speaking next week into existence.

We design our life by speaking, and there are a few “speech acts” that commit us to our future.

Making a declaration (next Tuesday I am going to a playdate with X.)

Making an offer (would you like to go to the zoo next Wednesday with the kids?)

Making a request (I’d like us to get outside more next week.)

Making a promise (I’ll get that back to you by next Thursday.)


An example is today, we are getting outside with our kids for some fresh air. Thursday is designed.  When did it become a plan versus a thought in my mind?

Last week.  Last week I said to my husband,

Me: we need to get the kids out for fresh air (vague request.)

Husband:  I’m off on Thursday, we could go out in the morning (declaration.)

Me:  How about we go to the zoo? (offer)

Husband:  Great idea! (accept)

So I:  *Put it in the calendar.

There you go.  An idea floating around in our heads that we both agreed on.  Then we designed our upcoming week with speech acts (a variety of them in this conversation.)

As you begin to think about this, and watch yourself in conversations this week, notice what your tendencies are.

Reactive Tendencies:

(your week is planned and you are left asking yourself, why do I have all this shit on my schedule that I don’t want to do?)

Do you make promises or offers to other people?

Do you tend to plan your week based on other people’s requests (that you’ve said “yes” to) or their declarations (letting them take the lead.) 

Proactive Tendencies:

You don’t make promises or offers.

(You declare your priorities and what you have capacity for and want to achieve in the upcoming week – yes that means putting it out there in speech 🙂 and you say No as well as Yes.)

You plan your week based on your own and your family’s requests (which brings me to an interesting point, do you KNOW what you need in your upcoming week and do you have the speech skills to not let other things get in the way? Can you say NO to other people’s stuff, so that you can protect and experience your own stuff?)


Questions for you to take away:

This week, I simply invite you (with this knew knowledge) to observe yourself and what your tendencies are.

How do they influence how your days and weeks unfold ?

If you are interested in designing a lifestyle and a future that works for you, how do your speech acts work for you in designing that?

How do they work against you?



Book Club, Essays, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Organization, time management, Working Mom

How to Manage Your Time as a Working Mom – What My iCal Looks Like

Hello everyone!  At work this week I’ve been running a ton of presentations and doing a heck of a lot of coaching around time management, now that we are in the exciting month of September.

For many, this month marks a shift into a different pace and rhythm, especially those of you parents who have kiddos continuing (or starting!) school.  Doubly true for those of you who simultaneously work in industries that ramp up in the fall and winter!

As a higher education professional, that certainly applies to me!

First point, I want to say, is be gentle with yourself!  As you get into the rhythm of a new season, it’s going to take some adjustment over the month.  You’ll do too much, then you’ll go the other way and not enough and then you’ll find that “just right” rhythm. There’s a Scandinavian quote I love, “not too little, not too much, just enough.”  I believe you can’t find “just enough” until you try the other ends of the spectrum and your boundaries.   One person’s too much is another person’s just right.… right?

Personally, in my own time management life, I’m trying to figure out how to fit meal prep and a more effective morning routine into my life, but my ical and outlook schedules are pretty dialed in.  I’m also back at work after maternity leave and having to trust that my husband has the home front and home iCal under control while I am in sessions or workshops.  The hand off of child schedules during the daytime has been a wild (but awesome) adjustment for both of us, and we just keep the lines of communication open around our own personal strengths and weaknesses and where the other needs support.

Second point I want to make, is that we are all constantly working on time management, and then adjusting our schedules and rhythms as each new element comes in.  I am a time management expert and I have to work at it every day!

We NEVER discover a perfect system and then install it… we are ALWAYS adjusting and constantly responding to changes…  I’ll talk about this in the video.

On IGTV (Instagram TV) today I shared a behind the scenes video of how I manage my schedule as a working mother with a career, a few side hustles and 3 kids. I show you my iCal and my outlook, and the systems I use to stay on top of things.

I’ve also posted the video below, which is also saved to my channel on Youtube.  


FYI, I share lots of coaching, tips and insights on my Instagram account, so if you don’t already follow along, do check it out at

I find it incredibly helpful to “see” what other peoples’ lives are like, and people’s work / home schedules are fascinating to me. I love studying them, but it’s often not something that people open up about and show (or even talk about in conversation.)  It’s kind of like finances in a way, so, that is exactly why I am sharing my own.

Let’s have these conversations!  They help us elevate our lives and manage the full days of parenthood.  Where do you excel? Where do you struggle? What has helped you?

If you are a working mother and are very curious about balancing multiple roles, I strongly recommend the book “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam which has lots of ‘sample’ schedules of real working women she interviewed.  The paperback is $22 and the Kindle edition (I personally read this on Kindle so I can save and review the notes) is $16.

I Know How She Does it by Laura Vanderkam
One of my favourite books on maternity leave, it helped me with time management for working moms

Time management really is a passion of mine, I love how fluid it is and how it is an ever-shifting thing.  I have an entire category of the blog dedicated to it, so here are some additional articles that may be of interest.  I’ll also make a note to share my own notes on this book above!

EXTRA READING:  Other Time Management Articles on the GML

Why we should stop saying OMG I AM SO BUSY

Add This Approach to Your Time Management Practices

My Thoughts on the Whole “Too Busy / Too Overwhelmed” Dialogue In Society


Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Nature, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, Trail running

Advice for Trail Runners. The Diary of a New Trail Runner and Life Coach.

Trail running is amazing because it puts us into flow state, from which our greatest insights and ideas come. I love to coach in nature (I guess you could say I do “nature coaching” or “nature life coaching”) and for me, trail runs are like a ridiculous download from the deepest recesses of my mind.

Today I offer you a wonderful tool on how to leave your past in the past, and start moving towards your future mindfully.

Xo Carina

Ankylosing Spondylitis Journey, Essays, Free Life Coaching Guides, grief, Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Physical Wellness

Stop Repressing your Emotions. Start Feeling and Start Healing. My Ankylosing Spondylitis Remission Journey.

Recently Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis_ (4)


Image: Stock Image, Colourbox.

This image right below, is of the Hoover Dam. An engineering marvel bordering Arizona and Nevada.  It is a powerful visual for today’s post.  Hold it in your mind, it will make sense in a few minutes.


Its concrete base is more than 600 ft thick.  Why?  The Hoover Dam holds back 45,000 lb of water pressure per square foot. Behind this massive concrete wall lies 247 square miles of water. That water is carefully controlled and flows through the dam.  A tiny, restricted flow of water generates enough energy in the plant’s turbines, to power the lives of 1.3 million people for a year.

Side note:  If you have attempted to keep bath water in the bath with a toddler, you will have an appreciation for the scale of this dam and water pressure, because with a toddler bath, you (the parent) with 5 or 6 feet of body, are trying to withstand approximately 100 gallons of water.  lol.  Anyways…

The water’s potential energy held behind that wall, is staggering.  It is there, bound up, waiting to be let through that dam.  The water that gets through, explodes with energy, transferring to kinetic energy, and eventually into electric energy for hundreds of thousands of homes.

If you remember back to your high school classes in physics, (assuming you actually attended those classes – I can’t say I did)  you may remember the first law of thermodynamics, the Law of Conservation of Energy: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.

I think about this all the time with parenthood – we all witness a huge range of energies & emotional states that  children move through.  They are incredibly dynamic.  Toddler kinetic energy (racing down the hall) can flash over to emotional energy in a heart beat! They will pick up any energy in the room like a sponge.  Even your baby does.  Trying to put your baby down quickly and easily when you are agitated and restless?  Yeah, good luck with that…

So, back to my point with energy only transfers. The human body experiences many forms of energy. Kinetic energy, chemical energy, thermal energy and electrical energy are all examples.   Energy is flowing within us and through us.   It leaves us, and comes to us.  It is a constant interplay between us and our environments.We’re in one giant circle of energy exchange.

Though we haven’t gotten a good handle on it yet, there are other forms of energy flowing in our body, too.  This energy is described in Eastern Medicine as Qi, but in the west we don’t really have a proper name for it yet other than the very loosey goosey description of someone’s “vibe.”

We have good days and bad days, on days and off days.  We feel the vibes of other people and we can’t help but raise to their level, or sink to their level, depending on where they are.  When our babies or children are in a different energy state from us, we are left trying to stay grounded while helping them move through their various states of being.

If you are super fascinated by energy states of children, I truly recommend Carol Tuttle’s book which describes different energy dispositions and how to work with them in children.   It has been hugely influential in my life and parenting.

Here we, are trying our best to manage our children’s energy and how we react to it, thinking we are the knowledgeable ones… BUT… children have something very, very important to teach us.  Children live in the present moment, and healthily process emotions.  They let themselves experience everything in full technicolour.  Then, as quickly as an emotion arrives, it passes.  Maybe 5 minutes later, maybe 2 weeks later.  It moves on.

Granted, we don’t want to go into full toddler style technicolour ranges of emotion and energy.  We are adults and self-regulation is important in environments like oh, say, our jobs? Extended family dinners?

BUT you know what we adults do? We repress our emotions and deny them. We are like the wall of the hoover dam, except we are not 600+ feet thick concrete.  We’re made of tissue, and bone, and organic materials that are constantly shifting and changing. I fully believe whatever emotions are being held back, the pressure of those is felt in our bodily structures.

We swallow emotions down and instead of letting them go through us and out of us. We push them deep into our subconscious and consequently, into our bodies.  They eventually show up, becuase energy changes state.  Perhaps bad dreams, or unconscious behaviours, or even chronic pain and illness.

In my own healing journey toward vitality and away from chronic pain and depressive symptoms and nightmares, I’ve come to understand that many of my own emotions have been repressed over the years, for various reasons.   From family, social and cultural pressure to have a stiff upper lip, to simply needing to get sh*t done in crisis situations and saving the emotions for later.

And here, is the main point of this article.  It turns out that having small children can be one of the most liberating things for your body, mind, spirit and soul, because they get our emotions back into free-flow mode.

Full disclosure, pre-kids, I used to see being emotional and crying as a trait of weakness and extremely undesirable. If I went to a movie with a friend or family, I’d inwardly roll my eyes if they were sobbing, and judge them – yet I’d be picking at my lip or fighting my own battle not to cry, staring at the back of people’s heads and trying to disconnect from the movie.

I took pride in being logical, un-emotional, stoic, etc.  I was simply modelling what I saw around me.  And you know what, for a long time it did truly serve me.  Locking down and getting stuff done and facing challenges was something I had to do for almost all of my teens and twenties.  It’s what I had to do then, and I honour it. That’s why we keep beliefs around, right?  At some point they were useful.

In 2013 I took care of my mum with stage IV lung cancer and I was pregnant at the same time. It was an honour to be in that role. I was locked down, efficient, stoic as F**** while so many people around me fell apart from grief.  I am careful not to judge it as a good thing or a bad thing – I have no regrets about how I handled my cancer caregiver role, however, keeping things on lock down did catch up with me, because those beliefs became more deeply embedded and my emotional range deeply decreased.  

When old beliefs begin impacting your current quality of life, it is time to say:

“you know what?  You served me once upon a time but you are not serving me anymore.  In fact, you are keeping me from moving forward and getting where I want to go in my life. It is time for you to go!” 

After the ultimate application of my ability to remain stoic and unemotional, I was thrown into motherhood, where my old beliefs about repressing emotion began to really backfire.  When my daughter was 3 months old, I was struggling to feel anything.  Joy, happiness, connection.  I realized that I had to get things flowing again, and feel something.  I began counseling, reading, keeping a dream journal and some deep somatic work. 

In order to let the good stuff flow, I learnt that I had to let the sad stuff flow, too.  The earliest hints of this were in my dreams which were really quite tortured and tragic.  Emotion was showing up in my dreams and my chronic pain was intense. 

From 2013 to 2018 I embarked on a journey to create non-self-judgemental space in my life let my emotions flow.  It was terrifying.  It was really hard, too. 

I believe that for any “logical” person, letting yourself finally connect with your emotional states and acknowledge that you are an emotional being, is the ultimate act of courage. Nobody wants to feel the hard stuff.  It’s why people get addicted to things.  We want to avoid it.  But in order to get to the other side (happiness and the good feels) you have to be brave enough to go through the hard feels.  

One of the practices I took on, was to cry in public. This was one of the most intense forms of self-regulation and repression that I used to do as a child and it was one of my most stubbornly held beliefs.  I knew this was a stubborn belief, because the thought of crying in public or around friends instantly made me recoil. 

 It was a hugely difficult practice at first to let myself cry publicly, but after some months of work, I did it! One of the first times I was able to truly let myself be and allow emotions to flow, was on an overnight flight to London Heathrow with my daughter who was 6 months old at that point.  The moment that plane flew over the twinkling Calgary skyline, I lost it. My mum and I had so many special memories of flying on that exact Air Canada flight back over to the UK to see our family (and when she lived there, me flying out to see her.) I was tired, and snuggling a baby and just feeling very, very lonely at that point of my life. I let myself sob.  It let it out, and let it go.  When people asked if I was okay, I said “not really.” I opened up.  That first time crying in front of a plane of concerned strangers was huge, and slowly I was able to do it in scarier situations – in front of my husband and friends.  

I would have NEVER done that pre-baby. Not. In. A. Million. Years.  Honestly, not even for $1000. Even 5 years later after tons of work, I find it hard to be emotional. I don’t think you can just simply decide to let deeply held beliefs go.  It’s a journey and you will move forward and sometimes backward. 

Rewinding back to 2013.  Once I had let myself experience tears,  there was plenty of room for the good stuff. Over the next five years, I was able to truly access joy again.  The water pressure against the dam released as I let some water (emotions) through the turbines.

By letting water flow through the dam’s power plant and turbines, energy is created. I found that analogy so true to my own life.  By letting emotions finally flow through, the trickle of water became a huge flow.  That emotional energy hit the turbines and converted to a different form.  The energy of growth, happiness and engagement. It released more energy to continue working toward the life I wanted, and more energy to access the good emotions.   

I can also say that it (has) helped relieve some of my chronic pain, though this has been something that has really come along in the last year (2017-2018)

  I truly think that when you have emotional pressure pushing against that wall (by the way that concrete wall is your own fear of emotions and “lockdown” mode)  some of that pressure has to transfer to parts of your body.  Headaches, back pain, maybe inflammation and illness or a bad digestive system?  Depends on you.

Energy is neither created nor destroyed, simply transferred elsewhere in different forms, right?  

In 2018 as I write this with far more emotional range, a gentler, kinder and more accepting attitude toward emotion, I can say that my pain is less, in all senses of the word.  I am more willing and able to express myself, embrace vulnerability and with those things has come a beautiful life, greater happiness and the confidence and faith to embrace highest visions for the life of myself and my family.   I am a better friend, wife, mother for being gentle not only with others in their emotional times, but also myself, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world.

I hope the dam visual lands with you, and that perhaps this causes some reflection on your own emotions, energy management, and the gift that your children have given you.






Baby Gear, Families in Calgary, Happiness, Kids Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Hiking Heart Creek Trail with Toddlers – Toddler-Friendly Hikes in Calgary and Canmore.

Heart Creek Trail with 2 toddlers and a baby 🙂 

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 9.32.07 PM

Today my husband and I rolled out of the house with our two toddlers (4 and 3) and baby (1) to finally go do Heart Creek Trail.  We haven’t done any hikes yet this summer, but we’ve heard about this trail on lots of family outdoors groups.

We find that with hiking, we HAVE to commit, get up and go.  It really takes commitment – no changing minds.  It honestly takes a bit of dedication, because so many things can happen in the 2 hours between the kids up at 6:30 and getting rolling at 8:30. Meltdowns, complications, distractions or just the weakening of our own willpower to get in the car and drive for an hour and a half! 🙂

One thing that I am constantly fighting in order to get to the mountains, is the urge to leave the house in a somewhat not-disastrous-state. It’s quite a state after morning wild animal feedings 🙂

I work so hard not to feel it but my house IS messier than the average house and I full disclosure, I am still working to shake off  shame about it (which is hard to do when you do get judged and it reactivates your shame.) I constantly feel the need to clean it before we go.  Which is silly, because even if I do clean it, my ‘clean’ is still messy to other people, so what’s the point? lol.

I had been succumbing to the urge to clean earlier in the summer and finding that I was using my best energy and best time of day to clean and “organize” – basically, more often than not, it would wind up resulting in us not getting out!  So stupid when it’s not even a value of mine, I’m just doing it because of long-held shame and fear of judgement.

So, for the second half of summer, I’m pretty much leaving the house a disaster, saying fuck that and going to the mountains!  This is a belief that is no longer serving me.

We try to get everyone up, snacks packed, everyone changed, stuff thrown in a bag and coffees ready for us. Almost always, somewhere along the line we usually forget a coat, or a pair of extra pants, or someone’s water bottle, but if it means getting up and out, we can roll with that 🙂

Now, with out out of the way, onto the fun part – Heart Creek Trail, it is toddler approved (4,3,1)

Heart Creek is ideal for age 3+

Under 3’s will get tuckered so have a mode of carrying if they do!

I am pretty adventurous with my BoB Stroller and Double Chariot Stroller, however, I’ll say that Heart Creek is *not* doable with a stroller.

However, there are lots of natural features to keep the toddlers going!  You start off with a very slight toddler-friendly ascent up a hill (top left photo), over rooty, rocky trail for about 10 minutes before the trail opens to a nice meadow and view of Heart Mountain.  From there on in, you follow the creek, where there are fun bridges criss-crossing the creek, a toddler-friendly crossing where they step over slabs of rock, and trail mostly consisting of loose and compacted river rocks and pebbles.

Despite the bear in area signs, it was a busy trail on a Sunday in July, but not overly busy.

We turned around at the climbing area (75% of the way) as our parent spidey senses were tingling and we sensed the kids were getting tired. It wound up being a good judgment call.  Always turn around before meltdowns, and leave something more to look forward to the next time.  That’s kind of our approach to hiking now.

I think in our earlier parent days we were adamant about completing the whole hike or trail and we’d always wind up carrying someone back to the car or dealing with meltdowns.

We’ve learned to let that mindset go and simply go for the experiences on the trail, rather than where the trail leads to, or the “accomplishment” inherent in a hike.  It takes a bit of work to pull back and turn around before you are ready to, but it makes for a better experience for everyone!


Tips to keep your toddlers going on a hike:


-Point out cool features (lots of mushrooms on your right, on the first part of the hike – keep your eye out for the cute pink ones!)

-Don’t see at it as getting to a destination – look at it as a chance to explore and play in different features along the trail. We loved the little creek crossings on the rocks as well as the bridges.

-Make nature bracelets so they can pick things along the way! Still have to write a post about this, but essentially, make a bracelet out of duct tape, with the sticky side up.  As your kids hike, they can add little things to their bracelets like leaves, moss, twigs and the occasional wildflower. 

-Scale it.  Remember they are little people in little bodies.  We really had to work on getting out of our “goal of completing a hike because we drove an hour there” mindset and focus on the experiences along the way on the trail.  Ironically, this is a really nice analogy for life. 🙂

If you enjoy reading about trails on blogs, here are some blogs about Heart Creek Trail written by other wonderful bloggers!  These are always what inspire me to get out there!

Other blogs on Heart Creek Trail & Area

I love the Hiking with Barry blog, he’s a lovely guy and sold me my XC skis last year! Here’s his blog on Heart Creek Trail 

Tanya scrambled up Heart Mountain (sans kids you can make it a great scramble / summit hike!)

Here’s the standard All Trails Heart Creek Trail Map

With or without kids, if you complete Heart Creek and still want more, why not do Bow Valley Nuclear Bunker after lunch and explore the man made cave inside?  (take a flashlight, it’s pretty cool and starts from the same area as Heart Creek!) 

Creativity, Essays, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nutrition, Physical Wellness

Organic Stores are a Better Deal Than Big Box Stores in Some Ways. You Just Have to Think Differently.

I’ve subscribed to Ramit Sethi for a while now and have been following his work.  I like his honesty and punchy emails. Today’s email was “10 extravagances people pay for.”  He had asked his readers to submit their answers to this question with an explanation.

There was one in particular I LOVED that made me stop and go hmmm!  That’s right! It caused a little shift in the way I see things.  I had this realization about 10 minutes ago and decided to share it.  It’s just a more flexible way of approaching our decisions as consumers.

You see, I prefer smaller, local stores with organic produce and lifestyle items, I love Community Natural Foods, Bite Groceria and Sunnyside Natural Market.  I don’t do full grocery shops there, our budget is a reality for us – but I always stop in if I am in the area, and do buy supplements, leafy greens, specialty items and the occasional 50% off lunch from there.  I really enjoy those stores.

Reading Sethi’s email today I had an “ah hah” moment.

So often we just think of our consumer choices in terms of money, money, money.  The number at the bottom of a bill.  Money dominates our thinking and it can cause scarcity thinking.  As soon as you start focusing exclusively on minimizing the money going out, and the cheapest deal possible, it’s sort of a race to the bottom in many ways.

We have to be careful to hit the right balance between living within our means + stretching ‘strategically’ versus racing to the bottom and developing a scarcity mindset.  We have to be careful to keep our brains flexible and come at things from different angles.  We need to remember when we make a decision, it’s not just about the object but it can also be about the experience.

There IS something to be said about looking at where we spend our money with a wider perspective than the numbers game.  Sethi nailed this point on the head.

Which response got me started on all of this thinking?  This one:

In response to the question “what are your extravagances?”

“I spend money on the shopping experience itself, because experiences, not stuff, make us happy.  My mom loves to brag about how her grapefruits were so much cheaper than mine – but I bought mine at the fancy market, with the lovely music, while she bagged her own groceries amidst screaming children.” 

I laughed reading this.  It is very true!  I hold nothing against screaming children.  But it totally gets you thinking differently and approaching a weekly chore from a completely different angle.

I digress….

The grocery shop is an experience.  It is more than dollar signs and groceries and just purchasing objects.  It’s an investment of your time and effort.  By racing to the bottom and going as cheap as you can, sometimes you’re not necessarily saving as much as you think.
The cheap store.  Stressful. Crowded. Further away.  Low-quality foods.  So, you’ve just spent an extra $10 return on gas, come home stressed out, spent longer because you bagged your own groceries, bought lower quality items and made an economic decision to support stores who are in the race to the bottom, more stuff for as cheap as possible (which has given rise to the factory farm situation btw!)  You throw stuff into the massive shopping cart indiscriminately and the subtle psychology of the clearance deals and pricing makes and bright yellow signs makes you spend way more than you planned to spend because “it was an amazing deal!”
The organic store.  Much more expensive, yes.  What if it is closer?  Less gas and time? High quality nutritionally dense foods you don’t need to eat in as high volume.  And the experience of a health food store? You come out smothered in nice lotions, essential oils, with a free Alive magazine.  It smells like incense and you come out all chilled out, relaxed and inspired to live healthy. You have a nice conversation with someone perusing the same vitamins shelf. You are more particular about what you choose and put more thought into your shop, because you know it’s expensive af and your cart is teensy.
Interesting, right?
The point of this article IS NOT to argue that one store is better than the other, I use both.  The point of this article is to say that nothing is as black and white, cut-and-dried as we think, and sometimes the race to the bottom, as much as we can get for as cheap as possible, is not the greatest option.  Sometimes it’s good to think about experiences and to cultivate good experiences.
What if we applied that thinking to everything we do in our day?
What if we decided to make a chore an enjoyable experience? What if we took the dishes and dropped a few scents of rosemary oil into the sink afterwards and breathed it in? What if we go to buy cat food from the pet store, take the kids and have fun snuggling bunnies?  What if we cultivate experiences in the ordinary every day things?
Whoever this respondent was, they are on to something.
To keep learning, growing and expanding is to continuously engage in these kinds of thinking exercises.
In addition to doing sudoku, or luminosity, what if we started the practice of thinking outside of the box when we evaluate our consumer decisions?  What if we start coming at it with the perspective of how much are we experiencing in addition to how much are we spending? 
Thoughts to ponder over morning coffee.
Thanks Ramit, for the brain food this morning.



Essays, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Spirituality

How to Handle Food Saboteurs and People Who Don’t Support Your Lifestyle Change

I’ve been on a pretty major health / lifestyle overhaul the past few years and it has been the most fascinating (and challenging) growth experience.

Last summer, I rejoined Weight Watchers. I’ve had success on it before and it’s a short, beautiful walk from my house.  The ritual of the weekly weigh in, the outstanding food tracking app and the algorithm that balances macros makes it a great fit for me. I am not a details person.  I’ve tried super dialed in macro diets and tracking with my fitness pal but it’s not for me.

It also lets me do my style of eating within it.  I try to eat gluten and dairy free within it, favouring lean meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts / seeds.  The WW algorithm favours these foods, which makes it a great match.

The highest weight I have ever been was last summer.  At 5’10 and pregnant, I topped the scales at 237lb, 70 lb above my normal BMI range.  After delivering, my weight stabilized at 220.  Though I was still on the cusp of overweight / obsese.  I wasn’t alarmed, and I refused to hate my body.  I’m not in that place anymore. It’s a gift of the 30s 😉 but I’ll tell you what, I really felt the discomfort in my joints.  That’s the first time in my life where I went past the overweight category into obese and holy shit, I was really, really sore and tired and inflamed.

I can very clearly remember the distinction between that weight and out of shape weight.  I’m thankful for the experience because I knew I suffered there. It was uncomfortable and in suffering we find our deepest whys and motivations.  When you suffer, you lock in your motivation on a physical, mental and emotional level.  It’s why nobody ever truly transforms until they have their “aha moment” or as Chad Fowler said to Tim Ferriss, the “Harajuku Moment.”

My weight journey over 3 pregnancies between 2013 and 2018

Between the sickness of pregnancy and the short breaks between each pregnancy, I decided to just take enjoyment in food and I don’t really have any regrets about the journey to that place.  I figure there’s a time in life for gains, a time in life for losses. A time for suffering, a time for vibrancy.  There is just no way you can stay on a perfect linear trajectory.  Nature has seasons and cycles, so do humans.

very.single.rice.krispie treat I ate at good earth cafe, every afternoon was glorious.  No fuckin regrets at all.  Those little rice krispies fed my soul and gave me a small window of relief when I’d been puking all morning.  Every sip of the litres of OJ I went through while I was pregnant with my first? Divine, I tell you!

So, coming into the Fall of 2017 and Mat Leave 3, I knew that it would be about hunkering down and getting the hell out of obese / overweight.

And off to Weight Watchers I went.

I chose to attend the weekly meetings.  For the longest time, I didn’t want to because I find the demographic different and the tools they share a bit basic.  But it’s humbling.

An obstacle to learning that I often carry with me, is that I can research and learn myself, and I already know (and probably on a deeper level) a lot of the science they share, so sometimes I have difficulty granting authority to the leader.  It’s good to identify your obstacles to learning, because once you know them, you can quiet that voice, eat some humble pie and listen.  Everyone has barriers and obstacles to learning. My full time job is helping university students, who are some of the best learners around, overcome a laundry list of them.

At meetings, I remind myself that I am in the same body fat percentage as everyone else and it means I am NOT an expert!  Yes you have knowledge but clearly you are not applying it, so let’s get back to those basics, I tell myself.  I needed to relearn a few things, – mindful eating, portion sizing and eating square meals instead of grazing. I had to retrain my taste buds and sensitize them to sugar by depriving them for a while, and establish the habits and routines of multi vitamin and fish oil supplements, and water intake.

As much as I hate the 5lb awards and clapping and rah rah, I love the part of the meeting where we get into real talk – it’s the trials and tribulations discussion.  It’s like a live version of a talk show and the conversation goes deep.  I love the stories and feedback and advice everyone shares.  It’s inspiring, insightful and the different perspectives serve to break down your learning obstacles.

One of the most common topics that has come up over the last 6 months of meetings has been food saboteurs.

Weight Watchers has an internal instagram account called Connect, and today I got into a discussion about it with a fellow member who is having a hard time with the blatant and active resistance to change that her family is putting up, and their attempts to get her to return to previous habits.  I’ve been so lucky in that I haven’t had any actively disempowering behaviour or doubters, everyone has been so amazing, supportive and empowering in person.  But her story led me down the rabbit hole of thinking about how to approach this from a coaching perspective.

It made me think about some stuff I’ve been reading lately in Tony Robbins’ Book, Awaken the Giant Within, (it’s a classic of his and a big book, but a life changer!!!) It’s probably my #1 life changing book now, The Power of Habit is in a close #2 spot.

(Links to paperbacks below.  Please feel free to use these links to hop over to Amazon if you need to do a shop there.  Literally by shopping on Amazon by going through these links, you are supporting this blog.) 

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In Robbins’ book he teaches us that everything boils down to our innate human nature –  that we all just want to feel love and belonging, and we want to avoid pain. At the most primordial part of our brain, it is about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.  Those are the dual forces that influence everything we do, think and say.

I realized that this insight applies to all people in our lives who surprise us by not being as supportive as we thought they’d be, when we are undergoing major upward growth and change.

And so, I present to you, my take on this situation, on the people who are *not* empowering you. Who are trying to pull you back… who are actively, or maybe passively disempowering you.  The doubters, the haters *gasp* the food saboteurs and more.


At the deepest level they act from a very primordial place in their brains.  Everything stems from love and our need for love. The need for belonging and love is a basic human need.

They fear that with your change, your love for them and relationship with them will change.  Ironically, by clinging to the past and trying to pull you backward to remain with them, with their ‘version’ of you, they are only reinforcing their own fears, beause backward momentum cannot compete with forward momentum once you’re on a path of evolution.

In the meantime, many more are embracing the new, evolved you.  Some of them are even inspired and raise up to your new vibration + way of perceiving and showing up in the world.

But …the parade gets rained on, beause that damn 20% are taking up the 80% of your thoughts, and often they are the closest people.  The ones that are supposed to love you the most, right?  Well, they do. It’s a funny kind of love.

Either passively or actively these types will fight your growth (food sabotage anyone?) to bring you back to their vibration – where they are, and where they see you as being. It is the only way they know how to be, and show up, and treat themselves (and treat you.)  

They mistakenly think it is the only place you’ll continue to love them from, and once you leave, your love leaves too. Remember, the old you, the old lifestyle had different expressions of love. We all have fairly stable love languages – mine is gifting – but in my new lifestyle the gift of a big meal out isn’t in line with my new values, and it often derails my goals – but it’s what gets offered by my family with genuine love. 

I often think about this now, because I a genuinely not a foodie and don’t like eating out, yet for birthdays and special occasions, restaurants always get suggested first.  It’s frustrating, and I try to divert and choose a different, healthy restaurant option more in line with my new lifestyle, but there’s definitely pushback, especially if you don’t want cake! But I can understand that they are just being who they are, it’s me who has changed and I have to gently advocate for my needs and new boundaries and also give insight as to why.  If you explain why, you may still face the pushing, and they’ll try and argue around your logic and then you just have to go to a simple, respectful “no, it’s not for me.”  

There’s also another subtle fear – the nonsupporters (they may not even be aware of these fears) are scared you’ll leave with your new improved life and at the same time, your success is precipitating some uncomfortable reflection on their own lives.  It’s a wonderful process that is happening within them, but they’ll probably be a bit mad and want to shoot the messenger (you and your shiny new life!)

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide to how much time you want to spend with people on their different levels (if they don’t want to be on yours,) and with a new, “level up” in your life, you may need to put some work into protecting this lovely place you are in and preventing a backslide. It’s not all shiny and rainbows and unicorns in a new healthy lifestyle.  You are still learning to let go of your urges, bad habits and self-limiting beliefs. I actually think it’s a reason why it bothers us so much when someone tries to reactivate our old habits.  You can feel that hot fire of anger.  It’s because you are fighting hard and “don’t they know how hard I am working?!”

It’s not your job to raise them up to your level, or stoop down to theirs, either.  You do you and they do them. All you can do is set a great example through your own actions, by you, for you.  You have chosen a different place to be.  Hold to it.  For sure, encourage them and let them climb up if they want to ascend to your level, but know they may not and would rather that you be with them, and love them, by climbing down from that crazy precipice above them.   

We are all different souls having a human journey in the larger, cosmic “level up” process.  Some are just not ready for level 10 in this lifetime, but you are. You know it.

We can defend ourselves with vigilance, but also with how much time we set aside for these people. the beauty of our day is we have hours, in the form of connection, that we can selectively hand out to our loved ones.  If your loved one absolutely cannot join you in your place and you have to join them in theirs, set the boundary, preserve yourself, say no to the cake and leave before the deserts and emotional conversations and familial patterns that trigger old habits.

And finally, don’t forget – direct your attention to the empowerers in your life.  if there’s many, wonderful nurture those relationships and do the same for them.  If there aren’t, open yourself up to new people and experiences who are being bought to you seemingly by coincidence.

There’s others evolving upward and climbing up to that new precipice with you – they are waving enthusiastically and saying hello to you right now from across the way 🙂

There is something magical when we vibe off of others and join in upward expansion and elevation of our lives. Look for, and welcome in the empowerers, especially the new ones that have arrived as part of your journey.

Rise up together, accelerate and choose this new, healthier life with new friends who will share your adventure and celebrate it with you.

And watch the pride, happiness and love flow.



Breast Reduction, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, The Projects

Growing up With Big Ol Boobs and My Decision to Have Breast Reduction Surgery.

Three days ago I had one of the most important surgeries of my life!  A long-awaited breast reduction surgery.  Before I get into what the surgery was like, in my next post, I wanted to share the background on my “why.”

Having breast reduction surgery isn’t the end point of a long, tumultous journey with big breasts.

It is actually a mid-point stage in what has really been a bigger story about shifting my beliefs about who I am and what I am capable of.  

Thursday’s surgery was about the removal of breast tissue, yes, but it was also about the removal of the final self-limiting beliefs I had about my body and what I am capable of.

So let’s begin…

The relationship with my body & breasts

As I’m sure many of you do, I’ve had a long and interesting relationship with my breasts.  I clearly, clearly remember the day my Mum bought me a camisole top / training bra when I was in primary school in the UK.

I was only 8 years old, but already I was becoming quite “chesty” as my teacher had politely described.  I remember the day my mum bought the camisole home, genuinely excited for her growing girl.  As I sit here typing, I remember my fingers jabbing under the camisole, scratching the itchy skin, irritated by the lace. I remember crying in our driveway one day after school, clawing at it and being generally miserable.

I definitely remember the school summer sports day, two weeks later.  I don’t remember where I placed in the egg and spoon race, but I remember running with the egg and spoon in one hand, the other arm strategically placed against my bouncing chest.

I wasn’t only trying to relieve the discomfort of the bouncing, and the scratching of the lace. My arm across my chest was a symbol of early attempts to shield myself from the attention of others.  I was beginning to learn at that young age, that others were paying attention to my body.  My teacher, who called me chesty, the boys who called me big beluga, my female classmates giggling on the school ground about their bodies and the commensurate attention from the boys.

As a big breasted woman, all of this happened quite early for me, but I can’t help but think this is the norm in 2018.  With unprecedented exposure to chemicals that disrupt hormonal patterns, girls are hitting puberty much earlier.  They are experiencing all of these things, that used to be exclusively the domain of junior high.

I entered the teen years, where I was initiated into the typical teenage experience of ups and downs of body image and a rapidly changing body.  It was a confusing time.  I felt like the body I was inheriting was mismatched to the body in my mind.  I was aghast at photos and reflections in the mirror.  I felt like the way people saw me was very different from how I saw myself.  It was in junior high school, that the volume of other people’s judgements of my body increased.  Not only that, but I started listening to those judgements.

In grade eight, I tried out for the senior volleyball team.  I knew after months of hard work doing drills, that my technical skills were up there with the senior team.  I had the drive and the discipline.  To my total surprise, I didn’t make the team along with all of my friends I had practiced with.  Chatting with the coach afterward on what drills I could do to improve, the coach mentioned that it would be good for me to work on losing some weight.  It was confusing to me.  Weren’t my skills up there with the others?  Why was the shape of my body an issue?   What does this have to do with my volleyball game?

This initiation into the world of external judgement continued off of the volleyball court.  I knew I was a hard worker when it came to sports. I had a lot of grit, but I found myself constantly being chosen last in gym class for teams.  People assumed based on my body appearance that I wouldn’t be any good.

I’d like to say that at that age, I had the awareness and confidence to not lose my way and to fight against those assumptions, but I bowed to them. All of a sudden I lost my inner compass.  The external world began to shape my beliefs. I started pretending I was sick on gym days and avoided PE like the plague, even though inside I lit up with excitement at the thought of a competition.  The fear of judgement and the belief I wasn’t good overtook the competitive spark inside of me.

In the coaching world, we call this the development of self-limiting beliefs.  This is when we have a story about ourselves, and a set of beliefs, that limit what we think we are capable of.  They can be triggered by one event, or message.  Or they can be triggered by a series of events.

Once these messages have been reinforced a few times, they become a narrative, or a story that we really hold to and believe.  They become part of our story about ourselves, even if that story is not based on reliable evidence.

I began to believe that my active life wasn’t about what I could physically do. It was about what I physically looked like.  THAT was the determinant of what I could show up and do in my active life.  Fat girls aren’t athletes.  Fat girls don’t do sports. Fat girls aren’t good at athletics. Fat girls don’t belong on the PE field.

That belief was first installed in grade school, then again with the volleyball situation in junior high.  Then, again with phys ed classes when I was consistently chosen last.

I hate to say it, but the influences also came from my own family, society and culture.  My dad had taken to calling me “round like a donut” and commenting on my boobs.

As junior high progressed, I went from trying out for teams, to pretending I was sick when we had gym units. I remember faking a sprained ankle, dark eye shadow and everything to mimic bruising, so that I didn’t have to particpate in a sports day.

All the while, the bouncing of my large breasts was a factor, but also my Mum’s messaging of “we’re just not built to run.” Big breasts mean you can’t do sports.

When messaging comes from all directions, it truly becomes entrenched and I think this is why so many of us came out of the 1990s with body image issues.  I loved reading the magazines of the 1990s.  Teen, YM, Seventeen.  Do you remember seeing big boobs on the cover of those? Definitely not. Do you even remember articles about sports and female athletes – not really, I remember quizzes like “does he like you” and the ads for maybelline lip chaps, and my beloved Backstreet Boys!

All of this led to the foreclosure of my athletic identity.  15 years of mindset conditioning, starting with those first moments of a child, where everybody was talking about my breasts.

Entering high school, I opted out of physical education and participating in sports.  Instead, I moved into sports medicine instead, where I could help others participating in sports and be in the background.  I always admired the athletes I worked with, they seemed to be my tribe.  Even in University, I gravitated towards my Kinesiology major friends.  I didn’t join them in their sports, but deep, deep inside of me, I was drawn to their active lifestyles.

The stresses and lifestyle choices of University led to weight gain and my breasts continued to grow.  The weight gain was a gift, because it led to my highest weight ever, and I decided to join Weight Watchers in 2007.  During that year, I lost 40 lb and fell in love with running.  Yes, I had to wear two bras – an underwire, then a sports bra on top, then a tight top to reduce the bounce, but I did it.

Slowly, other things happened. By chance, I was introduced to the world of CrossFit in 2010 where I was totally accepted and I realized that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.  I loved it.  It was a sport where I could compete on my own level, on my own benchmarks, with myself.  It was a very empowering community and all around me I was surrounded by strong women of all shapes and sizes.  Boob size had no bearing on athletic ability.  Wait a minute, that’s not what I had told myself all my life? My belief systems began to loosen their grip.

I was introduced to the world of whole foods and paleo diets, and understood how to eat functionally, rather than emotionally.  2015 onwards I continued down the lifestyle transformation path. (big boobs still in tow, of course.)  Oh, the boobs. I hit them on my cleans, and they were sore after workouts with many pushups, but I pushed through it, and the back pain that came with them.  I remember even using Rogue bands during one workout to keep them from bouncing under my sweater.

The final piece of all of this was the dismantling of my long-held beliefs and narrative.  By being a part of the Crossfit community, the grip of these narratives had been loosened by showing me how faulty my beliefs had been.  On those rubber mats, and in conversations afterward with these completely badass female athletes, I had begun to realize that they didn’t’ believe the same things as me.  They also believed different things about me. They didn’t look at my body and make assumptions about my abilities.  In such a physical environment surrounded by insane bodies – the CrossFit gym – I learnt that how my body looked did.not.matter!

The last five years has been profound and completed the process of transformation.

I took my two-year professional coaching certification.  The process led us deep into our own lives, understanding and breaking apart our own self-limiting beliefs, and connecting with who we really were at our core.

(You must undergo this process yourself if you are to be a partner and guide to others in their own process.  Most accredited coaching programs will have you begin here before you even learn the science and practice of coaching.) 

It all clicked. I had that ah hah moment.  That moment of insight. All of the above clicked.

All those years ago,  I had adopted external messaging that wasn’t even my own, and I had let it shape my lifestyle and beliefs about who I was.  My big boobs and curvy body had activated a self-reinforcing negative feedback loop.

I had foreclosed on an athletic, active identity.  Though I had clawed my way back to it in my 20s, it was really my 30s that I realized I can do whatever I want and fuckin right I am athletic.

What does that look like now?  I am a very, very active mum of 3 little ones.  I’m known among my friends as the sporty one.  I love trail running.  I jumped out of a helicopter at the top of a mountain and ran 21km down it pregnant. I mountain bike with firefighters.  Hell, I think there’s an ultra runner in there. I have always wanted to run a 25 km ultra in the mountains.  I wrote it down in 2010 as a BHAG (a big, hairy audacious goal that is unlikely, but inspiring.) Now, in 2018 I know that I’m going to do it.  It’s coming up next.  I’m excited.

So, you may ask, where do the boobs come into all of this?  Carina, isn’t the point of this absurdly long-winded blog to talk about breast reduction surgery?

You bet.  All of the above leads to my why.

Why did I decide to remove most of my breasts last Thursday?

Because I don’t hate them anymore.  They don’t have the power they once did.  They didn’t ruin my life.  Because they are simply a set of tissues to remove to reduce some back pain.  Because the life I see for myself is one that is extremely active, with high impact activities that will be eased by less bouncing 🙂 Because I’d simply like to wear less than 3 bras.  That is all.  As I write this it’s practical.  Straight forward.  Its not filled with angst or emotion or hidden motives.  And that’s why I knew I was ready to remove them.

I couldn’t have done surgery in my 20s.

Why? I couldn’t have done it from a place of hating my breasts.


I believe I always have been, and am, an athlete.  I have realized that I have potential that I haven’t even tapped in the world of trail running, because I never considered it.

I used to be bound by limits to my abilities, limits that were set by other people, because they looked at my body and those big breasts and told me so.  People told me “you aren’t built for athletic stuff.” and then I told me “you aren’t built for athletic stuff.”


I have left that place of hating my breasts. I no longer think  they block and control and influence everything in my life. I have moved from believing that stopped me from doing things, to appreciating them and knowing that they simply got caught up in the crazy world that is external judgement.  They are a part of my body, yes, but I – and the rest of the world – attributed so much significance to them that played with my head and my belief in my abilities.

At 7:30 in the morning on Thursday, I laid under a warm blanket, preparing to be wheeled into the operating room and thanked my breasts.  They’ve been part of me, and part of this fascinating journey.  I went into surgery honouring them, and being at peace with them.

They didn’t do anything wrong.  They didn’t cause my athletic foreclosure, they didn’t prevent me from pursuing an active life.  They were simply caught up in the crossfire of a society that attaches so many meanings to boobies.

The real work, the real weight lifted from my chest was letting go of those limiting beliefs about my ability.

The final removal of this breast tissue is just icing on the cake. Is it profound? Oh hell yes, in the three days since surgery it has already completely changed my posture, back pain and will surely change my running and activity life.



Essays, Happiness, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Physical Wellness, The Projects

Fixing my Body After 3 Babies – Pelvic Floor Physio, Mindsets and Empowerment.

On my last blog post, I began to talk about the journey I have taken on my third maternity leave to rebuild my body.  One of the first things that I did was take stock of my body.  I talked about free writing, or journalling, to understand not only your areas of discomfort and pain, but also to gain some insight into your dialogue around that pain.

When you let yourself feel your back pain, or your pelvic prolapse, what internal chatter begins?  What messaging is in there?   This is what a good free writing session, or a coach can help you access.

Taking stock of our bodies and acknowledging our discomfort is an important first step, and it takes courage.  It can be overwhelming and tiring realizing that in addition to a new baby, you have a body that needs nurturing, too.

What were some of my projects on this third mat leave?

  • -70 lbs of weight to lose that I had accumulated in three pregnancies.
  • -Chronic back pain and the question of a possible auto-immune disease and associated symptoms.
  • -Nerve pain in my foot.
  • -Multiple pelvic organ prolapse and abdominal separation.
  • -Huge breasts interfering with physical activity.

I felt overwhelmed by this list.  These were all big projects!

But you know what?  You need to hang out in this place of frustration and suffering for a bit.  Some need to hang out in it for a long time.  Some need to experience more intense symptoms or heightened suffering. By going through the above aches and pains, and really acknowledging them, you are given a gift.  That gift is the determination to find a new “why” and a new way of looking at the above issues, because the old way of looking at them, has not fixed any of them.

Pain produces clarity and determination.  These are two things you need when you have an important goal (and a busy new mama life that can easily distract you.)

Back in my 20s, it used to be easy, accessing a “why.” I could literally pull them out of my back pocket and achieve my goals.  But life in my 20s was much less busy and simpler – in all senses of the word. Physically, emotionally and mentally.  Now I have multiple layers of emotion, I’m more complex and my life has many more layers to it, including 4 humans who demand my time, love and attention.  Self limiting thinking and beliefs have had time to settle in and grow deep roots, even if they are not helpful. That my friends, has been the work of my 30s.  Pulling up all of those deep roots and letting go of the ones that no longer serve.

This time around, after journalling about the excess weight and exploring my fears, and going down the “what if” tunnel in my free writing, I realized that my fears around being in the slightly obese category were related to being to keep up with my children and enjoying activity with them. I didn’t want to sit out on my children’s lives.  I could feel aching well up in my chest just going down that thinking road.  My back pain and weight activated this type of crappy messaging that made me feel sad, and disempowered and unmotivated. I was looking at each of these projects in a way that was deepening my stress.

I decided that I had to begin to separate my back pain from all of this internal messaging and fear projecting.  It was simply pain, indicating I needed to get imaging, and explore the issue further.  I let go of the fears around being able to help my kids and run my household from the equation, because that was getting me nowhere. They’d still come up but I’d acknowledge them and push them aside.  As soon as they took up less room, it gave my brain some freedom to access more powerful thoughts and beliefs.

I was able to connect with a new, and much more powerful “why” to lose weight:  Because I want the physical energy and ability to keep up with my toddlers and share their active life with them, and participate in the same activities.

When I got rid of the messaging of “I am afraid of this” I made room for “I want this” and coming from a place of desire, is much easier than coming from a place of avoidance.

Over the year I reframed pain and hot spots in my body.  I think of it as little flashing lights indicating areas of growth.  Each one of those projects I listed above has immeasurably improved my life and I’ve been able to stay motivated in each of them.

I began to look at pain not as something to be stomped out, but to be examined with curiosity and empathy and a way to open up new opportunities in my life.

Pelvic floor rehab opened the door to a passion for pilates and appreciation for low impact movement. It really enhanced my trail running, too.  My back pain led to more imaging, which is beginning to shine a light on some other issues I’ve struggled with, and may provide me with some great answers and has given me powerful motivation to manage nutrition.

We all have a laundry list of things to work on.  Rather than list them off and just set goals, we should examine how we think about it, and what it means to us.  When we are able to step back and see our own dialogues, and beliefs at work, we can decide whether they help us, or harm us (and need to be let go and replaced with more useful thoughts.) That is the key to true motivation and lasting change.

I am now 10 months out from creating this list of maternity leave projects, and here’s where I am at.

  • -70 lbs of weight to lose that I had accumulated in three pregnancies.
    • 40lb lost and 30lb to go
  • -Chronic back pain and the question of a possible auto-immune disease and associated symptoms.
    • The world “auto immune” led me to research nutritional and lifestyle approaches which have helped my pain (and weight) immensely.  Rheumatology appointment coming up.  
  • -Nerve pain in my foot.
    • Surgery booked to fix it. Simple as that.  Doesn’t need to be made more complex than it is, right? Even though our minds want to do otherwise. 
  • -Multiple pelvic organ prolapse and abdominal separation.
    • Huge improvement in diastasis recti (abdominal separation) with pilates, physio and hypopressives.  Symptoms of prolapse minimized and pessary installed for high impact activity – my lifestyle didn’t have to change! Learnt so much about pelvic floor health and came away with exercises that allow me to manage symptoms. Feel empowered and confident to manage this myself. 
  • -Huge breasts interfering with physical activity.
    • Had the courage to go ahead and pursue a referral, go to the appointments, advocate for myself and do the surgery.  Sitting here 2 days out of surgery with a new chest, a sense of freedom and way less pain. I am over the moon! 



Could I have achieved these things on mat leave with my old thinking patterns?  Maybe, but by constantly engaging in stressful, fear-based scenarios I think it would have done more harm than good. There is a major connection between chronic pain and illness, and our psyche.  I dont doubt for a moment that sub-optimal mindsets create sub-optimal conditions in the body.

By examining my old approaches and the dialogue activated by pain, and then shifting that dialogue by asking powerful questions, I was able to develop a new dialogue of curiosity, learning and growth and frame these projects in that way. I am no longer disempowered or “broken” after babies (yup, we’ve heard everyone say that at least once)

I am empowered and improved!

A great example is the prolapse situation.  I was truly freaked out one day on a run when it felt like my insides were going to fall out.  When I thought about my bladder, uterus and rectum all hanging low, all sorts of future projections and catastrophizing happened. All sorts of fearful dialogue and disempowering thoughts were running through my head.  There’s no fix.  This is permanent. You’re done.  You’re wearing a diaper and pads for the next while.  It will get worse, and so on.

With work and practice, I was able to move to a place of “hey, this is going to be such a cool learning experience about the pelvic floor.  I’m going to get a great core out of this *and* be able to advocate pelvic floor health post partum and potentially help others, and damn right I am going to improve my symptoms!”

I signed up for a pelvic floor assessment to take stock of the prolapse, condition of my pelvic floor and ab separation.  I then began taking hypopressive breathing classes, pelvic floor pilates and got a pessary fitted for higher impact activities at the pelvic floor clinic. 6 months later, all of my symptoms are under control.
In those six months I had to go to SO many appointments, pilates twice a week and have the discipline to do home exercises.  I had to book childcare and defend my monday and wednesday mornings when I would way rather have done other (more fun) things.

Had I held onto my old thinking patterns of fear, disempowerment and “what ifs,” I probably would have skipped classes, become demotivated and adopted negative thinking patterns.  I would have been working only from a limited resevoir of sheer willpower, rather than a genuinely motivated place. I wouldn’ t have stuck it out.

I truly knew nothing about my pelvic floor before this entire process, and it led me to being in awe of the human body, and I became so much more capable of managing my own symptoms.  I went from a frightened, disempowered patient waiting for help, to an empowered owner of my own health, working hand in hand with professionals as partners, rather than relying on them.

That in itself is a powerful shift in mindset and ownership of health.  I walked out of my doctor’s office initially with “help me!” written all over my face.

I now walk into my doctor’s office with “I’ve got this” written all over my face.

You are so worth you.  When you are ready, take stock of your body and all of the fun projects that you will be undertaking to nuture it, and return it to a place of vitality.  Be brave and dig deep.  Uncover the deeper fears and thinking patterns/beliefs that don’t serve you, and will disempower you.  Decide that you don’t have to hold on to them, that you can find more empowering beliefs, you can take ownership of your health, and see this as an enjoyable, satisfying journey back to health,

not because you have to, but because you want to. 




Creativity, Essays, Happiness, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nutrition, Physical Wellness

An Explanation of Health Coaching – Repairing my Body After Three Babies (Part 1)

You may be familiar with professional coaching, which has been well established for some time now in the executive and leadership space. Coaching standards are high and we have an international body to regulate the quality, ethics, and professional standard of coaching (as well as coach training programs.)  I myself am a professional coach and I often write this blog from the perspective of a coach (on maternity leave of course!)

There are many facets of coaching – life, executive, leadership, athletics.  Though the context differs, and the names for each coaching tool vary according to the discipline, it is steeped in achieving a global shift in the way we see the world, act within our world, and define/get results.

Health coaching is a relatively new specialty and is rapidly gaining traction in North America. It is growing as an occupational field and is being increasingly employed by primary care centres. I am very excited about this, because it is a profound tool and there’s such a need for it. I’ll get into that later.

A brief review of research reveals that health coaching is receiving increased attention as a tool for patients, particularly in the realm of chronic diseases, behaviour modification and lifestyle change.  I listen to a fair number of podcasts and it comes up a ton in the auto-immune disease and chronic pain space as well.  This is where I really think health coaching is a game changer for people.

For today’s post, I wanted to write about health coaching from the perspective of a patient, to explain in easy-to-understand terms how health coaching has the potential to transform us.  I use a lot of coaching techniques on myself (which obviously is not as effective as hiring a coach) but I think by telling these stories, it can help give you a feel for what coaching is like, and ultimately I want to share with you some tools to make your maternity leave a time of wonderful growth & life elevation.

That’s always been my mission with The Great Maternity Leave blog.  

So this whole coaching thing, let’s get started.  First, there’s a lot out there.  It’s everywhere.  And I wanted to speak a little to what it is not.

It is definitely not what you see being sold on all of the facebook and instagram ads.  Many of them are qualified, fully certified coaches, but the majority of marketing approaches do give a shallow impression of coaching.   I call this au-courant marketing strategy “end-point marketing.”  What do I mean by that?

You probably know the ads: The pretty life coach skipping through the streets of Paris, umbrella in hand, talking about how she had no income a year ago and now she’s bringing in six figures – or the male “life hacker” coach, sitting with his laptop in after a workout, bring in passive income and clients, telling you how you, too can achieve this lifestyle design and reach this end point?  That to me, is end point marketing, which looks suspiciously like setting a lifestyle goal and achieving it.  The problem is, it does work, material displays of success are captured in an ad, but it’s harder to capture internal displays of success.

Unfortunately, the ads you see for coaches do not give anyone an understanding of how it works.  Coaching is a specific set of tools that you gain through working with a someone qualified.  You learn to use them and employ in your life with the coaches’ guidance. With practice and insight you are then able to shift your entire life with your new perspective, mindset and behaviours.

There are many coaching tools, and they are all designed help you to understand why you see things the way you do, how you can shift the way you see the world, and in turn make better choices and get different results in your life.  Coaching is all about gaining a deeper awareness, achieving permanent shifts in your world view, and becoming equipped with the ability continue this process throughout your life.

That leads to elevation of your life.

I also see a change in the goals that clients bring to the table.  A good coach will light a fire of potential in a client and once they throw off self-limiting beliefs and self-imposed restrictions, they realize the scope of their potential.  All of a sudden their old goals seem small and limited, and they reach for the stars with new goals that truly fit the person they see themselves becoming.  Everything elevates.  Let me tell you,  that is fun to see as a coach.

But all of this is pretty much impossible to capture in a 30 second Instagram video, or image on a Facebook boosted post.

I feel like endpoint marketing of coaching services doesn’t work.  Why?  You don’t help people by climbing up a mountain, and then waving at everybody else at the bottom and yelling ” you can be me!”  Personally, speaking, I’d be much more motivated by that coach who is grinding up the mountain alongside me, asking damn good questions that deepen my awareness of what is happening and offering me a fresh perspective that renews my resolve. I’ve never hired a coach off of an ad, but I have hired a coach off of following them for a few years, understanding their insights and deep inner workings of their mind.  The coaching process is so internal, that an external ad simply can’t capture that.

The journey of personal wellness and evolution in health is a deeply personal one that is not about your coach, and you wanting to get where your coach is – it’s about you.

So, now that we’ve established the difficulty of marketing coaching, and the impression that it currently gives in the social media marketplace, let’s take the opportunity to dive in and examine it in real-life.

For this article, I wanted to give a deeper understanding of the dots that health coaching connects, and what it can offer to someone looking to change their health.  I am going to write it in the context of my third maternity leave, which was about healing and regaining vitality and health.  Let me tell you, there were a lot of things in my body that needed fixing up after 3 babies in 4 years.

The Third Maternity Leave

Each of my three maternity leaves, I have assigned a theme or an overall goal. Maternity leave was first and foremost about my family and the beautiful new addition to our home, but I am also a passionate goal setter and advocate of ongoing personal growth and evolution, particularly for mothers.

My first maternity leave was embracing motherhood.

My second, embracing creativity.

My third maternity leave from 2017-2018 has been about repairing my body in the journey back to vitality and physical wellness.

Once I had recovered from childbirth and taken 8 weeks to settle into our new rhythm with 3 children (3, 2 and a newborn)  I began to take stock of my overall wellness.  I believe if you are going to take up growth and challenge in one area, it is good to make sure first that you have stability, and routine in another.

When you read about what a health coach does, there is often mention that a coach helps a client understand and set goals for themselves.  Personally, I think that this is only a sampling of the coaching process.  In my first coaching session with a client, it is about getting to know them, understanding their perspective, the way they see the world, and how they frame their current situation.  Simply through their dialogue, body language and way they answer questions I can gain an understanding of their grander narratives, world view and perspective.  We move into a discussion of goals and ideally, move to very specific goals, that are connected to very powerful and clear “whys.”

This is where coaching really gets going. This is when we start going deeper.

Now, on mat leave I didn’t have a health coach but being one myself, I used my own techniques on me, and instead of having a coach asking me questions, I bought a journal and it became my coach.  If you cannot afford a coach, this is absolutely something that you should do!

Invest in a nice journal and a nice pen, because in these pages you are going to write an entirely new chapter of your life.  

In the absence of a coach, one of the first things I did was a free-writing session.  I listed out how I was feeling, and everything that was bothering me.  It was an hour-long stream of consciousness that was barely legible.  If you haven’t tried free-writng or stream-of-consciousness writing, don’t be intimidated by it! I took 5 years to finally try it and I was surprised that after 10 minutes of forced journalling, the words starting flowing easily and fast onto the paper.  It’s quite cool to do.

I had to take the time (and physical space) to be in a quiet room, enter my own body, listen to it and really connect with the discomfort. I had to describe in detail the pain or symptoms.  It’s an unpleasant process, but I to enact lasting change, and connect with deep motivation, you must take time to connect with the pain and discomfort in your body, and make direct contact with your own suffering.

People often speak about needing to hit rock bottom, or that place where they decide they cannot suffer anymore.  This is very true.  Wanting to change doesn’t happen on a mental level. You can’t decide to change.  You also need to have a “that’s it!” moment in your body on a somatic level. Carve out some time in your day to go inside your own body.

Coming out of third childbirth there were a list of things I wanted to address, and just how much they were bothering me became quickly evident in my free writing journal entry.

-Pelvic organ prolapse & abdominal muscle separation

-Ongoing chronic backpain, severe fatigue, sciatica and digestive troubles (possible auto-immune condition)

-Large breasts causing issues with trail running (my passion!) and back pain.

-Nerve pain in foot

The next part of this process was understanding the mental layering that happens on top of the physical discomfort.

The outside perspective of a coach is very helpful, because they can offer observations of  patterns or themes that they are hearing or picking up in your dialogue.

We need to understand that we attach meaning to our symptoms.  By noticing them, we shed light on the fears, stress and disempowering beliefs that we carry.

What came up for me?

Symptom:  Nerve pain in foot.

Messaging:  Trail running is my passion and what if this doesn’t go away? What if I can’t run?   This is the key to my mental health and I don’t enjoy anything else as much as I enjoy running. I don’t want to find another sport. I’ve been so irresponsible with stretching, it’s probably my fault, I always have issues with my body, it seems like I just get injured when I run.

Symptom:  Chronic back pain and auto immune issues.

Messaging:  What if I can’t be a mom to my kids because I am too exhausted and need to sleep all of the time? Is my back going to get worse?  My pain levels are already really bad every day, I can’t handle more than this.  I don’t want to become disabled. I have housework to do!I Hate this housework! (cue deep feelings of resentment and victimhood)

Ick.  It’s hard just writing those down. I can feel my chest get tight just engaging with those messages and typing them on the screen here. I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I do. not. like. feeling. this. way.

By taking the time to engage with the internal chatter that is activated by our pain and symptoms, we can begin to separate the two out and regain control.

Pain is simply a message from our body that something is off and needs to be fixed. That is all it is.  It is a message running through our nervous system.  

However as humans, (oh, the joy of being human!) we have a multitude of ways of interpreting that pain message – in effective ways, but also in terribly ineffective ways. We have all sorts of internal chatter and stories and excuses that we add to that sore back or grouchy joint.

We humans take those simple pain messages and then filter them through layers and layers of life experiences, social and cultural conditioning, past experiences, cognitive biases, personality and our own internal dialogues. Most of them are irrelevant, or outdated or not even true!  Yet they completely influence and shape us.

Our pain comes out the other end looking much more complicated than “my Psoas muscle is tight and sore.”  There’s a deeper story about a victim mindset you have, or perhaps, a grand narrative that you are separate from your body and it is something to beat into submission (when it should be your ally.) .

This is one of the first things a coach can (and will) do.  They will carve the space, and time, in a session, for you to undertake a deeper examination of what is going on underneath those pain cues and symptoms.  When you book a session with a coach, the act of carving that tie out and paying for the session is a statement that this is sacred, and worth it.  That you are worth it.

What is your internal messaging?  What influences it?  Under the careful guidance of a coach, you will also have the opportunity to explore your fears, why you want to change, and if you feel up to it, you can go down the “what if?” road to truly develop deep and lasting motivation because that road leads into our deepest fears.

In our deepest fears live our deepest “whys.”

A coach has to be skilled in ensuring that a client is grounded (often through a meditation or guided visualization exercise) and that a safe space is created through conversation.  The client embarks on their own journey, but the coach acts as a guide, walking gently behind, asking effective and powerful questions, perhaps offering observations, and gently supporting as the client walks into their pain.

Equally important is the process of guiding a client out of the dark places, and then unraveling the disempowering beliefs.  Together, as partners, coach and client discredit them and build new, empowering ones in their stead.  This is another stage of the coaching process I’ll definitely go into in a later post.

This process is so, so important in the realm of our health, and I think this is why health coaches have huge potential as an ally and resource in primary care networks.

Many, many people go to a doctor with the best intentions to fix their health problems and address their symptoms.  In primary care, medicine can be administered and brief conversation ensues regarding the issue and potential resources to help the patient.  However, all too often with a diagnosis, or with a health problem, there is the big question of what happens after the appointment.  And, what is happening inside the patient after that appointment?  

I catch myself wondering about this all the time.  There is an awful lot that happens between a first appointment with the doctor, and the follow up.  At that first appointment for example, you get a diagnosis, possibly medication, possibly requisitions for further testing, and a list of things to do to improve your health.


What happens in that space between that appointment and the follow up? So much.  So much that explains why so many people don’t just go home and do what they are supposed to.  Why they are not motivated.  Why they have access to all of the information they need, but don’t act on it.

There is a big gap between the part of our lives the health professionals can touch, and the part of our lives that we ourselves can touch, and that bridge is coaching.

Too many people go down the “what if?” thinking with their health problems after that first appointment and get stuck there. They don’t climb out of the scary future scenarios and they don’t have the tools to make it a powerful motivator.

I saw so many people like this at the chronic pain clinic when I went through some of the worst times with my back. I felt myself going down that tunnel too.  I was in the vacuum of time outside of appointments. I sat with my symptoms and internal dialogue that really was not making things better. Disempowering beliefs began to take hold. That things won’t get better.  That this affects everything.  That it’s my fault.  That they don’t believe me.  These are all common disempowering beliefs of a chronic pain patient.  Did you know one of the most meaningful things a chronic pain patient experiences at a chronic pain clinic is the simple statement “we believe you.” 

Patients begin to see what is going wrong, don’t have the tools to loosen the hold of their deeply held beliefs connected to, (and probably accelerating) what is going wrong. They can’t identify where these beliefs originally came from, why they are not grounded in evidence, or how they can replace them.  Add into that physical pain, and the emotion of fear and it is a difficult place to climb out of.

Could you see how I was going down this tunnel in my own journal entries?

Did you notice that I kept writing “What if?”  I was stressing myself out based on “what if” scenarios, not even (real) scenarios.  And I was expanding those scenarios to “what if it affects my whole life.”  All of a sudden back pain became a question of not being able to be a  parent.  Wtf!

This right here is an “ah hah” moment or an insight.  In coaching, we call these “distinctions” – but I do like the Oprah sounding “ah hah” moment.

The moment of insight is so, so important.

As I read through my symptoms and the disempowering thoughts that they activated, I realized that I tended to focus on a few things:  That the problem was permanent, pervasive, global (in the words of Tony Robbins) – by global I mean I had a tendency of expanding the issue to broader areas of my life.

BAM.  That friends, is a coaching insight, a distinction, an “ah hah” moment.  My perception has shifted and I have a new way of seeing the issue at hand that instantly discredited my old thinking patterns.

When I am working with a client as a coach and this happens,  they often go quiet, break eye contact, retreat inside themselves and more often than not, lean back in their chair and look upward.  Behind these physical cues is some fascinating neuroscience.

On a functional MRI scan, when a coaching client has an insight or “ah hah” moment, their brain lights up like a christmas tree.  Did you know that?   As a coach we are trained to recognize that moment and help deepen that moment of insight – but with practice anyone can.  It shows up in someone’s body.  Their posture shifts, they sit back, and look away, breaking eye contact in order to go ‘inside’ and engage with that insight.

What’s happening?  When a person has a moment of insight, the brain produces a burst of alpha waves and the part that undertakes abstract, creative thinking kicks into high gear. Connections are made where there were no connections before, and the client will permanently see something in a different way.

Simultaneously, there is a reduction in the amount of visual information passed from visual processing areas to these higher creative areas of the brain, that perform more abstract thinking and problem solving.  it is exactly why, when asked a difficult question, we all have to take a moment and look away or break eye contact. Or when a character in a movie has a profound moment of realization, they look away with a far-away look.  their brain is changing.

If you’d like to read more about the science behind this process, check out this journal article from the Association of Psychological Science. 

What was my ah-hah moment from the process of examining my pain, thoughts and beliefs with a coaching perspective?

I now know that when I experience pain, it is a simple message that something needs to be adjusted.  What it is not is a harbringer of doom.  It is not going to ruin my life, or motherhood.  All I have to do in that moment is just deal with the symptom. I do not engage with the old disempowering dialogue that is frankly, lacking evidence and totally unhelpful because it activates more stress, making the pain worse. Don’t get my wrong, it still happens, but now I can sit back and observe it coming, like a runaway car, but I don’t get into that car.

When I had that insight, I could feel something different firing in my brain.  A new neural connection.

Each time I feel pain now, instead of engaging with my old dialogues and immediately worsening the symptoms and my own stress, I can step back and see my thoughts occuring – but not engage with them, because I know they are unhelpful, untrue, irrelevant and no longer serve my goals.

I’m not caught in a cycle of fear around my future, my ability to pick up my kids or a host of other thoughts, that will completely take over and make me forget about picking up the resistance band.

I am more motivated to go and do a corrective exercise if my back is sore, because that’s all it is. I can gently honour my old dialogues, see them for what they are – old and outdated and inaccurate – and continue onward with different insight, behaviour and actions (which include picking up that resistance band and doing the exercise.)