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.

 

 

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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.”

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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.

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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.

xo.

 

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.

BUT…

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.)

 

Essays, Happiness, Nutrition, Physical Wellness

Healing My Body after 3 Babies x Is This Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Recently Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis_

A long blog title to be sure, but one that attempts to sum up what has been a rather complex mat leave.

During my third maternity leave (this past year,) I committed to myself that I would finally address a host of issues in my body and heal it. I set out my intention that this third maternity leave would be about healing.

To decide to heal yourself isn’t about going to the doctor, getting a prescription or doing physio.  Healing is much, much deeper and complex than that. The first and most important part of healing is carving out the time, space and commitment to do it.  It’s way too easy to ignore and continue on in the daily busyness of post-partum life.  Plus, after all of those blood tests and doctor’s appointments, and of course, delivering a baby, frankly, you’re kind of done with the medical stuff for a bit. 

This post today explores some of the facets of healing I’ve experienced, but also takes you on a bit of a journey.  How we can build awareness and piece together puzzle pieces over the years, and with hindsight and perhaps diagnosis, it can all make sense, and will all make sense for you if you commit to understanding and exploring it.

Some of this journey has been straight forward.  I came out of birth #3 with diastasis recti and multiple pelvic organ prolapse, which I got right to work on with pessaries and pelvic floor physio, clinical pilates and core rebuilding.  These have worked.   Where things have been more difficult is the system stuff.  Particularly, the immune system.

 

This blog post tonight is a bit of a longer one.  As I often mention, the goal of starting this blog was to share my story – not even to an intended audience – but to put my life experiences into the written word.   If people happen to stop by, appreciate the article and stay around for its duration, I thank you, but I also understand if you do not have the time or interest.  If you are sticking around, I am glad this article found you. The web is funny like that.  When the student is ready, the teacher appears. 

The Undergrad Years:

In my 20s as an active, happy and engaged undergraduate student at University, I began to experience sciatic pain radiating down my leg.  At the same time, I suffered from IBS in the form of chronic constipation and what I can only describe as back-of-the digestive area cramps around my back.  Multiple times I wound up at the doctor’s office (or ERs in foreign countries!)  and had to resort to different pharmaceutical methods to “get things moving.” You know what’s normal for me?  Pebble poops and only going once every week or so.  That’s my normal!  From my 20s onward I have never known what a daily poop is like! And I didn’t know what I experienced was not normal, because as I found out in momhood, you really don’t talk about poo comfortably and openly until you’re a Mom.   This is a topic I’m a bit passionate about now. Poo is such a good barometer of your overall health and we should be able to talk about it.  Just like pelvic health. It’s not secret.  Everyone has pelvic organs and everyone will need to talk about them.  Shit, ESPECIALLY if you’ve had three babies.

Anyways, I digress.

At the time, I felt too embarrassed to see the doctor for other issues I was having,  I knew they’d wave it off as silly stressed out high performing undergrad student.  Some of the issues included severe heart burn and this crazy sternum / chest pain that seemed to come and go at random times.  Chest X-Rays never revealed anything but the pain was intense enough that I struggled to breathe deeply.  I constantly felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat, smack in the middle of the chest.  Because the X-rays showed nothing, I chalked it up to just… the body being weird or it must be all in my head.  Headaches were constant as well.

As undergraduate studies progressed, the sciatica became more severe.  It became even more difficult to deal with, to the point where I had to lie on the floor to study for finals and stood at the back of the lecture hall. I dreaded those plastic chairs and was pretty messed up after 3 hour final exams.

Lumbar spine examinations revealed nothing, and so I began to work hard at corrective exercise and physio to address the piriformis muscle and what I assumed were muscular imbalances.  At that point, my low back was beginning to ache badly enough that I scaled back on running and yoga.  I learnt about anatomy and participated in research studies for non-specific low back pain. I thought I was doing everything right like a good, scientifically-minded citizen.

Everything seemed to come and go, in month-long cycles. Spurred on by this pain, I developed an interest in diet and learnt a ton about nutrition.  I lost weight, began to take fish oils, cleaned up my diet but also began relying on NSAIDs.  Then, I began to eat tums like candy at night time, to counteract the heart burn from the NSAIDS.

Graduate School and Enter the Thoracic Spine

Life stress built up at the end of undergraduate years and amped up as I entered  graduate school and tried to figure out my career path. I entered a tough time mentally.  At that time I was also rear-ended in a car accident.  I entered a new phase of back pain:  Thoracic pain. I became bolted down in a fog of painkillers for 3 years and writing my thesis became next to impossible between searing back pain, whiplash pain and the sciatica that blew up any time I sat.

Two years after the accident, when I had made no progress with pain despite physio, soft tissue treatments and manual therapy, I got an MRI.  Imaging revealed a herniation and multiple spots of degeneration in my thoracic spine, concentrated between t7 and t12.  I, as well as everyone around me, assumed my pain was a result of the accident.  I entered another few years of physiotherapy, trying to exercise the pain out of my body.  Again, physio made no difference.  I was determined to beat it out of me, and to prove that I was the master of my own body.  Cue phase of CrossFit and an “all-or-nothing / pain is weakness leaving the body” mindset. Well, that didn’t work either.

Because I was focused on the injury, I simply decided to ignore the sciatica.  It was hard to ignore.  Finishing my masters and starting full-time work combined with the sheer difficulty of sitting at a desk really ground me down.  I began to rely on exercise as the one break I got, when endorphins crowded out the pain and stress.

Things just weren’t getting better. They were getting worse. I attended pain clinics, saw specialists and was lumped into the chronic pain category.  In my mind this entire time, I kept thinking that a life of pain was unacceptable, there had to be a solution to all of this, and it didn’t seem to be exercise or advil.  What else was there?!

Left at a loss, my life took on a new trajectory.  From 2012-2017 my body worked hard, building and birthing three beautiful healthy babies.  It was a time of putting my own rehabilitation goals aside.  In between each pregnancy though, warning signals were going off and I seemed to go through full system flare-ups.

I’d go from a daily average of 5/10 pain up to 8/10 pain, constantly up and down, up and down, but the overall average pain level was increasing. So was my stiffness.  Systemic issues seemed to be happening too.  By that I mean constipation, back pain, strange bowel cramps, my ears started ringing.  So many random things.  I began to suffer from trigger finger in my writing hand and a host of other inflammatory issues.  The list of things bothering me became so long that I was embarrassed to mention them at my doctor’s appointment, and I didn’t, even the swollen lymph node on my neck I mentioned quickly in passing, because I didn’t want to be judged and I definitely didnt want my doctor to think I wasn’t working hard at all of the lifestyle stuff.

My si joints became so painful that it was hard to stay standing or lie on my back on the ground, which was my usual form of relief when my back pain kicked up. During the worst flare ups, it felt like knives were stuck in my si joints and I didn’t want to be touched – even my skin felt sensitive, and my husband had to help me in and out of the car.

I was beginning to genuinely dread any car ride or plane ride over an hour. I avoid road trips like the plague and I still have a funny relationship with seats.  I walk into a conference room and feel dread if I see those standard plastic stackable chairs.  That’s a week of suffering for me.

Again, I worked on problem solving.  I worked with an occupational therapist to get a stand desk, had everything set up ergonomically correctly, and worked out at lunchtimes.   I couldn’t sit, but then I also found it incredibly painful to stay standing. I used to have my evening go-tos for relief like a hot water bottle and NSAIDs, but nothing was working like it used to.

Around 2016 my mornings were getting more difficult.  I began moving like a 75 year old in the mornings, and nothing seemed to be giving me any relief. I noticed how gingerly I was moving.  It would slowly get better once I moved around in the morning, but then get worse as I sat at a desk, was immobile, or as night time approached.

I became interested in the body’s ability to heal itself. I felt empowered and began to explore the psycho-somatic connection to chronic pain as well as self-empowerment in health and explored the body’s ability to heal itself.

I began observing people in pain.  Watching people at the chronic pain clinic was illuminating.  I could see that for many, their identity was deeply rooted in their disease and pain, and they couldn’t see past it.  The blanket had smothered them.  They were deeply committed to their narratives of dysfunction, and those narratives were continuing to shape their bodies.  Much like my own narrative of pain, I realized.

I dabbled in the paleo diet, which offered a bit of relief for my stomach issues, I reduced starches in my diet and tried out ketosis and intermittent fasting.  I lost weight.  I incorporated natural care products into my life, I meditated and became mindful. I worked with a psychologist.  These were all gifts that I believe would not have arrived in my life had I not experienced this pain.

This marked a shift for me.  Not in the physical experience of my pain, but in the mental interpretation of it.  It marked a return to mental health nd I am approaching a state of thriving again.  Perhaps not in the physical domain, but in my experience of life, yes.  Pain no longer limits my lifestyle choices, it only informs it. This is an important distinction.

I realize this may be weird, but I thank my pain in some respects. I feel gratitude for what it has given me in terms of grit, resilience, determination, and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, especially mental health practices. My lifestyle is better with the pain than it would be without.  Though I modify many activities and have removed some, I have added so much more.   Yes, I work with many inconveniences, inabilities and modifications to simple daily facets of life, but the things that have opened up for me in my mental and emotional life far outnumber the physical inconveniences.

The Third Maternity Leave

Around came 2017-2018 and my third maternity leave, when things got even more weird.  The timing was interesting, because things got worse the moment I decided it was time to heal.  I seemed to be experiencing full system flare ups to the point where they weren’t cyclical in nature anymore, they were just constantly there.  There were no more stages of relief or regression of symptoms.

After delivery, I developed an internal Strep A Infection and went on an intense round of IV antibiotics.  All was well and good for the first month or so, and then things began to get strange. I realize that is not a legit medical term but anyone you speak to with auto immune has a similar language. Things got strange, things got weird, flare ups, cycles.  These are all common words.   6 yeast infections back to back.  Fatigue.  CRUSHING fatigue. The fogginess and fatigue I’d struggled in recent years with became much worse.  It went from inconvenient and easily fixed to debilitating and unsolvable.

I haven’t mentioned it up to this point, because, as you do when you have lots of stuff going on, you simply push it aside. It’s just another thing that isn’t legitimate because you can’t prove it in western medicine – until it hits that level where it’s interfering with your life (and then you sit up and pay attention.)

I simply couldn’t make it past 2 in the afternoon each day and most of this maternity leave, if my husband has been home, I’ve spent sleeping.  I genuinely enjoy naps and think they are a healthy part of life, and advocate them – but these took on a darker edge.  I was desparate every day for my kids to nap so I could lie down and gather my energy for the evening.  I simply could. not. make it. past. 2.

My thoracic pain intensified and progressively spread throughout my whole back, particularly my si joints, low back and hips. I struggled to sleep at night because of the aching. I started developing bad – and I mean bad – pain in my intercostal muscles and facet joints down the right side of my ribcage, so I was faced with sleeping on my left side to avoid my ribs, and then rolling over to sleep on my right side to give my aching hips some relief.  Back and forth, back and forth all night.

I am noticing how hard it can be to get out of bed in the morning now, and find myself trying to unfurl my right index finger which seizes up into a trigger position.  really, where the f**** did this come from?  That’s what you ask yourself a lot with auto immune issues.  Whaaa?  Seriously?  This part of my body is now weird? The immune system is complex and confounding . Any doctor will tell you that We don’t understand it yet.  We’re getting there, but we’re still clinging to little islands of function and knowledge, rather than understanding the entire ocean that is the immune system.

Other things have happened. My hearing is changing.  I experience tinnitus on and off with ringing.  My eyes go through these weird super dry and scratchy phases that bug me at bed time.  I’ve never worried about my skin, but now have painful pimples in a halo around both of my armpits that hurt enough that they keep me awake.  I never even had zits as a teenager so this is all new to me. Low platelet and iron levels that I can’t seem to get up despite diligent supplementation and lifestyle practices.  Even a strange swollen lymph node at the base of my neck.

Today at a workshop, I genuinely had trouble staying standing for the 30 minute duration.  Constant movement seems to be my only relief, yet certain movements will take me down for weeks at a time, particularly spinal flexion.

Try telling a mum of 3 not to bend forward or over ! I have to get my husband to help me with any household activity involving bending forward, otherwise I am incapacitated.  I recently, at the age of 36 bought a reacher grabber tool that the elderly use, because picking up toys off the floor is not worth the pain that will come within hours.

The Scare.  Healing Gets Serious. 

The final straw for me was an episode with neck pain about two months ago. I woke up in so much pain I couldn’t get out of bed.  My baby was crying in his room, my toddlers were trying to tug me out of bed, and almost any slight movement almost made me scream.  After 3 labours, I can confidently say the pain was up there with labour.  After a friend came to help me up and take my kids, I went to the hospital sure beyond a doubt that I had injured something – and badly. My alarmed husband drove me to the ER and I was sobbing with the slightest movement of the car. I was in that much pain.  Even in labour I was still cracking jokes between puking.  This?  Not a chance.

What did they find? Nothing.  No herniation or horrible injury.  Just general pain in my neck.  I was absolutely dumb founded that something so innocent could be so debilitating and have no solution.

A few weeks later, a similar thing happened.  My entire low back seized up. There I was, on the floor, again, 3 kids in the house, on all fours, unable to get up to the couch.  These two incidents have been so alarming to me and have taken my healing from important + not urgent, to important + urgent.

I can manage physical pain, but there is no worse feeling in this world than being incapacitated as a mother when your children need you.  That friends, is acute distress.  Unable to help yourself or your children who depend on you. I’m used to pain and can deal with it, but that, that’s a no go.

I’ve chosen to interpret this as a really, really obvious sign from the universe that healing takes on other dimensions than simply fix it structurally.  Scares like this have forced me to go deeper.  To work with somatic coaches, and even a shaman to understand deeper soul work and soul retrieval.  You know, the woo-woo stuff. 

You may be wondering about the clinical side of things in all of this,  versus the experiential side of things that I write about.

What has clinical western medicine actually told me?

I had updated imaging and X Rays done on my spine at christmas.  A few things were different in the 6 years since my last one.  There was no obvious herniation any more in the thoracic spine, but signs of inflammation, more degeneration throughout the spine and an arachnoid web that was new since the last MRI.  Additionally I have sacroillitis.

A spine specialist bought up the word ankylosing spondylitis.  I had absolutely no idea what it was and came away only remembering that it sounded like ankles and spongebob squarepants.

Of course, I dug into the clinical journals, to learn a bit more, and it was profound.  The symptom lists, and even people’s experiences were literally my exact experience.  It was like a light bulb went off. In a good way.  Literally everything I have been experiencing since my mid 20s was listed in the symptoms.  All of a sudden my mind shifted from “old injury” to “ongoing auto immune condition?” and I felt validated.  I may not be crazy or a hypochondriac after all.   I definitely feel a bit of hope at this point that there’s a way out of this.  I’m not sure if it’s a thing for people to feel happy at the possibility of being diagnosed with a disease for which there is no easy cure, but I was thrilled at the idea of it all making sense and the puzzle pieces possibly coming together. 

I am a few weeks out from my first rheumatology appointment to explore all of these symptoms and the possibility of AS. Initial blood tests have revealed that I am not HLA-B27 posiitve and my inflammation markers in my blood were not too wacky.  So there’s some things that point toward it, others that point away from it, but no doubt, something is up.  That brings me to my next point.  TRUST YOUR GUT.  If you think something is up, give your gut credit.  Something probably is up.

As a coach, I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t await a diagnosis or give a diagnosis power, or even wait for a doctor to tell us what to do.  It’s silly not to give ourselves permission to pursue vitality and healing.  It’s our body and our health and a doctor is our partner, but ultimately we must take ownership for our health.  I believe in focusing first, and foremost, on the mind-body connection and the pursuit of health and vitality, not the avoidance and fear of disease.  Rather than blanketing everything in our lives with an illness or a diagnosis we should blanket it with vitality and wellness.

But there is something to be said about reading about something and realizing that that you’re not crazy, that everything you’ve gone through with alarming frequency and intensity, may just be explained.  It’s a guiding lamp being held up as you trudge through a murky fog of one mystery after another.

I am taking to this blog to tell my story and honour that I have been through a bit of a wringer with my health, and that my viewpoint is valid and worth sharing. Culturally, I was conditioned not to share my experience, to set my jaw, chin up and keep on.

Here I am saying hold on a minute, I can share a bit of this.  

Something is happening in there, and whatever it is, it is part of my human experience.

To heal is to first notice and be honest with yourself about what is going on. 

There are so many things I’ve experienced that I haven’t bought up with my doctors because I don’t want to be that patient, and also because it doesn’t show up on imaging.  BUT in my heart I know something is not right and that life can be healthier and less painful than this, and I continue onward in the promise I made to myself 1 year ago.  I made the promise to myself that I’ll heal, it is time.  It is time to share and connect with others in a similar journey.

I look forward to getting the insight of experts, but I’m also not going to wait for it.  I’m going to keep digging deep with my coaching skills, and exploring the depths of my mind, body and emotions. To be honest, whether I have AS or not, the literature on auto-immune conditions, mitochondrial management and the microbiome has been deeply illuminating.  I feel all of these topics are a must-read for anyone that is currently inhabiting a human body. 

So that is my tale, my tale of potential auto-immune troubles.  So often people only share their tale once they’ve got a diagnosis of some sort, and feel like they are legitimized, but our experiences are legitimate, whether they have an external label or not.

I am choosing to share my own now, in the hopes that if someone out there is in this same, somewhat alarming early stage of discomfort, and beginning their own journey, that they are inspired to dig in and be brave.  Accept where you are, take the time to record where you are, and begin the work. Explore what healing means to you and your situation.

Just as mechanisms for injury and illness are different, so are mechanisms for healing.  Especially when we get into system issues rather than structural issues.

What may work for you, may not work for me, but we are all united in the commitment to live a life of thriving, not just surviving, or tolerating.

Wish me luck! xo

A photo exhibit byAria Owens

 

 

 

 

Nutrition, Recipes

My Favourite Weight Watchers Zero Point Noodles – These are also Paleo Noodles!

As many of you know, I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, having successfully lost weight on the program in 2006 while I was in University.  After having my third baby in the summer, I am back on program, getting back to my healthy goal weight.  I delivered at 237lb and my goal is 167 lb.  I’m currently at 195, so half way there!

I love the Weight Watchers freestyle program so far, because it is very closely aligned to my nutrition philosophy.  I do not eat gluten, dairy, grains, nightshades or legumes, because I have auto-immune and inflammation issues in my body.  I call my way of doing Weight Watchers “paleo-ish” or whole30-ish.”

I try to basically eat meat, vegetables, some low starch fruit, nuts and seeds.

Though I can eat rice noodles without too many issues, I am really trying to minimize the starch and “anything white” in my diet at the moment.

I recently discovered a wonderful substitute for noodles that is ZERO POINTS!

The Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles.  I am quite adventurous and always trying new things so I am happy to tell you what they are like.  Sometimes I buy random things from the health food store and they are shit, and I throw things out.  BUT, these were such a pleasant surprise and are a staple now in my house.  I don’t miss rice noodles very much anymore.

The best price I can find for these kelp noodles (they are $10 in our local health food store) is on Amazon, at $8.92 for a bag.  If you are in Canada, you can order them from Amazon through LuckyVitaminCA – otherwise, please make sure you don’t pay more than $10 for a 12 ounce bag.  There’s some crazy listing prices on Amazon!  $60 for a 12 oz bag? eff no!

So what are Kelp noodles actually like?

They look and act like noodles, until you put them in your mouth and they crunch like a fresh beansprout.  They are absolutely fantastic in salads, but I personally enjoy them most in a stirfry with chicken and broccoli, which is 1 point for the oil I cook in!

You don’t have to cook them (win) – I throw them in for the last 30 seconds or so to heat up slightly and mix them in whatever I’m cooking.  Or I plate them on the side.  Depends.

One of my food addictions is crunchiness, which is why I love kettle chips and almonds so much… but now I reach for these out of the bag if I need that sensation.  I highly recommend these if this is your vice, as well!

There is no taste to them. I’ve tried all sorts of interesting noodles from the health food store, including bean based, tofu based, root vegetable, and shirataki based noodles and they all had kind of a weird fishy smell.  These do not, which is surprising as they are kelp.

Kelp is a superfood and if you have autoimmune or inflammation issues (arthritis, injuries, etc.) in your body, it’s all the more important for you to be getting some sea vegetables each day.

Natural ingredients (and only three of them.) . These noodles are nice and clean …  they have only three things in them:

1.) Kelp (a sea vegetable)

2.) Sodium alginate (sodium salt extracted from a brown seaweed)

3.) Water

What’s the nutritional details, then?

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 1.39.52 PM

I wish this showed the details on minerals though, because they are an excellent source of some very critical things for your body including iodine.

Kelp Noodles are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in carbohydrates and calories. If you look at the details above, there’s 6 calories in a good 4 ounce portion (I roughly estimate that this is about a cup)

So there you go!  If you are feeling adventurous, certainly give them a try.

Click on the picture to buy them if you are interested.   I do make a small commission off of Amazon with purchases, but I’d never recommend anything I don’t l-o-v-e so I am happy to say that these come with rave reviews from me!

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And here’s something I *CAN* show ya. As I wrote this article, I recorded my lunch. A beautiful big bowl of stirfried Chicken, Broccoli and kelp noodles and tadaaaa.  Check out that beautiful little number.  1.  ONE POINT!  If I do this every day… well…

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Book Club, Happiness, Life Hacks, Nutrition, Sleep

Bulletproof Coffee for Moms – How to Manage New Parent Sleep Deprivation and Brain Fog.

Bulletproof coffee has revolutionized mornings for this tired mama of three.  But what on earth is it? It sounds rather rugged and hardcore, doesn’t it?  Don’t be intimidated.

It is quite simply a way of preparing your coffee with a few extra products and a blender.  It has changed my morning game completely.  I am also finding it a wonderful tool as I follow weight watchers and shed the weight from my babies, particularly on days where I intermittently fast (12-16 hours between dinner and breakfast.)

Here on my third maternity leave in 4 years, I am well acquainted with the trenches of sleep deprivation and rough nights. I hear you mama!  Currently I have a 4, 2 and six month old in the house.

With each successive baby, the odds have become increasingly low that I will get a full night sleep, or even go into the restorative deep cycles of sleep, because my senses are on full alert for any sniffle the baby makes.

I’ve always loved coffee but after reading the books Bulletproof and Headstrong by Dave Asprey, a successful tech entrepreneur who then went on a years-long quest to optimize his energy, focus and cognitive ability (as well as lose weight and gain vitality.) He is the ultimate example of self-experimentation and because of this, his book is full of candid anecdotes, the latest research and little gems of information to optimize ones energy.

These are the books on Amazon where you can choose paperback (or) kindle.

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One of the biggest things I took from his books was upgrading my morning coffee, to a Bulletproof Coffee and I absolutely mean it, this has completely changed my morning game as a busy mama of little crazy ones.

Preparing my coffee as a bulletproof coffee solves the following problems:

  • Remove the caffeine jitters and anxiety that comes with (lots) of cups
  • Prolong the sweet, sweet feeling of energy and feeling alert / awake
  • Rebuild my connective tissue and heal my gut
  • Provide the ability to intermittent fast with maximum results
  • Removes the need to have breakfast (linked with the above bullet)
  • Maximize ketones in the blood for fat burning

It is no secret that coffee is a bit of a crutch in this temporary exhausting stage of life, but the best part is that, like wine, coffee is one of the great pleasures of life and zero fucks are given when you are in the midst of it with little ones.

We are really lucky in our household, that my husband micro-roasts organic coffee (if you are curious, his website is Five’21 Roasters) so we always have it on hand.

I first heard about Bulletproof coffee in the CrossFit community, but I didn’t have a clear understanding of it, and thought it was a passing trend 5 years ago – until relatively recently when I finally downloaded Headstrong to my Kindle.  I read the book after getting sick (and tired) after childbirth and was really getting frustrated with my post partum brain fog.

Following the protocols in the book has helped me a ton in the areas it promises to.

So anyways, read it, it’s a solid read.   Highly recommended.

So now, let’s get into Bulletproof coffees.

What is a bulletproof coffee?  There are two answers which is why it is confusing at first glance on the interwebs.

1.) It is a way of preparing your regular cup of coffee that releases the maximum benefits of coffee and adds a few “super powers” to it (see bullets above.)

2.) It is also the name of a brand, started by Dave Asprey, who wrote the book “Bulletproof” that espoused the benefits of a Bulletproof coffee.  I use these products and love them.

Personally, I prepare my coffee in the bulletproof way, but also use the bulletproof products.  

What goes into a Bulletproof coffee?
1.)  Coffee
2.) Grass-fed Butter OR Ghee OR if like me you prefer non-dairy, I use a chunk of Cocoa Butter – I like the Bulletproof one best.
*I put upgraded collagen protein in as well, but this is optional additional product.
Budget note:  It is expensive to buy all of these products (they last ages though) so if you have to get one thing, just get the brain octane oil and then grassfed butter from your local grocery store!
How do you make a Bulletproof Coffee?
Put it ALL into a blender. That’s it!  You’ll get a creamy, frothy, satisfying coffee.
We use a Vitamix, but any blender works great.  As a side note though, Vitamix next to my coffee machine and instapot is one of the best things we ever, ever spent money on.
Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 11.00.56 AM
Where do you buy Bulletproof Products? 
Here in Calgary, I first found  (and bought) them at Community Natural Foods, and some cafes do them now, my favourite being the Bulletproof at Wild + Raw Superfood and Juice Bar in Kensington, but the best prices for these products is definitely on Amazon.
Here are the products on Amazon, if you happen to purchase them through these links, I earn a small commission that goes directly to this blog 🙂
Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 10.54.16 AM
Brain Octane (MCT Oil)
Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 10.51.40 AM
 Cacao Butter (non dairy)
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Upgraded Collagen
 + Any grassfed high quality butter from your grocery store.
 SUMMARY OF THIS POST:  
Your regular ‘ol cup of coffee does this:
  • Wakes you the f*ck up

Basically, a bulletproof coffee does this:

  • Wakes you the f*ck up
  • Helps fix the gut lining (butyrate in butter)
  • Maximize antioxidants (coffee is a rich source of polyphenols) 
  • Prolongs the caffeine alertness & prevents fatigue (Brain octane oil)
  • Helps energy & vitality ( Brain octane oil is a fantastic fuel for your brain & the mitochondria)
  • Helps feed the cells lining the gut and the cells that make up your connective tissues (collagen)
  • Staves off hunger (protein in the collagen and fat in the butter / cocoabutter / brain octane) 
  • May help fat loss (if used as part of an intermittent fasting protocol, the MCT oil in the bulletproof can help release more ketones into your blood, promoting fat burning as an energy source.)
 I borrowed an infographic from my husband’s coffee store that explains the benefits of bulletproof really well and breaks down what each ingredient does.

 

Book Club, Happiness, Life Hacks, Nutrition, Organization, Productivity, The Projects

The Great Maternity Leave Projects:  Never Forget to Take Vitamins – Using Charles Duhigg’s Book The Power of Habit

Yes ,this one is straight from the original GML Project list in my lovely little journal, which I have kept to this day.  It was one of the first tasks I undertook and it really has a soft spot in my heart.

In order to accomplish this, I had to buckle down and study the science behind habit and really dig into psychology.  Little did I know that reading this book would change my morning routines forever.

IMG_8779

I was on a plane to London England, and picked up this book at the airport (I believe books choose YOU so I always buy them when I am travelling or randomly in a bookstore.)  I just happened to be thinking about creating a multivitamin “habit” and boom, come across this.  Sometimes the universe is not so subtle.

 

I highly recommend this book and if you do not have the time to read the whole thing, cover to cover, Charles Duhigg has a very comprehensive website.  You can also use the amazing app Blinkist to read all of the latest releases in 15 minutes or less (what I do!)

What really nails Duhigg’s points home, are the examples.  I started a book club section on the Great Maternity Leave Project, and will be following up with a more detailed big post on this book and what I took from it for maternity leave.

(Most of the books I read involve business examples – but they are easily translatable to maternity leave, so that’s what I do for you! )

 

So how did I manage to hack my own brain’s habit loops and make the multi-vitamin as automatic as having a coffee in the morning?

HABIT ANCHORING + HACKING THE HABIT LOOP.

Our brains are very intelligent and will make as many routines as possible a habit, so that can dedicate most of its energy to sorting through information and thinking through tasks like decision making and critical analysis.

So when you get up and do routine things, make a coffee or tea, habit.  When you check your phone.  Habit.

Habits get taken over by an older, deeper part of the brain. Did you know that? Me neither.

That is why bad habits are so hard to break. 

That’s why this book was so fascinating.  I liked the smart science and research in it.

 

But we are talking about forming good habits here.

Pick a habit you already have, a routine which is almost automatic for you – you wind up doing it subconsciously.

For me it’s coffee, for sure.  It’s literally the first thing I do after I put on my housecoat.   It’s automatic. I go to the kitchen, get the grinder going, assemble my aeropress and we’re off to the races (or blogging in my case.)

 

Duhigg Proposes the Habit Loop.

Cue + Routine/Habit + Reward

So, I decided to

1.) Hack the Loop

2.)  Anchor the habit to another good one I have.

 

Here’s how I did it.

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 

Remember, the habit I wanted to build was to add multivitamins to my day.

ANCHORING THE HABIT:

I anchored it by having my multis RIGHT BESIDE my aeropress / coffee maker.  The visual cue could just NOT be ignored.  And I know I will NEVER forget to have coffee.  So by anchoring multivitamins to coffee, I know they will never be forgotten.

HACKING THE HABIT LOOP:

I thought about how powerful the coffee habit loop is, that I have above.  So I decided to use the same loop principles.

BEFORE:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 
AFTER:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”  Addition:  I did research on how having healthy micro and phytonutrients helps with energy ,and began to reframe them as another form of “coffee” for my body.  I began to use feeling tired as a cue for good nutritional practices.  I also looked at nutrient depletion in post-partum women to strengthen my resolve to rebuild my body’s stores.  

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else.  Addition:  I put my multi-vitamins in a cute little le creuset espresso cup, right beside my coffee cup! Taking them happens before anything else, AND I get a nice glass of water in before hitting the coffee.  

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)   Addition:  Meh.  There’s no intrinsic reward to taking fish oil and glucosamine sulfate and multis…  so this one not so much.  But the other TWO stages were hacked.

 

And that my friends, is how I NEVER forgot to take a multi-vitamin again.

 

While you are on the topic, you might enjoy this read on hacking your morning “energy” and mindset – by by shifting your Instagram or Social Media habits.  

 

Essays, Happiness, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Physical Wellness

The Great Maternity Leave Projects: Take the Lone Wolf Approach to Workouts

Reading time:  4 minutes

Why you should read this:  You will walk away with a newfound appreciation of why you should workout alone + increase your odds of “Getting it done.”

 

So often we hear about overcoming the isolation of maternity leave by doing things with friends, family, acquaintances, etc. but I am strongly in favour of the lone wolf approach for one thing in particular:  Getting your workout groove back on.

Both maternity leaves I have been known for getting back on the workout groove quickly & easily (nutrition is another thing lol) and it is because I always, always take the lone wolf approach to working out.  Then, workouts or activities with friends are cherries on top.

Today I am going to use super, duper simple math to explain it.

Let’s Create your Equation

Take me. I am “1.”   I want to workout.

Write it down.  1.  You are #1.

Obstacle Assessment.  

In my world I am very aware of the obstacles that get in the way.  Here are common things that top me from going out for out for a run or workout.

1.)  I just ate

2.) Lots of things on my to do list that day

3.)  I “feel” tired

4.)  Too logistically complicated (handing off 2x kids their nap schedules etc.)

What are the big ones for you? How many are there that regularly trip you up?

The Equation

We are going to turn this into a fraction.

Here is me. Let’s call me “1.”

My likelihood of working out can be reduced by “4” common obstacles in my world.

So let’s write that as an equation. 1/4

 

Where on Earth are you Going With This Carina?!

Stay with me, seriously, it’s EASY math. Nothing overwhelming.

A lot of us rely on friends to boost / motivate / get us up and moving.

This is why this is a really bad strategy on mat leave:

Your friend also has obstacles that come up in her day.  Let’s take a few.

  1.  Younger baby with erratic nap times / moods
  2. She too is pretty exhausted
  3. How body is feeling (C-Section)
  4. Baby feedings schedule

So put hers into a fraction as well.   1/4.

1 person’s likelihood of working out reduced by 4 obstacles that come up.

 

So… let’s say that you both manage to set up a date and time to workout.  Lingering in the background is your equation, 1/4 and her equation 1/4.  Since both of you are meeting at the same time and place to work out (a feat in itself with babies) there are now eight things that may crop up as an obstacle.

So now, we are looking at the probability of a “friends workout” reduced by eight different obstacles.  Not a good equation for a workout.  You want to do everything in your power to reduce that equation!

As soon as you add people with their own lives + schedules + babies into the picture, your probability of working out dramatically goes down.  It’s too risky a way to get back on the workout train.

You must learn to fall in love with working out on your own, and get your own thing going. Then, when things do workout and your friends join you, it is the absolute cherry on top – an enjoyable boost.  Working out with friends is the best.  So have it as something occasional you look forward to!

 

Use Instagram as a Personal Trainer

Instagram has some AWESOME accounts set up by fit mums (yes, you will have to see 6 packs 1 year post partum lol) that use home objects + home workouts.

I use it all the time for creative ideas.  You can even do a challenge where you have to do whatever comes up on your instagram feed when you have some downtime.  

You do have to get past the super spammy nature of their accounts because they are all hustling e-books and guides… so just ignore the comments and focus on getting creative ideas from the videos for microworkouts.

@Home_squats

@girlyexercises

@Home.Exercises

@busymomgetsfit

I talked before about filtering your social media so that all incoming information is set up to support the goals you have; this is a great way to try out this practice! Set up healthy eating, fitness, motivational quotes, etc. so that all of these motivators are rolling in.

Any searching on google will return you lots of programs, plans, ideas for example Jamie Eason’s Post-Pregnancy 12 week program.  I didn’t buy / download this one but at 6 months post partum I started using a lot of the movements.    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jamie-eason-post-pregnancy-trainer.html

So there we go, embrace your inner lone wolf (you kinda feel like one anyways on maternity leave lol) and hit those workouts.

Set up yourself up for a probability of success + create your own workout power.

Don’t wait for others, or rely on others to boost you.

Strength and lasting motivation come from the inside.