Friday, September 30, 2016

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation definitely sits near the top of my list for tools that have changed my life.

As a teenager I used to wake up in the morning and come out of my bedroom to find the house dark. My Mom would be sitting in the living room in the pitch black, sometimes with a candle lit, in complete silence. I could not wrap my head around why she wanted to get up early only to sit in silence with no lights on. Turns out my wise Mother had much to teach me, which I am still learning, years after her death.

Part of her morning practice back then included meditation. Other than savasana after yoga classes and a few meditation circles after tai chi classes I took with my Mom, I hadn't had much experience with meditating. Until Yoga Teacher Training began in October 2015. Turns out a huge part of the curriculum included things such as the history of yoga, chakras, the Yoga Sutras and....meditation.

We were given the assignment of meditating 3 times a week (at least) for a period of 8 weeks. Alongside the practice itself, we were to reflect upon it in a journal. We had to write down which type of meditation we did, how long it lasted, what time of day, and any insights, thoughts, ideas that went along with it.

I hated it. I totally freaking hated it. I had shit to do. Seriously, who had time to just sit and clear their mind? It seemed anytime I tried to clear my mind, it got louder and more frantic. I was experiencing the opposite effect and I was totally annoyed by it all. I put off the assignment, as I do most things that cause me anything other than peace or comfort.

One Saturday afternoon our teacher guided us through yet another new meditation. The date was February 6, 2016. I remember the day mostly because I journaled about the experience but it's also an important date for me because I experienced an immediate shift in my relationship with meditation that day.

Our teacher called it the Transmitter Receiver meditation and it worked much the same way as the concept of the Law of Attraction. Basically you envision something you want in your life and allow yourself to feel as though you already have that item/event/opportunity in your life. You envision your third eye chakra opening and projecting your desires while then envisioning your heart chakra opening to receive it.

You mean, I can actually meditate but be somewhat productive at the same time? SOLD!

Since that day, it's rare for me to go a single day without meditating. At the beginning I struggled through 8 minutes. Nearing the end of the program I managed to reach 45 minutes, something I never would have believed possible. Not with my monkey mind. Not that the length of meditation is correlated with the quality...but for me to sit that long was a miracle.
I noticed huge benefits in my life once this became a regular practice, and quite quickly, which was the positive reinforcement and validation I required to keep going.

Some of the benefits I noticed personally were:

1. Calmer disposition
I began to notice my ability to fluff off certain behaviours or events without them disrupting my whole mood. Fighting kids, a messy house, an unproductive day...I felt I had a better handle on my emotional reactions to these external things that allowed me to find my center amongst the chaos.

2. More open heart
For those who know me, or those who have encountered me, know I have this ability to throw up my walls of armour at any given moment when I face any type of vulnerability or unknown. I present a tough exterior that screams with "don't talk to me or acknowledge me" vibes, sure to ward off anyone even considering speaking to me. This superpower I possess had done me well in certain situations and became a quick and effective tool in managing my anxiety. But it no longer works for me. It has caused the disruption of many relationships that once meant something to me. It has effectively kept me isolated, yet also cursed me with isolation. It's just not good practice to use as an adult who wants to feel part of society. Meditating, in part, has helped me sit with my vulnerability and feelings of insecurity while embracing them and honouring them in a positive healing way. I noticed I felt closer to some people in my life, and that opening allowed relationships to flourish. Connections with women I never imagined, suddenly bringing an awareness into my life that I didn't have to carry the world all by myself. Perhaps I could allow people in by showing them ME and have them accept me for who I am rather than their perceived idea of who I am based on the false shit I always presented. Having an open heart builds and deepens relationships. It allows in opportunities that never before would have been allowed in with a closed heart.

3. Better Management of time
So you would assume that spending a half hour or so in silence day after day would really put a damper on the ability to get stuff done. Magically this wasn't the case and I'm not totally sure how to explain this one. I felt like my days were easier and that overwhelm didn't burden me every step of the way. I think it's because I was able to let things go - the thoughts that rattled away relentlessly, the expectations that I set so high they were unattainable before I even tried, and the to-do lists that were very much tied to my sense of self worth. I felt (for the most part) that I could float through my days feeling a whole lot more freedom than I ever had and didn't have a million pressing tasks needing accomplishment.

4. Clarity
I started noticing that anytime I had questions about something and focused on that during my meditation, I would either receive a clear answer or shortly after some sort of sign slapped me right in the face so hard that I couldn't deny it as my answer. For example, once I meditated on a niche for my business. A vision appeared of me sitting on a floor cross legged with a room full of women. No idea what it meant, and it certainly didn't help me find my answer. Within a few hours of that happening, the owner of a local yoga studio called me out of the blue to discuss the possibility of me teaching prenatal yoga classes for her. I almost dropped the phone. So many of those situations came forth for me. So much so that I couldn't deny the fact I was receiving answers in some form. Anytime the answer to something was plaguing me, I would sit in meditation and feel so much clearer by the time I was done. It became my personal Google, where I could access answers and information previously inaccessible to me.

5. Stronger sense of self
Oh...there you are! Was almost my exact thoughts a few weeks into a regular meditation practice. I was able to, for the first time in my life, see the clear defined lines between who I was and where everyone else began. I became more aware of my interests, my tendencies, my preferences, dreams, desires and goals. I felt good in my own skin and enjoyed many of the qualities I possessed. I felt secure in who I was and ready to toss away all the masks I had worn for so long.


I have shared all these amazing shifts in my life with anyone who will listen. Friends come to me wondering about meditating and the process to beginning. Most of them tell me they've tried but just can't do it right.

Right?

That's the problem with meditation if you ask me. Reading books, watching YouTube videos, hearing from so-and-so all about the correct way of meditating - how your hands should be, how you should sit and on what, no background noise, in the mornings, without distractions...all to enter a thought-free zone. If any of these conditions weren't met, or you weren't able to empty your mind of thoughts, you failed the whole damn thing.

Because I'm immersed in the benefits of a regular practice, I want everyone I know to discover their own practice. From this desire grew my rules for meditation:

1. Sit however the heck you want
Find a spot that's comfortable, in whatever way won't be causing you stress (is my back straight enough? I have a kink in my neck. My foot is falling asleep.....) If you're spending your time zoned in on how uncomfortable you are, you're just setting yourself up for failure right from the start. Sit comfortably and get on with it

2. Place your hands wherever they're comfortable
Forget the mudras and the enhancements they may bring to your practice. Sure, if you've been meditating for a long time and looking to up the ante so to speak, then you can research mudras. But for now, who cares where your hands are?

3. Let your mind race
So the goal of meditation, isn't, as most people think, to empty the mind of thoughts. We are human beings and that would be an impossible task. One of the goals of meditation is to observe your thoughts without getting wrapped up in them. Instead of getting frustrated because you're thinking non-stop, practice sitting with those thoughts as though you were an exam proctor, and notice. Notice what keeps coming up. Observe how your body feels in relation to certain thoughts. Notice the theme that is bombarding you. Imagine yourself a lotus flower, attached to a rock at the bottom of the ocean. The waves that travel back and forth are your thoughts. They don't sweep you up and carry you away. Instead, you remain grounded in who and where you are while just noticing them around you. That's what meditation is like. The ocean doesn't disappear, you just stop being carried by it.

4. Focus on your breathing. Or not.
Yes, focusing on deep belly breathing is very effective at calming and relaxing the body but it isn't the ONLY way to meditate. Focus on a mantra, or a feeling, or a word, sound. Or just throw out to the universe what you are hoping for "Please help me find some clarity in my business/relationship etc" Listen to a guided meditation, join a class....whatever. There is no right or wrong, there are just different tools that work for different people at different times. Do what feels right for you during that particular meditation.

Here are my final thoughts. Sitting with yourself in a way that will relax your body is the goal. All the added extras and pesky little details can come about if and when you're ready. Meditation isn't all or nothing, that's why it's referred to as a practice. There are days I can immerse myself completely in relaxation and others when my chattering mind drives me insane for half an hour and that's the end of my practice. If you sit there with the belief that you have to be an awesome meditator, I can tell you now that you won't bring this practice to your life on a consistent enough basis to ever see the benefits.

Just follow whatever the heck guidelines you feel are best for you and do it every day regardless of how you evaluate your own practice. 5 minutes...55 minutes...who cares. Just commit to sitting with yourself every day and wait for the shifts to happen.

xo

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I'm a Selfish Mommy

Three years ago I held a small workout class based on the suggestions and requests of some friends. Six people came and without a formal name, I simply referred to it as a Plyo class. Lots of jumping , functional movements and laughter. I had no idea how to plan a class properly, and probably overestimated the ability of many of the participants. But you couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I took my role of a leader seriously, trying to ensure everyone got a great workout in a way that didn't feel (completely) like torture.


A few hours after class ended I received an email from a friend of mine who had participated. I'll never forget it. She had always known me to be a quiet person, coming into my life when my anxiety was really high. In her email, she thanked me for the class. She continued on, telling me she had never before seen me so confident, happy and secure in who I was and what I was doing. She said I had found my calling in life, and that she was happy she was able to witness me stepping into my life's role.

I bubbled inside with joy. As her words settled on me, so did the confirmation that I had absolutely started on a path very much authentic to me. It felt as though a light had been lit inside parts of me I hadn't realized were dark. That night I barely slept as excitement keep my brain working overtime.

That was the beginning for me. At the time I had a toddler and a baby. Since then I have added another baby into the mix. The growth of my business has been slow by choice, wanting to relish in the time with my kids while they were still small and enjoying my company. I have dabbled in different topics within wellness to decide what feels authentic to me. My focus has shifted and settled, only to shift again. As I have evolved over the years, so has my intentions for work. There was a period of time I was desperate for a niche, because that's what people tell you you need in order to run a successful business. I simply didn't know and beat myself up over this confusion.

I'm like that. I'm impatient. I want things done yesterday. I want answers a week ago. I have been told I'm a bit of a control freak (who me?? Can I refer to myself as a self-motivated woman instead??) When there's a problem, I make a list, create a schedule and make a detailed plan to solve that problem. So you can imagine my overwhelm when I didn't have this answer.

Turns out the answer wasn't what I was looking for. Instead, over time, my answer came from three distinct processes:

Time. Dabbling. Feeling.

I needed time to dabble in the various niches I considered a possibility for my work. Then I needed to immerse myself in those experiences and feel what landed with me. Which experiences stirred my soul, created energy within me and brought me excitement? Then I needed to continue on dabbling in those things while letting go of the things that left me feeling blah, unfulfilled and drained.

So I (slightly impatiently) did that and dabbled in many different things with a multitude of prospective clients in order to gain a sense of where I am meant to be.

I have done personal training with men, which was always a bit awkward for me.
I have held Bootcamp for Kids classes, which was fun but sometimes, as a Mama of 3, I like to get away from kids in general and actually interact with adults.
I've had bootcamp classes with women ranging in age from 17-65.
I have taught various yoga classes ranging from easy Hatha to really challenging Vinyasa classes to both just women and mixed genders.
I have presented workshops on Nutrition to just women, to men and women of all ages, to a cancer support center.
I have presented interactive programs at schools, creating and implementing fitness programs coinciding with the concept of resiliency and self-love.
I have taught an exercise class at a long term care home, for residents confined to wheelchairs.
I have gone into my son's preschool to run a mini Bootcamp class with obstacle courses and themed games for 2 and 3 year olds.
I've taught mini classes on journaling, meditation and morning routines.
I've been guiding pregnant women along their journey through specialized yoga classes.
I've also been guiding brand new Mamas and their sweet babes in a Baby & Mama yoga and fitness class.

Seriously, I've dabbled like my life depended on it.

Through it all, there is a clear theme underlying what I am drawn to and what people request of me. There is a single thread woven through all of these experiences that fills me up and motivates me to reach more and more people.

It's not necessarily health in and of itself.
It's not just strength and fitness.
It's not solely nutrition and wellness.

Wanna know what it is?

Self-care.


I came to a realization somewhat recently that I am an advocate for self-care...especially for busy Mama's, to which I can absolutely relate.
Unfortunately, people outside the realm of wellness view self-care as a selfish act. As though our jobs as Mamas is to pour everything we have and are into everyone around us without expecting anything in return. I call BS on this. And if you want to argue this, then let's just call me a selfish Mama and get it over with.

It is vitally important to practice self-care every single day in some way big or small ESPECIALLY for the busy Mamas. Without a full cup, how is it possible to be fully present for anyone else? It isn't. It simply just isn't.

Nutrition is a big way to care for yourself. What you put into your body will affect how you feel, how you interact with others around you, how much energy you have to put your craft out into the world, your motivation levels, your moods...so many things.

Exercising will do much of the same and possesses other benefits both in the short term and the long term. From reducing osteoporosis, to reducing the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. To reducing stress and strengthening the heart...and the list goes on.

Yoga is beneficial for the body, spirit and the mind. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping relax the mind and body, producing a huge number of benefits. It's an opportunity to trust in yourself, connect with yourself and open the doors to creative flow. Flexibility and strength are added bonuses while instilling mindfulness (a very much needed practice in today's over scheduled society!)

Reflexology also initiates the rest and relax response while removing energetic blockages within the body, promoting better overall health.

I have immersed myself in a multitude of trainings and research on every topic regarding wellness I can consume at any given moment. During quiet times alone I can be found listening to inspiring podcasts. If not that, then reading books on nutrition, leadership or self development. I am obsessed (in the best way possible) with learning every morsel of information I can find regarding well-being. My mission is to teach people how to care for themselves. Whether that's through weekly Bootcamp classes with me or encouraging them to spend 5 minutes a day meditating. It could be creating a personalized meal plan that will no doubt support their health or it could be an Epsom salt bath weekly.

It blows my mind how often people come to me and admit that seeing me for whatever it is I am providing is the first thing they've done for themselves in xx number of years. YEARS!

So...let me provide you this. The permission and the space to start taking care of YOU. And if you are unsure where to start, I happen to have a multitude of tools and a wealth of knowledge in my tool belt to help you along. Once you begin, you'll wonder how the heck you ever lived any other way.

Just begin. xo

Monday, September 26, 2016

Take Yourself Out of the Equation

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop at a local cancer support center on the topic "Healthy Eating 101." It was a two hour interactive workshop with a dozen or so people in attendance. It included those battling cancer currently, those who are survivors of the disease and caregivers to people living with cancer.

Once 10:30 came around, I closed the door to signal our start. As I turned to walk back to my computer where my presentation was, the energy in the room was palpable and I had to take a moment to gather myself before speaking.

As I gazed out to the faces watching me, an immense pouring of love swept over me. I could feel their openness and for the first time since my Yoga Teacher Training, I could make out auras surrounding some of the participants. They were open. I was open. Allowing a holding space for connection, learning, sharing and supporting.

I inhaled the experience deeply as a smile formed on my face. I liken this energy to that I feel while I'm guiding savasana. A room full of people who have chosen to hang their insecurities and reservations at the door. They are there open and vulnerable, ready to accept and share. I cannot explain how this energy fills the room. You'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever had the blessing of experiencing it.

I continued holding this space during my presentation and allowed it to fill me. Previously I had sat in my car before it was to begin, I had closed my eyes and silently set an intention for the next couple hours, "Allow me to authentically deliver whatever message or information will resonate with these people, guiding them toward better.

While I planned my presentation and organized it with a slideshow and handouts, it was important to me to feel the room, reading each participant, being open to understanding and recognizing what they might need outside of my planned information. I went with the flow, willing to release the crutch of my slides in order to serve the audience more authentically.

It turned into a beautiful couple hours of engaging conversations, heart felt personal stories, admissions of shortcomings, and a profound level of respect and nurturing amongst the group. I left on a high.

-------------

I was 17 when I first experienced symptoms of anxiety. I had a test that morning that I didn't feel totally ready for. My chest was heavy and my breathing wasn't coming easily. I curled up into the fetal position with my forehead pressing into my mattress, willing my breath to slow down. It wasn't very effective.

I was 20 and in University. I chose classes that didn't have seminars, only lectures. Seminars included an hour long class of sharing and conversation as a whole group. Unfortunately within my program there was only 1 class I was able to do this with. The first week was awful. During seminars I sat in a corner, quiet as possible, the entire time battling the nausea that overwhelmed me. My face would turn a dark shade of red at the mere thought of having to speak. I would sweat and wring my hands out, terrified at sharing. My goal those classes was to survive. I tried telling myself to put my hand up once during class and speak just one time, but that thought alone made me want to vomit. I skipped every seminar the second week and told myself I didn't need to go the rest of the year. I gave up 10-15% of my grade just to avoid these situations and to relieve the crippling anxiety that was starting to affect my life in many ways.

The next year in a Social Psychology class we were given an article to read and report on. As I sat in the back row taking in the article, I felt the blood drain from my face. The article could have been written about me. Words jumped off of the page, slapping me straight in the face. Words like difficulty breathing, deep feelings of fear, panic, sweating, blushing, wanting to hide. Holy shit. THIS is what I had been dealing with for years, not realizing it was a thing, just believing I was inherently different from everyone else. I believed I was just shy and I hated it about myself. Why couldn't I just have a conversation with someone in Walmart without wanting desperately to run away? Why did I cancel plans with friends on a regular basis to avoid being in public? Why couldn't I raise my hand in class and share a thought without believing sawing off my arm with a butter knife to be a better option? There was my truth on that page - Social Anxiety.

Armed with a label, I went home and researched all I could on the topic and found that I wasn't alone in the world after all. Yet knowing these things and battling it were two very different experiences. It wasn't until a trip to Walmart that left me paralyzed in my car, unable to open the door and enter the building because of my peaking anxiety, that I finally sought assistance from a therapist. The journey has been long. My tendency to hide and shut out everyone around me still appears when I've faced a fear or criticism from someone else. Yoga Teacher Training was very challenging because we needed to share of ourselves every class, staying open and vulnerable in a way I hadn't imagined possible.

But I did it. And I did it well.

-------------

Fast forward to my life now and events such as my workshops. Never in my life would I have believed this person to be me. There were years I couldn't fathom the concept of standing in front of others without collapsing and dying. I still marvel at my ability to deliver content confidently and comfortably. Not shrinking. Not wavering in who I am. Not allowing fear to guide me.

Aside from my numerous therapy sessions, my dedication to living a life of freedom and my hours of research, self challenges and continual commitment to growing outside my comfort zone, I have come up with a simple concept that helps me immensely when I'm standing in front of a room full of people.


Take yourself out of the equation.

Wait. What?

Yes - take yourself out of the equation.
What I mean by that is that every time I deliver content to a group, I simply consider myself as a vehicle for information that may transform their lives. I envision words, ideas and concepts coming from a space in the universe to these people's ears. It has very little to do with me. I am there to serve these people. As a conduit. How can fear overtake me with that perspective?

Rather than thinking:
Will these people like me?
Did I work hard enough?
Do I even know what I'm talking about?
They're all looking at me.

Instead I think:
How can I serve these people?
Help me find the words that will resonate with them.
What can I give them that will be meaningful in their lives?

I am taken from a place of fear to a place of love. There is a shift from insecurity to hope. I move from a sense of inadequacy to a place of dedicated determination.

Fear cannot exist in a state of love.
So for 2 hours I delivered content. Eyes stared at me. Conversations happened. And not once did I want to shrink. Not once did my voice shake. Not once did I desire the comfort of the hole I bury into when things get uncomfortable.
I left energized. My cup was full. My heart was bursting. And as I walked to my car, gratitude swept over me as tears formed while I silently whispered to myself, good job Rachel. you served them well


Friday, September 16, 2016

But....fats are fattening right??

So I ran into my Dad and his wife at Costco awhile back. I saw him in the nut and snack aisle where he handed me a box of protein bars and asked if they were okay to eat (this is a common thing, being a Nutritionist). I didn't even glance at the back of the box before "no" flew out of my mouth. I quickly showed him the ingredient list and compared it to a neighbouring box of protein bars. The difference was obvious and in his cart went the better choice.


Next up, nuts. He handed me a bag of almonds and asked if they were okay. I noted that the bag read "raw" and no other ingredients other than almonds were listed. Perfect. After throwing them into their cart, his wife shook her head and said "he eats those all the time. Aren't they fattening?"

*Gasp*

*Reminder Rachel - most people don't spend their days and nights reading all there is to know about nutrition and the body. All they have to go on is what they're bombarded with during commercials and sneaky marketing tactics"*

*Deep breath*

*Find a quick and easy answer*

Okay this is a valid question, and one that I get way more often than I would like. This question reminds me that there are still lingering side effects from the low fat craze that took place in the 90's (more on that later!). This mindset has got to go. Let's embrace the fats. They are your friend!

I LOVE FATS! I recently had my blood work done and my cholesterol was perfect. But if we are going to be talking about fats here, let's differentiate between what I'm referring to and the others, because, no, all fats are not created equal. Some fats will harm your body and some fats will heal and benefit your body. There's a difference between deep fried oreos and organic almonds. They will do completely different things within (and to) your body.

Healthy fats provide your body more energy per ounce than carbs or protein. Fats are required to transport nutrients through the body, and help regulate body temperature. Fats also help create cell membranes, protect vital organs and maintain a proper hormone balance. So many reasons our bodies need healthy doses of daily fat. Healthy fats include things such as avocado, flax oil, olive oil, nuts and seeds, nut butter, avocado oil. I include these things every day, multiple times a day. In fact, with every single meal I eat, I make sure I consume a source of healthy fat. I add flax oil to my smoothies. I top my oats with hemp seed. I eat wild caught salmon at least once per week. I sprinkle chia seeds on just about everything. I put avocado on my toast. I eat raw nuts and seeds with an apple. I even add coconut oil into my herbal tea.

Back when I was competing, the amount of fat I was eating was minimal, as were my calories. My hair started falling out in clumps. I could never stay warm. I stopped getting my period and I had very little energy. My body craved fat and it's why so many competitors can easily eat an entire jar of nut butter in one sitting - their body is screaming for fats!

So no..fats will not make you fat. Unless you eat 14 bags of nuts a day, you'll be just fine, and you'll be fueling your body with high quality fuel. As with everything I teach about nutrition - it's always quality over quantity.

The fats I don't recommend include trans fats which are found in fried, greasy foods. These fats cause huge amounts of inflammation in the body and impede with the body's ability to regulate many processes. The fats added to processed foods that you'll find on the shelves of grocery stores also cause inflammation. These fats go through a process called hydrogenation which renders the fat less likely to go rancid, but are associated with increasing blood cholesterol levels, inflammation, gut irriation and increasing the risk of artherosclerosis. (tip - look for "partially hydrogenated" on your food labels. And when you see those words, leave the product on the shelf)

There are 2 types of essential fatty acids (required by your body) - Omega-3 and Omega-6
These fats are essential for normal growth or blood vessels and nerves, and to keep skin and other tissues healthy and supple. The sources of Omega-3 are flax oil and seed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and oils, salmon and other cold water fish, and some sea vegetables.

Omega-6 is found in canola oil, corn, peanuts, safflower oils, sesame oil, & soy. These fats are also utilized by the body but in very small amounts

For optimal health, the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 in the diet should be anywhere from 2:1 to 4:1. Our standard diet in reality puts the ratio closer to between 10:1 to 20:1 thanks to all the fried and processed foods that surround us. With such an imbalance, we are at risk for insulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic inflammation and a whole lot of illnesses in between.

So, my wellness lovers. Eat fat. Eat lots of it.
Making sure it's a good quality fat providing your body with quality fuel will enhance your health without question.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why Does Health Matter so Much to me?

I often have clients or followers wondering how the heck I put my health as a priority so consistently. Where does my motivation come from?|
Let me share with you part of what drives me.


I found out June 2004 that my Mom had cancer. She had been "sick" since January of that year, but for five months, doctors had been telling her she had pneumonia. Somehow, in a place deep inside myself, I knew the truth. I remember saying to my husband Jeff that I thought it was lung cancer and if it was, I would kill myself. Shortly after, my fears were confirmed.

I had two weeks to process the news. Two weeks to grasp that my Mom was fighting a very serious disease. Two weeks to research survival rates of stage 4 lung cancer. I had two weeks to wonder how the hell this had happened.

Two weeks later was my Mom's first chemotherapy session during which she passed away. Two weeks isn't a lot of time to get your head wrapped around the notion that your best friend in life was going to lose a battle that she never stood the chance against from the beginning. It wasn't enough time for me. Though looking back I can now recognize that no amount of time would have ever been enough.

After her death we requested an autopsy, though the reason behind that is vague in my mind now. It all happened so suddenly for me, that I was doubting cancer's ability to just take her away so suddenly. I was searching for someone to blame, something specific to hate. And I hoped my answer would appear in a misdiagnosis.

I never saw the results of the autopsy but they were relayed to me. Just about every organ, every cell of my Mom's body was smothered in cancer. How could she not have known? How could I have just spent that past Christmas with her and not have a clue that she was so sick? It snuck up on her, on us, and took her from us before I realized she was dying, before I even understood that she was sick. She was living in Alberta at the time while I reside in Ontario. When I was told she passed away, all I could say was "but she wasn't even sick. She wasn't sick. I don't understand, she wasn't sick." The image of my Mom was of a healthy, happy woman, not of someone who was sick. Her spirit didn't portray a dying woman, it portrayed strength and courage.

My Mom never worked out, she drank for many years, she smoked.
(Oh, on a side note, if anyone you know is diagnosed or passes away from lung cancer, don't ever ask if they smoked, it's completely irrelevant and certainly doesn't make the disease okay. I hated that question.)

My Mom spent many years neglecting her health. She didn't pay much attention to nutrition and abused the vehicle of her life as so many of us do to some degree. I'm sure she never assumed she would get sick. She probably didn't consider the consequences or her actions (or lack of actions), or if she did, didn't think they applied to her. Does this sound familiar? I don't blame my Mom for what happened, I'm not angry or resentful. I wish she would have taken better care of her not just so she would have more years, but so the years that she DID have were happy ones with vibrant health.

Instead, I am 35 years old and haven't seen my Mom in 12 years. My kids will never know her. How awful is that?

I now have 3 young children aged 7, 4 and 2. I love these little people with every fiber of my soul. I look into their eyes and vow to myself to do all I can to ensure I am here for them as long as possible. I will teach them how to care for themselves through health, love, compassion and confidence. I need to be here for them so they never question if there is something they could have done differently to give me more time. I see their smiles and want to see them for many days, many years to come. I don't want to miss out on their graduations, weddings, children.....because I know how void going through those things without a Mommy can feel.

My motivation for eating good foods, working out and promoting the heck out of healthy living every single day rests in those three teeny tiny creatures who individually have the strength to lift me above self doubt, and who, together, have the strength to carry me through the rest of my years.

And it comes from the memory of my own Mama, who was my greatest teacher in life. Every single day I vow to her that I will take the greatest care of one of the people that meant the most to her - me. Because I am worth it.


If ever you are feeling the pull toward a healthier lifestyle but are unsure how to proceed, I encourage you to connect with me to discuss actionable steps you can start making toward the best version of you possible. Because YOU deserve it

xo

Monday, September 12, 2016

What Kids Should Eat or Drink When They're Sick

The other day I was with my youngest son, Alexander, at the doctor's office. He had developed crazy red boil-like bumps on the underside of his thigh, and smaller red bumps had begun spreading down his legs and onto his feet, and also around his mouth. Slightly concerned, I rounded up my herd and off we went.

Diagnosis? Hand Foot and Mouth (which...can I comment now that that is quite possibly the worst name I've ever heard for a virus???). Because it's a virus, there is "no suggested protocol to help him heal" said the Doctor.

Let me interrupt for a minute.
As a Mama and a Holistic Nutritionist, can I provide you this advice?
When someone tells you there is nothing you can do to help your child's health, don't ever believe them. What they actually mean to say is "I don't have a pill that will fix this." When it comes to health, there are many ways to empower you, as a Mama and to support your child's well-being. This post is one of many designed to provide you information and tools to enable you to enhance the health of your child.
Okay, on with the story.


With Alexander's decreased appetite, she did however, suggest I try getting him to eat as much as possible. She suggested things such as yogurt, ice cream and Jell-O.

Insert gasp here.

As a RHN and a health advocate, this type of advice pains me yet I never know how to navigate these situations.
Do I take those moments as opportunities to educate?
Do I shut up and accept her help, and follow my own protocol in silence?
Do I offer to sit down with her and suggest better ideas and resources to provide her patients?
I never want to offend, yet I always want to empower and educate.
Now this doctor was a lovely, lovely lady and I absolutely appreciated her expertise and kindness she showed us. I am grateful for the medical community and the access we have to life saving resources.

My questioning always comes from three places:
1. The nutritional advice that comes with minimal education in the field
2. The approach of getting rid of a symptom rather than addressing the root cause of the concern at hand.
3. The need to silence these symptoms instead of using them as a compass toward the answers

Sorry. I digress. Again.

As I was leaving her office I wondered to myself how many times I've heard advice like this. Not just from the medical field, but from other Moms or from strangers throughout my travels with my three children. I assume you have too. Perhaps you've even followed this advice. Or given this advice. Only a few short years ago I may have followed this advice myself, assuming a doctor would know and fearing the outcome if I didn't follow her suggestions.

Here's what I know now:

1. Sugar (such as Jell-O)
Sugar suppresses the immune system. Just one tablespoon of sugar can supress the immune system for up to 6 hours. So when our children are sick, you can see why feeding them with ginger ale, Jell-O, ice cream or popsicles is a terrible idea! Maybe it feels good for their throat BUT it is also allowing their illness to either worsen or lengthen. Perhaps even BOTH!


2. Dairy.
There is the argument that yogurt contains probiotics which are hugely beneficial to the immune system. Yes, I agree that probiotics are amazing, we use them every day. But...many yogurts have probiotics added before heat processing, rendering them inactive. Also most yogurts are loaded with sugar, which will suppress the immune system. Dairy products are vey congesting in the body, create acidity and most people's bodies cannot process dairy. Also, if purchasing anything other than organic dairy, you will expose your body to pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics. For these reasons and because of their sensitivities, I don't give my kids yogurt. (stay tuned for a post on how to find the best yogurt option if your kids do love yogurt)

So what's a Mama to do?

What if you could provide your child something soothing to them but also something that will provide their bodies nutrients equipped to fight off illness, recover faster and boost their immune system? I assume you're saying "heck yeah!" right now so I shall continue with a few options:

1. Smoothies
Smoothies are such a great way to load your child's body with goodness. Here are some of my favourite ingredients to include and why. You can scroll to the bottom of this page to find a simple recipe you can make for your child.

Greens
Greens are packed with antioxidants which help in boosting the immune system. Adding a handful of spinach into a smoothie won't affect the taste at all

Berries
Berries are also packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, both necessary to boost the immune system.

Citrus Fruits
For my son, citrus should be avoided because the rash could enter his mouth, which would be quite painful if mixed with the acidity that citrus fruits give off. Otherwise citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit or kiwi provide Vitamin C, carotenoids and flavonoids.

Essential Fatty Acids
EFAs are required for the immune system to fight infections, yeast and bacteria.
The best sources of EFA that can easily be incorporated into a smoothie includes avocado, hemp seed, flax seed or flax seed oil,


2. Popsicles
Kids love popsicles and it's one of the first things they request when they have a sore throat. But an average popsicle contains 10 grams of sugar, meaning it has the ability to suppress the immune system for hours. At our house we make our own and it's simple:

First, purchase some popsicle moulds
Next, when you make a smoothie, double the recipe, and pour the extra into the moulds
That's it. Talk about simple.

3. Warm soup

This comes to mind especially because we are entering the Fall season. When bodies are fighting off something, providing them food in liquid form is ideal. This way the digestive system doesn't have to work so hard, sending that energy into healing instead. Soups can providing an abundance of nutrients depending on what you put into it. It's as simple as pouring an organic veggie broth into a crockpot and adding in garlic (great health supporter), veggies, beans and rice. Full of nutrients, protein, fiber and minerals.

4. Homemade ice cream
What kid doesn't like ice cream? Conventional ice creams are full of the two things I avoid when my kids aren't well: dairy and sugar. So, we make our own!

All you need to do is take 1 cup of frozen fruit (either a single type or you can mix) and place in your high speed blender with a tiny bit of nut milk or water and voila! Ice cream. Our favourite around here is a frozen banana mixed with a bit of almond milk. It's delicious and sweet enough on it's own. Get creative and think of the flavours you can create: strawberry banana, mango banana, blueberry banana...the list is endless. I typically put banana in our because of it's sweetness but it's certainly not necessary!

So I hope that gives you some good ideas on what to give your child when he or she is sick. This information isn't child-specific, it all applies to adults as well, so feel free to embrace all these ideas when you aren't feeling your best either.

Cheers to good health!
xo Rachel


Simple Immune Boosting Smoothie



2 cups water
1 handful spinach
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 orange
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp. flax oil

Blend and Enjoy!