Sunday, November 20, 2011

One Step at a Time

I recently ran a workshop on hormones and health that got me thinking about just how long one step at a time really means.

We where discussing the connection between grains and there effect on insulin, and how they effect the entire hormone system and your weight. The objections from the group and the level of frustration I had heard myself. It was at that point I realized how far I had come, and how my journey to wellness has been a lifetime of learning. As I reflect, I realize how I have grown, why I can relate to others, and how I stay passionate about continuing to improve my health and the health of others around me. Here are the highlights...

At 11 years old, I went on a diet. I had been over eating for at least a year, and put on a lot of weight. My Nona thought my chubby cheeks where cute. I deep down, knew I was eating my fear. We had moved to 3 different cities this year, and at the current location, we where being evicted. At times we ate from the food bank, other times the food was very poor quality. I took refuge in guidance counselors, searching for sanity. I don't remember who it was that encouraged me but the message was "when things where difficult, first take care of yourself."

When times got tough, I'd lock myself in the bathroom and brush my hair. It calmed me - and so began the life long belief that self care was fundamental to my survival.

The next step was to sneak out of bed at 5:30 every morning to do the 20 minute workout. I shared a bedroom with my brother and was embarrassed to let anyone know that I knew I was fat. I would get up, workout, then go back to bed and pretend I hadn't been up at all. I lost weight, and tasted success, but home life was still very stressful.

These next few years where the most challenging of my youth. My mom left my step dad, and found a new boyfriend and we blended the families in one household and my dad married his high school sweetheart, who also had a family of her own. The family dynamics combined with drugs, alcohol, high school, and a lack of money challenged me to take care of my self in new ways. I began experimenting with jogging, bike riding, and aerobics classes. Anything that would clear my head and ground me again. I began to feel the happy hormone shifts from exercise and used high intensity cardio to fuel the outlet. Working out kept me sane.

In the later years of high school, this intensity began to take it's toll. My occasional back pain became chronic, and my foot, and knee problems escalated. Physio or orthodics where out of the question - we could not afford that. It was during this time that my interest in biomechanics began. I developed a keen interest in understanding how the body worked and how to bring it back into balance.

I went out on a limb and took a Fitness & Lifestyle management program at George Brown. I felt like the awkward, uncoordinated, over weight girl in the class. I loved moving, but disliked my body. Most of all, I yearned to find a place where "broken" girls like me could go to be supported and educated to find the true meaning of health.

Just as my "career" as an aerobics instructor peaked, so did my foot problems. I was told I needed surgery on both feet. Likely 3 months a foot, and I'd never be able to jump or run again. With seemingly few options open, and a stubborn streak, I opted for self care once again. I discovered pilates, and used it to understand movement on an even deeper level. My 10 year back pain was healing, and so where my feet.

As part of my recovery I was drawn to yoga for it's flexibility benefits. The idea of a mind/body connection while working out was a little too out there for me, at least at first. I listened with a open but skeptical mind, with no intentions of discovering the inner me... I knew who I was. But like water hitting a stone, eventually it wore me down enough that I began to notice that self care was not just about my physical health, it was also about my mental/emotional health. As I opened up to these ideas, I watched myself develop internal strength, as stronger sense of independence, and finally a love for myself that had never been there before.

It was this stage that was so important in my "Personal Training Career". I no longer believed that the best education made the best trainer. (Don't get me wrong, education is important), but if you can't inspire another to develop a love of self care like I had (conscious or unconscious), no amount of education will help them. As I embraced this fact, my personal training results improved. My business grew and I opened Serenity Valley.

Serenity Valley was my dream. The place where you could come for support, encouragement, and education. A place that felt nurturing, and inspired the love of self care in it's members. I had achieved a huge goal and it felt great. And the clients came.

They came with there issues, big and small, chronic pain, life threatening disease, workaholics, alcoholics, and a wide range of people feeling very dissatisfied with there lives. My Lifestyle management diploma was now not enough, so I went back to school. During the first year of my daughters life, with the help of a nanny and supportive husband, I studied to become a Life Coach in between clients. Coaching was the key. Breaking through and seeing people begin to embrace self care the way I had fundamentally embraced 15 years prior.

Unexpectedly, I began to see myself and my life from a deeper perspective. Loving who I really was, and standing up inside myself to embrace the courage to strive bigger, to celebrate my successes, and to hold myself accountable for the life I was living. I began to see my life's passion fulfilled both my personal needs, but also those who I worked to support. I now understood the fuel for this crazy obsession I had and I embraced it whole heartedly, sharing all of me to help others grow too.

Hiring a nutritionist at Serenity Valley was a pivotal point in my eating career. I was embarrassed to share what I ate - especially because I knew better. Well, actually I thought my diet was fairly good, until I began to learn what the meaning of healthy was. I decided I'd learn to cook, mostly with the intent to cook healthy, and experiment with health foods until I found ones that my family and I wound enjoy. (I'm still working on this one...)

As time went on, my business grew, and pressures to be a great mom, wife, and teacher began to wear on me. Self care dropped on the list. Eventually, it caught up to me. We fell into a very stressful time, where money, family, and legal issues boiled over. Comfort foods I grew up on became common. Sugar, coffee, late night eating, or sometimes too stressed to eat at all, where normal. Over the years, I had always embraced movement, breathing, coaching and therapy as self care, but good nutrition was not really a big part of it. Eating what you love was my view of self care, especially in stressful times. And for what ever reason, my cooking goals turned to baking.

Soon I developed hives. They just wouldn't go away no matter what I tried. I had been investigating some health symptoms like acne, fatigue, weight gain, and irritability for at least a year before my hives began, and experimented with a few elimination diets to see if things would improve. I knew there was a problem with hormones and a mineral deficiency, but that was common in my family and there where no real cause for concern from my doctors perspective. When the hives developed, I had no choice but to get to the bottom of it.

It's really amazing what you can accomplish when your itchy all the time. What your willing to do to feel better doesn't seem to have limits... I went to doctors, naturopaths, Chinese medicine men, allergists, an endocrinologist, skin specialist, a homeopath, and even a few pshycic's to figure out what was really going on. I continued to experiment with detox's, medications, and supplements, with periods of remission followed by a full flair up again.

I became obsessed and read everything I could regarding nutrition and hormones. I soon learned there was a certain connection between stress, fatigue, hives and all my other symptoms I had been experiencing over the past few years... my nutrition. (even though I searched for alternative answers...)

Through my latest BioSignature certification, I've learned that my hormone imbalances and hives are a result of years of stress, malnutrition, and poor digestion. A part of me feels like I'm starting from scratch, studying nutrition, hormones and the systems of the body again, on a forensics level. And yet another part realizes it's taken me 25 years to change my diet to one for self care, support and love. A big step in anyone's process of personal growth.

If you are trying to make changes in your diet, know that it's a process. There is a strong emotional connection we all have to food, that's rooted in our childhood, and our choices are often unconscious.

If your serious about making a change, consider the following...

First, decide you will change your diet for good (not for a few months).
Next, know that you have control over everything you put in your mouth.
Third, get educated. Find a resource for nutrition information, and vow to take in new info at least once a week.
And finally, Learn to cook. Trying new things (even just once a week), can make big changes over the long run.

And remember, eating well is one of the most important ways of nourishing your body. Cooking good food is an act of both self care, and an offering for those you love. We all have times where eating what we should isn't always possible, but putting in a little effort consistently will reap rewards. And the best part is, you'll be able to look back over the years and realize just how far you have come on this journey.

For more information on how to get started on improving your digestion, nutrition, fitness or hormone balance visit

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