We grow through what we go through.

It seems like everywhere I turn on social media and in-person these days, I keep seeing examples of how our pain, challenges, and life’s adversity can change us at the very root of who we are.

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“We grow through, what we go through.” (unknown)

These words, these seven everyday words, said in such a way means so very much, and hold such a strong message. They are a simple truth.

When I look back over the last few years, I realize more and more it was those hardships, the times of struggle, pain, and difficulty that pushed me to my limits and beyond. That is where growth happens. It was during those times where I experienced the biggest changes or shifts in perspective and my outlook on what it is to live this thing call life.

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I don’t know about you, but my new year begins in September. Maybe it’s from the conditioning of growing up and starting a new school year in September. As I write this and look back to September 2014 to September 2015, I’m not the same person. I was angry, in pain and exhausted both physically and emotionally. Looking in the mirror hurt as much as the tear in my hip and bulged disc in my back. My acne covered face, left me feeling ashamed and embarrassed to the point I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like a freak of nature. I was depressed, and hurting in every way possible. I wasn’t sleeping. I was cranky and sad all the time, and really, just completely worn out. I hated myself. I was no fun.

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Those 12 months were, without a doubt, the toughest time of my life. I was looking everywhere externally for relief from the pain in my hip and back and the pain I felt when I looked in the mirror. I went from doctor to doctor, looking for remedies while I threw handfuls of Advil in my mouth. I was trying everything to “fix” my skin from diet changes to Chinese acupuncture and herbal remedies to strong antibiotics. What I wasn’t doing was listening to my body, and I wasn’t paying attention to myself talk. I just kept beating myself up time and time again. Of course, it was my fault for having OA, my fault for the torn hip and sore back. I was ugly and hated myself more and more with every new outbreak of acne.

Nearly eight months had passed; I had spent that time spiraling deeper into a state of self-hate. It was around this time I stumbled across the body image movement; this was the wake-up call I needed. Ever so slowly I began to grasp the connection between our self-image, self-talk and self-esteem and our overall health. How we think, feel and talk to ourselves directly affects how our bodies and mind thrive, or how they wither and decay. More and more pictures were popping up on social media about self-love. You know pictures like the one below, they were everywhere in my news feeds. I had even come across an article posted by Eat To Perform, were Paul Nobles Jr. said, “You have to strip down in front of a mirror and have a good cry if necessary…You can’t hate yourself thin.” Hmm, you can’t hate yourself thin? You can’t hate yourself happy, pretty, skinny? Well, Paul was right. I know, I tried that approach for 30 years! You can’t hate yourself and expect to have success, whatever success means to you. What you can do, is hate yourself into a broken, depressed and unhappy state of mind and body.

I starting paying more attention to how I talked to myself and that was when things began to click. That emotional pain I’d been caring around was the source of so much physical pain. You may recall, that little self-loathing body-hating monkey on my back? That monkey was a weight on my shoulders, constantly reaffirming the self-hatred, shame, and worthlessness I felt and he had to go! The only way to get him off my back was through the pain. I couldn’t hate him away; I had to look within and understand why he had been hanging around all these years. I had to learn to love myself as I am right now, not conditionally when I lost x number of pounds or was size x, and not when the acne went away. It was only then when I was able to begin love myself, would his grip loosen enough to let go.

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The monkey still hangs around my ankles these days, but I don’t feel his weight on my back anymore and that, is a relief. Eventually, he’ll be gone for good.

So I wonder, how has the last year changed you? What are those things you say to yourself? Is there love and compassion when looking in the mirror or when you make a mistake? I hope so, but if there isn’t, know you aren’t alone, but you can start to change the conversation with time and practice.



Learning to let go, dangling by a rope.

In September, my department at work had a team-building event where we went tree top trekking. There was some nervous energy in the group, as this is not a typical activity for a group of IT professionals. We were all fitted with a harness and helmet and made our way to the introduction course. We learned how to clip and out as well as had to practice a safety fall. After that, we were on our way through the treetop obstacles.

The courses were made up of different types of “games” as they referred to them. They had cable and plank bridges, swinging logs, cargo nets and single track cables we climbed and slid across like ninjas. Ok, so maybe some of us weren’t that graceful but we were in our minds. I was nervous at times, especially after looking down and realizing the only thing under my feet was a half inch thick cable. Or when I was walking along suspended log bridges with logs that swung further apart as I stretched my leg out in front of me reaching for the next step. I had a few moments where I thought “what the heck am I doing up here!?” My coworkers reminded me that I was an Ironman. Somehow in their minds that meant I should be fearless when it comes to being thirty to forty feet in the air among the leaves in the trees held in place by a harness and a couple clips. I reminded them that swimming bike and running all happen to take place on the ground but they weren’t buying it.

I lost sight of the group ahead of me; I knew there were people behind me, but I didn’t want to slow down so kept pushing forward. I had to as there was no other way down from the obstacles. I made my way to the first zip line, clipped myself and got set. I was pretty nervous to let take my feet off the platform. It took me a few tries, but I finally sat in the harness and off I went.

We were out there for about three hours, climbing, crawling and swinging through the trees like Ewoks. As we advanced, the games were becoming more and more challenging preparing us for the next one. The zip lines were getting higher and longer; some lines stretching so far off into the distance you couldn’t see platform through the trees ahead. There was a group of us making our way through the final course. My colleague Andy and I were standing on a platform getting ready to zip into unknown, and it was then that it occurred to me how this was activity was all about “letting go”.

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When you are zip lining, there are aspects in which you have control and those in which you don’t. You have control over how you clip in, and how you stop and steer. But the best part, is the part where you have zero control when you are sailing along the wire, enjoying the ride.

Learning to let go of what you can’t control isn’t easy but life gives us all sorts of opportunities to keep trying. At IMMT they reminded the athletes that their attitude was the only thing they had control over that day. If we lived by that on a daily basis, how different would our experience be?

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Walking the Walk

I love talking-the-talk and can stand up here on my soapbox and say whatever’s on my mind and go on and on about how my “mindset” is changing and that’s great. But unless I start putting action behind my words, then what’s the point? How am I motivating anyone, let alone myself, if I don’t put my money where my mouth is and get down to work? Sure it’s my blog, and I can say what I want, but that’s not the point of this, not the point of this post, this site, this life.

During the past two months, my body slapped me sober with a flare up. Yes, it’s nasty Osteoarthritis letting me know that some things need to change. This experience has given me a better understanding of what this disease is all about and how it affects me and as they say “shit just got real.” Thank you Martin Lawrence!

I can sit around feeling sorry for myself, or I can pick myself up, dust myself off and get down to bid’ness and start doing something to help myself.

So, again, more words, but what’s changing you ask? Well, for starters, my diet. The Arthritis Society has a website with lots of useful information and that along with some other random Google searches I decided to modify my diet accordingly. Ok, great, what does that even mean? Well, it means I’ll be dining on more colourful fruits like raspberries, blueberries and pineapple. Vegetables such as peppers, kale, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and broccoli and don’t forget spices like cinnamon, turmeric and cumin. I took a bunch of what I just mentioned, chucked it in my blender and drank it the other day and the results were, well they were interesting to say the least. I’ll keep tweaking the ratio’s to find a combination that’s a bit more palatable.

I’m moving away from gluten again; it was fun while it lasted, but we just aren’t meant to be together. Going “gluten free” means using alternative flours like almond meal, coconut flour, tapioca and grains like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat. Yes, buckwheat is not wheat, nor a grain, it’s actually a seed.

This list isn’t the whole list, but what it doesn’t include is food that wreaks havoc on my system by causing more and more inflammation. I love my steak topped with blue cheese, but this along with chicken and pork will take a back seat on my plate, you know for rare occasions (LOL I couldn’t resist). Cutting back on the meat leaves more room for fish, shellfish, eggs, beans and tofu. This isn’t Paleo or some other random “diet”. This isn’t about right and wrong food, it’s about having what’s best for me and my body.

I’m still unlearning all the bad nutrition practices I acquired over my lifetime; this is a big part of Eat To Perform. ETP is NOT another “diet” this program is about learning how to eat properly. I honestly can’t say I have been “doing ETP” up to this point. Doing ETP means following the nutritionist’s recommendations for my daily Calories based on my activity levels. It’s a mindset change, and it requires patience, persistence and some faith in the process. It boils down to the number of calories made up of X number of Carbs, Protein and Fat per day. For me, if it’s a workout day, then my Carbs will be a little higher than if it isn’t. I read their posts and articles and it makes a difference in my understanding of how our bodies process the fuel we give and when it uses the most. They also have a private Facebook group and have been spending a little bit more time in the forums lately, trying to keep me accountable and active in the community. It makes a difference when you interact with like-minded folk.

Today's lunch brought to you by ETP!   This was a fraction of my marros today (55g Carbs, 31 g Protein, 6g Fat).
Today’s lunch brought to you by ETP! This was a fraction of my macros today (55g Carbs, 31 g Protein, 6g Fat).
Gluten free, ended up being Vegan after all...Blueberry Banana Almond Flour Muffins.
Gluten free, ended up being Vegan after all…Blueberry Banana Almond Flour Muffins.

As they say, you got to start somewhere, and this is my starting point. I’m still embracing the fight, doing this because I love my body and want to help it be as healthy as possible. It’s going to take baby steps for now as I work to shed the weight and get my knee and the rest of me in better shape.

Today’s recipes are courtesy of the Minimalist Baker and All Recipes



Embracing The Fight

Yesterday morning as I was getting dressed, struggling to find something “comfortable”, I was thinking to myself, why do I have to “fight this fight”? I’m tired of battling the excess weight, and maybe even more so, tired of talking about it. Then I saw this post from ETP and laughed out loud. I commented on it telling Paul Nobles Jr. to get out of my head, but his timing couldn’t have been better.

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“Fight the fight,” what does this even mean? To me, I’m learning that this is what life is about, “the fight” is working for your goals, it’s your mission, it’s whatever is worth fighting for, to you. Some days, the fight is just putting your head down and getting through the day. Other times, it’s about doing what it takes to make your dreams a reality.

Yesterday, I had a chat with a dear friend of mine. I love our talks as I always hang up feeling inspired in one way or another and yesterday was no different. We were discussing this concept of “fighting the fight” and it reminded me of this quote “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” What we achieve in life, is based on the amount of fight we want to put into the situation. There are so many obstacles and distractions in life that can pull us away from our goals if we aren’t careful. Whether it’s finding a new job, going back to school, starting a business or completing a race or dealing with an illness, everything in life requires us to “fight the fight”.

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I had a similar conversation with someone else this week, and we were discussing how maybe sometimes in life you HAVE to FEEL the sting of discomfort get to the next place. Is it feeling that struggle, is that what pushes you to the next place? Maybe it’s that uncomfortable feeling that’s the catalyst to you move forward. As they say, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, if you want to see change.

Maybe life would be a little easier, maybe we would feel a little less resistance if instead of fighting the fight, we embraced the fight and gave it all we got. What are you fighing for?

Embracing the fight, might as well match my toes to the tape!
Embracing the fight, might as well match my toes to the tape!



Stoking the Fire

I took to the Eat to Perform forums this week and wrote a post about being “Physically Injured, Mentally Broken”. I’ll save you the gory details, but surprise, surprise, I had a little meltdown. I was ranting and raving about my fears. It was the fear the unknown, the fear of failure, and the fear of staying the same. How was I supposed to “trust the process”? How? I was asking, seriously. I had to get these feelings out of my system, and that post did just that as it gave me the wake-up call I needed.

I have been known to not stop and truly appreciate all the things I have accomplished in the past few years. Not doing so, I have robbed myself of a lot of joy and pride that you get from crossing the finish line. There is so much that goes into training for any event, regardless the distance. You need a lot of dedication, make a lot of sacrifices, spend your mornings and nights training, and everything in between.

monkeymemeI could have slapped myself in the forehead and honestly felt a little silly afterward, I did the freaking IRONMAN! I CAN DO ANYTHING! When you realize, truly realize that you are capable of anything, it’s like a lightbulb goes off in your head. It feels like a burden has been lifted. Maybe that mean little monkey on my back has lost more of its grip.

Yesterday I had an overwhelming sense of calm and at the same time, excitement. I feel like that post relit the fire inside, I feel empowered, and I feel ready to tackle this new adventure. I’m finally letting go of the old, negative, limiting beliefs that have held my body hostage. Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, or it will happen fast but I know I can do this, I want to do this. I know I am capable of doing the work, it’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s going to be worth it!

So the next time you are feeling down or frustrated with where you are at, give your head a shake. Spend five minutes and think about everything you have already achieved! Call upon those experiences and remember how awesome you are!

What a reminder! As the Ironman motto goes...Anything is possible!
What a reminder! As the Ironman motto goes…Anything is possible!



Taking a fresh look in the mirror

Not quite two weeks ago, I went for an MRI. With that I got a unique opportunity to see my body in ways I could have only imagined. I had always wondered what I looked like under the skin. I didn’t know what I was looking at in terms of the injury, but as I scrolled through the various images, there was one thing I knew what it was when I saw it. There was no covering up with a jacket or adding an accessory to distract the eye from what I saw. Seeing those images I felt disgusted and ashamed, I felt embarrassed when I realized I wasn’t the only person that would be seeing me, all of me. All the more fuel to add to that body loathing fire that has been smoldering for as long as I can remember.

I have memories of feeling ashamed of my body from the time I was a little girl. I remember the family physician telling my mother I needed to lose 10 pounds before I started kindergarten, that’s right, I wasn’t even five years old. I remember feeling ashamed and guilty when my grandmother would see me and say “too fat.” I could go on and on with different memories of how I felt ashamed and hated myself because “I was fat”. These memories formed the basis of my self-talk and have been a monkey on my back for as long as I can remember.

I’m nearing 35, and I am tired. I’m tired of belittling myself for still being fat, not looking like the women in magazines and movies, and for feeling inadequate and unattractive. I’m tired of not loving myself, my whole self. It’s time for me to take a different look in the mirror.

So last week on my country road commute, besides finally waving the white flag, something else happened that I wasn’t ready to share at the time. No, I didn’t hit deer or anything like that, I had TWO epiphanies that day. As it said, it was a great drive, and my mind has been spinning since then. The second realization I had was about body image, or what I should I say is the lackluster relationship I’ve had with my body. I realized how I’ve been treating myself, wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

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Thankfully, I recently stumbled across this website, http://bodyimagemovement.com.au/. I think it appeared in my Facebook feed, and it showed up just at the right time! I’ve started reading the bodying loving guide, and I ordered her book. If any of this resonates with you, you are not alone. I urge you to watch the trailer for Taryn’s documentary to help spread her message about embracing our bodies and loving them just the way the are!

20150518_092429 So in the spirit of embracing my body, all of it as it is today. I am doing something that scares the crap out of me. I’m going to share a picture I snapped while away on vacation a few weeks ago. The very thought of putting up this photo here makes my pulse quicken, and I can feel the anxiety creeping in. But isn’t that all the more reason to do it?

Changing how I feel about my body isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s starting. This is the hard work, the dirty work, the scary work I have been avoiding over the years. The time has come to quiet that mean little voice in my head, to take the control back, and give my body the love and appreciation it deserves.



Waving the White Flag

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” – Eckhart Toile

This quote appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, and the more I go back to it, the more sense it makes. It isn’t an easy frame of mind to achieve, at least for me it hasn’t been. I’ve been struggling and battling with my “present situation” for the past nine months. Continuously fighting against my body and what it’s trying to tell me. Ignoring the signs, thinking I can still do what I use to, I have been constantly looking for activities to occupy my thoughts. I’ve been spending so much time and energy fighting with not only myself, my husband, friends and Dr’s, instead of relaxing, letting go, and accepting these injuries for what they are. They are a message from my body, and if I stop and listen, I will hear it screaming at me for a rest.

I’ve been a forcing my body to do things it isn’t ready for nor able to do right now. Not realizing, it’s giving me the opportunity to focus on other important things, the hard things that I have been neglecting. It’s taken some time to “hear” what my body has been trying to tell me, but something clicked today. I’m tapping out, calling “uncle,” I’m waving the white flag! I’m not giving up or giving in. I’m accepting the situation for what it is and what it means and giving myself the time to work on other parts of me while I go through this process. This is the heavy stuff, the deep stuff, the scary stuff that no one wants to look at and face. It’s the stuff that truly matters. It’s not the dress size, not the amount of weight I can lift, or the kilometers I can swim, bike or run. It’s the things I need to take care of now so that I can rebuild myself inside and out!

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A sense of belonging

I think this is something we are all looking for in different ways, at different times in our lives. I remember struggling to know where I “fit in” as I saw and felt relationships with my friends change as they were welcoming children into their lives. Life was changing for them in a big way, and our paths were no longer running in parallel. The gap was growing wider with each new birth announcement. While I shared in their excitement, I wasn’t sure what was next for me, I wasn’t sure where I belonged as I didn’t fit into their “parents” club.

Luckily it wasn’t too long before I started running and shortly after that, joined my Triathlon team. Joining the IronCancucks was life changing, on so many levels as I met so many different people all with similar interests, and I was in heaven! Friendships were made and strengthened as a fairly large group of us were working together toward our common goal of finishing a half-Ironman and Ironman race the next year. We had support from our coaches, mentors, and other teammates as they joined us in training, pushing us to dig deep and get the work done. We all leaned on each other for physical, mental and emotional support, and it was amazing being among such dedicated, enthusiastic people. We were exercising so along with getting a runner’s high; it was exciting and uplifting being a part of this team as we all fed off each other’s energy.

Last night, after posting a note to the Eat To Perform Facebook group, it hit me, I realized how much I ‘ve been missing that sense of belonging. While I’ll always been an IronCanuck in my heart, right now, I’m not actively in the Tri Scene. I’m not out there training every day and racing, and I miss it more than I thought I would. But, again, luckily for me I have my ETP family. I felt that sense of belonging last night after I decided to share a little of my day. It was a simple reply from one of the coaches that did it. ETP is another fantastic group of people working hard to achieve their dreams, and I’m one of them! Again, specifics differ among all of us, but that common thread is there that unites us all.

I realized something else last night with this sense of belonging that I now feel. If I’m part of this team, then I owe to not only myself, but to everyone else in the group to give 110% and work the program. I feel again, that same sense of determination I had when I was in the midst of Tri training for the past three years. Being a part of this group makes me feel accountable, and it makes me want to do the work because I feel like I belong.

What gives you that sense of belonging?

One of the best part's of being on a team, matching race kits!
One of the best part’s of being on a team, matching race kits!



It’s YOUR life, who’s driving?

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been experiencing, as Oprah called them “AH HA” moments. Well, I had another one today and after giving it more thought this evening it makes even more sense to me.

I had this “AH HA” moment today one my way to work. I decided to take a different route to work today; maybe it was the rain falling, the big drops running down the windshield. Maybe it was the scenic route along the backroads through Oakville and Milton that gave me the perspective and time to reflect. Maybe it was was my friend’s comment on yesterday’s post. She said, in order to get where we want to go in life, we have to get out of our comfort zone, how right she is!

Throughout our lives, we might seat in a couple different seats. We can either be sitting in the passenger seat being driving around, following someone else’s agenda or we can be sitting in the drivers’ seat with our feet on the pedals calling the shots. Worst case, you’re stuck the backseat, and you can’t even change the radio station. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live my life sitting in the passenger seat, let alone the backseat! If life isn’t in the direction you had thought or hoped, the it’s time you grab the wheel and take control.

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I recently lost my grandmother, her story is like many others of her generation, but I realize now what an inspiration she was and how much we had in common even with a language barrier. As my dad says, “She was a pistol.” A woman not more than five feet tall, who only spoke Italian, convinced my grandfather to sell their stake in the little farm to start a new life in Canada. They packed what little they had and together with their three young children they boarded a ship to steam across the Atlantic in search of a better life.

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How amazing! How inspiring! I mention her because with her blood in my veins, (ok and her stubbornness, yes I got this from her too) I have to take the reigns and make my dreams come true. Looking back at what she did, I realize there is nothing I can do in my lifetime that would be anywhere near as frightening as that. She grabbed the wheel, stepped on the gas, and that is something I admire her for! I should probably also mention, she never had her drivers’ license…so what’s your excuse? 😉



With a new age comes a new mindset

I feel like so much has happened since the start of the year, and when I look at the calendar it already reads April 7, 2015. In less than three months, it will be my thirty-fifth birthday. I’m a big fan of birthdays, especially my own, but I do truly believe in celebrating everyone’s birthday!

While this milestone birthday is creeping up on me, I feel both a sense of calm and excitement coming over me. I have been having a lot of realizations and mindset shifts over the past few weeks and months. There have been small “A HA” moments while others have been large-scale changes in how I see the world and how I see myself. While some days were tough, those tough days have been worth it as I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. When I say tough days, I mean the days I struggled to stay positive and look at the bigger picture. Those were the days where I let the pain, the fear, and the anxiety to take over.

I remember the drive and determination I felt leading up to my thirtieth and while that too was a pivotal time, these last few months have been even more so! I was about to say, “finally I realize…” but I stopped myself. All that matters is that I’ve had the mindset shifts now; it wouldn’t have been the same had it happened at another time in my life. So without negative judgment, I’m glad I’m where I am at this time in my life and grateful for the experiences I have up to this point. I’m excited for what’s to come, where I’ll go, and the things I’ll do next!

As I look back over the last three months, I truly feel this year, turning thirty-five is a game changer for me. While my birthday is still weeks or months away, it’s the lead-up and anticipation that I love as much as the day itself. With that, I got myself an early birthday present to remind myself that everything happens for a reason, and things happen when they are meant to. tyjYou still have to work for what you want, but when things are meant to be, they will happen and not a moment before.

Every birthday gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past as well as a chance to look forward to what’s et to come. What life experiences are you grateful for or what are you looking forward to with your next birthday?