A Challenge for You ~ Dream a Little Today

Good Morning! I have a challenge for you today. It’s about dreaming and aspiring.

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I want you to write absolutely everything you dream, want and hope for your children. If you don’t have kids, pick someone you love a ridiculous amount. If you could wish for success in every facet of their lives, what would that look like?

Break it down into the core needs of every person. Physical, emotional and spiritual.

What would you want your kids to know as they embark into a life of independence?

What I want for my kids:

Physical: To stay active in body which also filters into the spirit. To take care of themselves out of respect and love for who they are as amazing people. To push outside of their comfort zone a little each day, to the best of their abilities. To never fear the uncomfortable; but rather embrace it so they can get stronger. To run because they have legs that allows them to. To fully experience the strength of the human body if you just challenge it. I hope they enjoy their rest days too, balance is key.

Emotional: I want my kids to truly understand their worth so they will only ever accept respect from others. I know they are raised with a great value system and place importance on how they treat others. So I wish that they not only accept the same in return but expect it (because they lead by example). And further to that, I hope they will put up boundaries where they need to or let go of friendships/relationships that don’t align with who they are as people. You can let go of people and still be respectful. I hope they have high self-efficacy…that core belief in their abilities to reach any goal they set their mind to. I hope their self-esteem is ridiculously high; yet they stay humble and modest. I dream for their happiness. The kind of happiness that they exude in every action and reaction. That they will have an authentic positive energy that is infectious to others.

Spiritual: I hope my kids will always look to God for their strength and understand that they are a very tiny speck in this universe. They have been given one life to live so do so with purpose and direction. I hope they take time to be grateful daily for every blessing in their lives and pay it forward.

So what do you dream for those you love? Write it down now and then before reading further, come back to this post. I’m patient I’ll wait 😉  (insert elevator music here…actually I’ll go find a song)

 


Now here’s your last challenge: After you write it all out, read it again but reframe it within your mind…What if these are also the hopes and dreams for yourself? Have you quit dreaming for yourself too? I hope not.

We put so much of our hearts and souls into those we love; and we lose ourselves within dreaming for others.

It’s not only OK to dream for yourself (it’s not selfish), it’s necessary.

How do we expect our children/loved ones to learn from us if we have checked out of life? One foot in front of the other…day after day. Settling for comfort zones, the uninspired, the average.

If your kids approached you and said “I’m really looking forward to a life of mediocrity where everyday is like ground hogs day. I will live in complacency. I will fear challenge. Maybe I’ll live with you forever because it sure is comfy here and you have a well-stocked fridge.”   Would that be Ok with you? Of course not…so don’t settle for that in YOUR life too.

Read those dreams daily. Take action for not only those you love, but for yourself too. Because you are ridiculously amazing and worthy of an amazing life rich in purpose and happiness.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

 

11 Years at Goal ~ Finding Purpose within Pain

Today is the 11 year anniversary of the day I reached my goal weight.  Going into year 11, I’ve moved away from placing importance on what the scale says. In fact 3 years ago, I made a conscious decision to put my scale away and take it out once a month. I record the weight in a log, and in looking back at it, I can see my life is pretty predictable when it comes to weight.

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It follows the ebbs and flows of my life. Up at Christmas and summer holidays and down in the spring and fall as I run in the sun. By seeing that pattern and knowing that I will always live an active lifestyle fuelled by nutrient rich foods, it has allowed me not to worry so much about that 10 pound fluctuation.

This year, more than any other year, has brought with it a whole lot of change in my life. I have fulfilled a decade old promise to myself that I would one day be a personal trainer/life coach. I started my Personal Trainer job in February of this year and I absolutely love it. I wake up excited to go to work everyday and that’s ridiculously amazing.  Through my experiences losing the weight and maintaining, I believed I could make a significant impact in the lives of others with similar struggles. I want to motivate others to be the best version of themselves and support them to actualize their full potential. To dig deep to their core drivers (motivators) so they can truly love themselves as they make positive life changes.

Little did I know when I started my job, that as I was driven to aid others in healing…they actually healed me and continue to do so every single day. I am so inspired by their drive, hard-work, and dedication. My heart is so full witnessing their passion to just be better in every aspect of their lives…physically, emotionally, spiritually. Great stuff!

I’m about to get very real in this post, because as much as I highly enjoy the uplifting…sometimes life just doesn’t always go the way you want it to. So pour a glass of vino or click the little X thingy to close the tab if you aren’t into reading a very real book-post. 😉

This year also happens to be the most painful year of my life as I navigate through the murky waters of divorce. I read once the stress level of a divorce is comparable to a death. I have never lived a more painful truth. Like most things in life, you can’t possibly understand the ramifications of major life events unless you go through it. You can empathize and be compassionate, but unless you walk in those shoes, well….you can’t possibly know what it feels like.

I was worried that I would fall into old destructive patterns as I coped daily with stressful changes, but I’ve found solace and drive within purpose, direction, and focus. The key has been to remind myself daily of my goals, dreams, and aspirations and then attaching tangible action with a timeline which aligns with those goals. I have poured every ounce of the pain within adversity into helping others move forward within their own struggles in a positive way. And I’ve learned to be kind to myself as I struggle with my identity.

I believe there is power through genuine sharing within vulnerability so that another going through similar struggles does not feel alone. It brings about authentic community which we have sadly lost in this digital age. I have learned there can be uplifting positive patches even through the darkest days. There are many facets of my life I can’t change right now, but I can certainly change how I perceive it.

I’ve struggled with my identity this year because for 23 years I lived as a half of an entity.  I can choose to look at it now as a single with a missing piece, an alone…but I choose to see it as a new whole. I focus on the present and future and while I respect the life I can see in my rear view mirror; it is not healthy to focus my identity there.

So, going into year 11…here’s some things I learned this year.

You see we attach our identity to our habits. Some positive, but a whole lot of negative which then places self-induced road blocks to our success.

For example; you may want to run a marathon one day, but you can’t possibly achieve that dream if you place your identity on the belief you are not a runner. You become a runner by habitually running. It’s as simple as that. If you want to change your identity, change your habits. It’s hard at first, because of that identity thingy…but stick with it. They say it takes 21 days to create a habit; give yourself the respect you deserve, because you truly can do anything for 21 days if you believe you can.

I don’t know what my future holds, but I do know I’m moving forward with purpose. I have never felt such strength in who I am as a person than I do right now.  I let go of caring what others think of me.  I may not be your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I’m not awesome tea…just not your cup Oh tea. 😉 Letting go of other’s expectations and judgements has truly fuelled me to be very authentic, open, honest, and has allowed me to find strength within vulnerability.

We have one life my friends, we can choose to wallow in our past hurt, or we can focus on the right now and take action everyday to create our best future. We have the power to do that.

Take time every day to be a little kinder. Give without expectation of anything in return. A grateful heart is rooted in generosity of spirit.

Soak up the knowledge freely given by others around you.

Read.

Rest.

Run.

Let go of fear of the unknown and see it as an adventure.

Challenge yourself to be better.

Laugh until your stomach hurts.

Invest time with those who love you.

Every time you make a choice, ask yourself…does this align with my dreams and goals? If not, let it go.

Dream big.

And most importantly, take action.

Dreams are just dreams without action.

Every anniversary year, I usually step from behind my camera and get a photo taken to signify the year. This year I’m using a photo that brings about a whole lot of significant emotions.

My first Christmas as a new me. Christmas 2015: I was on my way to see my family Christmas Day when my car broke down an hour from home. I had never spent a Christmas evening without my kids, and as I sat in my broken-down car waiting for AMA I started laughing rather than crying. I truly couldn’t believe this was my life at that moment, like I was living a bad dream. I needed to deal with this situation on my own…and by my own I mean AMA. But still…totally did it myself. 😉 I texted my sister updates as I sat beside a very tired and hungover tow-truck driver as he sped down the highway mock-chicken with my car on his deck. His speedometer was tapped out all the way to the fast side. lol A trip that ordinarily would have taken over an hour, took 40 minutes.  I was literally shaking when I got to my sisters and she hugged me, gave me a glass of wine, and presented me with a matching onesie. I excused myself to the guest room and cried like a baby, not out of sadness but out of relief that I was going to be OK moving forward on my own because I sure have a great loving support system.

Christine 11 years

Thank you to my friends and family (and once-upon-a-time strangers who are now new friends) for supporting and encouraging me. I am so thankful for you and because of your kindness and compassion, I will remember to always pay it forward.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

 

Unravelling Perfection

I am an all or nothing person. Either I want to do it perfectly, or not at all.  I am learning to let go of the self-imposed pressure to be the sort of woman I believe I “should” be. The ideal I set for myself comes from many factors, many of which are moulded from my childhood, relationships, life experiences, and society.

I had a crazy idea the other day, what if I just stopped the quest for what I “should” be…and just be.  That isn’t to say I don’t want to grow as a person, quite the opposite, but rather to listen to my intuition and authentic voice and not outside influences. We all have an authentic voice we can choose to either honour or ignore.

As I enter 2016 I choose to work on listening and acting on my authentic voice within.

To grow as a person and to support others as they grow too.

To find me again. To allow others to be exactly who they are.

To be kind and accept kindness.

To let go and trust myself.

To be imperfectly perfect.

To embrace failure within my life, and to not only learn from it but to grow within it.

To stop running from painful experiences.

To allow myself to unravel and rebuild who I know I am as a person.

Here’s to rebuilding.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

 

Why I clicked “Unfollow” on fitness accounts while eating chocolate

I often have to check myself on my thoughts about my body. When I think about where I’ve come from: an unhealthy and sad version of the woman I am today, I am proud. I realize that the feeling of pride comes from focussing on the state of my emotions, physical health, and confidence level when I was obese, and not the aesthetic aspect of what 242 “looked” like.

Many of us women tend to focus on what we look like rather than how we feel. When the focus is put on physical labels, those labels transfer to feelings. Animated almost cartoon-like terms are put on the areas we want to change: muffin Top, thunder thighs, chunky monkey, jelly belly, spare tire. And we obsess about those areas and compare our bodies to other women. It becomes a competition. We have a self-deprecating remark on reserve for a compliment thrown our way. One day I will love my arms, my legs, my stomach if I just keep up the cardio, weights, and eat loads of salad (insert method)…oh yes, one day I will be happy with my body.

One day.

How about today? Can we love our bodies and all the things we can physically do today?

I also realized I felt the most alive in those first few weeks of my journey when I found a love for being active, fuelled my body with foods packed with nutrients and vitamins, and finally took care of myself with respect and love. That feeling of euphoria had nothing to do with what I weighed, or what size of clothing I wore. For the first time in my adult life, I found pride within my progress. Progress, not perfection.

And so today, I have to remind myself this lifelong journey to feel alive and vibrant comes from taking care of myself the way the human body was meant to be cared for. With heart healthy activity, vibrant coloured natural foods full of nutrients, and feeding the soul with positivity and love. I can change the way I view my body just by adjusting those factors and focussing on health vs. appearance.

Having lost 90+ pounds, I will always have bigger thighs than if I was never obese. That’s a fact. Having extra skin or fat on my thigh area does not attribute to being unhealthy. These legs travel me wherever I want to go. To not appreciate the gift of health is disrespectful; especially to those who have limited or no mobility.

There is a shame feeling when I type “I love my body as is”. Why? Body shaming is so prevalent in our society that the norm is self-deprecation. There wouldn’t be a market for “get thin quick” diets, or “lose fat in 10 days!” ads if we were content with our body.

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I love learning more about fitness and nutrition. The science of fitness is interesting to me, and so I followed a bunch of fitness-focussed accounts on Instagram. Last night as I was enjoying a full-bodied glass of red wine and a couple of squares of dark chocolate with sea salt, I started browsing my Instagram feed. Images of fit bodies (heads cut off/focus on chiselled body parts), quotes like “real women drop it like a squat”, and low-calorie meals flooded my feed. I instantly felt shameful about my glass of red and my dark chocolate. So I clicked unfollow on every stranger fitness-based account that brought up body-shaming feelings for me (I should add I enjoy seeing my friend’s fitness progress, I love their hearts and I’m invested in their hard work).

After removing the accounts, I had to analyze why seeing all those photos made me feel bad about myself. I asked myself this: Do I want to constrict calories to a level where I’m not happy? No! I don’t want to feel hungry. I crave balance not restriction. Do I aspire to be a size 2/4? No, because that’s not my personal goal.

Hey, it’s none of my business what you eat, your personal goals, and how often you workout or don’t workout. Go for it girl! However, no one will dictate to me what my body should look by their standard of a “real woman”. We are all real women! ha!

There’s just as much “skinny” shaming as there is “fat” shaming. My point is why shame? Why focus on the physical? Why do we even have an opinion about another woman’s body? Seriously, none of my business. I want to get to know another women for her heart, her sense of humour, her personality. I really don’t care how many calories a day she eats or what she weighs.

So love your body for all you are physically capable of doing. Embrace and celebrate your imperfections because that’s what makes you unique. Feel pride from treating yourself with respect and self-love.

Above all else, let’s not just love ourselves, but love others through action: lifting one another up with encouragement and support. No jealousy or envy. There is no room for that in living an authentic life full of positivity.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

 

 

The Best Era of Our Lives

I’ve been thinking about how to live in gratitude lately, and I’ve changed how I think about it.

Living in gratitude has been this elusive state I’ve tried to live within, but there’s always something that throws me off and I think
“well I can’t be grateful for this  ___insert hard life stuff here___
Little by little over time I realize I’m not living with a grateful heart at all.

Today, I was watching Krysta Scoggins’ music video for “I Miss You”…

Watching the story within that video made me realize that we never know in life when we are living in “the best time of our lives” until something changes. Then we look back and think “if only I knew then to enjoy that time and not let it pass so quickly. I wish I had been aware of how blessed I was then”  However, we don’t fully comprehend that until something hard happens and a shift/change in life occurs. Then we start living in a new normal with new blessings to discover down the road. Living in gratitude doesn’t mean life is perfect. Life is shaped by blessings and trials and it’s the trials that make us appreciate the good times.

So I got to thinking, that every time I grumble or moan about some area of my life that’s hard to deal with, instead I’m going to remember that this full-of-life busy home family life, this healthy body that allows me to run and train, this fun chapter of good times with friends…the very stage of my life that is happening Right Now just may be the best era of my life.

If I live in the best era of my life for all of my life, won’t that be something…

From my grateful heart to yours,

Christine

One Size Does Not Fit All

Loosing weight is hard, maintaining weight loss is tough, and exercise is painful; however, living in a body that doesn’t feel like your own is way more painful.  Back when I was at my heaviest, I will never forget the feeling when I looked in the mirror every morning and wondered to myself “how did I let myself get here?”

I was faced with a dilemma, I wanted to lose the weight, but how?  There are so many methods to lose weight: no carbs, low carbs, no fat, high protein, calorie restriction, intense cardio…all of it made my head spin with confusion.  I knew one thing for certain, if I was going to lose close to 100 pounds, I wanted to find the method that would allow me to keep it off for life. By some estimates, more than 80% of people who have lost weight will gain it back and then some within two years.  That statistic was terrifying to me…all that work, sweat and tears for nothing?

I’m an all or nothing personality, so when I decided I was going to tackle my issue, I went all in. I poured over healthy living websites using my slow dial-up connection, it was an exercise in patience I tell ya!  I quickly realized that what worked for one person didn’t mean it would work for me and I needed to get to the root of why I was overweight.

Simply put: I was addicted to food and I lied to myself on a regular basis about my food issues. I used food to deal with my life struggles rather than dealing with the emotion behind them.

Now when you have a food addiction, it’s unlike other addictions because you can’t quit eating like you quit smoking. You have to find a way to eat that is healthy both emotionally and physically.

Through trial and error I found these tips helpful.

  • Eat slowly
  • Listen to your body, it knows when it’s full. Stop eating before it gets completely full.
  • Eat foods that take time to chew, such as salads, veggies, fruits.
  • If it swims, flies, or runs, it’s a leaner protein.
  • Learn correct portion sizes, and then eat your meal from a smaller plate so your portion still fills up the entire plate
  • Eat with intention, don’t eat in front of the TV or Computer
  • Don’t be too restrictive. I live by the 80/20 rule, I’m on point with my eating 80% of the time, the other 20% I save for social occasions and to enjoy the odd treat. To me, a life of balance has room for a little dessert.
  • If I want to eat when I’m not actually hungry, make some tea, drink a big glass of water, go for a walk. Get to the root of why I want to stuff my face when my body is full.
  • Stop lying to myself and stop making excuses for bad behaviour that prevents me from reaching my goals.

After I tackled some of my food issues, I felt confident to face the other part of the equation: Exercise. Oh how I loathed exercise. Here’s what I learned though, you can still loath exercise and fall in love with the euphoria that comes as a result of exercise. I needed to push through each workout and stop the internal hamster wheel of complaints. Just get it done. The addicting part of exercise lives within the results, and results come quickly because our bodies are frickin’ AMAZING machines.

Because I struggled with food, it was important to add exercise in so that I didn’t have to be so stringent with my food choices.  Move more, and I got to eat a ‘lil more of those whole foods which I didn’t WANT to binge on, that realization was a welcome surprise! There were certain foods that were triggers for me, meaning I wanted to eat more and more. For the most part, I cut those out. I never wanted to binge on apples, chicken, yogurt, veggies, whole grain rice, etc. Give me a plate of nachos, and I will body check you if you get in my way. So I realized Nachos probably wasn’t the best choice for me. 😉 Hunger drivers, and hunger suppressers…find which ones those are for YOU. One size does not fit all.

It took over a year to get the weight off my body, and the losing world is really no different than the maintaining world.  I’ve been at my goal weight for 8 years. I’ve learned what worked for me 5 years ago, doesn’t necessarily work for me today. It’s a process of changing things up as the body adapts. I find that’s the fun of it though! It’s a new challenge, and weight loss goals transform into fitness goals.

Recently, I went through a hard time in my personal life and to that end I gained 15 pounds. I again poured over healthy living/fitness websites and was overwhelmed with the information regarding cardio/weight training. Do I add more weights and reduce my cardio? Do I up my cardio? Do I stop running my 5K’s and instead add High Intensity Training for a shorter amount of time? I tried different scenarios to the point that the love I had developed for exercise melted away into a chore and I became a slave to the scale. My identity within my mind was attached to the number that popped up on that stupid scale.

It hit me one day that I used to run my 5K with a smile on my face because it was my time to quiet my mind and release my stress. I had given that up because the research I had done suggested steady state cardio wasn’t as effective as interval training.  But what happened to my love of running? It went away!!!

The key for me in this stage has been to stop focussing on the scale number, but instead focus on staying active doing the sports I love. Enjoy whole foods that keep my body satisfied and energized so I’m not thinking about food constantly. Weighing myself weekly is not healthy for my mindset.  It may work for others, but again I learned that one size does not fit all.  I haven’t weighed myself in a few weeks; yet my activity level and my mood has changed for the better as I’ve reincorporated those runs that I love!  I run my 5Ks and ride my bike for the love of it and not for calories burned. Sometimes you have to stop controlling everything and just LIVE to let go of the stress.

THIS is how I have to look at life in order to not only maintain my goals, but to reach new goals:

  • I run for freedom of the soul.

  • I exercise for the love of euphoria and pride.

  • I eat for energy. 

  • I love myself for the woman I have become, who no longer hides behind excuses and isn’t afraid of setting goals.

  • I will always have respect for the woman I was because that’s what keeps me from reverting to past behaviours that were the source of so much pain.

  • And the best part is, none of those elements have a thing to do with a number on a scale.

So yes, perhaps weight watchers, Jenny Craig, using a trainer, weekly weigh-in support groups, etc. may work for you at your stage in your life; but they don’t necessarily work for the stage of my life right now. Even the things that worked in my past, do not work in my present. That’s OK! Everyone’s goals are different and comparison is the thief of joy. Life is always changing, embrace the change and remember that one size does not fit all.

I’ll leave you with my new favourite running song:

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Shifting Focus: a Letter of Love to Women

Women, we are too hard on ourselves my friends! As a photographer, I am acutely aware of this fact.  You see I photograph families. I am beyond excited when I capture an image that portrays the love that lives within the everyday. The kind of natural exchange of love that lies within a look, a gentle swipe of hair off the brow, an embrace, a shared laugh with locked eyes. I share this lovey dovey image with my client and she tells me she doesn’t care for it because her thighs look big, or her arms look chubby, or her stomach looks saggy, etc.  Rather than focusing on the love, she focusses on her physical body.

I understand it all too well. There was a time in my life, more predominately when I was at my heaviest, when I refused to be photographed. I saw a camera and I ran for the hills. If forced into a photo, I opted for the “Gopher” pose. You know the old hide-behind-everyone-in-the-back-row-and-poke-your-head-up look. Looking back on it, I now realize I took years of printed memories away from my children.

I had a revelation the other day while I was trying in vain to fall asleep. A memory popped into my mind from a few years ago that happened while I was visiting my little sister Brenda. We woke up on a lazy Saturday morning. Brenda and I poured our coffees and sat in the filtered sun surrounded by our children who were in their glory to wake up and play together. The girls were playing dress up and skipping around the house filling the room with laughter. My son Lucas was composing his very own piece of music on the piano while my other son Ty laid on the floor playing with his iPod. Brenda’s daughter banged her chin on the ground and ran to the reassuring arm’s of her Mom so she could be inspected for injuries.

Click….

Click…

Click…

As Brenda talked to my Dad on the phone, my niece ran over to me and asked for an airplane ride. I laid down the camera, and my shutter-bug son Lucas picked it up.

Click…

The reason I have this memory is because of these photographs. Had this moment not been captured, I would have never remembered this hour of everyday life. Through time, this seemingly insignificant everyday life moment has transformed into an extremely significant memory that tugs at my heart-strings every time I look at it.

Here’s a weird fact: If I see something I want to remember and I don’t have a camera, I hold up my hand to where a camera should be and click the air with my right index finger. Yes, it’s weird but I swear it forces the image into my mind.

Moms: our children don’t look at our physical body. They just love their Mom. They see  our spirit, our heart, our love…not our body. I think about how I love my own children, purely, wildly, and with all that I have. It has nothing to do with aesthetics, yet I hold so many judgements when it comes to my body.

Those self-deprecating thoughts that play in our mind about our body are damaging, not just to ourselves, but to those who love us.  Can you imagine saying any of those things to a loved one?  Imagine telling your sister, or your mother, or your girlfriend, or your child:  “Great family photo, but your arms look huge.”  Yet, we accept this as our own truth. What does that say to our children? What are they learning from us?

My sister Janice is unable to walk without support because of MS. Can you imagine if I said to her “I hate my jiggly thighs.”   The thought of it makes me cringe.

To all you Women out there…

Appreciate your bodies. Your legs allow you to walk/run/dance, your arms allow you to embrace, your smile lights up a room and exudes warmth and joy.

Be good to yourself, children are listening, watching, and learning from you.

You are not defined by your physical body, it’s a part of who you are as a whole but it’s merely the vehicle for the spirit.

Let’s stop trying to be something that we are not but rather shift our focus to all that we are!

We can blame the media for our focus on the physical, but we buy into it.  To change it, we need to take responsibility for feeding our insecurities.

What would be so wrong with loving ourselves the way our loved ones do? The person we are as a whole. The generosity we show, the love we give, the energy we put into making the world a little brighter. The raising of spirited little children into confident self-assured adults.

When you wake up in the morning, be proud of the person you see in the reflection of the mirror.

You are beautiful.

You are amazing.

You are loved.

You are different!

Just be you with confidence and pride.

Treat yourself with the same level of love and respect as you treat those you love most.

And the next time someone asks to take your photo, remember that photo will produce a memory. Your loved ones need those.

From my heart to yours,

Christine