Be Amazing

Sometimes life force feeds me lessons, and lately 2 words have popped up around me.

Be Amazing

Be Amazing

So what does it mean to “Be Amazing”?

Here’s what it boils down to for me. Amazing lives within effort.

An Olympic athlete is amazing, and so is that person living with depression who doesn’t want to get out of bed every day, but they do anyway.

That buffed, toned picture of athleticism at the gym is amazing, but so is that man who walks laps of the walking track with the assistance of a cane because he’s recovering from the debilitating physical ailments due to a stroke.

That Pediatrician who volunteers time in a third world country is amazing, and so is that girl who fights her addictions everyday and stays clean not just for herself but for her children.

The recipient of a Pulitzer Prize is amazing, and so is that teenage girl who pours her heart into her diary rather than suppress her emotions.

That super Mom mega-volunteer at school who juggles it all with a smile is amazing, and so is the Mom who forgets bake sale because she works two jobs just to put food on the table.

That Dad who brings in a six figure salary and works endless hours is amazing, and so is the single Dad who cheers his heart out from the bleachers while watching his kids play hockey.

The woman who eats clean and ensures her family eats clean too is amazing, and so is the woman who goes to bed early so she doesn’t binge on the couch.

There is amazing in everyone.

Amazing is doing more than the body feels is comfortable.

Amazing is fighting our demons.

Amazing is being different in a world that pushes conformity.

Amazing is accepting that which we don’t understand and celebrating differences.

Amazing is forgiving when every cell in our body wants to hold onto anger.

Amazing is loving others and putting other’s needs before our own.

Amazing lives within action and it lives within thoughts as well.

Amazing is trying when fear tells us not to because we’ll fail.

And yes amazing just might be getting out of bed when we want to live in the comfort of darkness.

And a little Amazing (put on repeat) will grow into a ridiculous amount of Amazing.

So what’s your amazing? Be that today.

May your day be ridiculously amazing (just like you),

Christine

I am a Work in Progress

I am a Work in Progress.

As long as I put in the Work, I will make Progress.

I will always be a work in progress, and for that I’m thankful.

There is no finish line. There is no quitting. There is no end goal.

There is just more.

More to learn. To grow. To give. To receive. More goals to set once one has been reached.

Everyday I will commit to work.

Work encompasses many areas, and I will remember that my goals are to grow spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Without one of those elements, I can not attain balance.

And balance is required to progress with quality.

I am not a size of clothing, nor a number on a scale. I am not a stereotype nor an age.

I  am so much more than I once believed.

Perfectly imperfect.

I am a happy heart full of gratitude and I will remember that positivity is a choice.

I will choose to be an energy giver, and not a energy taker.

I will live life with my eyes wide open. Inspirational stories walk all around me and their strength and tenacity feeds my soul.

I am grateful for my health and the wealth of love that surrounds me through authentic relationships.

I am thankful for those who share their struggles with a vulnerable spirit yet continue to get back up every time they fall.

Thank you to all those who challenge themselves every time that inner voice of doubt says “I can’t do that“.  I see you crushing your goals, and with every drop of sweat your determination and strength screams: yes I can.

Progress not Perfection.

Where there is progress within challenge, there is pride of accomplishment.

I will forever be a work in progress.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

10 Things I Would Tell the Old Me

Eight years ago on May 19th, I reached my goal weight.  It took a long time to get the 90+ pounds off, so that day was a pretty special one.

Every year I take a comparison shot because it keeps me motivated and it also allows me to look back into the eyes of the former me who didn’t believe in herself.

10 Things I Would Tell the Old Me (on life and having fun while maintaining goal weight)

I learned a lot this year.  What used to work in the earlier years to maintain my weight wasn’t working anymore.  My body adapted to the same exercise and food choices. I had to change-up my program and I quickly realized I needed help. I hired a kick-ass trainer; my beautiful friend Shannon. She created a strength program for me, and I was able to focus on strength training with her in the gym and cardio at home.  It took weeks to visually see any difference; it’s an exercise in patience I tell ya! However, I did feel results quickly…I was able to lift more weight and do more reps. My cardio improved too, I was able to run my 5K in a faster time once I was focusing on a leg strength day with core work too. Most importantly, I learned I can do a workout anywhere with very little equipment. No excuses.

As for the eating part of the equation, I had to completely change that as well.  Again, I felt out of control in that area so I joined in a Nutritional Challenge through BMS Bootcamps which I’m half way through.  I’m learning so much about food choices, and the true meaning of “eating clean”.  I realized I’m addicted to sugar! I was eating 100 calorie snack bars which were loaded with sugar and eating cereal every morning that was also very high in sugar (and often as a bedtime snack).  Once I cut back on the sugar, I got off the roller coaster of blood sugar crashes I used to have. I added more healthy fats into my diet as well. I have a sustained level of comfortable fullness by eating 5 times a day and enjoying natural foods. I don’t have the cravings for certain foods I used to have. My taste buds changed and I actually enjoy foods that I didn’t like before. Eating clean has been a gift in that I have more energy, my skin has cleared up, and my hair is growing fast too. Huh?! Good stuff. I have enjoyed cheat meals as well! Everything in balance.

The other day on my run I was thinking about that photo of me from 10 years ago. As crazy as this sounds, it’s as though it’s not even a photo of me but rather of a close friend. I feel sadness and empathy for the old version of me. It’s not about the aesthetics, but rather what I see in my eyes and what I know was in my mind. I see pain, frustration, the urge to stay home and not face people, loneliness, fear.  I had given up on myself and I didn’t believe my future was in my control. Feeling out of control everyday is no way to live. I didn’t understand the pride that comes from pushing myself both physically and mentally and how that transfers in a positive way to other areas of life. I was uncomfortably numb. That photo was taken just a few days before I made the decision to take control back and reclaim my life. So if I was to run into the old me in my life today, here’s what I would tell her…

10 things I would tell the old Me

1. You are going to have to do a lot of trial and error to find what works for you.  Not everything will work, you will try many things that don’t work. You will get to know your own body and metabolism, so trust yourself enough to listen to what your body needs and don’t panic when you need to reassess. Chill out chicky!

2. The most important thing you can do as you age is to add weight training into your program. By adding muscle you will burn calories at rest and there is no better exercise medium than strength training to test yourself and feel success quickly.

3. Don’t overcomplicated things.  Use cardio to burn calories, use strength training to build muscle which also burns calories at rest (replace the expanding fat with dense muscle), fuel your body with whole foods…healthy fats, lean proteins, fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains.  Eat often so you are never famished. Sleep 8 hours. Drink at least 12 glasses of water a day. Crank up your music and dance. Repeat.

4. Challenge yourself each and every day in some way. That voice that creeps in and tells you that you can’t is lying.

5. There is power in the vulnerability of sharing. Do not hold back sharing what you’ve learned simply because you are fearful of what other’s think of you. Like-minded people attract one another, and that can only happen when you live out loud.

6. Don’t give up when you don’t see results in the time frame you want. It took years to get to this point, you aren’t going to change over night. One step at a time grasshopper. 😉

7. Listen to your inner voice that knows what is best for you. Pay no attention to what others tell you that you “should” do. They don’t know your inner struggles, only you do. Sure another person can lose the weight while restricting calories, that doesn’t mean you should too. Slow and steady wins the race. Your goal is fitness, the weight will drop off in the process.

8. Start your journey by journaling your food, that way you can’t “pretend” you don’t know what you are eating. Knowledge is power; however, try not to be all-or-nothing which only ends in loss of control. Enjoy a cheat meal once and again. Balance is important. You won’t always have to journal your food, but if you find that you are slipping in your food choices, that trusty journal is a powerful way to get back on track.

9. If you have a bad eating day, recognize it as just that…one bad day with a clean slate the next. Get back on track and don’t beat yourself up about it.

10. This one is important: HAVE FUN!!! Don’t be so serious, this is a lifestyle for the rest of your life…so you better make it fun. Ride your bike, dance-walk, high-five a stranger, shake your ass, takes 10,000 steps a day and put a ‘lil attitude into it, don’t go one day without laughing, get outside with the kids (by the way old version of me, you’re going to have some pretty amazing kids who are going to make all of this totally worth it)

From my heart to yours,

Christine

P.S. If you are on your own weight loss journey and want some pretty cool resources to help you out, check them out HERE

Confessions of a Closet Eater/Part-Time Health Nut

I’m a determined health nut until about 4 p.m. and then the wheels start falling off the healthy bus. In the midst of the rush of supper/homework/bath time/bed time/kid’s needing things/I need a dozen cupcakes for bake sale tomorrow…I turn from calm & zen to frazzled and tuned out. I lose my focus. As a result I’m not mindful of my eating.

Here’s the deal: I consistently exercise 4-6 times/week, I eat healthy foods, but I’m also an emotional eater. There are many terms for it: Over-eater, closet eater, binge eater, emotional eater. Those are just labels for an internal struggle that I’ve had for as far back as I remember (as early as 5 yrs old).

I know I’m not alone in this struggle, it’s just not easy to talk about nor to admit. It’s embarrassing (which is why there’s a term “closet eater”).

This isn’t a new pattern of behaviour for me, but it is one that through the years I’ve had varying degrees of control over. Even though I have lost the weight, the world of maintaining is one that is similar to the world of losing in that it takes diligence. I have to stay tuned in, even when I want to tune out.

That’s a tricky scenario for an emotional eater like me, because when there is stress in my life, my instinct is to turn to food.  Believe me, over the years I’ve over-analyzed this phenomenon to death.

If the formula for long-term weight loss was to simply eat less, move more…then there wouldn’t be such an obesity problem in our country. Yes, that’s a big part of the formula for losing and maintaining; however, it’s so much deeper than that. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another. I believe self-reflection is key. Everyone has some sort of struggle within their lives, whether it’s financial, within relationships, etc. My issue with weight happens to be more visual than perhaps another’s struggle. It makes me feel misunderstood when I hear the words “overweight” and “lazy” used in the same sentence. I can assure you that through out my life, my struggle with my weight has nothing to do with being lazy.

As I approach my 8 year anniversary of being at my goal weight, I’m still finding ways to deal with emotional eating. So what am I going to do about it? The same thing I’ve had to do every time I’ve realized I need to deal with life in a different way…

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” Henry Cloud

For every problem, there is a solution that will work if you figure out your personal triggers and you focus on your goals.

My 10 Steps to Combat Emotional Eating 

1. Journal what I eat. I’m too proud to write one bag of M&M’s 😉  Lucky for me, technology is way better than the days of carrying a binder around with me. There are lots of great apps that track eating and exercise.

2. Pay attention to how I’m feeling when I get the urge to eat when I’m not actually hungry. Eat with intention. Eat slowly (so my brain catches up to my stomach signalling when I’m full). Actually taste the food I’m eating (the texture, the flavour). Minimize distractions around me. This means no eating away from the kitchen table.

3. There are two types of triggers for me: Emotional and Food related. It’s important for me to realize what my triggers are and then to minimize those triggers. Emotional triggers can come in the form of relationships, sometimes I have to pull back from situations and relationships until I can get back on track. The food related triggers come in the form of certain foods that make me want to eat more and more. These are foods with little nutritional value and are high in sugars. I would never binge on apples. 😉

4. Remember that momentum goes 2 ways! As fast as I can feel like I’m spiralling out of control, I can just as easily take the steps to get back in control and follow that positive momentum into each meal and then into each day.

5. There’s a quote I often think about: “Comparison is the thief of joy” Theodore Roosevelt.  It’s difficult not to compare my progress with another’s; however, we are all different and our goals are different too.  The only person I should compare myself with is the old version of me.

6. Look at food in a positive way: Food is fuel, it is not for comfort. I have to look at my daily food intake like an allowance so that my relationship with food is one of sustenance. I give my kids their allowance and it’s up to them what they spend it on. They can spend it on quality items, or waste it. That’s how my food allowance is.  To maintain my weight loss, I must eat within a certain amount of calories. I can eat more calories if I add more activity to my day which is awesome. Exercise is important to this equation! I want to spend my allowance on foods that are high in nutritional value. I don’t want to waste it on foods that are low quality and that trigger the desire to eat more, and more. These types of foods for me are (my lovely triggers): Theatre popcorn, milk chocolate, and nachos.

7. Drink more water, at least 8-10 glasses a day. This flushes the toxins and salt out of my body and as an added bonus makes skin glow too.

8. Grocery shop once a week so my fridge is always full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try not to shop hungry, that never goes well. lol

9. Take the well-meaning wishes and words of advice from others with a grain of salt. When I was obese, people would tell me how to lose the weight. Now that I’m at my goal weight I’ve been told that I focus too much on food and exercise, which is 100% true! I will tell you what happens when I’m not diligent with my food and exercise, I gain weight. That’s just how it is! Sometimes that pisses me right off that I have to be so diligent; however, I refuse to gain back 90 pounds. So yes, I focus on my food and exercise every day and that’s ok. 🙂 I try to do so in a positive way.

10. Be always mindful of what my goals are. Sometimes I write them on sticky notes where I see them everyday.  My goal is to be healthy, strong, and fit with balance. My goal is not a certain number on the scale. I need to align my actions to fit into that goal. I am then successful every time I eat a piece of fruit, loads of veggies, healthy proteins, each time I exercise. This also translates into my interactions with those I love. Being healthy encompasses relationships, friendships, family time. It all goes together to build a happy and healthy Mom which my kids need.

Now it’s time to get to work…

On my reading list (again): Women Food and God

A must watch for all Women:

Thanks for reading what was actually really tough to publicly share. The reason I shared it today was because of a conversation I had last week with a wise friend.  We discussed closet eating and she shared with me that this is an issues she knows many women struggle with. Even if we think we are in that closet all alone. 😉

I hope something I shared here will help another move forward. I know I’m ready to move forward.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

How My Little Girl Taught me a Lesson in Love

I found this ‘lil gem in the bottom of my daughter’s backpack.

apr2-007 web

It says…

I like Me (by Tessa)

I like my mouth, it helps me to eat.

I also like my eyes, it helps me to see.

I like my legs, it helps me swim.

I like my hands, it helps me fish.

I like my knees, it helps me move.

I teared up while reading it because I adore how she thinks. She’s loving her sweet little self for all the ways her body allows her to do the things she loves.

It also reminds me of the importance of being the example of a woman who loves herself because I am the woman she sees every day and looks up to. I want…no I need her to carry on this positive mind-set as she grows up.

A while back, I asked my facebook friends a question on my status: Would it concern you if you gave your child a compliment and they returned your compliment with a flippant self-deprecatory remark?

Of course it would concern me, I would be shocked my son or daughter didn’t understand what a remarkable human being they are! Yet, in thinking about it, the reason I asked that questions is because I do that often when someone pays me a compliment. More often than not, I will respond with some sort of remark that depreciates the compliment they just gave me. To be the example of self-love for my children, I need to reply in the very way that I would expect them to reply. Think about it, how do you handle compliments? Our children are always learning from our actions.

Raising my kids with healthy self-esteems starts with me! I need to prove through my actions that I love myself. I need to respect and appreciate my body for all the activities I have the freedom to do because I have my health. It’s not about aesthetics, the outside, the packaging. My focus can not be on that, I have to show through my actions why this way of life is so important to the quality of my life. It’s about showing love to the body I’ve been given, it’s not a “diet” or a number on a scale or a size of clothing.

I want to teach my children these simple truths and to do that, I need to back up my words with actions:

  • Regular exercise and eating healthy, natural, whole foods full of colour & nutrients are ways you show love and respect to your body. It’s like putting premium fuel into your car. Living a healthy lifestyle is the key to vitality! We are only given one body, treat it well.
  • Happiness is found through purpose. You need a purpose that enriches and fuels your heart with passion. Where there is passion, there is happiness.
  • Life is all about balance! If you seek a life of balance between work/play, friends/family, solitude/companionship, indulgence/moderation…you will find inner peace. Embrace the Yin/Yang! There will always be times in your life when you are pulled too much in one direction. No big deal, just redirect yourself.
  • Focus on how you feel. If you are making positive life changes to better yourself or your circumstances so that you grow and move forward, don’t be discouraged if the results aren’t coming as fast as you would like them. Soak up how these positive changes make you feel. There is great success when you feel pride. That makes you successful with every positive step you take.
  • Surround yourself with good people who lift you up, support you, and make you laugh! To attract quality people and authentic friendships to your life, you have to be that exact friend to others. Positive out, positive in (positive out comes first). Just be authentic, then you will get to know people who are the same level of “weird” as you are. 😉
  • Lighten up! We are designed to laugh, love, share, support, encourage, learn, move! Focus on the good stuff, the happy stuff, the stuff that makes your heart skip a beat with joy. Because life is supposed to be fun! Look at kids for example, they are happy little people! Somewhere along the line, we adults take life too seriously. I hope to always be young at heart. 🙂

So the next time someone pays you a compliment, simply say Thank You. Take that compliment as it was intended, to lift you up and to remind you that you are one incredible human being who is well-loved. Spread the love, lift up another with sincere appreciation. Let’s show our kids what it is to love ourselves a ridiculous amount (just as much as our friends & family love us) because when you truly love yourself, you value yourself far too much to make silly choices. And THAT’S what I want for my children.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Why I’m Ridiculously Ridiculous

I realize my last blog post was in October of last year. I have created 6 drafts since then and I hit publish on none of them.

Since October, I have however managed to figure out what doesn’t work for me in the equation to maintain my healthy weight.

There are many ways to lose weight and keep it off, for me personally it’s an equation. If one part of that equation is missing, it just doesn’t work.

Here it is…

1. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals filled with raw vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains. Follow the 80/20 rule. I am on-track with my meals 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, I’m not so stringent. I enjoy suppers out with friends. I eat until I’m full. No need to scrape my plate clean! I need the freedom to enjoy a thoughtfully prepared meal in a nice restaurant without guilt. I just do.

2. Stay active with purpose: Cardio + Strength Training.  It needs to be activity that I enjoy and this requires music turned up as loud as it will go. Make it count. If I only have a 1/2 an hour to workout, I better make it worth it. If my face isn’t bright red and sweat isn’t pouring, then I’m not working hard enough.

3. This is the most important part of my equation: My mindset. I must look at staying healthy and fit as a lifestyle. The word “Lifestyle” means for Life and to do so with style. 😉 Not for a month, or a week, or a day, but for always.  As long as I’m physically able to move, damn it…I will.  I must look at this lifestyle as a gift. Because it is.

Now let me explain how I’ve failed in my equation for the last few months, specifically in the Mindset area.

I’ve had a little pity party for myself that has lasted far too long. I haven’t been too far off on the eating and exercise part of the equation (given I will always enjoy the foods that come along with Christmas); however, I’ve had a piss poor attitude about it.

~Insert spoiled brat face here~

My inner dialogue was one of defiance:  Why do I have to continue to watch everything I eat, exercise 5 times a week just to maintain my healthy weight when I know many people who are blessed with a much faster metabolism who can skip work outs and eat french fries and still weigh the same.

Guess what? I am ridiculously ridiculous folks.

Here’s why. My sister (who once was a track star in her teen years) has Multiple Sclerosis and I don’t.

If I have the ability to run, move, make healthy food choices for myself, then why am I angry about it? My health is my responsibility alone. No one can or will make those choices for me.  If I decide (and yes, it’s a conscious decision) to make unhealthy choices and destroy the healthy body that I’ve been given…wouldn’t that be so sad? What a waste. I get that choice when others, such as my beautiful, full-of-life, track-star sister had their choices ripped away from them. Do I actually think my sister would complain about exercising daily? Would she moan about getting into her car and driving to the grocery store to pick out fresh produce? Would she be annoyed that she has to prepare her own fresh salad?

I will tell you one thing I know, if my sister could be given my body for one day, she would put me to shame. She would fit more life, activity, connection, and joy into a 24 hour span, than I do in months. I took the time to think about that which was an uncomfortable feeling. You need to feel the uncomfortable and the pain. You need to sit in it, bathe in it, take a walk with it, let it sink right in to truly understand the changes your life requires to reach your goals. You need to change the way you think about life.

Yes my friends, I am ridiculously ridiculous. I’ve used “things” so that I don’t have to feel uncomfortable. I’m stripping that away.

I am full of gratitude and thanks for this healthy body I have. I will treat it with respect. I will feed it the foods it was meant to be fuelled with. I will wear a smile as I run. Because it’s a gift. Anything short of treating it that way is insulting…especially to those who struggle with their health.

I’m not sure if I’ve articulated my thoughts as clearly as I’d hoped. I want to encourage you to get up and get active if you are lucky enough to be able. I want to challenge you to think about the belief systems that are not serving your life in a positive way. To think about the lies you tell yourself that enable you to stay in a pattern of behaviour that make it impossible for you to reach your goals. That is not your truth.

We do not have to settle for mediocre effort. We do not have to settle for just getting by. When was the last time you pushed yourself out of your physical comfort zone? Do not compare your progress to another’s. You just have to ask yourself: Did I push myself today? Can my body do more than it did the last week? Am I getting stronger? Is my endurance improving the more I push?  That is what matters. That is what will allow you to feel the joy of success.

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

Throwing out the F-Word: Fat

Now that Christmas and New Years is behind me, I walked into my bathroom with the clear intention to step on the scale. I pulled that devil scale out its lair with dread, and tentatively stared at it for a bit telling myself that it really didn’t matter what number I saw, it was time to get back to work.

I stepped on it, and looked away. Well this is stupid, I have to see the number. And there it was, a number I hadn’t seen in years since I’ve reached my goal weight…160 pounds. I felt a little panicky, how did I manage to gain 10 pounds in just one Christmas season?

I walked downstairs to make a coffee, inwardly fighting the positive with the negative. I have a goal now, no big deal…but, I can’t fit my jeans! I need to get to work NOW. My daughter’s little voice interrupted my inward banter. She sat at the counter colouring a picture of a Disney princess and without missing a beat of colouring she asked. “What’s wrong Mom?” I replied flippantly  “I can’t fit my jeans, I ate too much chocolate over Christmas!”

Now, I’m going to share the next part of the story with hesitation, because I feel a lot of guilt over it. It’s that crippling Mom guilt and it’s replayed over and over in my mind ever since.

My sweet little girl looked up at me and with sadness in her eyes she said “When I was in Kindergarten, A girl told me I was fat. Do you exercise so you won’t get fat?”  I just stood there stunned. I didn’t realize that my own thoughts about my body image would be transferred to my daughter in that moment and that she equated exercising with the need to not be “fat”.

And that began our conversation about foods that give you energy and vitamins, staying active to be healthy and to have energy, and that she is most definitely perfect just as she is.  I told her that I too was told I was “fat” in school, and she giggled at me and said “but you’re not fat, you are thin!” Those words broke my heart, because if I can’t accept my body, how am I going to expect my daughter to accept hers?! We are going to throw out the word “fat” within our household, it’s officially the F-Word.

I share this story with you today, because I know that like me, there are many Moms out there who struggle with raising their children to have a healthy self-esteem.  I believe it’s THE hardest part of the Mom gig…both in raising sons and daughters. With healthy self-esteem, comes self-respect and healthy decisions. A strong self-esteem will aid in preventing my kids from making decisions where they put themselves at risk…because they will value themselves far too much to be dragged down. In some ways I’m thankful I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem growing up, because it’s now a huge priority in how I raise my children. I believe I understand those issues a little better given my past. But there is no way, I will accept that for my own children.

I need to find a healthy balance, because I also want to raise my children to take care of their bodies. To be active (which in their world means playing and running outside),  and to eat healthy foods. To equate all of that with taking care of their bodies, rather than relating it to aesthetics.

So these are my thoughts today, and I don’t have all the answers, but I am analyzing what I’ve done wrong, and the things I’ve done right. I am holding myself accountable, because like it or not, my kids are watching me. They are learning from me.

Active fun is on the menu for Winter. 🙂

To all you Moms out there: If we want to raise healthy, balanced children with self-respect…we better work on that within ourselves.  If you are reading this post riddled with Mom guilt, and you have insights on this topic (or if you share in my struggle), I would love to hear from you! Drop me a comment.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Waking our Inner Child

As a family photographer, I’ve noticed an amazing quality in all children I photograph.

Children think they are awesome as is. I often say to kids during a photography session: “You are amazing” and their reply is almost always the same…”I know”.

As adults, we are often confuse confidence for vanity, but I’ve thought about beauty in a different way lately.  When you say to a child: You are beautiful or you are amazing, children interpret that very differently than we adults do.  Kids love who they are as a whole, rather than relating that comment to aesthetics.  It’s the spirit of the child that shines through. The unbridled ability to play, sing, accept others, run, dress, just as they wish. To Just Be. Children are active because they want to be!

And then somewhere along the way…we lose that ability. We are affected by outside influences that tell us what to wear, what music to like, what size we should be, etc.

Much of this is cultural, based on where we grew up.  We are fortunate to live in a country where freedom of speech and religion is a right, but our children don’t know any different, and we can take this amazing gift for granted. We are free to dream.

When we were children, we loved our body for its ability. Arms to play, hands to hold and colour with, a face that carries expression, hair to blow in the breeze on a windy day or to add 17 pony-tails to on crazy hair day at school, feet to cover with sand, and legs to run through water on a hot summer day.

And then we get older and “wiser”.  Speaking from personal struggles, there have been times in my life when I wanted to be thinner, stronger, richer, and more confident. I’ve analyzed the times in my life when I was the most confident and I’ve realized that confidence comes from self-acceptance.  Just Be. Weed out the outside influences.

Find your inner voice, your own unique sense of style, form your own opinions.  My daughter will often come to me and ask if I like the outfit she chose for the day, and I reply “Do you?” because that’s all that matters.

So maybe, just maybe, we could learn a thing or two about self-acceptance through the eyes of a child…

The child who looks at their Mom and tells her she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, even when she first wakes up in the morning sporting sticky-uppy hair and well-worn PJs.

The child who can befriend another in an instance and who accepts an invitation to play if only for a few minutes.

The child who loves who they are as is, appreciates their body for all it can do, greets each day with wonder and gratitude, and is eager to learn and grow.

The child who thinks they are just plain awesome, and who accepts others in the same way.

Let’s wake up that inner-child my friends. Self-acceptance is already within us.

Life is amazing and so are you. Have I told you that lately?!

From my heart to yours,

Christine

What I Want my Daughter to Know

For many years, I chose not to have a voice.  I held my opinions within. Through my teen years, I wasn’t always treated with respect, and I didn’t realize I held the key to demand respect. I started off my tender teen years as a victim survivor of a sexual assault and it shaped my perspective on what it is to be a woman in a different way. In a way, that I wasn’t ready for. I feel like I’ve overcome the shame and the pain that is carried over from my past…along with other traumas that I will never share here.

And then,

out of nowhere,

it rears it’s ugly head…

starting out so innocently at first,

but inwardly spiralling out of control.

So, how do I teach my daughter what it is to love and respect herself so much that she treasures the woman she is and accepts nothing less? How do I convey to her the importance of living life authentically where she is true to who she is within and isn’t afraid to let her light shine?  How do I explain the life lessons I learned the hard way and will she listen?  I am passionate about helping women move forward for a reason, and it’s very close to my heart.  I want to scream it from the roof tops now all that I’ve learned, and I’m so thankful for continuing to learn from some pretty amazingly strong women in my life. Thank you all you strong women with a powerful voice!

I’m also sick-to-death of the stereotype of strong women as “feminists”, like it’s a foul word. We are all just people. Equally deserving of respect.

Ok, I got off track! My daughter is not a teenager yet, so thankfully I have some time to teach and build on all I wish for her to know. But in thinking about it today, this is what I want my daughter to know.

~You teach people how to treat you.

~Stand up for what you believe in with passion and speak from your heart.

~If you are respectful, kind, supportive, accepting, and giving…it will come back to you ten-fold and you have every right to demand what you freely give to others.

~Give yourself permission to honour the path that is right for you.  It may not be a path that is right for someone else, but if it’s right for you…continue on it and make no apologies for it.

~Forgiveness is a choice.

~You ARE enough. Surround yourself with people that lift you up and believe in you.

~Shoulders back, head held high.

~Committ yourself to life-long learning. We are never done learning. There is no finish line. Just more life to be lived, and more amazing life lessons to be learned.

~Pass on what you’ve learned, don’t keep it in. If you can share and help someone move forward then do it, but do so with respect because belief systems are sacred to another.  Don’t push your beliefs on another person. Just live out your reality.

~People know authenticity when they see it. When you share in an authentic way, you will attract like-minded people into your life, and that’s a blessing!

~Never ever give up your power to another person (there are not too many “never ever’s” in this world, but I believe this is one of them!)

~Don’t silence your strengths for the benefit of another’s weaknesses.

~Just because you have other roles “Mom, Wife, Business Women, insert role here” doesn’t mean you have to lose who you are.  It’s OK to be carefree, to have fun, to take time for yourself. Your needs are not last.  To be a good Mom, you need to have a life aside from your children to grow as a woman. Your children are watching you.

~You are the property of no one.

~You are not defined by what you look like, the clothes you wear, or the shape and size of your body.

~Smile often.

~Love others. Love yourself just as much.

~Mean girls are also filled with jealousy and insecurity. Just smile and move on.

~Invest in your future, find a career you love. Because when you love what you do, it just doesn’t feel like work.

~You will make mistakes, everyone does. Just be sure to learn from each mistake you make and move forward.

~It’s OK to show weakness. You don’t have to be strong all the time.

~Sincere appreciation. It’s a gift you can give to others.

~You are stronger than you even realize.

~Do not forget the things that fuel your passion. Don’t give those up for anyone.

My extraordinary daughter, I will always attempt to teach you all that I’ve learned, but I know that many things you need to learn for yourself. If you learn anything from something that once caused me pain, then there is purpose to it. All I can hope for is that you feel comfortable to talk to me about anything. I hope you realize what an amazing gift you are, how loved and cherished you are, and that you are worthy. Life is meant to be lived with passion. Live it with pride, because you my darling daughter are simply amazing just the way you are.

And when you do find someone to give your heart to, may they also realize just how amazing you are.

From my heart to your heart,

Mom