Articles Tagged with: wellness
My Vegan Journey

 

Someone dear to me thinks it’s just a phase, possibly brought on by a mid-life crisis.  Call it what you want. I don’t feel the need to label it or myself. All I know is that I woke up one day and knew that I needed to stop eating meat and dairy, and I haven’t looked back since.

This awareness came after weeks of just not feeling great in my gut. I felt blocked, bunged up, stuck … sluggish.  My first thought was to do a cleanse. I had done cleanses in the past, and to be honest, at this time in my life it just felt like too much work to organize.  So rather than complain and do nothing, I decided to make things easy for myself and enlisted the help of Belmonte Raw.

As soon as I walked into the store I knew I had come to the right place.   Upon entry, I was met by a Cleanse Specialist who walked me through the range of options available.  As I had already had some experience with cleanses, he suggested a 3-day Transition Cleanse which essentially involves a series of juices and elixirs plus one gourmet, raw vegan meal/day.  All I had to do was pick up my food in the morning and eat (or actually mostly drink) in the order outlined by the numbered containers.  Easy Peezy.  It was also suggested that I start drinking a litre of room temperature lemon water first thing every morning in addition to 4 litres of water throughout the day at least 20 minutes before or after a meal so as not to impede digestion.

To prep, I was advised to minimize my consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and animal proteins for 3 days prior to the cleanse to allow for a smooth transition without any major side effects.  No problem.

And when I say “no problem” I literally mean it.   The entire process was incredibly easy and the results were better than expected.

All smiles as I pick up 2 days worth of meals from Belmonte Raw

All smiles as I pick up 2 days worth of meals from Belmonte Raw

First, on a practical level, it was sooooo lovely to not have to think about what to eat or to have to actually go through the process of preparing food for myself.  As the person in charge of feeding two young children and a husband, this part was absolutely luxurious and worth every penny.

But more importantly, I felt amazing.  The blocked feeling in my gut disappeared, I had a ton of energy and never felt hungry.  The only negative side effect I experienced was the occasional, brief, 30 second pang of a headache. That’s it.

cleanse-sched-close-up

In the two months since the cleanse, I have continued to follow a vegan-ish diet.  I say vegan-ish, because I do have eggs on occasion and will have cheese sparingly, typically when eating out on a weekend.   But for the most part, I am eating vegan and I am loving it! And based on the changes I have witnessed, my body is too.

Here is what I have noticed so far:

  • I am less hungry in spite of maintaining the same level of activity. Previously, I would be feeling pangs of hunger about 2.5 hours after breakfast, sometimes even sooner if I worked out before eating.  Now, my breakfast (typically a chia pudding with nuts, and berries, and an almond milk latte) keeps me going for at least 4 hours, even on days that I work out.
  • I lost 1-2 dress sizes within about 3 weeks of making the change. I mention this point with a bit of hesitation as I did not do this in order to lose weight and don’t want to be promoting weight loss.  But, I would be lying if I did not admit that seeing the last remnants of baby weight literally fall off me feels really good.  It’s like I pushed a reset button and returned to my former pre-baby size.
  • My habitually dry skin is improving.
  • I am excited about food again. I know that this might seem counter intuitive, but it’s true.  I am excited to learn about new foods, new restaurants and about new ways of cooking.  It’s like an entire new world of food has opened up to me, and the possibilities seem endless.  And whether it’s a reflection of my heightened awareness or a sign of a growing trend in the city, there isn’t a week that goes by where I  don’t hear about  a new vegan focused establishment or food experience happening in this city (case in point:  This article in the current Toronto Life Magazine)

As happy as I am to ride this wave and see where it takes me, I need to understand why I have experienced these physical changes.  Why am I less hungry?  Why did I lose weight so quickly?  Is it just a function of me drinking more water?  Does it have something to do with the way my body is digesting and processing this kind of food?  Or does this have nothing to do with the type of food I am eating at all, and just a positive side effect of my meditation practice and being more conscious and aware of eating out of hunger vs. for other reasons?

This is how my brain works.  I need to know.  And so, in the spirit of science and exploration, my plan is to investigate these questions and share the results with all of you.

And for those of you, who really don’t care about why and just want to learn more about the yummy food I am making and eating, I plan to share this part of the journey as well.  It so happens that I know a number of vegan chefs in this city.  So why not invite them to my kitchen to teach me a little about what they know, film it and post it on YouTube?  How’s that for multitasking:  cooking, learning, socializing, sharing to social media, and getting dinner ready for the family, all at the same time.  Booyakashat!

Stay tuned….

Dr. Stacy

 

 

 

 


Say “Yes!” to Falling in Love with Life

 

“By the end of this conversation, we are going to fall in love”

How’s that for an opening? My friend Michelle shared this gem as something she often says when meeting someone for the first time, be they man, woman or child. Amazing!

She clarified that she does not mean this in a sexual way. It is simply a beautiful expression of a willingness to be authentic and an invitation for the other person to do the same with the assurance that whatever is shared will be loved.

If you are lucky enough to cross paths with Michelle, you are immediately struck by the obvious. She is a naturally stunning beauty. But even more striking is her big, bombastic personality, her fierce intelligence and her love of life. She is the first to organize the party, and brings the party with her wherever she goes.

As we continued to talk, she dropped some more wisdom. She shared that at some point she realized that she can either put her child to bed and spend her evening flaked out on the couch watching television and stay stuck in a rut, or she can get out and do things and create a life that is interesting and fun. And anyone who knows Michelle knows that any time spent with her is never ordinary.

Along these lines, she went on to remind me of one of the first conversations we had a few years ago. We were hanging out on the steps of our children’s school, the place that brought us together, when she shared that she had noticed she had become quite negative in her relationship with her husband. With this awareness, she had made the revolutionary decision to experiment with just saying “yes” to whatever her husband asked of her. No argument, no discussion, just simply, YES. Wow. “And how is that working for you?” I replied, to which she immediately exclaimed, “Well, my husband is taking us on a month long trip to Italy!” Insert howls of laughter here.

As much as she got something tangible out of it, she did note that her choice to adopt an attitude of YES created a much needed shift. She essentially decided to stop being negative and pushed herself to just do things. We can all make a million excuses and go through the motions of life and nothing changes. Or we can “flip the script” so to speak and create the life we want to live.

Little did Michelle know that the mega talented, and prolific Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder) has written about how saying YES changed her life as well. Her book Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person is at the top of my list of must reads for this week.

Whether it’s Michelle or Shonda, I hope that these wise, wonderful and vibrant women inspire you to get on with it and Design Your Life.

And if they do, please share your story with me and others. We all need to hear it.

Until next time,

Dr. Stacy


Realign, Reconnect and Find Your Flow

As much as I am calm and even keeled much of the time, there are days when I wake up and carry on like a bull in a china shop.  “We have to get going!”, “Why aren’t you ready?” Push, push, push. I have to make things happen – NOW!!

Today started out as one of those days.  And could have continued had my dear friend and mentor not called me out and stopped me in my tracks.

As I reflect on our conversation, I realize that my drive to make things happen, and push on through, regardless of whether it feels right tends to come into full effect when I feel unsure in some way.  At such times, I retreat into my preferred comfort zone – my head.

Living in my head gives me the illusion of control.  When I am not sure what to do to make things happen, I over think, and get distracted by the minutia.  I will work on things, like a blog post, for the better part of a day, in order to make it just right.  And then the task just becomes… well, overwhelming.

What is the big picture that gets lost? Connection. And the only way to truly connect is to share one’s self authentically. I know this.  And I know that things flow more easily when I just “show up” and let things happen.  But even I, a professional, who teaches people to do this every day, can get off track.

This is why I am so thankful for having guides in my life who alert me when I am off center and help me to get back to understanding that I am most powerful when I am authentically me.

By the time I left the 2 hour marathon meeting, I was realigned.  And the most amazing afternoon unfolded.

I walked around the corner and discovered Homegrown, a produce stand selling the most gorgeous local fruit and vegetables.

Homegrown produce

I then went down to the lake for a late lunch and was greeted by a trio of dancing swallows, and four Canada Geese floating on the waves.

geese and flying swallow at lake

And as I watched their easy ebb and flow, and listened to the waves against the rocks, I was reminded of my connection with everything around me.  The tension eased even more and I returned.

This post is what unfolded.  It took about 20 minutes.  Easy.

Until next time,

Dr. Stacy

 

 


Letting Go of Perfectionism, One Challenge at a Time

I, like most people, would rather do just about anything before speaking in front of an audience.  And yet, in order to fulfill my goals of promoting mental health, public speaking has become increasingly necessary for me. 

My typical way of preparing for any kind of public talk is to literally script it in advance, jokes and all, and rehearse the heck out of it so that it comes across as natural.  And I pull it off every time.  I get the applause, and the positive comments. I succeed at projecting an image of complete confidence in spite of my anxiety.

That’s the thing about perfectionism – it’s usually rewarded.  But it’s a lot of work. And quite honestly, as a busy working mother building a business and trying to get on top of this social media thing, I frankly no longer have the time for this level of obsessiveness.

It also occurred to me that my perfectionistic approach essentially made me a hypocrite and had the potential to undermine one of the core messages I am trying to promote:  the power of authenticity. How could I speak about the power and importance of sharing one’s authentic voice while hiding behind a script?  How could I present a completely rehearsed talk when my goal is to make a genuine connection with the audience? 

So when I was asked to be one of 6 presenters at an event called My Epoch, I knew that I needed to take a different approach.  The spirit of the event was to make genuine connections with people you might not normally meet with the aim of cross pollinating knowledge and inspiring new ideas.  Clearly, there was no better opportunity to challenge myself to truly ‘walk the walk.’  It was time to let go of fear.

You see, I realized that the true motivator behind my pursuit of perfection was not conscientiousness, but fear.  Fear that I suddenly would be unable to articulate my thoughts, when in fact I receive positive feedback about the way I convey ideas every day be it with clients or in media interviews.  Fear that I would somehow present as not knowing what I was talking about when in fact I am an expert in my field.   Fear that I would make a fool of myself…well, that actually happens on a daily basis.  But it’s ok.  I recover and move on.  If that should happen, if I should reveal a flaw, reveal that I am indeed a human being, it would only serve to solidify my connection with the audience. 

With this new perspective in mind, I chose to lead from the heart and to connect with the audience by sharing a genuine part of myself, even if that meant that I might stumble along the way. 

In the days leading up to the event, I did find myself wrestling with the temptation to draft my talk as I had done in the past.  I mean, the people attending paid to come and I wanted them to get something out of it.  I did not want to insult them by looking ill prepared.  I wavered and thought that I should just forget this little experiment and write out and rehearse my talk. 

But rather than give in, I stayed true to my intention and let the anxious thoughts wash over me.  I chose instead to just observe my own process. And in fact my  internal battle was actually a little amusing. 

However, I did not ignore the anxiety gremlin entirely.  I did have to do something to prepare.  And so I struck a compromise:  I would draft a brief outline with the main points I wanted to communicate.  Nothing more.

I decided to dedicate my 6 minutes at the mic describing why I am so passionate about my work as a psychologist.  I wanted them to understand how privileged I feel to be able to witness and support the human spirit in each client I see, regardless of whether they are suffering or aspiring for something more.  I wanted each person to walk away with the understanding that seeing a counselor or a psychologist is not about weakness, it is about assuming control to Design Your Life.

myspeech wide shot (1)

The day of the event was like any other Saturday filled with making meals, working out, cleaning up and taking advantage of some time to take a blessed nap.  I arrived at the event early and while I spoke with my fellow presenters and then the guests as they arrived, I found that I was not nervous. 

The only time a felt a bit anxious was while listening to the presenter just before I was to go on.  This was largely because I was trying to review the main points of what I wanted to say in my head but could not do it effectively while also trying to listen.  Recognizing the futility of this form of last minute preparation, I gave up on trying and focused on listening to Dennis and his honest and heart felt talk on the benefits of connecting with people outside of one’s typical social circles.  Dennis finished to resounding applause; a hard act to follow.  It was now my turn.

To quote one of the participants I “..nailed it”.  As I spoke about the privileged role I have of witnessing and empowering the human spirit, I could see… or rather I could feel that the audience was with me.  I was able to make eye contact and take in their smiles of encouragement as I scanned the room.  It was actually really great.

The comments that various audience members provided me with all the validation I needed for my new approach.  All of them expressed feeling moved.  I had succeeded.

Not only had I made a connection, but I proved to myself that fear was not necessary for me to perform well.  I could listen to my anxiety as a sign for the need to prepare without letting fear take over and push me into obsessiveness.  I could keep focused on my own goals, show up, and let the process unfold.

I tried it and now I am sold.  There is no going back. 

How about you? Is there any way that these ideas could fit for your life?

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Dr. Stacy


Design Your Life: The Passion and the Process

I love being a psychologist. I am passionate about it and know in every fibre of my being that I am fulfilling my life’s purpose.

Every day that I go to work, I have the unique privilege of making genuine connections with people who, in the safety provided by confidentiality, are free to be their authentic selves.  And I have to tell you that it is truly inspiring. 

You see, when people feel safe enough to be their true selves, something absolutely amazing happens…the human spirit is able to shine.  And I am telling you that it is abundantly creative, and resilient and wise. 

In fact, I have yet to meet a client that does not have a sense of what it is they need to do to become the best version of themselves. 

So what is going on here?  If all my clients essentially know what they need to do and have the ability to DESIGN their LIVES why are they coming to speak to someone like me.  Well, the reality is they are stuck.   

Stuck because what they know they need to do is in conflict with another important need, and they are not sure how to move forward.

They know that they deserve to be treated better by others, but fear that articulating their needs will threaten their relationships.

They know that harsh criticism is generally not the way to bring out the best in anyone, and yet, they have difficulty letting go of their inner critic for fear of losing their edge.

They know they need to take better care of themselves, but ignore their body’s messages because they perceive that there is no room for self-care in their lives.  That is, until they have their first panic attack or their child asks them why they yell so much… or worse. 

Or sometimes they just know that that life could be better and they are not sure how to make it happen.  Some know that the rule book that they inherited from their families is inherently flawed but don’t know how to effectively challenge it and take control of their own story. 

Whatever the situation, the individual knows that they have to make a change.  They also know that they need to create space for reflection and that they cannot do it entirely alone.   

Let’s be clear here – not being able to figure this stuff out on your own is NOT a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of intelligence. 

Because being able to hear one’s own voice requires someone to speak to.  It is in the mirroring back of that voice from someone who is really good at listening that we learn to understand ourselves accurately.   In the process, that inner voice that is there to guide each and every one of us gets amplified.

And as we experience someone else giving it the space to be heard, and the respect it deserves we learn to do the same thing for ourselves.  We learn how to listen to that voice, and respect it by acting on its message. 

Yes, there are often new skills to learn, new behaviours to try, and assumptions to test.  But the essential understanding of the type of change necessary is almost always there.  It is through the experience of being heard and supported by an empathic listener that the change process is able to unfold.

And you know what is truly amazing, once people start to get good at listening to and respecting that inner guide, things just start to get easier.  It is almost as if they wake up to a new world.

For me, being there with someone in that moment when that awakening occurs…well, there is nothing more rewarding.

And so my question for you is this:  What are you waiting for?

You know it’s time.

Design Your Life.