What to do when someone calls you fat

Earlier in the week I overhead a comment that sounded like someone was speaking about how I have gained weight.  I cannot 100 % guarantee this was the comment, but whether or not it actually happened is beyond the point.  People make rude comments to each other about age, weight, height, life choices etc. all the time.  Also, this might be an easy comment to shrug off for many of you.  For a highly sensitive person, whose struggled with having positive body image my whole life- this was a doozy!

When this comment happened I really wish I would of had the guts to stop in my tracks and address the issue head on, but unfortunately this is a skill I am still lacking (and need some practice in).  Instead I chose to pretend for the time being that I must of misheard, and went on with my day.

But I noticed the comment sticking with me throughout the rest of the day as I worked with my clients.  Did I gain weight?  I am not sure!  I haven’t weighed myself since 2013 (you can read more about that story HERE).  I slowly started to get slightly self conscious…maybe my clothes had gotten a bit tighter?  When suddenly I had an amazing realization (thanks to 5 + years now of self awareness and personal development work!).

What did I realize?

When someone comments on you this comment is coming from their reality, their head space, based on their day, and their mood, their feelings about themselves and their own bodies.  I found this amazing meme on a Facebook page I follow regularly called GO Kaleo:

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 9.18.41 PM.png

Hate/Judge it’s all the same..

Although intellectually I was able to process this understanding, I still at the same time was feeling a bit insecure.  I decided I needed to carry out an action plan so that this one little comment didn’t ruin my day, and my week.

Here are some of the things I did to work past my insecurities:

#1:  Many of my friends know about my journey of learning how to EMBRACE my body and learn to love it, even if I am not 125 pounds and 15 % body fat (You can read more about that journey HERE).  So the first thing I did was text a few friends about what happened and how I was feeling.  I made sure to finish up the text by saying ‘I am texting you this so you can remind me to continue to EMBRACE my body, have a positive body image, and not fall back into disordered thoughts and eating”.  My friends were very encouraging and supportive, as always, which helped.

#2:  Next I actually went to Instagram and Facebook.  In my journey to teach myself body positivity I found a lot of good resources online from people all over the world who were all shapes and sizes and whose main message was to take care of ourselves, without restriction, guilt, and shame.  I came across an Instagram account that I thought was profoundly honest, hilarious, and totally up my alley.  Her name is Kate, and she is in recovery from some very debilitating mental illnesses, one of which she is currently battling being eating disorder recovery and having positive body image.  The first video I saw was her dancing crazy around in her living room in her underwear to help herself and others overcome negative thoughts and the need/desire to appear perfect.  You can check out her Instagram.  After reviewing her account, and a few others I follow on Facebook I was once again in a great state of mind, realizing that there are so many other women like me everywhere who are tired of trying to look a certain way, and don’t want to be judged for it either!

#3:  Ok, now here’s the funny part.  After watching Kate’s account I decided that I also wanted to “Dance it out” on video.  I flipped on a song, and pressed record and OMG the craziest dance moves came out, and sure put a smile on my face.  It’s impossible to be depressed or anxious when you are dancing around like a fool in your living room.  The best way to get out of a funk is to get up, throw on a song and dance!  And guess what?  I am going to share my dance with you 🙂  You know why?  Because I want you to smile.  I want it to bring some happiness to your day.  Sure I look like a fool!  My hair is hanging half out of it’s pony tail, I’ve got the most ridiculous facial expressions, and my dance moves are wild.  And sure I fear that you will judge me and think I am nuts.  BUT in the end I want to spread more joy, and love, and goofiness, and silliness in this world- rather than judging others.  And I think this video will help.

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 2.05.24 PM

Watch the Video Here

After I made the video I sent it to a friend and dedicated it to all the people in the world who are judged daily.  We can find ways to not let these judgments bring us down- but instead lift us up!  Which brings me to my next point.

#4:  After having this experience I decided that the only plausible thing to do was to spread a tremendous amount of kindness into the world, to counteract for all the judgement and hate.  I made an extra effort to smile at others, express thanks and gratitude, say hi to people I don’t normally, and treat others with the respect they deserve.

In 1970, the average age a girl began dieting was 14, according to The Eating Disorder Foundation. By 1990, that age had dropped to eight.  Each new study on children, dieting, and body image reveals only more appalling details. In 1991, 42% of first-through-third-grade girls reported wanting to be thinner. That same year, a study found that 51% of of nine- and 10-year-old girls felt better about themselves while dieting.  SOURCE

The world needs more women of all shapes and sizes looking, feeling, acting confident.  Not putting their bodies down!  

In the end I had a FREAKING great week.  Whether or not I have gained weight or not, I now know that I can manage these comments and don’t let them tear me down.  I didn’t force myself to overexercise the rest of the week.  I noticed when I wanted a bit of extra food because I was hungry, and noticed how that negative self talking voice in my head tried to stop me (but it didn’t).  I wanted to share for reference how I might have reacted to this comment 5 or 10 years ago:

  • When I was in University if someone called me fat I would have:
    • Put into immediate action a plan to get on a better diet.
    • Forced myself into more exercise that day then I wanted to.
    • Felt low, crappy about myself and my abilities.
    • Felt like a failure that I can’t live up to societies standards for weight.
    • Felt anxious, started to avoid eye contact.
    • Limit my social time to spend more time trying to lose weight.


  • 5 Years ago, someone did call me fat.  This was during a period of time that I had gone from basically not eating food, to eating food again, and I had indeed gained weight.  My reaction at the time, was a little healthier. I:
    • Called a friend and cried.
    • Doubted myself, my ability to eat food and exercise in moderation, and would have continued contemplating some kind of diet/exercise program I should be on to satisfy others needs for how I should look.
    • At this point I was working with a nutritionist who supported me in not heading down that downward spiral.

It is so refreshing for me to see that although it took 5-10 years I was able to transform many of the thoughts I have had about my body, and my relationship with food from my whole life.  

I wanted to write this to all women, because I know that we all suffer to some degree from this obsession to look or be a certain way.  Please reach out to someone you trust and get some support if you are in a guilt, shame, depressed, anxious, self hating spiral.  Remember- all the little negative comments you say about your body add up.  Stop saying the little ones:)  And finally- it’s ok to be upset and sad about something someone else said.  In the end, don’t let it break your spirit.  Set up an action plan (like mine) for when you are down and need some uplifting!

If you know someone who this might help today, please pass it along 🙂

Love to all you body positive warriors out there!


2015 Year in Review

Happy New Year!

Sorry I have been neglecting you all a bit lately, I just enjoyed a very spoiled 10 days in Ontario with friends and family.  We tend to hop around city to city enjoying dinners and hikes and workouts and movies with friends and family and I tend not to make the time to blog here for you!

Anyways, as usual ever year I blog on here about my year in review and my goals for 2016.  Some of it is health related, some of it’s professional, and some of it’s personal.  I always hear of many friends and family who use the template and do their own year in review and goal setting and really enjoy doing it.  Feel free to share in the comments below about your year in review, or e-mail it to me personally if you feel like sharing.  I find it so important to reflect on our year, the good and the challenges in order to develop a sense of pride, accomplishment, and growth.  I truly believe we are here on Earth to figure out what lights us up, makes us happy, and what we are passionate about.  By reflecting on our year, and setting goals for the next we can enjoy our path to creating our own personal best life.

Here is the template of the questions you can ask yourself for a 2015 year in review:

1.  What was your biggest triumph in 2015?
2.  What was the smartest decision you made in 2015?
3.  What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2015?
4.  What was the most loving service you performed in 2015?
5.  What is your biggest piece of unfinished business from 2015?
6.  What are you most happy about completing in 2015?
7.  Who are the 3 people who had the greatest impact on your life in 2015?
8.  What was the biggest risk you took in 2015?
9.  What was the biggest surprise in 2015?
10.  What important relationship improved the most in 2015?
11.  What compliment would you have liked to receive in 2015?
12.  What compliment would you have liked to give in 2015?
13.  What else do you need to be complete in 2015?

In terms of planning for 2016 here is the guideline I follow for goal setting:

Personal Goals
–  Health
–  Fitness
–  Emotional Intelligence
–  Spirituality

Professional Goals
–  Imapct
–  Financial
–  Pojects
–  Continuing Education

Relationship Goals

Travel Goals

Acts of Service Goals.

Here are my answers if you are interested:

1.  What was your biggest triumph in 2015?

I would have to say hands down my biggest triumph in 2015 was the amount I travelled!  For some people kids, houses, careers, religion etc. are their main focus- and mine seems to be travel.  The one thing that gets me excited to save money, stay focussed on my career, and keeps me excited about the year is travel.  This year I spent a week in Cuba with a dear friend Jill teaching fitness classes 3 times a day!  I spent a week in Ontario planning a surprise birthday party for my Oma.  I visited Bowen Island for my Anniversary.  I spent 4 days in Vegas with my mom for her birthday.  I drove to Calgary and Banff to visit friends.  I went to Milwaukee for a wedding and visited Chicago for a few days.  I spent a long weekend surfing and relaxing in Tofino with friends.  I biked/hiked/and camped around Vancouver Island by myself for a long weekend.  I went camping with friends many times in the summer.  I took a 10 day road trip to my Brother in Laws wedding in Minnesota.  On the way we had a crazy stay in Yellowstone National Park, and many other interesting points along the way.  I attended two weddings in the same week in Mexico!  And to top it off I finished the year with family and friends on a trip to Ontario.  I love listing this off because this is how I want to live my life!  Full of adventure and travel, with a job that supports my lifestyle.  
2.  What was the smartest decision you made in 2015?

Seeing a counsellor.  You’d think this is a bold thing to write on my professional blog, but let me make one thing clear.  I wasn’t depressed, anxious, suffering from mental illness, sad, or confused.  I simply noticed that some of the thought patterns I had were getting in the way of me having an awesome year and life!  I noticed I told myself a story around everything that wasn’t necessarily even true, and as a result I was causing more grief in my life then I needed! With my counsellor we don’t talk about anything miraculous, huge, or crazy.  I don’t have any life long issues to uncover.  I simply wanted a neutral source to talk to regularly to keep me feeling awesome all the time!  There is so much stigma around counselling, and I really think there shouldn’t be.  I think the craziest people are the ones who don’t regularly schedule time to talk about what is going on in their monkey mind up there.  My speaking with her regularly I don’t dwell on the stupid stuff that can tend to knock people out, keep them in bad moods, or keep them from feeling happy.  My friends and family don’t always know how or what to say to me, and so it’s really nice to have this kind of support.  With that said, I truly think counselling has supported me in the past year and was one of the smartest decisions I made in 2015.   

3.  What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2015?

The greatest lesson I learned in 2015 is to make things light and easy.  There are going to be mean people, people who screw you over, people who are selfish or rude or have no respect for your space.  There are going to be financial obstacles, relationship challenges, and other troubles.  But in the end there is no point stressing and worrying about anything!  Stress and worry is not going to bring you any closer to a solution.  Accepting the situation and formulating some kind of gentle plan to bring yourself back to balance is always the better solution.  With the right tools and resources I simply needed to trust I was on the right path and everything will work out. 
4.  What was the most loving service you performed in 2015?

One of the loving services from the later half of 2015 was volunteering at a soup kitchen every Monday.  Volunteering there has kept me humble, introduced me to a whole new group of people, and taught me about Ego.  By going there each week and helping out in the kitchen I am giving back to my community, and opening my eyes to the greater struggles people face here in my own city.  I have the time, energy and resources to devote to this cause, and I am very grateful to be in that position.  
5.  What is your biggest piece of unfinished business from 2015?

My biggest piece of unfinished business from 2015 is finishing up reading the notes I made from my fitness conference in November!  As well as I have been working on a few blog series on being vegan, getting ready to run, the science of stretching, and minimalist footwear.  I plan on making more time and energy to research and blog about those topics in the new year. 
6.  What are you most happy about completing in 2015?

I am most happy with certifying as a Kinesiologist and finishing a Posture Specialist course in 2015.  These two credentials are setting me up for further learning and growth in my profession in 2016.  
7.  Who are the 3 people who had the greatest impact on your life in 2015?

1.  Chelsea Clinton.  Chelsea wrote a children’s novel about issues within our world and what to do about them.  This book really got to me!  Obviously I am aware of many of the issues in our world, and I have always been passionate about solving them!  In high school I co-started a Global Awareness Committee, so it’s not like this passion is new to me.  Yet reading this book reinvigorated my need and drive to spread awareness about what is going in our world, small changes to make to solve these issues, and how to inspire others to do more in our world!  Thanks Chelsea for writing this book!

2.  Rich Roll.  Rich is an ultra endurance vegan athlete that I have been following for years.  When I look back on 2015 I see that his podcasts, books, and social media have had a huge impact on me and the choices I have made in my life this year.

3.  Kyle Kozak!  Aka. my partner in crime, best friend, soul mate, and life time lover!  Haha.  They say that a relationship exposes the most vulnerabilities, insecurities, habits, etc. within yourself, and so I am required to put Kyle in the answer to question #7!  To say he hasn’t had a big impact on me this year would be a lie.  This year through Kyle, and our relationship I have learned a great amount about trust, commitment, loyalty, honesty, hard work, dedication, support, marriage, being vulnerable and authentic, unconditional love, and the importance of family.
8.  What was the biggest risk you took in 2015?

Teaching yoga and aquafit in Cuba when I had never taught either of those in my life before?  Coming back from a 10 day trip and booking two more trips within 2 days when my Visa card was trying to stop me!  Opening myself up to more conversations with people I know and strangers.  
9.  What was the biggest surprise in 2015?

A fantastic birthday present from my mom that made my life that much easier!  A few trainers at the gym leaving and recommending their clients to me.  Not being afraid to hop on a ferry and camp/hike/bike in the woods for 4 days on my own. 
10.  What important relationship improved the most in 2015?

Even though I don’t see or talk to my brother very often I feel that our relationship has improved.  As we both grow a bit older we are able to connect easier and have some better conversations then in the past!  I look forward to spending more time with him next year!
11.  What compliment would you have liked to receive in 2015?

People often comment that I am hard working, dedicated, can do anything I set my mind to, focussed, committed and proactive.  I don’t often hear “kind, caring, compassionate, loving, generous”.  It doesn’t mean I am not those things, it just means i need to show those to others more often!  Hence, the goals i have set for myself for 2016 🙂
12.  What compliment would you have liked to give in 2015?

I’ve been working on complimenting more.  It doesn’t seem to come naturally to me.  I think good things about others in my head, but very rarely does it come out.  Last year I wished I would have been more verbal about the great work my clients have put in, and how much my friends mean to me. 
13.  What else do you need to be complete in 2015?

Well, it’s over!  There’s not much I can do about that now.  To be honest though, I feel 2015 was very complete, and one of my best years yet.  I look forward to evolving and growing on this journey further in 2016.  

In terms of planning for 2016 here is the guideline I follow for goal setting:

  •  I am not going to write them all for you to see here 🙂  But here is a preview!

Personal Goals
–  Health (Make my own beauty products, cook at least twice in the week).
–  Fitness ((do a triathlon, tough mudder, and Gran Fondo)
–  Emotional Intelligence (continuing to work on arguing with that darn critic in my mind, being light in social situations).
–  Spirituality (Continue to explore the new avenue and community we have found in Vancouver).

Professional Goals
–  Impact(stay true to my belief systems, and continue to promote lifestyle, nutrition, and sustainable fitness changes).
–  Financial- Keep up the good work from 2015!
–  Projects (teaching at Rhodes wellness college, starting a mobility class, sharing more on social media).
–  Continuing Education (taking the yoga tune up course, Kettlebell course)

Relationship Goals

  •  Continue to explore fun, adventure, passion, intimacy, vulnerability, planning, saving, commitment, and making it easy.

Travel Goals

  •  Pemberton hot springs, weekend showshoe at Elfin lakes, hiking the West Coast Trail, wedding in Ontario, Broken Island kayak trip, road trip down the Oregan Coast, Disneyland with Jill, Girls trip somewhere exciting, and New Zealand next Fall.

Acts of Service Goals

  •  Continue to volunteer at the soup kitchen, with the rock climbing program, think ahead for birthday’s and special occasions, organize a blanket drive, foster animals, look into less food waste from restaurants and grocery stores.

So that’s all folks!  I’d love to hear what you have reflected on and planned.

Also- what are you interested in learning about in my blog for 2016??



Food Insecurity- What does Optimal Health mean on a global scale? Thoughts around poverty.

So I am aware that my blog is titled Optimal Health Coaching, and you have come here to find resources about fitness, nutrition, motivation, and inspiration.  I wanted to take a step back for a second and think globally about “Optimal Health”.  As a subscriber to my blog, you are most likely a North American interested in losing weight, getting fit, or preventing disease, as this is my ‘target market’.  I’d like to take a moment and think about those people in our world who don’t have the time, money or capacity to be thinking about losing a few pounds, building muscle, or running a faster 10 k race.
I am not asking you to feel guilty or trivial about your fitness and health goals, but instead am looking for you to think globally about Optimal Health for a second.
For many of us (my regular readers) Optimal Health means eating the best organic food for our body, doing the right exercises, meditating, and visiting our Naturopath.  In most of the world I think Optimal Health would look more like eating food 3 meals a day, having a safe sheltered bed to sleep in, and not being afraid of catching an infectious disease.
In an effort to think globally about Optimal Health, I thought today I would write about food and nutrition, specifically the topic of food insecurity.

Food Insecurity is defined as ” consistent access to adequate food, limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.  Food insecurity means people going hungry.  Food insecurity means people running out of wages, and government funding by the end of the month to feed their family.  Food insecurity means kids and adults having to go to school hungry, yet still having to focus, achieve, and be productive at school and work.

It is hard to define poverty, and in fact there is no one single definition used worldwide to classify people as poor.  Currently I am reading a ‘kids’ book written by Chelsea Clinton about challenges that the USA and the world faces.  It’s called “It’s your world.  Get informed, gent inspired & get going”.  In her book one of the first topics she tackles is poverty and food insecurity.  Her writing is detailed, simple, full of facts and resources and lists of “what can you do next”.  It has really got me thinking about how grateful I am for my own circumstances, and given my circumstances what else could I be doing to support those less fortunate.
Let me tell you a story from my day.  This morning I had to fast for a blood test.  This meant not eating for 4 hours after I woke up.  By the time I went to get the blood drawn I was freezing cold, tired, grumpy, and had a horrible stomach ache.  I was embarrassed that with just four hours of not eating after waking my body was reacting so much.    I couldn’t imagine being a child or adult who had to endure mornings, day’s, or weeks like that regularly.  I also remember the days when I chose to restrict my calories to an extreme level and how foggy and tired I felt.  I had no focus, and it’s almost as if I have no clear memories from that time of my life.  This must be how kids and adults all over the world are feeling when they can’t get proper nutrition access.  I see the valuable role that healthy, nutritious food plays into my life and supports me to have energy, drive, and a good state of mind to pursue my dreams, goals and passions.  I want that for all children and adults!  In Chelsea’s book she makes a great comment to the point of, what if JUST ONE of those children in a developing country without enough food was supported by a healthy diet, home, and education.  Could they be the one to find a cure for cancer, solve our climate change issues, or play a role in finding a solution for global poverty?
In Chelsea’s book she states that in 2011, 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, and another billion are living on less than $2 a day.  Approximately 30 % of our population are surviving on a daily budget less that I spend to ride the bus downtown in the morning.  I spend more money bussing to work and grabbing a coffee on the way than 30 % of our global population do to survive the entire day.  Yes, it’s important to factor in that in different countries different products and services are much cheaper, but $1.25 a day is not enough to have all necessities of life on a regular basis in any country.  How are these people who don’t have enough nutrients, energy, or cash flow going to get an education, take care of themselves and their families, and stay healthy?
It’s one thing to be aware and support eliminating extreme poverty globally, and at the same time staying educated and supporting change around poverty locally (in North America).
In the USA there are 45.3 million people living in poverty (this is considered $32.5 a day for a family of 4).  45.3 million people living in poverty in the USA is approximately 10 million more people than the Canadian population!   In my research it appears as though Canada has a poverty rate somewhere around 9 % of our population, this equates to approximately 32 000 people.  One of the major issues with countries is in fact defining poverty.  In Canada the definition of poverty used is simply the % of the population that are the “poorest of the poor”.  So although 32 000 people are considered ‘substantial worse off than the average’, does that mean the average is not living in poverty?
The average minimum wage in the US is $7 an hour, and in Canada is $10-11 an hour.  If you worked 40 hours a week X10.25 an hour= $410 a week X4 weeks= $1645 a month = $19 200 a year.  Considering rent where I live in Vancouver for a one bedroom apartment is on average $1345 a month (similar to Toronto), it would be physically impossible to live solo as a single person in a larger city and make minimum wage.  Rent would cost $16 140 a year alone!!!  I can’t imagine it would be any easier to support a family with two parents making minimum wage.  It has been suggested that a family of 4 in Vancouver would require an individual hourly income greater than $20 an hour to support a family of 4 with two parents.  This equates to approximately $38 400 each parent a year.  In one of my first jobs in Vancouver I made about $18 an hour, and let me tell you I struggled to pay loans, pay rent, buy food and necessities, and have any kind of a social life or savings vehicles.  I have no idea how with a partner at that time I would have ever been able to support a family.  Sure there would have been sacrifices to make, but considering I was budgeting each dollar I made every month into an envelope to be spent appropriately, I remember there weren’t that many corners to cut.  There is poverty globally, including North America. (Please note, that poverty numbers in North America are decreasing, so positive things are being done, but it is obviously still an issue that affects millions of people).
In 2012, 49 million Americans lived with food insecurity that year.  4 out of every 10 of those people have an education level beyond post secondary, and millions of those numbers are people who in fact work full and part time, yet can’t make ends meet by the end of the month.  It’s scary that so many educated working people are still relying on charitable and government support to support themselves.  Is the solution education?  Is the solution raising minimum wage?  Is the solution actually teaching about budgeting, finances etc. in a school program?  Are the short term solutions food banks, food donations, soup kitchens, or food stamps?  There are 100’s of solutions and 100’s of books written on this topic and it is a topic I am looking to explore.
Sometimes I imagine, what if every person that makes over the poverty level used their money to support our country, economy, or globe.  I don’t mean cut corners and sacrifice fun and entertainment, but let’s say $50 000 a year as an income for a solo person provides you with a shelter, food, medical needs, vacations, clothes and shoes, savings, etc. in North America.  I can attest to the fact that $50 000 is plenty of income to have MORE than all of your needs met.   What if all money beyond that point was donated or put to a good cause?  It’s a crazy thought, right?  What would happen?  Are financial donations to programs focussing on eradicating poverty the answer?  Or would your education, expertise, and time be better spent supporting the issue?
There is in fact a philosopher from the States that I have come to listen to named William Mcaskill who supports, and organizes people to pledge to give a certain amount of their income annually to the most effective charities (I believe he donates anything he makes more than $35 000).  You can read more about his charity, concepts, and idease here:  https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/
It’s a hard topic to wrestle with.  We work hard, earn our money and want to use it to enjoy the lifestyle we have created for ourselves.  I am looking to explore this topic more with a more global forward thinking mindset.
So What do we do about this beyond just thinking & talking about it?
If you know me well, or read my blog often, you know that I am super proactive. Naturally I need to end this chapter with “What can we do”.  A few things I am looking at are:
–  Starting to volunteer on a weekly basis at our local soup kitchen.  I may not have a lot of money to donate to charity, but with my work schedule I have plenty of hours in a day to be volunteering my time and effort.
–  Staying more educated about topics such as food insecurity, how they affect our country and our globe, and what kind of change is needed.
–  Having my voice heared by local politicians around issues I feel strongly about.  Read about historical trends of these issues, and what kind of philosophies are there out there to change some of them.
–  Looking into whether Vancouver (and Canada in general) has a program where restaurants and grocery stores can donate leftover/going bad food to shelters and the homeless.
–  Thinking more about what I purchase.  Do I really need a new sweater or can that old one be sewn up?
–  Refrain from judging people who are not as lucky and as fortunate to have my set of circumstances, and instead stay curious about their story, and what kind of support they need.
–  Look at organizing a regular event to feed our homeless community in Vancouver.
–  Remind myself that one person can create change on Earth.  If I reach one person with my message and thoughts, with enough drive and passion who knows what they might create.
–  Provide this book “it’s your world” by Chelsea Clinton to more young people, to empower them to get educated and passionate about making our world a better place.

My empathy education (this one’s for the personal development junkies).

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position  (according to Wikipedia).

empathy 2

As a health coach, empathy is crucial!  Today I want to share with you about my lack of empathy throughout my life, how I am building it, and how I plan on supporting others with it.

I’ve been thinking about empathy A LOT lately after receiving feedback from friends and family close to me around my attitude and behaviour.  My whole life I have been 100 % problem solving, driven, and focussed.  When an issue arises no matter what it is, I accept the issue and immediately jump into what can I do to fix this, what steps am I going to take, what kind of support do I need?  In many ways this way of being has supported me in creating success, health, and happiness in my life.  In other ways I also see how it has held me back.  From example, when you experience a set back, there is obviously some emotion  you feel around the issue.  For me, I have always jumped from set back to problem solve, and tend to skip over the ‘feel uncomfortable around the emotion’ part  As a result I notice myself uncomfortable in expressing certain emotions.  For example when I got my kidney disease at 18, rather than feeling sad, angry or depressed I jumped to “at least it’s not cancer, it’s probably fixable, I’m not going to let this bug me”.  Or when I’ve gone sky diving, bungee jumping, swarm with sharks, and rock climbed mountains, rather than allowing myself to be scared shitless (like I truly felt inside) I told myself to bottle it up, be ok, push through and just do it.  Feel the fear and do it anyways, has been a big motto for me in my life.  It’s brought me adventure and success, but this type of ‘motto’ hasn’t necessarily made it very easy for me to connect and support others.  Connecting with another person, whether it’s a friend, family, coworker, or spouse requires feeling emotion and managing and sharing it properly.  If I was always skipping the ‘feeling’ part- how was this affecting my relationships?

I started noticing friends not confiding in me when they had issues and people not coming to me to support them with their struggles and challenges.  Then I started receiving feedback like “it’s as if you don’t care”, or “I don’t want a solution just yet, I just want to feel sad for a bit”.  I started realizing that perhaps my ‘problem solving’ attitude wasn’t quite supporting everyone in my life.  I especially noticed it with my clients.  Clients who couldn’t stick to the ‘diet plans’ I used to provide them, or clients who couldn’t manage to get their workouts in, I didn’t get it!  I noticed myself wanting to do the coaching role less and less because I just couldn’t quite understand why someone would say they wanted to do one thing, but wouldn’t do it!

It’s never been a “I don’t care about you” or “you can’t do it” kind of attitude that I am presenting.  Frig, I get emotional just watching commercials, older couples walking hand in hand in the park, cute dogs running down the street, or people happy and hugging.  The emotions are there, I just didn’t know how to turn them into a skill to support others.  I truly care about people, truly want to see them succeed, and definitely don’t want to see them suffer.

All of these topics are topics I have now been thinking about for a few years.  A lot of my thoughts and research around supporting others has come down to learning about empathy.  Empathy is the ability to recognize a situation another person is in, feel it, understand it, and support them from the place they are at.  So for example, if a client is really struggling to get to the gym 4 times a week, it’s about understanding what’s behind the scenes there for them, supporting them from a place of ‘it’s ok’, and ‘you are doing your best’.  All of this is different from my typical “why can’t you just make it happen’!?

empathy 3

As I learn about empathy more and more I learn that it is a innate skill in all people, yet sometimes those with autism or personality disorders are unable to feel and express this emotion/skill.  I know I am not labelled as having any kind of personality disorder, I think that just along the way in life I taught myself a skill that works tremendously well in most areas of my life, but not in relationships.  I have committed to practicing empathy because it is VERY important for me to have more solid, happy, relationships of all types in my life.

How I am practicing my empathy skill:

  1.  When people come to me with issues I keep my mouth shut!  Rather than making suggestions or trying to get my two cents in, I stay quiet.  I listen, I really try to make them feel heard and seen.  I try to get a good idea of what is going on for them.  I create space for them to say what they need to stay, and be emotional if they need to be emotional.  I try and relate to them with experiences happening in my own life once in awhile.  I say things like “I hear you on that one”, “Oh i totally get where you are coming from”, and “that must be so hard”.  It sounds funny to type this out, because for most of you this must feel natural, for me it’s a skill, and I am building it.  I notice as I interact with people like this they share more, we feel more connected, they are more open, and they are more likely to feel and benefit from my support for them.
  2. I try and really get a feel for what the issue is for them, and I try to relate it to something in my life.  As I allow myself to feel the common challenges and struggles in my life, I get to know a bit more about truly how I feel when something shitty happens.  As I allow this to happen more and more then I can relate to friends, family and clients as they share a similar story.  In the past when I didn’t allow myself to ‘go there’ with negative emotions I had no idea what it felt like to be broken up with, get fired from a job, screw up majorly on my financial budget, or feel really scared about something.  I simply sucked it up, realized I messed up and moved on.  Now, when my friends and family are experiencing a challenge in their life I have an emotional memory bank to relate to them from.
  3. I have started to realize that it’s not the ‘norm’ to suck things up, power through, numb out and do what you have to do.  I used to never understand why people who wanted to run a marathon couldn’t just suck it up and do the training, or people who wanted to do fundraising like me couldn’t just get the plan on paper and make it happen.  That’s because it’s hard!  Big tasks in life are challenging.  Many people experience challenges, and sometimes it sets them back, sometimes they over come them to completion.  For me, I just ignored challenges and powered through.  There is less benefit in this because I think it’s slightly selfish.  In the end I accomplish my dreams and goals, but by not going through the process I am unable to articulate and support others in doing the same.  Who cares if I make my dreams happen if I’m leaving others in the dust behind me.  Now, when people come to me with things they want to accomplish I become truly invested in figuring out what kind of support they need!  Rather than judging them for why the heck they can’t just make it happen, I try and make it my secret mission to get them there through empathy!
  4. By always being a negative emotion number, I think people started seeing me a someone who had it together and didn’t need support.  I started feeling shy around being sad, angry, depressed, confused, stuck, or lost in my life because I was so used to having my mask on of “I’ll make it happen”.  As a result, when I needed support from others I didn’t know how to articulate it, or where to get it!  As I slowly start to build trust in people that I can have all ranges of emotions and people won’t run away it feels nice to be a well rounded person!  Also, I know that by sharing all parts of me, people will be more likely to do the same, which creates meaningful connections.


Even though I am building this skill, sometimes people’s complaining, playing victim, or wallowing in their own self pitty still really irks me.  People who really want something in their life but have every single excuse in the book not to do it.  People who are happier seeking other’s pitty rather than looking for solutions.  People who are unable to express the fact that something is uncomfortable for them and they need support or guidance.  I still can get really irked when I see friends or family still playing the victim.  I commit to staying in empathy for them.  No jumping to solutions, or shoving suggestions down their throat.  I will empathize and support.  But what do you think- don’t people just need a good blast of “Let’s do what you gotta do to make this happen in your life” every once in awhile.  How do I draw the line?

How will this help me as a health coach?

  •  I continue to develop my ability to guide and coach clients into better health, rather than tell them what and how to do things.  I know in the end this will create the best health and happiness results in my clients life.  It is all so new to me, and something I am still developing.  I will keep you updated as to how it is going for me!
  • I think the hard part is being a personal trainer and trying to have empathy.  As a trainer we are supposed to push our clients past their limits, and challenge them to create fitness results in their life.  How do i draw the line between empathizing with my clients, while also challenging them!?  Any suggestions from you?  What I am trying lately is using things like “I know this feels really hard for you, and I know you don’t think you can finish the reps, but I know you can and I’ll help you through it” or “I know you can see your limits in this workout, it’s going to get tough, but just breathe, focus and pay attention the which muscles are working”.  I think it’s going well.

I encourage you to look at empathy in your own life, and share with me what you think about this blog.

Do you think empathy in the end is the answer for creating meaningful friendships and relationships?

Do you think empathy is a key tool to being a great fitness coach and personal trainer?

Do you think being a ‘problem solver, driven, jump to solutions’ type of person is best as a personal trainer?

How do you support those people in your life who are victims, and wallowers to get into action?

“Product” Review #1: Meditation

Hey, if you don’t mind, let’s step out of all the talk about healthy eating and exercising, and talk about meditation, stress, and mindset for a second.

Although we are conditioned to believe that going to the gym 3 times a week and eating our veggies are the crucial components of being healthy, there is in fact one component of health that is more important than all= Mental Health!  You can be as strong and fit and eat as well as you want but if you are governed by anger, sadness, lack of worthiness, stress, or anxiety, eventually your emotional well being will take a toll on your physical well being!

What do I mean by mental health?  To be mentally and emotionally healthy means managing our emotions, dealing with our challenges rather than avoiding them, seeking guidance for our destructive thoughts, finding ways to bring joy and happiness to your day, and taking time to be quiet, curious, and reflective.  Mental health means a variety of different things to many people.

How does mental health relate to health and fitness?  Well, if you are chronically overstressed, have negative self belief, or are so busy that you don’t give yourself 5 minutes a day to relax, how on earth are you going to foster a healthy relationship with food?  Your ‘monkey mind’ will eventually get the best of you, convincing you that an extra few cookies every night isn’t a big deal, or that you are too stressed and overworked to make it to the gym.  Where else could you see how an emotion that is not given proper attention could do some damage to the rest of the body?

I am no expert in mental health, nor do I have extensive experience researching and studying in this field.  What I do know is that to grow, learn, transform, change, and create a well rounded whole body healthy life, it requires some time focussing inward.  I have read numerous books, listened to many podcasts, and have countless friends who meditate regularly and enjoy it.  Most recently I started listening to “10 % happier”, an account of a famous news anchor in the States who begins using meditation to support himself from his panic and anxiety.  His name is Dan Harris, and I highly recommend his book if you want a good read from a skeptics perspective.

When we don’t go inward, and continue to live our day to day ignoring the behind the scenes, this can show up as physical symptoms (headaches, body aches, acne, upset stomach etc, I can speak from experience here).

Of course, you could now go google all the benefits of meditation, and read all about how it calms your nervous system, keeps you less agitated and calm in stressful situations, creates more focus and awareness in your life, allows you to sleep better etc. etc.  Here is a good list to start with:  http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/

But reading a list like that isn’t going to get you started.  Nor does a doctor telling you to start exercising, or a friend telling you to start eating veggies.  We don’t make a change until we are ready, and until we recognize some benefits within ourselves.

What does get people started in trying something new, and fostering a new habit, is experiencing results.  So I challenge you, learn to meditate.  Start today, try it, give it a good go- 90 days? 120 days?  Stick with it and notice what happens in your life.  Start with 5 minutes a day and work your way up.  There are different styles of meditation (you could read more about them here:  http://liveanddare.com/types-of-meditation/.  Or you could simply set your timer for 5 minutes, sit upright on the floor, and try to follow your breath in and out of your nose for 5 minutes.  You will see, it’s a lot harder than it looks for a variety of reasons, and that’s where the benefits come from.

I have always been on and off with meditation, and consistency is still something I struggle with.  I have been ‘fairly’ consistent for a few months now.  What I am finding is:

  •  More focus and presence when speaking with my clients
  • Better ability to speak what’s on my mind.
  • More comfortable looking in people’s eyes, because my mind isn’t racing about a million things.
  • Sense of peace and calm
  • Feeling more joy over small things
  • Sense of trust and ease in stressful situations
  • ability to be vulnerable with others
  • Ability to support others from an authentic, loving place.
  • Ability to talk about things that would have normally made me anxious.
  • More freedom to put ‘relaxing’ things on my To Do list rather than Work, Work, Work!

Now, if I was totally not self aware, I may not have noticed any of these things.  I could meditate and then go on my day to day without having any clue the meditation had any effect on me.  But I’ve been studying, and watching myself closely.  Also, I have had feedback from others.

So here is what I challenge you to do.  Start with 5 minutes a day, and work your way up to 20 minutes (apparently 2 times a day for 20 minutes is the key, I have not got close to that yet).

Tell me what happens for you as you start meditating.  What do you notice?  Have you had a positive experience?

In case you are looking for some meditation resources, here are some that I use:

  1.  Gaiam TV.  Gaiam TV is like a netflix for spiritual people.  To be honest, I don’t watch any of the shows (as they are all a little out there for me at this point), but I do the yoga and meditation regularly.  You can get a free 30 day trial and try out all the meditation and yoga you like!

To check out GAIAM TV go to my website, under the ‘mobility class’ tab and click on the link “Watch MY YOGA on Gaiam TV TODAY”:  http://www.optimal-health-coaching.com/classes-and-events/mobility-class/

2.  Subscribe to Tara Brach online, or her podacast from Itunes.  I listen to Tara’s meditations and ‘lessons’ regularly.  Guided meditation is a great way to stay focussed, and get a sense of ‘what to do’ when meditating.  http://www.tarabrach.com/

3.  Here is a youtube channel with some free guided meditations that I enjoy:


I look forward to hearing about how you do with your meditation practice!


Dining out 101 & other Corporate Lunch and Learns

Roughly once a month I provide corporate lunch and learns to various businesses around Vancouver.  I absolutely LOVE these opportunities because I love to share my knowledge, inspire others to lead healthier lives, while at the same time something about being in front of a crowd is really fun for me!

You can read all about the topics I present on here:


Unfortunately every once in awhile I experience road blocks that prevent me from being able to present, just as well all experience road blocks in our personal and professional lives.  Yesterday due to some lack of proper communication and organization within the company I was to be presenting at I had prepared a fantastic presentation titled Dining Out 101 and had arrive to present to find out it had been accidentally booked for another day!

Needless to say, I was a little disappointed as I had put a lot of preparation and effort into the presentation and was pumped up about presenting it!

Why do I share this story?  Yesterday was a good lesson for me in being an observer of my reactions, rather than reacting to my circumstances.  I think everything in life happens as it is supposed to happen, and it is up to us to decide how will react to it.  Initially I was very angry and upset to have had my time wasted like it was.  After some reflection and conversations with others I was able to determine that this experience needed to happen for me to learn a few lessons in my own life about signing contracts, and listening to my intuition, as well as those on the other end of the situation to learn a few lessons as well!

So a question to you might be- where have you felt disrespected, felt your time was wasted, been angry at another person for their lack of organization?  Did you react?  Did you express anger?  Did you let it wipe out your day and put you in a bad mood?  Did you also see your part in the scenario?

How do you work through these challenges with ease, grace, and a forward thinking attitude?

In the end, I have decided that this presentation still needs to be presented!  There is no way that I want all that work to go unheard!

So, if you work for a local Vancouver company and would like to have a 45 minute FREE company lunch and learn, then I want to hear from YOU.

Fill out these few questions below, and send them in an e-mail to katherine@optimal-health-coaching.com.

  1.  Name of your company.
  2. Why does your company deserve this opportunity?
  3. How do the employees in your company stay active and take their health seriously?
  4. How do you feel this opportunity would improve the health and lives of the employees at your company?

PS-  For the next few months I will periodically share little tid bits from my presentation in my blog- stay tuned!!


What do the words Health and FIT REALLY mean?

So if you have been reading my blog for awhile you know that once in awhile I go on a bit of a rant.  My purpose of ranting is to express what’s on my mind, while at the same time allowing you an opportunity to explore a concept you maybe heaven’t explored before.

So here goes..

For the past year or so I have been exploring why I react so greatly when someone looks at another person’s physical appearance and say’s something like ” Oh, that person, right, she’s the really fit one”, or “You should see him- he’s so fit”.  Or “I don’t know how he’s come down with this condition he looked so healthy”, or ” He exercised everyday he was really healthy”…etc.

Often when describing a SUPER FIT person, from my experience people are referring to someone who has a low body weight, sometimes this person has visible muscle, sometimes not, and most of the time they are being described ‘fit’ without actually having a clue about what they do physically to stay active.  In most of the cases I actually know the person’s current level of fitness (because I have tested/trained them, or know their exercise/activity schedule), and in many of the cases these skinny people are not even active!  Many people genetically are small, skinny, some even have muscular definition and ‘ab’s without exercising!  So it always makes me smile, and become curious- how are these people who I would more likely refer to as ‘skinny’ get so frequently labeled as “fit”….  Label #1- skinny people labeled automatically as fit because of their low body fat.

PS- what is fit?  I am going to mention this a few times in this blog, but I really want you to think about it.  Somewhere along the way the ability to run 10 k, a half marathon, or full marathon has become the idea of being fit.  What if this fit person can’t do a single push up?  What if this fit person can’t get through a yoga class?  What if this fit person can’t throw themselves into a team sport and pick it up?  My idea of fitness is a well rounded athlete who can sprint, run, jump, lift, swim, dance, bump, throw, stretch, and hold!  Aka- someone who is flexible, mobile, strong, and has enough cardio to participate in any sport 🙂

On the other end of the spectrum from the people who aren’t very active, I see people in the gym lifting a crazy amount of weight, or performing fantastic endurance in a cycling class, or in outdoor races, people super active who I think from a society perspective wouldn’t be labeled ‘fit’ (perhaps they are carrying a bit of extra weight, or not enough muscle), yet by physical standards they truly are!  Label #2:  Larger people not being labeled as fit because of excess body fat.

No let’s look at the words healthy.  Sometimes when a person is diagnosed with a disease you might hear others say “I don’t get it, he exercised regularly and took good care of himself”, or something about how ‘healthy’ this person seemed.  But what we don’t realize is that even if a person is running marathons, they may be filling up on processed foods, may be super stressed at work, may have a shitty social life, all leading to an overall unhealthy body.  What a person does athletically is very minimal in the grand scheme of things in terms of being healthy.  Heck- if you truly just wanted to use exercise for health you would walk/jog/bike moderately a few days a week, do a bit of yoga, and lift weights twice maybe.  Health doesn’t mean running marathons, powerlifting like crazy, or working out everyday, that’s ATHLETICISM!  Label #3:  Fit people being labeled as healthy because of their exercise level.

Am I ever advocating that being overweight is healthy?  No.  But what I am advocating is that people come in all shapes and sizes.  One person may get active everyday in a variety of ways, eat clean 80 % of the time, sleep well, and de stress regularly, and have a body mass index of 27 (considered overweight), whereas another may do the same and have 19.  Healthy is behind the scenes.  Healthy is what’s going on with your digestion, what’s going on with hormones, what’s going on mentally, what do your blood levels look like, etc.

So what does a healthy person look like?   I think a healthy person is someone with joy on their face, glowing skin, a balanced life, a nice smile and ability to socialize, someone who takes care of their fitness and nutrition in a balanced way.  Their body is a natural weight for them they they maintain by being active and nourishing themselves with good whole foods.  A healthy person seems happy, someone you want to get to know!  That’s my belief anyways…

So what about Athleticism, body builders, crossfit athletes, marathoners, etc.  Are these people Fit?  Yes!  In different ways of course, and so there it becomes tricky again!  Who is fitter?  A body builder who looks lean and ripped?  Or a marathoner who looks frail but can run for four hours at top speed?  I have my beliefs, but what are yours?  Are these people healthy?  This is where I wouldn’t automatically agree yes.  Depending on what sport you do, how vigorously you do it, if you provide yourself with enough fuel and rest to compensate, and what crazy extremes you go to to perform your sport, it may not necessarily be healthy.  Body builders will often dehydrate themselves, train multiple times a day, and take plenty of supplements to achieve a certain look, I can’t agree that this is ‘healthy’.   Label # 4:  Fit people being labeled as healthy because they look lean and muscular.

I believe that if you know me well, or you read my regularly, you know that I have had body image issues in the past.  I believe that working as a very fit averaged weight trainer has taught me a lot about these words and what they mean to me.  I believe that when ‘skinny’ people are called ‘fit’ I am triggered, because I know that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes, and that most of this blog is stemmed from that.  I encourage you to look at yourself, look at others, and look at how you group them into categories.  I bet you don’t even realize how ‘fit’ you are because perhaps you are so used to focussing on those 5 extra pounds you are carrying.  Perhaps maybe you assume you are healthy because you are active regularly, or maybe you eat well?  Think about the whole picture 🙂

For me- when I weighed the least (15 pounds more than I do now) I got PLENTY of compliments about how great I looked, how ‘fit’ I looked.  Internally though I had developed two conditions because my body fat % was too low, I had also lost my period, I didn’t have enough energy to have a work life, social life, and clean house, and I drove myself mental with trying to follow a strict diet.  I was not HEALTHY, and I couldn’t get through more than a 45 minute workout without my muscles seizing, or me taking a supplement, because I wasn’t fit or nourished enough.

Anyways- I hope this helps you in some way.  What are you exercising for?  To actually be fit? To look fit? To be healthy? To be an athlete?

How do you define yourself and others?

Share this with someone who might be inspired by these words today, might need them as a pick me up, or might resonate with my message 🙂