MoMondays

My talk from MoMondays – February 20th, 2017:

A little bit of backstory – for several years, I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues.  I’ve done a LOT of work on myself, making a conscious effort to become more confident, more mentally strong, and to get out of my shell.

A year ago, I decided I wanted to do a fitness competition…the one where I’d need to get super skinny and ripped, and then pose on stage in a blingy bikini.  I had been wanting to for a couple years, ever since I became more exposed to the fitness industry, and a year ago is when I finally felt mentally ready.

Going into it, I knew it would be intense and would take a lot of hard work and discipline…but I did not expect to be faced with the challenges that came up for me.

So this is how it went down:

I committed last February (2016), for the competition coming up this March (2017).  For the first several months, I was hitting the gym regularly and cleaning up my diet.  Then life happened, I let myself get distracted from my goals, and very gradually I started losing progress.  In October, I started to binge eat everyday, far past the point of feeling full, and I was in complete denial of it.  How I saw it was that I was still meal prepping regularly so my main meals were healthy… but I ignored the fact that I was munching on cookies and chips and noodles and perogies late at night.  Over the next few months, I continued to gain weight and by December, I realized that I was too far off track to compete in March without it being an incredibly stressful and unenjoyable experience.  On December 31st, I made the official decision to not compete anymore.  I realized it was going against all the things I promote on my blog…like well-being, happiness, and self-care… The competition was no longer important to me.  My health and happiness were.

Unfortunately, my rough patch didn’t end there.  The restrictive diet and intense training got the best of me and I started to have minor health issues and major emotional struggles.  It wasn’t just the fact that I gained weight nor the fact that I couldn’t fit a lot of my clothes anymore (though that part was frustrating too), but I started to feel different.  

  • My energy was low and I started to depend on coffee.  I never used to drink coffee.
  • My gut health and digestion went downhill.  After every meal, no matter what I ate, my stomach would balloon out and feel very uncomfortable.
  • I became insecure again.  All that self-esteem that I had worked so hard to build up over the past several years was gone.  It wasn’t all just about the physical aspect, but I felt insecure about my credibility…as a Health & Fitness Blogger, a Wellness Coordinator at my work, and a Personal Trainer in the making.
  • I just didn’t feel truly happy, and it affected how I went about my days, my weeks, my months.  I would have moments of depression.  I found myself crying out of nowhere, just because I was so tired and frustrated for feeling the way I felt.
  • My entire body became super tense from the anxiety, limiting my flexibility and certain movements, and then I started to have issues with my back and shoulder, preventing me from training.

To try and remedy all of this I was seeing my counsellor, naturopath, dietitian, chiro, RMT, physio…I was going in for acupuncture, cupping, and IV therapy…I tried taking time off the gym to let my body rest… all of this helped a LITTLE bit, but it was mostly a very tiring process having several appointments a week with no sure answer of what was wrong or what I could do to get me feeling back to normal.

It’s only in the last couple of weeks that I have started to feel progress, perhaps because I really wanted to have something inspiring and insightful to share tonight.  

  • I started counting calories for the first time ever, using MyFitnessPal app, and it’s made me aware of how much overeating I was doing.  
  • My chiro also started doing Active Release Therapy on me, to help with the scar tissue that built up from weight training.
  • I’ve been doing everything I can to alleviate any stress or anxiety – like meditating, writing in my daily gratitude journal, going to yoga, practicing deep breathing, running my diffuser with essential oils, and other “herbal” remedies.
  • I’ve been making a conscious effort to be gentle with myself, to be patient and kind and avoid any negative self-talk that I have been SO good at in the past.
  • I’ve been seeing my counsellor and at my last appointment, she said something that really resonated with me, actually, it kind of blew my mind.  She said to continue to workout regularly and focus on making myself feel good and enjoy the workout…rather than exercise to try and lose weight.  Instantly, I was excited to hit the gym.  A couple days later while I was studying my Personal Training textbook, I read to model positive reasons for exercising (feeling good, improving health and fitness level) rather than for negative reasons (looking good, losing weight) because that tells clients that they aren’t good enough…and that’s exactly what I was doing to myself.  When I was trying to get my weight back down to where I was before, I was only focussing on that, rather than enjoying my workouts like I used to, and that is why my progress suffered and my stress increased.

So that is basically what my health and fitness journey has been about for the past year, and honestly, I was hoping I’d have my shit together prior to this evening, but it’s still a work in progress…and that’s okay!  Through this experience, I learned how important self-compassion is.  It makes all the difference in the world when I’m nice to myself, rather than filling my head with negative self-talk all day long.

As tiring as this process has been, and as much as I just wanted to give up, I knew that it was happening to me for a reason…because really, EVERYTHING happens for a reason.  I have learned something every single day, whether it be about myself, the way my body works, the health and fitness industry… and what kept me going was my WHY. I so strongly believe that health and fitness changes lives for the better, in more than just a physical way, and I believe that my soul purpose is to inspire others to lead a fulfilling, happy life through health and fitness.  When I start to feel frustrated for falling off track with my goals, I remind myself that everything I learned from my experience over the past year will benefit those around me and my future clients.  I’ve now experienced some mental and physical challenges, and can help them prevent or conquer similar challenges that come their way.

I am super excited to feel healthy and strong again, inside and out. I am super excited to get past my anxiety. And I am super excited to inspire others and be a role model for them.

And I just want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all my friends and family who have been there to support me tonight and throughout my journey. I am ridiculously blessed to have you all in my life, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

If you are interested in sharing your story at a MoMondays event in Vancouver, let me know and I’ll get you touch with the organizer 🙂 These are real stories by real people – the more vulnerable you let yourself be, the more you can inspire others.

xo,
Sheena

#xoSLfit – Build Your Own Workout

Even though there are COUNTLESS workout routines available on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc…sometimes it’s fun to put the control in your hands and build your OWN.  Not quite sure how to start though?  Here’s one way, in the format of a fat-burning circuit!

  1. Download ‘Tabata Timer’, or any interval timer app
  2. Think of your 9 favourite exercises (tips: choose bodyweight or dumbbell exercises for quick transitions and easy accessibility, and select a range of exercises to cover all muscle groups)
  3. Write them down in sets of 3
  4. Try it!

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This is how my app is set up.  I do a 3 minute warm-up (ie: jumping jacks, skip rope, high knees, walking lunges) then I start the app.  I do each set of exercises 3x around before going on to the next set.  With this, it runs for just under 23 minutes and then I do a cool-down stretch.  From start to finish, I’m done in 30 minutes and dripping sweat!

Options to make it more challenging:

  • Add another set of 3 exercises
  • Do 4 rounds of each set, instead of 3
  • Workout for more time, rest for less time
  • Add weights, increase the intensity, move faster

I’m not going to post the exercises that I use in my circuits, to allow you to think up your own 🙂 but if you’d like suggestions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment!

Hope you give this a try, and have a fun sweat sesh!

xo,
Sheena

“I love you” – self

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“Because I always have a choice, I choose love” – Deepak Chopra

I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day, especially being single for it this year.  And though I never think you should wait for February 14th to show your significant other some gratitude, I’m still happy for those who are in love and expressing it to the world.  Do I feel bitter with the over-the-top marketing all around me?  A little.  And that’s when I remind myself to just breathe, cause it’s all good 🙂  I don’t hate Valentine’s Day, and I don’t pretend to not care about it.  It’s there, and it likes to divide those who are in relationships and who aren’t, but we can combat any of the negative feelings associated with it by focussing on ourselves and our loved ones…and a few drinks with some close friends watching live music (’cause that’s what I’ll be doing tonight!).  I have a ridiculous amount of things to be grateful for and am blessed to love so many people and have so many love me too.

In hindsight,  this phase of my life is giving me the opportunity to really connect with myself.  This is my time to figure my shit out so I can use less energy on all the negative self-talk and lack of self-confidence, and more energy on being productive and making a difference in this world…the things I really want to do!

My health & fitness journey hit a bit of a rough patch over the last few months, and I am only just starting to inch out of it now…slowly but surely.  It was a big reminder to be gentle with myself, to be compassionate with myself, and to love myself.  So as I continue on my journey towards a healthy, happy, fulfilling life, I thought I’d share some of my learnings on how to increase SELF-LOVE.

  • Tell yourself “I love you” – like really tell yourself that!  Have you ever looked yourself in the mirror and told yourself “I love you”?  Go try it.  You may feel a bit silly, or a lot silly, but once you get past that self-judgement, you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
  • Mention yourself in your gratitude journal – Show yourself gratitude by acknowledging all the amazing characteristics and unique traits that make you YOU!  Be thankful for the person you’ve become…mentally, spiritually, physically.  Feels good, doesn’t it?
  • Meditate – Try a self-compassion meditation.  When your mind naturally wanders to whatever is troubling you, acknowledge it without judgement or self-criticism.  Remind yourself you’re not alone, and offer yourself kind words like you would to a good friend.
  • Positive affirmations – create positive emotions by repeating affirmations that create joy within yourself.  Examples would be “I am enough”, “I lead a purposeful life”, and “I am capable”.  Write them out and put them where you’ll read them daily, it’ll increase the chances of your subconscious mind picking up on it.
  • Date yourself – Put as much effort into your relationship with yourself that you would in a relationship with a loved one.  If you’ve been wanting to go out dancing, go out dancing!  If you’ve been wanting to pamper yourself, pamper yourself! It’s all part of self-care and the more of it you do, the better you’ll feel about yourself, and the happier you’ll be.

The more we love and accept ourselves, the more we can love and accept others.  So this Valentines Day, love your loved ones, but don’t forget to love yourSELF first…because you deserve it.

Happy Valentines Day!

xo,
Sheena

Mindful Eating

“The core principles of mindful eating include being aware of the nourishment available through the process of food preparation and consumption, choosing enjoyable and nutritious foods, acknowledging food preferences non-judgmentally, recognizing and honoring physical hunger and satiety cues, and using wisdom to guide eating decisions.” –Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

Benefits of eating more mindfully are to bring awareness to your hunger and fullness, avoid overeating or eating too fast, improve weight management, reduce stress, have more appreciation for what you are eating, make better food choices, improve your relationship with food, and appreciate your meals more.

So foodies, here’s how you can take your enjoyment of food to the next level!

Start with one meal – with any new habits, practicing “small successes” have been proven to be more effective…so start with one meal, or even part of a meal, and be aware of how hungry you are before your meal and when you become full.

Remove distractions – avoid looking at your phone, watching TV, or reading a book while you eat.  Give your full attention to your meal, otherwise you may completely not realize when you’re eating and you won’t feel satisfied by the meal.

Tune in – become aware of your mindset and recognize there is no right or wrong way to eat, and if you find yourself losing focus on the meal, gently bring your thoughts back to what you’re doing…basically just like meditating 🙂

Use your senses – analyze one item from your dish as you eat it…the smell, textures, colours, flavours.   Try noticing how they change as you chew it.

Take your time – mindful eating requires slowing down, allowing your digestive enzymes to kick in and know when you’re full.

Try these techniques on your next meal and let me know how it goes!  I will be practicing these this week too.

xo,
Sheena

Source: The Chopra Center

 

Recipe: Chia Pudding

My naturopath recommended I start having Chia pudding for breakfast, consisting of chia seeds, almond milk and Greek yogurt. I made it that way the first time but didn’t enjoy it, because the Greek yogurt taste was too strong. Blegh. Over the week, I’ve adapted it into something sooooo delicious, and here is my recipe:

2 tbsp chia seed blend
2 tbsp almond milk
1/2 scoop choco protein powder
1 heaping spoonful of Greek yogurt
1 tbsp almond butter

Mix the above together, let it sit for 5+ min or overnight, top with All Bran Buds, and ENJOY!

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Of course, you can tweak the recipe to how you’d like by changing the flavour of protein powder, adding in nuts/seeds/fruits, adding in oatmeal, etc.

BTW, got these awesome containers with the extra compartment for toppings or dips from Dollarama! I love them.

Do you have any chia pudding recipes to share?  Comment below!

xo,
Sheena

Attaining and Maintaining a Fit Lifestyle

Hope you’ve all had a great start to 2017 so far!  Goal setting, trying new things, setting your intention for the year… and if you’re like me, settling in to a new schedule and finding balance again, that’s ok too.  Remember to be gentle with yourself, as you would with your best friend 🙂

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This was me and my girlfriend, Katrina (check out her blog www.lovekatslist.com), on New Years day.  We stepped out of our comfort zones (aka: our warm, cozy beds) and into the ice cold waters at English Bay.  We were screaming with fear and laughing with excitement, and then we finally took the plunge…shoulder deep haha It was quite an invigorating experience and plan on making this an annual tradition now!

With the new year just beginning, even if you didn’t start off with something as crazy as the Polar Bear Swim, I’m sure many of you have set some health and fitness goals.  Regardless of whether you’re calling them “new years resolutions” or not, a new year brings the opportunity for a fresh start and encourages everyone to amp up their lives.

The gym is never as busy as I’ve seen it this month.  It’s been a freakin’ ZOO at Steve Nash Downtown…and while I miss having the space and more available machines, I give props to everyone challenging their comfort zones by hitting the gym and getting active.  It’s exciting seeing so many people want to take care of themselves by improving their health!

If you are one of these people new to the gym or getting back to the gym after a long hiatus, good on you!  I know it’s not easy to take that first step and especially not easy to maintain it, but I promise that if you are consistent with your training, you will soon see results and become addicted to it…it will naturally turn into your lifestyle!

Here’s a list of what to expect when you’re new to exercise, and this includes when you try a new style of exercise that your muscles aren’t used to:

  • Discouragement – Expect to feel moments of this when you enter the gym, while you’re working out, or when you’re attempting to return to the gym again… just like anything, when you’re doing something new, you may feel a little intimidated.  Everyone starts somewhere though, you can’t expect to be amazing at it from Day 1…or 2 or 3.  So keep going and tell that little voice in your head to shut up 🙂
  • Muscle soreness – Learn to love this feeling!  It means you did work and now your muscles are growing.  Speed up the recovery process by supplementing your workout with BCAA’s (Branched-Chain Amino Acids).  I take THIS one.  Doing a light cardio session the next day will also help warm your muscles up and reduce the soreness.
  • Mindset change – Whether you start to feel discouraged by the challenge or you start to become more motivated by the results, your mindset will change…so prepare for this and stay on the positive side of things to ensure you don’t fall off track with your goals.
  • Having to be patient – Results take time, so don’t expect to see them right away…but you will notice those awesome endorphins right away, so that’s a plus!  You must be consistent and put in work, and then the results will start to show.

Tips to Maintain a Fit Lifestyle:

  • Ease into it – There’s no rush to get into a routine so don’t burn yourself out by trying to go 5-6x a week in the first couple of weeks.  Set a goal to go 2-3x in the first week, then 3-4x the following week…until you’ve reached a maintainable weekly fitness routine.
  • Lay out a plan – Schedule in your workouts and stick to them.  If you just play it by ear through the week, the week will pass and you will likely end up skipping your workouts.  Goal setting (think S.M.A.R.T.) is also important to help keep your motivation up.
  • Nourish your body with good food – Diet is a major part of leading a healthy, fit lifestyle.  If you aren’t fuelling yourself with a proper diet or enough food, you won’t have the energy to train and could be depleting yourself.
  • Get support – Hire a trainer, find a workout buddy or even pair up with an accountability buddy who will help you stay on track.  It’s more fun when you can share your achievements and encourage each other to grow!  You could even set rewards for each others’ accomplishments or have a friendly competition – whatever works for you 🙂
  • Enjoy the journey – Don’t have your eyes strictly set on your final goal, because you’ll miss all the fun getting there.  During my competition prep, I was so worried and obsessed over how I needed to look when I stepped on stage that I was no longer enjoying the process.  It’s SO important to enjoy your sweaty workouts, trying new exercises, your body getting stronger, eating clean, and little achievements along the way.  This is how you will maintain a healthy, fit lifestyle for the rest of your life…by enjoying it!

If you’re looking for some guidance to get you started, I am putting together custom health & fitness plans and would be happy to be your accountability buddy.  Contact me at xo@sheenalouie.com for details.  Spaces limited.

xo,
Sheena

My Fitness Journey – plot twist!

If you’ve been following me here on my blog or over on my Instagram, or if you know me personally, then you probably know that I’ve been training to compete in a bodybuilding competition happening in March 2017.  Over the past few years, I’ve grown a love (and almost an addiction) for fitness, and it’s basically become my life!  I love health and fitness, and it’s benefitted my life in so many ways that I want to share it with the world…so I do that through social media and soon, personal training.

Well, my fitness journey during my competition prep has been a bit of a bumpy ride.  I made my decision to compete this past Spring.  I was hitting the gym consistently, feeling pretty good, and ready to take on a new challenge.  In the Summer, I lost my focus a bit but was still training consistently and eating well for the most part.  I started seeing my abs come through and felt quite lean all over.  Then October hit and I turned 30, and according to everyone I’ve talked to recently, that’s when it all catches up to you and your metabolism changes.  I don’t know how much of that I believe but the timing was impeccable!  In a few short months, I gained 20 lbs pretty much out of nowhere.  No joke.  Some of it I’m sure was muscle, as I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, but a lot of it was also fat.  My clothes didn’t fit properly, I’d have to unbutton my pants to sit, my skin constantly felt tight all over my body, I felt bloated 24/7… and I’m not sure why I’m saying this in past tense, because this is how I feel right now.  For the past month, I’ve been very consciously trying to lose the excess fat in preparation of my competition by doing fasted cardio almost every morning, drinking lots of water, sticking to my meal plan, and lifting weights 6x a week…but instead, I just gained a couple more pounds.  As you can imagine, this became very frustrating and stressful, and the pressure to be ready to step on stage in March increased each and every day.

So here’s the kicker – I’ve decided to drop out of the competition!

That’s right, I will no longer be participating in the fitness competition.  Before you judge me or feel sorry for me or do any of that negative shit, know that I don’t see this as a failure at all, but rather as a win!  It’s been an incredible learning experience, and I truly believe this a positive step and the right move towards my own personal health and well-being.  This whole prep was going against all the health and happiness tidbits that I promote, and it had me feeling very stressed and overwhelmed.  I was trying to juggle two jobs, study for my personal training course, work on self-development and my overall health, maintain a social life, take care of my dog, and complete other small projects.

Regarding the weight gain, I felt like it was partially due to stress and my body resisting all of it, because how is it that I’m working my ass off at the gym and eating well, yet still constantly gaining weight?!  My body has never reacted this way, and it felt very unnatural.

I’m not completely shutting the door on competing in the future (I’ve already paid for the 2017 membership and ordered my shoes lol), but the fact is, you don’t see all the struggles that some competitors go through pre- and post-competition, you don’t see them break down or gain eating disorders, you only see the glitz and glam and them looking in amazing shape on stage.  Training for a fitness competition is INTENSE, and props to all of those who reach the finish line…I have SO much respect for all of you.

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So, the new year brings a fresh start!  I will take this opportunity to set new targets, get my health back on track, focus on my priorities, and learn to be gentle with myself.  My fitness journey is certainly not over, it has only taken a slight turn and the process will only become more enjoyable from here on out.  I’ve learned a LOT along the way – where my limits are, who my support system is, what my priorities are… and now that I’ve gained clarity, I can focus on what I love and what’s important to me.  Since making this decision, a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I feel incredibly excited to move forward.

A HUGE thank you to all of my friends, family, and colleagues who were so supportive of me and cheered me on.  I am incredibly blessed to have such amazing people in my life.

January will be the month of getting my shit together.  I will be clearing mental space in order to take care of myself and repair my overall health, and in turn, that will give me more energy to help others and spread wellness!

Thank you for reading this and being on this journey with me.  I hope it has inspired you and opened your eyes to see that you always have a choice.  Just because you’ve committed to something, it does not necessarily mean you are locked in and confined to that specific decision.  You can change your approach and still achieve the same goal in the end.  My ultimate goal was to get in the best shape of my life and inspire others to live a healthy, happy, fit life.  I chose the drastic route that ended up being too much, so now I’ve simply chosen the route that is healthier for me, mentally and physically, and that’s a win in my eyes.

xo,
Sheena