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An Update From Michelle

I’m popping in today, before the summer gets into full swing, to share an update with you.

For awhile now I’ve been feeling a bit stuck. Stuck in my own health and wellness journey. Stuck in my business. Stuck in my own personal development. Stuck in my physical space and surroundings.

It’s a place where the old stories of who I am, how I work, how I live, what nourishes me, what I believe in – aren’t working any more. They no longer resonate or seem relevant.

Author and speaker Charles Eisenstein, calls this time in one’s life the “space between stories.” It’s a place of many unknowns and “I don’t knows.” It’s a time of uncertainty, questioning and contemplating that calls for letting go, acceptance and surrender.

It’s a time of growth and transformation. And not unusual for women to experience this type of transition at this stage in life. I’ll be 50 in September. As this midlife appears, so do things like changing hormones, fluctuating energy levels, new health symptoms, restlessness and anxiety.

I am ready for a change. I sense it is near. But it’s not here yet.

As a virgo who wants everything to be clear now, this is a true test of patience. It’s hard when you’re a planner to surrender to what God or the universe has in store for you. It’s challenging to be in the space between stories when you are ready to let go of the old one but still waiting for the new one to emerge.

I’m intentionally trying to embrace this time of uncertainty. To simply be in it. To not take action. To have hope and faith that this new chapter will bring more meaning, purpose, integrity, alignment, love and peace. And to know that it will come when the time is right. When I’m ready.

So I continue to sit, be, wait, contemplate.

Meantime, baby steps are being taken. Small shifts are occurring. Fine cracks of light are getting in.

One of the areas I’ve been taking a deep dive into, is how I offer and structure my online group programs. 

As an introvert and a solo business owner, I’ve become overwhelmed and disillusioned with the online approaches to mass marketing.

To be honest, I’ve buckled under the constant pressure to continually create content, host Facebook groups, beautifully photograph my life for Instagram, host free challenges, develop opt-ins and funnels, facilitate webinars, record videos, develop recipes, and the list goes on and on and on.

To me, all of this is driven by one measure of success – money. The marketing messages are all about working less and earning more, making multiple six figures, building a bigger list, charging higher prices, reaching more people.

And while I may have bought into these messages for awhile. They are no longer working for me.

Introvert Michelle can’t continually step up to this pressure to be highly visible, create copious amounts of content and post my life in pictures on social media to promote a lifestyle brand. It’s just not me.

I have no aspirations to run an online health and wellness empire. I’ve chosen this work and lifestyle so I could help people on their health and wellness journeys and also have balance, flexibility, meaning and purpose in my own life.

Another aspect that doesn’t sit well with me, is that money can sometimes a barrier to me being of service or helping someone find more health and wellbeing. It doesn’t feel right that some people get excluded. I want my offerings to be accessible to anyone inspired to participate in them.

I’ve come to realize I subscribe to more of a boutique business model. Small, personal, with high attention to detail and customer service. Caring, meaningful connections with people who truly want to make dietary and lifestyle changes for sustainable health and wellbeing.

To this end, I’ve been asking, contemplating, praying, meditating on this one question:

“How can I continue to serve and offer my unique gifts to the world, in a more heartfelt, soulful, balanced, organic, caring, authentic and truthful way?”

The answer is not 100% clear yet. But a few bits and pieces have become visible.

Pay What You Choose

The first shift that has arisen is about pricing. I’ve been watching a few respected teachers and coaches offering programs in a different way from the typical stated price-for-product. Instead they aren’t determining the price but inviting the purchaser to determine what they can and want to pay. I’m very intrigued by this pay-what-you-choose approach.

To this end, I am working on modifying a few of my upcoming programs and inviting you pay what you choose if you’d like to participate.

This feels like the right next step for me. It’s exciting. I feel a sense of lightness around it. And it’s also a bit scary. It’s an experiment; unknown territory I look forward to stepping into. I do so with a bit of trepidation, but also with an open heart and curiosity.

Keep an eye on your inbox for news of my first pay-what-you-choose offering. I’m currently figuring out all the details. Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading and for being a valued member of my community. This isn’t the end of the story. Just the beginning of a new chapter. I hope you’ll stick around to see how it unfolds.

With love and blessings for a well nourished summer,

Apple Carrot Muffins – Grain and Dairy Free

A couple weeks ago I had an apple to use up and came across a muffin recipe that sounded yummy.

As I mentioned in this post, I don’t always read recipes completely through before I jump in.

I got partway into the apple muffin recipe before I realized it called for two apples not just one. Darn! I had to compromise. What could I substitute for the apple? Something with similar consistency, liquid level and sweetness. I decided a carrot could possibly work.

And it did. The muffins turned out great. Moist, tasty, just sweet enough. They have a lovely crumb topping that makes them seem very decadent, without the guilt and junky ingredients of a store-bought muffin.

Here’s the recipe inspired by this recipe from the Paleo Running Momma


Crumb top:

Muffin Batter:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk unsweetened (I used this brand)
  • 6 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil melted
  • 1 med/large carrot peeled and shredded
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 med/large apple peeled and finely diced

  1. Preheat  oven to 375 degrees F and place muffin tin liners in a 12 cup muffin pan.
  2. Mix crumb mixture ingredients in a bowl with a fork until combined and crumbly then place in fridge to chill.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl (except the coconut sugar) and set aside.
  4. Whisk together eggs, almond milk, vanilla, sugar, grated carrot, coconut oil and lemon juice in a large bowl until well combined.
  5. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet until no flour spots show, then fold in finely diced apples.
  6. Divide batter evenly among 12 lined muffin cups and sprinkle the chilled crumb topping over each one.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 mins or until muffins rise and toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before serving.
  8. Store muffins in fridge for up to one week.



Lemon Coconut Cheesecake Bites

It was my sweet dad’s birthday on the weekend and we had him and my mom over for brunch on Sunday. We were supposed to have them for dinner, but with a snow storm looming (can you believe it?) we decided to do brunch instead so they could get home before the weather turned.

We went for the typical brunch fare – scrambled eggs, sausages, oven baked home fries and the organic sourdough bread we made on Saturday at Jessica Ross’s (Jess Ross the Baker) workshop.

I know you don’t really need dessert at brunch but I wanted a little something since it was a birthday celebration.

I didn’t have much time, the oven was already in use for the potatoes and sausages, so I needed a no-bake recipe. A quick google search landed me on The Foodie Teen’s website and her zesty lemon and coconut cheesecake bites.

They were easy, no-bake and I had all the ingredients on hand in my cupboard. Wonderful, the parents would be arriving in just over an hour so definitely doable!

My husband always teases me that I’m not a great baker because I never read the recipe in full and always get halfway through and realize I either don’t have an ingredient, didn’t prepare something properly, skipped a step, forgot to add something etc.

And he’s right. I’m usually in a rush, glance at a recipe and get halfway in and realize I did something wrong, have to do a workaround, or make an adjustment or substitution. It usually works out in the end but I’d save myself a lot of hassle and grief if I just read through the recipe first.

Last week I made a batch of apple muffins. I had one apple left that needed to be used up before going bad and thought, “What can I do with that?” Muffins. Great.

Found a recipe, gave it a quick glance and jumped in. Halfway through I became confused. After adding in my shredded apple, I noticed down further it  says to add in one chopped apple.“Seriously. Two apples?” That wasn’t listed properly in the ingredients. Bad recipe!

“What can I use to replace an apple?” I had no other fresh fruit. No applesauce. No zucchini. Hmmmm what about a carrot? Fairly similar consistency, sweetness and amount of liquid. I think that could work. Done. Turned out great.

Tip: Read your recipe thoroughly before you jump in to prepare it. 

Everything was going great with the little cheesecake bites until I got to the end of the recipe and read, “Return the bars to the fridge and leave there for 2-3 hours, until firmed up.”

Two to three hours? Damn it! I didn’t have that much time. I had less than an hour at best. At this point I had to admit to Mike I made a mistake. “These might not be ready for our brunch. What do you think I should do? Maybe I’ll put them in the freezer.” He cautioned that the recipe didn’t say “freeze” (he’s a bit of a stickler for following recipes exactly) so they might not freeze properly.

I decided to let them sit for 30 minutes in the fridge and if not set, I’d try the freezer for the last 30 minutes. That’s what I did and they were perfect. Not frozen solid. Still a little pliable in the middle, and since they are made mostly of coconut, they softened up pretty quickly at room temperature.

Everyone loved them. The perfect little touch of sweetness after a heavy brunch. Zesty lemon flavour, smooth creamy texture. I’ll definitely be making these again.

And who knows, since my recipe “almost disasters” always turn out in the end, I might not change my ways. I might continue to rush, wing it and skim recipes to give them my own “non-intended” creative flare and unique touch 😉 We’ll see.

You can get the recipe here from The Foodie Teen.


Over to you. Are you someone who reads every little detail of a recipe and follows it to a “T” or do you like to wing it, glance and give recipes your own unique flare? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to know I’m not alone 🙂

FREE Spring Smoothie Challenge

While it doesn’t quite feel like spring yet here in Nova Scotia, my tastebuds sure are hankering for some lighter foods. And if you’re anything like me, sometimes during the winter, it is hard to get enough fruits and veggies in.

That’s why (I’m excited to announce) I’ve created a FREE 48-Hour Spring Smoothie Challenge.

The Smoothie Challenge is a great way to inject your system with fruits and veggies in a simple, nutritious and tasty way! You’ll get a high dose of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals to rev up your system and protect it against illness.

And it’s 100% FREE to join. Click here to register. 

As we move into the spring months it’s a perfect time to lighten up your eating from the heavier foods we tend to gravitate toward during the winter.

Think of the 48-hour Smoothie Challenge as a nutrient boost to your system. It’s not so much about taking things away or removing items from your diet (as a cleanse, detox or elimination diet would be), but to add in and increase your consumption of fruits and veggies. 

The Challenge is designed to incorporate more real, whole-food smoothies into your daily meal plan. You will still enjoy your regular meals (maybe with a few tweaks) and will simply add in up to a litre of smoothie each day.

As you flood your body with beneficial nutrient-dense foods, you may also start to release and clean out some of the toxic waste that has accumulated over the years. As a result, you may experience increased energy, weight loss, reduced cravings, better sleep, improved moods, less brain fog and reduced muscle and joint pain.

The Challenges runs for 2 days – Wednesday, April 4 and Thursday, April 5th.

Click here to register. It is FREE to join. No hidden costs. No gimmicks. Just straight up delicious recipes, easy-to-follow guidelines, community support and a bit of experimental fun!

Looking forward to blending our way to health and vitality! Are you in?

Yes, I’m ready to take the 48-Hour Smoothie Challenge

Today I share with you Part 4 of My Vipassana Experience. If you’d like to start from the beginning check out these posts: Part 1Part 2Part 3

Bittersweet Endings

On Day 10 after breakfast we met in the meditation hall for the last time. We learned the metta meditation of loving kindness or goodwill towards all. After this final sit, noble silence ends and noble speech begins.

I was excited and also a little bit sad. While I was absolutely ready to get home to my hubby and kitties, eat a burger and have a cup of coffee, I felt like I was finally starting to notice some positive outcomes.

My mind was indeed calming down significantly. My meditations were becoming deeper, more restful. I was in the present more than I was in my mind. I was feeling grateful, centered and grounded. I didn’t want to lose this.

The instructions were given about what would happen next. Noble silence ends once we leave the meditation hall, displays and resources will be set up in the dining hall, and a celebratory last meal will take place. We had the rest of the day to interact with each other to slowly ease and transition ourselves back into the real world.

I tentatively got up from my cushion, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to start speaking again. I didn’t want to loose this inner stillness and feelings of peace, love and compassion. Could I keep all of this going during re-entry into society?

Noble Speech Begins

As I entered the coat room I could sense the excitement from everyone. Once we stepped outside those doors we’d be free to speak. I was definitely curious to hear others’ experiences and share mine but I also wanted to hold onto this blissful state.

I donned my coat and boots. And with a tinge of bittersweetness I walked through the doors. Immediately I witnessed students hugging, laughter erupting and the debriefing beginning. A few others walked solitarily into the woods.

Longing for a few more minutes to savour this special feeling, I walked passed the chatter, looked up, felt the sun on my face and stood breathing in the fresh morning air. Wow I did it. It’s over. Big exhale.

And then I noticed something I hadn’t witnessed all week. Hundreds of blackbirds were in the treetops singing. Where did they come from? It was like on cue they were summoned to welcome us out of the silence back into sound. And what a beautiful sound it was. Incredible. Thank you I whispered to myself. I stood for a few more breaths in the wonder and awe of this magical moment.

I resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to hold onto the bliss much longer. I saw a couple of my rideshare buddies up ahead. Already well into their tales and stories, I tentatively meandered over. A few hugs were exchanged and the sharing began.

It didn’t take long for the bliss to wear off. Our egos and mental impurities came back full force. Complaining, judging, comparing and despairing. What we liked, what we didn’t. Comparing our experiences to one another. Criticizing other participants. Airing our grievances with the teachers, the food, the rules.

The Final Day

On Day 11 we got our cell phones back. The final link to the real world. With no internet or wifi to speak of, I was able to scrape up enough bandwidth to call Mike. It was choppy but I heard his voice. Told him I was alive and that I couldn’t wait to see him. He had already done my flight check-in, paid for my bags and upgraded my seat. Tears trickled down my face. Of course he did. He takes such good care of me. I am blessed.

It was time to pack up and clean. Then after some touching goodbyes we were off. Heading back to our homes, families and jobs with hopes and intentions of taking our learnings and experiences and applying them to our day-to-day lives.

The debriefing, sharing and reminiscing continued on the ride back to Toronto.

Heading Home

With a four-hour wait at the airport, I had lots of time to get jacked up on coffee and scarf down a burger and fries.

Starbucks was my first goal. Unfortunately, in my terminal, the only coffee shop was Tim Horton’s. Sorry to all of you timmies fans, I am not. Damn, I was so looking forward to sitting down with a delicious dark cup of Java and savouring each hot rich sip.

Let. It. Go. Do not react. Be unattached.

Okay. No more cravings for coffee. Let’s switch gears and find that big juicy burger. I walked the entire length of the terminal to weigh out my options. I settled on an Irish pub.

“Do you have decent coffee here?” I asked the waiter. “Yeah pretty good,” he replied. “Okay bring me a cup with cream and a cheeseburger with fries.”

I’ve never been very comfortable eating alone in restaurants. But something was different now. After eating all week in silence, not paying attention to other people, I found this quite enjoyable. My coffee came and that first sip was like heaven. Hot, rich, creamy goodness. I felt so present. So mindful. My tastebuds were so alive. I lingered over each sip. The burger arrived and the same consciousness occurred. It started with the smell of the burger. The anticipation of how good it would taste. I chewed slowly, really tasting the flavours. I am not sure how long it took me to finish but that was the slowest meal I’ve ever eaten. And one of the most enjoyable. In the words of Geneen Roth, “I enjoyed it with gusto!”

I boarded the plane and was off on the final leg of this journey back home. I ordered a glass of white wine. As I sipped and felt the relaxing effects of the alcohol kick in, the magnitude of what I had just done hit me. I felt so grateful for the texts and emails I had received from friends and family telling me how brave they thought I was and that they’d been thinking of me. The tears began. The emotion was overwhelming. I cried the whole way home.

I knew Mike would be waiting for me in the terminal as opposed to in the car like we usually do for airport pick-ups. He hid himself away beside a plant so I wouldn’t see him. But I did. I pretended to walk by and then turned around, took a few steps toward him and fell into his arms. I’d been waiting for that hug. I burst into tears. “Why are you crying,” he asked? “I don’t know,” I sobbed. “I’m just so glad to be home. I can’t believe I just did that. It was really hard!”

What I learned

It feels good to do hard things – I hadn’t challenged myself in awhile. In the past I’ve done things like trained for a marathon and long running races, left the security of a good government job, started my own business, backpacked through South East Asia and Australia, but I hadn’t done anything really hard or brave in awhile. So it felt really good to undertake the Vipassana, be completely open to it and complete it. I have a wonderful sense of accomplishment. It restored my faith in me. If I can do this I can do just about anything. I am brave!

I am truly blessed and so grateful – Before the retreat I was in a funk. Wallowing in my negative thought patterns, being resentful, making excuses. On the plane ride home, those tears were of gratitude for my life. For my husband. For my family. For my friends that really do care. For work that matters. For my health. For my home. For the opportunities to travel. For the experiences I get to have. For the continuous learning and growing I am able to do. For all the support I receive in so many ways. For the love and beauty all around me.

The present moment is all we really have – I understand now that we create all of our own suffering and misery in our minds by our ego to distract us from the present moment. I am not sure why it does this because the present moment is pretty awesome. It is the only real thing. Everything else is made up. Created. Fabricated. The more time we can spend in the present, the more peace, joy, love and light we will experience in our lives. The meditation practices I learned, are great tools to help me be more present.

Each day, each moment, start again – Every time we sat on our cushions and received our instructions from Goenka he would say, “Start again. Be alert and attentive. Keep working. Persistently. Diligently. Continuously. Start again.” Life is hard. It takes strong determination. Mediation is hard. It takes all of these qualities. But we keep getting new chances and opportunities to start again. No matter what your goals, intentions or desires are, you just keep at it. Don’t let the failures of the past discourage you. With each breath, each moment, each day we get new chances to start over. This is my new mantra. Start Again.

Nothing is good or bad. It just is – Much of the teachings were based on this concept of equanimity or non-reaction. Reacting to our thoughts, to people, to situations and experiences is what gets us into trouble, not the thing itself. We 100% create all of our own suffering and misery by reacting. We react toward things we want (craving) and we react away from things we don’t want (aversion). If we can be neutral, equanimous and not react, we can lessen our suffering and be more at peace.


Some lingering questions you may have….

Would you do it again? Not next week. But ask me in six months from now. Maybe.

Are you meditating two hours a day like they recommend? No. But I have been more consistent and I truly understand the benefits of meditation now. I spend more time in the present.

What differences have you noticed since being back? I do not react like I used to. I am able to let go of much more. I am less judgemental and critical. I take responsibility for my thoughts and triggers and don’t blame them on others. I use the breath to get out of my head and into the present moment. I have more patience, compassion and gratitude.

Would you recommend it? Everyone’s experiences are so different. I thought about this for a long time. I researched and prepared myself. I was ready for the experience. I went into it with an open mind.I got a ton out of it. But it is not for everyone. I was amazed at the wide range of people who attended the course. It is a very personal decision, not one to jump into lightly.

If you are looking for a kick in the butt to get excited again about your life, feel free to ask me more about whether or not a vipassana course might be right for you.

Blessings. Thanks for reading.

Today, in part 3 of my series, I share some of the highlights of the actual meditation/retreat experience. Let’s start with the daily schedule.

The daily schedule:

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30 – 6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30 – 8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00 – 9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00 – 11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00 am – 12:00 pm Lunch break
12 pm – 1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00 – 2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30 – 3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30 – 5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00 – 6:00 pm Tea break
6:00 – 7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00 – 8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15 – 9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00 – 9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room — Lights out

While this looks pretty intense, it ended up being more flexible than I thought it would be.

I learned after the first couple of days of following the instructions 100% that there was room in the schedule for some naps and walks.

I could sleep in a little bit and show up at the meditation hall at around 5:45 am when the teachers arrived. At that point we’d sit through a 20-30 minute chanting session by Goenka.

This was one of the low points of the retreat. The morning chanting. While chanting has the potential to be quite lovely, harmonious, pleasant, I’m sorry to say that Goenka falls short.

The Pali suttas or verses chanted by Goenka before breakfast were an assault on the ears. Painful to sit through. It was almost laughable, I thought “Is this serious, does anyone else think this guy sounds drunk and incoherent?”

His gravelly, unmelodic voice would trail off into a groan at the end as he used up every last bit of breath in his lungs in a throaty exhale. And then there would be a pause, during which I’d think, “yes it’s over, bring on the breakfast.” But no, he’s start in again and it would continue, on and on and on. I had no idea what he was saying or what it meant. But we sat through it every morning.

I’d also use a couple opportunities throughout the day, when the instruction was to “either meditate in the hall or in your room” to get outside and walk for 30-40 minutes. Just before meal time usually. It was great to get some fresh air and get the body moving.

And then after lunch I usually took a little nap before the afternoon session would start.

Within this modified schedule I was still mediating for 6.5 to 7 hours each day.

The technique and teachings

The meditation course is divided into three aspects or phases of meditation. The first three days was learning and practicing a technique called Anapana Meditation. This is all about focussing on the breath to help calm the mind to get centred and grounded.

Through Anapana we realize the mind never wants us to be in the present moment. In fact, it will do anything to take us out of the present and distract us. And that’s when our long held mind and thought patterns kick in.

On day 4 we learned Vipassana which is like a body scan meditation where you work through individual parts of the body to observe sensation. When you do encounter a sensation, the instruction is to not react. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. This is the practice of equanimity.

Observing these sensations helps with aversion and craving which is what the teaching says causes most suffering. If we react to craving or aversion that’s when we create the suffering or misery. These cravings and aversions are daily occurrences of being human. We can’t eliminate their existence; what we can do is change is our reaction to them.

We want to move away from things that we don’t like (aversion). And we want to move toward things we do like (craving). By sitting with, and not reacting to, any negative sensations in the body we work on the aversions. And by being equanimous with the pleasant sensations, we work on the cravings.

Also on day 4, sittings of “strong determination” start. This is where you have to sit for the full hour without moving your hands, legs, opening your eyes and refraining from itching and scratching. This takes place three times a day and is mandatory.

On the 10th day we learned Metta or loving kindness meditation.

Each day we listened to instructions recorded by Goenka and each evening we watched video taped discourses by him explaining the practices and teachings. The evening discourses were a highlight for me.

At various times through the day we’d have an opportunity to approach the teacher to ask questions in the larger group and over the lunch hour we could book a four minute time slot to ask questions one-on-one with the teacher.

My Aversions and Cravings

The critical mind

By day 2 I was getting a pretty good sense of my top mental impurities. Where my mind liked to go most often. Its default position. My mind loves to judge and criticize. In fact it “craves” and “thrives” in this place. And boy was this place giving me a lot of fodder. In fact, I believe the whole process is designed this way. To provide the setting and circumstances for our thought patterns, habits and triggers to come out and rear their ugly heads.

There were so many rules everywhere you went. Rules in the dining hall about not taking food back to your room. Rules in the meditation hall waiting room about not doing yoga. Rules in the bathroom to take one piece of paper towel to dry your hands. Rules about when to take a shower and how to leave the bathroom in a tidy condition after you left.

I’m a rule follower. I do exactly as I’m told. But it became clear pretty quickly that not everyone is like me.

I watched someone make a peanut butter sandwich and put it in her pocket and take it back to her dorm. I witnesses people at every break in full pigeon, downward dog and half moon pose in the meditation waiting area. I’d take my measly one piece of paper towel to dry my hands and watch the next person crank out three sheets from the dispenser. And each evening when it was time for lights out, I’d notice someone heading into the bathroom to take a shower at a non-designated shower time. And she did not clean up after herself or leave the bathroom in a tidy state!

I just assumed the course mangers would also notice these rule-breakers, pull them aside and give them a stern “talking-to”. But I quickly learned, there is no enforcement of the rules. No one is called-out for not abiding. I guess they go by the honour system. And this made my critical mind shift into overdrive. I actually started to feel bad and overwhelmed. Here I was supposed to be calm, focussed and present, but all I could do was make stories up in my mind about these rebels and fantasize about chastising them.

I scheduled a time to chat with the teacher on Day 2 at noon. I had 4 minutes to get her help. “What do I do with this critical judgemental mind,” I asked. “I feel like a horrible person,” I admitted with a touch of shame and a lump in my throat.

“Do you mean like on day 10 you feel like to want to tell someone off?” she asked? “Yes, exactly,” I said. “I can relate to that. It’s common,” she reassured me. “Instead of reacting, focus on the breath. Always keep coming back to the breath.”

Over time my critical mind started to calm down. When I wasn’t sitting on my cushion, I turned more inward and tried to keep my mind clear and focussed on the breath rather than looking at other people and being critical of their actions. I was slowly cultivating more compassion, tolerance and goodwill. I sensed a positive shift emerging.

The worried mind

The other thing my mind likes to do, to take me out of the present, is worry. And being out of touch with the rest of the world (having your phone locked up), makes this type of mental craving even worse because there is no way to confirm or deny your worries.

I woke up one night in a panic after a horrible nightmare that my mom had died. The next morning my mind was filled with anxiety, “what if something happened to her? What if she’s in the hospital but may family doesn’t want to interrupt my retreat?”

And then there were the worries about home. “What if I left the stove on, my house caught fire, burned to the ground and and my kitties died? What if Mike, my husband, got in a plane crash and never made it home?”

Crazy, unreasonable, unfounded worries created by my mind to distract me from my breath and the present moment. What a sneaky, manipulative, suffering-inducing beast the mind is.

So back to the teacher I went. “I’m worrying and panicking about my mom and others at home, what do I do? I know the teaching recommends non-reaction, but what if something has happened?” I ask. “Reacting from those old deep patterns and habits is what gets you into trouble and causes the panic. But we are not suggesting you never take action,” she clarifies. “The reasonable action in this instance (if you did have your phone) would be to call and check in with home. In the meantime, go back to the breath. And this too will come to pass.”

A reminder of impermanence. The worry comes, and if you breathe through it, it passes. It might take awhile, but it does pass eventually.

The pain

I’m in decent shape. I work out. I do yoga. I can sit cross legged. I wasn’t overly worried about sitting for long periods of time. So when the pain in my upper and middle back set in, I was a little surprised and dismayed. I’ve experienced this before but had forgotten how truly painful it could be.

Another distraction for my mind. Instead of allowing me to focus on my breath and be in the present, my mind immediately jumped to finding a solution.

The first strategy was to simply shift and move my body to release some of the back tension, but that didn’t alleviate the pain. I also had the two sitting options with I would switch between – cross legged and sitting with my legs tucked underneath me on the meditation bench.

I noticed many students had backjacks which are meditation seats for floor sitting with a back rest. I knew that leaning up against something would definitely help ease the pain. But I didn’t see them stacked anywhere and I couldn’t talk to the others to ask where they got them from. I assumed the teacher had them locked up somewhere. At the break I went to the teacher, expand the pain and asked if I could get a backjack.

“I could put a chair out for you,” she said “But if you use a support you will never really know if you are moving through the pain or it is the backjack that releases it.”

Right. The point is to sit with the pain and see it come and go. Not to simply remove it. Okay. Back to my spot I go.

On Day 5, during a sitting of strong determination, the pain was so intense I broke into a wicked sweat and thought I was going to either pass out or throw up. If either of those things happened I hoped someone would come to help me.

I had to move slightly to remove my wrap and sweater, but otherwise I sat through it for the whole hour. There were tears, worry, fear, praying for it to be over, imagining myself getting up and running from the room – the whole gamut of emotions. But I did it.

Again I went to the teacher after the sitting and explained what just happened. “You were very brave to sit through it,” she said.

Bravery. Interesting. Is that what we’re here to develop? Brave is my word for 2018 and I guess I know why.

The food

My initial excitement about eating differently for 10 days wore off pretty quickly. So. Many. Carbs. Toast and oatmeal for breakfast. Rice and starchy vegetables for lunch and then fruit for supper. I was definitely missing my protein.

It was okay for the first few days but after 10 days of the same breakfast, same salad at lunch and those same freaking apples, oranges and bananas for supper, I was done.

Food for most of us food provides pleasure, enjoyment, comfort, reward, something to look forward to. Well all of those aspects of food are gone here. Because all of these emotions we connect with food are created by our minds. So when you take food down to the basics and provide the body what it needs, the mind goes crazy. It becomes very evident how attached the mind is to craving food and using it in ways it was never intended for.

I started craving food. I had a list of the top things I was going to enjoy after the course. I would fantasize about how good it would all taste. Coffee. A big juicy burger. An egg – a simple wholesome egg. A glass of wine.

And then they played a few tricks on us. One day there were cookies at lunch. Another day there was a big pot of hot ginger tea during supper. And then randomly another day there were brownies! But these treats were’t consistent. And they really messed with my mind.

During meditation I’d start to wonder and imagine what treat would be at lunch or dinner that day. “Maybe this would be the day they’d alleviate our suffering just a little.” I’d look forward to it and cling to any little bit of comfort, reward or pleasure I might get that day. And then I’d be so devastated when there was nothing there. No treat. Just the regular old fare.

Dealing with disappointment eh? I’m staring to see how this whole experience is a metaphor for life.

The room mate

My sweet roommate was sick. She told me on day 0 when we first met that she hadn’t been feeling well and had tried all the preventions and precautions in the days leading up to the course, but felt her cold was inevitable. I was at the tail end of a sinus infection and taking medication. I did not want to get sick again.

I could tell she was really suffering. The coughing. Sneezing. Nose blowing. Frequent naps. When I’d catch a glimpse of her I could see the pain on her face. The dark circles under her eyes. She was in bad shape. “Why is she sticking it out,” I thought. “If that was me I’d be gone home!”

Fortunately, I had ear plugs for the night time but I could still hear her coughing through them. And since I was on penicillin for my infection, I felt fairly protected. But it was close quarters. Just a flimsy bed sheet on a clothesline separating us. I was definitely breathing in her germs.

“I know it’s is all part of the process,” I’d tell myself. “Dealing with the distractions, disruptions, irritations and other people. This is what life is. So breathe through it. Don’t react.”

On Day 8 with still three nights left, I noticed the room beside ours was vacant. My mind got very excited and started to develop a plan. So much for not reacting! I could easily just move over, give my roommate some space and I’d be more comfortable as well. I really don’t want to get sick again.

Back to the teacher I went the next day at noon. I explained the situation and rationale for wanting to move rooms.

“Well it’s not as simple as that,” she explained. “You can’t just move yourself over. There is a process. You have to pack all of your things up and during meditation a volunteer will come into your room and move your things. Otherwise other students will think they can just move rooms. Plus that’s not how you get sick. You get sick by not washing your hands. So make sure you do that. Do you still want to do it?

“Yes,” I said. “I do.” My mind wasn’t letting go of this one. I didn’t care about the hassle. I wanted my own space. I reacted.

Signs from home

There were a couple bright lights throughout the whole experience that helped me get through. They were signs from home, from my husband Mike. This was the longest we had gone without speaking to one another since we’d met. And I was missing him dearly. He’s my person. My number one go-to. And to not be able to share this with him was tough.

But I believe the universe sent me a couple signs and signals to reassure me, to let me know he was there thinking of me.

The first showed up on another student’s coat. She sat down across from me at almost every meal. Three times a day. She’d eat with her coat on. And the brand of her coat was Beaver Canoe.

And why is Beaver Canoe so meaningful? Well my hubby Mike likes to call me by various nicknames. He’s a bit of a jokester. He calls me things like vegetable lasagna, captain tights and yup you guessed it “Beaver Canoe.” (I think it has something to do with my teeth.)

Anyhoo, reading those words on her coat at every meal made me smile. I got a little flutter in my heart and of course my mind loved it as well. Let’s make up a story around this and latch onto it. To distract you from the boring food. Sounds about right.

The other sign from home occurred while I was out walking one day. The walking path wasn’t long and it become icy after some rain and very cold temperatures. So I began a ritual of walking a circle around a small tree out in front of the meditation hall. It was a walking meditation. Head down, no eye contact with others, slow intentional steps coordinated with the breath.

Breathe in, step right. Breathe out, step left. Around and around and around. Usually for 30-45 minutes twice a day.

On one bright, sunny morning I looked down and saw three numbers that had been stamped into the snow from the bottom of someone’s boot. It looked like the numbers were 292. I had to stop and take a closer look to confirm. Yes indeed, it was 292. A big smile crossed my face. My heart warmed with gratitude. I had a little chuckle to myself. Thank you. Thank you.

The first three digits of Mike’s phone number are 292.

Another sign from the universe. Another thing for my mind to cling to. Another story for it to create.

I didn’t care at that point if I was reacting. Indeed a little boost. A little bit of hope. A sign that all is good in the world and I’d be okay.

Check back next week for the final instalment where I’ll share my takeaways and learnings from the experience.

Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3

If you missed part 1 of my meditation experience you can read it here.

No turning back

I’m at the airport waiting to board my flight, savouring my last coffee for 11 days (that’s right no coffee at the retreat) and texting my friends and family looking for reassurance and comfort, “I guess this is it? I’m really doing it. There’s no turning back now!”

I enjoy a glass of white wine on the plane, because obviously I won’t be drinking for 12 days!

I get picked up at the airpot by the very kind Trudie and her son Misha, who I connected with through the Vipassana ride share site. They agreed to pick up and drive three other participants to the retreat centre in Egbert, Ontario near Barrie. People’s generosity amazes me.

On the drive we exchange stories about why we’re doing the course. For three of us it is our first time. The third lady is an “old student” (what they call a returning student) as she completed her first 10-day course the year before. I felt it was a good sign she was going back again.

She says to me, “I guess you are planning to stay for the whole time then since you flew here. You can’t really leave can you!”

I didn’t think leaving was an option. Of course I’m going to do it and stick it out. We had to commit to the 10 days didn’t we?

It was a quick and easy ride from the airport to the centre. About an hour. We pull in and it’s almost time to turn off our phones. I make one final quick call to my husband. “We’re here. This is it. Talk to you in 11 days. I love you.”

This will be the longest we’ve gone without speaking to each other.

We’ve arrived

It’s day 0. Which is all about settling in, registering and getting oriented. We’re assigned our rooms and have some time before the “last supper” to unpack and register.

I say the “last supper” because, even though I read on the website that supper, or “tea” as they called it, was basically fruit and tea, it didn’t register what that actually meant. I was picturing big bowls of yummy fruit salad, maybe some nuts, seeds or granola to go along with it. A little yogurt or simple biscuit perhaps. Maybe even a finger sandwich or two. Those are usually part of “tea” aren’t they?

I’m in the same residence as the “old student” from my ride. Very cool, she can show me the ropes. The dorm rooms are similar to the pictures I viewed on the website. Basic twin bed mattresses on a wooden frame. A decent sized shelving unit, chair, a few hooks on the wall and a couple hangers. The room is divided in two by a sheet hung on a clothesline-type wire. I see a suitcase on the other bed. I wonder who my roommate is?

I sign up for a shower slot (once a day for 20 minutes the bathroom is all mine!), unpack, make up my bed and head over to the dining hall for registration.

There are a few documents to review and return (no reading materials allowed). Then you complete a background form that asks about mental stability, alcohol and drug use and for 5-6 bullet points with the highlights of your life. Finally, you agree to stay for the 10 days and sign off on the precepts to adhere to during the course:

  • To abstain from killing any being
  • To abstain from stealing
  • To abstain from all sexual activity
  • To abstain from telling lies
  • To abstain from all intoxicants

I then hand over my phone and valuables to be locked up for safe keeping. I’ve never been this unplugged before in my life and feel a little sick to my stomach as I turn off my phone and watch the volunteer seal it up in a ziplock bag.

I go back to to my room and meet my roommate. She’s lovely Indian woman in her sixties, who was happily surprised when I said I flew in from Halifax.

“Really you’re from Halifax? My husband tried to get in touch with you about a ride from the airport. But we weren’t officially registered on the ride share board so I don’t think the email got through to you. My sister lives in Halifax.”

Oh how sweet. I feel like it is meant to be. We share stories of why we’re here and our backgrounds. Then a few of us from the residence head out for a little walk before dinner. The returning student shows us the grounds and we loop through the short walking trail.

The gong sounds. It’s time for dinner and I’m hungry. We make our way to the women’s dining hall.

A simple vegetarian buffet is set up. A big pot of lentil soup, cornbread and the fixings for salad. It’s warm, nourishing and satisfying. After the Christmas holiday indulgence, I’m actually ready to switch up my eating for a bit and go vegetarian. However, I’m a little worried about all the carbs and lack of protein. And typically my digestive system doesn’t do so well on beans and legumes. But this is all part of the process right? I am here to fully embrace the experience and my thoughts and thinking around food are all part of it.

After dinner we all gather (about 100-150 men and women) in the women’s dining hall for an orientation delivered by a guy named Bob. There’s no formal introduction but I get a sense he’s more of a facilities manager than a teacher. He gives us a run down on the schedule, the property, do’s and don’ts and a bit of what we can expect.

He answers some questions. Introduces the course managers who are different from the teachers. The managers are the folks we go to with day-to-day, logistical types of issues. Bob explains what will happen next during our first sitting this evening. Once that is over we will be in silence. It’s a helpful, yet light-on-details, overview. I leave with hundreds of questions swirling in my head.

Our first sit – silence has begun

We head over to the meditation hall and wait in the coat room to be called by name, row-by-row into the hall. Men and women are divided. Men on the left side and women on the right. We find our spots which are designated for the duration of the course. There is a large zabuton type cushion that forms the base, then one smaller square cushion on top.

Surprisingly, there’s no instruction on how to sit, proper posture, props or supports. This is up to each person to figure out. There are a few extra supplies (cushions, blankets, kneeling benches) out in the coatroom to use. Many people have brought their own.

After everyone is seated and quiet, the teachers arrive. To be honest things become a little fuzzy at that point. I remember Scott, the male teacher, introducing himself and his wife Karen and explaining that Goenka is the main teacher of the course and they are the assistant teachers. I don’t remember how long we sit for or what else he says.

I do recall having this image of how tranquil, peaceful and calm this scene of 150 people sitting in silence and stillness would look to an observer. But the reality is that on the inside, each one of our minds was likely going absolutely crazy with thoughts, questions, worries, fears and apprehensions.

I could imagine this scene as a cartoon with two pictures – the first picture captioned “here’s what it looks like on the outside” and the second pic being “here’s what’s really going on.”

It felt a little surreal as we left the meditation hall that night in silence. Heads down, no eye contact, inward focus, walking back to our rooms in the dark.

I also remember how good it felt to brush my teeth and crawl into my little bed. I was exhausted. A bit overwhelmed. Anxiously excited. And truly open to what would unfold over the next 10 days.

Read Part 3 here. 

I’m recently back from a 10-Day Vipassana silent meditation course. It was one of the hardest things I‘ve ever done and one of the most cathartic, profound and valuable.

I shared my experience with a few close friends and family members and decided I should probably write about it – as a way to process the experience and to have it to refer back to. Plus many people have asked me about it, but it’s difficult to explain in a 10 minute conversation.

As I sat down to write, I realized it was not going to be a regular length blog post. In fact, it was going to have to be a series of posts.

Today I share Part 1 – how I came to do the course in the first place and the lead up to it. Part 2 will be some highlights of the actual experience and then Part 3 will recap my takeaways and key learnings.


Vipassana 2018 – Part 1

My 20 year flirtation with meditation

I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time. Probably since I read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert in 2006. I’ve longed for a chunk of time to sit in contemplation, immerse myself in spiritual teachings, find a community of like-minded individuals, like Gilbert did when she went to India in the Pray section of the book.

In fact, as I re-read that section as I prepared to write this, I had forgotten Gilbert actually tried out Vipassana while she was at the Ashram and shares a bit about the teaching and principles in her book.

For me it wasn’t so much about having a guru, spiritual teacher or being a devotee like Gilbert described. My interest was more about learning a meditation technique and immersing myself in it. Something about the discipline, structure, testing yourself and your mind that really intrigues me. Crazy as it sounds!

I’ve meditated on and off for the last 20 years. Every self-help book and approach I’ve read about to find peace, joy and happiness, suggests meditation as the key path.

As a seeker and an introvert (always in my head), I’ve been looking for the thing that will help settle my active mind and bring me some peace and harmony. I’ve read a ton of books and articles on meditation and truly believe it would be so beneficial for me.

I’ve tried a few different styles or approaches to meditation – Shambhala, mindfulness, Path of Bliss. I’ve read books. Taken classes. Downloaded apps.

And while many of these practices resonated with me, I’d try them for awhile and then stop. Nothing really stuck. I never really made any progress with it. Such a busy active mind. I’d try and sit for 20 minutes a day, but wasn’t seeing any results so I’d give up. I feel like I’ve never given any method a fair trial, or practiced it constantly or long enough to realize the benefits. Intellectually I wholeheartedly believe in it, but experientially, I’d get bored, distracted and give up.

An auspicious gift

Last summer we were on vacation with a couple friends who had attended a few Vipassana courses. They shared their experiences, benefits and a few details about the process. I hadn’t realized there were centres around the world offering the exact same 10-day meditation courses. I was intrigued.

When I returned home I researched the nearest centre and found the Ontario Vipassana Centre, a two-hour plane ride away. I saw dates that could work and marked my calendar for the day the registration opened.

Registration day arrived and I got my application in right away. I heard back a few days later on my birthday that I was in! Was this a birthday gift from the universe? How auspicious to receive word on my special day.

Holy shit! Was I really going to do this?

The dates worked. I had air miles to fly to Toronto. The course is free (they do suggest a donation after the course is complete) so financially I could swing it. After mulling it over and discussing it with my husband, I could see no reason not to do it, so I booked the plane ticket.

With the logistics in place, I had four months to do more research and prepare.

Preparing to go

I had lots of questions: What do I need to do to get ready? Should I be training to sit a certain amount of hours each day? Should I learn and practice the technique in advance? How hard is it going to be?

I read the website many times. Talked to a few more friends and acquaintances who had attended Vipassana courses. Watched videos of people with their top tips for surviving the 10 days.

I learned it is best to approach with an open mind. With no pre-conceived ideas. That there was no real preparation you could do. So I didn’t read too much about the teachings, approach, background or history. I didn’t let anyone’s opinions sway me.

I printed off my packing list which includes what to bring and what not to bring. I purchased a pair of twin sheets for my bed (yes you have to bring your own bedding), bought a new meditation cushion and selected my “simple, modest, loose and comfortable outfits.” Did I even have a pair of non skin-tight yoga pants? Maybe a shopping trip is in order!

The “Do Not Bring” list included books, diaries, journals and other reading/writing materials, smart phones or tablets. That’s right. No reading, writing or listening to anything but your own thoughts for 10 days. Yikes!

Your enrolment has been cancelled

Three days before Christmas and about three weeks before I was due to go, I received an email that my enrolment had been cancelled. I had just woken up, checked my email on my phone and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the subject line: “Vipassana course: Your enrolment has been cancelled! CANCELLED! WTF!!!

My heart leapt into my throat and I jumped out of bed in a state of utter panic. “What the hell. I have a flight booked. I’ve told everyone I am doing this. No! No! There must be some huge mistake. This can’t be true.”

I ran to my computer. The email said I didn’t confirm my registration. But yes I did. I always follow the rules. I clicked through the confirmation page the day I received the email. I was even taken to the ride share page and have a drive confirmed with a lovely lady in Toronto named Trudie!

I called my husband in tears. He reassured me. Calmed me down, “But the email said they were giving my place to the next person on the waiting list,” I sobbed.

In a series of panicked emails and phone calls to the centre, to registration, to any contact I could find, I explained, “I am coming. I have a flight booked. This must be a technology error. A glitch must have happened with the website. Please hold my spot.”

After a very frantic few hours, I received word that they were not sure what happened, for some unknown reason my confirmation didn’t take, but they would manually add me back in and confirm my place.

What a relief. I felt my cortisol and blood pressure start to normalize. Okay. Everything is back on track. I can resume packing and preparing.

Dealing with the skeptics

To many (maybe even most) people, Vipassana may seem severe, impossible, unfathomable.

In Eat Pray Love, Gilbert describes it as, “The Extreme Sports version of transcendence…it’s physically gruelling too.”

And it is. It’s intense, demanding and arduous. It’s not a spa retreat. It’s hard work. And I was up for it.

I hadn’t challenged myself in a long time. I was in a funk. A rut. A negative downward spiral in my head. I was stuck.

When I read the description on the website, it felt like it was exactly what I needed,

“Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.”

Not sure who could find fault in this? I mean who could argue with freedom, peace and happiness?

One person in particular could. My mother.

“So you’ve wanted to do this for a long time have you? You have friends who have done this?” she’d question with skepticism.

“Why do you have to go for 10 days? Isn’t there a shorter one?” she’d ask. “Like maybe three days would be better?”

“It sounds like a cult? Are you sure they aren’t scientologists? Sounds like it’s their way or the highway.”

Boy she sure was pushing my buttons and testing my mental impurities. I needed the meditation even more now!

“I don’t think meditation ever killed anyone,” I reassured her.

I know she loves me and was worried. This is unknown territory. Total silence. 10 hours of meditation a day. Rigid rules. Not being able to leave. And not being able to talk to me for 11 days or see my face. It does sound extreme and I’m sure she just couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to put themselves through this.

“So you’re going to go and dwell on your thoughts and think about your problems for 10 days?” she said latching on to me with tears in her eyes as I was leaving for the airport.

“Actually mom, I’m going to do the opposite. The purpose is to NOT think for 10 days.”

And off I went.

Read Part 2

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Do Instead

I’m sure you are aware there is a bit of an over-emphasis (borderline obsession) with cholesterol, right?

Before we jump into some myths let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

Cholesterol is a molecule, not a substance that sits around in your body like fat around your waist. It’s transported through your bloodstream by carriers made of fat (lipid) and proteins called lipoproteins.

It is actually these carriers, that it is bound to, that are more important that the total amount of cholesterol you have.

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. There are two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells.

  1. HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  2. LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol – it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it’s actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Despite being associated with many health issues, cholesterol is very important to overall health.

It is necessary for your body to produce sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone). It’s involved in making vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun so we can absorb calcium. And it plays a crucial role in making some of the substances we need to digest food, like bile, which helps us absorb dietary fats. Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most people think that we get cholesterol from the food we eat. But your body actually produces cholesterol. Most of it is made in the liver.

In fact, most cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver called HMG Co-A reductase because that’s where it’s made!

What you eat does affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. For example, after a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much. But it is not the whole story.

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well. So the goal is not to get your cholesterol levels as low as possible.

While it is more common for people to have high cholesterol levels, there are some dangers if it is too low.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, depression and anxiety.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

While drugs do help to lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol, they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat a lot of fruits and veggies. And I mean a lot, like up to 10 servings a day. Every day.

Other dietary and lifestyle changes that can help are to exercise, lose weight, stop smoking and eat better quality fats. That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.

The bottom line:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day. The bottom line is that you may not need to be as afraid of it as you have been. And there’s a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

This post gives you some great suggestions for getting more veggies into your life.

And here’s a great heart-healthy, creamy salad dressing recipe that will make eating more salads much more enjoyable!

Heart Healthy Ranch Dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg
1 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tsp dried dill (if you don’t like dill you can add basil)
1/2 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper- to taste
dash of cayenne pepper

Instructions: Place all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy.

Drizzle dressing on top of salad and enjoy!

Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge. Will keep for two days due to the raw egg.

Over to you: Would you like to start implementing some dietary and lifestyle interventions to help improve your cholesterol level? Tell us in the comments what your key struggles for making some of these changes are…





All About Cholesterol: Understanding nutrition’s most controversial molecule.

How to raise your HDL cholesterol


Thanks to much of what we hear in the media, cleanses and detoxes have earned a reputation for being unhealthy and even unsafe. When you hear the word “cleanse,” you might immediately think of an all-liquid diet, expensive supplements and short-term deprivation for short-term gains?

The truth is, a cleanse or detox doesn’t have to involve any of the above—and if you cleanse in a healthy, supportive manner, you can achieve lasting results in weight loss, energy gain and full-body health. The most effective part is reducing that often hidden low-grade inflammation that can eventually lead to many of the chronic illnesses we suffer from today.

The following are four myths you may have heard about cleansing. Understandably, these myths may cause you to be hesitant to try one. Keep reading to find out the truth behind these myths and why cleansing might be just what your body is craving.

Myth # 1: You won’t enjoy anything you’re eating while on a cleanse 

While you might have to eliminate certain foods that you enjoy, cleansing isn’t all about eating lettuce with a drizzle of olive oil. There are many delicious recipes that can be prepared using healthy ingredients that not only taste amazing, but nourish and detox your body.

The best part is, many of them don’t involve any fancy ingredients and can be prepared even by a cooking novice. In fact, my cleanse participants always discover new foods and recipes that they absolutely love that become staples in their recipe repertoires even after the cleanse ends.

Myth #2:  You’ll constantly be hungry while cleansing

While you might end up consuming fewer calories while following a detox, you shouldn’t feel deprived or hungry. Going on an extremely low-calorie diet can actually disrupt your hormones and metabolism, making your body less efficient in the long run.

Everyone’s caloric needs are different, so a cleanse should never dictate how many calories you consume. By consuming whole foods that provide you with the right nutrients, you help detox your body while feeling satisfied. My participants are always amazed that they typically don’t feel hungry during my cleanses.

Myth #3:  You need to do an all-liquid cleanse to remove toxins from your body

Liquid-only cleanses have had more than their fair share of popularity. These types of approaches can backfire: Not only do people often gain the weight back as soon as the cleanse ends, but such restrictive eating for several days can be detrimental to your health. An effective cleanse will include a variety of whole foods to help nourish your body and produce long-term results.

Myth #4: Cleanses are just a way for people to make money on expensive supplements

Supplements involved in a cleanse should be just that, a supplementary part of the program, not the primary source of your nutrition. While on a cleanse, you get most of your vitamins and minerals from whole-food sources. Supplements may be recommended to help your body make the most of the nutrients it receives from these foods. For example, by including probiotics in your diet, you help your body produce vitamins, absorb minerals and remove toxins from the body. But supplements should not be the foundation of a healthy whole foods cleanse.

Aside from the benefits discussed above, cleansing is an incredibly effective way to identify if you have any food sensitivities, balance your hormones and establish healthy habits for the long term. And you can start to see results in a relatively short period of time.

Cleansing – My Approach:

My approach to cleansing isn’t about starving your body, fasting, juicing, eating strange food combinations or taking lots of supplements. Instead I believe in taking a short period of time to move away from processed, refined foods and some of the top food allergens to give your body a little break. Working so hard to metabolize all of these potentially damaging foods takes a toll.

When you eat foods that aren’t right for your body, you may feel bloated, sluggish and lethargic. During my 7-Day cleanse you remove foods that cause inflammation in the body and you replenish it with nutrient-dense, health-boosting foods.

Cleansing is NOT a drastic or radical protocol that only health extremists partake in! It’s simply about taking an experiential attitude, doing what feels right for you, letting go of what doesn’t serve your body anymore (emotionally and physically) and rebuilding your health and vitality from the inside out using real whole foods.

I know you can’t transform or revolutionize your health in 7 days, but I also know that in one week you can feel SO MUCH BETTER! After the 7 days, with a few pounds gone and more energy, you’ll feel motivated and inspired to keep going. Consider this a jumpstart into the healthy lifestyle you’ve been longing for.

Are you ready to discover the benefits of healthy cleansing for yourself?

Join me for my annual Resolution Reboot – 7-Days to Reclaim your Vitality!

You’ll receive access to the materials on Saturday, January 6th and we start on Monday, January 8th. Early bird pricing is still in effect.

Welcome 2018 with a fresh and healthy start!

===> Learn more about the Resolution Reboot and register here


P.S. What questions or concerns do you have about participating in a cleanse? Before you try something new, it’s normal to feel hesitant. I want to hear from you. Post your questions in the comments box and I’ll be sure to answer them.