Model Method Online: Less Pretty More Sweaty

Model Method Online: Less Pretty More Sweaty

Fitting it in – How do you make time for for fitness around your kids? Fitness postnatally has been the hardest thing for me to find space for, and also the most challenging change to accept post-children that it’s no longer is a number one priority. I think my loss of fitness has had a huge impact on my sense of identity, feeling like “me”.

Before I had children, I was a roving Pilates teacher. I crossed London east–south–west every day on my bike, sometimes covering over 20 miles in one day, and teaching up to 5 hours a day. When I wasn’t teaching I was working 2 days a week in an office on wellbeing and health books, and cycled to the office in Kings Cross and back – thereby seamlessly fitting exercise into my day so that I didn’t even have to think about it.

It’s only now that this huge chunk of easy cardio training was no longer viable to me once I had a baby that I realised quite how much of an impact it had on my fitness levels, and frankly, how much it easily burnt off everything I ate and drank so that I was slim and fit without ever “dieting” or abstaining from anything.

Cut to 6 years into motherhood and I still am not a dieter or an abstainer…but now I have the sluggish midriff to show for it. In my pre-programme questionnaire I named myself an “unhappy apple” because I feel that I’m carrying an uncomfortable amount of squish around my middle which means that clothes don’t feel right on me.

I got back into teaching Pilates shortly after both boys were born (the unfortunate side-effect of being self-employed, “mat leave” isn’t a thing), and as result I have moved and listened to my body as an intrinsic part of my job. I’ve been dealt a good hand in that my postpartum body hasn’t suffered particular ill-effects from either of my (very different) caesarean birth experiences. I haven’t experienced pelvic floor trauma, my rectus diastasis (abdominal gap) resolved easily with targeted Pilates training and my scar recovery has been challenging but with Pilates rehabilitation it’s been ultimately positive.

But I now work mainly from home, and my cardio exercise is the daily school run. So I haven’t managed to claim back that fitness which was so effortlessly built up in my cycling commute in child-free days. For me it’s just the exhaustion of motherhood which has lent itself to a flat white and chocolate digestive penchant and not having a chance to burn it off – plus turning 40 and therefore possibly it just being a bit harder to shift that extra lethargy once you’ve let it accumulate, that I need to tackle.

Carving it out is the hardest part for me. I’ve always been one who needs accountability in order to stick with anything, because things get so easily derailed as a mum. So when Hollie Grant, award-winning PT and Pilates instructor, and the health and fitness contributing editor at Psychologies magazine, relaunched her Model Method Online this summer, I wanted to give it a shot.

The Model Method Online is pricey, £287 for an 8-week programme, which works out as just over a fiver a day – that’s a magazine and an artisan coffee, or a sandwich from Pret every day, if that’s your regular motherhood nemesis money-haemorrhaging outlet. So it’s the kind of thing that if you’re going to fork out your hard-earned money for, it has to be worth it.

Compared to comparable online programmes, such as Honestly Healthy’s Green & Lean, or the Supercharged Club which is specifically targeted at mums (and which – by their own admission, breaks down to £2.86 a day), it is an elite expensive exercise and nutrition programme to sign up for. So let’s have a look at the bang you get for your buck:

Lifebox: when you sign up you receive a box of goodies which is a very luxurious gift to kick off your programme and makes you feel like you’re entering into a lovely world of wellness, specially curated for you by Hollie. You receive lots of wonderful goodies such as Pilates socks from Sweaty Betty, Energy Burst roll on from NEOM, Magnesium muscle spray, and lots of yummy snacks and healthy eating treats such as chocolate granola from Rock My Bowl. You get 3 affirmations cards which are a lovely reminder of how positive exercise can be in your life. I’m a huge fan of affirmations, I have a set of Yesmum cards which I refer to every day without fail, so this was a nice touch. You also receive Hollie’s book Nourish which was the companion to the previous incarnation of the Model Method, which contains recipes and healthy eating tips and information to carry you through, plus a 6-week food diary. My absolutely faves from this box of treats were the NEOM roll on, which I use every day and keep in my handbag, and the book Eat, Sweat, Play by the Guardian journalist Anna Kessel, which was insightful, informative and inspiring about the role sport has to play in making women feel empowered and strong in life. Every woman, and every man, should read this book. I loved it and it made me think, laugh and cry.

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This programme champions the very clear (but usually ignored in fitness aesthetics and weight-loss programmes) link between physical and mental health. The refreshing part of the Model Method Online is that, despite what the name of the programme might suggest, the aim isn’t to make us all look like models, but actually to make us more energetic and happier in our daily life. Not just through exercise “sculpting” us into beautiful goddesses, but from tuning into our mental health day to day and helping to sculpt our minds, enabling us to think better, therefore feel better.

There are two ways that the method does this. The first one is the 2-month subscription to Headspace that you get when you sign up. If you haven’t heard of Headspace, it’s “meditation made simple”, and offers guided meditations for various requirements. Now, cards on the table: although I tried the Headspace app out it wasn’t really for me and I ended up somehow not using it very much, as I already have a meditation practice in place and have done for a while, which I am fond of in terms of its ritual and how it generally helps me to keep my mind on an even keel. But, I had a long discussion with a couple of friends about Headspace and one of them absolutely swears by it and says that it has revolutionised her life, whenever she feels an anxiety trigger she listens to a guided meditation and it gets her out of it.

Secondly, once you’re signed up you have access to lots of lovely blog content exclusively for members, which focus on various aspects of mental health such as anxiety, confidence, the science behind meditation, and why exercise is so beneficial to your mental health. Plus articles about nutrition, sleep, and generally Hollie’s palpable enthusiasm about exercise and why it’s so wonderful for your mental and physical health really shines through loud and clear.

The exercises

You get 6 videos, which means one “rest” day a week. I initially assumed that you would get different videos every week or 2 weeks, but that’s not the case. You complete a questionnaire part way through the programme and your programme is possibly adjusted according to your answers to that. The advantage of having the same videos over the 8 weeks is that you can become familiar with them, and benchmark against how you did at the beginning of the programme versus over the weeks. The possible downside…? Maybe for the money you’re paying it would be nice to have more variety with the exercises over the weeks…?

I was a newbie to HIIT, and I’m a definite convert. The exercise routines are fun, and doable amount of time, being 15 and 30 minutes long – no excuses! I found myself looking forward to the HIIT workouts and there was a real sense of playtime, and accomplishment once I was finished and all grinning and sweaty. My son came and joined me on a number of occasions too. it’s charged up my mojo and made me remember how much I love jumping around for the helluvit. I was shocked by quite how unfit I was when I first started, and proud by how my fitness improved over the weeks. So it has really changed my outlook in terms of what exercise I feel is accessible for me, and made me more brave about what kind of exercise I might try out in the future.

Worth the money?

Well – as I said, I always need an accountability otherwise I allow things to get pushed down the to do list. if you’re spending this kind of money, you’re going to want to make it worth it, and you will only get out of it what you put in. I would say that it’s definitely effective and magic if you DO do the work. I had a couple of weeks where my programme was stymied by my diabolical sleepless children and illness, and I started fretting a bit about not being able to do it not only because I had been on such a good roll and was feeling so much fitter and more energised, but also because of the precious money wasted. So that was slightly bad luck and bad timing. If I had dedicatedly stuck to the 6-day workouts for the whole time, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be glowing, toned, energised and slender of waist (my waist was my target area). As it is, my Pilates mojo has been stoked, I have used a lot of the HIIT ideas alongside the Pilates with my sixthformer girls class and they’ve loved it: so even if I haven’t been able to follow the programme to the letter and lost the inches around my waist, I have got a huge amount out of it and will look forward to trying out a lot of the HIIT moves from now on in my own workouts – I have preordered Hollie’s book in case I need a bit of a reminder.

So, generally a big TICK from me. Hollie is a gorgeous advocate for her method. Her enthusiasm is infectious, she looks amazing, she really wants you to be mindful of a holistic view of fitness and not just buy into the aesthetics that some fitness pros (particularly on Instagram) would want you to be inspired by. She is lovely, and knowledgeable, and her workouts are challenging and interesting, and, most importantly, fun.

 

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HIIT me baby one more time – Model Method Online #2

HIIT me baby one more time – Model Method Online #2

JOY – so what did you used to do for “exercise” when you were little? Do you remember what you did to “keep fit” when you were a kid? I’d imagine that instead of “keeping fit” you just “were normally active”, you used to run, climb, jump, skip, play space rockets just for the helluvit? Am I right? When was the last time you played space rockets just for the helluvit and actually broke into a sweat?

Human beings were built for movement. We are supposed to climb, twist, jump, roll, squat in our daily activities. We are designed to walk for miles and miles a day. We are fairly unique in the animal kingdom for being capable of a huge range of physical activities, from climbing trees and swimming to trekking over mountains and riding horses. And yet the modern adult human has a fraction of the strength that his/her prehistoric counterpart would have needed in their every day existence. Simply because we let it go to waste. Our muscular and skeletal structure is exactly the same. Modern life has made us comfortable, given us remote controls, escalators and email, and has enabled us not to have to get up and move so much. But that has had hugely detrimental effects on our physical and mental health.

One of the things that I most love about the Model Method Online is that it has a focus on physical and mental health equally, and a full acknowledgement that the two are inextricably linked. This is not a programme about honing your waist, toning your butt or losing weight, although there is likely to be a side-effect of that happening – it is not in the quest for a “perfect body” but instead in the intention for a stronger, happier you. What’s not to love about that?

I was really surprised by how much I loved the HIIT. Hollie Grant, the Pilates PT, has blogged about the Top 5 Misconceptions about HIIT and I have to confess I really wasn’t that keen on the idea of HIITing myself up. I felt like it was a bit aggressive and too jumpy. I felt like maybe I was a bit too old for HIIT. I knew that I might be a bit too lazy. And I was a bit worried about my dodgy knee  – basically this is the soundtrack in my head of the SELF SABOTAGING GREMLIN. Do you have such a gremlin? I bet you do. Next time you hear its voice, why don’t you question it rather than listening to it and allowing it to dominate your actions?

The first time I did the Model Method HIIT workout video, I’m not going to lie, it kicked my arse. I was absolutely knackered and sweating buckets. I was slightly malcoordinated and couldn’t keep with all of the moves. But I LOVED it.  It tapped into those slightly crazy games you used to play at primary school where you just run and jump without any particular rules. And you have to run to the water fountain, gobble up your water as your breath is rapid and your cheeks are red. And you feel amazing and joyful but as you’re a kid you don’t even know that that’s not a regular state of mind any more once you’re in the adult world of mortgages and President Trump.

You get 7 workout videos: 3 30-minute SWEAT, 2 15-minute STRENGTHEN, 1 30-minute Pilates core workout. There is a STRETCH sequence that you can tag onto any of the above – but Hollie recommends that if you have time you add it onto the HIIT workout. Honestly I rarely had time to do a full 45 minutes and so I used to do the stretch sequence throughout the day when I could fit it in.

I found that the HIIT workouts left me feeling elated and I regularly laughed or found myself beaming widely without even thinking twice, simply because it was FUN. Yes, there were some moves that my dodgy knee didn’t love, but I could avoid those without skipping the whole workout.

So, HIIT gets a massive TICK from me. Thank you Hollie.

Model Method Online: Week 1

Model Method Online: Week 1

Week 1 of the Model Method Online – tick!

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It’s amazing how even just a week of upping your exercise routine can start to make you feel like you’re changing and energising. This week I have worked out 5 times rather than the 6 I was assigned – I skipped two evenings because I was working, such is the freelance self-employed mum juggle – but I did go swimming too which was a bonus on top of the model method workouts. There’s a ripple effect – commit to a small amount and in time your vitality will ensure that you actually start doing a little more.

The workouts are a combination of HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training – basically bursts of sweaty powerful movement followed by periods of lower intensity Pilates mathwork and movement, and dynamic Pilates. My abs have been burning with each session – something I haven’t felt for a long time as I clearly simply don’t push myself very hard when working out on my own, and I haven’t been able to find a Pilates class near me that works in my life. As much as I adore yoga, I feel like it’s an entirely different workout experience to really feeling the burn in your muscles with Pilates. It reminds me of when I was 18 and as a diversion from A-level stress I found solace every evening in doing the Y-Plan workouts which are delightfully dated in appearance now (think bright and shiny blue and pink lycra high-legged leotards, nice…) . Short workouts (15-30 minutes), which make you feel like you’ve worked hard but haven’t involved much more time than it normally takes to faff around making a cup of tea while glassily scrolling on social media.

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I feel like my Pilates mojo is being fired up and I’m looking forward to each session, even though those sessions are generally having to be done after the boys’ bedtime, which is prime flopping time usually (pre-teaching or working in the evening) . If there’s a sense of accountability – i.e. you’ve signed up for a programme, or a future event such as a 10k, you really do have something else to be responsible for which means that you’re more likely to stick to it.

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In the next week I’m going to start to focus more on the Nourish part of the programme. This week I’ve been purely focusing on the exercise. It’s a well-known life coaching practice that change should be implemented in small steps: don’t try changing everything in one go as you’re only setting yourself up for failing. It’s also true that the self-saboteur may start to rear its ugly head…oh I’m too tired for exercise tonight….I can’t see a difference so I’m just going to quit….I don’t have time to do it this evening… But pushing through the difficult moments can mean that ultimately the habits you establish are going to be stronger and more long-lived. One of the motivational emails that Hollie sends out to participants this week said

“Do something today that your future self will be grateful for”

So it’s all about delaying gratification, to think ahead about why you are doing this. What is it that you want out of it? For me: to feel energised, to feel more positive have more vitality to deal with the general chaos of life with small children with a bit more grace and humour. And, I do want to whittle my waist and not feel so heavy.

So I decided to have a big push on the exercise side of things before even looking at my eating habits. And generally once you’re focusing on your movement, you naturally begin to seek more nourishing practices when it comes to your eating. For me: my eating habits revolve around eating mindlessly (hoovering up my children’s leftovers), and not planning effectively therefore not having the ingredients for the healthiest meals to hand. Step by step I’m creating change in my habits, and I’m hoping to set myself up for long-term vitality. Looking forward to seeing what Week 2 holds!

This programme is pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and challenging my ability to stick with something until it really is ingrained as a new, healthy, positive habit for life.

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 13 – Nicky Clinch

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 13 – Nicky Clinch

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Balance. Wholeness. Purpose. These are the three overarching themes which greet you when you visit Nicky Clinch’s website. Comforting words in themselves, which reflect her mission as a Transformational Life Coach, Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Chef. Her Instagram feed is full of inspiration and deliciousness for heart, body and mind.

She shares her wellness journey and tools with me here. Enjoy. Let me know what you think!

Tell me about yourself, what is the “day job”, and how did you come to do what you’re doing?

My official work title is Transformational Life Coach, Macrobiotic Counsellor & Chef.  Which I know is the longest work title in history and makes me giggle often!

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I am also a teacher, public speaker and a qualified Specialist Healing Cook, which means I am qualified to cook for people who are trying to naturally heal from illness.

So as you can imagine, my day job gets pretty versatile and certainly keeps things interesting.

In any given day I may be giving one-to-one Counseling/ Coaching Sessions, teaching one of my Being in Heart Workshops or my 6-week Feed Your Inner Warrior Programme.  Creating Recipes or writing, either for my website or for other brands. I now have an amazing team of 3 beautiful powerful ladies that work with me, and we are just starting to build some urban and international retreats, which I can’t wait to share with everyone soon.

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How did I come to do what I do?  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  When I look back on everything I realise I couldn’t have ended up doing anything else, I do what I do because I can’t NOT do it.  It is just what I am meant to do.

After about 15 years of recovery from my own drug and alcohol addiction and eating disorders, working hard to overcome some very destructive habits and patterns, I came to a crossroads in my life: my step-father died very suddenly.  Just one morning he didn’t wake up, and it broke my heart.  I came away from his funeral with a real sense of awareness that my life wasn’t permanent and could end at any moment.  I decided then and there I wanted to do something that really meant something to me, and started looking into going back to school to retrain as a healer in some form.  I ended up training at The International School of Macrobiotics to qualify as a Macrobiotic Chef, Counsellor and Coach.

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Since then I regularly continue my training and growth. I even flew myself off to Peru back in 2009 and spent 5 weeks working in the jungle with Plant Medicine, Ayahuasca and Shamans. I can never stop learning and growing in myself, and the more I do that the more I can help others.

Do you find that modern life is increasing people’s sense of disconnect with their bodies? Tell me about the 3 Pillars of your philosophy. 

Absolutely.  I think in this day of social media and phones, Facebook and iPads we are more and more disconnecting from our own bodies and living much more from our heads.  To connect with others through a screen is instant gratification, but energetically can really disengage the actual physical body and heart.

I mean we’ve all done it right?  Scrolled and scrolled for hours on our screens. There is nothing more eye-opening is there than putting the phones down and turning the screens off and just coming back to being in our own bodies.  Connecting: connecting to our own breath, our own feelings and needs, through our own conversations, our own hearts, through touch and actual person-to-person connection.

That is why I love to teach people my three pillars because they all bring you back into the body and to begin really ‘being’ with all that lies there.  In my experience the real transformative shifts can happen only once someone is really back home in their own body.  To feel and be, to breathe and be present, to reconnect to where the energy is stuck in the body or where it is flowing.

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My three pillars are simple, but not necessarily easy.

  1. Conscious Cooking – Introducing wholefood cooking back into your life. Not only reconnecting to natural seasonal produce which allows us to reconnect to nature and the environment we live in, but the cooking itself slows us down.  There is a difference between throwing a meal together and cooking.  To really cook can be simple, it doesn’t need to be cordon bleu, but it forces us to be back in our bodies and back in the moment.  To cut and prep veg, to stir a simmering pot, to create a nourishing meal which we will then feed ourselves with.  It slows us down back into our earth energy and our body and can be very grounding and nurturing.
  2. Relationship to Body & Movement – Moving the body regularly or daily. You’d be surprised how often we ‘exercise’ in a way that we use it to disengage our body.  Trust me I did it for years in my eating disorder days.  Running on the treadmill for hours so that I didn’t have to feel anything.  What I’m talking about in this pillar is to spend time each day to be present in our own body, to move it, stretch it, be connecting to our breath.  To be in relationship with our own body so that we are not strangers to each other.
  3. Emotional & Spiritual Wellbeing – This one for some reason tends to get missed out the most, and yet to me seems to be one of the most important. But it is our emotional wellbeing and spiritual wellbeing that tends to dictate everything else. If we are bypassing this part we are disengaging from ourselves.  But if we can really allow ourselves to feel again, to be present and available for our emotional needs and spiritual callings, then we can really begin to feel much more empowered in this relationship we have with ourselves and begin to feel much more peaceful and joyful in our lives.  What’s the point in being physically healthy if we are full of anxiety all day underneath, right?


What are your own non-negotiable tools within your personal mental health/vitality toolkit?

Since becoming a mamma things that used to be non-negotiable for me have now had to become more flexible!  Any mother reading this will understand that!

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What is non-negotiable is this constant inner dialogue and check in I have with myself each day to stay connected to where I really am and what I may be needing.  Each day may be different: some days I may need to get up early and meditate, do yoga, journal, other days I may really need to negotiate a lie-in with my hubby.

Regular tools I always ALWAYS come back to and are touchstones for me are cooking something nourishing, getting on my yoga mat or moving my body, journaling, meditation and sharing my heart honestly with someone I trust (friend or hubby).

The biggie: How do you balance work/life/motherhood and family? 

The honest answer is each day is really different and there is NO perfect answer to this.  There is a piece of advice that I was given when I went back to work as a mother that really helped me:

“The more you really own who you truly are Nicky and the more you take care of yourself, the better example you are setting for you daughter”  
I was told this when I went back to work and I was racked with ‘mothers-guilt’ for not only going back to work but actually LOVING my work.  I kept feeling guilty whenever I needed to take time to take care of myself or whenever I got excited about starting a new project that inspired me.  When I was told this advice I finally relaxed.  I surrendered to the fact that I personally am a woman that both loves my work and loves my daughter.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Owning who I am, taking good care of myself gives me the opportunity to teach my daughter how to also be a girl/woman who follows her heart and takes care of her needs.

And so the balance of work/life/motherhood changes each day depending on what needs to most attention.  One rule is when I’m with my daughter I try to be fully available with her and not half in my work, and when I’m working I try to be fully available with that too.

And when I need to take a bit of time to take care of myself I actually explain it to my daughter telling her why and that it’s important to me, and she understands.  One thing I do want to say though is I couldn’t do any of this without the support and care of my amazing husband who is a great father and is always supportive to hold the fort if I have to work long hours.

To connect more with Nicky, head over to her website www.nickyclinch.com or enroll for one of her amazing transformational workshops:

Being In Heart is taking place Friday 15th September and her next Feed Your Inner Warrior 6 Wk Program starts Thursday 14th September.  Click here for more info.

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Keeping mum mighty – the importance of self care

Keeping mum mighty – the importance of self care

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There are some wonderful things going on on social media to champion the cause of self-care, encouraging us all to take a bit of ownership of our lives and not let ourselves be buried underneath piles of laundry and self-imposed internal negative stress.

I’ve been an avid listener to the Supermum Podcast, Mindset Tips for Busy Mums, since discovering it a couple of weeks ago when i started my Route 66 journey of 66 days to create positive habits. (ahem, how’s that going by the way? I haven’t blogged about it every day but it’s been gently there powering away on the back burner. How are your habits going?)

And on Instagram i’ve connected with Sara from Keeping Mum Mighty, a wellbeing blog aimed at mums, showing them how to navigate nappies and meltdowns with calm and positivity. I’ll be contributing to her blog in the future, and as part of that she asked me to answer a few questions for her about the importance of self-care and what it means to me. Here are my answers! let me know if any of it resonates with you.

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In your opinion, why is it important to Keep Mum Mighty?

Because our life is how we feel today, not how we want to or think we’ll feel tomorrow. We scramble through some days as mums kind of wishing our lives away, waiting for bedtime, waiting for a moment when we feel calmer, when things are smoother, when we have our shit together, when we’ll be a better mum. And actually, that’s a perpetual displacement of living life: postponing to a future fictional time where we’re suddenly Topsy and Tim’s inanely positive mum all the time. We only have today, yet we sometimes live our lives as if watching through mottled glass, rather than actively taking part: on survival mode, just getting through the day.

So taking small steps to create that better life, mindfully, through living your intentions, simply makes you enjoy calm within the craziness a bit more. Our children don’t want stressed shouty mama, and she is more likely to be present when her tether is pulled away. We are human, we will be shouty and stressed, but if we notice and develop strategies for dealing with this natural normal human behaviour we can catch it before it spirals into self-criticism and feelings of failure. We can live with our behaviours without clinging on to the negative responses that we develop about them. And in turn, this will make sure that the “negative” behaviours may start to visit us less often, and we’re more like to be on an even keel more of the time. Win not just for us, but for our kids too.

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We’re always modelling behaviour for our children at heightened moments possibly more than at any other. So by developing strategies to deal with what craziness life inevitably throws at us with a bit more awareness, grace and poise (occasionally) will be a great learning tool for them to carry through as well.

Your identity is pulled and stretched and reshaped when you become a mum. Sometimes you don’t recognise yourself in your reactions, your emotions after having children. Keeping Mum Mighty is essential as a way of maintaining that connection to yourself, to who you are, to how you are. Being able to ride the stormy weather with slightly more grace and humour. For your and your children’s sake, not for perfection’s sake.

Have you always been good at prioritising self-care? If not, was there a trigger?

I have possibly always had an awareness of nurturing self. I’m basically a hippie: yoga, peace and love and transcendental meditation, man, and I probably am most at home in a hammock in Thailand. I have an inherent tendency towards Buddhism: this too shall pass. I used to tell myself before exams etc that “this will be over, tomorrow is a new day”. I’m naturally empathetic and very (arguably too) sensitive. All of those traits are very positive and nurturing but can also mean hyper alert, hyper self-critical, painfully self-aware/conscious. So it took a while to throw a more caring spotlight to myself fully.

I experienced a seismic bereavement when I was in my late 20s, my best friend died suddenly. And that absolutely gave me the insight that life is precious and brief, and that you need to try and foster and notice moments of pure happiness when they arise, because ultimately all we have in life is moments: dark and light, yin and yang, in balance. And full appreciation of good moments is like creating a big lifeboat of resilience for when the waters are more choppy.

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A happy life is not necessarily a life that doesn’t experience low points. That is unrealistic. It’s how you deal with these low points which characterises whether or not you’re “happy”.

Since having children, it’s been a harder journey of prioritising. I had a traumatic birth, and then a few miscarriages, one of which was very traumatic. I was in “keep calm and carry on” mode and didn’t offer myself any respite – I am self-employed which I think sometimes doesn’t help with the self-care prioritising though, when work tends to have to usurp self-care in moments of non-parenting duty. But after this particular miscarriage experience I was anaemic, depleted in body and spirit, and severely run down.

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I continued to teach pregnancy Pilates classes which, looking back, was the purest form of self-flagellation. I ignored my body’s whispers of suffering, then shouts. I got a shoulder injury. Then a knee injury. I had a persistent cold which just got worse rather than better. And I finally dragged myself to the doctor where I was promptly told I was suffering the worst ear, chest and throat infection she had ever seen, and given industrial strength painkillers. She suggested that she wasn’t sure how I’d even got myself to the surgery that day. My immediate thought even then was that I was supposed to be covering a whole load of Pilates classes that week for some other teachers and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to cancel and let them down. I felt that being clearly sick wasn’t a “legitimate excuse”, and worried that people would be upset with me.

That was a big red flag for me that I had (necessarily) been striving to create an income for myself but without an adequate support structure for what I was taking on, and without listening to my body when it was unhappy.

It made me realise that, occasionally, something has to give and THAT IS OK. Sometimes you have to ask for an extension of a deadline, you have to say that you won’t be able to help someone, you have to admit that you need more time. That you are vulnerable. It’s not a sign of failure.

So now, I recognise immediately when I am getting to the point where I have reached full mental and physical capacity. I notice when anger starts to visit me more frequently. When I start to let a negative thought loop twirl around with gusto in my head. I see when I’m beginning to feel shattered, when my reactions to my boys are heightened with frustration and without gentleness. And I give myself a bit more of a break about it. I hate cancelling classes, but I have learnt that to cancel one class due to feeling under the weather is much better than soldiering on and then having to cancel two the week after. I feel like I hit a kind of Amber WATCH OUT phase, and rather than allow myself to run towards RED without noticing it, I am able to pull back, tell my husband that I’m feeling too stretched, articulate what it might be that is pushing the accelerator towards depletion and see what steps can be taken to slow it down.

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What are your top 3 go-to self-care essentials and how do you fit them into your busy life as a mum?

Without doubt for me the Number 1 is movement: when I’m rolling towards the Amber warning sign, one of the first things I notice is that I haven’t made even 3 minutes to do any Pilates over the course of the previous few days. I ALWAYS do at least 5 minutes of Pilates a day. It doesn’t have to be a full class. Just daily snacks to check in with body and mind. And inherently Pilates is inextricably linked to my number 2 which is: breathing. Taking full, mindful, deep breaths. I can see it with my clients that they arrive slightly burnt out and stressed but they leave rejuvenated and energised yet softened. That is the effect of movement and breath. It’s a non-negotiable.

My number 3 is SPACE. So whether that’s getting out to my Sunday morning yoga class which I try to diarise (although writing I have actually missed the last 4 weeks because life gets in the way sometimes), getting some green therapy with a run (•when I say “run”, I wish I was a runner but often I am just a brisk walker. I’m working on it…) in the park or by the river. Or if you can’t actually escape the house, taking time to have a hot bath when the kids are either not there or are in bed. No phone. SPACE. Creating some mental and physical space. I have recently been dipping my toe into meditation, and for me that is about creating the mental space, allowing feelings to be, to release or assimilate rather than linger and fester.

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If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your pregnant or new mum-self?

…..Oooph. So much. But mainly, in a nutshell: be kind to yourself. You’re doing ok. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you’re being judged. Be kind to yourself.

 

NEOM blog: Reset the Supermum Notion

NEOM blog: Reset the Supermum Notion

Regular readers here will know what a fan of an uplifting scent I am.

Since my fully indulgent self-care gift of a yoga retreat in Ibiza with my best friend last year, where i had 4 NIGHTS OF UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP which was facilitated by a meticulous ritual of NEOM sleep sprays, balms, oils, I only have to have a waft of the NEOM sleep range and I’m transported back there, right to serenity, to sleepful balmy nights, to peace. Ooooommmmmmmm shanti.

Scent is so important as a visceral evocative tool to tap into for your well-being. Nothing is swifter than scent to send you to a moment in time where you felt a particular emotion, a moment in time suspended forever.

I always carry around with me on the go tools for uplift. If you’re feeling drab and low, a quick whiff of a zesty essential oil burst will give me a second wind and more of a spring in my step. At the NEOM Kings Road store you can take part in their Scent Discovery Test. This is way of checking whether your underlying wellbeing need is better sleep? Less stress? More energy? Or a general mood boost?

You inhale each of the essential oils blends, and the scent travels to the hypothalamus – a gland in your brain responsible for releasing the hormones which control how you feel. At the hypothalamus, your body is most attracted to the essential oil blend that it needs revealing whether you need sleep, de-stress, energise or lift your mood. My discovery test revealed that I wanted the Scent for Happiness overall – which, well, makes sense doesn’t it, wanting generally to be happy. And surprisingly, when you’re feeling shattered you might not necessarily need the energy vibes, you might actually need to listen to your body and indulge in the sleep vibes.

I was absolutely honoured to be asked to contribute to the NEOM well-being blog this week. You can read the full article here. Snippet follows below, enjoy and let me know what your favourite scents are for happiness, calm and uplift.

  • At Neom we have a mantra – ‘wellbeing small steps, big difference’ – do you agree? why/ why not?

Absolutely agree. Sometimes we feel like our goals are a bit overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin when you just see a big mountainous goal in the distance, it’s all too easy to give up when it feels like an unachievable overwhelming task.

If you break it down into small steps, you set an intention to move towards the goal, like strapping on your walking boots, taking one step at a time, and before you know it you’ll be halfway up the mountain and it’s not half as intimidating.

  • We believe that lack of sleep, poor energy, stress and mood dips are all related – do you agree? why/ why not?

Yes. it’s a spiral of negative mood/physical lowness which makes it harder to pick yourself up once you’re there. Lack of sleep is such a debilitating issue. When you’re exhausted, and especially if the sleep is taken away from you by a third party (hello, children!) you feel out of control, and your coat of armour for dealing with daily stresses is removed. Everything seems more challenging when there is a lack of sleep.

But we don’t offer ourselves the acknowledgement that it’s ok to take things easy when you are in the phase of life where small people are a chink in your wellbeing armour. We still strive to be “normal”. When actually, it’s ok to give yourself a break. The first step is noticing your internal dialogue in those exhausted days, and having a tool for calming the domino effect into stress and mood dip.

  • What small steps do you think can help us? What’s the bedrock of wellbeing in your book?

1. – Breathing. The most important thing firstly is to pause, and breathe. It is the most fundamental tool in my own personal toolkit. Taking a long, slow inhale through the nose for a count of 5, allowing your abdomen to open and soften with the breath rather than breathing into your chest. Then breathe out through the mouth for a count of 8, as if you’re trying to fog a window in front of you. In for 5, out for 8. Soften into the moment. Even say to yourself, “I soften into this moment” can help to calm any stressed mental chatter like soothing a bristling cat.

2. – Notice any negative thoughts running like a loop around your mind. Calm your negative thoughts by telling yourself “thoughts are not facts”. Notice they are there, but don’t invite them in. Sort of like noticing clouds across the sky – don’t allow them to linger, gather and become storm clouds, allow them to pass gently without trying to ignore them or shoo them away.

3. – Smile. It makes you feel a bit silly, but you will fool your brain into creating fleeced endorphins if you smile, even if you least feel like it. Spread a smile on your face – even better, to yourself in the mirror, and you will soften your feelings in that moment.

4. – By the same token – it’s also important to allow your challenging moments to “be”. Too often we see weakness in feeling “bad” feelings and so we ignore or suppress them, and create a swirl of complementary negative feelings around it, guilt, anxiety, fear, worry… When actually, it’s part of the emotional spectrum of being human. A balance of dark and light, yin and yang. Without dwelling in a negative thought loop and allowing it to spiral, imagine calmly sitting down with your challenging feeling, inviting it to be, asking it why it’s here (or simply acknowledging that you are exhausted and your child has just thrown their dinner on the floor – it is normal to feel angry and at your wit’s end under the circumstances). Say to yourself that these feelings are natural, normal, healthy. And ultimately that will enable it to release itself, without being suppressed.

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 11 – Jody Shield

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 11 – Jody Shield

I’m literally grinning from ear to ear writing this post as I’m so excited to share with you the words of wisdom that I’ve been offered from this latest wellness guru/expert/shining light.

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Jody Shield needs no introduction arguably, but for those of you who may not have heard of her yet, she is a modern-day healer, a meditation teacher, spiritual mentor, a guiding light for the spiritually curious. If you’re feeling lacklustre, like your life is chugging along on a track you weren’t quite sure about but you’re not sure how to find the turntable to find a new direction, she has a wealth of tools to empower you, to change or to simply take ownership of the choices you’ve made and view life more positively: inspiration to spark action.  She’s meditation ambassador for Lululemon. Oh and she’s also written a kick-ass book called Life Tonic. 

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Her Instagram bio encourages you to “Find your voice & ROAR 🐯 be fearlessly you!” which the tiger in me loves.

Jody agreed to talk to me while I was making bolognese for my two boys at peak potential witching hour post-school run, when they were whining in the background (along with an incessant PAW Patrol soundtrack…). It shows her professionalism and grace that she put up with me saying “what do you need sweetheart?”, “yes, you can watch the next episode”, “Do you need a wee?” and “Have you done a poo?”  intermittently during in our conversation without batting an eyelid or losing her flow.

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This is our chat, hastily scrawled in my notebook while creating dinner with the other hand, so some of her answers may be generally paraphrased through the mists of spaghetti, but the gist is there, even if I lack some of the eloquence (forgive me Jody).

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Life Tonic is a “modern toolkit to heal your life and soothe your soul”. I love how the tools are easy to dip into in the moment, or explore on a  deeper level. What tool would you recommend for someone experiencing heightened levels of anxiety in their day to day?

When we experience anxiety, we lose all sense of our rational being, the logical reality that we’re in, and instead the world becomes a very scary place. We tend to want to escape our body in that moment, to flee from whatever is scaring us. So, it’s good to have a tool which will bring us back into our body, and back into the moment.

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A great tool for this is from Emotional Freedom Technique: make a fist, and with your fist, begin tapping on your collarbone. It brings you back into your body in that moment; it’s calming – it can bring you back to a space where you were a baby being soothed by being patted on your back.

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Often anxiety is a manifestation of a fear of lost control: by tapping, we feel like we’re regaining a sense of control over our body and our emotions. It sends calming signals to the Amygdala structure of the brain – the area that controls emotions, feelings, memories. When we’re anxious, the amygdala sends us into fight or flight mode, creating a whole load of emotional and physical stress responses.

Tapping resets your energy, and brings you back into the present moment. It’s also really easy to do: you can do it anywhere, at any time.

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[by the way I tried this tool with Maurice when he was having a 5 year old anger explosion, and it really worked. Magic]

The Ego mind is like a badly behaved puppy, it’s slightly crazy and energetic, and you wouldn’t want it to be in charge of your thoughts and feelings. By tapping, you can regain control over your yappy dog.

Another tool which takes a bit longer to explore, so more useful for a deeper connection to your anxiety rather than for using in the moment, is this: When I’m feeling anxious, I place my hand where I can sense my anxiety rising. For me that’s often my belly. I actually take time to feel it, to hang out with it. I don’t want to suppress it or ask it to leave, I actually give it space to release on its own.

This, of course, is really uncomfortable. It’s not fun to sit with emotions which cause you discomfort, so we usually push them away. Sitting with it, observing it, offers it a real space for growth and might spark some understanding of action you need to take, changes you need to make. Or simply give you the understanding of your emotional response in a more rational, calm way.

That’s all anxiety is: it’s like excitement but with more unknowns. Basically our bodies are excited and the Ego starts to question it, and as there are no immediate answers we read it as fear and label it negative. It’s in that potential room for growth where we are most scared, which is why we avoid it. Raw emotional responses make it feel like a bad thing. When actually, if we soften our response and sit with it, it can actually bring great things forward.

 

I love that. I’m going to try to sit with challenging feelings to allow them to release and see what stems from that from now on! Another emotional minefield that tends to plague women is imposter syndrome. What would you suggest to someone who is struggling with feeling like they are a fraud who can’t quite compete, doesn’t match up to her colleagues/fellow mums?

These feelings and thoughts come from a deeply held belief system around your worth. Your narrative which links all of your experiences together, creating a story woven around your outlook on life. Imposter syndrome, and feeling like you fall short of ideals, is a symptom of your outlook and your own narrative thread.

When you’re in a moment of doubt, saying things out loud, like “I’m here!”, “I’m back!” enables you to notice the negative patterns of thought, and brings you back. Grounds you.

Also – it’s so important to understand that we’re ALL figuring things out. Everyone is struggling on some level, about something. Just do the best that you can. Show up. Be vulnerable. Lift yourself out of negative patterns by reframing the energy that you’re putting out around things.

I always try to reframe by being grateful for these challenges: for that difficulty, that “stuckness”. A grateful acceptance that this means that things are moving and growing, pushing you. Struggling is ok  – it signals growth and change. Reframe it as curiosity and challenge: doors are opening. You just have to choose to go through them.

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I love the idea of reframing responses to reactions. What are your own personal non-negotiable wellness tools? Things that you never allow yourself to shirk?

For me, meditation is without doubt the non-negotiable. I make time to meditate every day, without fail. For me, it’s almost a directional piece: I begin to meditate without concrete intention usually, and use it as a mind space to allow what’s troubling me to speak up and find room to release, to ask myself questions, and to find those answers offered up.

Meditation is, above all, about creating space. We are so bombarded with ideas, with jobs, with busy-ness. What we all need to cultivate is some calm and space so we can observe our creativity and allow ourselves room to grow. Meditation offers that space.

 

Jody is a true inspiration, not least because she is an unashamed tree-hugger and I love her for this alone. Find out more about her events and speaking, and her book, here. And connect with her on Instagram here.

Route 66 – What does it take to create good habits?

Route 66 – What does it take to create good habits?

There are some amazing body confident campaigns going on in social media right now. Clemmie Hooper, midwife, mum of 4 and author of How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out@mother_of_daughters, inadvertently kicked off a massive swell of solidarity by sharing some of her post-children body worries, and there was an amazing rally of women loving the body they have and sharing and celebrating on Instagram.

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Another Instagram influencer, Natalie Lee aka @stylemesunday is championing body positivity with her Warrior Woman campaign through her blog and on instagram, which aims to get women loving themselves again, in her words: “to inspire mums to celebrate their uniqueness, share their struggles and experiences, and to show that there’s no such thing as perfect and anyway perfect is boring.” So true!

We’re conditioned to be dissatisfied with the way we look, and as I get older I really understand how disempowering this is, and such a pointless waste of time. I look back on pictures of myself pre-kids where I was toned and fit of body, but my mind wasn’t confident and clear enough to embrace and celebrate it. What a waste!

Over the past few years since having Maurice I’ve started so many different different plans for rekindling my mojo and possibly shedding a bit of podge so that I feel more vital and bouncy: Green and Lean, the Supercharged ClubMind Body Bowl. All amazing programmes, which I’ve learned a lot from. But I’ve never stuck to anything long term as I allow the daily trudge of children to give me a loophole for old habits and let me off the hook. I’m exhausted, they’ve been properly challenging today, I haven’t been to the supermarket to be organised, I deserve this extra glass of wine, I’ll just finish this pasta as they haven’t, I’m too tired to go out for a run…

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I listened yesterday to a podcast with Suzy Reading talking to Mandy Lehto about Willpower, and self care. Willpower – that elusive and powerful beast, that evaporates at the end of a long day when a bottle of wine is calling you. Suzy had some amazing tips about how to capture and harness your power of WILL in ways that don’t make you feel like you’re failing. Small chunks adding to your will power bank so you’re not constantly feeling like you’re withdrawing and ending up bankrupt.

She talks about honouring your future self with how you want to feel, rather than constantly serving the instant gratification of your depleted frazzled self.

I read somewhere in my research for writing The Supermum Myth that in order to create a habit the human mind generally on average has to repeat behaviour 66 times in order for it to stick. For me, I tend to lose puff after the first week or so of a new vitality plan.

Improving willpower is the surest way to a better life. Mandy Lehto looks into this more by talking about how hard it is, how we have to work through discomfort in forming new habits, like a wriggly reluctant toddler we’ll have to hold it down to get it in the habit buggy by making it non-negotiable. When it’s non-negotiable, it doesn’t deplete our willpower. As an aside, I once said to Maurice aged 2 about something I wasn’t willing to let go – choosing battles – road safety, brushing teeth perhaps, etc “it’s not negotiable little man” and he said adamantly “it IS A GOSHADLE!!”. This is what your comfort zone will try to say to you.

Try not to let your comfy habits kick up a fuss and wriggle out of new practices by simply not giving them a loophole. Be consistent, plan, creating rituals. Non-negotiable. It’ll feel unbearable, then uncomfortable – then you’ll feel unstoppable.

But look after yourself and your willpower as you do your toddler: are you hungry? Tired? Look after these details mindfully and commit every day to microhabits of positivity and self care change. Small details: I will breathe for one minute everyday. There will never be another day when I don’t breathe mindfully. Set up the bare minimum and ultimately – clever this – you’ll naturally do more as you feel better.

All change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.

So I’ve decided enough is enough of being lily livered, self-sabotaging and low of mama mojo. I’m committing (and accountability is a BIG thing) and sticking to the little but often 66-day idea. Every day for 66 days I am going to MOVE MORE, do just a little bit more Pilates, some meditation, some breathing, positive mental tools, gratitude lists. And after 66 days this will be so ingrained into my behaviour that it will be harder to let it go than to carry on.

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Who’s with me?! Every day I’ll be checking in on the baby steps challenge. For 66 days! That sounds epic. But it’s just 66 days of noticing life a bit more.

Today: this morning I woke up and despite feeling lethargic and tired and wanting to sleep in while the boys watch Paw Patrol, I got out of bed and put on my running clothes. It helps that it’s a gorgeous day, but I’m off out for a walky-run to charge up my energy levels for the day and start off on the right foot.

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I’m excited about my 66-day reboot! Let me know if you fancy joining in. Let’s get our kicks on Route 66…

xxx

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What is ‘Wellness’?

What is ‘Wellness’?

Wellness. This blog is a ‘wellness toolkit’. Well, what exactly is wellness? What does it mean to you?

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At the Yellow Kite Books panel event recently, four Instagram ‘wellness influencers’ were asked to define what wellness meant to them. Whatever it is, it’s something that has sparked off a whole industry, myriad fads, brands and communities.

The two nutrition-based experts, Harley Street-based Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert and junior doctor and PT Dr Hazel Wallace focused on the link between the quality of the food you put in your body and your mental wellbeing. And more importantly about educating yourself about the facts around your own wellness, what is unique to your needs and not to be found in fads. Making choices based on how you feel, not just immediate gratification desires about what you want to look like. A long-term mind-body connection to fortify you for your golden years, not just a bikini image to get likes on Instagram.

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Shona Vertue, a yoga teacher and Personal Trainer who has created a mind-body fitness system The Vertue Method, described it as ‘a deeper connection into what your mind, body, spirit needs.’ Jody Shield, a ‘modern-day healer’ and author of Life Tonic, developed that further by adding ‘SOUL’ into the mix. Listening to and nurturing what your soul is calling for.

In 1948, the World Health Organisation defined ‘Health’ as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition hasn’t been amended or added to since – because it’s pretty perfect, right? Health – and this for me is Wellness – is not just being free from physical illness, it is being wholly and fully well, in body and mind: actively seeking a balanced healthy state in a dynamic process retuned day to day month to month, according to changing external influences and circumstances. You can have a banging ‘bikini body’, but be anxious and depressed inside which dulls your senses and ensures that you don’t notice or celebrate it positively.

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Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a fulfilling life, a resilient mind, a healthy body, strong relationships with those around you.

Modern humans live with a fraction of the physical strength that our prehistoric ancestors needed in order to function in their daily lives. We sit too much. We atrophy. We see our bodies as separate from our minds. And then we wonder why we become so depressed and anxious. We’re not allowing our bodies the movement and oxygen that it needs to function optimally, or giving conscious attention to the thoughts we’re filling our minds with.

Modern life has become a blocker for so many natural inherent magic aspects that the human body and mind possesses: Rhiannon Lambert described how, if you eat food while you’re looking at a screen: be it TV, iPhone, computer, you are actively blocking the natural triggers for your digestive system: we look at food, the brain processes what food that is and the correct enzymes are magically produced in order to digest that specific food. The human body is truly awesome. Now, we inhale food without even glancing at it – unless perhaps to photograph it before posting on Instagram… And then we wonder why our systems aren’t functioning perfectly.

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Why does wellness matter?

Maintaining an optimal balance of wellness is crucial to being able to live a higher quality life. Wellness matters because everything we do, every emotion we feel, every thought that we think, relates to our wellbeing. In turn, our wellbeing directly affects our actions and emotions. Our body is continually communicating with us through our aches, pains, stiffness and niggles. Listening to our bodies and offering our bodies the movement and nutrition they are asking for is an essential step in proactively seeking wellness. Mind-Body-Mind: It’s an ongoing circle.

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If everyone took small steps every day to achieve optimal wellness, stress levels would lower,  and the risk of illness is also lessened, relationships would benefit because of more positive interactions between yourself and your body, and by a lovely domino effect, between yourself and everyone around you.

“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
– The World Health Organization

“a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.”
– The National Wellness Institute