Early pregnancy, health challenges and lessons learned...

Along with the happy news of my pregnancy came a series of the most challenging months I’ve ever experienced, health wise. The first bleeding started at 6 weeks and I went for an early ultrasound, learning that I have a bicornuate uterus, which is also known as a divided or heart-shaped uterus. I also learned I was pregnant in both sides, and having a miscarriage on one side of my uterus while the other embryo struggled to hang in. After that was a series of subchrionic bleeds, heavy bleeding caused by a hemorrhage (hematoma) so large it took up a third of my uterus (almost as big as the fetus and placenta combined). I spent weeks 10 to 12 of my pregnancy in and out of the hospital, and weeks 13 to 16 on bed rest, the first 2 weeks of which I was complete bed-bound, only able to get up once a day to shower.

For those of you who know me personally or have a sense of my through my blog, I am an incredibly active person. Learning to surrender completely to my body, my pregnancy and the process I needed to follow to heal and help my baby survive was a huge challenge and something I obviously needed to learn. They say that your life changes forever when you have a baby, and I experienced this massive shift from way before the baby was born. Life as I knew it has definitely changed.

The following are five lessons that were reinforced to me during the first 4 months of my pregnancy. I’m sharing them because I believe that these lessons can be applied during any time of need, whether it be sickness, a time of emotional strife, or a time of transition. 

1. Ask for EXACTLY what you need. 

If you don’t ask and spell it out for people, you won’t get what you need. This also serves a double function, it helps get your needs met while also providing your loved ones with some guidance as to how to help. Sometimes they want to but don’t know how. Here’s an example:

My father was really uncomfortable coming to the hospital. I would call him in the morning and tell him what I needed... a green juice, some fruit, a book, speakers for my computer, what have you. This gave him a purpose and a way to feel helpful - other than sitting in the hospital and keeping me company. It helped me so much because I knew I could count on him for the things I needed to make my stay more comfortable.

Asking for what you need can also extend to what you need on an emotional level. For awhile, I needed my loved ones to not talk “worst case scenario” with me. It wasn’t helpful, though I understood that some of them were trying to understand the gravity of the situation and to plan accordingly, my head and heart were filled with enough fearful thoughts that I didn’t need more. So I asked for what I needed, which was to be surrounded by positivity and hope (more on this below), and to leave it to the doctors to plan for the worst.

2. Embrace the power of prayer, positive visualization and reframing. 

You’ve probably heard this from me before but I really learned to lean into this powerful trifecta of tools. And - coupled with #1 lesson of asking for exactly what I needed - I got super specific.

As per my example above, I asked people near me to reframe if I felt the conversation was slipping down the negativity slope. Each time a fearful or negative thought or image popped into my own brain, I would actively expel it and replace it with a positive image or thought. Sometimes it even required me saying it out loud, or meditating with that image in mind for several minutes.

I asked the doctor and my mid-wife exactly what needed to happen for everything to go RIGHT, for the hemorrhage to heal and for the baby’s optimal development. They painted the picture for me with imagery and words. I wrote these details into an email and sent to my closest friends and family, along with a prayer and visualization guide. I attached a picture of my belly and asked that they rub their hands together, close their eyes, reach out towards the mental image of my belly and then visualize the hemorrhage healing, the baby continuing to grow, etc.

This can work for any ailment, or any tough situation. Ask your friends and family to help you uphold the highest vision for the best possible outcome.

During one of my hospital stays, around week 11. I had participated in Liz Dialto's #ishineyoushine experiment a few weeks earlier, and this was a reminder to myself and others that no matter what, my soul shines.

3. Break the silence. 

In order to do #1 and #2 - you’ll have to reach out and be honest about what is really going on. I understand that this can be hard - but if you keep everything bottled up inside and try to maintain your superwoman facade, you’ll never get the support that you need.

This was tricky for me. I was very early in my first trimester - a time when many women are still advised to keep quiet about their pregnancy. While I understand the importance of discretion when there are still so many variables in the early stages of pregnancy, and I certainly wasn’t going to go posting all over Facebook just yet, there did come a time when I needed to share with my closest friends and family what was going on. I also shared with several online groups of women I am a part of and received a tremendous amount of support from women I had never met, yet offered me strength and hope. I am ever grateful for this. (If you want to know more about these groups, ask me in the comments!)

This was hard though. I had to again challenge myself and learn to be vulnerable. What was happening in my body was also a direct conflict to the belief I had about myself - that I was strong, healthy and fit and “shouldn’t” be having these types of problems. I had to be at peace with myself and understand that these problems did not mean there was something wrong with me, and to get cozy with vulnerability in order to ask for support. The same goes if you are struggle with alcohol or other addictions, or other health issues. Don’t keep the people around you guessing - help them help you.

4. Get out of your head. 

If you are anything like me, this is easier said than done! It’s a great concept, but how does one do it, especially during long days of hospitalization, sleepless nights of worry, weeks spent in bed, immobilized with a body in forced repose and an overactive brain?

I learned that I needed a variety of tools for this, because what worked one minute might not the next. Here are a few of the “turn down the brain” tools I used regularly:

  • Aromatherapy: relaxing, stress relieving and sleep inducing blends worked wonders.

  • Accu-pressure: My practitioner came to my bed side and worked on stress points - and was so successful that I often fell asleep before she finished working on me.

  • Drawing: I don’t usually draw that much on a regular basis. I was gifted some nice paper and coloured pencils and I made myself to suspend judgement on whether or not what I was doodling was “good” and allowed my mind to drift as I played with colours, words and shapes... I made drawings for my body and for my baby. Maybe I will share them one day maybe I never will, it doesn’t really matter. It helped.

  • Humming and listening to music: Soothing piano worked wonders. I had several songs that I would play on repeat and would allow to carry me away. At night, I often hummed songs to myself. Something about the vibrations through my body was incredibly relaxing. I would place my hands on my belly and imaging the hums as healing energy moving through my body.

5. Patience, faith and surrender.

I surrendered to the love and support of my partner and loved ones, and worked on my self-limiting beliefs around vulnerability/perceived weakness/being dependent.

When it came down to it, I had to trust. I learned to surrender to the process and have patience. To trust my body and have faith that there was a higher plan at work. To be a peace with “not knowing” all the answers or why these challenges were presenting themselves to me, and to appreciate the lessons as they revealed themselves to me.

I hope that these lessons and tools will be as helpful to you as they were for me! As always, if you know someone who would benefit from these words, please pass this along to them.


Out with the old... in with a new approach to alcohol

There are new models emerging for the treatment of alcoholism and other addictions, and for that I am grateful. We need to move beyond the “one size fits all model” and programs that advocate for abstinence only.

The approach I have developed does not even fit within the mainstream way of viewing a person’s relationship to alcohol or drugs. It is not for people who identify as an addict and it is not a treatment program.

Most of us do not fit into the rigid definitions of what is perceived to be an addiction. Most of us are not daily drinkers, we do not need a drink when we first wake up in order to function, we haven’t lost our house or our job and our lives haven’t been completely derailed by a substance that we can’t live without.

That said, alcohol does affect our lives in significant ways. Sometimes when we go out to “have a few,” we can’t stop. We reach for the bottle of red when we get home after a stressful day at work, and feel like shit the next day. We get into fights with our significant others. We use alcohol as a way of meeting people and then end up with unwanted or regrettable sexual encounters. We are less focused, we have more hungover days that we care to admit, we fall off track with healthy eating habits or exercise, we have less energy than we used to.

Alcohol is the most socially recognized, acceptable and celebrated drug out there. Thousands of us consume it without a second thought, and it is often the unquestioned antidote to stress, loneliness, boredom, the recipe for fun and letting loose.

The traditional models for treating addictions fail our evolving culture and leave many of us out. They fail most women who struggle with the role of alcohol in our lives, yet do not classify ourselves as addicts.

That's why we need a new approach to redefining our relationship to alcohol, that isn’t “all or nothing,” punitive, shaming or didactic.

This approach is for the majority of us that are somewhere in between… we are not at the far reaches of either addict or abstainer.

This approach is for those of us “in-betweeners”... because our culture is evolving and so are we. We deserve a new lens to see ourselves through, we deserve a new option for our healing.

I developed this approach first and foremost for myself and my friends… competent, educated, socially aware women in their 30s who seemed to have it all together… except for this shameful and confusing relationship to alcohol. Since launching the program, it has resonated with both women and men from a diverse set of experiences: college students and recent grads, single or remarried mothers, stockbrokers and finance guys whose fast-pace life is catching up with them, CEOs of companies, musicians and artists, healthcare professionals and more.

Evolve is a program that serves women who want to redefine their relationship to alcohol. After reading the four core principles of the approach you will see why this resonates with such a diverse cross-section of our society in our evolving culture.

Evolve offers Unconditional Support:

You are accepted and celebrates as you are, at any given stage of your journey. Whether you are thriving or in the throws of a set back, you are welcome any time, with open arms. We understand that everyone’s path is different, and we honour and respect that. We know that all of us are living with enough shame and self-blame that the last thing we need is to feel fearful of blaming and shaming from others. With this unconditional support comes the opportunity to be unafraid of being honest about what is really going on. As one participant writes: “I like the positive encouragement to keep trying to make steps - weather they are large or small - rather than 100% never again type of approach. This removes the feelings of ‘failure.’”

Evolve is Self-directed:

It encourages and allows each person the opportunity to define their own goals, and admits that you do have the power to change. Ultimately, you know what you want - I will support you to dig deep and discover the plan that works best for you. The words of two participants explain this best:

“I love it because it's focused on your individual journey and relationship to alcohol and nutrition. For some that may look like turning into a non-drinker for good, for others it could be to cut out for a short time to recalibrate and reassess your relationship of why and how you choose to drink and others to just cut back on the overall quantity.”

“What really stands out for me is the sense of autonomy, or freedom to choose. I hate being told what to do and what I get from our conversations is a strong level of support but also the freedom to make my own choices without guilt or shame.”

Evolve is Holistic:

This program is about much more than what you put into your body. The approach is more holistic than just a treatment or nutrition plan. We work with many parts of your life, including work-life balance, exercise, spirituality, relationships, sexuality and more. I help to identify and address the underlying beliefs around body image, food and self care that lead to issues with alcohol consumption, from a place of experience and compassion.

Evolve is based on Personal and Shared Accountability:

It’s about getting clear about your intentions, for yourself first and foremost. Once you have set clear intentions, we come up with a holistic plan to help you stick to your intentions. Your intentions are you guide, and eliminate the chitter-chatter and grey areas around your wellness plan. Sharing your intentions with your significant other, best friend, “Sip Sister”* or support group is key to helping you stay supported and accountable.

Evolve’s in-depth work is based on a coaching model, designed to help you reach your health and life goals by making step-by-step changes to your relationship to alcohol, diet and lifestyle. Coaching is completely focused on you; starting from where you are in your life now and getting you where you want to go. Your coach acts as your guide, your cheerleader, your BS* detector, your accountability partner, your resident expert, your confidant… helping you gain control of and take responsibility for your body and your life, by redefining your relationship to alcohol. And guess what? You get to enjoy everything even more than you thought possible.

So there you have it… I’d love to hear your thoughts on these guiding principles and whether you can see yourself or someone you know using. Or, was there anything unclear or confusing? That doesn’t quite sit right? These are a work in progress and I’d love your feedback!


*If you'd like to know more about Sip Sisters and how you can get support, click this link to set up a free session with me. Let's chat!

The lost art of communal meals

Two things this happened this week that got me thinking about the importance of preparing and sharing food.

I was speaking with one of my clients who is doing her best to make positive changes.  She works 6 days a week, is an amazing mother to her one and a half year old son, hustles to get to the gym several times a week and is trying to incorporate more balanced, healthy food into her diet.

As part of her unique 1-1 coaching with me, we did an exercise together called “The Circle of Life,” where she rated different areas of her life based on how fulfilled/satisfied she felt in each area. The areas where she felt most challenged were Relationships, Social Life, and Home Cooking. It came as no surprise to me, as her busy schedule meant that by the end of the day she was often too tired to think creatively about food, or to make plans with friends. When she and her husband did plan social activities, it was often dinner out with friends, and usually to restaurants that her friends chose, and not necessarily the healthiest options.

We brainstormed ideas together of how she could reasonably, within the schedule and demands of her life, start both cooking and socializing more.

I suggested potlucks, group dinners where everyone brings a dish or two, and shares the meals. I also suggested themed dinners, such as trying vegetarian dinners, or trying a raw food dinner, as her friends were not as health conscious as she is trying to be. Another option is everyone contributing ingredients, and preparing the meal together based on what ingredients are available.

A certain level of education and creativity may be required when your friends are new to this kind of thing, however it can be presented as an exciting challenge.

Preparing food, cooking and eating together is such an important part of so many cultures and traditions, and unfortunately in today’s busy world, this beautiful and nourishing medium for social connection gets lost to the hustle and bustle and isolation that many people have become accustomed to. 

A couple of nights ago a group of new and old friends who had all traveled to my town to surf a big south swell decided to organize a “family dinner” in celebration of each other.

It was decided that the meal would be cooked at my house, and then enjoyed at my neighbour’s. I eagerly jumped into coordinating the menu, delegating grocery lists, and organizing my team of “sous-chefs” with their various tasks of chopping, mixing, tasting, cooking and then carrying the food from one kitchen to another.

After a long bout of health challenges, it had been quite awhile since I had shared meal-making and eating. I had forgotten how much fun it can be, and what a wonderful way it is to connect with people.

The expression “many hands make light work” certainly ring true here, as the more hands the are to prep, cook and clean takes the pressure off the host.

Summer is also such a wonderful time for meal-sharing. The weather allows eating outdoors, and the body desires cooling foods with minimal prep and there is an abundance of fresh and local produce.

Consider different themes for potlucks and challenge your friends to try a raw meal, or a “salad bar” theme, or a veggie BBQ. Bonus points for making it a “super detox meal” and leaving out the alcohol... easing your friends and family into your decision to drink less alcohol can happen through the gradual introduction of concepts like this.

Creating a Facebook invite for your dinner can also be a great way to share ideas, and coordinate who is bringing what.

I’d love to hear about your adventures in summer social cooking and eating. Share your menu ideas here, including what yummy non-alcoholic bevvies are served, and how you got your friends and family involved!



You want to remember the best moments of summer, don’t you?

This blog post will be short and sweet. For some, summer holidays have already started, for others, this weekend marks the first big bash of the season.

The effects of alcohol can be sneakier in the summer, as our evening intentions get thrown by the wayside in daytime festivals, picnics, weddings etc. We forget that the refreshing drink we are gulping down to cool off actually has alcohol in it, until we start feeling woozy by 4 pm and it’s too late.

Here are some simple tips that will keep you shining this whole summer, feeling at your best, without the blackouts, hangovers, killer headaches, or too many OMG moments. 

  1. Hydrate. This may seem overly obvious but it has to be said!! Hydration is number 1. ALWAYS bring water with you where ever you go. Throw a bunch of ice cubes or frozen frozen fruit in before you go. There are many cute insulated bottles that will keep your water cool all afternoon. Plus, it’s way better for you and the environment to plan ahead instead of buying a plastic bottle of water when you get desperate. I’m also a big fan of “aguas frescas” or “aguas de sabor” - something Mexicans invented to make water more yummy (I don’t actually know if Mexicans invented this but I learned about it in Mexico, so I’m sticking with that). Simply blend watermelon, pineapple, and/or cucumber with water and fresh lime juice, and strain over ice. Super delicious, nutritious and hydrating.

  2. Stock your freezer! This is one of my favourite seasons because of the abundance of berries and fruit available. Keep your freezer stocked and you’ll never have an excuse not to jazz up your water or non-alcoholic spritzer. Halved strawberries and cherries, blueberries and raspberries, orange, peach and/or cucumber slices are all great to have on hand.

  3. Plan ahead. Set your intentions for the daytime activities just as you would for the evening. Plan how many alcoholic drinks you will be having (if any) and remember the two-to-one rule. Drink at least two non-alcoholic drinks between the boozy ones. For more tips, head over to my website and download the free guide.

  4. Avoid pre-mixed drinks. This is a hard temptation to resist. Those pitchers of mojitos and bowls of punch are so inviting. The problem is, you have absolutely NO IDEA how much alcohol is in them, and you can bet there’s probably a ton of sugar added as well. These are the drinks that are sure to sneak up on you. Mix your own drinks and you’ll have a lot more control over the content.

  5. Eat!! Always avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Hydrate and then get some food in your belly and you’re off to a great start.

  6. Prepare your comebacks. If you are sipping on colourful spritzers, chances are most people will leave you alone, rather than try to force alcohol into you. However, there are those friends and acquaintances who decide to make it their business whether everyone around them is getting as drunk as they are. People like this are often really quick to take it personally when you decline whatever it is that you are offering, or when you try to explain that you just don’t want to drink as much this summer. I’ve found that the more that I can explain that it’s a decision I’ve made for my own health (plain and simple), the less the other person can argue or try to make it about themselves. For more discussion, tips and support around this topic, you can join our private facebook group. Simply reply to this email and let me know you’d like to join!

Were there any tips I’ve missed? Which will be the most helpful for you?

Wishing you maximum summer fun!