New Year, New Goals


The New Year is here. Which means that new goals, resolutions and opportunities await. Like any other new year, this one gives off the sense of starting over and maybe trying out some new things. Whether you have 2018 resolutions or not, a new year is great time to set yourself up for success with your health and your entire life. This doesn’t have to be super overwhelming or include massive life changes, so instead here is a list of simple resolutions that can make a big impact in your life.

1) Get more sleep  

Most people struggle with this one. To make this as easy as possible, start slow. Go to bed 5 minutes earlier each night and slowly increase it as you go along. Gradually add in some pre-bedtime rituals like a quick hot shower, reading a couple of pages from a good book or magazine, or meditate for a minute. If you find yourself lying in bed thinking about all of the things that you need to do tomorrow, then start a pre-bedtime practice of making a quick list of your next day’s to-do items. That way you’re able to lie back knowing that you won’t miss anything. Keep your room at a cool temperature and sleep with ear plugs and an eye mask for total quiet and darkness. When you’re well rested, everything else is so much easier.

2) Drink more water

Aim for 2-3 litres of water per day. Things like coffee, tea, soda, or juice don’t count. In fact, caffeinated beverages are a natural diuretic so it can cause dehydration if you’re not sipping on your H2O. One trick that works great is to drink a tall glass first thing in the morning. Right after I roll out of bed and brush my teeth, I chug a nice tall glass that way I always start my day out hydrated. Water in the morning will help your body wake up and start working as it is 100% necessary for your body to function all the time. Water aids in digestion, regulating the metabolism and improving circulation.

3) Move more

For us sedentary individuals with desk jobs, sitting is the new killer. Sitting down for too long increases the chance of dying from ALL CAUSES. That’s right. So be sure to get up and give yourself a quick stretch, shake out those legs and walk around. Aim to do this every 30 minutes. It’s tough when you’re swamped at the office, but it’s necessary so get to it.

4) Get outside  

The great outdoors are great for a reason. Being outside helps to regulate the circadian rhythm (for sleep) and is a great mood booster. Getting exposure to sunlight during the day gives off a nice energy boost and being exposed to moonlight signals your body that it’s time to hit the hay. This may be more challenging during cold winter months, but try it out even if for only 1 minute.

5) Take a digestive enzyme

This is a great tool that can help you lean out and stay that way. I started taking a digestive enzyme on the advice of my coach during my first contest prep 2 years ago. This supplement can help your body absorb more nutrients by helping with the breakdown of amino acids, fatty acids and simple sugars. It just makes the whole process much easier on your body. I take one daily, first thing in the morning before breakfast. I also take an additional one before and after any large and heavy meals; it helps to reduce bloating and that icky feeling you get when you eat too much. Just be sure to check the ingredients first as many companies go for the cheap enzymes and add in things like animal bile (EW!). Go for the plant-based ones here that contain enzymes extracted from fruits like pineapple (Allmax Nutrition is my go-to).

So there you have it, five easy things that you can slowly start to incorporate into your life to help you feel great and be healthy. As for my 2018 resolution, well I’ve decided that more sleep is my main priority. It’s tough to go to bed earlier, but I’m already feeling the difference just 2 days into this year. And in terms of my big goals I’ll be competing at nationals in July with the opportunity to earn that coveted IFBB Elite Pro Card. My training is in full swing and I’ll be sharing every bit of it along the way!

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

How to have a healthy AND fun holiday


Everyone always talks about “surviving” the holidays. Countless fitness experts give out holiday survival guides and a whole slew of tips to make it to the New Year in one piece. No matter how many of these guides we read or how much we may vow that this will be the year that we don’t overdo it on the food and drink, at one point or another it just gets too complicated and too tempting to not indulge. So instead of just surviving the holidays let’s focus on how to be healthy AND realistic during this busy time of the year.

Your mindset is what will really allow you to actually enjoy yourself. I hear countless people complain about the holidays; how busy they are, all of the obligations they have, events to go to, gifts to buys, etc. If you go into it thinking about how much this is going to suck, then it IS going to suck. Start off instead with an attitude of gratitude and focus on the fact that you have people in your life to spend time with, the means to purchase or make special gifts for them, a home to host dinner in, a job and (ergo) coworkers to celebrate with, etc. Think of it that way and it’ll just help you gain a little more perspective the next time you find yourself dragging yourself to the shopping mall for some last minute gifts to buy. With your mind right the rest can be fairly straightforward.

Nutrition tends to be a big problem here for most, with the endless family gatherings, restaurant lunches and dinners with friends, and office cocktail parties. The standard solutions that you’ll hear from everyone else is to get your workout done first thing in the morning, fill half your plate with vegetables, alternate between alcohol and water…So I’m not gonna bother going into it any further than that. What I will say is that most of the time these strategies re short lived, trust me I’ve tried it myself many times. But if this happens to work for you then great, otherwise just do the best you can. That doesn’t mean giving yourself permission to have 3 pieces of dessert and 4 glasses of wine in one sitting. What this really means is keeping your health in mind with everything that you choose to put into your body. You know that veg is good for you and that fried stuff isn’t, so just be aware of how many bites of decadent foods you’re eating. It can be challenging though because we tend to mindlessly munch as we mingle and socialize. The solution that I always follow is to eat how I normally would on any other average day and have a meal before I leave home. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you go into an event already satiated, the trays of canapés are far less tempting. If you go into it after restricting yourself all day, then you’ll no doubt overeat, possibly binge and get that awful overly full feeling that leaves you bloated and regretful for days. On the other hand if you’re already well nourished, you can approach each meal more objectively and choose the foods that actually look good to you.

If you happen to be on a weight loss journey or contest prep and you are concerned about the Judgy McFoodPushers, here are a few tried and true strategies for you:

  • Pretend like you just came from another cocktail, dinner or other gathering and are pretty full as is
  • Fake a tummy ache. It seems childish, but it works. “My stomach has been so upset since yesterday” or “I have the worst heartburn, I’ll just stick with water for now thanks”.
  • For contest prep, do as I do and just say no. When I’m in prep, I don’t care what anyone may think or say, I’m not eating anything off plan unless my coach says so. Worst case scenario just pull out a pic of you on show day and let everyone know that this is what you’ll be doing soon “so shut your stupid face”…or maybe something a little nicer J

This is a big concern for a lot of my clients, especially those who don’t want to invite others into their personal weight loss journey. Everyone’s got an opinion on weight loss and it’s always a hot topic, so if you don’t feel comfortable sharing, then use any of the above options.

As for exercise, well I say go for it. Try to stick to your usual schedule as best as you can, but if that’s not possible then make sure that you are at least moving throughout the day. Take five to ten minutes to sit quietly and do some light stretching; think of it as your “you time” in the middle of your busy schedule. I personally love going to the gym during the time; there’s far less people so the equipment is always free and it’s time to myself. Even though it may be tough to step out of the comfort of your home, you’re guaranteed to feel great afterward and get a nice mood boost.

Try to enjoy yourself at least a little. If you’re fortunate enough to have time off from work or school, then take the opportunity to get extra rest and start developing health habits to bring you into the New Year. Remember to treat yourself, but do so wisely and if you happen overeat at one point or another, then make a better choice at your next meal. Have fun and stay healthy.

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Pulling myself together


To say that the last two years of my life have been tough would be the biggest understatement ever. Not only have I dealt with health issues, lost loved ones and a job last year, but now just as I thought things were starting to get stable, my marriage is ending. This all happened very suddenly without warning and was a huge shock, now I’m once again picking up the pieces and attempting rally myself back into sanity.

I wish I could say that I channeled all of my anger and hurt into some pretty beastly workouts, but that’s not the case and it’s definitely not what I needed. I decided to not force myself or try to push myself into what did not feel right. What I really needed was a break. I was already planning on taking a week off of training following my photo shoot and boy did I need it. This all happened to coincide with my starting a new job, so that extra time off was not only helpful physically and emotionally (due to my impending divorce), but it was also helpful in giving myself the capacity to focus on some new work.

So I took the week off and gave myself a breather. I started working out again, but keeping it very quick, about 30 minutes of weight training on my lunch break. It’s just the right amount time to work up a small sweat and maintain my mass. Now is not the time to be going full speed ahead that’s for sure. And although I was planning on starting to prep for Nationals and maybe doing a mass gain, I decided to hold off for at least a month. This will give me enough time to get into a good rhythm and routine with my day to day and new life altogether.

In terms of nutrition, well let’s just say that I’m going really easy on myself. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been ordering in or getting take-out, eating whatever I felt like and it’s been good. I’m not binge eating or overeating, but I’m not regimented either. No measuring or weighing food, no macro calculations or anything like that. I am still trying to keep it balanced, but if I do feel like having a bucket of spaghetti and a slice of chocolate cake, then I will. If I feel like ordering pizza and breadsticks and fries, then I do. I’m just eating well without overdoing it or beating myself up over anything. I must say that it’s nice to not be doing a big meal prep and to instead just pack leftovers for lunch or pick up something that looks good and healthy.

The positive thing is that now I’ve started to really develop a good night time ritual where I drink a hot chamomile tea on my balcony in the evening in my jammies and then curl up in bed with a good book and read before it’s lights out. I haven’t gotten into meditation or anything like that, but I’m sure it’ll come along soon enough.

Apart from my changing eating habits and my intense urge in wanting to redecorate my home by going on a daily shopping spree, everything is still good and I’m hanging in there. Whatever message the universe keeps trying to send me, I guess it hasn’t come through yet, but at least for now I can enjoy some extra independence. Maybe having more leeway will allow me to create even better habits in the long run and make my prep for Nationals a little less intense that I had planned. No matter how this plays out, I’m still an athlete and still competing and still coaching people, maybe just at a slower pace for now.

Nutrition, Wellness

Eat what you want, when you want


What do we really want? It’s simple actually: Eat what we when, when we want. Is it possible to do so and still be healthy? YES! Does it mean that you have to always focus on portion control and moderation? Nope. Allow me to explain…

I used to think that this concept was all about being able to eat junk food, dessert and big decadent meals all the time. Then it shifted towards eating tiny portions of decadent meals like in the books French Women Don’t Get Fat or Naturally Thin. I tried that out and it was short lived, that style of eating doesn’t work for me or most people for that matter. If it did, the obesity epidemic would not exist because we would be able to stop at one bite. Moderation is rough. What this really means is gaining a bit more self-awareness in order to better understand your cravings and taste preferences, and then eating accordingly.

Self-awareness might sound a bit new-agey, but when it comes to dieting, it really comes in handy. It basically helps you to move away from eating something just cause it’s there or just cause it’s a special occasion and to instead eat something because it’s what you really want.

A prime example that I can give you is my weekly treat. In the beginning I always overdid it and ate whatever junk food was available to me and then I’d end up feeling bloated, heavy and guilty. But now I think about what would really taste good to me and what I’m actually in the mood for and then I can just enjoy every bite without the guilt and then get on with my life.

Maybe instead of saying I want to eat what I want, when I want, we can shift towards I enjoy the foods that I really want, whenever I choose to. It’s so powerful when you are able to get to that space and genuinely enjoy food instead of just shoveling it down. You can look forward to your meals without feeling guilty afterward. Guilt is a huge component of this; how many times have you felt bad after overdoing it or going off-plan or cheating on your diet? It sucks and it can easily send the most disciplined person into a tailspin. So just eat what you really want but pay attention to the food and how it tastes and how you feel. In the beginning it might feel like you’re overthinking everything you eat because it’s a bit of a challenge to gauge your cravings and tastes at first. With time though, you’ll get into a good rhythm and soon enough it’ll just be second nature.

This isn’t to say that you should just eat whatever fatty foods are at your disposal, this all comes down to understanding what your body needs nutrient-wise, what your taste bud preferences are and combining the two to create awesome and delicious meals each day. This concept has led me to create countless healthy and delicious recipes like Pad Thai or Oat Flour Waffles or Protein Brownies. Yes, nutrient rich foods are the baseline for good health and they’re an absolute necessity, but you can still make them taste great. So tune in to your preferences and eat real foods that will nourish you, fuel you and satisfy you everyday.

Nutrition, Wellness

The Scarcity Diet


What’s the most common thing that people do right before going on a diet? Binge eat. That’s right, when most of us decide that it’s time to take control of our health we also decide to go all out for one last hurrah. The thinking here is that you will never get to eat these things ever again so you might as well enjoy it while you still can. This is the scarcity mindset and it is the most counterproductive thing that you can do that will ultimately sabotage your resolve before you even get started.

Most of us equate dieting with deprivation and restriction. We see it as a fad that is totally ineffective in the long run, and yet we still get on board. Billions of dollars are spent every year in the diet and fitness industry and so many of us embark on this journey with the best intentions, while subconsciously feeling skeptical. This thinking is all based on past experiences where it was really hard or too intense and restrictive or it cost a fortune and you just didn’t get the results you wanted, or someone close to you experienced these things. As the saying goes “everybody’s got a story” and this case is no different. Whether you’re aware of it or not, these issues dictate your entire experience and outcome.

When we choose to overeat leading up to a new diet plan we’re already in that state of mind where we’re thinking that this is it and we’ll never get to eat anything tasty again. So instead of being upper jazzed up about starting something healthy, we’re going into it kinda bummed out, thinking that this is going to totally suck. Mindset really is the key to long lasting change and continuous progress. Your willpower alone will not get you there, otherwise you’d already be a size 4 with a 6-pack of abs! If you at any point feel restricted or feel that sense of food scarcity, the diet will fail you.

All of this doesn’t mean that you’ll never reach your goal, because countless people have turned their lives around and kept the weight off. In order for this to work, you have to truly want to do this and have to fully believe that you will succeed. Understand that it will take work on your part and make peace with that, but keep your eye on the prize and focus on that vision of constant progress towards a lifetime of great health.

Another key component to getting your mind right is to not plan too far in advance. For example, many people during the holidays decided that starting in the new year they are going to finally start exercising and losing weight. The problem is that in this case you are relying on the timing being perfect in terms of not having events to go to where there will be decadent food at your disposal. However, there will always be holidays, gatherings, work events, dinners, luncheons, cocktail hours and all kinds of other social events that will occur and that you will take part in. That stuff doesn’t just end. So waiting for the time to be just right is actually never going to happen. What are you going to do come Easter or come your birthday or vacation or girls night out? Stop waiting and start doing. Start right now and go at a pace that works for you. ease yourself into it by slowly incorporating healthy habits into your life as it is at this moment. Go to bed a little early (even if it’s just 5 minutes earlier), have a glass of water when you get out of bed (before you start knocking back the coffee), walk up the escalator, add a little more veg to your dinner. Simplicity is your best friend for lasting change.

Instead of the all or nothing approach, look at what you have right in front of you and start to make some simple changes. This has been huge for me and it is exactly what has prevented me from getting into that scarcity mindset. In the past, I’ve gone ahead and stuffed myself before any new regiment, but last year I started approaching it differently and I continue to do so. It’s what has gotten me through 3 contest preps and my first photoshoot prep as well and has allowed me to maintain my results after the fact. Keep in mind that there will always be an abundance of food and food-related social gatherings in your life, so there is no need to eat everything just because it’s there or just because this may be your only time to try it. eat the food that actually looks good to you and that you know tastes great. And most of all, eat when you’re hungry (not starving!), when you’re full just stop or slow it down and pack up the leftovers for another time.

Fitness, Nutrition, Recipes, Wellness

Why fitness isn’t for free


When I first earned my personal trainer certification I started doing a couple of plans for free. I did these for some friends and relatives with the hopes of gaining some extra experience while also helping others get healthy. My thinking was that I was going to be a great resource for people who were looking to get fit, without them having to spend a fortune on some fancy group coaching service with weekly meetings and a minimum buy-in.

Well…I was wrong.

The reality is that if there is no investment, there are no returns. Think of it like this: right now you could google fitness and nutrition plans you will get an endless number of free options. How many people have actually followed those free plans on their own, gotten great results and be able to maintain these results? Very few if any at all. When there is no investment, there is nothing to hold you accountable and accountability is what will keep you on track when you are ready to throw in the towel. Ultimately, when you make this investment you’ll want to get your money’s worth.

Prime example: Someone had asked for my help and I had happily put a plan together for them; they were looking to a significant amount of weight. Well, one day they called me up just to chat and casually mentioned that they were going to pick up a bag of chips. Naturally I started telling them that this wasn’t part of their program and that they would only be hurting themself. This person responded with “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!” and then they hung up on my face.

Just because you decide that you want to get in shape doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to happen. You can read all of the fitness magazines or sign up for as many free challenges as you want , but until you actually take massive action and start getting to work, you will never be able to change. What you have to know about weight loss is that it’s work and that it is a lifelong commitment. This may seem intimidating, but what’s the alternative? Continue feeling crappy all the time and disliking the way that you look. Why waste your precious time standing in the dressing room picking apart your body, when you could instead feel great and love every part of yourself? Seriously. You need to invest in yourself. I didn’t become a nationally qualified bodybuilder on my own. I hired a great coach with contest experience who specialized in vegan nutrition. I could have easily gone to the gym and picked out any trainer who would put together some generic plan for me, but I knew that it would be a total waste of resources for me. The investment got me the support that I needed and it created the accountability to fully commit to my goal. I still had to put in a ton of work, but it was totally worth it.

It’s the same principal with groceries. So many of us talk about how expensive it is, but the reality is that quality food and nutrient dense food can be more of an investment that the junk food that has no business being in your grocery kart.

At the end of the day, you get what you give and if you want to finally get healthy and lose weight FOR GOOD then it’s time to invest in yourself and get to work. You don’t have to go to the most expensive gym in your area or buy the most expensive protein powder out there, but you have to invest in the right training and in the right nutrition. And by right I mean the best balance between challenging, enjoyable and great quality. If you love to dance then try a Zumba class, if you’re competitive then try powerlifting or bodybuilding, if you love having a sense of community then try out Crossfit. Nutrition-wise, well if you love chocolate everything then try my Raw Protein Brownie, or if you are all about sushi, well I’ve got a low-carb sushi recipe that will knock your socks off!

The moral of the story is this:

Commit. Invest. Progress.

It’s time. You can do this and I can help. To schedule your FREE 1 on 1 no obligation coaching call click here

P.S. Don’t forget to check my newly released EBooks! There’s an awesome recipe collection with delicious meal and snack options that are 100% vegan. And for those of you looking to go-it alone in terms of losing weight or getting fit, check out the nutritional guide and workout plan!

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

You’re on your own


Taking the decision to start living a healthy and fit lifestyle is awesome! It is without question one of the best conscious choices that you can make in your lifetime. Chances are, when you decide to embark on your fitness journey, you’ll be super pumped, I know I was. It’s this exciting adventure that you get to do just for you and you alone, for your own personal reasons. It opens you up to an entirely new world and subculture in the fitness community. One very common drawback that many people will experience at one point or another is when their spouse, family or friends are not on board. I’ve heard so many people talk about how challenging it is or how this has caused conflict in their relationships, and even I experience this today with my husband from time to time. It doesn’t always have to be a huge fight though and there are some ways that you can spin this around to make things way easier for you while still staying strong.

Before we take it any further, take a second to acknowledge why you’ve decided to change your lifestyle. Maybe you’ve been sedentary and eating unhealthy for a long time and you’re finally ready to lose weight. Or maybe you’ve been working out for a while, but are pretty inconsistent and you don’t really pay attention to nutrition. Or Maybe you’re a gym rat who’s ready to take it up a notch and start training for your first competition. Regardless of your “why”, your reason is what will carry you through when the going gets tough. Use this decision as a means to hold you accountable and to keep your eye on the prize. Whether it be the number on the scale or setting a new PR or winning a shiny trophy, your reason behind this lifestyle upgrade needs to always be at the center of your mind. Get super clear on this because you will need it if ever someone gets upset with your choice.

At some point someone will probably say something negative about you spending time at the gym or staying away from junk food or ordering something lighter at a restaurant. Naturally most of us will get defensive and then an argument will ensue. Some people just get quiet, but then it can lead to massive resentment instead. Neither is good for a relationship. Here are a few tried and true tips form yours truly, that can help take the edge off without ending your relationship:

  1. Communication is key. It is so important to very clearly articulate why you are doing this and why it is important that you continue. Explaining that this is something that you are doing for yourself and your well-being can help shift the other person’s perspective a bit. Focus on the health aspect above all else when having this conversation and explain that the healthier you are, the better you feel both physically and emotionally. Instead of coming home after work and crashing on the couch, you’re coming home from the gym feeling energized and positive. Your mood is better, your sleep is better and you’re just way more pleasant to be around.
  2. Think of it from their point of view to get a better understanding of what they’re really saying. If you’re spending an hour at the gym each day instead of being at home, then they probably just miss you. If you’re ordering something healthy at a restaurant then it might be making them feel self-conscious about their own choices.
  3. Compromise when necessary. If your workout schedule is interfering with your obligations, then instead of scrapping it altogether when you spouse says that they need your help (fill in the blank) and resenting them for it, change up your timing. Switch to morning or midday workouts or break up your workout into three smaller separated workouts to fit in the time. It may be an adjustment for you in the beginning, but with time you’ll adapt without neglecting your responsibilities.
  4. Get extra help. If time is your problem then consider getting with to free up some space in your day. For example, if your weekly meal prep takes three hours out of your life that you’ll never get back, then consider using a healthy meal delivery service that fits your budget. If the time you spent cleaning your house each week could be better spent working out, then hire a weekly house keeping service. Yes, these are added expenses, but if they can make your life easier then go for it. Budget accordingly and make it happen.

One final point that I’d like to make is that some may have an issue with your financial investment in this. In this case, I say it’s your life, your body and your health. Do you want hit 60 and feel like garbage all time struggling to walk up a flight of stairs or get out of bed in the morning? Or would you rather have the stamina to crush your day, feel energized and spent time with the ones you love? I’d choose the latter. You are investing in your health and your life, it is the best investment that you can make.

Denise K