An Alternative To 'No Regrets': Getting Rid Of Guilt For Good

March 12, 2016

A couple weeks ago I set off to meet my husband for a European adventure. As many of you know, my husband is a downhill ski racer who has been racing on the FIS World Cup circuit for the last 12 years. One of the perks of our long distance relationship is the yearly trip I make to Europe to spend time with him as he travels from country to country, looking to perform at his best while barrelling down icy slopes with little more than a spandex suit, helmet and back brace along for the ride.

Touring around Europe has allowed me to ski the world's best resorts, experience many different cultures and eat a wide variety of amazing food. Every year I joke that I always wear jeans to dinner while in Italy, France, Austria, Germany or Spain because my fitted pants are one of the best tools I've got to practice balance with the delectable dishes that are served at each and every meal. 

A post-race kiss in Hinterstoder, Austria

Over the years I've written about how to enjoy food in a balanced way in Italy, penned emails to my mailing list on the joys of local veggies in Austria and shared how I exercise in Spain, but today I want to talk about something we all experience on some level when it comes to travelling and eating, and that is the guilt that comes along with indulging in food. 

I must admit I don't have much of a guilty conscience. When my clients would ask 'how do I get rid of the guilt I have after indulging in desserts or ultra-rich meals' I wouldn't always know exactly how they felt. I do spend a lot of time thinking about how our mind works to craft our relationship with food and this is what I've come up with...

In my experience, guilt around food manifests itself in two common forms: destructive guilt or evasive guilt. 

Destructive guilt is characterized by feelings of remorse, moments of berating ourselves for the decisions of the day or night before and a promise to get back on track and repent for our actions. 

Evasive guilt is what I've experienced which is less about feeling guilty and more about saying 'no regrets!' It is characterized by a move on and move up response where we are less likely to feel bad about our decisions and more likely to look at the beneficial side of what we chose to do 'hey I really enjoyed drinking sangria, and eating tacos with reckless abandon'. The ironic part about evasive guilt is that deep down, we often still feel guilty! It's like the 'no regrets' response is about pretending we don't have guilt. 

The point is that neither destructive guilt or evasive guilt actually help us to have a wholeheartedly healthy relationship with food. Often, we're either experiencing guilt or pretending we don't experience it. Let's dive in a little deeper to see how we can create a truly balanced and emotionally healthy relationship with food. This is exactly how it has played out for me. 

As I packed my bags to head home to Canada when my most recent European trip was coming to a close, I stopped to gaze at the buckets and buckets of snow falling outside our Austrian hotel. I thought about the beautiful towns we had visited, the delicious food we had eaten and the glorious mornings I had spent sleeping in, drinking coffee and wandering around curious new locales. 

And then a little thought crept in...

What if I had gotten up earlier on a few of my holiday mornings? What if I had not had that extra glass of wine? What if I had said no to the dessert buffet last night? What if I had gotten an extra bodyweight workout in or done a few more runs on the ski hill?

Maybe I had over-indulged on this trip.

You're likely aware that practicing balance is something I have worked hard at mastering over the past three years. After going from an all-or-nothing relationship with clean eating and tons of exercise I wanted a more sustainable and enjoyable way of operating and taking care of myself. Most of the women I work with are eager to find balance, results and enjoyment with food too. 

But the challenge with balance is that it can be a slippery slope, right? Is balance one glass of wine or three? Is balance a dessert every night or once a week?  

I mean, balance can be so...vague. Did I even practice balance on my trip?

And so I found myself gazing at the fluffy snow piling up outside the window having some vacationer's regret. In the past, regret is something I would have pushed aside and thought 'I had fun, I ate lots of vegetables, I moved everyday'. In essence, I would have justified my healthy actions and pulled the rug over my indulgent ones rather than examining them all wholeheartedly. The sneaky part is that guilt was there, I just did a great job of burying it under a facade of 'no regrets'. Hello, evasive guilt! 

This is what I called living with 'no regrets'. And this mindset, this operating style had served me for quite awhile. Until mid-way through our stay in Spain when I got to the end of the book Rising Strong by Brené Brown, and she began to discuss living with no regrets. 

Brené says "No regrets doesn't mean living with courage, it means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life."

I remember thinking, 'oh shit, she might be onto something here'. There have been many times in my life that I've used 'no regrets' as an operating system to move on quickly from a crappy decision. Sometimes I think we use 'no regrets' as a fake positivity tool, as a way of pretending there is no guilt. 

It's always a balance isn't it? (There's that damn balance word again). We can be honest and use regret as a tool to assess our decisions and see where we've made some not-so-great choices. Then we can choose to use that regret constructively via making better choices next time. Or we can choose to use regret destructively and feel bad about ourselves, experience guilt for eating too much or drinking too much and continue to make crappy decisions from a shame-fueled place.

But the answer is certainly not 'no regrets'. The answer is using regret constructively vs. destructively.

I mean, does the 'no regrets' mindset even help us?!



I don't think it does.

How could I use some of my wine-schnapps-apfel strudel-sangria-schnitzel regret as a constructive tool to remind myself of what is really important for me to live a life of balance? I consciously say no to destructive guilt or evasive guilt. I honestly examine what I missed on this past trip and re-affirm my habits:

  • Listen to my hunger cues, always. Eat when hungry and taste a bit of anything I want without needing to finish the whole thing when I'm stuffed.

  • Move everyday and add intensity where possible.

  • Avoid letting the food choices of others dictate what I choose to eat. Aka. If everyone is having dessert and I don't really want it, I can say no. 

I didn't follow every one of these points, every single day on my most recent adventure. And rather than saying 'no regrets!' I'll use my new found awareness of how I experience guilt and regret as a reflection tool, a learning opportunity and not a shame-filled downward spiral. 


Sitting on a mountain top in Alaro, Spain.  

There are so many things in our lives that are a constant negotiation of a delicate balance. Relationships, life decisions, balance with food, guilt, regret and using it to help or hurt us. The longer I walk this path of awareness and mindset work, the more I notice how everything is about navigating the middle ground and embracing the grey areas. 

Experiencing destructive guilt or evasive guilt are mindset habits. We can change the way we operate by being aware of how we currently act and constantly practicing a more helpful and enjoyable way of relating to our own food decisions. 

I think guilt will always be part of our emotional experiences from time to time. It is about learning to use it in a helpful way and becoming aware that destructive guilt is a thought pattern that we can choose to avoid with practice. 

It's not about being positive all the time, it's not about living with 'no regrets', it's about being truthful and using what we've learned to help us in the future. No failures, only learning experiences. 

Here's to living with a little bit of healthy regret, 


How To Start A Self-Love Rebellion

February 10, 2016

The idea of a #selfloverebellion came when my girlfriend and fellow trainer Cat from San Francisco made a post on Facebook a couple weeks ago. In her post she shared that she often needs to explain that her 'corner of the fitness industry isn't that shallow or surface level' and there are many trainers, fitness educators and exercise professionals that are out to talk about more than just abs and physical results. When Cat tagged me in the post with a slew of other trainers I felt at home, like 'yes! I have really found a group of women that are into spreading the same message that is so important to me'. 

The #selfloverebellion has been an idea that has been brewing inside of me for sometime and I will share with you exactly what has brought me to this moment in time and what has created the desire to change the narrative we have about fitness, our bodies and our worth. The self-love rebellion is about rebelling against the mainstream narrative that we need to change ourselves in order to love ourselves.

Photo Credit: Caroline Caldwell

The fitness industry does make massive profits from capitalizing on the self-doubt of people. I do think women are targeted more than men as so much of what we hear from a young age is that our appearance is just as important as what we do, think or say (men face their own challenges with tons of messaging around being muscular). I feel lucky that my experience growing up was not about appearance at all. My Dad (yes my Mom was around but I spent most of my time with my Dad) raised me to be a strong and capable woman and we rarely spoke about what people looked like or what women should look like. Our conversations were more about if I was going to play soccer and basketball in the upcoming season or what I liked about science at school. It was my Dad who refused to drive me to the ferry for my first day of grade 7 until I 'took my lipstick' off. HAHA!

When I graduated from the University of Calgary with my Kinesiology degree many years later I was thrust into the world of personal training, living in a gym 24/7 (which I loved) and I began to see a different side of the fitness industry than what I had been exposed to in school. An education in kinesiology focuses largely on the art and science of human movement. We learn about muscles, physiology, the social side of movement, injury prevention, nutrition, stress reduction, counselling psychology and so much more. 

I never took a class at school that was called 'How To Get Lean Legs'. So my entire world shifted when the fitness magazines I saw were all about looks, the questions I would receive from participants in my classes were often about losing their muffin top or toning their arms and some of the trainers I was working with were completely aesthetic-focused. This is certainly not about playing the blame game, I was a sponge and I did enjoy learning some tips and tricks for getting more ripped arms and how to tweak my nutrition strategy to lose some body fat. 

Now that I have been actively working in the fitness industry for 14 years (I taught my first step aerobics class at the age of 16). I feel like I have a lot to say about exercise and how it relates to our self-care, the way we look, the way we feel and the way we love ourselves. Most of this comes from my own journey to wholehearted health, and some of my lessons come from the incredible clientele I have worked with over the last decade. 

When we operate as professionals in the fitness industry we have a responsibility to treat the entire person as a whole. The external 'look' is not separate from the internal feeling. If we only focus on the outside, we neglect the inside. The most successful exercisers start moving because of an external goal and continue moving because of the way movement makes them feel. We have to keep talking about the inner journey, it will help us to become healthier and more consistent. 

Exercise can be the ultimate form of self-care, and consistent self-care is a way of expressing self-love. When we poke and prod our bodies saying we need to get rid of this and tone up that, are we motivating ourselves or putting aesthetic before self-care? This is not a black and white game; therefore, we need to find the balance of finding out how to be more than a body while still caring for ourselves deeply. This is the key to lasting motivation.

So how can you start your own #selfloverebellion? How can you be a rebel against the aesthetic-first obsession of the fitness industry as a whole? How can you change the narrative to honour the inside before the outside? How can you practice radical self-love?

Here's how you can do it:

1. Practice self-acceptance without resignation. 

This quote came from my business coach Jill Coleman who has played a massive role in my growth both personally and professionally. She was one of the first people in my world that talked about the inner journey more than the outer look. I think I related to her because I still love feeling strong and exercising regularly but I needed help finding more tools to care for my inner world and craft an empowered mindset. 

When we practice self-acceptance we work at accepting where we are at this exact moment in time. If you are a black-and-white thinker, then self-acceptance can seem like we're letting ourselves off the hook. The challenge is that we must accept ourselves, our past, our thoughts and feelings in order to create a solid foundation for moving forward. When we constantly motivate ourselves from a place of not-good-enough we rarely make changes that stick and even when we do achieve the goals we've set, we're left feeling like something is still missing. 

To practice self-acceptance without resignation we work on accepting ourselves for who we are and rather than becoming resigned 'there's nothing I can do about it' we practice acceptance and subsequent action. This was a key step for me in learning how to take better care of myself mentally and physically. Rather than let past fears, pains, mistakes and frustrations hold me back I accepted them as normal parts of life and worked at staying empowered with what I could do about where I wanted to be. 

2. Know that it is possible to love yourself and want to change at the same time.

Building upon accepting ourselves without resignation, it is possible to practice radical self-love and work at getting stronger, fitter or more peaceful. But this brings me to a difficult but important question that needs to be discussed: HOW do you love yourself while wanting to change?

  • We practice gratitude for our body and what it does for us daily. This can be writing it down in a gratitude journal or simply thanking our legs, stomach and arms for all they allow us to do. It may seem silly but it changes our narrative about our bodies completely. 
  • We become more habit focused vs. outcome focused. Rather than always looking for the finish line (number on the scale, size of clothes, amount of weight we can lift) we focus on enjoying the process of getting to our goals. What do you love about the way you are eating? What do you love about the workouts you are doing?
  • Acknowledge that you are in fact, more than a body. You are your mindset, your relationships, your outlook, your perspective, your passion, your knowledge. Your friends and family love you for your unique quirks and so why don't we practice embracing those things too?

I also think it is extremely important to recognize that having periods of our lives where we focus on things other than changing ourselves (body, mindset etc) is very healthy. We may be dealing with an injury, caring for a family member, growing a baby, nursing a baby or building a business and placing the majority of our efforts there does not mean we are lazy or are abandoning our self-love practices. 

3. Speak your dominant love language with yourself.

In the famous book 'The 5 Love Languages' author Gary Chapman explains that people tend to give and receive love differently. The 5 dominant love languages are physical touch, quality time, acts of service, gifts and words of affirmation. Years after reading this book and using it constantly in my relationship with my husband, family and friends I began to think about how my dominant love language, which is words of affirmation, played out in my relationship with myself. 

I have never been one to have a lot of negative self-talk going on, but I have struggled with anxiety and worry so I began to replace my fearfulness with compassion and encouragement for myself. I would literally say 'you're doing a great job' or 'your eyes look so sparkly today' or 'I love how you stepped up at work today' or 'I love how you gave yourself permission to take it easy today'

If you take anything from the #selfloverebellion I want it to be that your relationship with yourself and how you express love to yourself is more important than how you express or share love with other people. It takes two whole people to make a whole relationship.

4. This is NOT about #strongnotskinny

I am sure the strong-not-skinny movement was started with empowerment in mind and that is a wonderful idea of course, but by choosing strong over skinny, what happens to the people who are strong AND skinny? What about the women who are naturally thin, small-boned and have low amounts of body fat? What about the women who have a tougher time building muscle mass? By creating a this-over-that approach we will always lose some people in the running. 

It is exactly like saying 'real women have curves'. Ummm, no. Many of the most 'real' women I know have no curves. They have babies and careers or are stay at home-moms with volunteer schedules, and they are loving and caring and real. I also know incredibly powerful women with curves that are real. My Mom has always had curves and she drives a double axel container truck, runs a business and volunteers her time too. A real woman comes in all shapes and sizes and has all sorts of personality traits. 

You can practice self-love if you are strong, skinny, have curves, or are somewhere in the middle of these characteristics. 

5. Get rid of if-then statements.

An if-then statement goes like this:

If I lose 10lbs, then I will love my body.

If my husband picks up his laundry then I will be able to relax.

If my kids pay attention to what I am saying, then I will have a great day.  

The challenge with an if-then statement is that it places the levels of our happiness, self-love and peace on external conditions out of our control. We cannot control what our body does when we exercise and change how we eat (we might lose 10lbs, we might gain 4lbs of muscle). We cannot control what our significant others do (if you haven't tried this, then go ahead...). We cannot control what our kids do either. 

All that we can control is our perception, our effort, our outlook, our focus. And all of these things are choices that are yes, 100% in our wheelhouse.

How do I participate in the #selfloverebellion?

With #selfloverebellion you can take part regardless of age, gender, physical condition, socio-economic status or geographic location. It starts on the inside in the way you talk to yourself, the way you care for yourself and the way you make loving yourself a priority. It also means that you take a discerning look at the health and fitness messages that you let into your headspace (remember, it's our choice!). 

Post photos, quotes or insights on your social media feeds (instagram, twitter, Facebook etc) and use the hashtag. I shared that cooking, walking, sweating, spending time with family and friends, creating respectful boundaries, reading and using positive and encouraging self-talk are the ways I show love for myself. How do you care and love yourself? We want to know!

Can't wait to see what you come up with,

Lana xox

3 Ways To Enjoy The Process Of Achieving Your Physical Goals

January 05, 2016

Things I love about January: new faces in the gym, more people sweating everywhere, the energy, the motivational pep talks with friends, the self-belief, the renewed importance of putting our health on the priority list...

Things I don't love about January: it is only 31 days. 

After working in the fitness industry for the last twelve years I have come to love January, and April and September. I've found that our excitement about exercise and great nutrition is cyclical and there is renewed motivation every few months or so. My ladies only strength classes are always busiest at these times of the year, my personal training appointments are booked solid and I receive way more emails from women looking for help with nutrition every fourth month. 

This is partly human nature and partly bright, shiny object syndrome. It is fun to get all our ducks in a row and go all in with a workout and eating plan...until it isn't fun anymore. When we realize that what gives us results with better body composition, improved strength, great blood pressure, and better digestion is consistency and always staying in the game, it starts to lose its lustre. 

Seeing before and after pictures or someone performing a pull-up at the gym is so motivating, isn't it? But what we don't see are all the days that the person struggled with food choices, got up and worked out even though they didn't want to and spent months practicing assisted pull-up variations, not even getting close to having their chin over the bar. 

So today we are going to talk about how we can enjoy the unsexy parts of prioritizing our overall health. How can we brighten up the middle part instead of seeing it as hours in the gym? How can we shift our perspective to see that jumping on and off the wagon every four months is modern day insanity? I've got a few ideas for you and it took me years of struggling with my own expectations of how the process should be to embrace the way it actually works. 

Recognize that success is only one piece of the puzzle. 

Huh? Aren't we eating vegetables and moving everyday to have the outcomes we want? Isn't it all about our success?

No, it's not. Ask any great coach about why the process of goal setting is so important and they will tell you: it is about the person you become in the process of achieving your goals that matters. Just like I told you at the start of this post, the person rocking out pull-ups at the gym spent a long time practicing before they were able to get to success. But in that process they learned determination, consistency, listening to their body, saying no to invitations that didn't serve them, listening to their hunger cues and how to deal with failure. 

We actually can't get to success without learning these valuable lessons. 

Photo credit: Sylvia Duckworth

Be kinder to yourself through the process, in all ways possible. 

The best way we have to communicate with ourselves is via the voice in our head, our internal dialogue. For many years the voice in my head was like a hard-ass, old-school coach. It told me to get up, do more, be perfect, achieve more, look better and so on. I'll bet that your internal dialogue isn't all that different. Of course there is nothing wrong with having a dictatorship inside your head other than it gets old quite quickly. 

By the time I reached University I had realized that my go-hard, do-better mental self talk was not actually helping me anymore. I wasn't enjoying my school work anymore (and I had always loved school), I wasn't enjoying volunteering (something I had always loved to do) and I wasn't enjoying any of my extra-curricular activities (because I wasn't 'good' enough at any of them). 

I think my own process of being kinder to myself through the process of achieving physical goals (or any goal for that matter) has taken me a couple years to figure out. It's totally a work in progress to this day, but I just don't have time to talk down to myself anymore. 

This is the way I see it: We get to choose the experience we have in this life. Stressed out? Always on the go? Never enough? Those are choices, and choices I made readily for years. We can also choose enjoyment, fun, positivity and looking on the bright side. We can get to our goals just as quickly and much more happily when we speak kindly to ourselves along the way. The secret benefit? You'll be more fulfilled when you realize your goals too.

Understand that it is possible to like your body and work at changing it. 

I believe that taking care of our own health is one of the most basic responsibilities all human beings have. This doesn't mean its a small responsibility, in fact, it's a massive one, but there is an underlying belief we have that there needs to be some disgust, irritation or discomfort about our bodies in order for us to want to change them and start prioritizing our health. 

Again, no. Of course there are many of us who will use the fact that we get out of breath going up the stairs to work on our fitness, but that is different. Being frustrated with your fitness level is one thing. Hating your body is completely different. 

Why does it matter if we practice self-love or self-hatred on the way to achieving our goals? This is a nuanced idea, and chances are good that you will see the difference if you have tried the self-hatred path and failed. I have. I have tried to change my body, my habits and my hobbies because I didn't like who I was and nothing ever stuck for long. After choosing a path of self-acceptance instead, it became so much easier to practice the gratitude, self-encouragement and understanding required to get up and do what I needed to day after day. 

We can have deep love for ourselves and want to run faster. We can love our body and be grateful for all it does while working at seeing more muscle definition. Disgust and motivation are not in a long term relationship with one another. 

I am so excited to be talking all about motivation, metabolism, self-love and self-trust on January 23rd at The Empowered Woman Project in Calgary, Alberta. Join us for a dynamic day with myself and my three acclaimed co-presenters. 

As always, here for the journey, 


4 Factors For A Strong Metabolism

December 26, 2015

Whenever I mention the word metabolism most people's ears perk up. It's like they are about to be let in on a secret to a healthy and fit body that not everyone is privy to. You see, we've all got a human body that follows (when healthy) the same bodily processes, but there is a popularly held belief that having a fast metabolism is a genetic holy grail that allows us to eat and move any way we want without experiencing the consequences. There is so much more to our metabolism that its' speed. Today we are going to talk about what our metabolism entails, what factors affect our metabolism and how to create a strong and healthy metabolism. 

Our metabolism is a collection of all of the cell processes in our body, and can be thought of as the sum of all the actions our body takes. Whether we are moving, digesting, building muscle, converting food into energy and even thinking, every action requires energy from our body. 

There are a number of factors that affect our metabolic rate or the speed that our body completes its' daily functions. The goal is certainly not to have the fastest metabolism as possible, but rather a healthy metabolism that allows us to digest well, move properly and support healthy function. Our age, activity level, genetics, food choices, career, chores, daily habits and weekend excursions will all affect our metabolic rate. 

Because I am a huge fan of giving you information that you can take and use in your daily life, we are going to focus on the four main factors that you can control when it comes to what your metabolism is responsible for each day. We cannot change our genetics, our age or even some of our careers (that quickly) so we will look at how to eat, move, think and live in a way that supports a strong metabolism. 

Factor 1: Type of Physical Activity

The first step to identify is that not exercising at all is a big challenge for our metabolism. Yes we need to sweat, but are there more effective ways than others to craft a rockin' metabolism. This is one of the main reasons I am a fan of strength training workouts that target big muscle groups. Think squats, lunges, chest presses, rows, pull-ups, pull-downs, rotational moves and lateral movement. The more muscles we engage in a workout, the more calories we burn and this factors into our metabolic rate at the end of the day. 

Of course we burn calories when choosing cardio activities, but it is much easier to progressively overload our bodies safely and effectively with strength training first. Prioritizing muscle building activities is extremely important for women to maintain a healthy metabolism especially as we age and naturally lose muscle mass year after year. 

Lift weights. Do multi-joint, multi-plane exercises. Prioritize strength training first, cardio training second. 

Factor 2: Fibre, Protein & Real Food Intake

The types of food we choose to eat obviously affect our body composition, but they also affect our metabolic rate? Yep. One of the biggest contributors to our daily metabolic rate is the thermic effect of food or the amount of calories our body burns when it is breaking down food, processing it and absorbing it into our blood stream.

The more 'whole' a food is when we eat it, the more work our body has to do to break it down. So choosing a apple over apple juice or a cup of quinoa over a piece of bread will cost our body more energy to break down and assimilate into our body for use later. 

Diets low in fibre and low in protein are consistent with our digestive system having to do less work, thus having a lower metabolic rate. Choosing lots of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins in whole form allow our body to go to work chewing, breaking down and spending the time needed to get our food into an state that it can be absorbed. 

Factor 3: What does thinking have to do with metabolism?

Have you ever had a job where you used a lot of mental energy to do your required tasks each day? Did you get home feeling completely exhausted? 

When it comes to our metabolism we often place a ton of weight on the exercise we do and the foods we choose to eat. There are other factors that contribute to the amount of calories we burn each day, and our brain is one of the largest energy users we have. 

How are we to change a factor such as 'the amount we think each day'? This requires a commitment to a healthy life. Have meaningful conversations with your friends, do brain games at home, read books that challenge you, learn a new language or prioritize thinking as a healthy part of your metabolism.

Factor 4: Daily Lifestyle Choices

This is where we talk about whether you walk to work or drive, whether you sit at a desk all day or add walking and low intensity exercise into your mid-day activities. Our daily lifestyle choices are what makes up a large part of a strong (or not) metabolism. Yes, the sweaty, breathless and muscle building activities are important (see Factor 2) but I love to ask my personal training clients 'what do you do during the other 23 hours in the day?' because this is often what shapes a lot of our metabolism. 

The confusing part for many people is that our metabolism does not get faster and stronger by simply doing more, more, more exercise because exercise is also a stress on our body. After a while, we start to burn less calories from fat when our body is constantly put under stress. 

Think of it like this: we need lots of movement and just the right amount of exercise for a healthy metabolism. 

Mix in leisure walking, slow yoga, doing the stairs at your office after lunch, walking with a girlfriend rather than always going for a drink and doing low impact activities on the weekend to keep your body moving well and recovering properly from just the right amount of intense exercise.

While I've only touched on a few of the factors that affect our metabolism, I'll be talking about this in great detail including how to manage our metabolism as we age, when we are injured and when we've got metabolic damage at The Empowered Woman Project in Calgary Alberta on Saturday January 23, 2016.


The one day seminar includes four dynamic presentations on women's health including mastering your metabolism, overcoming stress, creating a strong core and pelvic floor, setting healthy emotional boundaries and much more. Limited tickets are available HERE

Our metabolism truly is a complicated subject, and to simplify it to only four factors would be to miss the beauty that is our complex human body. As always, start where you are, do what you can and don't let overwhelm stop you in your tracks. Keep learning and implementing because the more you know, the better you'll do. 



Guess what, you're not FOR everyone

December 16, 2015

I've been in a major purge phase lately. Cleaning out closets, taking old clothes to the second hand store, getting rid of old boxes of expired couscous from the back of the pantry, and generally making physical space in my life. I've always been the type of person who has a tough time getting down to work when my surroundings are in disarray. If I sit down to do my taxes, it is only after I've cleaned up the kitchen, done laundry and made sure the living room is organized. 

While going through an old box I inherited from my Grandma who passed away in 2005, I found a bunch of old family photos, letters and random thoughts and quotes scribbled on pieces of paper. This was like a clean-up jackpot for me as I love peeking into what life must have been like for my ancestors. 

I've found many of my Grandma's cut out quotes before. One of her random scraps of paper is on my fridge with the Rumi quote:

"Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot. Seek the path that demands your whole being. Leave that which is not, but appears to be. Seek that which is, but is not apparent."

The most recent discovery led me to a piece of paper with the following words scribbled on it:

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?"

I was 20 years old when my Dad's mother, my Grandma, passed away. She was an independent, smart, engaged and active woman with a social conscience and strong sense of self.  From what I can remember, my Grandma didn't change who she was for anyone. I know her early life was likely a different story, but by the time I was born, she certainly lived life her way.

When I think about how much I have changed in the last 10 years, there is so much more that I would say to her now. I have gone from a chameleon-pretender to a more honest existence. I have started thinking about my 20's as 'the great undoing'. I feel as though much of the last 10 years I spent trying to be the way I thought others wanted me to be, only to realize this is a swift path to dissatisfaction, fatigue and hurt. In the past three years or so, I have learned to live much more unapologetically, embracing myself for who I am rather than what I need to be to appease others. I don't consider 'the great undoing' to be a negative reflection at all, in fact I think it might be the exact opposite.

One of the greatest lessons we can learn in life is that we simply cannot make everyone happy, and trying to do so at the expense of ourselves is an empty path. We are not for everyone, just as everyone is not for us. 

As a bonafide introvert, this was a tough lesson for me to learn. Even though I am friendly and outgoing, I recharge with time alone, personal space and quiet. I have also been blessed with a passionate, energetic and extroverted husband. Many of my best friends are complete extroverts. And as Susan Cain writes in her book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, many of the deepest, most rewarding relationships are between introverts and extroverts. But, learning to embrace my introversion, to see that it is a beneficial trait and to be honest with what I need to those in my life has been one of my greatest struggles over the last ten years. 

In the early days of my relationship with my husband, I went along with what he wanted to do a lot of the time. I went out more than I wanted to, I spent less time alone than I needed, I didn't honour the amount of quiet that a true introvert wants to feel normal. And guess what, I don't think I knew how introverted I really was, so I certainly didn't share that with him! I wouldn't classify myself as a pushover, but I definitely didn't know how to say what I needed. (Don't worry, the two of us have only had one million conversations about this since!)

The point is that spending our lives pretending to be what we think others want us to be gets old fast. We are more likely to experience depression, fatigue, dissatisfaction and shame. I know many people who are unapologetically themselves and have always been that way, I am not one of them. 

It got to the point that I needed to stop taking cues from others all the time and to start listening to myself, and to what I wanted and needed to do to find the authentic Lana that I wasn't fully confident in being all the time. This wasn't an easy journey. As I began to say to my husband 'I don't want to have people over all the time' or 'You can go out, I think I need a night on my own'  there was understandable backlash, it was different than what he was used to. People in our lives made comments to me that 'it was really hard for him' when I did what I needed for me, and that was tough to hear, but I stuck to my guns and we worked to find a middle ground that was do-able for both of us. In relationships it can be easy to see why compromise is so important. 

But in other areas of our lives, it is paramount to march to the beat of our own drum, to live our passion and be unapologetic. If I run my business on principles that I want everyone to like what I do, there would never be any real impact. My business coach Jill Coleman says:  "the people who love what we do will stay, and those who don't will leave and get what they want elsewhere". When we try to be for everyone we never share what we really want to say, and it is hard to create deep and meaningful change. I like to talk about feelings, to teach people to eat well, but not obsess over 'needing the cleanest diet' and to create resistance training routines that are efficient, effective and fun. Doing this stuff is effortless for me because it is what I am passionate about, and when it is what you want too, well we are a match made in heaven :) 

At the end of the day, I think pretending and appeasing initially comes from a place of love. I love my husband and extroverted friends! But every time we do something to get others to like us that is not true for what we need creates a relationship built on a slippery slope. The best part is that my husband is the most unapologetic person I know, so if I ever need some motivation...I know where to get it! I could be ashamed that I didn't know how to be my true self, or I can take strength from what I have grown into over the past few years, I think my Grandma Peggy would be proud. 

To you and your true self,