Thank you, Martha Beck.

I need to immortalize this here, from Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live

Transitions begin, deep down, the minute you set out to live a life that doesn’t jibe with your essential self. Over time, the dissonance, the sense of never being who you really are, starts to bother you. A lot. In fact, it finally becomes intolerable. Even though everything may look fine to the people around you, the essential self is torn and dying. Either you end up having a nervous breakdown (which is really just your essential self refusing to continue along the wrong trajectory) or you simply decide that you have to acknowledge your real thoughts, preferences, desires, and identity.

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A little bit about me

Happy Saturday! I saw this little questionnaire on Julie’s blog and decided to fill it out myself.

1. What is your favorite word?

Lately I’ve been saying “zitto” a lot, which means (basically) “shut up” in Italian. I hear it like 300 times a week at Matt’s house and it’s started to rub off. I’ve also been using “authentic” a lot lately (not sure why).

2. What is your least favorite word?

I have an irrational hatred for the word “synergy.” Or any other corporate buzzword for that matter (champion…engaging…deck…I could go on).

3. What turns you on?

Confidence (particularly in social situations. I couldn’t date someone who makes a bad first impression), a good sense of humour (wit), politeness, ambition.

4. What turns you off?

Poor hygiene (nose hair, I’m talking to you). Oh and necklaces. I can’t get behind guys wearing necklaces.

5. What sound do you love?

Songs I love on the radio. Waves. Leaves blowing and birds chirping in the spring/summer. The laughter of people I love (cheeese!).

6. What sound do you hate?

I’m with Julie here. I hate car horns.

7. What is your favorite curse word?

Fuck (and its derivatives).

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

Personal trainer, nutritionist (dietician really but going back to school for 5 years isn’t an option really), real estate agent (just because I like looking at houses and talking to people). Part of me wants to work in a book store or health food store too.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

My job. There, I said it. Aside from that, probably anything to do with working in a restaurant.

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

“There’s a method to my madness and a reason for all the crappy things that have happened in the world”. Oh and “Here, everyone is at their perfect weight and it’s impossible to get fat.”. Thanks, G.

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Touchy Feely (Emphasis on the feely)

I’ve always been a sensitive person. I suspect that feeling my emotions (and the emotions of others) very deeply is in my genes. I remember when I was a pre-teen, my younger brother used to suffer from terrible insomnia because he would lay awake thinking about starving African children or missing people. My mom, to this day, will wake up in the middle of the night worrying about something I mentioned to her in passing on the phone the night before.

I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mom growing up, that involved a lot of yelling and insults about my personality and my weight. Of course, the comments about my personality usually got worse as I got fatter and better as I got thinner. Despite our intense verbal interactions, my mom and I were always terrible communicators; I remember that my knee-jerk reaction to our fights was to cry rather than to try and fight back.

So, considering my reactive past and my tendency to cry rather than talk, I figure it makes sense that my body is like a walking weather vane where my life satisfaction is concerned. For the last year, something has felt so wrong in my life that I’ve been struggling with insomnia (trouble falling asleep and, if I do fall asleep, either waking up in the middle of the night or waking up feeling like I have barely slept), weight gain, anxiety, and depression. I’ve felt lethargic, lackadaisical, apathetic, and hopeless. I feel hopeful when I think of the future with Matt, and of the possibilities awaiting me once I finish my nutrition certification and my real estate course. I’m still loving the gym, and enjoying spending time with my friends. But I hate my job.

I mean I really really hate it. I’ve been hesitant to write about it too much in detail because I am well aware that I’m very fortunate to have a job – especially in light of the recent budget announced by the Canadian government. I’m so grateful to have a steady deposit into my bank account every 2 weeks and to have health benefits and a pension. With that said, I am miserable.

My job isn’t particularly stressful, and I definitely can’t complain that I work overtime or work too hard for the time that I’m there. However, the time that I’m in my cubicle, I feel like I am going insane. I want to punch my computer screen, I leave work with tension headaches, and I have knots sitting in my stomach for the 7.5 hours that I’m sitting at my desk. I get home from work and am totally drained of energy. Every time I get actual work to do, I am resentful because I loathe the tasks. I have absolutely no desire to move to a higher position (more responsibility for something I don’t enjoy? No thanks). These “symptoms” have gotten worse by the day for the last year. The concept of spending another 32 years doing what I’m doing is unfathomable to me.

I know that I sound like a spoiled brat. For the longest time I shoved the realization that I hate my job to the back of my mind, because I have oodles of friends who work the 9-5 in an office job and are completely content, so I should too. But my body tells me every single day that I am steering myself farther and farther away from what I want to do. At this point, I’m not even sure if my problem is the cubicle job, the work itself, or the actual Monday-Friday 9-5 lifestyle. A couple of years ago, I did have a job I really enjoyed in the same organization where I currently work, but I was only in the position for 3 months (so who’s to say how I’d feel about it after 2 years), and those positions are few and far between due to the current economic/political climate.

So where do I go from here? For starters, I’ve taken to reading some books on the subject of changing your life. Over the last month I’ve read:

The gist of most of these books has been the same: quit your job, do something you love to do and the money will find you. Although the information hasn’t been revolutionary, each book I read makes me feel like I have a friend who is saying “It’s OK to have the feelings you’re having, and they aren’t wrong, and you aren’t alone.” The last book – Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck – is truly amazing though. She addresses the roots of the fear paralyzing those of us who want to take leaps of faith, and offers gentle debates to the common “What ifs?” and “Buts” that plague most of us. I have a few other Martha Beck books waiting for me at the library, as well as this gem:

Yes, I’m taking career advice from 50 Cent. Obviously it worked for him…right? I’m hoping to not get shot (even once) in my quest for a job I love, though.

I think I am in a better position than many when it comes to finding a job I love. I’ll be finished my real estate exam by July, I am enrolled in the Precision Nutrition Coaching Certificate, and I plan to get my PT certification and Kettlebell certification in the fall. I think we can all agree that just as the hardest part of doing yoga is getting on the mat, or the hardest part of running is starting, the hardest part of making a change is just jumping.

Right about now, I’d love to have a mentor.

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Step To This: Workout Playlist

I’m back with more workout music! This seems to be a popular feature on the blog, and as anyone who knows me can attest, I’m rarely seen without headphones, so I’m happy to oblige :)

This playlist is a mixed bag of songs for the stepmill, stairmaster, running, spinning, or weight lifting. The beats per minute for some songs are fast enough to propel me during speed-based workouts like spinning or running, while the bass-lines and strong beats in others are killer for slow, steady sweat sessions (that’s what she said).

Without further ado…

We Come Running – Youngblood Hawke

Bit By Bit – Mother Mother


Tidal Wave – Sub Focus (ft. Alpines)


Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore


Go Get It – T.I.


Inner Nina – Classified


I’m Just Me – Diamond Rings


Silhouettes – Avicii


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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Weight Loss

It’s no secret that I was overweight growing up. I went through the phases most kids go through – lean during some months/years and more ‘filled out’ during others, but if you line up photos of me from age 1 to age 15 you’ll see a steady upward climb toward obesity. I think my family was disappointed that I ended up fat, but given the size of pretty much every member of my family (immediate and distant), it probably would have more surprising if I had ended up thin – sad but true. More sadly still, most kids today will probably end up in the same position as 18 year-old me, given the skyrocketing obesity rates in the western world.

I’m going to check my modesty for a minute and say that losing 100lbs is probably the thing that I’m most proud of in my life. To say that my weight loss took dedication, courage, willpower and strength would be an understatement. I’m so so grateful for being at a healthy weight today, but I truly wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t lived most of my life as an overweight/obese person. In the spirit of embracing where I came from, I thought I would step back into my old self and talk a bit about the five things I wish someone had told me about weight loss before I embarked on this journey – both good and bad.

1. Your Body Has A Memory

Sometimes I look in the mirror and think “Dang! Look at those muscles. ” Other times – maybe it’s in yoga class, maybe it’s when I’m reaching for something, or maybe it’s while I’m running – I’ll catch a glimpse of the excess skin on my triceps, stomach or thighs and I’m knocked down a few pegs. I’d like to say that I see these remnants as symbols of my weight loss journey and that they remind me of how far I’ve come – but I would be lying. Forgive me for being dramatic, but I hate my excess skin and it breaks my heart a little every time I see someone running in shorts and realize my legs will never look like that. Admittedly, it could be a lot worse, but still.

2. You’ll Still Feel Like A Fat Kid Sometimes

When I was overweight, I remember looking around one of my classes and realizing that I was the fattest person in the room. The truth is, sometimes you’ll forget that you’ve lost weight and you’ll still look around the room when you’re in a meeting or at a party and wonder if you’re the biggest person there. I’m pretty sure that with time this will fade, but I’m three years out from my weight loss and it still feels fresh to me.

3. You Might Feel Worse Sometimes…

I came to the realization about a year ago that avoid parties, bars and clubs more now that I’m thin than I did when I was overweight and obese. For the life of me, I could understand why – I mean now that I’m a “normal” size shouldn’t I want to flaunt it in cute outfits and go out as much as possible?

And then it hit me: now that I’m an ‘average’ size (and not plus size), I’m in competition. When I was big, I just assumed no one was paying attention to me so, although I felt unattractive when I went out, I didn’t feel like I didn’t measure up to the thin girls because I didn’t even consider myself to be in the same category. Now, every time I go out, I feel like I’m being measured against the other girls. Given the issues described in #1 (Your Body Has A Memory), this is very difficult for me to deal with. Forgive my terrible attitude, but I guess I feel like I’d rather not compete than compete and lose :( I’m working on this, I swear!

4. But Life IS Better

I’ve read my fair share of weight loss articles online, on blogs, and in magazines over the years and the resounding adage seems to be that being skinny won’t make your life better. I disagree wholeheartedly. When I was overweight, waking up and getting dressed every day was the bane of my existence. I dreaded picking out and outfit like some people dread going to the dentist. Of course I still have [many] days where I feel bloated and puffy and heavy, but I have go-to outfits that I know that I look objectively good in. I never felt like this was the case when I was fat.

Aside from the physical, losing 100lbs has also improved my self-worth and increased my self-esteem across the board. I know that if I was capable of losing 100lbs without a crazy diet or ever seeing a personal trainer, I can do just about anything. The weight-loss and maintenance process taught me more about myself than any other experience has.

5. The Novelty Will Wear Off

When I first lost weight, I couldn’t go anywhere without people commenting on how great I looked. The community of friends, acquaintances and coworkers I had built in Ottawa had only ever known me as fat, so when people saw that I’d lost weight, they were amazed and generally had infectious enthusiasm. In the moment, I hated the attention that losing weight got me and dreaded answering questions about it, but now that the novelty has worn off, I miss it. When I meet new people nowadays, they meet and get to know me as “Thin Danielle”; for most of the idea that I was 100 pounds heavier at one point is absurd.

So bear in mind as you lose weight that eventually, people will stop noticing and the continuation or maintenance of your weight-loss will need to come 100% from within. You’ll need to dig in and find some intrinsic motivation to carry out the process even when the thin you becomes the “normal” you. If you can carry on despite no one noticing, though, I think you’ll learn an incredible amount about yourself and what drives you.

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Health and Fitness Dust Collectors

I think we’ve all spent money on health & fitness gear – clothes, equipment, tools, what have you – that we never use. Maybe we used them once or twice when they were still novel, but then they were relegated to a corner, closet or cupboard somewhere never to be used again. I wanted to share a few of my health and fitness purchases that are currently doubling as dust collectors, and I invite you to share yours, too!

Stability Ball

Sure, if I had a home gym, a stability ball would be a useful addition to the setup. In my 500 sq foot apartment, though…not so much. I had one of these bad boys taking up precious square footage for about a year and then deflated that sucker and put it in storage. Sorry, stability ball.

All DVDs

Alright, let’s say that my gym membership was taken away and I had to make do with only fitness DVDs; I’m sure I’d survive, but I would pout the whole time. I have seen others have incredibly results with JIllian Michaels’ DVDs and the Beachbody programs, and I’m sure that Eoin Finn is an incredible yogi, but I just can’t engage!! I want to have the option to work out at home and see results, but I turn into a floppy ball of lazy when it’s time to push play. Also, rolling around on my floor makes me notice the dust under my coffee table, which merits immediate sweeping/dust-busting, in my mind.

Lululemon Gym Bag

Photo source

In the fitness world, people seem to think the sun sets and rises with Lululemon gear. When I was a student with no disposable income, every girl I saw at the university gym had one of these gym bags and many had several and used them interchangeable. One Christmas, I decided to buy myself one of the Rollercoaster bags and – after watching them arrive and sell out allegedly never to return – I was finally graced with the privilege of handing over almost $100 for one identical to the bag pictured above. I loved it and promptly stuffed it full of my gym shoes, food for work, reading material and a change of clothes…and realized that it is pretty much the worst ergonomic design for a gym bag ever. When full, this bag does not fit under the armpit of any human I know. Oh, and the zipper on the magazine compartment broke after about a month. Gym bag fail.


If this looks like a miniature trampoline, it’s because it is. What was I even thinking? I don’t have room for a stability ball, but I have room for a mini trampoline? Not so much. I bounced on this for a couple of mornings, realized I felt like a complete idiot, and put it in storage. Womp womp.

Have you bought anything fitness related that is tucked ‘safely’ away somewhere never to be seen again?

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Best Fitness Splurges

I’ll admit that I’ve spent way too much money on fitness swag that I don’t use. However, I’ve also dropped more than I care to admit on things that have turned out to be worth every penny. I thought I’d tell you about 3 of my top splurges, in case you’re looking to treat yourself:

1. Compression Gear

Price: $40 (sleeves) – $125 (pants)

Specifically, CW-X and CEP compression gear – the former for my running shorts and pants, and the former for my running socks and sleeves. I wore the CW-X Stabilyx pants for my marathon

And I wore the CEP compression socks or sleeves for every single training run (except when I wore the CW-X pants)

According to the CEP website,

Extensive studies show that wearing CW-X tights results in 26% less energy expenditure than running in regular tights and 36% less energy than running in shorts. CW-X’s patented Support Web brings the hips, knees and ankles into proper alignment, reducing impact and load to the legs. The Support Web™ also provides a suspension system for the hamstrings and quadriceps, reducing workload in both the pull and push phase of the running motion. With more efficient strides, your muscles don’t have to work as hard over time and your legs will feel fresher.

Personally, I believe that compression gear saved me and that without it, I wouldn’t have made it to my marathon (or through my marathon) injury free. When I was training for my first half-marathon in 2011, I had such pain in my calves after my long runs that I often had to cut my other training runs short. When I started wearing compression socks, I would run two days after a 20-miler and have fresh legs. Amazing!

2. Foam Roller

Price: $45 – $70 for a full length (3 feet)

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the way of the foam roller, but it bears repeating that these things are miracle workers whether you exercise daily or sit at a desk all day. Until you roll around on one of these torture tools you, you probably have no concept of the amount of tension you’re holding in your legs – particularly in your IT band.

If you have a foam roller or can access one at your gym but aren’t sure how to use it, check out these tutorials:

3. Good Headphones

Price: $145-$250

Until last year, I always used either my ipod headphones or $10 sony headphones I would buy, trash with sweat and replace every 2 months. Eventually, my parents got tired of me complaining and bought me a pair of Bose mie2i headphones for my birthday. Problem: even though one of their marketed uses was for exercise, these headphones did not pass the sweat test, and I had to replace them 4 times before I became irate and, coincidentally, Bose decided to come out with the same headphones but in a shiny new sport version. Hallelujah! The kind people at Bose let me pay the difference on my last exchange and upgrade to the SIE2i headphones. Admittedly, the first pair I got had a glitch and had to be replaced in the first week, but it’s been smooth sailing since then (a month and counting, knock on wood).

SIE2i sport headphones

If you’re someone who can’t exercise without music (like me), I can’t emphasize enough how much good quality headphones can improve your workouts. Totally worthy investment in my opinion.

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I’ll Tell You What I Want…

…what I really, really want.

No seriously, I will. I’ve told you about fitness things I’ve wasted money on, about about my best fitness splurges – now It’s time for me to tell you about the things I’m lusting over but haven’t bitten the purchasing bullet yet. Now, I know you’re thinking this blog has taken a materialistic turn south, but like a fat kid on a diet (I was one, so I can say that, right?), I am in money-saving mode and hence, drooling over things that I won’t let myself buy.

1. A Swimp3 Player

SwiMP3® X18

I’m that annoying person who always has headphones in – at my desk, getting groceries, walking down the street – so it makes perfect sense that I would want to listen to music while I’m swimming, too. While I find swimming to be very meditative, I think that sometimes I start to go a bit looney counting my lengths and strokes and breaths and, honestly, sometimes I just hum along to a song while I’m swimming anyway. Why not have there be real music instead of just looking like I escaped the asylum and hopped into the pool at the YMCA? There are a few models of waterproof mp3 players on the market, and even little cases to make your iPhone/iPod waterproof, but frankly I am skeptical. The Swimp3 player, however, has amazing reviews! Essentially the little headphones are also the mp3 player itself, and clip onto your goggles – no cords!

2. Coola Organic Sunscreen

Confession: I’m awful about applying sunscreen in the summer. I typically wear a primer and/or foundation with spf, but other than that, I’m negligent. I don’t make a conscious effort to apply facial sunscreen because my t-zone is already an oil slick and with sunscreen, it’s 100x worse. I have no excuse for neglecting my body except that I’m lazy and a tan helps to hide cellulite ;) But seriously, I should at very least stop being so dumb about applying sunscreen when I do my long runs in the beaming summer heat. Enter: Coola Organic Sunscreen. While I’m not refuting the sun’s role in causing the development of melanoma, I think that skin cancer is also due to the lack of protective fruits & vegetables in our modern diet – for example, lycopene (found in tomatoes), which may provide sun protection from within.

In any case, there’s been some buzz lately about the possibility that the sunscreen we use has questionable ingredients with unknown potential long-term effects. The more I’ve read controversial articles on the things we use to protect us from the sun, the more my interest has been piqued in more natural skin care, like Coola. Specifically, I am eying:

Coola Face SPF 30 Cucumber Matte Finish

Face SPF 30 Cucumber Matte Finish

and Coola Sport SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Spray

Naturally shield and nourish skin everyday with this antioxidant-infused, mineral matte SPF 30 sunscreen. Offering broad-spectrum UVA/UVB plus environmental protection, this light, natural cucumber scented formula gives skin an immediate line-smoothing finish. Made with organic Rose Hip Oil, rich in free radical fighting Vitamin C; and organic calming Evening Primrose and Flax Seed Oils, delivering abundant Omega-3 and Gamma-Linolenic Acid to improve elasticity and help skin retain moisture. Organic Shea Butter smoothes and hydrates while the phyto-protector Plankton Extract rejuvenates skin.

  • Ideal for normal or oily skin
  • Natural Cucumber Scent
  • Preservative Free Formula
  • Infused with Certified Organic Ingredients
  • Water Resistant (40 minutes)
  • No nano-sized particles

Sport SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Spray

Hurray for Spray!™ Spritz your sunscreen on the go with this clear, natural, and unscented continuous spray. Offering Broad Spectrum SPF 30 protection, this Farm to Face™ sourced spray will also nourish, repair and hydrate skin with 70% certified organic ingredients like Cucumber, Algae and Strawberry Extracts; and Red Raspberry Seed Oil, a natural sunscreen and anti-inflammatory rich in Omega-3 and 6. Have your fun in the sun and then some with COOLA!

  • Easy spray-on application
  • 70% organic inactive ingredients
  • Infused with anti-aging antioxidants
  • Unscented
  • Water Resistant (40 minutes)
  • No nano-sized particles

Now, I would happily splurge on these two products, except that I can’t find them anywhere in Ottawa, nor can I find them on a single website that will ship to Canada without charging me $10+ in shipping. I’m hoping that a local health food store will start selling them soon!

3. A New Workout Wardrobe

I went through a phase about a year and a half ago where I accumulated a ridiculous amount of workout tanks and capris. After taking stock and realizing that I had too much clothes and nowhere to put it all, I put myself on a workout clothes ban. Fast forward to now, when most of my clothes is either too big or stretched out, and I find myself perusing websites for brands like Nike, Under Armour, and Lululemon for new workout gear. A few thing I’ve been drawn to lately:

Lululemon Energy Bra

Energy Bra

Truth be told, I already own this bra in hot pink. Unfortunately (and fortunately), as I lost weight marathon training last summer, it’s now too big. It’s passable for stepmill, spinning and strength workouts, but not so good for anything involving vertical motion, if you catch my drift ;) My favourite is the pop orange colour, but I couldn’t mind having it in black, too.

Lululemon Wunder Under Crops

Wunder Under Crop

I think it’s somewhat of an athletic female right of passage to own a pair of these pants, and yet I’ve never bitten the bullet. I do have these in the full length in a size 10 (from a couple of years ago) and a size 6 high-rise (from this winter) but haven’t sprung for the crops for some reason. My trusty Old Navy crops, as much as I love them, are 2 years old and are infused with a perma-stink that won’t quit, so I think the Wunder Unders are in my future. I actually would recommend the Old Navy crops to anyone watching their budget, but my local Old Navy is terrible at carrying stock of the workout line, so I haven’t been able to get more.

Lululemon Free Fall Crop

Free Fall Crop

Now, I include this item here while being fully cognizant of the fact that they will probably look ridiculous on me. I generally think that one has to be awfully waify and lean to wear loose jogging pants – especially with an elastic hem – and have them look semi-flattering. With that said, it occured to me as I dashed home from the gym this (-15 degrees celsius, I might add) morning in way-too-thin crops that it wouldn’t kill me to have a pair of looser pants for layering. Maybe $86 pants are not the place to start, but you’re not the boss of my wish list!!

Nike G87 Sublimated Print Tank

Nike G87 Sublimated Print Women's Tank Top

Have you bought anything cute lately? I generally hate shopping in ‘real life’ so I have tunnel vision – I am definitely open to suggestions ;)

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