Category Archives: My Journey

From life to love; health and healing.

Redefining Health and Fitness

The other day I was asked what changes I made in my health and fitness routine that benefited my weight loss and fitness goals the most, and as I sit here writing an article on my recent adventure with Screech Owls, I thought it might be prudent to offer a better answer than the one that I had given.  The answer? I got happy.

You see there’s more to health and fitness then tight abs and a tiny waist; there’s life. Yes I can and will tell you things about diet and exercise; the addictive nature of sugars and processed foods, but what makes me healthy and fit extends far beyond what I eat and how often I work specific muscle groups or in which order I work them. There is my professional life as a photographer and writer; there is my scholastic life as a student; there are relationships between family members and friends; there are good times and bad; days where I laugh and some that I cry. There are days I don’t work out at all and give in to a deliciously sinful slice of pizza.  Last week I even ate gourmet tacos!

The greatest source of health and fitness begins with the way in which you live your life, not in bits and pieces but as a whole. It is the whole of me that is healthy, from my attitude, gratitude and love for life and learning; it is my desire to be the very best me that I can be. That’s what I changed. I changed my internal dialogue and the way in which I interact with myself and those around me. In short, I prioritized my emotional wellbeing and self-acceptance over my waistline.

I changed my outlook and attitude. With an understanding that thoughts are electrically transmitted and chemically carried out through every blessed cell of my body, I stopped hating on me for being human, for making mistakes, for not taking care of me when me should have been a priority. I stopped talking internally as well as externally about weight loss and losing weight because I understood that human nature is not agreeable with terms like loss or losing but with gain. I started verbalizing on all levels that I was gaining better health; gaining a healthier weight; that I was earning it through my efforts! This simple, subtle shift in my thought processes made one of the biggest impacts as I began to look forward to the daily challenge of becoming better than I was the day before.

I began to celebrate small victories; I began to celebrate me and my commitment to a healthier life overall, not just a drop in dress size. I did it quietly with a small pat on the back and a well-earned “you done good”. I gave myself pep talks that reminded me I was worth my own time and effort. I looked for every positive I could find in every given situation and I made sure to laugh honestly and openly at least once a day.  Over time this behavior became ingrained. Over time…this is who I became.

I stepped away from negative relationships. As I continued to redefine my dialogue, I became very aware of the dialogue of others, not just around me, but towards me as well. It was a painful process to step back and away from the people I love, to put distance to and perspective on how these relationships had been working. I’m going to interject a note of caution here and explain. This was not an overnight job! Just because someone hurt my feelings does not mean they were a negative influence. If the hurt was repeated with intention…yes by all means that qualified as a negative relationship. If the relationship left me to question my self-worth…it qualified as a negative relationship. If I was easily forgotten or left out of life loops…it wasn’t a negative relationship so much as a casual acquaintance.

I don’t believe in burning bridges but I also don’t want to be standing on one for support while it crumbles beneath my feet! Having said that, relationships and support systems are important; for many they are crucial to an individual’s success; choose them wisely and choose them well.

So…what makes me healthy and fit? You’re looking at it! My master plan and blueprint is simply a healthy, well balanced diet from the inside out. How you feed and exercise your mind is just as important as how you feed and exercise your body.

Wishing you happiness and good health,

Cassandra xo

Dropping the Ball

It happens to all of us, our hands become so full of the lives that we’re juggling and eventually…we drop the ball. For me it happened about six months ago, just as I began to hit my stride.  I was halfway through writing my first book; getting my groove on in health and fitness and on my way to becoming a personal trainer. Then calamity struck and I was introduced to the ’18 Weeks of Pneumonia’ life challenge.

Now whether I dropped the ball or the ball was dropped on me is debatable. Life pulled an ‘all’s stop’ and just making it to the coffee pot with my dignity in tact was a chore. Although I continued to research and write, everything else took a back seat to sleep and the sheer effort of breathing.

In an around week 8 of my ‘Epic Viral Adventure’ I was presented a unique opportunity that in truth, made me question my direction as a whole. A friend of mine messaged me about a program saying it was “Right up my alley!” and asked if I’d consider going back to school. Rounding into week 12 that is exactly what I did.

By week 15 I was on my first expedition. I learned to canoe at Pinehurst; kayaked down Big Creek; went tree top canopy walking and ziplining in Long Point and repelled for the very first time. I also began to learn the rudimentary basics of tree identification and foraging. Admittedly I was hooked and my direction…well it began to change!

Week 18 saw me walking out of the viral woods and into my first round of midterms and the realization that I was torn.  How on earth was I going to split time between health and fitness, my insatiable desire to immerse myself in the natural world and a growing hell bent for leather drive to learn autonomous survival?  I dribbled the ball around in my mind between assignments and final exam prep; quit my job to reduce stress; continued to heal and began to re-focus.

Clarity came with the purchase of a wild little property out near Matachewan; 160 acres of new growth, boreal forest surrounded by lakes and teaming with wildlife. It dawned on me that I had been asking the wrong question; instead of how I was to separate my passions I first had to define them and then combine them. After all, they’re a part of me; I live them simultaneously and essentially…it’s a me thing!

I’ve grabbed up the ball. Health is health, it encompasses all aspects of life, and to be completely honest, fitness is such a broad spectrum concept with more niches than an English Muffin! Not everyone needs rippling pecks and a six-pack to be ‘fit’; they need to be functionally fit according to their lifestyle, individual goals and needs.  Whereas I’m still pursuing the route of personal trainer my niche now encapsulates a healthy dose of the outdoors…with the odd foray into survivalism and wilderness expedition for good measure.

So, allow me to re-introduce myself and Finding Fit. My name is Cassandra; I am an author, a photographer and student. I study health and fitness along with ecology; wildlife biology and behavior; sustainability; business and marketing.  I’m becoming both a personal trainer and an Interpreter in Adventure Expeditions. I’ll give you fair warning, I am as likely to post exercise videos and articles on health and diet as I am to share environmental essays, concepts in primalizaton and hardcore survival hacks. My goal is simple, to embrace a natural, healthy, fit life and bring as many people along with me as want to come.

You see, dropping the ball may seem like a setback but it isn’t the end of the world; in fact it might be just the thing you need to re-think your motivation and re-evaluate your game plan. For me it was a necessary, evolutionary step indeed.

Wishing you and yours a healthy and prosperous New Year and cheers to an exciting 2017!

Cassandra xo

Fork Wars

It’s so much easier to write forward than to write back. Forward is a blank page awaiting adventure. You can fill it with hopes and dreams. Forward is full of infinite possibilities. Back is a place I have already been; for better or worse it is the history of me, of where I was and who I used to be…a much shallower, weaker version of myself.  Yet we all must learn and grow from our experiences and whereas I am quite certain there are people’s pasts much darker and more debilitating than my own I only have mine to draw upon as a touch point of understanding for those who have traveled a similar road…for those who are travelling it now.

When I started to ‘get it’, to truly understand my health; where I was; where I was heading and come to the belief that ‘yes’, I actually was worth the time and effort to extend to make things right; I stepped forward into a whole new way of life…and all hell broke loose.

People don’t like change. It’s sudden; unpredictable and beyond their control. Overnight I started eating differently. I eliminated everything and started over from scratch. Goodbye breads, pastas, rices, sugars, chips, pop, cookies, candies…hello lettuce and veggies with a small side of dressing and a mouthful of chicken. Comments changed from the skeptical ‘Are you really going to eat that?’ to concerned tones of ‘Here, try this’, ‘Is that all you’re eating?’ Fork full’s of foods pushed in my face over my meager plate, ‘One bite isn’t going to kill you!’. I couldn’t help but recoil into horrified flash backs of my Mother pinning me to the floor at 17 and shoveling spoonfuls of food in my mouth. I thrashed and cried, gagged and wretched, covered in my own vomit. In my minds eye I can still see my Mother struggling to force feed her bulimic daughter as a last resort.

I became stubborn. Steadfast. I was going to break every food based fear, phobia and addiction if it killed me. I WAS going to be healthy. The war raged for months; everyone thought I was crazy, other’s feared I was relapsing. I learned the word ‘No’ in a deafening roar. More importantly I began to learn; to read and research everything I could on proper nutrition and healthy eating. I started walking, every day. 1 kilometer quickly turned to 2 turned to 5 and before you knew it I added 5 km of biking to my daily routine as well.

I stopped focusing on my weight and put everything I had into how I felt and dammit all, for the first time in years I began to feel physically well! It took a couple months to fully notice but my moods were becoming better and more stable; my hair was growing in thick and healthy and my skin…started to look more pink than blotchy red and grey. It was working! I was doing it…there was no turning back.

In hindsight it was necessary, this path and place. I wouldn’t be me today had I not have been me then. I wouldn’t be as understanding of the struggles of others. I wouldn’t know to truly celebrate the achievement of others the way I do now. I wouldn’t be able to say with any truth or conviction that yes, I understand; I get it and there IS a way.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Everybody thought I was dropping the ball. I side stepped Weight Watchers; ditched Jenny Craig like a bad prom date and after the *great tuna incident, I told my Nutritional Consultant to take a leap of the most uncomfortable kind. Move over Lean Cuisine! You and Michelina’s can take your mood depressing pastas and leave (although the Cannelloni WAS to die for). I cleared the cupboards of diet pills, appetite suppressants and wretched slimming teas and started over from scratch.

I was binging; purging; calorie restricted and starving all for the golden ring of weight loss. Worse yet I was depressed; losing my hair and gaining weight.  I remember the day I stepped on the scale and with a digital groan it told me what I didn’t want to hear. Despite my best (and notably misguided) efforts, I had become obese.

For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why nothing was working. Other’s reported great success and there I was yo-yoing around the same 10 to 15 lbs or more; one step forward, two steps back. For me dieting was a most ungainly dance of deception. It had become apparent that a “one size fits all” approach wasn’t working for me.

      Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back I can see every mistake I had made.

  1. Binging and purging is an unhealthy (not to mention disgusting) practice. When it got to the point I could vomit on command, I knew I had a problem. When it began to happen as an involuntary response to food in general, I was in serious trouble.
  1. Calorie restrictions over extended periods of time are harmful. 1200 calories or less per day is unrealistic based upon the body’s actual requirement to maintain it’s normal functions. The fastest way to lose muscle mass is to drastically cut caloric intake; you are not losing actual ‘weight’ with this approach, you are in fact allowing your body to digest itself from the inside out in order to survive.
  1. The concept of dieting is a fallacy. No one should ever “go on a diet” as a temporary measure to achieve a goal. The first key to success (as it applies to weight loss, basic health and nutrition) is to change the diet and maintain that change. Temporary changes lead to temporary results which revert back to their original state once you do. In most cases people not only regain the lost poundage but gain a few more in the process…trust me, I’ve experienced this more than once over the past 20 years!
  1. Obesity and issues of weight are a symptomatic side affect. Where as I may gain a measure of flack for stating this, there are very few genetic disorders, biological conditions and psychosis that cause obesity and excessive weight gain. For the rest of us it is by and large a result of poor nutrition; lack of exercise or is pharmacologically induced through prescribed medication use such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and a host of prednisones.

I had to prioritize my health; moreover I had to change my relationship with food. I loved it and hated it all at the same time. I determined that if food could get me into this mess, food could get me out. There was just one problem, which foods were the ones that were going to work? With so many different opinions out there on what is and is not healthy, how was I to navigate my basic needs to regain my health?

This is where the real journey began for me, the day I walked away from everything I thought I knew and started over again.

Foot Note

* The Great Tuna Incident of 2012:  So there I was, I had shelled out a lot of money to a local fitness centre to work with a personal trainer and have the benefit of a one on one nutritional consult to help me establish my ‘Strategy for Weight Loss Success’. After about an hour of in-depth, detailed questions and a complete analysis of my dietary requirements the results came back. I sat in breathless anticipation; I was so excited to be taking this first step in truly learning about nutrition. The possibilities were endless! Until I read the 7 day diet plan…tuna. 7 days of tuna. Tuna with oatmeal. Tuna with broccoli. Tuna with…well tuna. “How the hell is this supposed to help me?” I asked. I was told not to worry; that it would only be temporary and that the computer generated diet plan had also suggested 6 different supplements that I needed to take, all of which of course the sold right there on site.  I walked out and never went back.