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HEALTH & WELLNESS

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Activia Women #InSync Series and Commercial

This year has been very emotional for me. The word “emotional” usually has a negative connotation to it, but in this particular instance, its all positive. A few months ago I was approached by Danone to be apart of an amazing campaign with Activia Yogurt. The very first thing that stood out about this potential partnership was that it did not appear to be a blatant product push. In fact, when I read the campaign overview I was surprised to see that the project was not product focused at all, but rather a chance for 9 Canadian women to be able to tell the country their story on how they live a balanced life.

Could this really be possible? Can a company actually want to focus on my personal story and journey, rather than promoting their existing products or a recent product launch? Well…turns out, yes they most certainly did and the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. After the struggles I’ve had to endure, there has been many times where I wanted to give up and didn’t understand why I kept getting faced with so much adversity. However, 2016 has been my best year yet and I have finally started to reap the rewards of all the hard work I put into getting healthy and building a personal brand.

Activia Women InSync Series

I’ve fought my illness for a very long time, only becoming more successful with managing it’s ugly symptoms in recent years by learning to live in sync. Meaning, putting a system in place and developing a new lifestyle for myself that contained the right amount of exercise, activity, diet and meditation. Furthermore, also learning to create boundaries between my work and personal life. So goodbye to working until midnight and never having a day off.  Creating a more harmonious balance in my life not only helped facilitate my recovery, but it also allowed me to spend more time with my family, friends and to nurture the first serious relationship I had been involved in for what seemed like ages. Don’t get me wrong, this was no easy feat. This turn of events began almost five years ago and at this time, my full time job was to just get healthy. My weekdays were filled with medical appointments, meetings with my dietician, naturopath, acupuncturist, reiki specialist, chiropractor and RMT, oh and let me not forget my psychologist and the numerous Cognitive Behavioural Therapy classes I had to attend to help me deal mentally with everything going on. My illness isolated me and caused me to become anti-social, ultimately was the end of my engagement (which truth be told was a relationship that was flawed and toxic from the start) not to mention the tangible losses such as; my loss of income from not being able to work, my vehicle, and having to move back in with my parents as an adult. Trust me, it was a lot of loss all at once and looking back now, it’s not at all surprising why I was also suffering from depression and anxiety.

People always ask me how I found the strength to turn things around. To be honest, a lot from that time was a blur and I cannot really remember every single detail. I am athlete and competitive by nature so I think I just wasn’t going to go out without a fight. I knew truly deep down that up until that point, I had not done everything I could to rehabilitate myself, besides drowning my body in pharmaceutical meds prescribed by specialists and laying in bed watching my life pass me by – which was clearly not working. I mean, I didn’t think things could possibly get any worse, so I decided to attempt the alternative route with eastern medicine. This change of direction, in addition to my ridiculously supportive family, eliminating stress, changing my diet and consistent exercise was critical in getting me to where I am today.

As part of this multi-faceted campaign with Activia, I shot an individual commercial going a bit deeper into my personal story, which was shot earlier this summer in Montreal. When you live something day to day, it’s difficult to see how far you’ve come but being a part of this project has allowed me to reflect on everything that has happened and see my exponential growth. I cried uncontrollably the first three times I watched this video.  Almost not recognizing the person in it because just five years ago I was a young women on bed rest suffering from a debilitating illness not knowing what the future holds. My life has changed dramatically and through balance I’ve created, I feel strong, I am happy, I am creative, I feel limitless and I am finally in sync.

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There’s so much more to come in this campaign and I can barely contain my excitement, so stay tuned. In the meantime, click here to learn more about the other 8 women and their stories, search the hashtag #InSync on social media or follow Activia Canada on Instagram and Youtube.

Manulife Vitality: Life Insurance That Rewards Your Healthy Lifestyle

What do you live for?” is a question I was recently asked at work while discussing an upcoming project and a million thoughts and answers rushed into my head at once. Family, love, unity, peace, and health were just a few of the words that immediately came to mind. Sure, I do a pretty good job at taking good care of myself by eating well, working out and staying active, but I have not been thinking about my future in regards to my family/loved ones after I pass. I have always found it difficult to think about death and what happens following but now that I have started thinking about starting a family at some point, the topic can no longer be avoided.

As we grow older, get married, build families and even start businesses, you come to realize that life insurance is a fundamental part of a sound financial plan. For some reason our generation doesn’t normally think about life insurance for ourselves until we are forced to and truth be told, up until a few weeks ago, I did not have a life insurance policy of my own. Turns out, life insurance is more affordable than you may think, so there’s no excuse why more can’t entertain obtaining coverage before any these milestones.

Trust me, I know the idea of life insurance can be daunting or better yet, confusing and it’s hard to know what you really need or want. So here are four reasons why you should be considering it:

  1. To add financial security. Trust me, once you decide to have children, you will want to know your kids (and partner) will be taken care of when your gone.
  2. To protect your family and loved ones if they depend on your financial support for their livelihood. In this instance, it will replace your income when you pass.
  3. To leave an inheritance.  Even if you don’t have any other assets you can create an inheritance for your loved ones by purchasing a life instance policy and name beneficiaries.
  4. To bring peace of mind. No amount of money could ever replace a person. Period. There aren’t many things in life that are guaranteed, but having life insurance can help provide protection for the uncertainties

Photo by Darren Goldstein/DSG Photo.

That being said, I recently discovered Manulife Vitality – a life insurance program that actually rewards people for leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle. For those of you who make a conscious effort to stay active, workout and eat clean, these dividends plus the affordable program options just may encourage some of you to begin thinking about life insurance as well, sooner rather than later. This past Tuesday, I got a chance to help kick off the launch of the Vitality program in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square, alongside dear family friend, Mike “Pinball” Clemons, Vice Chair of the Toronto Argonauts. The theme/question of the day was, “What do you live for?” and visitors at the event got to share their answers with the Former Argo QB and two time coach. The Manulife branded pop-up had fun, fitness focused activations and visitors were able to get free bike tune-ups, discover TRX exercises with the help of Goodlife Fitness staff, jump into the boxing ring with Pinball to test out Canada’s first ever “Workout Computer”, receive prizes/giveaways and learn more about why Manulife Vitality may be a suitable option for life insurance.

So how does it work exactly? After purchasing a product with Manulife Vitality, you are then required to fill out the Vitality Health quiz online to see how your health measures up against your age. Through this process, you’ll be given your Vitality Age, which could actually be higher or lower than your real age and serves as an indication for your overall health. Part of what makes the program unique is customization – and seriously who doesn’t love products or services created just for them? One of the best parts about Vitality is that once the system has gathered all your lifestyle and health data; a customized, goal oriented program is created to encourage and inspire people to make healthier choices by using convenient and easy-to-use tools. Manulife has have even partnered up with Garmin to include a free wearable tracking device to make tracking healthy activities a breeze. And not to worry all you Apple Watch and Fitbit lovers out there – you can connect these devices to the Vitality system as well!

Manulife Vitality

As you may assumed by now, Vitality program status is simply based on the number of Vitality points you earn each year which results in a tiered system; Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. This status is used to determine a member’s eligibility for rewards and to calculate their annual cost of insurance. By being active, getting regular health screenings and even reading online health related materials, earns more Vitality Points when you track them using the easy online tools provided to members or the Manulife Vitality mobile app. Intrigued yet? If you’re interested in learning more information on the Vitality program or would like to sign-up for your own customized life insurance, head to manulifevitality.ca

This post is sponsored by Manulife, but all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Get Inspired to #BeTheMotion with Apple Watch & the 2016 Olympic Games

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are in full swing and it’s almost impossible not to be inspired by the talented athletes on the quest for gold for their respective countries. Although we may not be training for our own appearance at the 2020 Olympics, we can most definitely  train to be our own best athlete.

Degree Be The MotionThe Limited Edition Canadian Olympic Apple Watch Band

If you’ve been watching the games closely you may have noticed some of Canada’s favourite Olympic hopefuls like; Melissa Bishop, Andre De Grasse, Brianne Eaton, Emilie Fournel, and Nathalie Achonwa wearing Apple’s new Limited Edition “International Collection” watch. Not only is the new “International Collection” watch band a great way to show your support for your country during the games, the Apple Watch is a phenomenal tool to help you get fit or stay fit, no matter what your focus is.

Degree Be The MotionPhotos by Jess Baumung Photography

The reason why my Apple Watch is such a big part of my life is because it has all the elements of a superior SportsWatch while also possessing the capabilities of an all-day activity tracker. I use it to track my sleep, my meals, my runs, cross training workouts and much more. There’s no shortage of amazing apps available on this watch, but I have rounded up 4 that will help motivate you in hopes to make you become a better athlete:

Spring Running Music:

Running with music may not be for everyone. Some, like me, prefer to hear their own breathe and footsteps, but if the BPM of Beyonce’s latest album Lemonade is the motivation you need to pound the pavement, then download Spring from the App Store immediately. This amazing app let’s you to leave your phone behind and still access your music. Apple Watch doesn’t allow you to plug in headphones but you can still use it with a wireless headset like my go-to Rose Gold Beats By Dre Solo2 to help you log your miles. Download Spring right now here.

Hudl Technique:

Looking to perfect that golf swing? Want to improve your running technique to get faster in the 5k or on the track? Learning a new sport for the first time? Hudl Technique is a unique app I’ve discovered for iPhone and Apple Watch that allows you to record your technique and review in slow motion playback so you can get a closer look at your form so you can learn how to improve it. Need additional feedback? You can share your technique vids with Hudl users worldwide to get form suggestions and feedback. Download the Hudl Technique App here.

Map My Run:

There are several running apps available on the Apple Watch including it’s native running (and fitness) tracker, but Map My Run has a dedicated and significant community to encourage a running lifestyle. This app lets you log more than 600 different types of workouts, record GPS activities, sync and share activity on Apple Health and MyFitnessPal plus socially share workouts with friends. Download MapMyRun here.

Human:

Not everyday do we feel motivated to wake up and crush workouts right away. Human not only tracks your activities throughout the day but it also pushes you to move at least 30 minutes a day by sending you reminders straight to your wrist. The app also automatically picks up your bike rides, walks, runs and other activities that go on for a minute or more and logs them to the app. Download the Human Activity Tracker here.

Fourteen countries are represented in the highly covetable watch bands (below are some of my personal faves) and they are available for purchase right now for $49 USD. If you’re an Apple fan and in Brazil this summer, you better get your hands on one as they are only sold at one Apple store in the world and it’s in Barra da Tijuca in Rio. Here’s a glimpse of a few bands within the collection.

Apple Watch International Collection

Search for more inspiring fitness tips from myself and other my other #DegreePartners by using the hashtag #BeTheMotion on Instagram and Twitter!

 

GapFit x AKT Hamptons Summer Retreat

As picky as I can be with my workouts, I’m just as particular about the clothes I wear when doing them. Gap has been making workout wear for several years now and it’s growing success and popularity was the catalyst for @GapFit launching separately on Instagram last week, which will focus solely on promoting the latest from the brand’s activewear collections. To celebrate their coming of age in the social space, the GapFit team hosted a fitness retreat in the Hamptons, the destination every New Yorker dreams of spending their summer at!

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So what was on the itinerary for this epic summer weekend? Sweat, sweat and more sweat. Gap teamed up with Canadian cutie and the creator of AKT in Motion, Anna Kaiser, to put us through a handful of workouts and ended the weekend with a stretching and foam rolling class designed for us to test out the GapFit’s hero pieces from the current collection. Women from all over the world arrived in Montauk last Friday (Editors from some of your fave glossies and digital publications; Vogue, Elle, Refinery 29, and Fashionista.com just to name a few) and stayed at the infamous beachside resort Gurney’s Montauk. If you’ve never been to the Hamptons before, the Gurney’s property is exactly what you would expect a hotel there to look like. Fresh minimal, clean aesthetic but not in a stuffy way. A very relaxed vibe that immediately makes you feel like you’re at home visiting a friend at their beachside compound.

Gurney's Montauk

gurneys montauk

gurneys montauk

Aside from the hotel being dreamy, it was the workout gear that got most of the ladies excited when we each arrived to our rooms. Beautifully coloured prints adorned the bras, tights and shorts and the perfect light weight tanks to layer over our looks during or post workout were all packed into the a black quilted Gap backpack. My faves –  Lightweight Mesh Tank and the Breathe Air Twist Back Tank, which both have GDry moisture wicking fabric to keep you cool and dry even during the most intense workouts. Not to be outdone by the Summer Sports gFast Training Tights and matching bra. I’m actually a “workout in my sports bra” kind of girl and the GapFit bras did not disappoint. It was legit 95 degrees during our Hamptons stay so we greatly appreciated the Coolmax® lining in the bras and four way stretch fabric.

GapFit AKT Summer Retreat

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Capris are not my favourite thing and if you’ve been following me on snapchat you are already well aware of this. I have had many a rants about how I feel about my long legs in capri tights BUT I couldn’t deny the cuteness of the gFast cross training tights that also came with matches bras. Not only do they look good but their functional too! The four way stretch system in the tights allowed to move during our sessions with ease and they each seemed to retain their shape throughout the day without the fabric becoming baggy in the wrong areas (you know the unsightly sagging in the bum, crotch and waist areas). Also, have you ever had the drawstring from your favourite pair of tights come completely out of the waistband in the washing machine? It’s one of my pet peeves to be honest. The gFast capris include an adjustable enclosed drawcord to prevent this from ever happening and a flat lock system to also stop everyone’s worst nightmare – chaffing.

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GapFit2016-Montauk_6368Photography by Max Breslow Photography for GapFit

Special thanks to Gap Canada and GapFit for an unforgettable experience in Montauk. I left the Hamptons with sore muscles, a belly full of amazing seafood, new friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. All these GapFit looks are currently available in store and can also be found online at GapCanada.ca.

My Journey to Being Pain-Free with Genuine Health’s Fast Pain Relief+

When I created my site a few years back I made it a point to promise myself. It was to only align myself with brands that had products or services I would use if SoSasha.com didn’t exist. In other words, these things would have to be so good that I would use my hard earned money to purchase them. That was a barometer I felt I needed to have for myself to avoid getting caught up in promoting something just for a paycheque or free product etc which happens far too often in this industry. I was introduced to Genuine Health a while back and got immediately hooked on their Greens+ Extra Energy formula. A month or two later, the company rolled out a new line of vegan fermented protein products in the form of protein powders and bars. I was skeptical – I believed the brand was on to something with their Greens+ product line, but was certain that their fermented products wouldn’t measure up. Well, boy was I wrong. Turns out the brand’s Greek yogurt fermented powder is one of our favourite protein supplements and we have yet to find another protein bar that tastes as good as theirs. After my experience with Genuine Health products over the course of the last 7 months, I became intrigued and wanted to try other things.

I have shared my stories on my health condition more than a handful of times so most of you are well aware of my kidney diagnosis and other interrelated issues associated with chronic pain and gut health issues. The muscular and joint pain I have experienced since 2009 at times has been debilitating. I am not proud of the amount of pharmaceutical drugs I have pumped into my body but for years I thought it was the only way to survive. I found relief with medicinal marijuana but extended use just was not a viable option. It would cause me to eat the entire contents of my fridge and it was simply not practical for work and driving purposes. So, I have been suffering in silence trying to regulate the pain with diet and exercise and both may I had has given me dramatic results. However, there is still a few times a month where I am sidelined to crippling pain.

Genuine Health Fast Pain Relief+

Genuine Health

With my current track record with Genuine Health products when I discovered that they had branched out into pain relief, I couldn’t get my hands on the products fast enough. I did my research first and the first thing that stood out was the claim it worked in 5 days. “Impossible. There is no way that is accurate information!” was the first thing out of my mouth, followed by an eye roll. The second thing that caught my eye was the name Biovaflex, the key ingredient to Genuine Health’s FAST Pain Relief+ and FAST Joint Care+ products. This name was brand new to me but after doing some reading, I soon discovered the ingredient that dervices from natural eggshell membrane, has key bioactives that reduces pain and inflammation, while feeding the body all the essential nutrients we need for proper joint health and flexibility in addition to collagen, elastin and nourishing proteins.

Genuine Health

Ok, so back to this “results in 5 days” theory. I admit, I was a pessimist at first but when you suffer from pain as bad as I do, you would be a fool to not try an all-natural product that promises to keep pain at bay in a safe way. When the my package arrived, I immediately ripped open the box, read the instructions for the FAST Pain Relief+ and FAST Joint Care, while my boyfriend poured me a glass of water. I wanted to waste no time getting started. The former is a clinical strength supplement to help relieve acute pain caused by headaches, muscle aches, back pain and chronic flare-ups – and three out of four of these are the bane of my existence. In addition to this life altering ingredient we now know as Biovaflex, this miracle pill also includes Devil’s Claw (a natural inflammatory ingredient) and White Willow Bark, nature’s Asprin, making it the fastest, most natural and effective way to manage pain. And to be honest, the word fast is in the product names for a reason. I started to notice visible difference in just 4 days which exceeded mine expectations. I also started taking the Joint Care product as well at the same time. It increases mobility and range of motion with a noticeable reduction in inflammation markers like C Reactive protein and helps to rebuild joint cartilage. It’s been approximately 3 weeks and I have noticed a huge difference in my joints and neck, which have lead to a dramatic decrease in headaches and migraines. I have only had to take an over-the-counter pain medication once in 3 weeks which used to be a four time a week occurrence. Would I consider this a success – absolutely! Not to mention, I have just decided to personally challenge and push my body into a 2-a-day program where each day consists of a run and workout in which I am sure the only way this is going to be possible is with Genuine Health’s pain relief products.

Genuine Health Fast Pain Relief+

While I have seen some incredible results, I am not 100% pain free. I am not quite sure if I will ever be to be honest, but I am thrilled at the improvements I have seen from using these products. I think if I re-introduced an anti-inflammatory diet, I could essentially be pain free, but only time will tell.

Genuine HealthPhotography by JessBaumung.com

To make complete this pain relief category and to make it a true trifecta, Genuine Health also has FAST Arthritis Pain Relief+ for those suffering from osteoarthritis or severe joint pain. Interested in giving any of the products a try? Click here to find a coupon to receive $5 off your purchase online or at a Genuine Health retailer. For more information on the brand’s diverse product offering head to GenuineHealth.com.

2016 Lolë White Tour Toronto Giveaway

Yoga has come in and out of my life over the last several years and played an integral role in keeping me injury free as a tennis player, helped me on my road to recovery after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has allowed me to find a connection with my mind, body and breath. Although my practice hasn’t been as consistent as I would like, there is one thing that remains the same  – every time I get back into it my first thought is always, “I should have never stopped” because I just feel so amazing afterwards.

Lolë White Tour

Through yoga you’re body becomes stronger, leaner and more flexible. Most see changes in terms of their body fat, are able to cope with stress better, learn to slow down and be more mindful, and let go of things that no longer serve them. And interestingly enough, the more more you become in tune with your mind and body, you actually begin to listen to your intuition and inner voice more often.

Lolë White Tour

I’ve tried many yoga studios in Toronto and definitely have my favourites that I hit up; Moksha Yoga, Misfit Studios, 889 Yoga, Chi Junky and believe it or not, the yoga classes at Equinox are pretty damn great…but there’s nothing like doing a flow outside, especially close to water.

Lolë White TourPhotography by Tristan O’Brien (@tristancobrien)

On Thursday July 28th, Lolë brings back their cult fave “Lolë White Tour” yoga event to Toronto at Exhibition Place. This is one of the most unique yoga events you will ever experience, where guests dress in all white and are guided through an incredible session at sunset dedicated to inner peace by some of the Toronto’s leading Yoga instructors. Tickets are not easy to come by but thanks to the Lolë team, I am able to give away a pair of tickets to one lucky reader. Entering the giveaway is easy…you must follow @LoleWomen on Instgram and leave a comment on my most recent Lolë post on my Insta account (@SashaExeter) letting me know why the practice of Yoga is important to you. The winner will be announced and contacted directly on Wednesday July 27th at 8pm. *Please note, contest is open to Toronto residents only. Good luck!

#LoleWhite #LoleWhiteTour 

Ombrelle Sport Endurance: Major Keys to Sun Protection

Summer is in full swing and after what seemed like a never ending winter, everyone is outside enjoying the sun. For me, one of the best parts of warmer weather means I get to switch things up and take my workouts outside. Any exposure to sun calls for protection and during this time of the year I become extra obsessive around skin protection and sunscreen. To some, this comes as bit of a surprise as most make the assumption that darker skin isn’t affected by sun damage. WRONG!!!!!! That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Both black and white skin can become damaged by exposure to the sun. Even though black skin has a natural SPF of 13.4 while white skin 3.3, both skin colours are equally susceptible to damage.

Ombrelle Sport Endurance

Ombrelle Sport Endurance

Ombrelle Endurance Sport

Ombrelle Sport Endurance

Ombrelle Endurance Sport

When I’m outdoors, especially working out or playing sports, I need a sunscreen that is SPF 50, high performing and can stand up to my active lifestyle. Ombrelle Sport Endurance is non-greasy, oil-free formula that provides wearers with 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance. It goes on clear, so I am never left with that unsightly white residue that makes my skin appear grey and even on wet or sweaty skin (think reapply-ing while playing beach volleyball) it still provides an even coverage. My sunscreens of the past were greasy and left my hands annoyingly sticky, not to mention dripped into my eyes on runs or when playing tennis and burned like crazy when I would sweat. Not ideal at all! Not all sunscreens are created equal. Ombrelle Sport Endurance doesn’t drip into my eyes, my hands aren’t left sticky and also gives me protection against both UVB and UVA rays. Are both UVB and UVA protection important? Absolutely. You want to stay protected from UVB as they these are the rays that cause skin surface damage such as sunburns but you should also want to stay protected from UVA as well. Those are the rays that cause long term damage and contribute to premature aging and skin cancer.

Ombrelle Sport EndurancePhotos by JessBaumung.com

If you’re wondering what SPF actually stands for, trust me you’re not alone. Funny enough, this week is #SunAwarenessWeek and the inquisitive person that I am, I have been chatting with people about the topic of sun protection and how well their understanding is of how sun screen works to keep skin safe. Interestingly, 60% of those I spoke to had no clue what the acronym SPF stands for and almost 90% didn’t know what SPF’s corresponding number means. For years I had swore the SPF number (i.e. SPF 15) simply represented the sunscreen’s strength but in actuality, that number is the length of time that sunscreen protected skin can be exposed to the sun before burning.  Is your mind blown yet? This means, if you normally start to get a sunburn on unprotected skin in twenty minutes in the sun, then SPF 15 would provide you with 15 x 20 minutes (or 300 minutes) of protection.

If some of this information is news to you and you would like to learn more on sun protection and #SunAwarenessWeek head to OmbrelleSunFacts.ca.

Not All Protein Bars Are Created Equal. Here’s Why…

No matter what kind of workout I’m doing, I give 100% in the gym. It’s funny, when people see me exercising and in my zone, they always ask me, “What are you training for?”. I usually giggle before responding, “Life. I’m just trying to be better than the person I was yesterday!” If you can imagine the look at people’s faces when they hear that. Ok, I know…I’m a bit of an overachiever with a competitive streak, but this is just how I’ve always been.
Genuine Health fermented Greek yogurt proteins+

When you train hard, your body needs quick replenishment to help rebuild muscle tears, restore glycogen levels and stabilize your blood sugar. Recently, I’ve been carrying a protein bar or two in my gym bag for after my workouts and I’ve become obsessed with Genuine Health’s fermented Greek yogurt protein+ bars. In the past I have stuck with protein powders post sweat sesh and runs because let’s be honest, protein bars usually taste like Astronaut food or sawdust. Furthermore, I had made the conscious decision to refrain from promoting one until I found a bar I truly loved. So yes, these fermented Greek yogurt protein+ bars are great for post workout and when consumed before exercising, supplies me with steady energy to make it through one of Larry’s intense sessions alive at Track Fitness , (home of cult-fave Circuit 60 and ClimbMax classes) but the best part – they taste effing AMAZING!

What else makes these bars so special? The fermentation process promotes overall gut health; something extremely important to me considering my health condition, amplifies the nutritional value of minerals, vitamins and amino acids and helps support the immune system. And if that’s not enough, fermented Greek yogurt has it’s own amazing nutritional benefits giving these tasty bars 15g of protein from grass fed California dairy conveniently on-the-go.

Fermented Greek yogurt proteins+ comes in Cherry Almond Vanilla and Cinnamon Pecan flavours while also in protein powder format. For more information on these products and the rest of the brand’s amazing product portfolio, head to GenuineHealth.com or follow @GenuineHealth on Instagram and Twitter. #LoveYourGut #LoveHowYouFeel

Where Do Babies Fit Into My #3YearGoals?

I am in a very weird period of my life right now. Most of my friends are married, with children mind you or having babies while I’m over here trying to figure this thing called life out. My twenty year old self would have naturally assumed that at my current age I would for sure be a mother of at least one child by now. I wouldn’t be surprised if my Mum shared that sentiment as well. I am an aunty to a beautiful baby boy named Leilan and I couldn’t be more obsessed with another human being and these beautiful images captured by Jess Baumung got me thinking…am I ready for this now or is this still part of my 3 year plan? Well, if I was to make a decision based the comments on a recent Instagram post with my little nugget, apparently I look like a natural with 6 month baby on my hip. That may be true for a couple hours but I can guarantee you it’s because I know I am returning him back to his loving parents. I doubt I would I look this effortless, rested and smiling as a full time Mommy! Shooting with him and seeing these adorable photos let’s me foreshadow what my future could look like with a child within the next 3 years and seeing all his parents do for him is a reminder that now is still not the right time for me. With a few career changes under my belt, I still need time to get my shit together and plan my next steps to building my brand. So in the meantime until I am certain I’m ready, I will just steal this chubby chunk as much as I possibly can!

BirthControlForme.ca

BirthControlForme.ca

BirthControlForme.ca

I have something to share that just may surprise you all. I have never taken birth control. Shocking, I know. Besides protecting myself the good old fashioned way of either abstinence or condoms, I was never an advocate for women taking birth control pills. My views about prescription medication differs from majority of the population. I have suffered an illness for almost half my life and have watched meds wreak havoc on my body. Consequently, I have been condition to believe that there is no need for me to play God and intercept my body’s natural rhythm of menstruation and ovulation because how could there not be any ramifications from doing that, right? I have watched so many of my friends come off the pill after being on it for 15-20 years to find out they are unable to get pregnant and/or suffering from severe cystic acne issues or endometriosis. This clearly didn’t help the thoughts I’ve had. I decided it was time for me to sit down and chat with a doctor to discuss my thoughts, concerns and to learn more about all the options that are currently available to women in hopes that more clarification will help me and some of you guys make the right decision for you bodies too.

BirthControlForme.ca

BirthControlForme.caPhotos by Jess Baumung

Dr. Christine Palmay’s focuses on preventative medicine and women’s health so she was understanding of my trepidation with traditional medicine making her the perfect fit to chat with me about this topic. We jumped right into the topic of the pill within minutes and she pointed out that birth control pills have gotten a bad rap over the past few years for various reasons but that doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t explore other forms of contraception. We both agreed on one thing…studies for the pill are almost always done in very controlled environments in perfect setting on lab rats, so it’s no surprise that findings always showed the pill having 99.7% effective rate but, “failure rates in real life can be a bit higher” says Dr. Palmay. “Life is busy and complicated for most, making it difficult for women to take the pill at the exact same time of the day.” I know personally with my schedule, it would literally be impossible to do. But what about the complaints of infertility and acne when coming off the pill? Doc explains that the pill is often times takes the heat for issues and complications when in actuality taking it daily could have helped problems that would have been present years before the patient began taking this form of contraception. So essentially, if a young woman begins taking the pill at 15 before real acne issues set in, it could just be covering up the problem that won’t be discovered until she stops taking the pill entirely. So if you’re not entirely down for the pill like me, what other options do you have if sporting a baby bump is not the look you’re going for next season? Turns out, there are many options available and from the sounds of it, something for (almost) everyone.

1. Long Acting Non-Daily Contraceptives

The options under this category is probably going to be the most appealing for women who have a very busy career, hectic lifestyle. You have probably heard of a long acting non-daily contraceptive (IUS/IUD) already but once this T-shaped device is inserted into the uterus by a physician, you literally don’t have to think about it for another 3-5 years. The IUS is 99.8% effective with typical and slowly releases hormones over time which thins the lining of the uterus and thickens the cervical mucus preventing sperms from penetrating through the cervical canal. If you’re worried about the surge of hormones via an IUS, you can always consider a Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD) which just changes the chemistry in the uterus and prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg. An interesting fact, pregnancy rates for women after the removal of an IUS were shown to be about the same as for those who had never used one. Meaning majority of women who wanted to get pregnant and removing it were able to do so within a year. Possible side effects can include irregular or increase bleeding within the first few months, depression, acne, headache and breast tenderness and it may fall out in up to 6% of women.

2. Short Term Contraceptives

If you’re open to an option that involves a little more attention in regards to time, the Patch or the Ring could be viable options for you. The former is a small adhesive patch that continuously releases estrogen and a progestin into the bloodstream, which stops the ovaries from releasing an egg and is a weekly contraception. Although its effective rate is 92%, risks from using the patch are assumed to be very similar to combined pill and is not suitable for smokers over the age of 35 or women of that age that suffer from migraines. The downside, it could detach from the skin or cause side effects such as irregular bleeding and headaches. The latter I am discovering there are more women than I thought that have turned to this form of contraceptive. It is inserted into the vagina and slowly releases hormones, estrogen and progestin for 3 weeks. It also prevents pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg. Side effects are very similar to the patch in addition to a very small risk of the ring falling out or it causing vaginal discomfort/irritation.

3. Barrier Methods

We are all aware of the most well known barrier methods – condoms and spermicides but used less than these two is a Diaphragm which is a latex or silicone cap meant to be used in conjunction with a spermicide that covers the cervix and prevents sperm from getting past. The effective rate is almost 10% lower but it can also help prevent some sexually transmitted infections and cervical dysplasia. The downside…may increase the risk of reoccurring UTI’s and you really requires proper knowledge and practice for proper insertion so that it stays in place. Also, if you have a sensitivity or allergy to latex, this is not the option for you.

4. Surgical Procedures

For women seeking permanent contraception, I would suggest you turn to Tubal Litigation. This is a permanent option that surgically detaches the fallopian tubes so that the egg literally never meets the sperm. The World Health Organization cites a failure rate after the procedure of 0.5% which is great but there are some short term complications that you will need to be made aware of which can include; anaesthesia related risk, bleeding, and infection or damage to the bowel, bladder and blood vessels

There’s a lot to digest here for sure and I can agree that there are some benefits with using any of these aforementioned forms of contraception. Said benefits can potentially come at a cost of suffering from one or more side effects though. We are all unique and there isn’t one form of contraception that is best for all women across the board, but I do agree with Dr. Palmay, women should be well educated on the topic so they are able to make an informed decision for their body. If you want to learn more about options available to you, head to BirthControlForme.ca or speak with your healthcare practitioner. Follow along on other women’s 3 year goal plans by using the hashtag #3YearGoals on social media

This post was sponsored by BirthControlForme.ca  but all opinions on this subject are that of my own

Keys to Better Sleep, Better Mood & Improved Productivity

That is one long and loaded blog post title, isn’t it? Well after months of reading, research and trials at home, I can confidently attest that sleep is directly correlated to mood, productivity, sex drive and tons of other aspects to our health and wellness. What was the catalyst behind this post? I was tired (literally) of waking up in the morning exhausted, in a bad mood and feeling like a complete zombie come 3pm. It wasn’t only me feeling this way either. My boyfriend was complaining of the same thing and the more I talked about my inability to get a good night’s rest, I discovered so many people around me have the same issue. When it comes to sleep, turns out it’s not just quantity that matters – it’s quality and what we do during the day hugely impacts how we rest at night. Our bedtime habits, sleep schedule and day-to-day routine. Because it’s something we know our body needs to survive, we often make the wrong assumption that it should come easily and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If that were the case, 60% of Canadians wouldn’t feel tired all the time due to insomnia, sleep apnea, stress, pain related issues, restless legs, narcolepsy or 80-some other conditions that disturb our shut eye.

Sleep Better

Apple Watch Sleep++

Before embarking on my quest for improved sleep, I decided to monitor my rest at night to see when and if I was getting any quality zzz’s with the Sleep++ app on my Apple Watch and iPhone. I’ve discovered so many amazing and useful apps for my watch and this one definitely ranks high on my list of faves.  It let’s me measure the duration and quality of my sleep and as my sleep study progressed, it allowed me to gauge how effective the changes I’ve been making to my routine to benefit my sleep. Having issues getting zzz’s at night? The road won’t be easy, but I can promise you incorporating some of the tips below into your routine, you can significantly improve your quality of sleep and life.

 1. Support Your Body’s Natural Rhythms

Ok, so we’re going to start with the basics here. Do you remember as a child having a strict bedtime every night? I most certainly do and used to hate my parents for it. But it turns out there is a reason behind our parents doing this and we should have been thanking them to be honest. They knew sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. So how do we do this as an adult? Set a realistic bedtime that works with your lifestyle. I suggest choosing a time when you normally feel tired and do your best to stick with it. For me, that’s around 10pm. Also, if you’re getting adequate sleep, you will be able to wake up naturally without an alarm. Some other tips for getting in sync with your body’s natural cycle:

  • Fight after meal drowsiness (or what we love to refer to as “itis”)
  • Be smart about napping. I know it’s hard sometimes but if you suffer from insomnia, you may want to stay away from them altogether.
  • Avoid sleeping in on weekends. Having the same bed and wake times will enable you to wake up everyday feeling refreshed.

2. Reserve Your Bed For SLEEP and SEX only

Ugh…praying my father doesn’t happen to check out this post. I will die of embarrassment.  Over the years I have noticed something interesting. Sleep and sex are very closely related. When I speak to people that mention that they are not having much sex with their partner, they almost always admit that either they or their better half is sleep deprived. Makes sense to me because when I’m exhausted, sex is legit the last thing on my mind. Conversely when I start to think back to my better nights of sleep, surprisingly they have come after sexy time with my man. Its a bit like the chicken and the egg theory or the horse before the cart. You need to sleep and be well rested for more sex but sex can also be the thing to help you rest better at night. To help you get more sleep and subsequently more sex, use the bed for only these things. So many people live in small urban spaces (aka condos) meaning it’s super easy for your bed to become your office, restaurant or private theatre for Netflix marathons. If you associate your bed with any of these things, it will be significantly harder to fall asleep at night. Reserving it for only sleep and sex means that when it’s time to head to bed, your body will know exactly what to do.

Keys to Better Sleep

 

3. Control Your Exposure to Light & Avoid Bright Screens Within 2 Hours of Your Bedtime 

Pretty sure you’ve head this before, but it’s one of the toughest things to nail down. So here’s the deal, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate our sleep cycle. When it’s dark outside, our brains produce more melatonin, which makes you sleepy. On the other hand, when it’s light we produce less making us more alert. In a perfect world we would all become sleepy when it gets dark outside but long days trapped in office with little light, too much exposure to energy efficient LED lights, working late or the night shift are just some examples that can shift our circadian rhythm and production of melatonin. Other ways to control light exposure to ensure a good night’s sleep:

  • When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Truth is, the darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. I swear by black out shades to block light from windows. Not having them isn’t the end of the world though. For about $15 you can purchase a sleep mask, which pretty much does the same thing.
  • Keep the lights down if you get up during the night. If you feel like you absolutely need some light to navigate to the washroom safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hallway or use the flashlight option on your iPhone or smartphone.

Limiting (bright) screen time before bed is usually one of the first tips you will find if you Google “ways to improve sleep”. Most studies suggest any and all screen time can affect your quality of sleep. This is a huge generalization in my personal opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt. Originally when I started this study, I obtained from watching Netflix for the first two months, but then my boyfriend and I realized that for me, it’s the complete opposite. I actually can’t make it through an episode of Scandal without falling asleep. However, if I get started on watching YouTube videos or Instagram that’s a whole other story. I could burn away hours watching, which will definitely affect my sleep so I stay off my phone after 10:30pm. If we happen to watch something on Netflix, the screen brightness on our laptop is turned down.

4. Get Regular Exercise

Keys to Better Sleep

Are you making time in your busy schedule to exercise? If not, this could actually be negatively affecting your ability to sleep soundly at night. Research shows that those who exercise  regularly, not only sleep better but feel less sleepy throughout the day. But keep in mind, this not not a quick fix solution to your sleep woes. It could take a few months for you to see a difference. Be patient. Focus on having consistency in your exercise routine and sleep will be sure to follow.

Exercise elevates your body temperature, stimulates hormones like cortisol and speeds up your metabolism, which are all amazing and great in the morning and afternoon, but may be counter productive if you wait until too late in the day (or night for that matter!). For this to work they way it’s intended to, try to finish your sweat sesh at least 3 hours or more before your scheduled bedtime. Sometimes it can take up to 6 hours for the body to fully cool down to a temperature conducive for sleep.

5. Be Smart About The Foods and Drinks You Consume 

Keys to Better Sleep

You know you take your sleep seriously when you nix your caffeine intake altogether. That surprises most people when I meet up with them at a cafe…”wait, like don’t all bloggers drink coffee and fancy lattes that they take pictures of for Instagram?!” is the response I usually get. All jokes aside, I swamped my regular cuppa joe for matcha and I’ve found it considerably easier to settle down later into the evening. Caffeine can cause sleep issues 10-12 hours after consumption. Yup, you can pick your mouth up off the floor now. After speaking to a few friends, turns out eliminating caffeine is just not doable for a lot of people. Well, if you happen to fall under this category, try steering clear of anything caffeinated after lunchtime. Additional tips:

  • We all know how important H20 is for our diet, but try not to drink too much close to bedtime. Interrupting your sleep with a trip to the washroom is an easy way to off-set your sleep cycle at night.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. A nightcap may sound like a good idea to help you relax just before bed, but in actuality it 100% disrupts your sleep cycle while you’re out. Just trust me, I have had to learn the hard way.
  • Stay away from big meals late at night. It may be too much for the stomach to digest and can leave you away for hours due to heartburn and indigestion.
  • Not all foods before bed are bad though.  I swear to you, tryptophan is pure magic, so foods like turkey, soy beans and pumpkin seeds can help calm the brain of some which can help induce sleep. Just think about how sleepy you get after a turkey dinner during Thanksgiving. Cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin – a hormone our body produces for sleep…more on this later.  Like guacamole? Then you’re in luck. Foods high in magnesium like avocados may be just what you need for a one way ticket to dreamland. Whole grains (crackers, breads, etc) in moderation paired with protein rich foods like eggs, turkey or low-fat dairy can be the perfect combination for a pre-sleep snack.

Rituals and Relaxation Techniques

Saje Wellness Sleep WellPhotos by Nathalia Allen (www.amillionminds.com)

We have done a lot in attempt to figure this whole sleep thing out. Rejean and I are far from perfect and we screw up from time to time. We certainly feel the affects of missing our self prescribed bedtime or having vino too close to zzz time. One thing we know for sure though, it’s never just one thing that puts you into an optimal slumber, but rather an amalgamation of many things. Our pre-bed routine went from a quick 10-15 minutes to a solid 1-2 hour wind down and I know it sounds long, tedious even but it really is worth it. Drinking tea, stretching, taking what seems like a million supplements including magnesium (if you’re sleep issues are really bad you should definitely also add 5-HTP , Melatonin or GABA), listening to the calming sounds of falling rain or waves on a beach via the Calm app on our iPhone and liberally lathering on Saje Wellness “Sleep Well” formula that contains an herb called Valerian that used to help reduce the amount of time it takes to nod off is starting to become second nature.

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