It’s been 641 Days!

When we ( us women/moms) feel sick, what do we usually do? We probably do what every mother does, we put ourselves last. It’s like the minute we become moms we forget that we are a person too and everything is all about our kids. We feed them first, we bath them first, we get them dressed first, we are always last and never ever think of doing something for ourselves first.  I hope my blog today will change this for you.  For several weeks leading up to September 24th 2015, I was feeling crappy and  not paying attention or listening to my body. I kept saying to myself, “I don’t need  to see the doctor, I’m fine, I’m busy, I’ll go tomorrow” , I always had something more important to do, I just wasn’t a priority, my kids, my work, our schedules were always too busy for me to take a time out. I kept saying and thinking to myself I’ll go tomorrow, but  I never went “tomorrow”, I actually never went at all until shit got really scary and what I thought was just a stupid little thing became  the one thing that would change my entire life.  

I had been experiencing some swelling, noticed it in my feet and hands. I  thought it was a summer heat thing and although I felt “off” I couldn’t put my finger on it so instead I chose to  ignored it because let’s face it I was too busy. ( being busy- my excuse for everything then).  Weeks went by, my symptoms got worse and just like that i woke up one day and couldn’t lift or feel my arms, close my hands or bend my elbows.  My feet had swollen to an unrecognizable size. I was dizzy and felt a type of tired that could only be explained as debilitating.  I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom, crying because I couldn’t walk to the bathroom and I knew something was wrong and that I had made a huge mistake in waiting.  On September 21st 2015, I finally went to see my family doctor – who I’ve known since I was 15. All she said when she walked in was “oh Denise”  and I broke down crying.  I think I broke down for a few reasons, I was tired of feeling like crap and I was scared shitless.  I knew I had to run a  battery of tests to confirm it, but all the signs pointed to Rheumatoid Arthritis ( RA). RA is a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints.   You would think that I would know this since I work in healthcare, but i didn’t think it would be anything serious ( Honestly, I didn’t)

On September 24th my diagnosis was confirmed, I had a chronic disease with no known cure, a disease I was told I’d have to live with forever, a disease that would have me on a list of medication for the rest of my life.  I was put on steroids, methotrexate (a chemo drug) and hydroxychloroquine.   The side effects from both the steroids ( which is anxiety and weight gain) and  the methotrexate, which causes you to feel fatigued, to say the least it was a rough few weeks.  For me to open up about this is very hard because when I look back, I know I had gone through some form of depression and in hindsight I probably should have taken care of myself better, but at the time I was in survival mode.   My dad has RA, I didn’t want to end up with the deformities he had that resulted from this disease. I witnessed how much he suffered and the permanent damage it caused and that scared the shit out of me.  Also being on this many meds is for real scary. I don’t’ even like taking an Advil and here I was supposed to poison myself everyday taking 9 pills ( that for me was the hardest part).

The one thing about me, and for those that know me know how much this is true.  I’m competitive, in everything I do. So if I put my mind to something, it’s getting done. Period! (I think I get this from my mom).  I told myself that I needed to get back to normal and I needed to be healthy, I’m a mom, I have priorities!

At my follow-up appointment my physician said to me “Denise, we will get you through this, you will get better, I will bring you back to normal, you just have to give it all you have”  The minute she said that, my frame of mind shifted and all I  thought was “ Oh I got this, I’m all in!!!”  Then she said one thing to me  “ build muscle, it will protect your joints”.

Listen to what I am saying- BUILD MUSCLE, IT WILL PROTECT YOUR JOINTS!!!  This probably is  the most important message for someone who has RA.   I called or emailed every single gym, private trainer, health and wellness centre I could find in my area.  I was determined to find a trainer who had the experience in working with someone like me. Who would help me learn how to “build muscle to protect my joints”, someone who would just help me figure this whole exercise thing out.  I had made myself a commitment, I  decided I needed to take care of me.  I needed to care of me, so that I could take care of my family. My boys need a healthy mom and so in February 2016 I joined Snap Fitness. I started changing our eating habits and our food choices. I made a change for my family and for me!

It’s been 641 days since I was diagnosed, 1 year, 9 months and 2 days of me living with RA.  But what I am most proud of is that it has been  496 days since I joined a gym, 1 year, 4 months and 10 days of me putting myself first.  496  days of me being one healthy, bad ass, strong mom!

I won’t lie, some days are harder than others, some days I struggle, but most days I feel great. On the days I struggle I still get up and get my workouts in, it may not be 100% but it gets done. I’ll modify it, I’ll slow it down but the one thing I don’t do is make excuses.

There isn’t one excuse out there that is good enough to not take care of yourself. Be honest with yourself and make time, find the time. Why wait until you get sick or something happens for you to realize that you need to take care of yourself?  Don’t’ let anything, anyone or all the excuses stop you.  Your kids, your family, your jobs- they are not excuses, stop using them as one and start using them as your reasons.  What my kids see now, is a mom who is healthy, happy and strong.  What I hope I am teaching them is resilience, commitment, self appreciation, hard work and above all, self respect.  I want my boys to know and understand that women are strong. I want them to grow up knowing that there is no doubt a woman can “do that too” and I want them to know that there are no excuses great enough to stop you from achieving your goals and being your best self.    I want them to know that their mother is unstoppable!  Everyone has a story and we can all make excuses, but it comes down to a choice. You either want it or you don’t. You can either make everything a negative, or you can change your mind set. You can either do nothing, or do something. The  choice is always yours.

Be unstoppable!

In health & love

Xo Denise


Strong NOT Skinny!

I’m 37 and  this is the first time in my life that I have been “fit”. I was athletic until college but that’s about it.  Growing up in a family where obesity has been a chronic and at some times progressive condition, I always  focused on being “skinny” and thought that if I was skinny I would be healthy. I had been wrong on so many levels.    The fear of gaining weight caused me to hop on every fad diet bandwagon.  With my heaviest weight being 242 lbs after having my 1st son, trust me when I say I tried every diet there was, from LA diet, to Atkins, to BeachBody, to Isagenix  etc.   They worked in helping me to lose weight after the kids, but it was never sustainable.  I juggled between 150-185 for 12 years. For 12 years I focused on being skinny, that If I could be a size 4 I’d be perfectly healthy! I know there are many of you out there are in the exact same boat I was in. The desire to be skinny, to be “pre-baby” weight is sometimes the only thing we can think about. I really wish I knew then what I know now, because I would have saved myself  a lot of bad choices, a lot of restrictions and a lot of misery to be honest with you,  but this is why I decided this should be  my next blog. I’ve received so many questions about my workouts and diet. I love that you all have taken the time to reach out to me and I hope this gives you some food for thought!  

Mamas/ladies, listen up! Your only goal should be to become “strong” that needs to be your only focus not skinny, the weight loss will come with it naturally. Change your focus because you, yes YOU need to pick up some weights and I’m going to tell you why!

“ Aren’t you afraid to look like a man” – guess how many times women have asked me this question? My answer is always “Do men look like women if they don’t lift weights?”   like really people- don’t’ ask stupid questions!  You are a women, you will always look like one. Don’t mistaken your strength- ever!

I do  get it though, why so many of us women have the same questions or concerns.  When someone thinks about a strong body or muscles, they instinctively think about men not women. Unfortunately there are so many stereotypes and so much bullshit that keep women from experiencing the profound benefits of  resistance/strength training.  

Here are the reasons why you should start lifting weights!

Weight loss  

When compared to just cardiovascular exercise, resistance training always comes out on top. You burn more fat during and after your exercise with every training.  Although Cardio has it’s place and is essential in daily routine ( I firmly believe it keeps your internal organs healthy) resistance/strength training increases your metabolic rate and oxygen consumption. You will burn more fat in 30 minutes lifting weights than you would 1hr on the treadmill.

Lean Muscle- As you build your strength and lean muscle, your body uses more calories. As you build your muscles, the more inches you will lose. The stronger you get, the more fat you burn, the more muscle you gain, the more inches you lose…make sense now?  Okay good!  

Increased Energy-Resistance/strength  training increases your energy long after your workouts. It actually sustains your energy throughout the day. Increased energy helps you stay focused and well, you don’t have that 2pm slump or need for coffee or that craving of something sweet.

Joint Health-The more muscle you build around your joints, the more protected they are. Take this form someone who has RA. Build Muscle, protect your joints. Resistance/strength training also helps to maintain bone mass. The older women get, the less estrogen our body secrets. The more resistance and strength training you do, the less loss of body mass.  Building muscle is probably the healthiest thing you can do for your body.  

Strength-First, it is a great way to relieve stress, or it helps you manage it better anyway.  It will also does very one important thing- makes you feel powerful. When women feel powerful, they are determined, confident and strong. When we feel all those things we are happier and  healthier, both physically and mentally and we all know that happy and healthy women are unstoppable! Right?  ( hope you are nodding your head with me on this one)

When I first started, I was intimidated and  insecure, but there was something that happened when I picked up my first barbell.  Every day, every week I have gotten stronger. The changes have been incredible, but most of all I actually surprise myself ( on a daily basis actually)  The things our bodies can do is amazing, from how fast we build endurance to how quick we build strength. What you weren’t able to do one day you are completely able to do it the next week, it just takes patience and commitment.  The strength you build, builds your confidence and feeds your determination, is there really anything better than feeling 100% confident in your own body or  feeling powerful? I’m not sure there is!  (Did I mention how great it is to get a kick out of being able to lift or squat heavier than some men at the gym?  just sayin…I can kick some ass now and it feels great!)

Finding the right program that is right for you is challenging, but we all start somewhere, the point is just start! Pick a program, get a trainer, join a gym or  workout at home- whichever you decide, but just start.  Not tomorrow, not next week, not in a year, start now!  Change your eating habits and start exercising, start moving.  Eat healthy, make better choices and move your body.

Ladies, go put your hair in a bun and lift those bellz!

Happy Lifting

Xo Denise

*if you are interested in learning more about the programs I do, please visit the  Fitness section of this page**


Carbs? Yes Please!!!!

Thought I would use a post to shed some light on carbs.  Ladies, this is for you- for the love of food, please eat carbs and get it out of your head  that carbs are bad. Women need carbohydrates and fats.  My real motivation for starting my own blog was really to inspire and motivate women in health and fitness. Along with helping educate women in nutrition as much as I can. First things first!  Please understand that you do not need to eat like a rabbit  to  lose weight and get “fit”. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.  Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, we need carbohydrates to truly be healthy and avoiding proper consumption of carbs can result in deficiencies such as energy loss, ketosis, loss of essential body protein and nutritional deficiencies.  Carbohydrates break down in our bodies to create glucose, which is the body’s main source of energy and what our brain requires to function.  So, you know all those carb memes you see me post  on social media- they aren’t that far off, people on no carb diets do some crazy shit! LOL.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying go out and eat an entire pizza, eating the right types of carbohydrates is what’s important and crucial to your diet, especially for those of us living with any diseases, allergies etc.  For the sake of this post though, I will keep it generalized for the average women with no known disease etc.  I will explain a bit further about  the good and bad carbs and which ones you should be avoiding and which ones you should include into  your daily diet, but I wanted to take a second to explain my diet. You may have noted that I hate to use the word “diet” it has the connotation of meaning “short term” which in fact, a diet is really the proper term for how you structure your daily eating. It should never mean “restrictions”.  I structure my diet based on my activity level.  I match what I eat per day ( meal prep) based on the type or level of activity I am or have done for that day.  If I am working out large muscle groups ( for examples my legs) my carbohydrates and proteins are higher, than on my active rest days ( days I take a break from the gym ,but do a more moderate activity like yoga). This is what works for me, I have learned to understand what types of food gives my body energy and makes me feel good all day. It’s important to fuel your body with the right foods that give you the nutrients that you need.   If you do not exercise you can’t follow the same diet as someone who actively exercises and expect to feel the same and get the same results. Generally when I’m asked about my diet I explain that I eat “clean”  it’s a big term, and used a lot, and it means different things for different people.  80-90% of the time I eat clean, meaning I eat organic, unprocessed, whole natural foods. This includes my choices of carbohydrates.  I eat “good” carbs and avoid what I like to call “the not so good” carbs.   If  reading this post is your first step in starting your weight loss or fitness journey a great place to start is by understanding the types of food your body needs and how your metabolism works. The reason why you hear so much about balance is because it works. Moderation and balance, although it looks different for everyone, it’s the key principle to your nutrition.  Making the smallest change will result in benefits to you, and most often than not you will notice and feel a difference.

Here’s my list made simple!

My good carbs:

  • Organic oats or steel cut oats
  • Sprouted breads (Sprouted= grains are sprouted before they are baked. Sprouted breads are higher in amino acids and are easier to digest) I buy Ezekiel bread made by Food for Life. http://www.foodforlife.com/product/breads/ezekiel-49-sprouted-whole-grain-bread
  • Organic brown rice ( any rice- as long as it’s natural, brown)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grains ( eg. quinoa, barley)

**Note: Fruits, Vegetables and Legumes are considered complex carbohydrates, but for the sake of this blog, I did not include it in the above list.***

My not so good carbs list:

  • White rice
  • White, fortified breads
  • Dried Pastas ( usually made from processed white flour)
  • Simple and artificial sugars
  • Anything pretty much made with processed white flour

 

 

Being healthy  is about creating healthy habits, not restrictions. It’s about eating better, not less!  Choosing to eat the right foods, at the right times of day and making sure you have it balanced is what will make a difference for you.  No one’s diet should look the same, because every person’s body is different. Find what works for you, but one thing is for sure- the minute you start to eliminate all the processed, un-natural foods you will start to feel better. Carbs are not the problem, if you eat the right ones, you are fueling your body properly.  Even the healthiest foods can be taken out of control, so it really is about portion, balance of proper foods and intake.   If this is your first go at changing your habits to making healthier choices, start eliminating things slowly. I started with eliminating sugars and only using natural sugars for sweeteners ( such as honey), then I changed everything from white to whole wheat.  Your body will thank you and you will notice a big difference in how you feel, how your skin and hair looks, your energy levels ( and you libido too..wink wink). The worst thing you can do is starve your body. Learn about the healthy complex carbohydrates and healthy fats ( women need to eat healthy fats). The more knowledge you have, the better you will be at making healthier choices.

Healthier choices, one step at a time, you’ll get there, you got this!  

Oh and EAT DEM CARBS!

Till next time….xo

Denise


Live with ruthless integrity! Bellz&Bunz is here to stay

Do you ever feel like you were meant to do something, but you don’t’ know what? All you know and feel is that there is something you should be doing but aren’t doing it?

That was me for  a few months, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew I was meant to do something.   I got an email from Rotman’s Women in Business ( I’m an alumni) about a new speaker series they were launching.  The opening day’s guest speaker was Lorna Borenstein. Know who she is?  She’s the founder and CEO of Grokker (https://grokker.com/) .  You may know her more for her launch of eBay Canada ( which she launched from her living room with a newborn) and was previously the President of Move Inc.  She retired form her coportae career and founded her own company Grokker, doing what she loves best ( She’s a Yogi!)

Anyway, I read the excerpt of her talk and decided to register.  The talk was titled “ From your big break to a big mistake: how to have resilience and remain authentic”

I honestly have to say, this was the VERY BEST talk I have ever been too ( and I have been to many). It was like I was the only person in the room and she was talking directly at me. I walked away refreshed and with confirmation that i had more to give, something big!

She said 3 things that totally changed my perspective:

  1. Live with ruthless integrity
  2. Do something you can’t live without
  3. Say no without being sorry

I work in Healthcare, working  in Paediatrics is a big part of me, it’ s been my whole career. I have a deep passion and desire to help others, I’ve always been that way, but I wanted the opportunity to help people ( women) like me, I knew that I wanted to directly impact and empower women in health and fitness, something i am so passionate about and can not live without.  I want to live the rest of my life knowing that i am doing good, even if I just touch one person’s life and help them succeed, find motivation and empower them to take care of their health. I am  learning to say no to the things that make me unhappy and not feel sorry about it. I am putting myself first, I am fueling my soul so that I can be the best mom and wife for my family. Most of all I want to be strong, physically, mentally and spiritually.  Through this blog, I hope I can touch as many women’s’ lives as I can and inspire them to get up, set goals and crush them! I’ve learned that there will always people who judge you, who question why you do the things you do.  Those people live in a negative force field, they haven’t learned that in order to receive positivity you have to give it, believe it and live it. It’s not easy, but use any negativity that is thrown at you and change it into a positive, use it as your fuel, as you power to be better. The only person in your way is you. How bad do you want it? How bad to want to be healthy and happy?  What do you want to be able to tell yourself a year from now?  

Live your life with ruthless integrity! Be unstoppable!

xo

Denise


Scale Wars! Battling your way through the numbers on the scale.

“Don’t let the number on your scale define you” how many of you have heard this? Seems to be the  most common saying now and although I 100% agree, I know that many of you have thought or think the same thing as me ”easy for them to say” right? Ya, I know!

When you are struggling to lose weight, it’s all about that f&^%en number!  Let’s be honest, if you are overweight, and I’m not talking about 5 lbs here, I’m talking about legit overweight and above a healthy range, that scale number is everything to you and no matter how many people tell you not to look at the scale and just think about how you feel, when you step on that scale, you hope to see a drop.  when you are working  towards a weight loss goal, that number represents victory, a way to physically see and measure your progress.  Seeing that number drop makes you feel happy, empowered, keeps the motivation going, makes you feel accomplished right?  Yes! And you need to celebrate those moments no doubt. BUT here’s the thing, the scale is also like a bad cheating boyfriend. It recruits addiction, it loves being obsessed over, it’s not really good at long term relationships and likes to play f’ed up mind games.

The struggle is finding the balance between understanding and using your scale as a health tool versus it being your only way of measuring your success and progress. Listen, I’m not going to sit here and fluff things up for you, if you are serious about your health it takes work, it takes dedication and it takes time but the end results are worth every sweat and every god damn tear! Trust me on this one.

It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, eat healthier, get ripped or just be active, it all requires the same thing: YOU!  If your goal is to lose weight then it takes you making a mental shift on how you view diet and exercise (I hate the word diet- more blogs to come on this topic). The mental shift starts with accepting your current weight, accepting your body and really being honest with yourself on where you are right now and what you actually want. This is the hardest first step.

Finding that balance and battling your way through accepting the number on the scale is not easy, but learning to embrace where you are starting from  will make your goals achievable and rewarding in so many ways.  Daily weighing can really impact your mental state, it really is a mind game.  It will set your mood for the day, it will determine your level of motivation and how good you feel about yourself.  I can’t tell you to stop weighing yourself because I get the need to see the number, that need for validation of the work you are putting in, I get it, I do! My advice is do it only once a day, ideally once a week if you can and only in the morning when you wake up.   Start to use your scale as a tool in getting to know your body, it’s actually a really good tool if used correctly. By weighing yourself the same time daily/weekly it will show you what your body is doing and how it reacts to different foods, the time of the month, exercise routines, supplements, bowel movements, liquids etc. Everything will impact or change the number of your scale daily (shit..it changes hourly) My point is, if you constantly look at your scale and use that as your only way of determining your success you are setting yourself up for disappointment when you don’t’ see a shift. That number will go up and down your entire life, your entire fitness journey.

The scale is only one small piece to the puzzle because honestly your real success comes from your determination, loving yourself and your body, showing up every day, making yourself a priority and looking at your accomplishments and how strong your body is. Your body is a powerful machine, it will constantly surprise you if you give it the opportunity too. Trust the process- you will hear me say that a lot, but for real, once you are on this fit train it’s a one way ride, we don’t look back ( unless we are  looking at our butt gainz). Trust this process, believe in yourself, fuel and love your body!

Xo

Denise


Hey! Hi. Welcome to Bellz&Bunz

My very first blog post ( eeek!!!)  I guess I should start off by introducing myself, so  hi there and thank you for visiting my page.  I’ll keep it simple and straight forward, I’m a no frills kinda lady! Oh and I have a potty mouth ( sorry in advance).  My name is Denise, I’m married to Brad, I’m 37 and a mom of 2 boys. Jonathan who’s ( holy shit) turning 13 this year and Daniel who’s 10.  I am a full-time working mom, I guess I would be classified as a “gym-rat” ( where did that saying come from anyway???), I am currently enrolled in school part-time to become a registered nutritionist focusing on sports and nutrition, I have a lot of tattoos, I have an auto-immune disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis,  I seriously love lifting weights, it makes me feel strong and powerful. I wake up at 3am and hit the gym 6 days a week ( yes, you read that right, I said 3 am). I love yoga and add it in 2 days a week. My heaviest weight I’ve ever been is 242 lbs (I’m now 130lbs) I’ve yoyo dieted probably since I was 16 until this past year and half where I have changed my way of looking at nutrition, which you will learn a lot about here if you stick with me!

So why now- why the blog?  Well, here’s the thing I learned this past year that took me my entire life to understand. I can put myself first and not feel guilty about it. Why? because I am a better person, woman, mother, friend, daughter, sister, when I am healthy and happy.   This past 1.5 years, I have made my health a priority and it has changed my entire balance in love, health, family and motherhood.   Which is what has brought me here and the desire to empower and help other women with hopes to inspire them to live the best versions of themselves. Make themselves a priority and not for one minute feel guilty about it or make excuses.

My promise to you is I will keep it real, share my personal stories, my successes and my failures.  Workouts and fitness program recommendations that don’t suck ass and will get you results. I’ll be sharing my favorite recipes (I should mention that I am a wicked cook and baker). I’ll share my meal prepping guides/secrets and of course nutrition tips for you and your family.

I almost forgot, you must be wondering or have totally misunderstood the name of my page so let me get it straight. Bellz= barbells/dumbbells (because I love lifting heavy shit) and Bunz= hair bun ( not bun as in butts) because my hair is almost always in a top bun. If you ever run into me at the gym and my hair is in a bun, you know shit’s about to go down!  ( and don’t mind the above selfie- that’s me, raw and unedited)

I am so excited to start this journey with all of you!

P.S- follow my instgram @bellzandbunz

xo

Denise