Helping yourself while helping others: Three Caring Canadians you should know

7:32 am / Blog, Your Best Self / 1 comment

When you’re trying to balance taking care of yourself, make a dent in your audacious goals and juggle a never ending to-do list, finding time to volunteer can feel next to impossible to fit in.

Let’s face it. Carving out time to volunteer isn’t easy. However, over the years I’ve learned that even when we give with the intention to help others, we can gain so much in return.

Pouring myself into service first began as an escape from my own problems but quickly became a solace of comfort. As a volunteer for mental health organizations, I advocate for the folks who struggle in the same ways I did and it helped re-affirm that it’s ok not to be ok.

Working with organizations such as Girls on the Run helped me recognize the power of being a role model and empowering young women to love themselves; and mentoring young entrepreneurs has enriched my own business journey and inspired me to be a voice for folks who want to create their own opportunities.

Although most volunteers work for a cause vs the applause, there are many folks who work tirelessly each day to enrich their communities who deserve a standing O. That’s where the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award steps in to fill the gap by celebrating ordinary folks who do extraordinary things. Created in 1995, the award thanks giving individuals for their contributions and the positive impact they have had on the lives of others.

After learning about this award it got me thinking about the power of giving back and acknowledging the folks who give with no expectation for awards but solely to help others realize their true potential. In the spirit of celebrating the sprint toward becoming our best selves and the people that help us get there, here are 3 Caring Canadians I think you should know:


As the Founder of Sistertalk, Karlyn Percil  encourages women to confront the shame based stories that hold them back from reaching their full potential. After finding her voice to share a childhood secret of surviving sexual abuse as a child, she’s on a mission to advocate for the rights of abused children in the Caribbean through her non-profit organization Bellemoun. Each year, Karlyn rallies to raise funds for various causes to protect women and girls from violence and encourages women everywhere to confront the ‘elephants’ in their life to end the epidemic of suffering in silence.

Casandra London is a woman on the rise who is passionate about engaging and mentoring youth in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods. As the founder of the Casandra London Network (CLN) she works tirelessly to highlight positive stories of different ethnic groups that are making social and political differences in the community and are changing the way we perceive at-risk youth.

Recently CLN embarked on creating a mentorship program for youth to interact in a positive space, learn about art and culture and get involved in making a difference in society. She’s a passionate community builder and advocate who is changing the misconceptions about youth in marginalized communities.

The powerful act of forgiveness is the inspiration behind the F-You Project founded by Tara Muldoon. After forgiving her attacker following a violent assault, Tara founded F-You to start a dialogue among youth about the power of forgiveness. After dozens of workshops, two books and inspiring thousands of individuals, the F-You project has been recognized by Desmond Tutu, the Vatican and continues to start a dialogue about the healing power of forgiveness in our lives.

Each of these women have channeled their personal experiences into powerful forces to help others and serve as inspiration of how being your best self also begins with bringing out the best in others.


Over to you

Do you know a caring Canadian who is changing our country for the better? Nominating someone for the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award has never been so simple. I nominate Karlyn, Casandra and Tara. Now it’s your turn to take a moment to show your appreciation to a devoted volunteer.

Note: This post was sponsored by the Rideau Hall Foundation. All opinions and endorsements are my own.

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Conquering my fears of winter running with Bench

5:55 pm / Blog / 1 comment

Confession Time.

I used to be one of those people who starred in shock and disbelief at runners speeding through their neighbourhood in the winter elements.

That is until I became one of the “crazy ones”.

outdoorAs part of my self-care practice this year, I’m braving the bitter Canadian windchill to rack up some miles and prepare for 10K and 15K races this spring. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel after a run but in the past I’ve often struggled with staying race ready year round when the colder temperatures hit.

Rather than wait until Spring makes an appearance in my city, I decided to join a run group for some extra motivation and suit up my laces to hit the streets this winter. To help me brave the winter temperatures (Toronto is no joke y’all!) I’ve teamed up with Bench to share some of the clothing that is keeping me warm when I hit the streets and will help you brave the elements.


1. Thinsulate Vest 
Don’t let the thickness of this vest fool you! When layered with an insulated sweater and undershirt this thinsulate vest will protect you from the cooler temps. On a run, the last thing you want is bulky gear that will get in the way of fluid movement and this vest does a good job of staying out the way.

Although I’m not sure if it was originally designed with a runner in mind,  the vest fits to hugs your curves and has zippered pocket space to store keys, ipods and your phone which is key to ensuring that you don’t lose your gear when you’re hitting the streets. The other benefit of having a vest in your running wardrobe? As the weather gets warmer you can reduce your layers and its still functional. Although the weather may be chilly when you hit the streets, as you run and warm up its good to wear something that allows your skin to breathe.

2. Zip Thru Hoodie


If you go the vest route, layers are a must! This zippered hoodie is also lined with flannel to protect you from the cold. If you’re braving the winter weather, I recommend wearing this on top of a long sleeved breathable top before heading outdoors. True to Bench’s signature of designing mulipurpose products, this hoodie also has zippered pockets and spots to keep valuables and can moonlight as a jacket in chilly weather or top to wear to the gym.

3. Nylon Top

blacktopAlthough you can’t wear this alone to face the cold, I couldn’t resist picking up a top that had some dual function! In addition to wearing this under my sweaters it also doubles as a top I can wear on gym workout days.

When braving the elements make sure to also have a warm pair of gloves, a headband or hat to cover your ears and running shoes with a solid grip.

I look forward to racking up KM’s with my new gear but definitely won’t mind when the warm of spring makes its debut.

To learn more about the performance apparel at Bench, visit them at



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Be the Best You: Village Juicery Review + Giveaway

12:12 am / Blog, Your Best Self / 1 comment

Studies have shown that people who drink juice daily have greater energy, glowing complexions, high performing immune systems and a reduced risk of disease. With stats like that it’s no wonder that the popularity and demand for fresh and healthy juices is on the rise.

As a member of #TeamVitamix, healthy smoothies are a regular part of my routine but I will admit that I can do a better job of increasing my vegetable content and the creativity of my drink combinations. That’s why I was thrilled when I was invited by The Village Juicery in Toronto to visit their flagship location to sample their juices and try a customized 3 day cleanse.



Are all cleanses created equal? Not according to Village Juicery. One of their biggest differentiators from other brands is that their juices do not use HPP or High Pressure Pasteuratization.

Why does that matter? Well HPP is a cold pasteurization technique where products sealed in a final plastic package are subjected to a high level of isostatic pressure. Translation? That process will extend the shelf life of the product but it also kills all of the good bacteria and healthy nutrients in the juice.

So yes with an HPP juice you can keep it in your fridge longer but would you really want to if its AVPIiUU8just going to make you sick down the road?

Village Juicery makes their product nightly in their own product facility and picks the fruits and vegetables from local markets so the juices that you consume are fresh. I was very impressed by the way that the founders are hands on in the production,  spend late nights getting everything ready and are passionate about supporting the local market. You can read more of their story on BlogTo.


When it comes to cleanses, a quick peek on the Village Juicery’s website will show that you won’t find any listed – and yes that’s done on purpose. Nutrition is of the upmost importance to Village Juicery and they believe that cleanses should be customized for the individual instead creating a one sized fits all model for the masses.

During my trip to flagship location, I met with resident Nutritionist Jessica for a brief consult and tasting of all of the juices. One of the first things you’ll notice about the brand is their passion for nutrition and supporting the local market. Jessica took the time to explain the benefits of each juice and learned about my health and fitness history in order to create my cleanse plan. Having tried previous cleanses before that didn’t provide a high enough caloric intake for my daily needs I shared with Jessica that I wanted to keep one of my workout days during my cleanse to which she recommend an awesome juice optimized for physical activity.


While we’re on the subject of the custom touch, each of the bottles provide a fun description about the juice, what it is optimal for and the percentage of vegetable, fruits and roots in it. Yes I said roots. They have an amazing carrot and sweet potato flavored juice but I’ll get to that in one sec.

The percentage breakdown is helpful because although a lot of juices claim to be green and may look that way, they are actually packed with fruit to enhance the flavor. Having the breakdown on the bottle is helpful to see what you’re actually consuming and in what ratio.

Now on to what you really want to know…How do they taste?

Before I started my cleanse I had an opportunity to try each juice available and I was very impressed with the options. This was also the first cleanse that I looked forward to every juice option with the exception of their Be Strong drink..but only because the cabbage was a bit strong for my pallet but it definitely helped my workout performance, so it was worth it!

I enjoyed my experience so much so that I plan to head back to buy a few of my favs which are: Be Radiant, Be Active, Be Clean and Be Smart. Here’s the run down:

Be Radiant


When I saw Sweet Potato and Carrots listed among the ingredients in this juice I’ll admit I was skeptical but the taste took away all of my doubts. The other ingredients include granny smith apple, lemon and tumeric. Combined the drink is rich in beta carotenes that nourish your skin and fight free radicals and biotin which helps with hair and nail growth. It’s definitely natural radiance in a bottle.

Be Clean


Packed with 90% vegetable, Be Clean is made with kale, celery,  granny smith apple, parsley, romaine lettuce, cucumber, dandelion greens and lemon. I haven’t been able to eliminate the bitter aftertaste of dandelion in a drink before so trying this juice was great to see that it can be done!

Be Active


Anything with ginger gets an A+ in my books. The fact that this juice is also optimized for folks that workout made it an even better bonus. This blend of pear, beet, apple and ginger arms you with disease-fighting antioxidants and reduces inflammation in your body. Be Active was the fuel for my 40 min weight training and light cardio session and kept me feeling alert and fueled. Research has shown that beets are also great for endurance activities so trying this definitely peaked my interest about using for my training for my next set of 10K races coming up this spring.

Be Smart


After trying Village Juicery’s brand of almond milk I can definitely tell the difference between store bought and hand made. These almond milks were creamy, tasted great and definitely inspired me to try to create my own at home more instead of relying on store brands. These were my fav from the cleanse and I’d definitely buy more bottles again.

Above all my experience, with Village Juicery and the cleanse was a very positive one. I appreciate the passion of the owners and staff and their committment to supporting local and organic foods. I love that they put so much thought into their ingredient list and that they advocate health and quality in their products vs cutting corners.

The experience was so great that it inspired me to thank Village Juicery and pay it forward by creating a special giveaway to my readers to try all of my fav juices from my cleanse experience!

Enter below for your chance to win a special gift package including 1 of the following juices: Be Clean, Be Radiant, Be Active and Be Smart. Entries will be accepted until January 30th 2015 and is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area.

The contest winner must be able to pick up their prize from the flagship location at 540 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M6G 1A6.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck.

Over to You

Are juices a regular part of your workouts or every day nutrition? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes?

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The only resolutions you’ll ever need (or 7 tips for a magical year)

4:06 pm / Blog, Your Best Self / 0 comments

I’ve always shied away from the belief that January is the only time that you can make lasting change.

Instead, what I find helpful is getting clear on how I want to feel throughout the year and be very intentional on where and how I want to spend my time. The secret to making resolutions or any goals stick lies not in the time of year but how you approach each day.

Good intentions are powerful to get you started but in the words of Mahatma Ghandi “action expresses priorities.”

Ready to make this year one to remember? Here a 7 steps to creating a magical year. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for a New Year’s celebration to start them.


1. Create winning habits

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C. Maxwell

Is your daily routine set up to help you achieve your goals? Audit your schedule to ensure that you are investing your energy in routines that will help you be successful and eliminate the habits that are holding you back. But remember that when it comes to your habits, strive for progress not perfection. Even the most ambitious people struggle with a motivation or fall off the wagon with their daily routines. On the days that you miss a workout, don’t wake up at 5am or do something that you planned resist the urge to beat yourself about it and throw in the towel.

Don’t approach your habits with an all or nothing mentality. If you have a bad day try this:

:: Put your on your heart
:: Take a deep a take breath
:: Forgive yourself and start again tomorrow.

Another way to help support you on the hard days is turning to a friend or accountability partner to help you get back on track.

2. Start and end your day with gratitude

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” Meister Eckhart

Did you know that devoting 5 minutes a day to a gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent?

I conducted my own gratitude experiment I when I created a gratitude jar in 2013 and it changed the way I approach each day. Contrary to popular belief, creating a gratitude practice isn’t about glazing over your feelings or choosing to ignore the bad days.

Trust me, there will be days when you don’t want to write or acknowledge anything good and that’s ok.  Sit with your feelings and write about that instead. During the periods when I felt really down, I challenged myself to address the following questions:

‘How do I feel in this moment?’,  ‘Why do I feel this way’ and ‘What am I learning?’ Invest time each day to reflect on your blessings. You can create a gratitude jar, use an app on your phone or use the 5 min journal.

3. Live by choice, not by chance

“The greatest power that a person possesses is the power to choose” – J. Martin Kohe

Guard your time and exercise your freedom to decide what and who you want in your life. Everyone gets the same 24 hours every day and we have the freedom to decide how we will use it. Whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed I remember this piece of wisdom from Danielle Laporte : “Everything is on your plate because you said yes to it”. Exercise your power to choose.

4. Be Kind

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless” – Mother Teresa

How you treat others has a mirror effect because it will always reflect back on you. Building up the self esteem and affirming others is important but don’t forget to extend kindness to yourself as well. Visit my Self Love Academy for a crash course on self care.

5. Give to Get

“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough people get what they want” – Zig Ziglar

Pay it forward by helping others. In the same way that you rely on accountability partners, coaches or mentors to help you meet your goals, take what you’ve learned to help someone else.

6. Be Present

“Your soul doesn’t care what you do for a living – and when your life is over, neither will you. Your soul cares only about what you are being while you are doing whatever you are doing. ” – Neale Donald Walsch

When you find yourself feeling distracted, focus on your breath. The #givepresence video from Lululemon sums it perfectly why it’s time to take back your time and gift everyone you meet with your presence

7. Believe that anything is possible

“Believe that you can and you’re halfway there” Theodore Roosevelt

At the beginning of the year I broke through a block of wood with my hand. You can see the video here. It took me 4 tries but with each attempt I grew more determined to make it happen. Shattering the block taught me the important lesson of following throughout with my goals and remembering that there’s always a way if you’re committed to the process. Even if you fail, learn from the experience and keep going.

What rules do you have for creating a magical year? Share what would be on your list in the comments!

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