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Hey my beautiful readers!

This post is really hard for me to write and has taken me several months to think about and formulate with the right awareness and intention. Although, I did write this post in a couple of hours, I feel like I am finally floating on this sea of emotions, rather than sinking. I want to be real and honest about my eating disorder journey with you, but that requires a lot of courage, strength and introspection on my part.

I feel compelled to share my story to fully identify and articulate what actually happened throughout my health journey, as well as give you a story that inspires, encourages and hopefully gives you the tools you need to heal yourself. I have had so many realizations along the way that have evolved me into the person I am today.

I am still in the healing process, although I feel I am very close to reaching my ultimate health. I didn’t know what health really meant until I became obsessed with it to the point of turning into an anxious and sick person and had to apply the knowledge I had to heal. Only did becoming mindful and using yoga was I able to completely heal my destructive habits and become grounded in self-love.

So … Here’s the whole story.

binge eating disorder, orthorexia
Bearing my soul.

My Journey from Fit to Sick

It all began in Grade 11 when I discovered Jillian Michaels boot camps and how good greens made me feel. My mom had decided to start exercising at home as part of her 100-pound weight loss journey, and I decided to jump on that bus. I hated to exercise at this point, and was addicted to sugar-filled foods like Arizona green tea and peanut M&Ms.

The high-achiever in me got bored of her basic exercise videos and found the hard-ass workouts of Jillian Michaels challenging and satisfying. I did her videos about five times a week, and started to eat a healthy vegetarian diet, with more salads and less sugar.

At this time, I was having mild breakouts and went on birth control to help the cause. Little did I know what this meant for the future of my periods. As I started to educate myself more on health through documentaries, health podcasts and blogs, I realized I had found my passion. But the perfectionist and curious soul in me of course wanted to take my health to the next level … and so I took on the challenge of becoming a vegan.

Dipping my toes into the vegan world.

I was hardcore vegan for about two years, and during that time, I tried many different types of vegan diets – the fruitarian, the high carb, no fat diet, the juice cleansing … and during this whole process I went off birth control as I learned all about the negative effects of it.

Well, I had no period for two years after that.

And during this whole time, I learned how to have incredible self-control and discipline. I had an exercise routine, I had a strict diet and I had a plan to feel good. But somehow, focusing on my physical health made every aspect of my health suffer.

My physical health didn’t really improve, in fact, it got worse. I developed an obsession with every meal I would have, and started to feel anxious when it came time to eat. I was nutrient deficient through the insane blood sugar spikes I had and started to eat huge amounts of food, in secret of course.

I loved to bake, and would bake a whole tray of vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar free muffins, snap a pic for my blog, then eat the whole tray and think that I was fine and eating a healthy diet. But I felt guilty, bloated, ashamed and sick. However, my anxiety was gone when I finished my binge. And I could exercise it off to keep at a steady weight.

And so the pattern continued.

cookies, health, eating disorder

I became obsessed about my diet to the point where I isolated myself, and would keep myself so busy to the point where I lived in a chronic state of stress. I would have my extra-curriculars, my schoolwork, my harp lessons, and work to fill my time so I could stop thinking about food and my parent’s shaking relationship.

My first few years of university I decided to major in business because I wanted to start my own health business as I thought I had all the health information I needed. I worked at a smoothie bar and vegan restaurant. I was golden.

Until I started to hate my classes, hate the cutthroat vibe of my program and knew I wasn’t living out my truth.

I broke in my second semester of my first year, and was miserable, nutrient deficient and full of stress as I pushed away the people I loved. I remember sobbing in my harp lesson with a teacher that didn’t know how to help and thought that the circle of fifths was my biggest problem. But I knew.

I knew I needed to change my major and travel to re-discover who I was and where I belonged.

My mom also started to notice that my ‘healthy’ and restrictive vegan diet wasn’t working for me when I ate a whole pot of brown rice she had cooked for me for dinner. And so she asked how I felt about going back to my vegetarian ways. But at that point, I had been brainwashed by other fruitarians and vegans to think that eggs and dairy were bad and not healthful. But she said maybe my skin would improve, and as it was getting worse, I felt weak and tired and continued to not have a period.

I remember the day when I agreed to her caring suggestion and she bought some free-range organic eggs per my orthorexic request. I remember her handing me my veggie omelet she made with love, and a side of salsa and avo, just how I used to like it. I was terrified to eat it, but decided to make the decision to listen to my body.

In that first bite, it was like every cell in my body finally cried out with happiness and hollered and hooted ‘THANK YOU!’

And so my healing journey began.

I included eggs into my diet, which helped with the whole feeling satisfied after a meal thing. And I started to go to a naturopath to address my period and acne problems. But I was still a ball of stress. I started to relieve it with my newfound love for rock climbing.

My friend was also experiencing similar symptoms, as she was having an autoimmune reaction to everything she ate, but was eating primarily paleo. It was interesting to hear her perspective, especially on the subject of bone broth and how it can heal your gut inflammation.

My stomach was a disaster zone. I was bloated constantly as I ate primarily raw food and grains. I was so adamant about my vegan label that I had lost my curiosity and growth in my health journey.

I was a complete mental and physical mess.

But what about spiritually?

Well through these times of isolation, my parent’s separation and internal pressure  I placed on myself to keep getting 90s, God knew what He was doing. He was giving me self-help books to read, started to create a support system of friends in the health field, and gave me plans of changing my major to Kinesiology, where I fell in love with research and understanding the mechanics of the human body.

I also went to Greece and experienced deep connections with those around the world, and discovered how much I loved talking to others about my health journey. I also had to eat some feta and greek pastries while I was there (because duh, I was in Greece), and ate in community, loosening the grips on my orthorexic and binge eating ways.

community, eating disorder, health, greece

God kept me stable and grounded, even when I was depressed and anxious. I remember on a really bad day as I was driving home from school, I felt a surge of anxiety run up my spine paralyzing my body and causing me to hyperventilate. I then had the thought of swerving my car into the oncoming traffic.

That’s when I knew I needed help.

greece, eating disorder, orthorexia

Then came the era of acupuncture, journaling and yoga – my saving graces.

By this time, I had tried everything to balance my hormones (I thought) and decided to give acupuncture a try. Well it zened me right out and eased my digestive pains. I also decided to keep an open mind with introducing new foods into my restricted plan, and eliminated inflammatory foods to speed up the healing process. I stuck to my qualitarian ways and started to drink bone broth that my friend was making with organic and grass-fed beef and chicken.

Well that shit was liquid gold.

I felt like I was getting closer and closer to healing myself and finding the right diet that worked for my body. But it wasn’t until I became truly mindful through the healing art of yoga did I release the negative emotions I had towards myself and towards my father.

I remember being in a yoga class with one of my favourite teachers, and the theme of the class was forgiveness. In shavasana, she encouraged us to hold our hearts and release any resentful thoughts we had towards ourselves and to forgive anyone in our lives that had hurt us. I left that class with tears feeling lighter and loved. My parents relationship was finally resolved in my mind as my dad left during this time. My mom and I could finally live in a less harsh and angry environment that could heal us both.

I felt deeply connected to my Spirit and loved by my Father, and knew that everything would be okay.

My addictive personality of course moved on to something else … and that was yoga. My daily yoga practice forced me to become reflective and aware of my obsessive thoughts about food. So my binge eating episodes didn’t make much sense after my yoga classes, when I wasn’t even that hungry and wanted to sit and enjoy each bite.

So I started to eat less by including sustaining meat in my diet for the first time in 13 years.

I started with some wild fish, as I thought I could stomach that. I learned that I loved salmon. And then I had some grass-fed buffalo and a little chicken. But I remembered to keep limits on things, and to have small portions of nuts, of seeds, and meat. I also made a habit of drinking tea after my meals, to signal to my body and mind that I was done eating and could move on with my day.

Then I went to Hawaii for my yoga internship and that solidified my healing process. The travel bug again came to the rescue in my pursuit of health and happiness.

eating disorder, balance

This second opportunity in my life to live in community and let go of my perfectionistic ways allowed me to be human. I felt so alive and liberated to eat in community where I could slow down, have a calm and relaxed stomach, and engage in deep and meaningful conversation.

I hung out with people who ate everything and exposed me to new foods and ethnic cuisines, new adventures and new ideas and opinions. I was challenged in my faith, challenged in my diet, challenged in my flexibility and yoga knowledge, and was opened to a new and beautiful world. Did I mention my period had returned and was consistent during this time? No coincidence there.

community, eating disorder, health

When I came home, I became depressed for a little while as I left my tropical paradise. And that’s when I binged once more and knew it felt wrong. I knew my behaviour was due to my feelings of wanting to live in the past and caused me to revert to my old habits. I knew I had come this far in the healing journey and focused on what my beautiful future would hold and made the decision to stop. But how did I stop binge eating?

I made the decision to stop and be aware of my actions following that decision. And I wasn’t scared if I slipped up … I would just try again.

Be kind to yourself and intentional in the process.  

My research also went along with my health journey, as I discovered Jordan Younger‘s journey with orthorexia and did a project on #orthorexia on instagram not only to better understand others’ battles with the eating disorder, but my own. It also isn’t a coincidence that my passion for yoga is now translated into my thesis on #yoga.

I came to the realization that this thing I did, this eating too much, wasn’t normal and it was confirmed in my brain in my abnormal psychology class when we were talking about the diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder. How hard I had tried to become this label of vegan and healthy person to let go of it all … to now come back to a new label. But as I left class with tears of understanding, it was only fitting to be able to say it out loud and now to write it out for you to read.

I had orthorexia and binge eating disorder and I am a better person because of it. 

health, eating disorder, happy, binge eating disorder

So how am I doing now you ask?

Well … I’m still over labels but will stick to my qualitarian ways because I do love to eat a healthful diet. I do eat primarily grain free with intermittent fasting and some chicken and fish with bone broth to supplement my plant-based diet because that’s what my body needs right now. And I feel my best when I eat like this. But I won’t be scared or anxious to go out with friends and eat something outside of my criteria. Not only do I listen to my BODY … I also listen to my MIND.

I have learned health is so much more than physical health … and that your emotional health is just as important.

chicken, eating disorder, health
I’ve learned to love chicken.

I release my negative emotions by journaling every morning and being with God in my meditation practices. I do yoga daily to keep me sane and flexible in all aspects of my life. I realized my love for nature and being connected to Mother Nature has helped me in the healing process and has given me a carving for living a nomadic and simple life.

eating disorder, health, algonquin park

I have taken some extra-curriculars off my plate so I’m not in a chronic state of stress, and have come to terms with the fact that I can’t control my life … and that my trust rests in Him alone. I am proud to call myself a calm person now that goes with the flow and lives in the present moment.

My past struggles have prepared me for my bright and beautiful future ahead.

health, hawaii, eating disorder

I am so excited to continue my yoga and travelling journey as I train for my yoga teacher certification in Peru in August. I also plan on helping others with their eating disorders as a health coach by using my perfectionistic and obsessive personality as a way to relate and love those who suffer from disordered eating.

I believe God gives us suffering and let’s us struggle in order to better understand our purpose in this world.

Yes it’s hard and it sucks but in the end … we can share our stories in vulnerable and real ways to be a light and source of love to others.

So love yourself, be mindful and make a mental inventory of your physical, emotional and spiritual health. If you feel out of balance, attempt to determine the underlying cause behind it, and research some strategies that you think could work for you to release your stress and ground you.

By releasing fear, and being sensitive to your heart’s desires, you can free your soul and reach ultimate health, one moment at a time.

yoga, health, eating disorder

Peace & Love,

Jill – your vulnerable veggie villager xx

 

Thank you for letting me share my story with an open heart! Now, I’d love to hear from you! Have you experienced disordered eating? What strategies did you use to overcome it? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey my world changers!

It’s a pretty daunting task when you walk across that stage as your name is called, and are handed your degree. You know what it means ….

Freedom.

No limits.

But also responsibility.

And making decisions ….

Life changing decisions …

Lots of them.

But how do you know if you are making the right one?

Having a degree has its advantages and disadvantages … it’s a great foundation, but usually needs more schooling no matter what route you go.

 

But decisions are also driven by something,

something deeper.

 

Your values, your beliefs, your attitude …

Your purpose.

 

You are called to something bigger …

a mission bigger than yourself,

bigger than your decisions,

bigger than the plans you have for your future.

You are called to live a life of surrender,

a life dedicated to love,

to service,

to be moved by your spirit and mind and heart.

 

So do you stay or do you go?

With all this freedom …

What type of life do you live?

One that challenges you

Or stunts your growth?

Maybe you are not meant to stay in one place.

You are meant to be nomadic

Spreading love in every community

Every city

Every town …

 

You are meant to be light

Spreading it everywhere we go

Lighting up the corners of darkness and despair

With your hope and optimism

for changed hearts and transformed minds.

You are meant to cry

And scream

and dance

and feel pain

Because in the suffering

You find your path

You find your voice.

 

I feel I am being called to something greater … and have been given many opportunities before even finishing school.

I apply,

pray,

and surrender to His plans,

not my own.

 

The future may seem scary,

Because it is unknown

But maybe that is the best part

The unknown

The sitting back and being amazed …

 

The release of control

The release of the weight on your soul

The release of being perfect

The release of being busy …

Too busy to be still

To be silent

To be engaged

To allow the flow

To move you to conquer

To face your greatest fear

Of showing your heart to the world.

 

So enjoy your journey

Be present in the process

And let your spirit take you …

To the top of mountains

To the depths of waves

To the edges of cliffs

To the thickest of forests

To mother nature

As she hears your heart

And guides you down the unbeaten path …

 

The path of light

The path of love

The path of change

 

To a broken world

We are called to something deeper,

something greater,

something extraordinary

 

Listen

Lean in

And follow.

So should I stay or should I go …

Only God knows …

I am just along for the journey.

Release,

Inhale love

Exhale fear.

journey, decisions

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

 

How have you listened and followed your purpose and path? I would love to hear from you! Comment below!

Hey villagers!!

Ever thought about attending a yoga class but the idea of trying to get your head to your knee seemed too overwhelming and scary? Especially in front of a bunch of yogis who can stand on their heads?

I know because I’ve been there. But I hope I can convince you that yoga is so much more than trying to relax, hold a pose with screaming legs and burning arms, and attempting to not hold your breath all at the same time.

So …. What is yoga?

Yoga means union, a focus on the interconnectedness of your mind, body and spirit to improve aspects of health. Yoga is more than just poses, which is the most basic form. It is called asana, and is just one limb of the eight limbs or components of yoga. Yoga consists of ethical principles for living a purposeful life, while acknowledging the health, mindfulness, wellbeing and spiritual aspects of oneself.

Sometimes, in order to truly understand the major themes of yoga’s teachings, we need to practice asana with the intention of drawing inward and looking at what our minds and bodies are telling us about our souls.

But we aren’t given this yoga information when we attend a yoga class, and maybe we have different intentions to start practicing. For most, it’s to relieve stress, or to get some exercise in, but as you continue to practice and engage in an everyday yoga routine, you begin to focus on the spiritual side of yoga.

So …. How do you do yoga?

Yoga begins by showing up. Engaging your whole self and slowing down to the speed of our rapid and quickly changing, crazy lives. Yoga is for all bodies, shapes and sizes, and no comparisons need to be made as it is a practice of going within, not looking outward at others.

Yoga is for you, your development, and your growth so that ultimately, you can better serve others. The asana or poses, is just a vehicle for you to reach your greatest potential, and love with a humble and grateful heart.

So … Feeling inspired yet?

What if I told you about my yoga journey?

I was exposed to yoga since I was a child, as my aunt was a yoga teacher. I would watch the yoga for kids video and hang out in my cat and cow poses, while actually making the animal noises … it was a fun way for me to move and let my energy out.

I would attend hot yoga classes with her, and she would lead me through yoga flows at her house. But as I went into high school, my poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and academic focus shifted away from my health and my yoga practice.

As my mom was getting into health and fitness, I started to eat better and be conscious of movement and changing my negative mindset. I began doing home workout videos, and jumping on my rebounder (mini trampoline .. plan on doing bootcamps with it one day!).

Fast forward to university, when I decided that business was not my calling and that Kinesiology was much more in line with my values and lifestyle. I began having a regular yoga practice at different local studios, mostly vinyasa and hot yoga. I enjoyed moving, and started to see how yoga was being translated into my life and improving my health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I was also always drawn to spirituality. I’ve always been a big church go-er, and served at my local church in all capacities. I felt God has always lead me down the right path, and has instilled healthy habits in me. But yoga allows me to go deeper, everyday.

 

As I decided to go to Hawaii for 2 months on a yoga internship this past summer, I was immersed into the true yoga world – one that isn’t commercialized and advertises yoga as exercise in one quick hour. I was doing vinyasa, yin and kundalini yoga for 1.5-5 hours a day and loving every minute of it.

I felt like I was on a yoga high … and I still feel that way coming out of classes and even doing my own yoga routine and stretches back at home.

Now as I teach at Strong Body Fitness as a bootcamp instructor, I have access to yoga on a daily basis and have been attending hot yoga 1-2 times a week at a studio closer to home. I do my own daily flow if I can’t make a class, and always incorporate breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation into my morning routine.

yoga

Yoga has given me clarity, healed my relationship with food, is slowly healing my hormonal and digestive health, improved my relationships with others as I am more present, engaged and sensitive in conversations and has helped me connect with God that is within me (I call it the Holy Spirit … some call it your higher Self).

So …. Feeling ready to reap the benefits of yoga but don’t know where to start?

Here are my top 10 yoga tips on how to get started on your yoga and inner journey to reaching your highest Self!

1. Get a mat.

If you are planning on taking a yoga class, the first step you can do is buy yourself a yoga mat that suits your needs and your style! There are some for as low as $20 will cool designs, and even grabbing a block and strap package for your home practice is helpful, especially if you need an extra stretch from injuries or chronic pain. I finally upgraded to a heavy-duty Jade yoga mat that is extra long for my extra long limbs and will hold up to my daily practice.

yoga

2. Get some inspiration.

See how others are moving and get inspired! Maybe check out some Instagram accounts of yoga teachers and their favourite flows and poses, and read about the eight limbs of yoga through resources like the Yoga Sutras.

 

yoga
Dancing by the sea.

3. Figure out which type of yoga works for you.

Maybe you hate being hot when you are moving, so hot yoga would probably not be the best choice for you. Listen to your body and try out some different yoga classes. Different types of hatha yoga are the most common types of yoga that we practice in North America.

When you want to be mellow and stretch it out in static poses, go for some yin yoga. If you have lots of energy and like to not hold poses for a long time, try some vinyasa power yoga. If you want to challenge your mind and engage in more repetitious breathing and meditation practices, try some kundalini yoga. And if you like routine and want to progress through set sequences, try some Ashtanga yoga.

Vinyasa yoga is my go to, usually a yoga class that holds poses and where I can push myself and hang in a headstand for a while, but I do switch it up depending on my needs of the week.

4. Do your research and shop around (local is better).

Find a studio that has a variety of different classes that you think you would enjoy, as well as one that is near to your house or work. Check class schedules weekly and fit them into your schedule (set reminders, put it on your calendar or write it in your planner!!). Make time for you and your personal growth a top priority! I love my power flow and slow burn vinyasa yoga classes at Strong Body, my vinyasa hot yoga at Moksha, and my inversion practice at my own yoga sanctuary.

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5. Try different classes that involve water, sun or animals.

There are some special exceptions to traditional yoga classes that you might want to try out if you’re feeling adventurous. SUP yoga is always a fun way to challenge your balance and connect to the sea (or lake…).

When the seasons change, there are usually 108 sun salutation events that salute to the new season and connect with other yogis in your community … I went to one of these for the fall and it was so much fun!

Also, there are some classes that are by donation to animal rescue charities, and include goats, cats and dogs wandering around and chilling on your mats as you move through your downward dogs with them. This is the usual at my house … minus the goats.

yoga
Definitely harder than it looks.

6. Bring a friend or go with someone who is all Zened out.

It always helps when you know someone who is into yoga and that already goes to a yoga studio. You can hold each other accountable as well as share ideas and thoughts about classes and how yoga is influencing your lives together. Also, your friend might give you the encouragement as well as inspiration you need to get to your first class.

yoga
Find your tribe.

7. Be consistent.

To have a daily practice would be ideal, but when starting out, try to go to yoga at least 2-3 times a week to really experience the benefits – mind, body and soul! You will feel yourself becoming more mindful and slowing down and you will realize that what you learn on the mat is projecting into your daily life – but this only happens when you are committed and consistent!

8. Listen to your body (know your limits).

Don’t ever compare yourself to the yogis in the room. Focus on your breath and listen to your body as you flow through different poses. Stay in the ones that are uncomfortable, but not the ones that hurt. Know your limits but also know when to push yourself to your edge. Get adventurous and try out new poses without fear or judgment of yourself or what others will think.

yoga
108 sun salutations … and go.

9. Find a yoga instructor (mentor) that gets you.

Trying different studios and going to different yoga events in the local community can help you find a teacher that speaks to your soul and your growth. Once you find a yoga teacher that you can relate to, that understands you and knows your limits can make your yoga experience even that much better. Having a mentor can teach you new things about yourself, about the practice itself, and can create the support and guidance you need to reach your highest Self.

yoga
My yoga mentor … she got me.

10. Be patient.

Being kind to your body also means that getting to more advanced yoga poses takes time, effort, focus and patience. Be patient with your progress, and know that there is a lot of hard work on all accounts – mentally, emotionally, physically and spirituality. Contemplation, reflection, listening, and letting go are all parts of the journey. Trust in the development of your yoga spirit.

yoga
Surrender.

Please comment below about how you have used these tips to start your yoga practice! I would love to hear about your yoga journey and how you incorporate the eight limbs of yoga into your daily life!

So I encourage you to get your Zen on in order to improve your health and your interactions with yourself, others and the world off the mat.

Namaste,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

Aloha villagers!

I have had quite the adventure the past few months, and wanted to share my experience with you in the hopes that you can add a little Hawaii into your life!

Hawaii

I worked at a yoga wellness retreat called the Hawaiian Sanctuary in Pahoa, Hawaii for just over 2 months, and it changed my life for the better. My Hawaii summer job consisted of ‘glamping’ with the sounds of frogs and peacocks at night and the view of the Milky Way from my room. I felt so incredibly connected to the Earth. I drank and showered in rainwater and chilled at beaches on the weekends, staying grounded as I drew from the healing energies of the sand and sea.

Hawaii

I would walk to our ‘grow’ room for ‘Hawaii yoga’ every morning. The room was filled with tropical plants and had screen walls, so we could feel the mist from the rain, the heat of the sun and hear the chickens and roosters to make sure we were awake in shavasana.

Hawaii
Show off.

 

Yoga in Hawaii consisted of hour and a half classes beginning with a warm up, some pranayama, meditation then went into a vinyasa flow. They were challenging (and hot!) but so much fun. Part of my yoga trade in Hawaii included private sessions and weekend workshops with my yoga instructors and mentors to practice my inversions and perfect my forearm stand. Wednesday mornings we had Kundalini classes after our morning yoga that challenged our endurance, and then a restorative class at night complete with socks filled with tennis balls to soothe our backs and our minds. I gained such a deep appreciation for how to do yoga, on a spiritual, emotional and physical level.

Hawaii
Playing with some acro!

 

Lunch was the highlight of my day! Always vegan and gluten-free, complete with dessert on Fridays! Kimmy, our professional chef with over 10 years of experience, was from New York but originally from Tokyo. I fell in love with Japanese cuisine!!

Hawaii
Kimmy showing us how to roll sushi!

 

She would always make amazing stews, including my favourite, mung bean curry. We would have fresh salads filled with veggies picked from the garden or from the local market and topped with local mac nuts and edible flowers. We also have some type of grain like brown rice or quinoa and a different side dish each day of the week!

Hawaii
Lunch is served to the sound of a conch shell!

 

We had Asian Mondays with spring rolls and veggie stir fries, Taco Tuesdays with guacamole and salsa and the best crackers [in the world], and side dishes like vegan shepherd’s pie, pad thai(!), pizza, purple sweet potato salad and zoodles with mac nut pesto throughout the rest of our week.

Hawaii
Rainbow rollsss!!!
Hawaii
Pad Thai was amazing!!!
Hawaii
Mochi cake. My favourite dessert!

 

Not only was the food amazing, but lunchtime was also a time to relax, sit outside with everyone from the community and chat about our day. We would connect with those who were working on the farm or in the kitchen all day and make plans for our weekends! Oh, how I loved my weekend adventures!!!

Hawaii

The general manager of the Hawaiian Sanctuary was somewhat of a daredevil and rubbed off on me … for the better. He brought me cliff jumping, snorkeling, rock climbing to the top of waterfalls then rappelling down them, climbing coconut trees to harvest coconut goodness, hiking to the summit of Mauna Kea to watch the sunset and swimming through caves.

Hawaii

I saw sea turtles, manta rays, lots of cool fish, more rainbows than I can count, livestock and wild pigs and goats, and every colour of sand you could think of, even green. I am eternally grateful to have seen most of the island in my two months and experience life on the edge [literally – off cliffs and waterfalls]!

Hawaii
Just one of many.

 

We had two different classes each week, both beneficial to my soul and my mind. We went to weekly classes called Non-Violent Communication or Compassionate Communication. We learned how to effectively communicate with others, through listening empathically and connecting our feelings with our universal human needs. It was so applicable to daily life, as we practiced listening to each other and making empathic guesses and truly understanding the other person, without criticism or judgment.

Hawaii

We also had our Ohana circles, meaning ‘family’ where community members came together and discussed problems [utilizing NVC hopefully] and played games. We also had a talent show that was by far my favourite week. Julia and I sang Riptide accompanied by the ukulele – how Hawaiian!

Riptide – We had fun!

Through this whole experience, I have completely transformed my body, mind and soul. Here is what I learned about the Hawaiian way of life through my yoga internship and adventurous weekends:

  1. Community.

    Living in community makes you so much more mindful of your actions and how they can affect others, like leaving your dishes out or staying up all night. While eating lunch in community, I learned to slow down and eat a balanced meal that was so nourishing and satisfying. I learned to find balance and moderation with my favourite foods and enjoy some delicious [healthy-ish] desserts once a week and fresh fish from the sea on the weekends. I loved constantly being around such diverse people and engaging in fun and deep conversations about their experiences, beliefs and lifestyles back home.

    Hawaii
    My Ohana [Family]!
  2. Adventure.

    I loved that such a variety of adventures were only a drive away, with nature surrounding us wherever we went. I learned to become a rebel, jumping over no trespassing or danger signs when exploring waterfalls and valleys. I loved the exhilaration of jumping off cliffs and rappelling down waterfalls. I am grateful for knowing locals that showed me the hidden beauty of Hawaii, even if it was living a little on the wild side.

    Hawaii
    Jump with no thought, just a smile.
  3. Yoga.

    Do yoga, almost everyday. Yoga was so soothing for my body, as it contributed to balancing my hormones, giving me a ton of energy and relieving me of any anxiety or tension I was feeling. My mind was so clear and I was so present in everything I did. My spirit was also fulfilled as I could spend my practice with God, thanking Him for this amazing opportunity and listening to His plans for my life. I mentioned doing yoga almost everyday, because I was taught that we do need to rest for at least one day a week in order to give our bodies a break and let our muscles heal.

    Hawaii
    My yoga mentor and inspiration, Kristen! Incredibly knowledgeable and so much fun!
  4. Freedom.

    The Hawaiian culture is all about being expressive and to truly be who you are, no makeup [or bra] required. People did whatever they wanted [weed was a popular commodity], and were truly accepted for whatever their beliefs were, or what their occupation was. I did not wear makeup during my time there, which was so foreign to me, and wore yoga clothes and a bathing suit 90% of the time. I felt that others accepted me for who I was and were so relationship oriented. I was constantly greeted with an Aloha and a hug and felt such a loving energy from the people of Hawaii. Our NVC classes was also a reminder of how love is the ultimate goal of relationships as we learned how to express our feelings and needs to those around us freely and without judgment.

    Hawaii
    Be you.
  5. Conscious.

    The Hawaiians are so conscious about what they put into their bodies as they wanted to keep everything as natural as possible; everything had to be from the ground! There were ava bars everywhere [usually stocked with kava, kombucha and jun {jun is kombucha except with green tea and honey – I was obsessed}, no alcohol allowed!] People played music about loving others, and health food stores were hopping at lunchtime. Yoga was a part of their daily lives, not just for exercise, as people lingered before and after class and chatted. The locals were so present in deep and meaningful conversations. Most restaurants used local ingredients and there were farmer’s markets everywhere, both during the day and at night!

    Ava Bar Fun!

  6. Slow.

    I have never been so unaware of the time as well as what was going on in the outside world. I had no TVs to watch, radios to listen to, and no constant to do list. Everything went by Hawaiian time, with yoga classes starting and ending 5-10 minutes late, and hours and hours spent at local beaches with friends. Time seems to slow down and go according to your pace of life. You are in control of time – time doesn’t control you in Hawaii. There is a healthy work and play balance, with many people bringing their children with them to dances and yoga classes. No one is in a rush … remember that when you are driving there.

Hawaii
Chill like a cow in the meadows.

 

So I challenge you to incorporate some of the Hawaiian lifestyle into your own. Go makeup free, get to a yoga class, cook a balanced meal and eat it with your friends, go explore a new part of town, disconnect your TV [maybe a little extreme?] and don’t be scared to live on the edge.

Hawaii
Or on the side of a palm tree … go with the breeze.

 

If you aren’t happy, make a change to your lifestyle. With a clear mind, you can have a clear heart – one that is ready to receive and give freely.

Hawaii

Feel free to share some of your changes with me, and let me know how yoga has transformed your mind, body and soul for the better. I would love to connect with those of you whom have had similar yoga retreat work exchange opportunities and hear about how Hawaii yoga has changed them for the better (Comment below!!)

This will not be the last of my Hawaiian adventures or yoga travel, as I was deeply impacted by the energy of the island, and the deep connections I have made. I hope you can experience the beauty in this world and discover a place that embraces the lifestyle you imagine for yourself to ultimately enhance your health and wellbeing.

Hawaii
Sit and bask in the beauty.

 

Mahalo my villagers!

Peace & Love,

Jill – your Hawaiian villager xx

Hey my villagers!

Do you ever have a hard time saying no to people because you don’t want to let them down? Have you been presented with an opportunity and find yourself weighing the pros and cons and not getting anywhere? How do you know you have made the right decision?

We all make hundreds of decisions in a day, most small, but some can change the course of our lives for the better or worse. Through my own experience, I have had to learn to say no to opportunities and yes to others, while always trying to keep a sense of balance and peace.

Sometimes you have to sacrifice volunteer commitments or jobs that no longer serve YOU or your higher purpose in order to make room for you to let your creativity wild, your spirit free and ultimately, become more joyful and productive in the long run. Once you serve yourself better, you can pour yourself into others!

Decisions begin with knowing WHO you are and WHERE you want to go.

Decisions are the key ingredient to improving your health, especially in terms of how you are allocating your time, talents and treasures.

life web
There is always time for juice 😉

So how do you learn to make the right decisions? Here are some steps you should go through when making a decision that can affect your health:

1. Ask. Begin by asking yourself and God. How do I feel about this opportunity? Where will this lead me? How does this opportunity fit into God’s plan for me? Is He taking me to unexpected places and on a new and exciting journey? Spend time in prayer and reflection and simply put it out there and let your Spirit respond.

life web
Journal and take time to reflect.

2. Be still. Take time to meditate. Be still in God’s presence and in your thoughts and ideas. Listen or create some music, read some poetry, walk in nature, and spend time in reflection and stillness. Recognize your feelings and emotions concerning your decision.

life web
Or roll down some hills to get some inspiration.

3. Draw your Life Web. Forget the pros and cons list. Here’s what I use to balance out my life and make sure I know my big commitments when reflecting at night. This Life Web helps you to know your limits and figure out what you actually have said YES to. Try creating a present and future web to see how the decision fits in and what needs to be eliminated from your life.

  • How big is your web and how busy do you want to be?
  • Does your extra commitment fit into that web?
  • Does your life web reflect progress towards your goals for the week, month and year?
  • Do you have a balance of play, work, personal growth, health and fitness, and volunteering?
  • How are you incorporating your mind, body and spiritual health into your web?
life web
What does your web look like?

4. Yes or No. Finally, make the best decision that serves you and God, and follow through. Once you feel a sense of peace and contentment, you will know you are on the right track! Using your life web as an outline, you can make commitments that you can actually stick to and put your full heart and soul into everything you do! The quality of your work will increase along with the clarity of your mind as you take ownership of your life and where it’s going.

life web
How are you setting yourself up for success?

So, I challenge you to create your life web and reflect on your opportunities before making a commitment that you can’t actually stick to. To hold yourself accountable, feel free to share your web with others and me!! Tag me in your picture of your web at @veggievillager with #lifeweb!

life web
Take time to play.

Create limits for yourself, but know that you have endless potential to reach your goals simply by getting organized and letting your creativity flow!

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

Hey villagers!

“Not everyone who is single is lonely; not everyone who is taken is in love.”

single

I’m 20 years old and I can say I have never been in a relationship. You think I would be sad and depressed like women in movies when they watch other couples from afar and feel the need to fill the ‘single void’ with something, usually opting for sugar, the next best thing. Then they have a secret love affair with Ben & Jerry and drown their sorrows in baths of red wine.

Instead, I like to think of myself as that woman at the end of the movie applying her lipstick that matches her red high heels, wearing her power suits, strutting off into the distance, corporately change the world. But think more of a hippie version – with a yoga mat, red Birkenstocks, and mismatched bracelets laced up the arms.

But on a serious note, I have been so content and at peace with the choices I have made throughout high school and now in university. I believe I’ve had all my experiences in the right chronological order, without the drama and need to have some other outside source of love.

single

Throughout high school, I had time to shape and build myself, focusing on my own healthy habits, my knowledge and self-discipline. Through focusing on achieving high grades, my relationships with friends and family, my health through mindful eating practices and exercising habits, temptations like alcohol, drugs, and sexual desires never really appealed to me. I didn’t need to make those mistakes to learn because I was in tune with myself and with my purpose in life.

And yes, I am harassed every time I hangout with my guy friends and yes, I am judged for not always having the most conventional friends. I feel my spirit has been opened to the different, the unique, the radicals, as I feel I have been called to lead and build communities of people around me out of a genuine caring and deep love for others.

I was {and still am} a hot mess on dates. There was always that added pressure that just didn’t make sense to me. We are all just people, with different stories and expectations. I trust that I will be in a relationship in my own time, and when that interesting and inspiring person comes along, I will be able to grow and change the world with someone special by my side.

single

Here are just seven things that I have learned about my single self that has transformed my outlook on life:

Vulnerable connections with others are where I find meaning.

I love sharing with others without the added pressure of a romantic relationship. I am better at being myself {if that makes any sense}, and being real with people through sharing stories and positive experiences. I have met some incredible people along the way that have taught me so much as I have created a safe space for them to reveal their authentic and true selves.

My self-discipline is through the roof.

I have created such healthy habits that have made me a much more productive person, ultimately, making me happier and healthier. My focusing on volunteering, work and school, there really hasn’t been much time or energy for relationship drama.

I have big goals and big dreams.

Being single has allowed be to be aware of my own self-development, giving me laser focus on my own goals and ambitions. As I grow my own knowledge base, I can create change in this world in issues that I deeply care about.

I must love myself to love others.

I have learned to accept my imperfections and quirks. Once you embrace yourself and who you are, you are comfortable to share with others and love them for who they are. You are opened to differences and can learn from others and their ways of life.

Exploring my interests helped me find my passion.

As I began having a better understanding of myself, I made a big decision – changing my major in university. I am happier than ever as a kinesiology student. I have learned that health and wellbeing excites me and ignites my energetic fire.

Investing in time with a mentor kept me focused.

When you don’t waste your time thinking about your romantic relationship, you can invest in yourself and your relationship with a mentor. My mentor has greatly shaped my own spiritual journey as a leader and continues to give me the insight I need to succeed. By building relationships with those in different generations, you can gain invaluable life skills and insight.

Being single means you can travel. 

Instead of worrying about your significant other, you can accept any opportunity to travel and see the world. You can be spontaneous, adventurous and create lifelong connections along the way without added drama and worry in your life.

single, selfie

Learn to embrace your imperfections, work on creating healthy habits, and be the best version of you and you will attract others that are also emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually healthy. You will attract the right people at the right time that will serve as teachers, making you more aware of the perfect person when the time comes.

Being single doesn’t make you lonely, or desperate, or give you permission to pity yourself with a spoon and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Being single is freedom.
Being single is empowering.
Being single is limitless.

Be patient with yourself and discover all your amazing unique qualities and talents. Appreciate the relationships you have and be grateful for the present, not worrying about the future or past broken hearts. You are strong and beautiful.

Hike in those red Birks on your spiritual path, and be patient and opened if it takes you to unexpected places and to the unexpected, yet perfect person. Be patient.

Learn, listen & love.

single, fearless

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

Hey villagers!

It’s Thoughtful Thursday {my favourite day of the week}!!

This past couple of weeks has been absolute chaos with the insane flood that happened in Tecumseh. We were clearly not prepared as a town to take on such a large amount of rain! Mother Nature got a little too excited {or too sad …. whatever way you look at it}. With all this rain, nearly 1 in 4 houses in the town has a flooded basement, including ours. We were called into a state of emergency.

In such hopeless circumstances, the community banded together!! We have taken time to get to know our new neighbours and talk to them about the severity of the flood in their homes. Maybe Mother Nature knew what she was doing!!

And yes, the town’s curbs have been littered with piles of drywall and soggy carpets – but we need to think about all the friends and family that banded together to create those piles of stuff.

Stuff that can be replaced.

But relationships that CAN’T. 

We all have too much stuff, and it was time for a fall purge anyways! What does matter, is the sense of community and love that has been created because of the mess. Mother Nature sent us a wake up call to connect to each other and disconnect from our stuff! 

thoughtful thursday, Tecumseh flood

The town has been so hopeful and has formed loving bonds with each other – It has truly been a beautiful disaster.

I have been reading Tuesdays with Morrie, and this quote fits our circumstances perfectly this week:

thoughtful thursday, mitch albom
Picture taken from our porch when the flood came. Just keep swimming ~

So I hope that you are finding connection in the chaos, and meeting some new people that are literally in your {wet} backyard.

As more restoration trucks and trailers roll into town, I can’t help but to think, the real restoration began way before they got here. The restoration in caring, compassion and community. 

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

~

*PS – I also want to encourage you to come out to my Clothing Swap that is happening this week on Tuesday at 6:30 at Cafe March 21. It will be a good way to continue with the fall purge and connect with new faces in your local community!

Hey veggies!

I thought it would be fun to showcase some of my own poetry {The Walking Blind}, as well as my moms on Thursdays – calling them Thoughtful Thursdays! I also want to encourage you to share your emotions and experiences through your own poems with me.

I would love to feature them in the gallery and let us create a vulnerable and supportive community! I would love to encourage and inspire others to reflect, meditate and write!

lost beauty, the walking blind

  • Written by my mother, Suzanne Lacasse

I absolutely love slam poetry as well, and wanted to share a video of my poem The Walking Blind that I won an award for in creative writing. It is so important to me because it represents everything that I am and believe in – my faith, my love for animals and my philosophy of life. Be a servant in all aspects of your life because it’s not about you!!

Feel free to check out the video! 🙂

Take some time to be thoughtful on this Thursday!!

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

 

Hey veggies!

I am so excited to finally be able to say that The Veggie Villager is official!! I have worked so hard on my content and I love seeing such great support and positive feedback!!

As I have been able to work through my health journey and share my knowledge, I have been able to have a creative outlet to let my gift of writing shine! I believe it is so important to find out what you are good at, and embrace it!!

I also decided to take a chance and put in a proposal for an article in one of my favourite magazines, Chickpea, a vegan magazine based in Brooklyn, NY. It was scary yet exhilarating to be vulnerable and opened about my health journey and share some of my own insight on how to get outside and stay active and healthy. Check out the article here!!

hidden talent, chickpea magazine

With my mom’s own self-doubt in her writing abilities in my mind, I started on her birthday gift while she was on vacation. I began by unburying two huge boxes of loose poems in her closet – secret typewritten and handwritten masterpieces! Her own disorganization has kept her beautifully broken thoughts from the world and I wanted to FINALLY showcase them!

I colour coded, categorized and edited until I created a book called The Body. Each chapter includes a different part of the body she was writing about. I am so proud of the book itself, the time and effort I took thinking about someone I love, and the tears of happiness streaming from her eyes when she opened it.

That moment was more than enough confirmation that she realized how valuable and beautiful her gift is and how much I appreciate and respect her!! Even though the daycare kids can’t appreciate her writing, I can and hopefully others will too (when we publish it one day!! ;))

hidden talent, poetry book

I would love to share my own thoughts about how to take your hidden talents to the next level. Here are a few tips on how to unleash your potential and become an expert in something you love to do!

  1. Listen to others. Be aware of the compliments and encouragement others give you. If they are telling you that you are really good at something that may be a hobby or talent you don’t share with many people, maybe it is time! Go public, be vulnerable and thank those around you for recognizing your value!
hidden talent, dinner
Talk over a delicious dinner.

2. Take time to build your talent. With school, work, and volunteering I have very limited time to think about blogging. But when I am inspired, I definitely MAKE TIME to spill my guts! Don’t be afraid to take some valuable YOU time doing something you enjoy – practice makes perfect (and an expert!)

hidden talent, reflection
Time to reflect and be inspired to write!

3. Be bold. Take a leap of faith and make a change in your life in order to pursue your hidden talents! Those talents may lead to a career change, which could be the key to balancing your mind, body and soul!!

My friend is trying to make a huge career shift from being a speech pathologist to pursuing her love of cooking and healing by creating bone broth for others. I have tried it and have seen a dramatic change in my skin, hair, nails and hormones! Support her choice to pursue her hidden talents by liking her Facebook page!!

hidden talent, bone broth

4. Be unique. How is your talent different from everyone else? What can you be the best in the world at? What other knowledge and experience do you have that others don’t? Embrace your journey to discovering you and finding what makes YOU special.

 

hidden talent, lone wolf
Lone Wolf
I am ahead of the pack. Not because I am in the lead.
Only,
because it is I
who is being chased.
– SMB

5. Share. Talents aren’t meant to be hidden!! Share your talents with the world, and don’t be hesitant to value yourself and your time through being paid. Be generous but smart. Don’t under value yourself because you think it is just a hobby. You can turn your passion into a career if you respect your time and talents.

hidden talent, potluck

I am also starting to play the harp at weddings, my first being at the end of September. I am so excited to finally have the confidence to share my musical abilities with the world!!

hidden talent, harp

I encourage you to take your hobby to the next level by being confident, vulnerable and honest with yourself and others!

Peace & Love,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

 

 

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