Sunday, January 11, 2015

What is it like to work with Vanessa - Inside Kalin's Program

Kalin is a gorgeous young woman with energy that could match a packed football stadium. You feel it instantly. She vibrates on an awesome frequency. But when Kalin sat down with me for the first time, she was feeling dark, distant and grey. Kalin approached me apprehensivey in November. She had been stuck in a rut for the past year emotionally, and physically for many years longer. She told me she was frustrated because she had been telling herself for so long that she wanted to change, and wanted certain things for her life, but her constant lack of ability to follow through had her questioning if she even knew what she wanted at all. She  had doubts in her ability to follow through with diet, exercise and just about everything else and wanted a change. She set New Years Day as a goal: not for a certain weight or distinct acheivement, but to start the first year in as long as she could remember NOT thinking about weight. She wanted to feel energized, excited and confident in herself and in her life. Here's what happened, in her own words, from her heart...

We all have a moment where we look at our lives and think, "I can do better..."

I remember lying in bed thinking to myself: HOW will I ever come out of this?

I had left school in Philadelphia right before finals (an already stressful time) to come back to Pittsburgh. My dad was in the ICU recovering from a stroke and my family and I were practically living at the hospital... My life (and everything I owned) was still in Philadelphia, but packing up my apartment and wrapping it up there was impossible at the time. Sleep was low, stress was high, and life SUCKED. Major changes were happening faster than I could cope with and because I didn't know what to do - I did nothing...

Life. completely. knocked. me. down.
I wasn't eating right, barely sleeping and I sure as hell wasn't working out. My life was completely out of balance. Needless to say, it took a few months of doing nothing before I had 'my moment.' When I did, it finally occurred to me that things were going to keep happening that were out of my control - but not taking care of myself could no longer be one of them.

You might be wondering how those events led me to Vanessa of Sweat and Butter. I didn't roll out of bed one day and think, "I wish I practiced yoga and drank green smoothies!" I rolled out of bed and thought, "I wish I was happier."

I knew I needed help getting myself back on track - and I knew I had to try something I had never tried before. The hope of potential happiness is what led me to Sweat and Butter.

If you take a look at my 'Kalinspiration' posts, you'll see how much Sweat and Butter taught me. I learned that the food I put into my body does impact my energy levels, how I feel and how I function. I learned about vitamins and what they can do for your mind. I learned how to do hot yoga, barre fitness, kickboxing, TRX and boot camp workouts. I learned that being 'healthy' is so much more than green smoothies and salmon for dinner; it's how you approach your life. Most of all, I learned that living a healthy lifestyle and being balanced is more about shifting your mentality from thinking you can't to believing you can - and committing yourself to that belief. 

Before I started working with Vanessa, I was always living in extremes. I either took on way too much or nothing at all. No matter which extreme I was in at the time, I never made time for what is most important: my health. Working with a Health Coach helped me recognize my unhealthy patterns. Having another person to hold me accountable - helped me correct them.

When I started my 'Challenge,' I was approaching it like a finishline - a deadline I would reach and become healthy. The truth is, it's a never-ending journey - and one that I am eager to continue! Throughout my '50 Day Sweat and Butter Challenge,' I learned more about health than I ever thought I would know. I strengthened muscles and qualities in myself that have changed me as a person. With Vanessa's help, I was able to escape a really dark place in my life and regain my balance.

Most people gauge success stories in measurements: pounds lost, inches shed, muscles built. But it's really not about the changes in the 'after' photo at all. In fact, what makes a story a 'success' has nothing to do with what you lose, and everything to do with what you gain.

 Kalin Alberts, Pittsburgh, PA

I graciously thank you Kalin: for the opportunity to work together, and for you having the courage to share your story to insprire others. You can reach Kalin to hear more about her experience or ask her your questions at and check out her entire program photo journal on instagram @kalinspiration.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why Prioritizing Your Relationship is Actually Hurting It

Break-up Bucket Lists were going viral this week, listing the top 50 things to do after a break up or divorce. Alongside the obvious suggestions like speed dating, dating people outside of your type and one night stands are some other items that concerned me. They include ideas like: take a trip alone, buy flowers for myself, meditate, get a massage, swim in the ocean naked, learn to say no, learn to say yes and many more. 

The lists suggest a very true and unhealthy common relationship behavior. In an attempt to prioritze the relationship or our partner, we stop doing things for ourselves and by ourselves. Instead, we absorb into the relationship and sort of merge into one person. In doing so, we leave behind the little mini passions and interests that we had at the start. 

My husband travels for work two weeks at a time, spending a week at home in between. When he's home, I try to rearrange my schedule so that I have maximum time for him. ​On his most recent trip home, we got into a bit of an argument over a comment he made about me not spending enough time working. Unaware that I had rearranged my schedule for him, he assumed our week of lounging and eating out was my norm. I was hurt and offended that he didn't appreciate my hard work or efforts to make time for him. Feeling unappreciated, it dawned on me, though, that we all clear our schedules for our partners in little ways all the time. While we do it out of love, it often goes unnoticed by ourslves and our loved ones. 

Whether it's waking up early to pack everyone's​ lunches instead of meditate, or saying​ 'no' to some much needed alone time when your partner is off of work, we regularly make small sacrifices to our own growth and life for the benefit of our relationships. Even deciding just a few nights a week to bask in the comfort of your loved ones and your couch instead of going to that book club or yoga class compiles over the years to mute our passions and stifle our own personal growth. 

Years go by and we realize that somewhere along the way, we lost ourselves. Whether or not that leads to the end of your relationship with your partner or your kids, it certainly leads to a damaged relationship with yourself. We wake up bored, overweight and unfulfilled and wonder where the excitement disappeared to.

Relationships, marriage and parenthood aren't destinations at which we arrive and hang up our personalities and personal growth for a rainy day when you're single. They are partnerships we must enter into with the agreement to cultivate three relationships at a time​:​ y​our own, your partner's and your relationship as a couple. Though compromises are inevitable, there must always be room for your your needs as an individual. You must cultivate your own passions and relationships so you feel as energized in the relationship as you did when you started it.  Keep the mystery of having two lives alive, the way it was when you first met. 

This week, make your own Bucket List--the 5 or 10 or 50 things you have been pushing aside because of your relationship. Do you really need to be single to pursue most of them? Probably not. Choose one or two that you can easily accomplish this week or this month, and go for it. Notice how pursuing your passions--whether they're cooking a meal, meeting up with a friend, or trying something bigger--deepens your sense of self. How does that change what you offer your relationship with your partner? I bet you have a friend that should read this: pass it on!

Monday, December 22, 2014

3 Reasons Why Restricting Junk Food is Actually Bad For Your Health

Have I finally lost it? Have Christmas cookies taken over my brain (I wish!)?

With the holidays in full swing the treats are a'plenty and the preparation for reluctant New Year's resolutions will be in full swing a week from now. (read here about how to set killer resolutions)

I want to challenge you to shift your thinking when it comes to junk food. Abandon the 'all or nothing' mentality and just eat the food, and enjoy it. 

Here are the top 3 reasons why deprivation and restriction ruin your health and 8 steps to eat junk without derailing and gaining weight

1) Deprivation increases your brain's reward response to food

This means that if you restrict food from your diet, your brain will actually react more strongly (pleasurably) when you finally do eat it than it did when you cut it out in the first place. A study by the Oregon Research Institute found that "abstaining from food intake for longer durations of time increases the reward value of food, which may lead to poor food choices when the individual eventually does eat." Though this study specifically evaluates overall calorie restriction, many attempts to restrict a particular food, like sugar, coincide with an overall restriction of food in an attempt to lose weight. Bad move. Restriction is almost impossible to keep up (thanks to our Amygdala) and will likely cause you to overeat when you finally cave. And you will cave.

2) You likely eat more junk than you believe you do

Most of us have a pretty poor memory when it comes to what we eat. What did you eat for breakfast today? How about yesterday? What about lunch four days ago? We think that we're keeping good mental track of our food intake, but in reality, we remember very little about what we eat day to day. We do remember the feelings and emotions we associate with food. For  example, if you are always telling yourself that you shouldn't eat sugar, you're more likely to believe that you don't eat very much sugar. So when you come face to face with that snowman cupcake, you're more likely to indulge because you honestly believe that "you never do this." The best way to find out how true that really is, is to keep a food journal for three weeks. You'll likely be surprised at how often you really do indulge. Which leads to reason three.

3) Restriction leads to all or nothing/binge cycles 

The game looks a little like this: You stress often about not eating junk and so you tell yourself and believe that you rarely indulge. So when you finally do allow yourself, you eat
 way more than you otherwise would because "you never do this" and aren't "going to do it again any time soon." So instead of eating one bowl of ice cream, you eat the entire pint so it's not there tomorrow. Wouldn't want to eat it two days in a row, now would you? While you're at it, why bother working out? No amount of reps at the gym tonight are going to burn that off. We'll call this day a loss. But shit, now you've eaten the entire pint of ice cream and skipped the gym, so you feel guilt and shame. Enter the new motivation and self loathing. You're not going to do that anymore, are you? From now on, no more ice cream. Do not pass GO, do not collect two hundred dollars, go right back to the beginning and get your ass back into body jail. Sometimes these cycles can last days and some can last for months, gaining tens of pounds in the binge/nothing phase.

So if you want to lose weight and you're not supposed to deprive yourself of the foods that make you fat, how are you supposed to eat junk and still lose weight?

Here are 8 tips to eat whatever you want without going overboard and gaining weight:

1. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want

Much of our desire to eat crap comes from telling ourselves that we're never allowed to do it. Our inner rebel wants to eat it just because we're not supposed to. Let up a little on your tight grip and watch the desire diminish.

2. Eliminate the concept of "cheating" and "rewards"

Similarly to number one, "cheating" and "rewarding" yourself with the same food is a big of a mind mess. Instead of cheat days, just eat the food if you want it so badly. Just make sure you enjoy it. Instead of rewarding yourself with junk, reward yourself with healthy habits, like a massage or manicure. Indulge when you want, reward yourself with some great non-food treats and you will eliminate the confusion.

3. Cultivate a relationship of caring for your body, not fighting it

Despite how it may feel, your stomach fat isn't out to ruin your life. Your body is a physical manifestation of the choices you make and belief system that you hold. Your current form is your body's best efforts to maintain itself despite crash diets, binge drinking and constant bad mouthing from your brain. Cut your gut a little slack. Instead, try to work in partnership with your body. If you're not feeling your best, take a step back and evaluate what you can do to better care for your soul's temple. Your body craves nutrients, and responds well when it gets them on the regular.

4. When you do indulge, really indulge

Upgrade your junk food. You can indulge in chips, ice cream and beer without eating Doritos, Little Debbie and Miller Lite. Try exploring the aisles of Whole Foods and make the switch to gourmet, hand made ice cream sandwiches, baked chips and organic craft beers. The price tag is usually higher, which means you'll buy less of them and probably less often. If your ice cream sandwich is five dollars, you'll probably just buy one, which means you can't eat the whole box. But holy crap are they delicious and worth every single calorie, bite and penny.

5. Add healthy foods in before or after, even if you're full

Eat more?! Junk food doesn't provide your body with any nutrients. Eating high sugar and salt foods that lack nutrients sends your body into crave-mode. Your body has to communicate that it isn't getting what it needs but can't tell you that it's time for a dose of magnesium. So you begin to crave in hopes that you'll eventually eat something with nutrients. So even if you've already had pizza and ice cream, choke down a green smoothie or a salad so that your body still gets what it needs. This will prevent you from continuing to eat junk for three more days. 

Bonus tip: do this before you eat the junk and you'll eat even less.

6. Continue with other healthy habits after, instead of deciding that you've failed

Accept gourmet indulgences as part of your routine. Deciding that these foods are just as much a part of your life as the healthy ones can be transformational. When you accept indulgence as reality, you eliminate the feeling of the need to be constantly starting your diet over. This is critical for breaking the all or nothing/binge cycle. After indulging, keep going on your merry, healthy way. Take out the trash and hit the gym. Business as usual here, folks.

7. Add some luxury non food indulgences

Binge on luxury indulgences instead of food from time to time. Get a massage with a friend, buy a $50 candle, organic body products or shower balls. Work a little more pampering and self-care into your routine and your need to binge on junk food will depreciate accordingly. A hot shower with a lavender shower ball trumps a pint of Ben and Jerry's any day. Ok that's a flat out lie, but it definitely does from time to time.

8. Maintain some non-negotiables

Junk or no junk, binge or not, add these ingredients to your "Non-negotiable, I will never eat" list. Hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners and artificial coloring. These foods are 100% toxic crap. In fact, they're not even food. Hydrogenated oils interfere with your body's ability to control hunger, metabolism and weight regulation. Each type of artificial sweetener comes packaged with its own toxic aftershock and artificial colors carry numerous health impacts. See a comprehensive list and health affects here.

When it comes down to it, eating junk is a part of life. Parties will always have sugary snacks and not all of your friends will be down to go to Whole Foods for lunch. The sooner you can make peace with this reality, the faster you will be on your way to joyfully accepting the balance of indulgence without derailing and losing weight for good. Turns out, you can have your cake and eat it too, just maybe not the whole thing.

Happy Holidays!

With love,


Monday, December 1, 2014

3 Steps to Owning Your Resolutions This Year

The New Year always feels like a fresh start. When that ball drops, anything seems possible. That energized, “I can tackle anything,” mentality is like a high you know you’ll ride to all the way to your happiest, fittest self. For those first few sweet weeks, 5am doesn’t seem too early for the gym, sugar doesn’t even taste as sweet and those old bad habits seem to have stayed in hibernation.

Enter February. That jerk knocks you right off that pretty little high you’ve been riding and stomps your goals into the frozen mud under a grey Pittsburgh sky. “Four weeks in this year,” you think. “Not bad. Next year for sure.”

It’s time to break the cycle. 2015 is the year that you’re going reach your goals. It took you a lifetime to build the habits that you have. The decision and will to change are a great start, but they likely won’t carry you all the way to the finish line. To make sure you reach your goals this year, follow these three simple steps. Let’s use weight loss as the example.

1.      Identify the what – then figure out the why
The motivation to change can make or break your commitment to your goal. Weight loss will only motivate you for so long. The underlying reason you want to lose weight is the prize you win for reaching your goal. The goal itself is usually not enough to motivate you to make long term sacrifices to your sleep, or to step away from unhealthier foods and habits that you’re comfortable with. To find your underlying reason for change, state your goal and then ask yourself why you want to achieve it three times. The progression might look something like this:

Goal (what): I want to lose ten pounds.
Why 1: I want to feel better in my clothes and out of them.
Why 2: I want to feel more confident about the way I look.
Why 3: So that when I’m out with friends, I can focus more on what I’m doing than how I look when I do it.

The outward goal is to lose ten pounds but the real motivation and true desire is to feel self expressed in every interaction without the distraction of worrying about your outward appearance.

2.      Once you have the ‘why,’ work backwards to discover the ‘how’
Once you know what you want, it’s easy to make the decision to change everything in order to get there. In doing this, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s incredibly difficult to change many things at once and stick with it. Instead, once you’ve identified where you’d like to ultimately be, identify one or two things that you can do in the next two weeks to get you closer. Going back to the example of losing ten pounds, assuming you aren’t currently exercising, a reasonable change in the next two weeks might be to exercise once or twice each week. Once you feel comfortable with one step, you can increase it, or add another. The aim is to build a foundation of small changes that will get you closer to your goal without completely overhauling your life in the short term. This method is unnerving to some, as making small changes over time may mean delaying the instant gratification of greater change in the short term. Making small changes over a longer period of time however, is more effective in creating habits that will enable you to reach your goals and maintain your new lifestyle habits in the long term. 

3.      Forget failure
The only way to fail is to quit trying. Abandon the idea of failure, forget cheat days and ditch deprivation. Although change requires discipline, it requires even more flexibility. There are going to be weeks where everything works out and you get closer to your goal by the minute. There will also be many days where nothing goes right and you feel like you’ll never get there. The key is to shift your mentality around the latter. If you view each messy day as a failure, you’re much more likely to abandon your efforts. When you adopt the mentality of flexibility, the off days aren’t as big a deal because you know you can do better your next meal and that tomorrow is another day to hit the gym. The more you allow yourself room to mess up without the mental beating you’re used to, the more likely you are to keep going. 

Remember that the decision to make changes to your lifestyle can be intimidating and sometimes isolating. Making smaller changes and having patience with your progress can help reduce the stress around making these changes. Feel the fear and keep going. 

How will you make your goals work for you this year?

Monday, November 17, 2014

You can meditate (yes you can) - Guest blog: Get Me to Zen

Stress has a major influence on our overall health and happiness. It's an ongoing subject of study in both the medical and nutrition world and something we fight to manage on a daily basis. Reducing and managing stress is a huge component in Sweat and Butter's coaching programs and we use a variety of different techniques to help clients reduce and manage the stress in their lives and bodies. 
Here is the thing about managing stress. Like nutrition, there is no "right" way to do it. There are approaches that everyone can benefit from like eating nutritious foods, getting more restful sleep and moving your body. There are however, many other strategies to incorporate and some may resonate better than others with your schedule and personality. 
My guest blogger today touches on a topic that many of us have tried, or perhaps are afraid to try: meditation. We often view this as reserved for only those who are already enlightened, or zen. It seems too hard, or that we are too far from "the kind of person" who meditates. She believes fully that everyone deserves and needs a little more zen in their lives and shares it through her blog, Get Me to Zen
Her words of wisdom and tips have helped me get a little close to being "the kind of person that meditates" and continues to teach me that everyone is, in fact, that kind of person. 
Without further delay, let's all take a step closer to Zen...
How to Meditate - Get Me to Zen

Many people think they don't have the temperament for meditation...they may have tried it briefly only to give up, or simply see it as an esoteric discipline without application to their lives.  It's unfortunate, because meditation is a simple way for everyone to access life fully and deeply. 
Meditation - The very name conjures mystical states of being, a higher plane of existence, a peaceful, better life.  But for most of us in the ‘go-go’ western world of always being connected and always pushing and striving for more of...well just about anything, we just can’t imagine devoting the time required to master the discipline of meditation.  Everyone has 4 minutes a day...even a busy mom like myself.  I meditate every day and I allow myself those 4 minutes. 

You do not need to always sit on the floor.  In fact, since I am now in the end of pregnancy I actually sit up straight on my bed and meditate there.  I realize that it's not easy for everyone to get down on the floor and there are many different types of meditation.  
How to Meditate
  1. Sit with a straight back.  Don’t try to meditate lying down because you are likely to fall asleep.  Meditation brings relaxation and peace but at the same time this is a dynamic peace.  Meditation is quite different than the relaxation of sleep.  When we really meditate, we are fully alert and conscious.  Our sense of awareness is heightened.  Afterwards you’ll have a positive feeling for the world and a renewed sense of dynamism.
  2. Try not to eat a heavy meal before meditating.  After consuming a large amount of food your body will be lethargic with digestion.
  3. It is not necessary to mediate in the lotus posture.  It is fine to meditate in a chair (or on your bed) as long as the back is straight.
  4. Burning incense and having a candle are not necessary, but they can add a little extra inspiration.
  5. It is good to meditate early in the morning.  It is said the best time is 3am, although, I feel it is more important to be awake and not sleepy, I try to meditate while my son is napping or before he wakes up.  
Usually, the mind tries to hold several different thoughts and ideas at once.  When you sit down to meditate for the first time, you realize how cluttered the mind is.  Mediation teachers have described the mind as a “mad monkey”.  However, the mind can be tamed and forced to concentrate on a single thought.

One helpful technique I learned from Gabby Bernstein is concentrating on a candle flame.  Narrow your gaze to the small tip and block out all other thoughts.  When you get distracted, go back to focusing on the candle flame.  You can also use other objects like a small dot or flower.  The important thing is that you concentrate only on one thing at a time. 
Meditation has helped me in so many areas of my life.  Through decision making, divorce, illness, and peace.  I truly hope this article has inspired you to be kind to yourself and adopt a regular meditation practice.   

Here are a couple of ladies who have helped me with my meditation practice and who continue to inspire me: 

Carmela is freelance writer/social media expert. Growing up with a power lifting father and mother who cooked nutritious meals daily for their family, she values the importance of healthy living.  She believes fitness and nutrition are a guide to living life to the fullest. Implementing better eating habits and a personal exercise routine into your daily life will allow your inner beauty and joy to shine through.  Juggling career, family, and life can be chaotic.  To keep from feeling burnt out, she tries to always keep a sense of humor, practice daily meditation and yoga, a stress relieving sweat session, and offer her perspective on her zen inspired blog,

Carmela is scheduled for Level 1 Yoga Teacher Training this coming February 2015.    

Monday, November 3, 2014

Stop Being a Bitch and Chase Your Wild Rabbit

I'd like to share a powerful realization that I had recently with you.  

I was wrapping up a long day of working on Sweat and Butter feeling totally depleted. There was a lot of self talk going on. A lot. I was packing up my laptop telling myself that it was a wasted day. That I didn't get enough done. I was angry with myself for not making more connections, not being efficient enough. I started to question whether or not I was actually smart enough, hard working enough or had it in me to work for myself. I chalked it up to spending too much time behind my computer and decided to shut down and go to a yoga class.  

Half way through the class, the instructor shared the following Zen proverb. I wanted to cry. Literally, I was choking back tears in my downward facing dog. It hit me:  

I was doing the same thing to my business that I used to do to my body. I was being a total bitch.

Let me share the proverb with you.  

"Before Enlightenment:  chop wood, carry water;  
After Enlightenment:  chop wood, carry water.
Break life down into the simplicity of the present moment.  We do not live in the present moment. We carry our past forward with us, we yearn for something in the future and all the time we miss what is in front of us at all times.  Life is beautiful right in front of us at every moment.  When we maintain a mindful presence with our simple tasks we begin to view them as a valuable contribution to ourselves as well as those around.  Focusing on this moment right now removes the mind from drifting to wants, needs, desires...all driven by the mind in search of attachment.  With attachment comes suffering.  When we allow ourselves to appreciate our accomplishments we feel good about ourselves and more at peace.  
You are living enlightenment right now, but you need to open up to it.  Enlightenment does not change you, it only expands your awareness to understand the truth of reality.  You remain very much the same. The only difference is that peace is the vibration you give out to the world." 

Way back before my health coaching days, I would criticize myself all day 'err day about how fat I was, how much I sucked at sticking to diets, for being too lazy to work out. I was never fit enough or thin enough. I woke up thinking about all the foods I wasn't going to eat that day, and went to bed lamenting over all of those foods that I ended up eating anyway. Once I healed my relationship with food, I began to nurture and support my body and heart. Over a few years, I cultivated a more loving and supportive relationship and my journey, and body shifted. I maintain a healthy lifestyle because I am loving and forgiving of the days where I'm too tired to exercise, and too lazy to cook. I don't shame myself for failure every time, and therefore, am encouraged to keep moving.  

What I didn't realize until that moment in my yoga class was that I had substituted my business for my body. I often forget to break down my life into the simplicity of the moment, the joy of the daily tasks I need to do in order to build a business that I am passionate about and love. I get caught up in the immediate outcome of the marketing task I am doing instead of being present and embracing what an honor it is to work with clients and help them build their lives and bodies in a nurturing and supportive way. Instead I found myself obsessing over where I wasn't. Like in the proverb, I was yearning for something in the future, missing the gift that was in front of me.  

It was such a powerful moment, to realize that while I healed my relationship so much with my body, I had inserted that unhealthy self-talk somewhere else. The joy is in the journey and we can only appreciate that when we're not always focused on the outcome. Tweet it! As in building Sweat and Butter, the joy of creating a body and life you love is not for the weight you will lose, but for the energy and health you build in the process. The weight will come off no matter what, and my business will continue to grow when nurtured with love and encouragement.  

I want to leave you with this short video. Your wild rabbit is your pursuit, whatever it may be. As you get closer, the wild rabbit speeds up and shifts direction. Like your goals, whether weight or something else, as you get closer, your needs shift. As you get stronger, you push your goal further back so that you can prove to yourself that you can reach higher.  

I say this with the most sincerity: I hope you never catch your wild rabbit.  

I challenge you, and myself to remember that the fun is in the pursuit. Enjoy the simplicity of the present moment and that while we are ever shifting and changing, ultimately, as the proverb states, the goal is to remain the same and in doing so, live in the vibration of your peace.

Share with me, what's your wild rabbit?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saying Goodbye to My Yellow Backpack

Ten years ago in high school, my then (and now!) best friend, Susanna, gave me this yellow Northface backpack.

At the time, I needed a new one and couldn't afford the then-trendy Northface packs being sported around school. When she gave it to me, it was practically new. Sue is and has always been there to help me out and keep me organized and on top of everything, even down to having a cool backpack.
The bag supported me and my books throughout high school, college and grad school. While I've never really been attached to stuff, something about that bag connected with me and I carried it for years. When I graduated grad school, I went traveling for 3 years around the world. I packed a traveling bag with clothes and my yellow Northface with the essentials I wanted close by.
Backpacking, for a long period of time shaped me and taught me things about myself that I was desperate to learn. There's a community among backpackers in which only the genuine are accepted, and the genuine are instantly accepted and loved. Lifelong friendships are formed in weeks and it seems that there are no outsiders. You can arrive in a hostel one day, and the next, be surrounded by a group of people you never want to leave. With each good bye, I packed my yellow bag and ventured to new hostels, new countries and met wonderful new friends. Some of those friends lasted as long as my stay, while some recently made the journey across the world to be at my wedding.
Traveling reinforced so many things about my personality that I knew, but were reinforced: adapting to change and new environments, chasing adventure, and working hard (more on that another day). What I didn't expect to learn though was how much stock I put in what other people thought of me at home. And how compelled I felt to measure up to what everyone else had or was doing. Without the pressure to have trendy, new stuff, I carried around my beat up old bag without giving it thought. No one commented on it and I never felt weird carrying it around. To be fair, most backpackers carried beat up old bags, but even still, you might know someone for weeks before they even asked you what you did for work back home. Because only the genuine survived in the backpacking world, anyone trying to be someone they weren't just to fit in, stood out and had a tough time connecting. This environment cultivated a true connection and a real appreciation for who I was. For probably the first time in my life, I was 100% myself all of the time. When you're truly connected with who you are, your inner voice and deeper desires connect with your thought process and have a much louder voice and provide a guidance that you simply can't ignore.

That inner voice was yelling for me to move back home and start the health coaching practice that would become Sweat and Butter.  I had been coaching clients along my travels but felt driven to come home and build a community that would guide and inspire them, as my travels had done for me. With me, I brought my yellow backpack. My first year home, I carried that thing around like a kid with a blanky. I carried it fearlessly to workshops, client sessions and corporate meetings.
Recently, I've become increasingly self conscious about walking into meetings with my beat up yellow bag. I went back and forth between, "It's me they're meeting, not my bag," to "First impressions mean a lot." Trading in my bag for a newer, more professional Michael Kors seemed like a betrayal to the powerful self confidence I gained on my travels. True to my ‘all or nothing’ tendencies, I attributed letting go of my bag to erasing everything I learned on my journey. I felt like moving home and fitting into trends meant that I had to let go of the confidence I carried with my Northface.
As my business grows, it is becoming more and more important to support my clients to stay true to themselves by staying true to myself in my practice. I encourage my clients to "fit out.”  What I've discovered in my struggle to let go of my bag is that you aren't defined by what you own or how you look. I preach it all of the time, and yet, fall prey to it myself from time to time anyway. What I didn't realize is that you can become equally defined by what you choose not to do, if the reason not to do something is out of fear of change and refusal to let go.
So today I ask you to bid my bag farewell with me. Across thousands of miles and over dirty floors, buses and business meetings, my bag has served its purpose.
Sibe on a bus with my bag. Ok, So we weren’t always slumming it.
As the zippers fall open unintentionally, and my belongings fall out on the sidewalk, my bag sending me a message. Move on, keep growing, and find a new bag to carry these changes through the next phase.

And as I move on, and my life continues to grow and change, my needs and my bag will too. Just like your body is always changing and it's important to not get stuck on one way of eating, your life will continue to grow and change and it's important not to get stuck on a belonging or in one way of living. Even if that way of life has served you in many ways, we're spirits born to ever shift and grow.
So share with me, what behaviors or belongings are you holding onto? Why are you holding on and what will change when you let go? 

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