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If there is one thing going to university as an adult taught me, it’s that I don’t know sh1t about sh1t.

Okay okay, I learned how to write essays and stories a lot better there too.  But my number one takeaway from post secondary was there is nearly an infinite amount of subjects one could become an expert in, of which I am an expert in none.  It was a humbling realization, of course.  But it was also freeing.  I discovered that the point wasn’t ever about having all the answers.  The point was to cultivate curiosity by continually asking questions.  And it was an excuse to practice breaking out alluring alliterations to amuse my reading audience too.  I loved it.

With some notable breaks, I’ve been on this fitness kick for 4 years now.  I love the way it has become part of who I am, and even though I definitely still struggle through periods of not wanting to move my butt at all, I love that strength training always welcomes me back with open arms.  My body feels natural doing it.  It feels joyful, playful, and empowered.  And just like refining my intellectual skills with curiosity, lifting refines my muscles by constantly asking my body questions like “can we do this?”

I’ll never finish a workout and think “That was it!  I’m now an expert and never have to lift again.”  Nope.  The questions will need to be continually posed.

Lately, I’ve been changing up some of my habits in the kitchen to adjust for my new nutrition needs.  Heading back to the drawing board about what I know/take for granted about fuelling myself.  I’m rowing and/or lifting 6 days a week right now and my body needs fuel.  For some reason for way too long I’ve been carrying around the story that I need to workout fasted early in my day.  This habit worked 4 years ago when I did a keto-like diet and my kids were small.  But since adding carbs back into my life it hasn’t been working nearly as well.  I realized this week that I’d been repeating this cycle over and over and setting myself up to fail in two ways:

1. If I didn’t manage to fast, I most often didn’t workout because it didn’t “count” as much.  Seriously Amber?  Typing that out was hard.  That’s some bull of the smelliest type.  Nonsense.

2. Working out for 60-120 minutes on an empty stomach (other than a few coffees, maybe) was not sustainable for me.  I got super hungry later, especially at night.  Binge city.  My body got tired.  My motivation and energy disappeared quickly.

What a crappy feedback loop to put myself in.  I’m actually embarrassed to admit this.  I know better!

Turns out, eating a balanced breakfast midmorning and having a basic protein shake with some veggies post workout both fuels my workouts really well AND helps me manage my hunger later on.  I’m still snacky in the evenings but it’s been easier to make more nutrient dense choices and/or exercise portion control for the more calorie dense stuff.  My energy levels are maintained throughout most of the day.  My muscles are popping as they get bigger and my body fat decreases.

I love carbs, and most importantly to me, my brain loves them.  It is so much easier to write when I eat them, which is something I value more than the body composition change that can come from cutting them out.  I’ve known this for a long time, but hadn’t stopped to consider the other habits I’d built around the no carb lifestyle that I hadn’t given up.  I’m excited to see what happens next.

My question for you today is: how much thought do you give to fuelling your workouts properly?  Do you have an pre or post workout favourites I should share with my people?  Hit reply and tell me all your secrets!

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TWERK for Anxiety

“Who are you? What words describe you? What do you wish people knew about you?”

Three questions, short in length and large in significance.  These were the ice breaker questions of a small breakout session during last year’s Women’s Fitness Summit.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love ice breakers?  So awkward!  So uncomfortable for me!  So full of growth opportunities!

And because I’m super great in front of new people and also super lucky, I went first out of our group of about 15 women.  After flushing completely and wiping my palms, I stammered out something along the lines of this:

“I’m Amber.  I identify as “the mother”, not just of my own children but for other people in my life.  I try to love people unconditionally.  I’m sometimes the life of the party, [side note truthbomb: This is a way I sometimes deal with my insecurities in groups,  usually with the help of booze].  I talk about feelings a lot, and try to say things other people are afraid to say.  What I’d like people to know about me is that I am scared pretty much all the time.”

The last sentence strangling out of my throat sounding more like a subversive sob than something I meant to say.

And then I apologized for the outburst.  Because you know, shame on me for feeling feelings.  [This exchange was the final one in my history of apologizing for my tears, which I wrote a newsletter about last fall!]

But what I didn’t say? Is that I’m still afraid that I don’t actually belong in this space, or most spaces to be honest. I’m scared that once people get to know me they’ll be let down and/or see the truth.  And that the reason I am included in these events and groups at all is because I have value as a customer. Yes. I’ve managed to convince myself at multiple points along this RRM project that the reason there is room for me at these tables has more to do with my pocket book than my person.

Oh, the crazy stories we tell ourselves.

I’ve learned as an adult (after diagnosis, medication, and therapy) that this is the voice of my anxiety in action, always threatening to rise above the constant whisper of “what are you DOING?  You suck!  Here are all the reasons you were awful yesterday/last week/last month/4 years ago.  Why would anyone want to hear from you?”

Now when those whispers turn into a roar I have some strategies to meet and move past it.  And because my heart is light by nature but I sometimes need a reminder to lighten up, I’ve named this system working my TWERK.

Twerk 200x300 TWERK for Anxiety

If I start to feel like my anxiety and/or depression is going to swallow me whole I check into my twerk:

Talk – Shame stories can’t survive in the light, and talking about them shines a spotlight right on them.  So reach out.  Call a friend or loved one.  Write a post in your journal or in your corner of the internet.  We live in a world that allows us to connect in ways never before possible.  Use them!  Your people are out there and waiting to support you.  Find them!  Hit comment and tell me.  I am your people.

Work – Sometimes this means writing.  Sometimes it means moving my body.  Sometimes it means cleaning my house or fixing something.  Sometimes it means shaking my booty and actually twerking.  Just a little action in any of these parts of my life can give the confidence boost and momentum needed to start feeling better.

Eat – Vegetables.  Come on Amber.  Coffee is not a food group.

Rest/Recovery – Elevated cortisol levels from lack of time spent sleeping and recovering is a huge factor hampering healthy living efforts.  So while our first instinct when the unworthy voices creep in is to DO ALL THE THINGS EVEN HARDER, it is entirely possible that we actually need to sleep and recover more, not less.

Kindness, always.  If I’m struggling to be kind to the woman in the mirror, I focus it outward.  Because you can’t lift another person up without gaining a little boost yourself.

This system is easy to remember with it’s silly name, and it works as a touchstone to ground us back in our best lives.  It’s fairly simple to determine which area is lacking and focus some intention there. If I find myself unwilling or unable to address any of these TWERK points, I know it’s time to talk to my doctor about some additional resources and support.  There is no shame in my mental health game.

If you’ve stuck with me during this wordy post that took me an impossibly long time to write (we’re talking weeks here), I thank you and would love to hear from you if you have a second and are into it.  Hit reply on my Facebook page or comment here and tell me your answers to the icebreaker questions:

“Who are you? What words describe you? What do you wish people knew about you?”

Looking forward to learning about you.

Amber

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Let’s Get Big Together. I Dare You.

Today is the day, the Bigness Project is finally for sale for the masses to get massive.

And it is so reasonably priced, $39 for the basics and then a couple of higher price points for a cardio add on and a nutrition protocol. If you’ve got any interest in building muscle at all, jump on this deal. I absolutely loved the program and the changes to my body and attitude while I did it.

So much in fact, that I’m getting ready to do it again from week 1.

It’s a tricky space to navigate sometimes, this intersection I’ve found myself in between body positivity and fitness. There are people who don’t believe that those two concepts belong together, like the idea of loving your body exactly as it is today is somehow contradicted by moving it purposefully because you want to take care of it.

Like coming from love is somehow the wrong kind of motivation.

Like the only reason we should workout is to be less, not more.

Those people are crazy.

And as a tiny voice in a sea of not-good-enough messaging this work feels like an uphill battle sometimes.

But every now and then, I find a beacon of sanity, positivity, and hope for women’s strength and empowerment through movement. And it often has Jen Sinkler’s name all over it.

The Bigness Project is the first program I’ve ever tried designed for improving aesthetics, but not focused on fat loss. And I am OBSESSED with my new, rounder, more defined muscles since doing Kourtney’s workouts.

IMG 9012 300x300 Lets Get Big Together.  I Dare You.

I’m about to start the program over again and am looking for some company. So if you purchase the Bigness Project through my link shoot me an email and let me know you’re in. If I get enough interest I’m thinking about opening up a free 14 week Bigness Project accountability group. I won’t be doing any coaching (since you know, this isn’t my baby and all), but I will be there encouraging and sharing my own progress through my second round of it.

This program is challenging. It’s fun. And the results speak for themselves. Let’s look like we lift together, shall we?

Join me!

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OK OK, I know, it’s frowned upon to identify a person by their body type. And I certainly don’t walk about my life with the identity ‘plus-sized’ hanging like a neon sign over my head. But this is my blog and my 2017 motto is ‘I DO WHAT I WANT’, so here we are.

The fact remains that I do wear plus sized clothing.

And I am a certified personal trainer.

Therefore, I am in fact, a plus-sized trainer.

Which is something I admittedly had trepidation to own until recently. But as one of the founding members of the Body Positive Fitness Alliance, Danielle Sonnier Lohmann, summed up so succinctly in a recent Instagram post:

ThankYou 300x300 Three Great Reasons to Consider a Plus Sized Trainer

 

“My body is not a billboard for my skill set.”  It does not reflect the considerable amount of time and energy I’ve worked toward honing my craft.  It does not reflect my education, or the successes of the more than 1000 women I cycled through my various coaching programs in 2016 alone.

With that being said, being a trainer with a plus sized body affords me a special kind of insight into the challenges some plus sized women face when it comes to movement.  Here are the top three reasons I can think of, plus a super giant bonus reason, to consider a plus sized trainer.

  1. I won’t make you do burpees

Well, that might not be entirely true. Because if your fitness level is on the advanced side and you actually enjoy them, I will absolutely include them in your program. But in most cases for my beginner exercisers, assigning burpees is entirely inappropriate.

For one they are tough and require enough strength, mobility, and power to execute two explosive movements, which is not the right place for a sedentary person to begin.

And I’m not really in the business of hurting people or setting them up for frustration by giving them exercises beyond their current level of fitness.

Because despite popular belief, my job as a trainer is not to kick your ass into oblivion, but rather to encourage you to move it safely.

I’m more likely to have you start with squat progressions, from body weight to weighted. And I’ll have you pressing dumbbells above your head in no time as well. Soon enough, we’ll combine those movements into a squat and press, eventually linking them together more explosively in a thruster.  And then burpees.  Maybe.

When your body is ready.

  1. I understand the unique challenges of moving with extra body fat

I know what it feels like to struggle tying your shoes, what it’s like to be exhausted from dressing a toddler, what it feels like to be out of breath at the top of the stairs.

And I know how to turn it around with gentle, safe, sane, and fun movement. Showing women how to take back their health from a loving perspective is my jam because I’ve lived it.  Hating yourself thin has never worked, but loving yourself healthy is entirely possible and the best gift you could give yourself.

  1. I can provide visual examples of what a plus sized body looks like exercising

It probably goes without saying, but most of the examples we have of women exercising are very lean people. But body diversity is amazing, and seeing examples of different body types doing hard things can be empowering and motivating.

I’m literally showing you that this body can do it, and yours can too.

  1. Super giant bonus! I know where all the best plus sized gear is at

From sports bras to funky leggings to cheeky tanks and tees, I can point you toward tried and tested brands with great fit, inclusive sizing, and affordable gear.

Ready to give it a shot?  Registration for the RRM 366 is now open until January 15th.

FIND ALL THE DETAILS HERE.

Until next time,

Amber

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Seen Supported Loved Challenged

It’s December, and I feel pulled back and pushed forward simultaneously by the sights, sounds, and smells of the season.   The urge to reflect is high, just like the urge to plan.  Do you feel the opposing pulls too?

Today I find myself doing exactly that.  Feeling the pulls.  Examining them.  Peeking into the future with a mix of fear and delight, longing and unease, waxing and waning anxiety and peace.  Looking back at the path behind me, grimacing, steeling, blushing, and breathing. 

What a journey it’s been.  I’ve had some wins and I’ve had some losses.  I’ve learned how strong and loved I am. 

 And this reflection has me thinking of some of the wrong turns I’ve taken on this personal development path that have ultimately landed me in the right place.  Even though they hurt like hell when I was in the midst of them. 

 I no longer refer to this journey as a weight loss journey, since it has become so much more and weight loss hasn’t been my focus for so much of it.  I’ve lost my way and found it again multiple times.  I’ve taken some horrible advice and made some poor decisions that took a long time to work through and out of.  I’ve had to relearn everything I thought I knew about my body, my life, and my field, multiple times. 

 I’ve had lots of wins too on this path.  And I am a much more empathetic and effective coach and human because I went through the learning curve and, well, learned. 

 One excellent decision I made was to hire Jill Coleman and Maryalice Goldsmith as business coaches.  They’ve helped me refine my work and services so much in the last year.  I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to be a JillFit Ambassador for 2017.   I’ll now be representing Jill and her brand and have some unique opportunities to grow as a businessperson and a human because of it.    

 While discussing my RRM 366 launch with the Best of You group yesterday, I was asked what I most want my women to feel when they join my community.  What the outcome is, not only on a physical level but an emotional one.  And, just like most things that have to do with this program, the answer came pouring of my brain into my fingers with ease. 

 

I want my women to feel seen, supported, loved, and challenged.  Not just from me (although there will certainly be that), but from each other.  And honestly?  It is already happening in the group and we’ve only been open for a few days.  We are already a community 28 women strong, and we already lift each other up. 

When I told Maryalice that those were my intended outcomes, she asked me to explore why and to tell you about it.  She said that they were somewhat unique for someone in fitness and they said a lot about my coaching style.  She suggested I explore what influenced me to coach this way honestly with you.

You see this new thing I’ve been building, it’s somehow more of me and less of me than anything else I’ve ever done, and writing about it and creating for it has an ease to it that tells me it could be…something.  Magic.  There are no guarantees of course.  I could fall flat and fail again.  It’s happened.  It happens.  It will happen.

But then, maybe not.  Maybe not with this.

I say this project has more of me and less of me because even though I feel like I’ve never put as much time, thought, or love into something I’ve created before (other than my children, of course), it’s not actually for me.  At least, it’s not only for me.  And although I’m sure you can see the image of me in all the components, I’d rather you see your own reflection superimposed.   

This program all the things I was looking for when I started on this path, combined with the support, coaching, and community I know I needed.  It is all the best things I have to offer at an extremely affordable price.  Because I know what it’s like to long to be seen, supported, loved, and challenged, and I want you to have a safe space to be those things.  More than anything.                                                 

If you’re still reading down here, thanks again for reading my words.  For seeing me, supporting me, loving me, and challenging me.  I’ll be forever grateful.  I will pay it forward.

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Three Takeaways From Million Pound November

I took a challenge to lift a million pounds in November and put it out to my community to see if I could get a few other crazy women interested in joining me.  We end up with 13 teammates, calling ourselves the Seven Digit Swolesisters, and lifting over 3.1 million pounds collectively last month.  It was fun and challenging and eye opening! 

HealthBenefits ofOranges 200x300 Three Takeaways From Million Pound November

 

Here are my three favourite takeaways:

 

  1. I have the best people in my online community.  Of course, I’ve always had a suspicion this is true.  But this past month 13 strangers, some who were only connected to each other because they are connected to me, came together to support each other through reaching for the giant goal and it was completely inspiring.   It reinforced the need for me to create a community where more of us can connect to each other, providing me with ample fuel and motivation to keep building the RRM 366, which is almost ready!  The people that sign up for the waitlist here will have a three day window to jump into it for a 70% discount that will never be available again.  Sunday is the day, so get on over to that list if you want to take advantage of the deal!
  2. When it comes to setting goals, BIGGER is sometimes better.   In personal development, I’m all about setting achievable, manageable, realistic goals in order to set one’s self up for success.   Mostly because I’ve lived through the flip side, setting giant goals (CHANGE ALL THE THINGS.  LOSE ALL THE WEIGHT.  LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER), and then falling flat on my face time and again and sometimes taking months or even years to get the nerve to try something else.  For the last couple of years I’ve tried to scale things back a bit, instead breaking the giant goals into a group of smaller, less daunting pieces.  But as my friend and teammate Fabi wrote yesterday, sometimes this can lead to me playing things smaller than I need to.  So I’m adjusting my expectations of myself, and planning to dip my toe into some deeper waters this year to see what happens next. 
  3. I’m kind of a bad ass.  I’m allowed to say that, right?  I didn’t lift the most in our group, but I lifted a lot!  I set a personal goal of lifting 250,000 pounds and I crushed it, landing at 307,975 pounds for the month!    An average of just over 10,000 per day and definitely bragging rights around here.  And the mister thought the flexing was out of hand before. 😂

When was the last time you set an ambitious but achievable goal for a single month?  If it’s been a while, would you like to try it again soon?  I’m planning monthly themes for the RRM 366 and another million pound month is definitely in our future.  I hope you will join me!

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Does This Fat Make Me Look Fat?

Years ago I was watching a comedian wax poetic about his love life, despairing at the pressure handed to him whenever a female he was interested in having sex with would ask him “does this outfit make me look fat?”  His answer?  “No, your fat makes you look fat.”

Pretty harsh right?  This was back when I still used the word fat as a curse word, as a bitter slur that served as proof of my unworthiness.  I was offended for the (clearly fictional) female lead in this story, and all the others that would come later.  How dare he be so cruel. And how dare he be so, I don’t know…honest?  Ugh.

But something about that “joke” stuck with me for years, and if I ever found myself about to ask someone that question, I would remind myself of the answer.

Because it is the asking, not the answer, that has something to tell me about the way I am feeling.  And really, there is no right answer to that question and it IS a lot of pressure to put on someone.  These days neither “yes, that outfit makes you look fat” nor “no, that outfit makes you look skinny!” provide descriptors I care to use about my body.

Either answer is putting a lot of onus on articles of clothing to “make” you look one way or another.  When it really is best to just accept the way you look.  Full stop.

As my friend Erin teaches, neutral is a good first step.  Rather than looking at a photo and saying “ugh, my belly is TOO BIG to share this photo, try instead “this is what my body looks like in this photo.”  Or even better, “my legs/hair/lighting/whatever looks GREAT in this photo!”

If great is too much, start with neutral. This is my body.  This is my home.

And because the universe loves asking me to consider the things I believe about your inherent beauty and worthiness as they pertain to my actual physical body as well, I present to you my opportunity to do just that, exhibit A.

a5d7f501 d376 4215 b694 3b1c23858ba1 Does This Fat Make Me Look Fat?

Recently I did a photo shoot with Krista Elise Photography for my new programs that are rolling out over the next little while.  She did an excellent job and took dozens of beautiful photos including this one, of me in my favourite yoga pose.

My knee jerk reaction?  Too big around the middle to share.

But even so, my eye is drawn to the symmetry, composition, and colours.  And I can’t help but think I look strong.  Focused.  And maybe even graceful.  Not to mention, this is an accurate representation of the way I looked that day.

Could I have prepped (at all) for the photoshoot and been marginally leaner?  Surely.  But I’m not in a place where I’m willing to do that to my body or brain right now.

Could I have sucked in my stomach or been standing at a slightly more flattering angle?  Probably.  But this is the moment that she caught.  This is how I looked.  And while I am carrying more fat around my abdomen than I would like, this body is strong, capable, and powerful.

This body is healthy and I believe more people need to see bodies like it doing healthy, graceful, hard things.  Which is exactly why I’m rebranding and creating new programs for women in a much more visible way right now.

So here I am.  Yes, my belly fat makes me look like I have belly fat.  And no one died.

Thanks for reading,

Amber

PS After working out all the bugs with my beta group for the last couple of months and approximately 5,000 cups of coffee in front of my computer, I am thrilled to announce that registration for the RRM 366 is NOW OPEN!

The RRM 366 is an online social club with fun workouts, delicious meal ideas, and a kick ass community of badass women. There are workouts designed to BUILD muscle and BURN fat, ranging from 10-60 minutes and designed for beginner to advanced level exercisers.

ALL THE DETAILS HERE!

 

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I finally unpacked my suitcase from the I Am Power Retreat yesterday, and, in a turn of events that is not exactly ironic, it appears as though I am finally ready to unpack some of the lessons here, too.

Truth time: this retreat and the subsequent crash literally kicked my butt. For the first half of the week home I stood in front of my computer to work and scrolled scrolled scrolled through other people’s experiences to avoid looking at my own.

For the second half of the week I accepted that this would not be a super productive week, picked up my crochet project and put some time into making a blanket.

It was the perfect speed for my energy levels.

The crash is pretty typical after big events like this, and I’ve experienced it in varying degrees since I started seeking them out. This was by far the most dramatic. A week later and I am finally coming up for air.

I literally have dozens of takeaways from this event that are sure to inform some of my work for the near future. Here are three big ones:

“Being an empath only serves you if you can control it. You are not a vessel for other people’s problems.” – Erin Brown 300x300 3 Powerful Lessons I Brought Home from I AM POWER Retreat

  1. “Being an empath only serves you if you can control it. You are not a vessel for other people’s problems.” – Erin Brown

As someone who readily identifies as an empath, this insight was jarring at first. I feel like my compassion is a gift that helps me relate to people. What good do I have to offer if I am unable to take a bit of someone’s pain when they share their stories with me?

But my logic is faulty. Because we can’t take someone else’s pain. Ever.

And we do a disservice to the sharer if we don’t allow to them to fully experience their feelings.

The most powerful part of any story is that we survived and are right here right now for the telling. Who am I to take that from someone?

While we can’t borrow people’s pain, it is possible to borrow or channel their power. That doesn’t rob anyone’s experience, it just gives our own a little boost of empowerment when needed.

My job is to witness, to make space for other people’s stories, and to help them see their own glorious selves surviving through it. This lesson will help me be better in my work. Life changing.

 

  1. You will fight.

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My greatest fear going into the weekend was that I would freeze during the attacker drills. I talked openly with everyone I could about it, and that feeling was a common thread for all of us (with the exception of the alums).

Not one woman froze.

Given the chance, we all fought to rewrite the story we were there to rewrite. I can’t even describe the energy in the room.

Our amazing self-dense coaches Jarret and Jennie gave us the tools and stood beside us as we faced our fears. They took turns supporting us because each woman brought a lifetime of feeling to her fights, and it was a lot to handle, even for these seasoned professionals.

They handled over 80 attack scenarios with grace, knowledge, power, and vulnerability. I know I won’t be the only woman in the room to be channeling a little Jarret and Jennie in the coming days.

  1. Your body holds onto trauma like an echo. Which means you can release it if you are willing to search for it and lean in.

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An addition to the retreat this year was the work of Marcela Widrig, a spiritual, physical, and emotional embodied movement guide. Her work was part meditation, part primal and tribal awakening, part trauma healing, and part expressive/interpretive/blissful dance release.

Our second day together, Marcela guided us through an exercise where we began by picturing a triggering situation from life, and noted where in our body we hold/close in/or expand when thinking about it.

The trigger could be anything: a catcall while walking down the street, a recurring argument with your partner, a call display alert on your phone. Anything that elicited an emotional and physical response in our bodies. Anything that caused a tightening, or expanding, in response.

Then, rather than being guided to breathe through it or picture our happy places we were challenged to expand that feeling.

A lot of my physical emotional response happens in my wrists, hands, shoulders, and gut. Instead of trying to draw energy away from those points when triggered, I directed energy to them. I clenched or expanded as much as possible. Far beyond where it was comfortable, to the point that I was sure I couldn’t actually clench one second longer. And then I released it. I came back to the rest of my body calm and grounded.

I may not be doing the practice justice in my explanation, but this is something I’ve already practiced in my life that continues to work. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and exactly the opposite way I typically cope with my anxiety, which usually involves a touch of panic and frantic efforts at trying to ignore the symptoms. Leaning toward rather than away. Who knew?

If you are still down here reading, I have to thank you! As you can probably tell, I’ve got a lot to say about this experience and I hope you find it helpful too. I would love to tell you more about it or answer any questions you have about it, so please hit reply and reach out if you are curious about anything.  And if you’d like to hear more about my experience at I AM POWER Retreat, make sure you get on my newsletter list here.

 

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Her Name Was Clover

*Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Loss*

It was my birthday last week.  Which is not something I’m telling you because I expect fanfare or gifts, but rather as recognition of the familiar marker that confirms yes, more time has passed. 

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And we are still here.

If you’ve been here for a while you may remember that I chose to celebrate my birthday two years ago with my family in tow at an ultrasound appointment to see our newest member, who should have been at about 12 weeks gestation at the time.

I remember the appointment clear as day.  I was so excited, hand already naturally cradling my stomach protectively wherever I went, the soft smile that told the world I was expecting creeping across my lips each time I held her in her home.  My daughter, who was three, so eager to see her baby sister, destroying the waiting room peace with her baby brother (who wasn’t quite two), while my husband looked on in what can probably be described as an uneasy, quiet panic.

Three babies.  How were we going to manage?

I was so excited that I disregarded the nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  The whispered concern that I was feeling a little too well for the past few weeks, that my anticipated second trimester relief from the all day sickness had arrived too soon. 

So excited that I ignored the change in demeanour from the ultrasound tech as she explored my womb with her sound waves.  The tension in her voice when I asked if “the baby is cooperating” disregarded when she gave me a cautious “yes, so far.”

I even ignored the dread that started to rise and threatened to choke when she brought me back out to the waiting room to await a call from my doctor, rather than allowing my family to come in and see the miracle inside.

My doctor didn’t call.  I say “my” doctor loosely because this particular experience was the nail in the proverbial coffin for my life here in this town.  I knew that I could never be at home in a place with medical care that didn’t actually give a f*ck and no other options.    

After about an hour the clinic was closing and the ultrasound tech was forced to bring us back to that small, suffocating room and tell us the devastatingly clinical news: “the fetus has no heart beat.” 

I know she said other things too, perhaps more comforting or more clinical, I couldn’t tell you.  My heart was pumping so fast that I couldn’t hear anything but the pounding in my ears that seemed to get louder as the panic rose.

“But, it’s my birthday,” I managed to squeak out in confusion as my tears started leaking.  Like this fact made any other less true.

The minutes and months that followed are a blur.  After leaving the appointment I asked my husband to stop at a convenience store so I could buy a pack of cigarettes. Of all the vices I had fallen into in previous years, I knew smoking to be one of the worst, and I was ready to feel the worst. 

 (always outside, never near my children, hands and mouth washed and clothing removed before I got close to them)

It took me 6 months to get free of the addiction.  Again.  The worst.

I had a bottle of wine waiting at home that had been earmarked for after the birth, and I knew I would find the bottom of it sooner than later. 

I detachedly made a post on both my personal and RRM Facebook page about our loss, and was already receiving well meaning but misguided stories of hope…like if I just prayed hard enough that heartbeat she had searched so thoroughly and diligently for would somehow start again.

 I knew the truth. 

My body knew too, as soon as my brain accepted what was happening it started doing the work of the flush.  My in-laws showed up early the next day, not the first or last time they’ve showed up for me but the first time I fully realized that their definition of family includes me wholeheartedly.  The philosophy is so simple and so hard: you show up.

No matter what, you show up and hold space.

Within a couple of days what started as light spotting turned into a tidal wave, filling postpartum pads in minutes.  I was feeling weak and losing more blood than expected so my husband rushed me to the hospital.  My question to “my” doctor about what was happening was met with a cold, deadpan answer of “spontaneous abortion.”

That simple sentence rang in my ears for months.  I still hear it.

Because the blood came hard and fast and after the doctor’s regular hours he had to be called in from home to check me out.  And I guess he was in a rush to get back home because he told me he needed to see my cervix, but couldn’t because of all the blood, so he manually removed the tissue from my vagina (without warning or pain killers) to clear a path.

 It took about 15 minutes of excavating life and home lost to find what he was looking for.  It was painful and humiliating, with echoes of other trauma that rang out under the harsh fluorescent lights. 

I was naked from the waist down; drifting out of my body to escape what was happening inside of it.  More proof my body had betrayed me.  More proof that this doctor was not mine.

The hospital bed, room, and bathroom looked like an accident scene, which I guess was fitting.  The elderly nurse (who was lovely, btw) told me she “had never seen it happen this way” amongst her assurances that it was all completely normal.  Just, uncommon.  A unicorn miscarriage or something.  

The physical trauma would take months to heal, the emotional, mental, and hormonal, much longer.  I still feel at times as though I’m a walking wound.  Raw.

A reminder I am alive.

I had some amazing friends offer support during this time.  Women I knew, women I didn’t, all reaching out with some of the most comforting words in the English language: “me too” and, “I’m here.” 

More than a few told me that however I needed to heal was exactly what I should do, but that naming her (I was always so sure she was a girl) might help. 

So when I was ready and convinced it would help me I named her Clover, a name that my sister-in-law had suggested months before that always felt right.  It started with a C and ended with an ‘r’ sound just like my other two children’s names.   Robin wasn’t crazy about it but I thought I had time to sway him.  

I have all the time.

 Clover was the name of the daughter of George and Louise Boldt, a couple whose tragic love story had captured the imaginations and hearts of Robin and I so much years before that we were married in their castle. 

Clover.  I wonder if in my mind’s eye she will always be a pigtailed toddler running through a grassy meadow filled with daisies?  From the moment I learned she was gone that is the picture I’ve painted. Will it last?  Time will tell.

Today, two years later, I still feel a hole in my life where she would have fit perfectly.  We decided in the months that followed that my childbearing days were over.  Honestly, this experience broke my heart and my body and it took a long time to heal (still counting).  I can’t risk having to live through it again.  I don’t want to risk it.

My daughter still asks questions about her sister (she was also convinced we were having a girl) and what happened and where she is now.  These are usually the times the grief sneaks up on me and I suppose I am ok with that in some sort of masochistic sense. 

I do and don’t regret telling my three year old about the baby that went to the angels early.  I wish I could have spared her the confusion and pain, but I’m glad she had a little understanding about why I was grieving.   I think it may have been more confusing to her if mommy just suddenly got weird for unexplained reasons. 

This was one of my first opportunities to show her that life is hard but we will feel the feelings and hug the hugs and be ok on the other end. And as one of my new favourite writers Glennon Doyle Melton says, grief is proof that we loved.

Both of my children soothed my soul.  Their little hearts held space and their little arms held me and I am so incredibly blessed to be their mama.

I apologize if this piece finds you and causes any sort of pain.  It is certainly not my intention.  But when I asked my inner circle about which stories I’ve told that impacted them most, a few women reached out and said that my honesty about my miscarriage helped them to not feel so alone.  Which is pretty much the biggest compliment I can get about this written catharsis I find myself compelled (inspired?) to share. 

That I can give other people the small comfort of “me too,” and “I’m here” when they feel alone is a gift I don’t take lightly.  I know the peace that can be found in being seen.

So every year on my birthday I will honour the life inside me that was not to be, along with my own life in years on this planet.  It feels right.  Today I shed tears as I wrote but most of the time I don’t anymore, which is a type of progress I suppose but not one that came easily or quickly.  I know without doubt that I love her and will always ache for her.  

We don’t talk about her much.  But I do remember, show up and hold space, especially on this day but really whenever she’s in my thoughts.  Because that is what family has come to mean to me, and she will always be part of our family. 

Clover.

Thank you for reading,

 Amber

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3 Ways to Stay Motivated

How many times have you been all fired up to try something new, completely sure that this is it,  the plan that is going to keep you on track, but found your motivation seriously declining within a few days or weeks?

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Ahhh, the waxing and waning of motivation, one of the most common struggles of the 100s of women I’ve helped in my groups.  In fact, it’s a common theme with clients and friends alike and one of the things I am asked about most often.

How do we find motivation?  How do we sustain it?

And more importantly, how do we keep it fired up when it naturally starts to wane with the flow of life?

The answer lies in investigating our motives for wanting the change in the first place.

Setting goals is great; challenging ourselves to achieve things that bring about personal satisfaction and happiness is absolutely a worthy pursuit.

But to be honest, setting goals is the easy part.  Sustaining the effort toward them is where it gets tricky.  Here are three tips to make it a bit easier:

1. Get real clear on why you actually want to hit that goal 

“I want to look great in a bikini” is a fine aesthetic goal, even if it is a bit abstract.  (And spoiler alert, you look GREAT in a bikini right now, BTW).

But identifying why we are working toward a goal is as important, if not more, than what the goal actually is.

Take the bikini goal.  Why is it important to don one?

Do you spend a lot of time on the beach?  Have you always wanted to wear a bikini but never had the confidence?  Do you want to model body positivity to your children?  Do you love the way they look?  Are you planning a special holiday?

Can you see how the different motivations for this one behaviour, wearing a bikini, might have different impact for someone depending on their personality?

Find your why is the first step to finding your motivation.

2. Think about how you will feel when you get to the goal

After all, isn’t the pursuit of any goal actually the pursuit of an imagined feeling?  “I want to run a marathon”  or “I want to get in shape to hike the West Coast Trail” are really saying “I want to achieve something I will be proud of.”

Sometimes we can get so caught up in what the end game might look like that we forget to ask ourselves why it is important for us to feel the way we will when we cross that finish line.

And by asking ourselves what the desired outcome is when it comes to the way we feel we free ourselves to ask another question: Is there a way that we can feel that way BEFORE we rock out that bikini/marathon/book deal (sorry, I’m projecting/manifesting on that last one).

Figuring out the desired feeling state will go a long way to helping find patience and kindness with ourselves and the process when the going gets tough.

3. Finally, get real with yourself about the work you are willing to put in to make that goal happen

Want to run an obstacle race but never climbed a rope or flipped a tire in your life?  It is time to find a place to train for that kind of event and create a schedule to hit some milestones in your training.

It is also time to carve out blocks in your schedule to practice regularly.

And if you really can’t imagine spending a few hours practicing those obstacles every week, it might be time to reconsider that particular goal.

Because setting up a realistic plan of action is the most important way to ensure the motivation sticks around for the long haul.

A good plan moves a goal from an abstract idea to a concrete set of actions, setting us up for success.

And oh man, we LOVE success!  It feeds our confidence and creates a rewarding loop of planning -> action -> success that is hard to resist.

So next time you find your nose scrunched up at yourself in the mirror and deciding it’s time to set a goal, ask yourself why you want to make that change.  Find a coach, make a plan, smash that goal, and line up the next one.

I have no doubt you will and can’t wait to hear all about it.

Thanks for reading!

xo Amber

PS There are only a handful of spots open for the next round of the RRM 66 and I really want to fill our group today.  So what I’m doing unplanned is offering a bonus one on one phone call with me in our first week to get real clear about your goals and the best course of action to hit them, and to troubleshoot specific obstacles you may be facing in your life.

This bonus is for the women who sign up for the latest (and greatest) RRM 66 today only.

This coaching call is a $99 value and is a surefire way to get started on the right track in this awesome program.  It is exclusively available to the women who are serious about levelling up with me today.

I’ve already got a great group of women ready to support each other and achieve amazing things with some work and customized guidance from me. Would you be a great fit with us?  Click here for all the details and hit reply if you’ve got any questions at all.  Be well!

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