So it has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post on this website. Which is insane really. But you know, a bunch of crazy stuff happened like we moved twice, our dog had two surgeries, I was pregnant, had a baby….NBD. I’m sure I’ll write more about those things at some point but for now I want to share a few of my thoughts about food - yes food. If you follow my instagram posts (@mygrattitudeattitude you’ll see that the things I post most about are Quinne (our 6 month old baby girl), our Maltese-Poodle Jean Luc and .....food.
I personally have been incorporating way more vegetarian and vegan options into our diet for a few reasons…. The first reason is that ever since I was a kid I felt super connected to animals (even when they didn’t feel connected to me - sorry Munchie) and I always had to make sure I couldn’t think about it when I ate meat. This not thinking about it meant that I was never really mindful about what I ate. I couldn’t be! I would be too sad! (I’m not going to get into the unethical treatment of factory farmed animals here because quite frankly I can’t handle it emotionally but if you’re interested there are tons of resources on Netflix and google but don’t say I didn’t warn you…) So, this non-mindful eating led to a very unconscious state of eating and a disconnected relationship with food (ever shove a handful of something into your mouth and not even really taste it?) Ask my husband about how many bags of mini eggs I ate while pregnant - we have different answers! And I’m sure that this is due to being so thought-less around eating.
Lately I’ve been able to bake and cook a lot more while the baby is asleep or playing in the kitchen watching me and I have been having a LOT of fun with it. With this new love of experimentation the coolest thing has happened….I have learned that I don’t shove a handful of biscotti down my throat the same way anymore! You know why? Because you have to bake the biscotti TWICE. TWICE dammit. It takes time and effort to make delicious and wholesome food! I didn’t know that when I bought biscotti that someone else made so I ate it super fast not even thinking about the time it took to make it. And now, I appreciate the process more than I ever have and it allows for more mindful eating. Because I know for sure that I am NOT pumping biscotti out of THIS kitchen every week, so I better damn well savour it! Super cool.
Another reason that I have been incorporating a more plant based diet is due to family history. My family has history of hormone based breast cancer and I’d like to avoid adding any unnecessary hormones to my body - Lord knows I don’t deal well with the ones I already have thankyouverymuch.
So, I am trying to eat more mindfully, ethically and avoid excess hormones and therefore a more plant based diet seems like the natural choice right now. But here’s the truth - we are heading to Germany and Switzerland in December and you can bet your fresh baked buns that I will be eating cheese fondue and schnitzel. If we are invited to a friend’s home for a meal (any takers?) I don’t make a big deal and not eat what they serve - no way! In fact I am more thankful and mindful for having a meal made for me. In this way I feel like we are balancing an 80/20 diet where the bulk of our food at home is plant based and on special outings it’s okay to have whatever we want! Mostly, enjoy the food that we are experiencing! And also the point is to find what works best for what YOU feel is a healthy balance, and for now, this is what works for me. But it may change - just like bell bottoms and skinny jeans, butter - margarine - butter! So, as my sister says “I refuse to be put into a box!”. Anyways, I’m going to keep sharing fun food recipes among other things that I deem interesting for a little bit of a “me” outlet while the baby naps!
Here are some of the amazing cookbooks that I have been using lately in case you are interested.
Yes you read that right and let me just re-iterate: Thordis Elva is a Women's Rights Badass.
I met Thordis in Sweden while participating in a 109 World Humanitarian Trip to support the Panzi Hospital in the Congo and to bring awareness to the global epidemic that is sexual violence against women. Before meeting this powerhouse I watched her TED talk and let me tell you I was floored. I don't want to give too much away because I HIGHLY recommend that you watch it yourself here. But in case you need persuading, she speaks WITH (yes that's right, alongside, beside, next to) her perpetrator with whom she also co-wrote her book South of Forgiveness which you can purchase here (and again I HIGHLY recommend this badass read).
I got to know Thordis while sitting at dinner at this mission trip where we are all new to one another, complete strangers really
(although united in the cause that brought us there.) And I have to tell you that after watching her TED talk I didn't know what to expect now that I was sitting next to her at dinner. Thordis is a delightful dinner companion , asking questions about my sister and I (we travelled together) all while being genuinely interested in our responses. Not to mention she has an amazing sense of humour and I admit that the casual swearing in all the right places made me fall for her even more. (I'm a sucker for a good cuss in just the right moment.) I think the best part was how interested she was in mine and my husband's wedding. She couldn't get over how "Canadian" it was that we got married wearing skates and on an outdoor ice rink!
When Thordis opens her mouth to speak, you just stop and listen. It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and a favourite show would come on and I would find myself just staring and watching the screen with my mouth half open dumbfounded and in awe. So the next day after dinner when I saw her official presentation it was like I was that kid again - awe struck. The way she speaks so eloquently about an otherwise taboo subject of rape and sexual violence is mind blowing. The way she breaks down statistics without hesitation is admirable. She knows her facts and it's personal. The passion that she has for bringing violence about women to the forefront of discussion be it in political, social or familial settings is palpable. And she does it all with grace. Originally Icelandic but now living in Sweden her English is remarkably native sounding.
Just recently with all of the #Metoo hashtags making waves in social and mainstream media, Thordis answered some questions for the blog. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Thordis! Keep doing the amazing work that you are doing!)
Can you think of a time in your life or a specific situation when you had to really dig deep to find gratitude?
I think the hardest time I've had in terms of feeling grateful is when I've been consumed with self-pity. The blackest of times have often been triggered by heartache, loss or illness. For example, I was diagnosed with what seemed to be cancer at the age of 22, when I was studying abroad, in a different continent than my friends and family. It felt very difficult to be so far away from them during those trying times. Gratitude was not the first thing that came to my mind. But after the initial shock, I decided that if I was ill, I was going to love my life and make the most of it. I bought a spontaneous ticket to go see a friend in Puerto Rico and felt very grateful for her company, as well as for the opportunities I had. When my doctors eventually confirmed that I didn't have cancer, I was of course very grateful for my good health as well. It is the single most important thing in life, I believe. At times, it was also difficult to see the light in my healing journey, after having been raped at the age of 16 by my first boyfriend. But when I was at my weakest, I found strength in therapy and an online community of survivors who did wonders for me. For that, I will always be grateful.
You wrote your book South of Forgiveness with your perpetrator, can you tell us what the reactions have been from friends, family, and fans in terms of this unique form of healing?
The reactions from friends and family have been unwaveringly supportive, for me. My parents and my husband were naturally concerned when I told them that I wanted to embark on this highly unorthodox journey to try to make amends with myself and my past. But they understood why it was important to me and I couldn't have done it without their support. The public has also been supportive for the most part. There have been those who feel threatened by the idea of a perpetrator being given space to tell his side of the story, and I understand their hesitation. But our collaboration is not intended to lessen the impact of violence or normalise it in any way - on the contrary - we decided to tell our story together to underline how serious sexual abuse is, and how important it is that men and women come together to fight this issue that has been wrongfully classified a 'women's issue' for far too long. It's a human issue that we should all be working towards solving.
When you finally told your family and friends? How did that play out in your relationships and, for your son, what do you tell him now about what you do for a living?
When I told my friends and family, they were kind and supportive, but some of them didn't know what to say. I find that very understandable. The silence surrounding sexual abuse has been thick for a very long time, and as a result, many people don't know how to talk about it. But nobody shamed me or blamed me, which is the most important part.
My son is 8 years old and he knows that I write and speak publicly for a living. I've given him an age-appropriate version of my story, so he knows that once upon a time, his mother had a boyfriend who hurt her. He knows that I was asked for forgiveness and that we've written a book together about our past. As he grows older, I will tell him more.
For any women out there who may feel like they cannot speak up about their trauma and who feel shame about what may have happened to them - what can you say to them?
I can say this: You're not alone. There are many people out there who understand what you're going through and have experienced something similar. Don't let anybody tell you what your path to healing should look like. You alone know what your needs are, there's no magic formula that works for everyone. Remember that you did not deserve what happened to you. Nobody deserves to be abused, no matter what. The shame was never yours to carry. There is light at the end of this tunnel and you deserve to get there.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude?
To count my blessings and remind myself how privileged I am, not only with my wonderful family and my good health, but because I have a voice in a world where so many of my fellow survivors are silenced. With the privilege of having a voice comes the responsibility of using it. Thank you for giving me a chance to use my voice here, now. That is my gratitude attitude today.
To learn more and support the amazing work that Thordis is doing, check out her website.
If you follow Irene Pappas on Instagram and Social Media you'll know her as Fit Queen Irene.
She has been practicing yoga since 2012 and has an extraordinary capacity for movement and understanding her own body and it's limits. After an incredible injury, Irene rebuilt her perception of her own body and what it was capable of but not only this, she has found ways to have gratitude in her own body no matter what it was going through. Not only is her knowledge of yoga inspiring but so are her perceptions and insights on life.
She teaches many retreats and workshops across the globe, but took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about gratitude.
1. Can you think of a time when you had to dig really deep to find gratitude in a certain situation?
One thing I am working on right now is finding gratitude in the moment instead of looking back and being grateful in retrospect. But of course sometimes it takes days, weeks, or even years to see the bigger picture. When I was younger my parents send me to a boarding school that was very rigorous and similar to military school in a lot of ways. Even though my own actions were what got me to a place where I needed such reformation, I blamed my parents and everyone else. Looking back it was one of the best things to happen to me and really shaped me into who I am today, but it did take me years to realize that.
2. On your website it says "After experiencing a life changing wrist injury Irene has redefined her yoga practice in many ways, placing more emphasis on a strong foundation and finding gratitude for her body with or without advanced asana." Can you tell us a bit more about this experience and finding gratitude for your body?
I spent many years obsessing over my body- working out incessantly and counting every calorie, convinced that if I could get the "perfect" body I would finally be happy. Once I found yoga I transferred this same mentality into my practice, convincing myself that once I had a handstand I would be happy. This cycle continued for quite some time. I placed a lot of value on an advanced asana practice and was constantly striving to be better. Eventually I started having terrible wrist pain, and found out that a bone in my wrist had broken and started to die and decay. The first few surgeons I went to told me I would never use my wrist again. Although they all told me I had a genetic predisposition to this happening, I knew I wasn't listening to my body and even as this was happening I knew it was going to be one of the greatest learning expieriences of my life. I finally found a surgeon that believed in her ability to help heal me, and two surgeries later I am able to use my wrist again. While I am supremely grateful that I can do handstands most days, I am even more grateful for how this experience changed my perspective. Instead of focusing on what I can or cannot do, I have found a sense of gratitude for every single thing my body is capable of, even on my hardest days. This gratitude has trickled into all aspects of my life. I am now free from the obsession with my weight, body, and handstands/physical ability- and I feel exactly that, free.
3. You have a lot of instagram followers, you travel to give workshops and teacher trainings, what has been your greatest challenge and your greatest accomplishment through all of this?
One of the greatest challenges for me has been staying grounded. Traveling almost constantly and not having a strong local community of students and friends has been difficult at times. But it has given me an ability to find grounding within myself, without having to rely on my external environment. I think the teacher trainings are the most powerful thing I am part of right now, because they have the ability to give people the tools to be their highest selves.
4. Who is the one person real life, actor, passed away etc. that you would love to meet and why?
This is a hard question! I would have to say my grandfather on my dad's side. I never met him and he is one of the most influential people in my family, I would love to sit down and talk to him and tell him how grateful I am for him.
5. What is your version of #mygratitudeattitude?
Gratitude is everything to me. It changes a situation from negative into positive, and allows me to let go of stress, anger, depression, and anxiety.
To get more from Irene follow her on instagram @fitqueenirene or check out her website www.fitqueenirene.com
I met Rachel Brathen (@Yoga_Girl) this past August 2017 in Sweden. I had signed up to participate in her NGO 109 World Women's Mission Trip dedicated to raising awareness of sexual violence and funds for the Panzi hospital in Congo. (Photo credit Soda Lime @sodalime)
I admit when I first saw Rachel in the flesh I had butterflies and swoon eyes and felt a bit star struck. That is until I heard her speak and greet each and every one of us. She is such a down to earth, lovely and caring person and immediately I realized she is human just like us.
Her knowledge of Yoga is in depth and studied. She knows alignment, and her cuing is so good that she doesn't even need to move to demonstrate, we can move into the postures easily following her words.
I think the part that stuck with me the most about Rachel was how she made sure to chat with all of us, and she would sit down amongst us at breakfast or lunch and just chat about light things or about heavy things. She never once left us feeling like she was any more important than the rest of us. I'm not sure why I thought she would be any other way - after all her Instagram account is flooded with real life and vulnerable moments and feelings. She just lays it all out there.
Her work around the world spans way farther than handstands on the sand and yoga poses in tropical places. She owns and operates 7 companies - two of these are NGO's aiming to help the world change for the better (109 World and Sgt. Pepper's Friends) and she has most recently partnered with a Swedish initiative and Yoga of Hope to raise funds for Childhood Cancer in Sweden.
She does all this all while owning a studio in Aruba, a cafe a boutique, an online yoga platform and she is going to be launching her first teacher training this year. Oh and did I mention that she is a mom! This woman is bad ass and shows us that you can have it all and do it all and make the world a better place!
So, when I had the chance I asked Rachel a few questions about her life and gratitude.
Can you think of a specific situation where finding gratitude was really hard and you had to dig deep to find it?
Yes - any time the universe throws me a curveball. When things get hard, one of the first things that happen for me is I tend to get stuck in whats not working and I forget about all the things that actually do. My best friend past away and for a very long time I didn’t feel grateful for anything, which was a downward spiral into things feeling much, much worse. We NEED gratitude for our live to function! No matter how tough things are, there is still beauty in the world. Find it!
As a new mom in social media you have had so many opinions come your way about parenting. Seems like it’s "open season" and anyone and everyone thinks they have a right to judge your choices. How do you handle all of these negative comments and opinions?
It’s hard. I try to remember that people like to share their opinions because thats whats worked for them and not only because they like to judge (even though there is plenty of that around, too). We are all just doing our best. I try to tune the negative stuff out and focus on following my intuition when it comes to parenting - so far so good!
I myself have struggled with body image. You posted not long ago about your followers commenting on your “post-baby body” and how frustrated you were with these comments. It’s super ballsy to comment on someone’s body to begin with but, can you share your thoughts on this concept of “post-baby body”?
My body did a superhuman thing! It birthed a baby! Now is not a time to judge or label it, it’s a time to celebrate and appreciate it. Yes, it’s softer than it was before. Yes, it weighs more. But for a greater purpose than anything I’ve ever done! We lose sight of the magic that is our bodies when we try to change it. I’m doing my best to stay healthy and feel good but still enjoying all the sweet things life has to offer without guilt.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude? #mygratitudeattitude
Gratitude is something we need to connect with every day! Not just once in a blue moon. Make it a daily practice - keep a gratitude list!!! And try to automatically drop into gratitude when things get rough. It’s the best way to step into the light again :)
Thank you so much Rachel for your generosity in answering these questions!