#BellLetsTalk and Life is Sweet 2015

I tried to write this post last night and this morning, but it just wasn't coming out right. I felt like I was standing on a soap box, but not saying enough or making enough of a difference with what I was trying to say. As a result of my mother's depression and death to suicide, this subject is so close to my heart. I don't know if this draft is any different, but let's try...

Today is Bell Let's Talk Day. It's a great initiative that donates $0.05 for every text sent by Bell customers today as well as every tweet, when folks use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. The money will go towards supporting their four pillars including anti-stigma, care & access, workplace health and research. Which is really awesome.

And since its inception, it's been incredible to see people using this day to share their stories and speak candidly about mental health and mental illness.

But combating the stigma associated with mental illness isn't going to be resolved one day a year and some money being put towards a cause. It needs to be something we work towards erasing on a daily basis - in our regular lives, and be consistent with the support that we offer to those around us.

1 in 5 Canadians will be impacted by mental illness in their lifetimes and the other 4 will know someone impacted. In the news recently, there have been reports of first responders committing suicide. 34 in the last 9 months. That's a scary number. Why aren't these workers getting the support they need in their demanding roles? And why isn't this getting more attention?

On Monday I was a special guest at Singular Sensation, an open mic night here in Toronto that is hosted by my friend, Jeni Walls. Jeni asked me to sing and share my story to coincide with Bell Let's Talk. I sang 'Mama Don't Cry' and Some Days, both which resonate with me and my story so deeply. I was thankful to be able to share my mom's story and talk about why it's important that we keep the conversation going the other 364 days a year.



Other people bravely shared their stories and experiences, and as people were talking a hush fell over the room unlike what I've seen the usual crowd at Statler's to be. People were listening. They were supportive. And the stories that were shared had real impact. It was incredible to hear all of these stories, but I couldn't help but think that we need more opportunities to do this. It shouldn't have to be a special day for people to feel comfortable to talk about their mental health and the struggles they may have had. While myself and many others in the room were thankful for the platform to share their experiences, the subject of mental illness somehow remains taboo in our society.

I think Bell Let's Talk is a great initiative and have been tweeting up a storm today, but want to see more change year round.

I want us to get to a place where the taboo is gone.

For the last three years I've hosted the Life is Sweet series on my blog in February. It's an opportunity for people to share their stories of mental illness, mental health, suicide and loss. Since my mom's death in 1998 (and after I finished junior high), I became very open about discussing mental illness, depression and suicide. They aren't off limits words in my vocabulary, and I've become very passionate about sharing my mom's story in hopes that it would help other people to realize they aren't alone.

For me, the Life is Sweet series is a small way that I can contribute to erasing the stigma around mental health.

I didn't learn about my mom's depression and previous suicide attempts until the day before she died. I don't know if anything would have changed if I had known earlier, but I wish that she had lived in a society where she felt comfortable talking about her own struggles.

The Life is Sweet series is for her and anyone else who has felt silenced in sharing their stories and their struggles.

The Life is Sweet Series sharing stories of mental health, mental illness, suicide and loss



As I said last year on Bell Let's Talk Day, we need to talk and talk and never be quiet.

Let this day be a catalyst to open up the conversation, but let's work to keep it going the rest of the year. 

Why I Became a Beachbody Coach

If I'm going to be completely honest, I never saw myself becoming a Beachbody Coach.
 
I became familiar with the Coaching opportunity when I first got my copy of Insanity. I mostly tried to do the program on my own and lasted about 3 weeks that first time. I wasn't engaged in a group and while I talked with a coach, didn't really feel connected to her. I didn't stick with the program and it just went on to collect dust in my room.
 
This summer when I connected with Marissa, I decided to give Insanity another go and became a part of one of her challenge groups. In one of our first conversations Marissa said "You'll probably end up becoming a Coach too" and I remember thinking to myself, "erm, no probably not". Hah! I was so wrong.
 
I don't know where my hesitation initially stemmed from. I had been a Weight Watchers Leader for almost 5 years and loved having the opportunity to help people change their lives and reach their goals. Didn't becoming a Coach seem like another opportunity to do just that, but with more flexibility and a greater potential to reach even more people?
 
As soon as I became engaged with the group, I saw what coaching was all about and the wheels started turning. I started to have great success with Insanity and realized how much fulfillment I would get from being a Coach. I learned more about the Beachbody product offering and naturally started talking to others about what I was doing, other programs and Shakeology.
 
Marissa had been totally right, but I just needed to see that for myself.
 
It's been a few months since I officially became a Coach and it has been one of the best decisions I've made! I've been having a blast running my own challenge groups and watching my challengers have awesome success. They keep me motivated to stick with my own workouts and watching their progress is incredible inspiring! I'm really looking forward to our February group!!
 
Becoming a Coach has also given me an opportunity to earn additional income doing something I truly love. 2014 was all about creating the life that I wanted to live, and that did not include going back to a 9-5 job. I knew I wanted to continue focusing on performing and enjoyed my part time job and Beachbody has given me an opportunity to do just that. 2015 is going to be the year that I focus on getting rid of debt and creating a more solid financial position for myself and I'm thrilled that coaching is contributing to my ability to do so.
 
Coaching has also brought a group of incredible people to my life. My Coach, Marissa, our wonderful team, my Success Partner Blythe and so many other amazing Coaches that I wouldn't have met otherwise. Before I went to Florida, it was hilarious because I talked to a lot of these people pretty much daily, but I had never actually met them in real life. I'm the token Canadian on my team and there are lots of jokes about snow on a regular basis. I also send them videos and pictures of the snow to make them understand that +15 isn't really "cold". They're also there to bounce ideas off of, inspire me to be better and make me smile when I need it most.
 
So those are some of the things that coaching has done for me, and now I want to talk about what it could do for YOU.
 

On Monday I'm going to be hosting a Google hangout to chat more about what I do as a coach, how the whole thing works and how becoming a coach could be an awesome fit for your life. I'll also be answering any questions that you may have.
 
I'm looking for folks who:
  • Get great fulfillment from helping others
  • Are coachable and willing to put the work in to reap incredible benefits
  • Have a great desire to live the life of their dreams, be their own boss and work where they want, doing something that they are truly passionate about
  • Want to work on themselves through creating a healthy lifestyle, helping others and personal development
If this SPEAKS to you or you've been thinking about coaching or even if you just want to know more about what the coaching opportunity entails, I'd love for you to fill out the form below and join me on Monday at 8pm EST! After you fill out the form, you'll receive an email from me and I will send you the link for Monday's hangout.
 
I am so thankful for the abundance of joy, fulfillment, personal development and wonderful people that Beachbody has brought into my life. I am excited for all that 2015 is going to bring and would love to talk to you about the possibility of joining my team!

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Nutty Coconut Zucchini Noodles

I learned to cook by following recipes and essentially teaching myself. I'm working on being more confident in my culinary abilities and feeling more freedom to adapt recipes and create my own.

This recipe came out of a craving for zucchini noodles!! While I really enjoy zucchini noodles raw, I sometimes like to sauté them a little bit to change the texture and enjoy a warm dish (especially when it's really chilly outside!). If you don't have a spiralizer, you could use another type of cooked noodle or serve the veggies & tofu in the sauce over quinoa or just on their own. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand when making this dish.

gluten free, dairy free vegan


Nutty Coconut Zucchini Noodles

Recipe adapted from Eat Good 4 Life
Makes 4 servings

1 large zucchini
2 tbsp. coconut oil, divided
1/2 block extra firm tofu, cubed
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 broccoli crown, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 baby bok choy, chopped
2 cups snow peas
1/2 cup organic natural peanut or almond butter
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp. gluten free tamari
1 tbsp. red curry paste
juice of 1 lime
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup cashews, chopped

Spiralize your zucchini and set aside.

Add 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil to a small pan. Add tofu and a splash of tamari and sauté until tofu is browned on all sides. Set aside.

In a large pan, add 1 tbsp. coconut oil and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add red pepper, bok choy and broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes until vegetables are softened. Add snow peas and cook for another minute.

While the veggies are sautéing, heat the remaining 1/2 tbsp of oil in a pan and sauté zucchini noodles for 2-3 minutes until softened. Set aside.

Add the nut butter, coconut milk, tamari, red curry paste and lime juice. Stir / whisk until sauce is combined and veggies are mixed in nicely. Add tofu and zucchini noodles, stirring well to make sure everything is well combined. Heat for another couple minutes and serve warm.

Serve with chopped green onion, cashews and a lime wedge.

Why Challenge Groups?

If you've been following my journey through Insanity, PiYo and now Insanity Max:30, I can tell you that one thing has kept me motivated, engaged and determined to succeed; that one 'secret' has been accountability in the form of Challenge Groups.

When I first tried to do Insanity, I attempted it mostly on my own. And when you're supposed to be working out by yourself in your room with no one there to check in on you or hold you accountable, it can be WAY TOO EASY to skip a workout or make an excuse. And then another. And another. Before I connected with my coach, I had unsuccessfully tried to do Insanity at least 3 times (though I actually think it's more like 4 now) and I never got past week 3.

When I decided that I was going to finish Insanity last summer, having our challenge group to check in with each day was KEY to my success. I felt accountable to the group and to my coach to get my workout in each day. I was motivated by their successes and had folks to turn to when I was struggling (like the day I almost quit!)

Even though I do my workouts at home on my own, I know there's a group of people who are right there with me.

It's been amazing to host my own challenge groups each month now that I am a Coach. It's so great to see the camaraderie that develops amongst the group, the support and motivation that happens naturally and the accountability that everyone has. Someone will post at night that they are getting up early to do their workout and then people will check in on them in the morning. We post sweaty selfies when we've completed a workout (even when they're at midnight). We have great discussions in our daily posts with topics ranging from nutrition, workout excuses, our goals and 'WHY' and how to feel good in our bodies. We post recipes and foodie pics and get lots of great ideas for meal planning. On those days when I don't feel like doing a workout, I think about all of them and get it done!!

We are more successful in trying to make a change in our life when we have people alongside us to keep us accountable and motivated.

And the benefits of sticking with the group, workout program and nutrition plan are amazing! My groups have shared that they've experienced: more energy, the ability to shop at 'regular' stores (not plus-sized), being able to do more reps with fewer modifications in workouts, stopped snacking on junk food, fitting into smaller clothing sizes, back rolls gone, pants looser, feeling stronger, making healthier food choices, fitting into pre-pregnancy clothes, less jiggle, working out more consistently than ever and seeing a huge improvement in mood, stress level and anxiety. All of these things are in addition to the inches and pounds they've lost. It's pretty inspiring to see.







I have a new challenge group beginning on Monday February 2nd and I would love for you to experience what the group is all about. Along with the group you'll get:
  • an awesome workout you can do at home 
  • nutritional guidance, tips and recipes
  • a month of Shakeology 
  • a focus in February on self love and establishing a positive body image, wherever you're at in your journey
  • me as your coach!! 
All of this, plus the awesome support, motivation and accountability that comes from joining the group. 

I have 4 spots left for February and would LOVE for you to join us. Fill out the form below to reserve your spot!


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5 Things I Loved About my Trip to Florida

I feel incredibly lucky to have spent 5 days in Florida last weekend with some truly wonderful friends. I've been talking about this trip to anyone who will listen for days, so I'm excited to share my highlights with all of you!

1. The weather


The first couple days I was in Florida, the Floridians kept apologizing to me for it being 'so cold'. 

Guys, it was like 15-19 degrees. 

I politely explained that I had left -31 windchill temps and was thankful to have left my parka back in Canada!! It was wonderful to be walking around in flip flops and I even squeezed in a trip to Clearwater beach before my flight on Monday morning when it was around 25 degrees. My body was thankful for the vitamin D and I was grateful to have a few days where I didn't look like Kenny from South Park with my epic parka hood.

White sand beach, yes please

2. An incredible host


While I was in Tampa I stayed with my sweet friend, Kali which was awesome! She showed me around her lovely neighbourhood, took me to some tasty restaurants, introduced me to her awesome group of friends, obliged my desire to visit Target and even worked out with me on Friday night after some delicious risotto and a glass of wine. I also got to spend some quality time with Kali's dog, Ollie who snuggled with me each night / tried to hog the bed. You know when you just 'click' with someone? That's how I felt about Kali and it was a treat to spend time with her during my visit.

Selfie with Kali, with a quality photobomb by Ollie! 

3. Tasty eats


So I haven't made a Tampa spreadsheet of restaurants, but we did have some pretty delicious meals while I was visiting! I asked for recommentations on Twitter and Kali made some suggestions as well. We went to Boca upon my arrival and I really loved the vibe and the focus on fresh, local, sustainable food. The service left a little something to be desired, but it definitely provided us with some giggles. We managed to score a table at Daily Eats on Friday for brunch and it was quite yummy! Lots of great bowls and very clear options for gluten free folks. 

Boca Tampa
Delicious salad at Boca
My very favourite meal of the trip was at the Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple on Sunday morning. A friend of Kali's recommended that we go and it truly did not disappoint! Not only were the grounds and temple beautiful, but there was an awesome market full of delicious, inexpensive thai food that they have every Sunday morning. 

I had some delicious vegetarian curry with rice along with a dessert that was made with cassava, coconut milk and coconut. Visiting the temple was a unique experience and it was a perfect way to enjoy the sunshine with friends. 

Inside the temple

4. Super Saturday

Super Saturday was the reason I went down to Florida when I did. I knew that it was going to be a game changer for me, but I didn't know that I would have so many moments where I just felt overwhelmed with gratitude and inspiration. 

Beachbody hosts Super Saturday events each quarter in cities all over North America. The event that I attended was hosted by a group of coaches I greatly admire including Lindsay Matway (the #2 coach in all of Beachbody for 2014), Brittany Legette (my coach's coach, and the #8 coach in all of Beachbody for 2014), Kati Heifner and Lindsay Stay (an Elite coach who I just adore).

Kati Heifner, Ashley Gibson, Lindsay Matway and Lindsay Stay
Kati, Lindsay, Lindsay & I - photo by Kenzie Shores
Brittany Legette Beachbody
Brittany Legette and I - what a sweetheart
I helped to register the 950 coaches and guests who attended the event which was a blast. It was an opportunity for me to finally meet my team in real life, as well as a ton of other coaches who I've connected with online.

My wonderful teammates - photo by Kenzie Shores

Photo by Kenzie Shores
I watched the event from the second row, which included the announcement of Beachbody's new On Demand service (where programs like P90X and Insanity will be available on laptops, tablets and mobile for Beachbody Club members); some incredible success stories including Adriene who talked about her journey and losing 100 lbs with Beachbody programs; CEO Carl Daikeler's inspiring speech and Autumn Calabrese's talk about the launch of 21 Day Fix Extreme

(Video is coming!!)

We also got the chance to work out with Autumn, complete with neon attire and glowsticks. I was at the back of the room for that, but still got a decent burn happening thanks to a large quantity of squats and lunges.

Tampa Super Saturday
Ready for my workout, complete with a #sweatforkyan ribbon
I went in with the mindset of "I'm here all the way from Canada" and made sure that I met the people I wanted to connect with. And that was awesome. I was proud of myself for being bold and making the most of the evening. 

Beachbody CEO Carl Daikeler
Meeting Beachbody CEO, Carl Daikeler - photo by Kenize Shores

I went home after the event and had a big cry. I'm so excited to have the opportunity to be a coach, to be helping others change their lives and reach their goals, to be connecting with incredible like-minded individuals and be living the life of my dreams. The event was a reflection of all of these feelings and I'm so grateful to have attended. 

5. Connecting with my Coach, Marissa


Oh, my heart. 

Sparkly & ready for Super Saturday with a mirror selfie
When Marissa and I connected in the summer, I knew she was a kindred spirit. We realized very quickly that we were quite similar in many ways and over the last 5 months she has become an incredible mentor, coach, confidante and friend. When she and Kali picked me up at the airport, it wasn't like meeting someone I had never met before; it was like being greeted by a forever friend who just happened to be in another city. 

Marissa has been going through a very difficult time with her family, with one of her kids being diagnosed with Stewart Johnson Syndrome. They've endured a huge challenge over the last few weeks and I continue to be inspired by her strength, tenacity and positive attitude. 

I'm incredibly grateful that we had as much time together as we did during my trip. She is an amazing friend and we had a wonderful time connecting, chatting, laughing and sharing. (I also have her to thank for the sparkly green dress!!) They say that people come into your life for a reason and that is absolutely the case with Marissa.

Marissa & I 
The whole trip was wonderful and I came back feeling inspired, rejuvenated and excited! I was less excited to put the parka and boots back on (because clearly it was -29 with the windchill the evening I got back) but the trip was definitely a game changer for me. 2015, let's do this!

Thanks to Kenzie Shores Photography for the great photos from Super Saturday!! 


NYC 2014: The Food

Seeing as I’m in Tampa this weekend, I thought it was a good time to detail all the amazing eats we had on our trip to NYC!

I may have mentioned this on the blog before, but I actually have a spreadsheet of vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants in New York City. Whenever someone recommends a place to me or I see a ‘best of’ list, I add new options to the list. It’s also awesome to be able to share with folks when they ask me for recommendations in NYC. In my travels, I love to revisit my tried and true favourites, but also make an effort to dine at new places. On this trip we had great success with a bunch of new places that quickly skyrocketed to the top of my list (and Corbin’s too!)

Brunch


Brunch may easily be one of my favourite meals and I was looking forward to enjoying brunch at Friedman’s Lunch (in Chelsea Market) I ended up eating some of the best pancakes ever! They were fluffy, delicious and served with blueberries and maple syrup. I also loved that they served Harney tea. Corbin enjoyed the brunch special which included grits, bacon and some poached eggs. Our server was lovely and the atmosphere was stellar. They were extremely knowledgeable of gluten free and I was excited to be presented with so many options. Going to Friedman’s Lunch also gave us an excuse to hang out at Chelsea Market which is one of my favourite places in New York (though I was sad that Anthropologie was closed since we were there on Thanksgiving)


Champs is always a favourite when we’re in New York and it was actually our first stop as soon as we arrived! We were surprised to find they had a new location (on Meserole), but once we were there we were in vegan foodie heaven. I had the gluten free tofu benedict, which was absolutely delicious. It was the perfect cure to a morning of traveling and a bit of a hangry Ashley. Corbin had the Loaded Breakfast Burrito which was GINORMOUS and full of all sorts of goodness. We also ran into 2 friends during our brunch, proving that it IS a small world after all! 




The morning before we left we squeezed in a brunch at Sacred Chow, which I enjoyed. I had a delicious gluten free waffle topped with apples, cinnamon and coconut cream, while Corbin opted for a scrambled tofu bowl with tonnes of veggies and squash. It had also been on my list for awhile, so it was great to finally pay a visit and fuel up before a long day of traveling. 



Lunch


Between Black Friday shopping and watching Disenchanted, I needed to grab a quick lunch. I had seen a couple of different Organic Avenue locations throughout New York and decided to check it out. I was happy to find a number of soup, salad and wrap options along with a selection of fresh juices. Everything was labelled whether it was gluten free, vegan etc and the ingredients were also clearly listed. I chose the lunchbox salad collard wrap and kind of lost my mind at how delicious it was!! It was a chickpea salad with cashew ‘mayo’ and a lot of veggies inside a wonderfully fresh collard wrap. I wish we had Organic Avenue in Canada as this would be a stellar option to pick up on the go. 


On Thanksgiving we made reservations at Rockin’ Raw to enjoy a special lunch with our friend Sheryl! I had been to Rockin’ Raw once previously (during the hurricane) and remembered being impressed with their unique flavors and options. They had a special menu for Thanksgiving, so we all chose a few different options between the regular and holiday menus including cauliflower mash, ‘cheesy’ broccoli, pumpkin soup and a cheezy burrito. 




It’s no secret that I love dessert (especially raw ones) so I was delighted by the Thanksgiving options which included an incredible pecan pie. Holy wow, it was divine. Rich, creamy and perfect. The meal was an awesome way to celebrate American Thanksgiving and enjoy a lovely afternoon with Sheryl. 

Dinner


Because we saw a show almost every night we were in New York, our eating schedule got to be a little bit wonky. We ended up finding ourselves eating dinners after shows pretty late at night, but I think our dinners ended up being the best meals we had! 

First up was Otto’s Tacos in the East Village. These were serious tacos!! Otto’s Tacos has lots of options for meat eaters and a delicious mushroom taco for the vegetarian crowd. We grabbed a side of chips and guacamole and were blown away with the HUGE portion of guac along with a bag of chips. The tacos ranged from $3-$3.50 each and they were awesome. Such great flavours, freshly made tortillas and a seriously stellar meal for less than $20. They had a record listed for taco eating and Corbin was seriously considering going back and trying to beat it. Hah! 


Heading home after Pippin’ I was feeling hungry and was hoping to grab a falafel or something quick. We found a falafel place called Mamoun's thinking that it would just be an easy, inexpensive, tasty option. Little did we know that we were entering a well recognized falafel restaurant! I grabbed a falafel plate and Corbin enjoyed a shwarma and for less than $15 enjoyed an incredible meal. Their hummus was outstanding and the falafel was crispy and delicious. Corbin loved his shwarma and thought their hot sauce was awesome. I don’t have any pictures of this meal, but know that if you’re wondering on the east village late at night (or any time of day) looking for a great, cheap meal - this is the place!!

Last but not least, Pala

I’ve been telling everyone about Pala because it was hands down, the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had and Corbin said it was the best (gluten-filled) pizza he’s even eaten. Pretty high praise, but worth every word. 


At Pala they take their topping choices very seriously and you’re unable to make substitutions. That being said, there are a lot of options for meat eaters, vegans and gluten free folks. I chose the Uvetta pizza with butternut squash, red onions, raisins, red pepper rosemary and daiya. After the first bite, I couldn’t stop RAVING about how delicious it was. The toppings were plentiful, but the crust was the real star. It was chewy, flavourful and had a BUBBLE. So many gluten free pizzas have the texture of cardboard or bricks and this pizza was light and airy while still having an amazing texture. I can't remember which one Corbin had, but he has said that it was the best pizza he's ever eaten. The service was outstanding (even though they were close to closing) and I can’t wait to go back!! 



Honourable mentions go to the treats we enjoyed at Babycakes, the goodies and fresh juice we picked up at a local market to enjoy for breakfast on a couple of days and the warming lunch we had at Peacefood Cafe before we made the drive to the hockey game. If I wasn’t hungry before, I sure am now after recounting all of the incredible food that we enjoyed on our trip!


Do you have any favourite places to eat in New York City? I’d love to add them to my list!! 

Resolution Revolution - January Photo-a-Day Challenge

Happy New Year!!

I hope everyone had a super New Year's Eve and that you're excited for 2015!!

I'm starting off the year with a fun photo-a-day challenge over on Instagram with my sweet friend Blythe.

@ashleydtl Instagram Photo a Day Challenge


To play along, follow me (@ashleydtl) and Blythe (@blythecollins) over on Instagram. Save or repost this photo to prompt you for your daily pic and start takin' photos and posting! Be sure to use the hashtag #resolutionrevolution and tag us in the post so we can check out your pics. No pressure, just fun, added accountability and an opportunity to connect with like-minded peeps as we start this new year strong!!

Who is ready for a revolution?!