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Abs, Instagram and Happiness

Being fit does NOT mean having a six pack and cut obliques. Being fit CAN mean that, but to me it means being strong of body, soul and spirit.

For the last 18 months, I have been fit of body, but my soul and spirit were weak.

I am a mother of almost 2 (second is due June 29th!). My son, born July 2014, suffered from constipation for 8 months, which caused him to have reflux as well, and we trudged along for 17 long months of him waking every 30 min-2 hours, nursing all night long, needing help to sleep through naps, never having a moment to ourselves. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, truly.

I quickly sank into post-partum depression, but denied it for a very long time. I even went to my Dr. once, and talked my way out of anti-depressants, and never went back for help. It’s hard to open up about it when you’re in it, and having convinced myself I didn’t really need help, it was even harder after that.

Then winter of 2015 hit, and I hit my ultimate low. This is where my journey begins.

I was angry all the time. I hit my dog harder, and more often than I can bring myself to admit, and I’m grateful dogs are as loving, and forgiving as they are loyal.

I began yelling at my 17 month old son to sleep, to stop touching me, to stop nursing, and I’d have to put him down and go, leaving us both to cry in anguish, so I didn’t do anything really harmful to either of us.

I began contemplating ways out; adopting him out to one of our families, for certainly they could do a much better job than I ever could as his mother. Thankfully other things were too horrid for my mind to contemplate, so as soon as those darkest of thoughts entered, they shuddered away. I believe this was Holy Spirit, guarding my heart even when I had completely lost sight and touch of who God was.

My mind, was a fog. And the battle was waged under the haze.

I finally broke. I needed sleep, and I needed it because I was dying. Inside, but maybe outside as well … I felt like I could not live one single more day without a full nights sleep. It was the slowest torture I’ve ever felt, and even as I write, tears well up in my eyes to think of the pain I surrounded my family with, because I didn’t get help. I asked for help; I opened up.

I went and slept at my parents house for 5 nights, leaving my husband, who had lost just as much sleep as I had, to fend for himself and take on night duties full time. To this day, I know God surrounded him with the fiercest of love and strength, to pull him through those nights, as he had anguish and sorrow in his heart as well. It was a long, weary battle. But I slept. And I slept again. And again…

I finally started regaining clarity and with that, a sense of direction, and something I’d been praying about for a few weeks became the clearest of answers to me, I contacted my friend and asked her how to become a beachbody coach. I knew I needed to get working out again, that this was my happy place. I’ve loved fitness for a very, very long time, but as a new mother, almost forgot how, unless I was running outside during the summer. I knew winter had shut me in (Canada, hello freezing), and I knew that I needed to make myself a priority again. So I started to research.

I researched the shakes, because it was something totally new and foreign to me, but I knew that I absolutely needed something to get me healthier on the inside than I had been capable of getting myself for the past 6 years, and especially in the last 18 months. Once I fell in love with the shakes, I researched the business, and what I kept finding was: people first, profits later. People first. People first. People first. It was like their banner. Be YOU. Help OTHERS. Be healthy. Be fit. People first. I couldn’t love or agree with something more.

I joined, first for myself. And really, I can’t even verbalize a ‘why’ that I joined. I can’t explain it. I’ve always wanted to get into fitness for a living, but never knew how, and why I figured this was the time, well I can’t say. But it changed my life. What I see now, is that I knew I needed accountability, I needed something to be passionate about, and I needed something that was just mine.

I got my program, CIZE; Endorphins began to rush, my fog began to lift, I began to figure out how to help my son sleep, we started sleeping more, eating better following the nutrition guide; I drank my shakes and had energy like I hadn’t had for a long time. I began to heal, and my amazing husband who has loved fitness as long as I have joined with me, and we started taking our lives back. Back from depression, back from lethargy, back from apathy. We wanted to win.

I cried a lot over the next few weeks, and 5 weeks later, I still cry at the end of every single workout. I cry because it’s a burst of joy that I can’t explain. It’s a sense of accomplishment, a sense of my old self, a sense of a bright future, and just plain fun in my life again.
When you workout, and eat right, your body will be what it will be. If you end up having some physical goals, so be it, but they will come from a healthy, happy mind. A mind that has exercised daily the habits of self love, dedication, and feeding their body like the temple it is.

If when that is done, you are still bigger than me (which is 5’3 and around 110-120lbs, I don’t weigh myself, ever), then guess what, you’re still freaking fit and an absolute rockstar in my eyes. You don’t need to be me, or anyone else on this planet, to succeed at fitness. You just do you, and that joy is yours to own. You don’t need a six pack to post a body proud photo on Instagram. You don’t need 600 likes to tell you that you meet this societies standards. You also don’t need to stop working out because working out means you don’t prioritize your family first. I don’t believe in fit shaming, I don’t believe in fat shaming, I don’t believe in skinny shaming … I don’t believe in mom shaming.

I don’t believe in shaming.

My highest engagement posts on Instagram aren’t ones of flexing, they aren’t of my “tiny preggo body”, they are of my raw, real posts about the challenges of motherhood and PPD. It  became so clear to me that fitness of mind is more important, and it’s a much harder muscle to work, but it comes from determination, and just hitting play every single day.

We are all worthy of looking in the mirror and seeing a masterpiece, created with purpose. That doesn’t give us a reason to eat like crap and sit on our butts all day, because that’s not how our bodies were designed to function.

But it does give you a reason to love your curves, love your chub, love your skin and bones, love your thighs, your arms, wings, tire, muffin, thunder thighs, big hips, cankles, skronny, lanky self. Whatever you use to describe you, turn it into a compliment. And then get up, and get to work, and treat yourself like the freaking princess God made you.

You ARE worthy. You are ARE beautiful. And you have my support.

Welcome to Braids and Brass, my name is Michelle, and I am a fitness and health coach, a mom pulled from the wreckage of depression, who still struggles day to day, but continues forward none the less.

I hope I can help you find community, accountability, self love and encouragement on your fit journey, and I welcome all that you bring to mine.

I said yes, while my whole being said no…

 

I said yes. I gave my full consent. As the needle went in, as I was cut open and unknown hands entered my body, I felt completely violated even though I said yes.

I’m talking about my c-section on July 30, 2014 when my first son was born. It was to be a day I recalled as the most joyful day of my life, and one day I will not only say it was, I will feel it.

But today is not that day.

Today is my first step towards that goal, by speaking out what I’ve hidden so long in my own heart that it remained a mystery even to me.

I wanted a natural birth. Not for the glory or accolades that come with it from other so called birth hero’s, but simply because I believed it to be the first gift I could give my child; life born uninterrupted.

I was OK with the thought of a life saving c-section. I knew it would devastate me, but not more so than the loss of my son. I had no grand illusions of fighting for an ideal, but what I didn’t expect was to be pressured by those deemed more powerful than myself.

I was told my son was SGA (small for gestational size) and that at 40 weeks it looked like there was low fluid in the womb and I was told he had to come that day by emergency C-Section.

As long as I go into labour, the outcome doesn’t matter.

Understand that I love and respect so much of the medical community, and I believe they had the best intentions for me and my son, but our beliefs on what that looked like differed greatly.

I knew in my heart he was fine. I knew he could stay. He was reading perfect on all NST’s (non stress tests). I could feel my intuition kicking in, my fight. I would not be pushed into this.

My Dr, God bless her, stayed and talked with me for 2 hours. She gave me all her information from her side. Numbers. Statistics. Tests that aren’t proven accurate.

I was set on no. We were headed that way, and then they said something to me that stopped me in my tracks.

He’s fine now, but he could be dead in 24 hours.

Now looking back, I see what that was. Their fear. Not fact, fear.

I was a scared new mom who only wanted my child’s life, and I felt that I no longer had a decision, for if I didn’t do what they said I would be held responsible for the death of my baby boy.

I didn’t have the resolve, the nerve and the self trust I have no to say no.

So I did what I can only describe as complete and total sacrifice of my body, my choice and my rights, for my son.

You see, the entire thought of being cut into and having my baby removed from me was a terrifying thought, and one my entire being screamed no to, and so while I was saying no, I said yes.

I cried for 4 hours leading up to the surgery.

I cried walking down the stairs, into the elevator, sitting in the chair waiting and finally walking into that sterile lonely room alone.

I couldn’t describe it then but I can now; I didn’t cry out of fear … I was crying because what was about to happen to my body was not my choice.

I know that seems contradictory, and consent is a funny thing that way. I signed the papers, I nodded my head, but the answer was no the entire time.

I can only call it sacrifice.

I was willing to let someone violate my body for fear of my son’s life.

I use the term violate because that is completely the feeling I have to this day. I am repulsed at the thought of “a little pressure and tugging”. I was open. My insides were on the outside. If it’s no big deal to you, that’s fine, but to me it is nothing short of violating.

I’m sure had I had a week to really sit with it and make a yes and let that settle in my heart, I wouldn’t have felt this way. But I had 2 hours. I had no time to research.

I had fear.

And then it was over, and as my body recovered, my mind deteriorated. I know now that this was the cause of my anxiety, my spiral into depression. In pictures I smiled, love was there, joy was there, but so was something darker.

It’s why I now (among other things) can’t handle a loss of control; a crying baby I can’t stop and why cutting my finger open 3 days ago and having a Doctor aggressively and against my hearts will dig into my cut sent me hurdling backwards to that sensation of being “done to”.

Because my ‘no’ was perceived as a momentary lapse in courage, not a cry for a discussion of my options.

Because my choice wasn’t real to me.

The only reason I have the courage to write this, is because my husband who sat beside me the entire time for both occasions, who saw me say yes, who held my hand as I cried, completely and entirely validated my hurt. I could never say this without that support.

And after it all, going back to that day almost 3 years ago, I can say truly that I would give myself up to it again and knowingly go through the same demons I fought for a long, dark two years.

And that, according to my husband, is what makes me the bravest woman he knows.

And he is proud of me.

And now I can heal.

I can be proud of me too … because I can look back on it as a mark of courage. I can look at my boy and tell him of the day I gave up my own perceived safety for his.

And that my friends, is a beautiful day indeed.

 

 

**I was able to give birth to my second vaginally on July 8th, 2016; I fought through very similar circumstances which helped form and confirm my feelings on my csection; if you’d like to read the birth story of my second, visit here **

On Body Fat and Self Love

I would like to talk about this as I posted earlier talking about finding my IDEAL, and I want to invite you into my world a little bit more. 

You see, in 2009 I was 40lbs heavier. Yep. 40lbs. When I say I have been into fitness for for almost a decade, this photo on the left is me 7 months before it started. I was happy ish with how I looked. There is nothing wrong with my before, but I had a horrible relationship with food and myself. I had many demons. 


A few years earlier when I was even smaller than my 2009 photo, I dated someone who, when I ordered a BLT bagel at McDonalds asked me “really? You sure you don’t want a salad?” 
And so it began. 

Did I need a salad? I honestly hadn’t thought about it much before. Isn’t it amazing how one comment, that grows to many comments over the course of a relationship turns into your inner dialogue for years to come? 

So for a long time I felt I had to build myself up in my head to be the best, because I believed my only worth was in my body. I didn’t believe I held any value outside of my looks. And if that was true, my value had the ability to be lost. 

So I talked about how healthy I ate, my abs, and I searched from validation from everyone. I seemed arrogant and no one would have guessed I was struggling with my self image; I put on a very strong front. I didn’t know who or whose I was. 

Fast forward to 2017; I have two little boys who love me regardless of what I look like, eat or do, and this is the healthiest, fittest I have ever felt, but not the smallest. 

I have been much smaller, tighter and more muscular than I am now, but the difference is now my mind is at peace with who I am and whose I am; God’s love for me knows no numbers or sizes.  

I no longer define myself by scales or muscles; I can celebrate them without being owned by them. So something like 20% body fat holds no joy or sadness for me. It’s merely a number, a gauge, a baseline. It allows me to track my progress but it does not and never will define who I am and how much I love myself. 
It simply is. 

And 20% body fat on me looks different on you. It might be healthy for me, and not for you, and my goals to lower my BF % are short term and will reflect a healthy loving relationship with my body. 

I write this for the young girls watching, that you owe it to no one to be a certain body fat percentage. That my journey is my own and meant to inspire, not to add to the incredible amount of insecurity. 

Both of these pictures I am beautiful on the outside, but the me on the left is struggling deeply inside. 

The me now is strong. Has a healthy mind and lifting weights gives me a feeling of accomplishment and power. 
I can do anything. 

And so can you, but you are not the sum of your body fat. You are not the sum of the scale. 

You are not a number, and fitness is not a size. 

If you want to be surrounded by other women on this journey of self love and strength, I am here for you. 

Competing and Comparison

I keep forgetting that I’m doing this for ME. Not for anyone else. That this was a goal I set to push me further and do something uncomfortable and reach a goal I otherwise thought was impossible. 
Posing in bikini?! Walking the stage in heels in front of EVERYONE in my company to show how hard (or not) I worked…it’s extremely terrifying and humbling. I’ve realized I can only be me. I can’t pretend to be someone else.

So, I took some updated pictures last night and I was SO disappointed I didn’t look like what I envisioned in my mind I should look like as someone getting ready for a competition. 
I felt so much fear and doubt creeping in from a moment of comparison and it nearly crippled me. 
Maybe it wouldn’t have so much if I hadn’t put it all on social media, because suddenly I was left wondering what if everyone else was having the same thoughts?
“She doesn’t look good enough yet…” 

“She doesn’t really know what she’s doing” 

“Her form isn’t really the greatest…”
And I could let those cripple me or I could embrace them, and that’s what I’m choosing. 
I look and feel great but I am NOT where figure competitors are, and that’s ok because I’m 8 months post partum and started lifting light weights 2 months ago 😂 let’s be real here. 
What I am is shooting for the stars and even if I don’t make it there by July, I’ll be a lot closer than I was if I didn’t try. 
I also do not know what I’m doing haha I’m learning a LOT, and it’s hard because there’s a lot of friends I have who know a LOT more than I do and it can be super intimidating to put my “newness” out there. Like terrifying. 
But even they started somewhere, with little knowledge and a LOT of hunger for more. And I own my journey and I love my journey. 
Form and strength will all come. I focus on learning form to protect myself and I don’t lift heavier than what my form can handle, which means my transformation will be slower for now, that’s OK with me. 
And then lastly, remember to just beat the girl in the mirror. So I grabbed some pictures from January and immediately realized I am stronger than that girl, I have more energy than her and I make it through more of my workout than her.
She is my greatest competitor and she is the only one that matters; I will not be trying to compete with the amazing athletes I’m friends with, I will compete with myself. 

And I will win. 

**If you are interested in joining me for my next challenge and you are READY, I mean ALL IN, hit that contact me button and I will coach you through my exact process** 

Dear Mommy; let me hold you 

Dear mommies, please don’t uncomfortably spin away from tiny hands touching your tummy. They don’t see fat or rolls. Regardless of your level of self love, let them love you. It can be so healing to see those eyes light up as they play with your extra skin ❤ it’s just an extension of you. 
Sure I don’t have a lot so what do I know right? But I’m a woman with insecurities. Just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t be united in that. 
I’ve had babies and my body doesn’t look like it did before and no matter your size, society affects us all and the only way to positively influence society … 
is to let our kids love us. All bits of us. And to never show them we don’t love parts of us. 
Let us show them what strong, beautiful and confident looks like. Let us show them that we will not be defined by our bodies but by the strength of our hearts that beat within them. 


Dear mommy, let them hold you. Let it heal you.

On being cheap

I am cheap. 

Ask my husband … we spent FOUR YEARS using a stupid BROKEN tea light candle holder as our tamper for our espresso machine 🙄 I kid you not. 
I will wait for the sale day at nutters before I buy anything, and if I forget to go, I will wait a FULL MONTH for the sale again. 
I have 👙 undies that my husband BEGS me to throw out and buy new ones because I’ve had them for longer than we’ve been married 😂

Our jeeps engine had to die before I would get another vehicle even though I knew we had almost outgrown it completely already! 

And I PRIDE myself on my ability to NOT spend money 😜

So the fact that I spend $155 a month on Shakeology is CRAZY out of character for me. You have no idea.
So why? Why did I do it? 
Because I was so deep in post partum depression and all I wanted was something natural and healthy to help put good nutrients in my body daily. 
I did not want anti depressants because deep down I knew that food is medicine and if I could stuff all the right superfoods into a smoothie and SLEEP some, I’d be me again. 
But I can’t. I can’t be that person to shop for all those ingredients every week and use them fast enough that they don’t go bad. I didn’t know what I needed and I didn’t have time to do the research I just needed something not full of crap to help me get daily what I wasn’t getting. 
So in my desperation I reached out to this woman in my church that I connected with who I saw was just announced as an emerald coach with beachbody which I LOVED their programs, but guys I was so sheepish to talk to her and THIS IS HOW CHEAP I AM: 
I wouldn’t pay for my challenge pack. 
I saw the value, but maybe not fully, and we were struggling financially. I couldn’t. I couldn’t let go even if it meant saving money in the long run, I couldn’t see that way. I mean we all know if we invest in our health NOW we save in the long term but I have such a hard time actually doing that for myself. 
MY COACH (now I’m crying) made me a deal. If I could come up with X amount of money, she would make an investment in me and cover the rest. Who does that? 
Well, I did it. 
I sold stuff. My own personal possessions. I sold them for this. 
I didn’t know how the next month would be paid. Or the next. Or the next. But I couldn’t think that far. I just needed to move and my depression was holding my brain hostage and this was the only solution that made sense to me. 
And you know what? So many people were attracted to my journey, because y’all I BEAT post partum depression and anxiety through nutrients and endorphins that I never ended up having to pay for it those next few months my husband was in school. 
And this stupid gimmicky miracle shake (what I thought at first) turned out to be the most incredible life changing nutrient vitamin superfoods drink my body craves daily. 
And it’s not a “miracle”. It’s vitamins. Superfoods. Nutrients. But for the situation I was in…it was my miracle. And it is a miracle for so many others!
Now I am a happy, thriving momma. Nothing is perfect but everything is ok. 
Nothing can ever convince me to stop drinking this. Nothing can ever convince me to stop sharing this. 
Nothing. 

I don’t have a product for you. I have a solution. 
It’s time to get over your doubts and dive in. 
Hit contact me and let’s start talking about how your life can change and about a solution. 

On Why I Hated this Picture 


I HATE that my first thought when I saw this photo was that I should have flexed my core. I took this picture to celebrate myself. My achievement. Not just my body. My dedication. My work. My transformation as a woman. And yet I cringed. 

I HATE that we women, no MATTER our size or shape criticize ourselves. We are not just taught to look a certain way, but at its core we are taught we are not enough. 

NO MORE.

 
I am a daughter of the King and I am not going to be apart of tearing myself apart anymore because I think as women we are all connected and as such, when I tear myself down, I tear down everyone watching. I won’t be apart of that anymore. 

I am officially RELEASING myself of the results I want and think will be good enough and I declare that I am already good enough. I am enough. I am simply exploring the curiosity of my heart God placed in me ❤ and I’m walking forward into new areas of playfulness regardless of where it may lead.
 
You must love yourself where you start if you want to love yourself at the end. 
It is OK to want to redefine your body. Body love movements make me feel like it’s NOT OK that I want to do this, but I won’t accept it. Even if it’s not meant to, I won’t accept it even from myself. 

Body love means be big, be small, be YOU. 
Yes, you should absolutely exercise. You should get your heart rate up 30 minutes a day 3-5x a week. Garden, golf or walk. If you want your body to change, that is OK. It doesn’t mean you hate yourself it means you want to find the person you love. Maybe you’ve lost that person … I lost that person for a long time and being thinner wasn’t what found me. 
I found myself in MOVEMENT. 

If you’re looking to unleash the fierce warrior inside, to unveil the person that’s been hidden for too long, take action. 

Your time is now. 

No more. 

I am enough. 

On Celebrating Failure

The year of discipline continues 📖 
Since the start of my journey, I have been trying to find my way back into the word of God. In all truth I was mad at Him for a long time for all the hell we went through and I had a hard time reconnecting. 
But I know my Jesus, and despite the struggles and hard times He is with us, and I knew I had to come back to him. 
Fitness saved my life, and God gave me fitness. I used to feel guilty for being able to dedicate myself to a workout daily but not to reading my Bible and now I don’t because I understand something, that fitness was the only way BACK to Him. It’s the only way to clear my head of the frustrations, of the fog that was post partum depression, of the anxiety … it’s what gave my mind rest. 
Sometimes I cried when I finished workouts in the beginning. Sometimes I still do, because it’s through movement I find peace, I find God there. 
Fast forward to today. Today has been a long long time in the making, and it’s only through trying and failing daily for a year that I sit here successful today, and by trying I mean thinking about doing it and not doing it. That’s it. I made no big efforts except the intention in my heart to succeed, knowing full well my standing with God was not dependent on my Bible reading, but my growth is. 
I look at this the same way it takes some people to start clean eating or to start exercising, because I don’t LIKE reading my Bible. Not yet. Because there’s no emotional joy attached to it. It feels like a chore and so that is how I am approaching it. 
Instead of sitting down trying to have these all powerful moments every day I’ve simplified the process for myself. I wanted to start January 1st but I didn’t and that’s ok, I started today. I will simply read the Bible on a schedule for the simple sake of finishing it in one year (which fully reminds me of the days in Jakarta that we spent reading the Bible non stop for THREE DAYS over the city we were ministering to. Powerful stuff.) 
And for some reason, today was the day. 

It’s the slight edge. It’s the compound effect of positive steps forward every single day, so whatever you’re trying to accomplish I encourage you to fail gloriously every single day and rejoice in your failure because it will lead to your success. 
Never feel bad for your journey. It is yours and yours alone, and if you need someone to celebrate failure with, look me up. I’m really good at failing forward.