With the onset of long summer days, it’s the perfect time to take up a new hobby. Take some inspiration from bold, innovative women artists from British Columbia who are using natural materials to catalyze conversations around honouring our environment.
There’s a salmon on the beach. But it isn’t made of flesh and bone: instead, rows of luminescent, hollowed-out mussel shells shape its hooked jaw. Cracked sea urchins crest across its dorsal fin, curving into a verdant tail of moss and fern. This piece of ephemeral art, created by visual artist Alana Hansen on the remote shores of Cox Island in Haida Gwaii, seeks to remind us that everything is intertwined.
The art-environment connection
Hansen first became interested in the connection between art and the environment while finishing her degree in global resource systems at the University of British Columbia. Although she had never undertaken any formal art training, art became a way for her to conceptualize what she was learning in class. What started as doodles in the margins of her notebook soon morphed into watercolour maps of the British Columbia coastline integrated into the bodies of salmon, eagles, and orcas, or forests painted onto driftwood.
Time spent living and working in Haida Gwaii particularly influenced her, and she fell in love with ephemeral art—impermanent art pieces created by conscientiously pulling together elements of the landscape, such as fallen leaves, washed-up seaweed, and seashells. Hansen has left these pieces on beaches, by streams, and even on the trails of VanDusen Botanical Gardens, much to the delight of unsuspecting visitors.
“I have some sort of dream, or vision, of connecting different elements of the environment,” says Hansen about her creative process. “I’ll walk into the forest and see a fern—I’ll challenge myself to be curious and think, ‘What’s the bigger picture here?’”
Taking up an art practice is a great way to disconnect from the stress of daily life, as well as to become more in tune with your surroundings. Numerous studies have shown that art therapy can decrease anxiety, boost mood, and improve quality of life.
However, conventional art materials often contain harmful chemicals and compounds. For example, some oil-based and acrylic paints, felt-tip permanent markers, and glues are thought to release toxic vapours, while inhaling powdered materials such as clay and aerosol may trigger asthma, allergies, and headaches—particularly for children. Take inspiration from talented Canadian artists who are championing the use of sustainable materials.
Working with Mother Nature
Rebecca Graham and Jaymie Johnson are two West Coast artists and educators affiliated with the BC-based EartHand Gleaners Society, which works to engage communities in environmental art projects. They use a range of natural elements in their work, such as salmon skin for leather products, and even make use of invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry and English ivy
If you’re looking to forage for natural materials, Graham and Johnson recommend harvesting respectfully and mindfully from a place with which you have a pre-existing relationship. Graham, for example, chooses to use only what’s available in the city, such as green waste from gardens. “You don’t know how foraging will impact the land over time,” Graham says.
Solar dyeing is a simple, sustainable way to create natural dye. You can use dyestuffs such as onion skin and blackberries to create vibrant colour, with little more than a Mason jar, natural fibres, a mordant, and some sunshine.
Look online for how-to guides and videos on solar dyeing—the Saskatchewan Craft Council, for example, provides a helpful and concise explanation of the process.
EartHand Gleaners hosts regular workshops where participants learn to process linen, harvest seasonal fibres, use natural dyes, and even work with flint.
Public projects are also a fundamental aspect of their work, such as a community-engaged project Johnson assisted with in a former industrial area of Richmond, BC, in 2015. The public was invited to turn invasive Himalayan blackberry into rope, which was knotted into large sculptures resembling butterfly nets and installed in trees as part of a larger initiative to revitalize native bee populations.
“Engaging the community with environmental art is an entry point into taking action,” says Johnson. “It fosters hope—otherwise it would be too easy to feel powerless against or apathetic toward environmental issues.”
Graham agrees. “I want people to feel like they’re coming in contact with the natural world in a way that is deeper than wallpaper,” she says. “If they can begin to approach a sense of reverence, that nature is where it begins and ends, that’s what we need.”
Forging new connections
According to Johnson, art that truly shows respect for the environment is inherently collaborative. When you work with natural materials, you need to collaborate with the weather, seasons, and plants; if you’re using recycled materials, you need to collaborate with other people; and if you’re engaging the community, you need the support of the public, professionals, and Canada’s host nations.
“In my experience, collaboration is extremely important in deepening our relationships to a place, and connections to other beings that share that place,” Johnson says. “This is the foundation of a sustainable society.”
In a study examining self-esteem in seniors, art therapy resulted in significant improvements in self-esteem.
Start your own practice
To get started, Johnson recommends trying out weekly observational drawing—for example, drawing one plant for an entire season. It’s a great way to build and nourish a relationship with your surroundings, and you can do it with the most sustainable materials you have, such as natural ink, charcoal, or pencil.
Of course, eco-friendly materials might not be accessible for all artists right off the bat, so Graham suggests a simple litmus test to determine what you want to work with. “Ask yourself, would I eat something grown in dirt that contains remnants of that? For example, I wouldn’t want to eat food grown where acrylic paint was composted.”
Hansen also advises upcycling old or unused materials and reaching out to other artists to share their supplies. She works predominantly in watercolour, but paints outside whenever possible, often incorporating natural elements into her work. Last autumn, she used water from a nearby river to infuse her pieces with what she terms “life energy”—and a faint whiff of spawning salmon.
For Hansen, what matters above all else is your desire to care for and cherish our natural environment. “Take something that might not be typical and find the magic in the process, not the end result,” she says. “That’s where you can truly lose yourself.”
Sustainable art supply stores:
Maiwa, Vancouver and online: offers natural fibres and dyes
Urban Source, Vancouver: collects alternative art materials from more than 100 different local industries
Kama Pigments, Montreal and online: specializes in a range of eco-friendly artists’ materials
Respecting the traditional stewards of the land
When foraging for natural materials, it’s important to show respect for Canada’s host nations, who have maintained deep relationships to the land for thousands of years. The “four Rs” are the place to start: Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity, and Responsibility. For example, to practise reciprocity, visit a site not just to take away, but also to give something back—even if it’s a simple hello. To show respect, enjoy a silent moment of gratitude, or even exchange a lock of hair.
To find out more, get involved with Indigenous advocacy groups in your local community, and keep an eye out for relevant workshops or panel discussions.
Creating outside the box
Here are some other footprint-light art forms you may not have thought of taking up.
Dance—both an art form and a form of recreation, dancing allows you to tell a story, set a mood, or express an emotion.
Journalling—a more private form of creative expression, journalling can help you manage anxiety, cope with stress, and practise positive self-talk.
Photography—check out your local flea market for a second-hand camera that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
A former alive editor, Isabela Vera has travelled to five continents but will always feel most at home on the foggy shores of the Pacific Northwest.
Painful periods are a fact of life for up to 90 percent of women. But do they have to be? You can minimize or eliminate your period pain by addressing your diet, lifestyle, and nutrition, and with careful use of supplements.
Women endure many things in their lives. One of these recurring “things” occurs every month and has earned an immense collection of nicknames—most of them negative. But do we have to endure the pain and other symptoms that often accompany these monthly visits from “Aunt Flo”?
Common but concerning
Abdominal cramps, low back pain, pain in the inner thighs, headaches, and fatigue: up to 90 percent of women experience these symptoms during their period, with up to one-quarter having symptoms severe enough to miss work.
Dysmenorrhea, the medical term for painful periods, has two types: primary and secondary.
Primary dysmenorrhea is due to the production of prostaglandins in our uterus. It often starts in our teens and lessens with age.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is the result of an underlying condition that causes period pain, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. It often starts later in life and doesn’t get better with age.
Period pain often lessens after having a baby, even if the baby is delivered by Caesarean section.
Why are periods painful?
Just before the start of our period flow, the blood supply and oxygen delivery to the uterus is reduced. To shed its lining, the uterus produces inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins that cause contractions. This combination of low oxygen, prostaglandins, and cramping contractions causes
Did you know?
Women who experience period pain are more sensitive to pain in general, not just during their periods.
Your guide to pain-free periods
Not every woman experiences painful periods. What do they know that the rest of us don’t? While some women will continue to have mild cramping, it is possible to eliminate most of the pain associated with your period. By focusing on lifestyle, diet, and specific supplements, this guide will help you to be pain-free, period.
Diet and lifestyle
Studies have found that lifestyle factors contribute to painful periods. Women who are underweight or overweight are more likely to have painful periods, as are heavy smokers and women with heavier periods.
Eat more fruit and veg
Women who eat more fruits and vegetables have less menstrual pain, while those who consume more sugar, more salt, and more caffeine have more pain. So cut back on these foods—you already know you should.
Women who report more work or life stress experience more painful periods. Some of the ways to help reduce stress are common sense things such as staying active—both physically and socially—and taking control of your busy schedule by learning to prioritize.
This can reduce pain by improving blood flow to the uterus and
altering production of pain-promoting prostaglandins in the uterus. Regular exercise is best, but exercising just before and during your period can also help, especially if you have a sedentary job.
Nutrition for pain-free periods
Nutrient deficiencies have been found to increase period pain for women, and focusing your attention on a few key nutrients can help you be pain free.
Alone or with omega-3-rich fish oils, vitamin B1 can reduce cramps and mood changes during your period.
Deficient in one-third of Canadians, vitamin D may help reduce pain in those women who are deficient.
Often combined with fish oils, which are also helpful, vitamin E may be as effective as pain medications for reducing period pain.
Thought to contribute to painful periods when deficient, magnesium may be the most impactful nutrient for period pain. It can help relax the uterus, enhance our ability to cope with stress, reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms (especially when combined with vitamin B6), and both prevent and treat painful periods.
Botanical medicines for period pain
If changing your diet, improving your lifestyle, and making sure you get your nutrients doesn’t result in pain-free periods, there are still some natural options to relieve your pain.
Known to reduce prostaglandin production, ginger is the bomb for reducing period pain. Taken for five days, beginning just before your period, it has shown to be effective, with minimal side effects.
Other spicy options
Cinnamon—potentially as effective as ibuprofen—and fenugreek are typically taken as supplements, but using these spices in food and tea could possibly reduce period pain as well.
Best known for its impact on sleep, valerian may also reduce period pain.
This herb is often prescribed for its benefits in relieving PMS.
Overcoming period pain is possible, but it won’t happen overnight. Use the recommendations in this guide, focusing on your diet, lifestyle, nutrition, and botanicals, and you can have a positive impact on your period pain and live your best life, every day of the month.
Avoid these to reduce period pain
cookies, cakes, and baked goods
Dr. Lisa Watson is a naturopathic doctor in Toronto. She shares her knowledge on women’s hormones and all things lady garden at her website, drlisawatson.com.
The raw ingredients of conception may seem simple, but the truth is that our body is a complex system—and the machinery of conception requires
an intricate fusion of factors to succeed.
Menstrual cycle health, sperm viability, environmental factors, what we eat, our age—so much goes into trying to conceive.
To learn about fertility’s fine details, I turned to naturopathic doctor Caroline Meyer and osteopathic manual practitioner Jill Bodak. I also interviewed Andrea about her personal journey to conceive.
A complex dance
Meyer calls the science of conception a “complex dance of many factors.” A mid-cycle surge in hormones, specifically LH (luteinizing hormone), signals to one of the ovaries to release an egg.
Travelling through the fallopian tube until it enters the uterus, nearby sperm fertilize the egg (zygote), which then nestles into the wall of the uterus, where other hormones such as progesterone and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) facilitate growth.
“It is literally,” says Bodak, “the least likely series of events to occur successfully when you consider the odds: millions of sperm, one egg, on a particular day, fusing and finding a safe space to attach and multiply.”
Back to basics
To help align the factors in your complex dance and increase your odds of conceiving, start with some basics.
Maintain a healthy weight
A body mass index (BMI) of 20 to 24 appears to be the best range for fertility. Weighing too much or too little can change menstrual cycles and disturb—or even stop—ovulation.
Eat a healthy diet
Include whole grains, healthy fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, more plant protein, and less red meat, and avoid unhealthy processed foods, including deli meats, pastries, sweets, and sweetened beverages. Be sure to include plenty of seafood in your diet, including salmon, scallops, and shrimp.
Staying hydrated is always important, but drinking water is by far the best way to do this while trying to conceive. Sugary drinks, including fruit juices, may have a negative effect on fertility.
Supplement, just in case
Supplementing with vitamins, minerals, and botanicals can help, especially if you’re having difficulty getting enough of the important nutrients in your diet.
folic acid (if not taking a multivitamin with folic acid)
omega-3 fatty acids
And, according to Meyer, acupuncture has been used for many years to increase the likelihood of successful conception.
Harder said than done
“Nobody knows if conceiving will be easy or hard for their body to do,” says Bodak, “until they try. In our current culture and understanding of how not to have a baby, it’s often scary and disorienting to struggle with conception when we actually want to be pregnant.”
According to Meyer and Bodak, some of the other potential challenges to conception include
lifelong menstrual irregularity
long-term oral contraceptive use
cysts, polyps, fibroids
fallopian tube malfunction
environmental pollutants driving down sperm counts and quality
low thyroid function
eating habits that don’t feed ova and sperm well
The stress spiral
Trying to conceive can itself be stressful. As Bodak puts it, “Trying to ‘not stress’ about having a baby is stressful. People can feel caught in a vicious cycle of sensing that time is running out, all the while wanting to stay relaxed about the fact that the process is taking time.”
Attempts and age
“Although many women and men are quite healthy as they age,” says Meyer, “women are born with a limited store of eggs, and this supply diminishes every period. Egg and sperm quality also tend to decrease with age, which can lead to conception challenges and miscarriages.”
Chemicals and conception
“Recent research indicates that the health of the environment has direct and indirect impacts on human fertility,” notes Meyer. “Chronic exposures to plastics and chemicals, increased toxic loads, and food quality can also contribute to difficulties with fertility.”
Andrea’s family story
Andrea and her partner were married at age 35, after many years of enjoying travel, food, music, and life together. They tried to conceive naturally for a few months, then focused on cycles and timing. After a year of trying, they sought support at a fertility clinic.
Andrea was diagnosed with premature ovarian aging, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) was recommended. Andrea felt strongly that she wanted to acclimate her body and mind to the fertility drugs and process, advocating for first undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI)—where sperm is placed into the vagina to improve likelihood of pregnancy.
For months, Andrea attended daily clinic visits for monitoring, experiencing multiple cycles of “not great eggs,” which prevented intervention.
After four months, Andrea describes feeling “tired with the emotional roller coaster, clinic visits, and injections. I was ready to take a break. With my partner, we decided to persist, and the next month’s monitoring showed the first viable opportunity for an IUI.”
After her 18-month journey, Andrea and her partner became pregnant with twins. Their little girl and boy are now three years old.
Andrea shares her suggestions for those struggling to conceive.
Be kind and sensitive. You never know what another is going through. Well-intended questions can be agonizing.
Self-compassion is crucial. Sometimes, I declined baby showers when they felt too hard emotionally.
Find support. The fertility clinic managed the physical aspects well, but for the emotional support I turned to my amazing partner, family, and trusted friends.
Consider a mindfulness course for fertility. Mine offered meditation techniques I still use today.
Advocate for your own health. I became more in tune with my body and mind throughout my fertility journey, and I trusted my gut.
You’re not alone. So many are going through this, yet it’s still not a commonplace discussion.
Trying and timing
When does trying to conceive become trying itself? Both Bodak and Meyer suggest six to 12 months of unsuccessful trying as a reasonable gauge, after which to seek medical clarification.
Making a family is much more than fertility. “Literally everyone,” emphasizes Meyer, “has many options to create a family of their own.” The possibilities for what constitutes a family, as Meyer puts it, “are vast indeed.”
Deena Kara Shaffer, PhD, is a learning specialist and co-creator of the Thriving in Action initiative at Ryerson University, an educational consultant, and a published poet. @deenakshaffer
Learn how creating your own strength practice can improve your self-image and why the trendy phrase “strong is the new skinny” might not be serving us well. Try our strength workout with a friend!
It’s a familiar phrase among female fitness enthusiasts. You’ve likely noticed it creeping into discussions at the gym, in posts on fitnessfocused social media accounts, or displayed on women’s workout tops. It’s a positive change— a productive development for women’s body image, right? Not so fast. “Strong is the new skinny” is certainly moving in the right direction, and in theory, the concept is great. In practice, however, it’s used in ways that are not always conducive to creating a healthy body image. Typically, this phrase is a caption on an image depicting a well-muscled, scantily clad model with six-pack abs and an extremely low body fat percentage. Most of the time, the model isn’t doing anything other than posing. Strong women with a variety of body types, performing actual feats of strength, are rarely shown.
We’re now replacing one cultural ideal (“skinny”) with another (muscled and lean). The way the phrase is used still focuses exclusively on aesthetics. It’s essentially saying, “Muscles are the new skinny.” Some women are naturally lean. Some women gain muscle more easily than others. Athletes exist across a full range of body fat percentages. Strong doesn’t have a “look.” Of course, we all want to look and feel amazing. But “amazing” comes in many different shapes and sizes and abilities, and is not exclusive to the muscledand-lean look.
There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of “strong.”
Strength could mean bench pressing with a barbell for the first time. It could be performing unassisted pullups, mastering technical movements with kettlebells, or deadlifting your body weight for reps. Or it could be keeping up with your kids at the playground and having the ability to do the daily activities you enjoy without fear of injury.
Your body image can improve greatly when you create your own strength training practice. Female clients often start working with me because they’re unhappy with how they look. Their sole motivation at the gym is to change their physiques.
Once they start strength training regularly and realize what their bodies can do, they continue training not because they’re unhappy with how they look, but because they’re amazed at what they can do. Training for performance-based goals will most likely have an effect on your physique, anyway! How’s that for a win-win?
As you work on developing your strength practice, don’t forget the importance of nutrition in fuelling your fitness goals. Focus on a variety of whole foods such as veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
Fitness tips to foster a healthy body image
Try not to compare yourself to others. Focus on your own strength practice, on how your body feels, and what it can do.
Do what makes you feel good. There’s no rule that says you need to lift weights in a gym. Foster strength in a way that works for you, such as rock climbing, yoga, outdoor boot camps, or dragon boating.
Find a training buddy who views fitness as a positive pursuit in her life. The attitudes of the people with whom we spend time (perhaps especially when we’re working out) rub off on us!
If you strength train regularly, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Dietitians of Canada recommend 1.2 to 2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to effectively recover from training and to promote the growth and maintenance of muscle. If you’re in a caloric deficit to lose weight, you may need more than this protein amount to prevent losing muscle along with fat. Some healthy high-protein foods include tempeh, seitan, tofu, dry roasted edamame, nutritional yeast, black bean or red lentil pasta, and hempseeds.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
The scale is not an accurate measure of most women’s fitness levels. In many cases, as strength level increases, so does the number on the scale. If a client’s waist measurement is staying the same or decreasing, and her body weight is increasing, I see that as an excellent sign of having built muscle.
Complete as a circuit. Aim for three rounds of the circuit, performing 15 reps of each move (per side, where applicable). For resistance band sprints, aim for 20 seconds each round.
MED BALL MOUNTAIN CLIMBER
Muscles targeted: abs and shoulders
This move improves core and shoulder stability. Both are important for injury prevention!
Start in a plank position with your hands on a medicine ball (fingers pointing toward the floor).
Bring one knee toward your chest. Hold for a second, then bring your leg back to the start position and repeat on the other side.
MED BALL RUSSIAN TWIST
Muscles targeted: abs
Fire up your entire core musculature, focusing on your obliques.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet off the floor, leaning back slightly. Hold a medicine ball at waist level.
Lightly touch the ball to the floor next to your right hip, then repeat on the left.
MED BALL PUSH-UPS
Muscles targeted: triceps, chest, shoulders
A challenging push-up variation that improves your strength and balance.
To practise this move, perform negative reps: start in the top position and lower yourself slowly (3 to 4 seconds). Then start back at the top.
Start in a plank position with your hands on a medicine ball (fingers pointing toward the floor).
Inhale and bend your arms, bringing your chest to the ball. Exhale as you push yourself away from the ball and back to the start position
RESISTANCE BAND SPRINTS
Muscles targeted: quads, hamstrings, glutes
You and your training buddy will strengthen all the muscles in the lower body while improving cardiovascular conditioning!
Stand with a large, flat resistance band (pull-up assist bands work well) around your hips, with your training partner holding the band behind you.
Lean forward and sprint as fast as you can, while your partner leans back and provides resistance, following behind you. After your set, switch places.
Muscles targeted: abs and shoulders
A classic partner exercise that strengthens your core and shoulders.
You and your partner start facing each other in a plank position, with your heads about a foot apart.
Lift your left hands and give each other a highfive about a foot off the floor. Place your hands back on the floor and repeat on the right.
WALL SQUAT + WALKING LUNGES
Muscles targeted: quads, hamstrings, glutes
Press your back against a wall or other stable object. Lower yourself into a squat so your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
While you hold the wall squat, your workout buddy performs walking lunges, taking a step forward and bending both knees so that her back knee almost touches the floor.
Once she’s completed 15 reps per leg, switch places.
Karina Inkster, MA, PTS, is a health and fitness coach, author of two books, and speaker. Her awardwinningonline programs help vegans worldwide live their healthiest, most plant-strong lives.
She trained her entire life for the Olympics, but a storm drowned her dreams of winning gold. Today, this three-time Olympian and two-time world champion is helping women use mindfulness and intention to conquer defeat and achieve their dreams—just like she did.
The icy waves pummelled her canoe, and sprint kayaker Karen Furneaux struggled not to get thrown overboard. Her dreams of gold sank below the whitecaps as her team crossed the Olympic finish line in fifth place. But she learned something invaluable that day about life’s unpredictability and tapping into her true strength.
A childhood goal
Furneaux grew up in Waverley, once the site of one of Nova Scotia’s biggest gold rushes. She jokes that this meant she was predestined to want Olympic gold. As a little girl, Furneaux played backyard Olympics with her friends, and by age 17, she was training to make Nova Scotia’s Canada Games
But in what would be one of many twists and turns in her road to the Olympics, tragedy struck. While training, Furneaux collided with another athlete. “We never found my teeth,” she says. “They’re still on the mountain!” It took more than two years, and countless surgeries, to get her smile back. During that time Furneaux shifted her focus to kayaking.
Dreams down under
Fast-forward nearly a decade. After gruelling training schedules, stunning results at the Canadian trials, and winning her first international medal at the World Cup in the Netherlands, Furneaux earned her right to race in the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney, Australia.
She was filled with pride and hope, but when the day arrived, the incoming storm was so strong that boats were sinking and Olympic officials rescheduled the race multiple times.
“I felt physically, mentally, and emotionally empty,” writes Furneaux in her new book, Strong Beauty: Power Up the Champion Within (I Promise Performance, 2018), about crossing that finish line in fifth place. “Worst of all, I felt that I had let everyone down.”
“It was a big setback and learning moment,” she tells us. “I set myself up for these super high expectations, and it was really nothing like what I expected.”
Why did the storm have to hit right when it did? Why did her first shot at the Olympics fall on this specific day? Why?
These questions ran through Furneaux’s head. The reality was that there was nothing she could have done about the weather. However, she realized there was something she could change.
“We spend a lot of time creating drama around what’s outside of our control,” says Furneaux. “The experience solidified for me that we can only control what’s in our power: our thoughts, our behaviours, and our intentions.”
This was the beginning of a powerful journey for Furneaux. Each race, each setback, each medal won and medal missed strengthened her and helped her explore what it meant to be resilient, powerful, and confident.
“It enlightened me to think about the power of the mind and how we create every situation that we’re in and can empower ourselves through it,” she says.
Today, after a 20-year athletic career, Furneaux is a three-time Olympian, two-time world champion, and winner of numerous world championship medals. And she’s traded the awards podium for a speaker’s podium, coaching thousands on her POWER approach to self-belief and success.
More POWERful than ever
That aha moment from her first Olympics was a building block for her mindfulness acronym: POWER.
Presence: are you staying in the present moment?
Openness: receive what can be learned in the moment, and shift your emotions to more positive feelings.
Wisdom: recognize where you have strength and all that you’ve learned.
Energy: where are you putting your intention and focusing your energy?
Respond: take responsibility for your goals, dreams, and actions.
This forms the basis for her book, as well as the Strong Beauty Tribe—a mentorship community of young women who work with Furneaux to find their “inner winner.”
Furneaux’s message is all about honouring your journey and tapping into your inner strength through mindfulness to get through adversity and achieve success.
“The most common thought pattern that I see in women is questioning ourselves,” she says. “Am I good enough? Strong enough? Know enough?”
Furneaux’s answer: a resounding yes!
In her book, she writes that practising her POWER habits helped her learn to appreciate that “the beauty within is about more than just medals and muscles.” And no matter how bumpy our journeys to our own personal Olympics, if we stay true to our dreams and POWER up our self-belief and mindfulness, we can achieve whatever we’ve set our minds to.
Success and spas
It’s not an indulgence. Furneaux says self-care boosts her performance as a businessperson, athlete, and public speaker. Her top suggestions for recharging include
taking a relaxing bath
getting creative through art, poetry, or whatever expresses your own unique brilliance
sitting in meditation
getting a massage
connecting with the earth and with nature
Ready, set, action!
“Every habit or action … is driven by a belief,” writes Furneaux. “If you change your beliefs … then it’s easier to change your habits and actions.”
Joshua Duvauchelle is a regular alive contributor. joshduv.com
Can you have as much wine with dinner as your male partner or go to bed as late as he does—but without any extra adverse consequences? Short answer: no. Far from creating endless sex difference polemics, many studies concluded that male and female bodies are differently affected by environment and lifestyle factors.
Understanding the beauty behind the design helps our quest toward better and sustainable health.
Sleep is essential for life. Go without, and you will likely gain weight and be at a higher risk of diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke, and a lower immune function. According to research, sleep-deprived women find themselves more affected than their male partners on the same amount of sleep.
A 2017 study of 744 patients concluded that sleep-deprived women are more likely to feel tired and depressed. They had trouble settling for sleep on subsequent nights; also, memory and concentration were affected.
Because estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone regulate sleep and arousal, hormonal changes can and do influence sleep patterns in women (hence poorer sleep after 40!). So does motherhood: a study of 5,800 parents concluded that mothers get less sleep than fathers. Sleep deprivation increased by 50 percent with each additional child. Moreover, there’s a good reason to hit the sack early: women’s circadian rhythm is set an hour earlier for women.
Each 10 g of daily alcohol increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 7 to 10 percent, particularly the hormone-receptor positive subtypes. But … is all alcohol bad? Red wine contains antioxidants called polyphenols, 70 percent of which are made of resveratrol, catechin, and quercetin. They can act as estrogen blockers, hence the protective effect, but the overall conclusion is that alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk, no matter the choice of beverage.
Kamloops nutritionist Melanie Pouliot, CNC, advises caution, more so with existing hormonal issues. “Alcohol affects the liver, which in turn affects women’s hormones,” she explains. “That can worsen hormonal imbalances, increasing hot flashes in premenopausal women.”
While alcohol lowers risk of cardiovascular disease, when we indulge in the occasional glass of (ideally) red wine, the benefits were observed mostly in people over 50.
When it comes to iron, women’s bodies have some extra challenges. “Monthly menstrual cycles and childbirth increase the risk of women developing iron-deficient anemia,” says Ben Kim, a health educator based in Ontario. He recommends iron-rich foods before supplements: elk and grass-fed bison meat, pumpkin seeds, cooked broccoli, and beans and pulses (soak before cooking!).
Pouliot suggests regular blood tests and awareness. “Women should watch for symptoms such as excessive post-exercise tiredness or shortness of breath,” she says.
A food-based iron supplement for women can help if tests reveal low levels.
Among others, iron absorption is regulated by hepcidin, a liver-produced hormone. In women, estrogen was found to decrease hepcidin synthesis in menstruating women to keep iron levels in balance.
EASY DOES IT
Moderate to heavy drinking by adolescent and young adult women increases lifelong risk of breast cancer due to a higher susceptibility of the developing breast tissue.
DID YOU KNOW?
Women athletes have five to seven times higher prevalence of iron disorders. Certain types of exercise and inflammation can increase circulating levels of hepcidin, which can cause iron-deficient anemia. Even in post-menopause, women athletes can experience decreased iron levels during and after exercise.
Tips for better sleep
Say no to nightcaps: alcohol interferes with sleep (and increases snoring).
Valerian and magnesium are often used to help achieve better sleep. Remember to check with your health care practitioner before trying a new supplement.
Avoid screen time (including smartphones), as well as caffeine, before bed.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
As much as possible, keep your bedtimes and wake times consistent.
Consuming more than 1,000 mg of calcium daily is associated with an increased risk of heart disease for men, and kidney stones and heart attacks, respectively, for women. There is no risk associated with normal dietary intake, though, so help yourself to leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and canned fish (bones included).
Women are four times more at risk of osteoporosis (yes, unfair). Blame it on physiologically lower bone density and earlier bone loss, coupled with decreasing estrogen levels. When thinking calcium, don’t forget about an essential vitamin. “People should focus on supplementing with vitamin D, more so between fall and spring,” reminds Pouliot.
Vitamin K is also important, as it is thought to help protect the heart and arteries from calcification.
It’s not a sin to like treats, but it matters which ones you choose. Gender notwithstanding, loading up on refined sugary treats disrupts your microbiome and increases your risk of diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, heart disease, neuropathy, and age-related cognitive decline.
A 2015 study concluded that a diet high in refined carbohydrates increases the risk of depression in middle-aged women; in contrast, lowering dietary sugar improves hormonal imbalances.
“Carbohydrates are essential to the human body, but we need the complex ones found in whole, unprocessed foods,” says Pouliot. Our bodies need soluble and insoluble fibres from complex carbohydrates for healthy digestion.
Pouliot recommends at least 70 percent organic chocolate, which contains less sugar and more magnesium, which helps reduce craving; a small square a day would suffice. Or, mix Medjool dates, raw cacao powder, and walnuts for yummy, healthy truffles. In the end, it’s not about giving up treats but making
Daniela Ginta, MSc, lives in Kamloops, BC. She writes about social issues, health, and the environment. danielaginta.com
The postpartum stage, or the “fourth trimester,” is a time of development for your newborn, and for you too. Your body can go through changes, both physically and mentally, that may be foreign to you.
Giving life. It’s a momentous and deeply meaningful time for a woman.
But the experiences that follow are often very challenging, especially for Mama.
The postpartum stage can last for up to six months after giving birth. You may notice changes in your body, both physically and mentally. Regardless if this is your first baby or your fourth, you may not be prepared for these changes. But there are some simple diet and lifestyle practices that may help empower you.
Indulging in sleep may be a thing of the past as you’re now realizing the all-consuming energy needed for your newborn. Interrupted sleep, lack of support, breastfeeding struggles, and adjusting to your new normal may contribute to increased fatigue as you embrace life as a new mom.
The quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity of sleep. It’s suggested that sleeping near everyday disturbances such as your cellphone and television works against you when postpartum rest is needed. Instead, try creating your own cozy, sacred space
DID YOU KNOW?
Postpartum anemia can affect 50 percent of new moms for up to two days after giving birth.
Sodium-rich foods signal cellular water storage, which may lead to a swollen or bloated look to your body. If you received IV fluid during labour, studies suggest you may experience breast engorgement and swelling of your feet, legs, and hands as a side effect.
Try to avoid those oh-so-easy prepackaged foods, as sodium is a prevalent ingredient. Look for potassium-rich foods such as bananas, avocados, spinach, and beans or lentils instead, as potassium works naturally to reduce the body’s sodium levels.
You could also try a dandelion infusion; dandelion is well known for its diuretic effect. You can find dried dandelion or teas containing dandelion at almost any natural health store.
You may feel uterine cramping, as uterine involution is occurring during the first postpartum days. This is the process during which your uterus returns to its former pre-pregnancy size.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Nicole Davies says, “Acupuncture has been known to effectively relieve cramping and pelvic pain by increasing circulation to the uterus, reducing inflammation, and releasing endorphins.”
Feelings of postpartum depression (PPD) can affect up to 85 percent of new mothers as a possible result of the significant routine shift that comes with parenthood, poor sleep, hormone changes, lack of nutrients, or feelings of being isolated.
Be sure to check in with your health care practitioner if you think you may be experiencing PPD. Some mindfulness practices, such as meditation, may help quiet your mind and listen inwardly. This can make asking for help easier if you know exactly how and what you’re feeling.
Lack of time, knowledge, convenience, help, and energy might make you feel that preparing and eating nutritious food is impossible. Not to mention that grocery shopping may be the last thing on your to-do list.
Taking a few minutes to make a meal plan may prove helpful in the long run. Cooking can also be easier than you think if you wash and chop ingredients ahead of time—when you have some spare time. Try to snack often on nutrient-dense food—variety is important.
Exhaustion affects our mental health, specifically memory and concentration. Do you feel emotionally drained? This can result from lack of sleep and feeling the pressure to do everything and more in a day.
Promoting relaxation through light yoga and/or meditation during the postpartum season may be effective, and having a trusted friend or relative to talk to about what you’re experiencing is also important. Getting outdoors to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine can do a world of good to help reinvigorate you.
DID YOU KNOW?
Lochia, or vaginal bleeding, can potentially last for up to three months after you have your baby. If your postpartum bleeding is heavy and accompanied by pelvic or uterine pain, be sure to contact your health care practitioner.
Dreamy Postpartum Tonic
1 cup (250 mL) coconut milk
1/2 cup (125 mL) ice
2 Tbsp (30 mL) cacao powder
2 to 4 pitted dates
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
In high-speed blender, add all ingredients. Blend on high until smooth, and serve. Top with powdered cinnamon, if desired.
Holistic nutritionist and birth doula Meegan Waters creates honest conversation on her women’s health podcast, InBloom. inbloompodcast.com
Beautiful food is more than just eye candy. It needs to lure the scent and then deliver to the taste buds. These recipes give you not just amazingly luscious looks, but they also deliver a wallop of flavour while nurturing your daily nutritional needs.
The world throws out far too much food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), close to one-third of global food production gets lost or wasted—nearly 1.3 billion tonnes!
It’s a very simple practice to make a dish bloom. Transforming a recipe from mediocre to fabulous starts with the eye. Visually, you might say, a beautiful dish, artfully prepared, begins as eye candy. Next, the scent of what’s been made lures the fork. Collectively, this process and these impressions work their magic to please the palate.
This month of Mother’s Day, we’re showcasing a celebration of visually beautiful and deliciously nutritious foods. Each recipe was developed with families and celebrations in mind, offering options, substitutions, and creative presentation tips.
A beautiful green detox soup, a colourful carrot salad with heirloom rainbow carrots, and a deliciously smoky flatbread topped by vibrant in-season strawberries and tomatoes—each collectively fills a bevy of daily nutritional needs while also capturing the eye.
Accompany these dishes with a delicious, lightened Niçoise salad and a tantalizing and innovative cheesecake, and you’ll have Mother’s Day covered—with food that’s not just beautiful to behold, but also filled with good-for-you goodness!
From soup to dessert, cast your eye on this collection of recipes that are simple to assemble and perfect for serving—for Mother’s Day and beyond.
Irene McGuinness is a passionate food writer, editor, and food stylist living on a small farm outside of Vancouver. When not writing, she is nurturing animals and tending to her extensive garden. Her work appears in a variety of Canadian, US, and Australian magazines.
“One day, I’m going to live on a farm,” Lisa Lloyd promised herself. So she packed up her three children and set out to make that dream a reality. Today, this little idea has sprouted into something so much bigger.
It’s easy to miss the front gate, tucked away on a quiet country lane on Salt Spring Island, BC. Beyond it, Stowel Lake Farm’s 115 lush acres unfold before you. Forget what you think you know about farms. A new vision for community and quiet sustainability has taken root here.
A little girl’s dream
Ever since she was young, Lisa Lloyd loved being connected to nature and the earth. When she saw the land for sale, Lloyd knew this was her chance.
And so she packed up her three young children and made the move. Sheep freely roamed the island back in the 1970s, so getting a flock of her own was a natural starting point. Through trial and error, gritty determination, and long days and nights, fences went up. Lambs were birthed. Soil was tilled. Seeds were sowed. And life for this little family began to sprout and flourish.
Seasons came. Seasons went. Horses replaced her sheep. Gleaming bottles of milk from her first cow began to appear in fridges across Salt Spring. Summers were spent harvesting endless baskets of strawberries.
As Lloyd’s children grew, so did the community around the farm. She’d always wanted to feel part of a deeply interwoven community, and the sprawling farm became a hub for exactly that.
Rollicking dances and musical performances filled the barn. Lloyd began hosting meditation gatherings on her front porch, which then led to weekend retreats as people sought out the farm’s idyllic peacefulness. Friends and travellers came and went, staying in spare bedrooms or the farm’s cozy Volkswagen bus.
One by one, Lloyd’s children grew up and moved away. She missed having them around, but all things come to those who wait. So Lloyd waited. More seasons came and went, and then a new season began.
A return to love
“I never really saw this in my future,” laughs Lloyd’s daughter, Jennifer Lloyd-Karr, who now calls the farm home (again) alongside her husband and two children.
When Lloyd-Karr graduated from university, her childhood farm was simply a place to rest and work between travelling. “I lived summer to summer for many years,” she says. “Whether or not I came back to the farm depended on who would be there.”
A friend, Elizabeth “Liz” Young, joined her one summer. The two were inseparable, and you could hear their music and laughter echoing through the fields and gardens. And so the two kept coming back, year after year. Lloyd-Karr began to ponder what life would be like to stay there full time.
“There wasn’t a specific day where I was like, ‘I’m going to become a farmer!’” she explains. “It was a flow.”
Her now-husband was living in California, and as their relationship grew more serious, the question of where they’d live came up repeatedly.
Lloyd-Karr gazes across the farm, from the farm stand overflowing with produce—passersby can help themselves under the honour system (a Salt Spring tradition)—to the tidy rows of organic vegetables. She’s confident that her choice all those years ago was the perfect one.
“The farm and the community were developing in a direction that was interesting, and we wanted to be a part of it,” she reminisces. “The people who wanted to stay here were interesting to us, and we wanted to build a life in conjunction with them. So we said, let’s escape the North American rat race and let’s try this!”
They weren’t the last ones to make the leap.
Ahead of her time
Lloyd’s goal of an organic, sustainable farm back in the 1970s was decades ahead of the trend. Some of BC’s earliest farm-to-table and locavore restaurants didn’t open until the mid-1980s. And it was only in the 2000s that the idea of sustainable, local food truly exploded in popularity.
Who needs a grocery store?
If you’re craving what Lloyd-Karr refers to as “zero-mile food,” the farm stand is a must-see. Browse harvested-just-minutes-ago veggies, as well as baked goods, flower bouquets, and more. It’s so popular, they have to restock the stand multiple times a day.
After so many summers working together, Lloyd-Karr’s friend Liz Young also couldn’t resist the draw of the farm.
Five years later, along came culinary guru Haidee Hart.
Lloyd-Karr, Young, Hart, and their husbands and children make up the farm’s three core families. Dozens of people live here, but it’s these three families—along with the matriarch who started it all—who lead and steward the farm.
Lloyd-Karr and Young co-manage the business and community. And Hart takes the daily harvest to create inspired meals for the community and the farm’s retreats.
“It evolved organically,” explains Lloyd-Karr. “We never had a master plan to make a women-led retreat centre with my mom. There were big question marks; but we took the risk to live not only in community, but to do something different as a farm and retreat centre.”
At the farm, every little thing is interconnected, from the flowers left for the bees, to the compost mixed into the soil, to the fair wages offered to the workers.
And just like their sustainable farming practices, the farm’s women also seek holistic balance and connection in their own lives. This includes the growing number of children on the farm. “I hope my children get to have a sense of place,” says Lloyd-Karr, “that they know where they come from and what the land feels like where they come from. I hope they’re in touch with the fauna, the seasons, and living close to nature.”
In the end, the families are the farm and the farm is the families, with a conscious focus to be a community where all their needs as individuals, as families, and as a society are more integrated.
“What we strive for on the farm is to live all of it here,” says Lloyd-Karr. “We live our work. We live our relaxation. We live our families and marriages. We don’t go ‘there’ for this or ‘here’ for that. It’s all here.
“So much of society is out of balance with finding a way to live well, and with abundance, while balancing work, family, and all of it,” she explains. “We strive to find that here on the farm. We live, work, and play together. We spend time dealing with hard emotional topics together. For us, balance isn’t just one specific thing. This farm is all a big human experiment.”
The future is female
These women are part of a growing minority. While only a third of Canadian farmers are women, nearly 60 percent of new farmers are women.
“We were all having babies as we were developing the farm,” laughs Lloyd-Karr. That might be one of the (many) secrets to their success. “It slowed things down. There’s only so much growth in the business when it’s run by mothers with toddlers. Many of our ways of being nourishing and being with each other came out of those early years, setting a good foundation for us all.”
A bustling oasis
On any given day, children arrive for field trips and musicians jam out around a crackling fire. But beyond more informal gatherings, the farm also hosts unique gatherings, events, and services. More than 18,000 visitors have passed through the farm
yoga classes on most weekdays
wellness retreats, such as silent retreats and meditation retreats
farm stand with baked goods, seeds, plants, fresh produce, and more
dancing, painting, and other creative workshops
Joshua Duvauchelle is a regular alive contributor. joshduv.com
Toss aside that generic drugstore greeting card and dozen roses: it’s time to step up our Mother’s Day gift-giving game and think outside the (heart-shaped) box. Here’s your motivation—and inspiration.
Mom deserves more
Whether it’s your mom, grandma, wife, stepmom, or someone else, consider the reason you want to honour the mom in your life. Does a card and box of chocolates convey the gratitude you have for her love, dedication, and sacrifice?
Consumers in the US alone will spend a whopping $23.6 billion on Mother’s Day gifts this year. Let’s make sure our gifts honour Mom, rather than just lining the pockets of big businesses!
The good news is that celebrating Mom rarely means spending excessively. And, although what moms really want for Mother’s Day depends on the mom in question, thoughtfulness is always key.
As mom Bronwyn Wilson admits, “The best gifts are very thoughtful. I am not a flowers and box of chocolates girl! I prefer homemade gifts or cards, or [gifts] specific to my interests (such as baking items).”
What’s the ideal Mother’s Day for Wilson? “Quality time spent with my four kids and husband doing something together, whether it’s a visit to a local lake, a stroll by the river, exploring our area, or really anything to spend time together,” she explains.
TV host and lifestyle expert Natalie Langston’s wishes are simple, but about as indulgent as it gets for many new moms. “A massage and facial, a nice meal and big glass of wine, a chance to get out and feel beautiful” are all on her wish list. “Oh, and getting my car detailed would be extra special now that baby stuff is overtaking it,” she adds. Top of the list though? “Five hours of sound sleep!”
Made with love
Don’t worry: you don’t have to be a world-class baker or painter to give a handmade gift. Here are some ideas.
preserves (sweet or savoury—check out alive.com for recipes!)
beer or wine
loose leaf tea blends
snacks, such as spiced nuts, seasoned popcorn, or roasted chickpeas
tea cup candle
woodwork, such as a handmade cutting board
sewing, knitting, quilting, or crochet
bath bombs or bath salts
facial oil blends
a recreation of a childhood photo with siblings (equal parts touching and hilarious)
a professional family photography session, plus prints
a photo book of favourite shots or photo art, such as a smartphone case
commissioned personalized artwork by a local artist (such as silhouettes of the children’s profiles)
commissioned personalized jewellery by a local artist
Who is Mother’s Day for?
For many, the idea of “Mother’s Day” feels exclusionary. Lone parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, mothers-in-law, families with more than one mom, non-binary parents, stepmoms, adoptive moms, guardians, foster moms, and all other “Moms” in a person’s life—this day is for you too! We love you.
Canadian moms rock!
According to the most recent stats …
There were 9.8 million mothers in Canada, including biological, adoptive, and stepmothers (in 2011).
Women spent, on average, 421 minutes per day with their family (in 2010).
The mean age of a mom at the time of delivery was 29.9 years (in 2013).
Classics —with a twist
There’s no need to write off traditional Mother’s Day gifts if that’s what Mom enjoys. But consider stepping them up a notch.
If you typically give….
supporting a local artist who makes cards
making your own
adding a poem that you wrote
writing down a shared favourite memory
giving organic, fair trade chocolates
baking your own goodies
seeking out organic, locally grown blooms
giving wildflower seeds and planting them together
giving a weekly or monthly bouquet delivery
giving an “experience” to a jewellery-making workshop
supporting local businesses or craftspeople
Not sure what Mom wants?
Remember things or jot down notes throughout the year when she mentions what she would like, or would like to do.
Ask her friend, sibling, or someone else who knows her well.
Simply ask her what she’d most like!
A day to remember
Experiences give the gift of time together as well as lasting memories. Consider these for inspiration.
a dinner party, farm tour, wine/beer tasting, or passes to a class at a culinary school
matching PJs for the whole family and a family game or movie night (mom’s movie choice!) to wear them at, complete with snacks and takeout
a day as tourists in your own city: going to a museum, art gallery, or historical walking tour and lunch downtown
passes to a yoga studio, meditation workshop, float tank, or salt cave therapy
a specially created meal that can be packed for a special journey to her favourite hiking destination
a fun class, such as beekeeping, home brewing, jewellery making, salsa dancing, or improv; or an adventure such as ziplining, an escape room or whale watching
an e-book, audio book subscription, or newspaper/magazine subscription
a donation to her favourite cause or a day doing charity work together
Of course, it’s entirely possible that all Mom wants is the gift of time—alone. Particularly true for new moms who often spend all day (and night!) with babies or toddlers, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get away. Consider giving a spa gift card, the gift of an evening out with her sister or girlfriends, or a weekend of sleeping in, just like her pre-mom days!
Writer and editor Leah Payne can’t wait to celebrate her second Mother’s Day as a mom to her 18-month-old son. (She also hopes her husband will read this article.) leahstellapayne.com; cedarhillcreative.ca