Category Archives: Real Life

My Figure Competition Pro Card Win: A win for moms everywhere!

This moment on stage is exactly as I remember it from four years ago. Debbie Wins Pro Card I smile, blinded by the theatre lights, into the faceless crowd.  There’s an omnipresence to the announcers voice. I stand tall and poised as she reveals the final results. “…Seven. Four….” That’s all I need to hear. I am competitor number 726. Happiness floods my body. I’ve won!

I first competed in November 2008. After six months of training, I entered and won the IDFA Novice Figure category. With just one show and one win under my belt, I was hooked. I knew I’d be back. I just didn’t know it would be four years, one daughter and a new career later!

With my pregnancy came 40 excess pounds and separated abdominal muscles. It took two years of training to “get my body back” post-baby.

On January 1, 2012 I cemented my intentions into a goal, which I shared with only two people.

I will attain my IDFA Figure Pro Card on November 3, 2012.

Preparing for this show was a completely different experience than last. I no longer had my winning trainer. His east-end gym was now defunct. My competition coach/nutritionist relocated from Toronto, Canada to Sydney, Australia. She was no longer a 10-minute drive or convenient phone call away. My senior level marketing salary (and the discretionary income that came with it) was no longer. Oh, and I had a second full-time job as a mom!

In order to achieve my goal, I would need to adapt to the changes. I soon realized that my losses were out-numbered by my gains. I lost one trainer and gained an amazing team of trainers at Think Fitness Studios. I became more self-reliant researching and learning for myself rather than relying on the direction of others. I negotiated and economized on everything from training to tanning. But the most significant change by far, was adapting to a new very demanding schedule.

During those final three months of show prep, I juggled three full-time jobs: client relations manager, mom and athlete. I worked around the clock to stay on top of my day job, care for my daughter and dedicate myself to my goal. I made sacrifices to make it happen. I reluctantly became a morning person waking at 5:45 for cardio workouts. I ate salad instead of cake at my daughter’s third birthday party. I declined numerous social engagements alienating friends even more than motherhood already had. I traded cozy nights on the couch with hubby for yet, more training. By the final four weeks, my typical day looked like this:

5:45AM – wake-up, pack meals, take supplements
7:00AM – 45 minute cardio sesson
8:00AM – shower, eat meal # 1
8:30AM – 3:00PM – work, eat meals # 2-4, take supplements
3:00 PM – 60 minute weight training session
4:00PM – commute home while eating meal #5
5:00PM – pick up daughter from caregiver
5:30PM – prepare daughter’s dinner and meal #6
7:30PM – help ready daughter for bed
7:45PM – eat meal #6, prepare daughter’s lunch and clothes for the next day
8:00PM – posing practice at home or workout at community centre
9:30PM – grocery shop and cook meals for the next day, take supplements, take progress photos to email to coach, eat optional meal #7
11:00PM – bed

In the final week of preparation, I maintained this schedule while consuming less than 1000 calories/day and often no carbs or fats (not a sustainable diet but one necessary to peak on stage).

Looking back, I couldn’t tell you how I did it. I just did. I think motherhood was great preparation in that way. As parents, we commit to our children and we often just do what we have to do. In fact, I saw many parallels with parenthood during this process. I do know that the support I received was imperative. My husband helped with everything from morning drop-offs to late-night  grocery runs and cooking. My sister drove me to Orangeville for weekend fittings. I even had a colleague routinely pick me up in the mornings to get me to 7AM class! If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a family to raise a champ!

What started as a selfish, individual pursuit soon became something much grander. I opened up and shared my journey with colleagues and clients and was overwhelmed by the support I received. Throughout the weekend of the competition, my inbox and Facebook page were flooded with well wishes and congratulatory messages. The common message was one of inspiration – wow!

I really enjoyed having something that was all my own. I liked that selfish time to myself in the gym and encourage all moms to find their “me activity”. But at the same time, I am absolutely thrilled to have inspired so many people with my pursuit, especially women and moms. The most important takeaway I wish to share is that motherhood can be your motivation rather than an excuse. As I raise my daughter, I will have shown her in actions, not just words, that she can achieve anything she wants with hard work, dedication and the right support.

So what’s next? I look forward to returning to normalcy – variety in my meals, rest for my body, downtime in my days and showering my family with affection. We’ll enjoy some much-needed time together before I start training for my 2013 Pro debut!



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What She Said: Words of wisdom from Annabel Fitzsimmons

This is a little out of form for me.  I’ve never published works from another writer. But reading this today, I feel that Annabel Fitzsimmon of has captured perfectly what I’ve been learning over the past months. I hope you also find peace, positivity and reassurance from her words. (And Annabel, I hope you don’t mind the repost :-))

Annabel Fitzsimmons: Meditating Mummy

From The Today Show to Today

July 08, 2010

The year before I gave birth to my daughter was a whirlwind of fun, fitness and creativity. I was teaching yoga to great clients, running half-marathons, vacationing in Bermuda , doing PR for my (co-authored) book Bittergirl: Getting Over Getting Dumped, for which my two co-writers and I had book launches and press tours. I was interviewed on national radio and tv, and was featured in Glamour and Elle Girl. We were flown to New York City twice: Once for our book launch and then to appear on NBC’s Today Show. And to top it all off, I married the love of my life. It was a surreal and incredible year.

Fast forward one year after the Today Show appearance: I’m in our Ottawa apartment, sitting in a glider chair with my five-day old baby girl cradled in my arms. Tears are streaming down my face while I attempt to master the art of breastfeeding. I am trying not to move so I can avoid the the painful after-effects of giving birth to an eight-pound baby. I feel lost.

At that moment I felt like a completely different person than the Annabel of the year before. More than anything I had experienced in life, becoming a mother rattled the core of my identity. I wasn’t teaching yoga, I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t doing PR, I wasn’t planning a wedding, I wasn’t training for a race, I wasn’t having interesting conversations. I was simply responsible for this new little human being who depended on me for everything. And I was a mess. Seemingly, none of my pre-motherhood experiences had any practical application for the job of being a mom. I could see in my daughter’s beautiful eyes that she didn’t care that I’d been on U.S. network television. She didn’t care! All she wanted was mummy’s milk. All. The. Time.

I recall being worried that I would never quite resume the kind of social, creative, and physical life I had before having children. I couldn’t envision how I would be able to maintain a fulfilling work life and still feel like a good mom. But as I began to acclimatize to motherhood, some strange and wonderful things occurred. Things that had been important to me before were still important but were viewed from a new perspective. My concept of success and achievements became measured more in personal and emotional triumphs, not dependent on external praise. My daughter gave me the gift of the bigger picture.

As she grew, so too did I. We both took baby steps, I suppose. I began to teach yoga classes when I could fit it in our collective schedule. I pitched freelance articles while my daughter napped. I brainstormed with my creative collaborators (who also have children) on ideas and projects we could develop and that fit with our family calendars. I kept reminding myself to look at the big picture – that my work and creative projects didn’t have to happen NOW.  They could evolve slowly. And I simply kept at it.

Fast forward to this summer. I now have two children – my daughter is almost four and my son is 16 months. I am once again teaching my fantastic roster of clients and running an online yoga studio. I ran a half-marathon in May. I’m writing for the Yummy Mummy Club. I just returned from a girls’ trip to Florida with my high school girlfriends, and then went on a four-day family trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit my parents.

This weekend I fly to London to attend the premiere U.K. stage production of Bittergirl, then I’ll come back to Toronto to see my family, attend and write a review of Love, Loss and What I Wore, before flying to Banff with my co-authors to participate in a final workshop of Bittergirl: The Musical at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts. And the grand finale – I get to spend 10 peaceful days at a cottage with my husband and my kids.

The arrival of children is a life-altering experience – spiritually, emotionally, professionally. On one hand, life is never the same. But things return to normal – a new normal, that is. And we can carry on with our same interests, our same passions, our same beloved friends. Yet we now share ourselves with the new little people in our lives.

Four years on, when I think about what my life has become, I have a huge grin on my face. Travel, creative pursuits, teaching yoga and working in fitness are all exciting and hugely rewarding to me. But I know now that it is the sacred family time with my children and my husband that I savour the most.

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Armed & Dangerous: A bout of tendinitis

I wish this post was about my blazing killer biceps…my Popeye arms. Sadly it’s not.  The only thing killer about my arms right now is a fierce bout of tendinitis.

Back in January, I wrote about my postpartum aches and pains (see Jan 7, “War Wounds”) I mentioned a pain in my wrist that I assumed was carpal tunnel syndrome. Months later the pain has worsened. That  fiery burn at the base of my thumb has led to a gnawing pain in my forearm. It is almost unbearable when I first wake up in the morning. At times I can’t move my wrist and at other times it  “cracks” under pressure. Not fun.

After ruling out the possibility of arthritis, my family physician diagnosed it as tendinitis. His prescription? “Don’t use that hand”. Um, does he know my infant daughter needs to be carried around? His advice left me totally unsatisfied. I had to leave with a better solution so I purchased a wrist brace the pharmacy on my way out. Literally retail therapy, LOL. Turns out the brace restricted my hand movement so much that it was too impractical to wear at home every day.

Just when I’d resigned to live with the pain, an angel named Rhonda came to my aid. I call her an angel but her actual title is Registered Massage Therapist. I had booked my mommy group friends a relaxing spa afternoon at Sunny Mummy Where childcare is part of their service. Amen. I would have been very happy with 30 minutes of knot-alleviating neck, back and shoulder rubbing. I was beyond happy when Rhonda offered me actual solutions for my arm and wrist pain. For $60 I left with a treasure chest of advice and an aggressive arm massage that felt like heaven.

Per Rhonda’s advice, I now do daily stretches to help lengthen the tight inflamed tendons that run through my forearms. I use the frozen peas my daughter won’t eat as an ice pack. I try to alternate arms more when holding the little princess. Oh, and I’m wearing that almost forgotten wrist guard as I type. Now if only I had a better benefit plan. I would visit that registered heavenly goddess each week!

Once again, I will save you from a lengthy and unqualified anatomy lesson. But I will let you know this. Based on what I’ve read, tendinitis is  thought to be an overuse injury. That means as long as I have to repeatedly lift and hold my daughter, I probably wouldn’t see any relief from this problem. In fact, it could just continue to get worse. I’m in danger of it affected my grip. God forbid it impair my ability to hold a barbell!

All kidding aside, I’m definitely not keen on having this problem plague me for months to come. I am again reminded of the benefits of supplementary care. Doctors do fabulous work, but sometimes it’s the RMTs, physiotherapists and chiropractors who seem armed with the best methods of care.

Have you experienced problems as a result of all the baby-carrying ? How have you managed the pain?


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Working It Out: Contemplating a career shift

Many women consider a career change after having children. Again and again I hear this sentiment: “If I’m gonna be away from my kids, I’ve gotta love what I’m doing”. Funny enough, I adopted this outlook even before my daughter was born. As she was growing in my womb, I was already conceiving my new fitness career.

I think it’s safe to say that my decade-long career in advertising and marketing is over.  I think. No more corporate clients, no more late-night revisions, no more questionable ethics. I’m trading my pumps and briefcase for runners and a gym bag. OK I never owned a briefcase but you get the point.

I got things rolling last year with two fitness certifications – Personal Trainer and Pre & Post Natal Fitness Specialist. I also worked part-time as a Running Room clinic coach. Loved that job! Even with these new skills under my belt, I’m not quite sure where I’ll go from here.  A gym job? A recreation role? Unrelated work that finances my competition training? Protein powder and sparkly suits don’t come cheap, LOL. I have a grandiose long term vision but no short term plans. 

Feeling a bit lost, I decided to browse some jobs sites. Perhaps a job description would stand out and give me some ideas. It worked. One caught my attention. It was a full-time program management job with the YMCA. The role was essentially planning and managing all the adult fitness and recreation programs at the central location. Sweet, right?

A mental picture formed in my head. Me  promoting healthy living, managing new fitness programs, even upgrading gym equipment. Shopping is always a great part of a job description. Then other pictures formed. Me leaving my daughter to day care in the morning. Working nine to five. Answering to upper management every day. Me stuck on a slow streetcar home at night. Me trying to squeeze in weekday workouts. Me kissing all my other plans goodbye. Not to mention having the YMCA song play perpetually in my head, LOL.

Not a good look!

The thing is, I’m not interested in full-time work. I’ve had a taste of the three-day work week. Now there’s no going back. Try it and you may never work five days again. I want the extra time with my daughter. I also want the extra time to train and develop my own business. So why did I briefly consider applying for this job? It was the role itself that reeled me in. I really like the idea of creating  and managing fitness programs.  Well, guess what? I don’t need the YMCA to do that. Aha!

The application deadline came and went. I did not apply. Instead of updating my resume, I took a closer look at my own interests. Whether I’m training, coaching, programming, educating, competing, modelling or writing,  the ultimate goal is self-employment. The ultimate goal is to have flexible work days and weeks. I don’t believe that a full-time job is the next step to get there. I don’t think.

A better way to spend the day, wouldn't you say?

Workshops and photo shoots; consults and pitches; coaching and mentoring; mother-daughter trips to outdoor markets; mid-morning runs by the lake; afternoon business meetings on a patio – this is the ultimate goal.

I sense I have a lot to look forward to. I will be brave and forge ahead, perhaps without the security of a handsome pay cheque or traditional benefit package for now. Perhaps. I anticipate unique benefits that far outweigh a dental plan and eye care.

It’s true. Whatever pulls me away from my daughter will have to be something I love. But this career change was underway with or without baby. Whatever work I wake up to day-by-day has to be something I love. I look forward to sharing the next steps with you And to finding out what they are myself!

SIDEBAR: I once heard Erica Ehm speak at an event for film students. I’ve always remembered her advice, “leap and a net shall appear”. Erica, among other things, is the founder and CEO of the Yummy Mummy Club – a role inspired by her own motherhood experiences. Huh.

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Wear & Tear (Part 2 of 2): Dressing the postpartum body

Breast pumps, teething, day care – it’s all so new to a first-time mom. On top of the Baby 101 crash course, many of us are trying to navigate our bodies and closets. Our parts are bigger, wider, lower or just different than they used to be. As one friend pointed out, despite returning to pre-pregnancy weight, her body has morphed into an unfamiliar shape. Dare we attempt to wear something fancier than track pants and a nursing tank, we can find ourselves in foreign and dangerous territory. See “Wear & Tear, Part 1” for my first hand account.

My ‘no-more-tears’ transformation started with the all-important jean purchase. More than a month later, I am still loving my Yoga Jeans. Yay! But that local buy was all the shopping I had the time and energy for. I took the rest of my clothing calamity to a professional – style savvy mama, Onika Blackman-Lloyd.

As the mother of a baby boy, Onika understands the challenges I face. Throughout our meeting, she nodded knowingly to all of my concerns:

  • Comfort is a priority for long summer walks
  • Breastfeeding must be easily accommodated
  • The bank cannot be broken with high-priced items
  • Figure-flattering and maintaining my “earthy, sexy, cool” style are a must

Closet Clear-out

It was so reality TV.  Onika stood by as I diligently sorted my wardrobe into “wear”, “save” and “toss”. Only the items that I still love AND can comfortably wear right now made the first string i.e. front of the closet. The rest got benched or trashed. And a few adopted by Onika.

As a result, I have a lot less in my closet. But boy, was she right. Opening the closet and staring at only great options does make getting dressed a lot more pleasant! Fitted tees, I’ll see you next year.

The plan

Shopping List

I answered a few questions about lifestyle, budget, likes and dislikes. From that Onika composed a shopping list complete with our destination shops. The plan was to hit one store for budget basics, another store for fun pieces and affordable accessories, and Value Village for some unique thrift finds. We budgeted $200-300 for tanks, tees, tops, capris, skirts and accessories – a complete transitional summer wardrobe. Also on the agenda was an injection of  feel-good colours.


Despite being busty and muscular, by body is fairly straight. Think less hour glass and more grandfather clock, LOL. My naturally thick now pudgy torso is a definite sore spot after baby. And I never did get those child-bearing hips that perhaps would create the illusion of a narrower waist. Onika suggested looking for tops that taper in at the abdomen (above the waist) then flow away from my waistline. Vee-neck shirts, pencil skirts and regular-rise pants would also work in my favour.

Beaded tank and bangle

White capris & bronze flip flops


Tank tops, graphic tees, capris and sandals are all great basics for a summer wardrobe. Dressed up or down, these essential pieces would allow me to step out in style without too much effort. And yes, I realize the white is a little daring. No peas or carrots will be served those days!

My new Ione's Dream purchase. Reserved for adult functions!


Jewellery, scarves and bags are an easy way to add flair to a basic wardrobe. The only trick here is finding baby-friendly pieces. I opted for some new bracelets. Sadly, I’ll have to save most of my earrings and necklaces for adult functions.


I gotta say I LOVED this process! As shopping-savvy as I am, it was a luxury to have somebody else do all the digging and sorting. This was by far the most focused and efficient shopping I’ve ever done – with or without baby. I even felt a bit like a pampered celebrity. Tell me every new mom couldn’t use a dose of that!

Tribal print shirt, Yoga jeans, Gladiator sandals and coloured bangles

Our first of two shopping days netted me two pairs of capris, one pair of sandals, two tanks, one graphic tee, three tops and a slew of bracelets. Any of these ten components can be mixed and matched into a number of ensembles. Yep, just like you see in the magazines. I can’t tell you the joy this has brought to my life. Not only do I love dressing my little one in the mornings, I love dressing me too. Is it a mind-trick or do I find myself feeling slimmer and fitter now too? What a far cry from where I was in March. There are officially no more tears!

What are/were your most form-flattering,  go-to items after baby?

BTW – You can read about this experience from Onika’s point-of-view at


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Wear and Tear (Part 1 of 2): Dressing the postpartum body

My daughter may prove to be a stubborn little girl. If so, I’ll know exactly where she got it from. Look no further than her steadfast mother. Steadfast: fixed in direction; firm in purpose; unwavering. Yep, that’s me!

For months, I’ve been firm in my position. I’m not buying new jeans. I have an old pair of size ten Joe Fresh jeans that fit. I’ll wear those until my ‘real’ jeans fit again. Real meaning the smaller jeans I actually like and wore one year ago, versus two years and twenty pounds ago.

I’ll be back in my skinny jeans by summer. Why spend money on new jeans that I’ll only wear for a short while?  To save tears, that’s why! Hence the title, wear and tear. That’s tear as in cry.

“Just buy new jeans”, my husband says. He can’t understand why I torture myself each time I get dressed.

My breaking point came a couple weekends ago. I should have been beaming with anticipation. I was off to visit a very dear friend. She brings joy to my life with her friendship and awesome home-cooked dishes! Instead I left my apartment on the verge of tears. There’s no pretty way to say it. I felt like sh!t. I hated my cheap, waist-too-big, butt-sagging, dirty-hem, too-wide-to-tuck-into-boots-for-cute-downtown-look, sorry-a$$ jeans! Ahhhh…

That was Sunday. Monday was spent rationalizing the purchase. My husband was right. It was better to he happy in new jeans, whatever size, than be miserable until I reached some arbitrary goal. Duh! By Tuesday I did a total 180 and was determined to buy new jeans that day! I strolled into Shop Girls Gallery Boutique.

Friendly shopkeeper: “Hi, how’s it going?”

Steadfast shopper: “Good. I need Yoga Jeans”.

Friendly shopkeeper who sees a quick easy sale: “Great, what are we looking for?”

Steadfast shopper happy to give it to her: “Dark wash, high waist, boot cut.”

Done. One minute later I was in the fitting room. Fifteen minutes later I was the happy owner of nifty new bottoms. And that was that!

Now don’t mistake Yoga Jeans for Pajama Jeans. They are not the lazy woman’s answer to casual wear. My friends wouldn’t let me order Pajama Jeans. Good friends! Yoga Jeans are a Canadian-made stretchy jean perfect for curvy bodies. I seem to recall mention of vertical, horizontal and diagonal stretch for ultimate form-flattering hugs. Then again, I have mommy-brain so don’t quote me on that.

I scrutinized my selection ala Stacy London. High-rise waist versus mid-rise to cover my tummy. Boot cut versus straight leg to balance the thickness of my waist and thighs. Solid dark wash for a slimming effect. Back pocket detail to add shape to the butt. Gotta say, it’s the angle I like most.

The best part was stepping skeptically into a size  31. They fit! I honestly thought I’d need a 33 or 34. Thank you elastane! Hey, another reason to be “Ga Ga for Yoga”, LOL.

Now that I have trendy, butt-shaping, leg-hugging, Queen-West-strut-worthy denim, I can create some new yummy mummy outfits. I’m gonna bring my funky back! I have a shopping trip planned with Onika Blackman-Lloyd of So Damn Stylish. Onika is a super stylish new mom with a gift for thrift shopping. Together, we’ll source and report on fabulous finds that flatter the postpartum body.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Got a favourite form-flattering brand of denim? Do tell.


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Wicked!: The positives of this postpartum life

Ever watch the news and feel the world is full of despair? Natural disasters, political turmoil, traffic accidents, health risks – sheesh! Upliftment comes in the form of one human interest story per night. Yes, we’re all glad Fluffy made it home safely. What a job those news anchors have. I’d hate to constantly convey such doom and gloom. Yet somehow I feel I’ve done just that.

Looking back at my posts, I’ve spent a great deal of time uncharacteristically bemoaning my post pregnant state. Baby weight, mummy tummy, workout withdrawal – there’s been a lot of lament. A Debbie Downer I am not! Enough counting inches, it’s time to count blessings.

As I mentioned last week, there are some wicked things happening in my postpartum fitness life (see Feb. 28, “Girl Interrupted”). Whether all, some, or none of them materialize, I am thankful for each opportunity. Check it out:

  • Applied for a health and wellness blog writing position
  • Invited to lead a spring running program for moms
  • Coordinated a workshop on core fitness for my new mommy friends
  • Secured a client for my exciting new fitness biz in development
  • Connected with an awesome potential biz partner. She’s brimming with the same ideas I have and more!
  • Approached by a fitness photographer to submit an article and photos to Oxygen and IFM when I’m back to pre-contest weight. Talk about incentive!


Personal interests aside, I’m enjoying many other aspects of postpartum life. If you’ve ever been pregnant, I suspect you’ll relate to at least a few.

  • Brie
  • Maternity leave
  • Wearing high heels
  • Sleeping on my stomach
  • Lacing up my own shoes
  • Close up front-to-front hugs with my hubby
  • My super duper awesome family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Is that a knowing laugh I hear? Good. I’m happy, you’re laughing, and Fluffly got home safely. Life is wonderful!

I will continue to focus on my goals. I will not however, slip into six o’clock news mode. It’s not all bad. Quite the contrary. It’s all good. Better than good – wicked!

What do you love about postpartum life?

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