Posts in Category: Barrie Life & Business

Joyful Emancipation [Free Printable!]

In other words, goodbye. Not goodbye in the absolute sense. More so in that I’m moving on, embracing all of my creative/professional/wellness profession(s) and putting them into one big pot of multidisciplinary, multiple streams of (modest) income action.

This blog, as it exists now, shall make its exit. While Jen and I had some baby plans for this website, alas, it is a project that we just did not have enough time to come together on. Besides, that woman is entirely ROCKING her career as an Indigenous writer, director and producer! (Her new site and social media graphics BTW, collaborated on by yours truly!)

I’m trying to keep things simple with this post, to compliment the framework I’m manifesting for my professional self. Where the lines blur personally; as a digital storyteller, as an advocate for women’s health, a social media and branding dabbler; and someone who generally gives a damn.

A new selena [dot] mills [dot] com site is coming soon. Outlining my professional services and workshops (both online in creative/public spaces). I’ll still have a blog to tie into my humble wellness coaching practice, sharing recipes and personal stories about my own journey in mothering; enriched and healthful well-being.

I’m writing for CBC parents now, which is SUPER fun and, well, someone PINCH ME. Because CBC. ‘Nuff said.

There is one last exciting project (HA! Last project! From my mouth!) that I am collaborating on with four other fierce, mystic, entrepreneurial, health-revering women … but I’m not going to any more detail on that for now. It’s been slow, organic and so rewarding on a deeply personal level to work with these women and our loyal clients that if we never do more than what we’re doing RIGHT NOW together; I would be happy. I’m attracted to humanitarian eccentrics and dominatrixes. Generous, courageous, women. I’m also passionate about empowering other women in business AND health (including myself!), and apparently we’re onto something good, so blaze new trails we shall. We’ve been tackling emotional and mental clutter together and we continue to work with other women (and a few choice men who revel in such supportive folds), and leading by example. We focus on sharing personal values and “mindful” decision-making.

I lead a top secret community group on Facebook and create daily prompts/exercises with services that include:

→ Healthy eating strategies and recipe sharing
→ Meal planning and meal prep resources/ideas (PDF recipe and nutrition guides, grocery lists, etc.)
→ Online workout reviews
→ Assistance with choosing realistic, at-home fitness program to suit the individual’s likes/dislikes and/or physical restrictions/limitations
→ Personal development exercises: goal mapping (career, relationships, understanding triggers, trauma work, healing, digging deep)
→ Daily encouragement, self-care, mindfulness routines and activities where we lead by example
→ Accountability check-ins EVERY DAY
→ Endless support in a guilt and shame free zone
→ Having FUN!

We specialize in working with those who:

→ Have dietary restrictions due to auto-immune, inflammatory or other diseases
→ Live with food disorder(s)
→ Have PTSD and other related mental illnesses
→ Are women and/or mothers whose own own self-care has fallen completely off their daily to-do list(s)

In addition, I’ll be running short, group-based, online workshops (again, private FB groups) for:

→ Sparking Creative Fires (last month we did a BETA run of Vision Boarding in our main group!)
→ Sugar Detox
→ Bullet Journaling

Instead of focusing on a number on the scale, we focus our energy on being healthy, what that means, and how to get there. If you’re curious about joining us for the month of November (active membership is only $10 bucks a month), email me for more info and we’ll get you started! This month’s theme is all about turning up the heat, going deep, playing bigger and getting things DONE.

This will be my last post here and I wanted to gift y’all with something pretty, something you can print and hang where you’ll see it everyday. These words represent much of what I’m doing right now. I shared two versions of this inspo print with the fabulous women in Being Boss group on FB and got such an wickedly supportive response that I couldn’t choose, (compared with what my clients in our private group preferred), which was the whole reason I was asking for feedback, to help me choose which one to share. So pick the one you prefer.

Part of my multidisciplinary-arts-professional-self, will include selling some prints from time to time on my soon-to-be rekindled Etsy Shop (under a new name), so consider this my free gift to you, pre-launch. (And by launch I mean, I don’t have grand plans for the Etsy shop venture, I’m just going to post listings of things I’m already making and creating now and then. No craft shows, no eggs all in one basket sort of thing. How liberating!) Hand-drawn, hand-painted, scanned and cleaned up in PS from me to you!

Free printable: CLICK HERE for a high res PDF download SANS Shadow, CLICK HERE to download the shadow action. Please share your prints on IG of FB with me, and even use the tag #giveadamn if you’re into that sort of thing. Can’t wait to see where you hang them!


Being Boss 101: How To Organically (and Ethically) Grow Your Instagram Account [Pt. 1]

Using Instagram as a business platform should NOT be about winning a popularity contest. It’s true, IG is the fastest social media platform around these days and that when we first establish out IG accounts, no one is following us. Having a larger Instagram following can mean more sales for your business, more views on your blog, and a stronger community for your brand. Ever wonder how in the heck how some people have thousands of Instagram followers posting what they wear every day? Some of that has to do with the brand they may have already built up outside of Instagram (see: popular Mommy Bloggers), or they’re a ‘celebrity’ within their niche, or they’re a popular indie brand, or even a popular corporate one. In this article, you’re going to learn some simple and ethical ways to build a SOLID, LOYAL, audience (aka: ‘followers’) on Instagram. (Tomorrow, in Part 2, I’ll be sharing what my favourite iPhone and Android photo apps are and how to use them as the core necessities they are to rocking your IG feed!)

Who is your ideal client/customer? Reader? Follower? That’s your target audience. What type of added value (we’ll get to that in a minute) are you going to share on your feed? For example, I’m a health and business coach so I share tips, videos, ideas and articles on holistic wellness, nutrition, recipes, social media, etc., etc., etc. I share personal glimpses of my life in regards to my fitness journey and life as a mom. I love to craft, so I share the occasional DIY. You get the idea. Anyone who is into these things fall into my NICHE MARKET. So moms, small business owners, Indigenous creative and artistic professionals, crafty peeps, nature lovers, foodies … are all a part of my target audience. If you’re here, you’re reading this because you’re serious about cultivating your IG as a business platform, then you need to know who your ideal client or customer (follower) is. For example: if you’re a serious photographer, you should probably only post quality shots using your iPhone, state when you don’t use your iPhone and share in your bio what pro equipment you use. Most IG’ers find success in posting small snapshots of their daily life in a way that their followers can get to know them better, it puts a personal touch to the brand. It is very important to do so in an authentic way, that comes from a place of wanting to genuinely share your story and add value into people’s lives. Captivate them. Not just shill your products and/or your brand.

Think about why you need more followers. Is it because Instagram is boring when nobody is following you? Is it because you want to promote your brand, that blog post, or your next webinar? Do you want to get more exposure and more clients? Those things are well and good, but you should also want to build COMMUNITY. You should actually want to engage in conversation with other people: share stories, tips, ideas, support others in the same way you hope for others to support you. This is HUGE in self-marketing and for small business entrepreneurs.

Basically, treating your IG as a business platform is just what I call a, “being boss move.” However, doing it to stroke your ego or show only the best parts of you is annoying and likely won’t work for you, because A-lister, you are not. Give yourself some street cred and be real. Be you. Get vulnerable. Show the messy bits just as much as you would share the glossy bits.

You need to have a clear focus, be visually thematic and consistent if you want to be successful on Instagram. If your goal is to showcase photography, don’t constantly post pictures of yourself partying, memes or other people’s photography. Your target audience only wants to see YOUR great photography! There are some key defining differences you should pay attention to if you’ve really taken your time with STEP 1. For example, if you really know your niche as a photographer, you won’t be posting pictures every day of your lunch, I don’t care how artsy or well-styled it is. (Unless of course, you’re a food photographer, but I digress.) The exact opposite of this is true for myself, since many of my followers stick around for healthy food inspiration and recipes. Generally speaking? I recommend posting awesome photos that people in your industry or niche market want to see, (like product shots), tips and ideas to inspire, while occasionally giving people a little peek into your company’s culture to build more personal relationships. This builds trust and credibility, naturally. Authentically.

3. DO’S + DONT’S
DO: Use the same filters, not a bunch of different ones. Imagine when someone lands on your IG feed for the first time. You want it to look like a well-curated magazine, not a noisy classified section. Do an audit. Delete photos that don’t belong. Be honest with yourself about it and just get to it! Decide how many quality photos a day or a week you are going to post and stick to it. Follow a formula. For example, I cycle through the different types of content I share each day. I avoid inundating my audience with any one type of photo/post.

DON’T: Post poorly lit and blurry photos. Work that composition yo! Get creative. Be bold. This is especially fun if you are a hobbyist photographer like me. I have a few fav photo apps that I use daily for posting to IG and Facebook. (I’ll be sharing these in Part 2!) Less is MORE. Don’t post photos one right after the other, spread it out. 2 or 3 posts each day instead of 10 crap ones is what I’m talking about. Quality over quantity.

Go to the explore page (click the little search/magnifying glass icon found at the bottom of your screen) of your IG account, (this is an aggregated feed  showing you little carbon copies of the types of accounts you’re already liking and hashtags you’re already using. This would be IG Algorithms at work!. Use this to your advantage.) You can look at other people’s accounts or featured content based on who you follow and who they follow. These are the people who could be your ideal followers. (Customers!) Do some ninja work! You can sort this feed according to hashtags or users. Play around with it and spend some time clicking on those profiles and checking out what kind of content they’re posting, and what hashtags they’re using. You know what I’m saying here, right? Stop using random or popular hashtags and zone into using the ones that will garner you new followers instead of worrying about likes.

5. HASHTAG HACKS: Time is Money + Likes Don’t Matter (But Geotagging Does)
This is my current fav hack for IG regarding those pesky hashtags. Ain’t nobody got time to be typing them out every time. iPhone users can use the Text Replacement functionality to their advantage! The function is found under Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Tapping on Text Replacement presents a screen with a few preconfigured shortcut options arranged alphabetically, as well as a search bar for navigating previously created pairings. This is great for texting too, of course. Big time saver. Take some time to craft what you want your hashtag lists to be based on your content (that formula I spoke about earlier.) and save time in the long run, over and over again. If you want to build your audience, you need to get your IG content in front of the right eyes! The easiest way to do that is through hashtags. Like don’t matter. This isn’t a popularity contest. Don’t be spammy with your hashtags (as in using too many or only popular ones.) I like to put my hashtags in the comments of my photos so that they are not included with my original post.

Do some ninja work within the depths of IG.  If you’re a healthy living blogger, search for other healthy living bloggers using hashtags such as #foodismedicine. If you’re a wedding photographer, look for people who play golf using hashtags such as #weddingphotography. If you’re a wedding photographer in BC, use the hashtag #BCweddingphotography. Check the usability of hashtags before using them. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS geotag when possible. Both with the hashtag for the location and tagging your photo to the actual place. Use keyword hashtags to get leads: they are searchable in Google and each social media site. Uses hashtags containing the names of the cities your hope to serve or connect to and your type of business to tag the pictures you share! For example, if I’m looking to connect with other moms, I would add the hashtags #torontomoms or #barriemoms, or #torontohealthcoach or #barrieweightloss to a photo post. Giving away allll my secrets now! You do know most social media ‘gurus’ make you sign up for every list and webinar under the sun and usually charge for the info, right? 

text replacement

6. MANDATORY CTAs: In Your Description + In your Posts!
Your profile description is the first thing people see when they click on your profile. You don’t have to think too much about it, just tell people who you are and what they’re going to see from you! Or what you do. You can change your bio daily to promote different things too. I often chance my bio to include a direct CTA (Call To Action) for different groups or webinars I’m hosting, article or recipes I’ve written! Your IG behaviour should include a CTA every single day. A CTA can be something simple as including questions in your post. As if you’re in a relationship with your viewer. Engaging them in conversation is a sure-fire way to spark that. Even asking them to do something as simple as, ‘like this photo if you agree!’ … WORKS. This conditions all those eyes on your photos who might not otherwise like, comment or follow, to take YOUR LEAD. They need to know that you’re there and that you care. Apply the 80/20 rule: Suggest that people join your email list. (Quit sending them in a circle, have them subscribe to your email list if you have one! Give them a freemium for signing up! It might be a podcast, It might be an e-book, a free menu-plan, or free printables. Bottom Line? You have to connect to provide value.

7. FINALLY! Now You Can Actually Socialize
It ain’t called social media for nothin’! Respond to the comments you receive and leave comments of your own on others’ work. Rather than something stale like, “cute dress,” try to leave genuine comments that encourage them to post more photos. You will get the same in return and THEN SOME. Accounts with many followers are used to getting likes all the time, and they don’t often pay attention to them. If a photo has more than ten likes already, only the total number of likes is displayed and probably no one will notice your like. Moral of the story? LEAVE A COMMENT, and make it the last one! Leaving interesting and thoughtful comments works for users with big and small business alike. Those with less followers will certainly notice your comment and check out who left it. But if you leave an interesting comment on a recent photo of someone popular, their audience will also get curious about who left such a great comment! True story!

8. TIME MANAGEMENT: Use Instagram Online
It’s faster than typing on your phone or tablet. I can fly my fingers across a keyboard, but not texting, I’m all thumbs! Time is money and while spending some time on your Instagram account should be considered as a business activity, you should be swift about it. There are many platforms for using IG on the web, but I like plain old Instagram online the best. Some might argue that Iconquare is great for this too – but then you fall down the whole rabbit hole of checking your analytics all the time to see who unfollowed you and whatnot. And while that’s mighty tempting and I completely understand the pull, unless you have willpower of steel to avoid doing that … it’s a total WASTE OF TIME. I repeat, checking your unfollows on IG is the exact OPPOSITE OF A BEING BOSS MOVE. Just search for a relevant hashtag and start going through the photos and leaving comments whenever you have something to say.

9. JUST SAY NO: Spams + Scams
Grow your audience organically using the steps, tips and techniques I’ve shared with you today. There is no easy way out. Ya gotta do the work if you truly want to build a solid, loyal following and nurture client leads. Forget about buying followers, begging for shoutouts, trading likes for follows, and so on. None of that works.

This will help your followers on other networks discover and grow your Instagram account — and proceed to follow you there, too! If you’re really feeling BOSS, make your Facebook profile public. It goes without saying that your IG profile is public, right? Because all of this will be a complete waste of time for your business if it’s not!

1. Instagram isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay
2. Instagram is like a magazine. Pick your genre. Pick your “topics”
3. Be consistent with your photos:
– Editing style: Pick 1 or 2 filters and stick with them
– Picture format: square, rectangle, borders, etc. Pick ONE
4. Use hashtags to reach the communities that are your niche demographic
– Use the EXPLORE function to find your ideal followers and the hashtags they’re using
– Use Text Replacement on your phone (this works for Android users too) to quickly access your hashtag groups. Or use the notes on your phone for ease
– Post your hashtags in a comment instead of in the caption
5. Don’t inundate your audience with selfies or any ONE TYPE or THEME of photos. Remember to mix things up (just like a magazine!) What are your hobbies? What are your interests, what do you naturally shine at? This keeps things AUTHENTIC. So for example, I post about my life as a mama, some parenting tips, health and wellness tips, recipes, inspo quotes I make myself since I’m into graphic design, etc. What DO YOU shine at?
6. Honour the importance of giving people added value. We shouldn’t just be talking about ourselves all the time! Get into the habit of posing questions at the end of your post, showing people you really care about what they think too. Added value means anything that you share with your audience in ways that informs them or enriches their lives in some way with new info or tips or ideas.

And THAT my friends concludes this session of DEEP SECRET SHARING for the week! Ha!

Wellness Wednesday: Women Who Talk About Money and Self-Worth

firmly rootes
The stats are in and this New Year is definitely full of promise, with equal parts intrigue and challenge! Just the way I like it. The Arrow Tribe, (which is the team that my Beachbody mentor founded), finished #35 in the network out of 400, 000!!! That’s the .01% cream of the crop, and it comes from one of the fastest growing industries, yes … MLMs. In an arena in which there are some who give Network Marketing a bad name, Beachbody shines. It’s a company largely dominated by women, empowering other women to take back their health, how it’s defined, and how we can earn income and help and mentor others; from anywhere we damn well please.

2015 marked many changes for me both personally professionally and with my health. Not only have I discovered a career path that I can merge all of these things together with the areas in which I shine (social media, marketing, graphic design, writing, helping others, healthy recipe development), but I’m growing my own enterprise in one of the only businesses where women make dollar for dollar what their male peers make doing the same thing. Where women talk about money and self-worth, everyday liberation, conquering fears and creating success on their own terms.

I’m proud and honoured to be amongst this sisterhood of badass ‪#‎bossbabes who are genuinely creating their lives by design. It was scary when I took this leap (and continually so) to put myself out there so that I might reach others, like me, who were tired of the struggle: our own self-care on the back burner, our dreams and goals weighed down by the expectation of what a ‘proper’ career looks like according to generations before.

When a series of products are LEGIT changing people’s lives in all of these deeply necessary and powerful ways, passion and fire replaces doubt. Self-confidence is sparked and freedom is possible.

What is your time worth? Your health? Your story? Your family’s security? I come from a history that some might (and have) judge and think I could never make it as a leader, or as a successful businesswoman. I’m kicking those stereotypes to the curb and sharing the very same tools that my mentor shares with me, with the small but mighty tribe of ‪#‎WellWarriors‬ that I am lucky enough to mentor and guide.

Unleash that delicate monster within! It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go! Below is a little video I share in my Inside Coaching Sneak Peek groups that I run each month if you want to know more about the coaching opportunity is:

What other perks are there to becoming a coach before the end of January?  I am beyond excited to announce the Success Club Trip that Beachbody Coaches can EARN throughout 2016; to be awarded come 2017 … Punta Cana!

Many of you may not know what that means, but basically, it means holding a standard of helping at least 3 people a month in the very same ways we work on our own personal development, wellness and fitness goals. Before I became a coach I didn’t travel very much, although the wanderlust in me is strong. Money, taking time off work, and then since having children, trying to figure out childcare or family friendly options … there were just too many obstacles to make it happen.

Now, less than a year after I made the leap into this helping profession I’ve earned a retreat to St. Augustine Florida that I went on in November, I have $200 left of the $1200 awarded leadership requirements required to earn a cruise to Jamaica + Haiti in March and back in May 2015 (just 3 months after becoming a coach), I was awarded a free ticket to Summit, which our big industry conference in Nashville this July! I share all of this with you because I want you to know that it’s DOABLE. I don’t have any magic fairy dust or unicorn glitter within making me more special in my specialness to achieve these things. DREAM JOB, indeed.

I struggle and have my off days just like anyone else. Now I get to do it alongside others who get me, and accept me and challenge me to succeed and grow. And I do it part-time, from my laptop, while taking care of family, kids and home and pursuing my other creatively professional endeavours. I mentor other women who have full-time jobs and are carving out one to two hours a day to give their Beachbody businesses all they’ve got. Some are single moms who juggle more than I will ever know.

So…Punta Cana, here I come! Who is coming with me? You should be a coach by January 19th to get in when registration opens, lest wait-lists are your jam. Don’t second guess yourself. You’ve no idea of what you’re capable of (I didn’t.) The sky is the limit and a life by design is the life for me. What about you?

Email me today me for more info, or fill out my coach application to hook-up a spot before this dream-trip fills up!


Wellness Wednesday: The Truth About My Before and After Selfies

5 months ass
As a holistic wellness coach, I can see the pressure such things as ‘before and after’ selfies can put on people. Especially women. You can be anyone on the internet. Pop a hip, wear a proper fitting swimsuit or bra and underwear, use complimentary lighting, work that camera angle, apply a filter … the list goes on how one can make themselves look better in pictures. I’m not necessarily sure what’s WRONG with any of those things. Wearing clothes that fit? Yes, I do that. Do I choose complimentary camera angles when taking selfies? Yup, I do that too. I have a weak chin that I’m fairly self-conscious about, but I’m learning to embrace it. Maybe. As in, I rock that camera angle when I want. No camera angle, including vaulting a tripod from the ceiling to shoot from, will disguise the visual proof that my face has indeed slimmed down from all the ass-kicking workouts I’ve been doing the past 7 months. Do I use filters for my progress shots (which is what I prefer to call them)? Yes indeedy, high contrast, muted black and white is my fave for the side by side action. Does it carve out definition that isn’t there? Don’t think so. Isn’t that what photoshop is for? Do I jut out my hip, twist my torso and suck it in? Yes and no. I stand tall. I stand proud. I stand strong. I get my swerve on. Shoulders back, head held high and I let go of all those years of shame and embarrassment. I rock the self-inflicted photo-shoot, sure … but I don’t go to extremes. I like my curves, I like keeping it real and my tummy is soft in it’s its newly anchored relationship with its core. Sucking it all in would only add to my inner conflict on self-image, self-worth and how I share my story.
Our bodies are diverse. Not flawless. I’m choosing to embrace that instead of portraying an image of perfection. I’d rather portray an image of health. Of being strong over skinny. I’m not afraid to admit anymore that I’m damn proud of how far I’ve come and no amount of filters or hip poppin’ is going to fake it for me.

Are Before and After Selfies Demoralizing? Shame-Inducing?
It’s all in how it’s done. Am I fisting a bottle of hyped up energy drink, held next to my SWOLL ass while bent over a bathroom sink? No. Am I now living the jet-set life because I workout? Uhm, nope. Before and after pics can be especially annoying when one struggles with eating disorders, emotional eating and/or food addiction, to have someone’s pictures in your social feeds showing you how they’re apparently winning at life more than you. I get it. It took me far too long to admit to myself that I had to make a change. It was easier to snicker and make assumptions about ‘those type of women,’ than to actually get to know them or their stories; or even be real with myself about my own struggles. The truth is, I was overweight and spent way too much time trying to fit someone else’s vision of what healthy should look like most of my life. My relationship with my body will be constantly evolving. I share that unraveling publicly because I know there are other women who struggle in some of the same ways I do. I put myself out there with visuals and in how I articulate myself, because it’s a part of the work that I do in building relationships, gaining new clients and helping other women, just like me. It’s also deeply liberating on a personal level. If you’re not a fan of what I do or what I share, there’s always that little unfollow button you can hit or you know, you can even ‘unfriend’ me! No hard feelings. To tackle the discourse that’s happening in how the fitness industry is perceived is a challenge I meet with gusto. I work in an industry designed to capitalize on the insecurities of many women. And yet, there are exceptions to this ‘norm’ as within ANY industry. The landscape of health and wellness professionals is evolving and growing; and women, in particular, are taking the reigns. We’re aligning ourselves, teaching and supporting each other and taking back gatekeeper status on our body ideals, healthy body image and body positivity.

Fitness Lifestyle IS NOT Anti-Feminist
Feminism and the female body have long been linked. There is absolutely NOTHING anti-feminist about wanting to be healthy. (Let’s just cut straight to the point about that.) Healthy in body, mind and soul. Not all of us can have all three of those things, but it doesn’t mean we can’t work damn hard to attain our best version of that golden trifecta of living the good life, right on into our old age. True long-term healthy living does not mean punishing and denying oneself, to live up to media’s fucked up portrayal of what women (young and old), should look like. That’s a manipulative and unrealistic set of ideas that have been thrust upon us for decades. It means working hard for the health of our minds and bodies, just like we work hard in our relationships, our parenting, or careers; to achieve financial stability, intellectual satisfaction, and enriching, rewarding life experiences. For a long time and in many ways still, women are seen as failing in their duty to be visually pleasing, (while walking the fine line between ‘ladylike’ and titillating), to an audience used to viewing them as public property. From a young age, we … that is all of us — men and women — internalize the idea that women have an obligation to be attractive, particularly if they plan on making a habit of speaking in public or venturing into places where people can see them. When I post before and after pics or progress pics … I am indeed being seen. By more people than I have a clue about. This means, perhaps, that my message is being heard to and that I am contributing to the movement of women who are taking back their natural bodies.

Exercise Is About Much More Than Looking Good
Endorphins are real. Exercising for half an hour does not make me feel worse. In fact, after a workout I feel joyful, strong and ready to tackle my day. So. The haters gonna hate, but I soldier on. If you’re the type of person who is like, ‘I love my body the way it is and I don’t need to fucking exercise,’ then fabulous! Imma keep rollin’ the way I do, as you do yours. I like feeling happy and healthy. I like (more than) helping others get that same quality of life too. There are a plethora of reasons why healthy eating and exercise is important. I’ve found what my WHYS are and showing those reasons to the world via the internets enables me to help others figure that out too.
7 months beyond

The Canadian Dairy Association’s Chocolate Milk Marketing In Elementary Schools Is BOGUS [VIDEOS]

So. The Elementary School Milk Program (AHEM: Chocolate Milk MARKETING CAMPAIGN, because their sales go way down without the inclusion of said chocolate milk), is getting rather brazen and authoritative this year.

Did You Know?

“Chocolate milk has no more sugar than ‘100% Fruit Juice!”  This is the whole ‘Milk in Schools’ slogan slapped across pamphlets that went home with most public, elementary aged school kids this week. I’m just gonna tweak that nifty little tag-line a bit for a minute here. Amuse me. Come along for the ride. “Chocolate milk has the same (if not more) amount of sugar as ‘100% Fruit Juice!” There. Much better. Let’s break this whole juice is healthy concept down first. It’s not just soda that is full of sugar. Juice can be just as high in sugar as soda. Even the ‘100% fruit juice’ labelled ones, with no extra sugar added. Fruit juice contains no fibre, and the small amounts of vitamins and antioxidants in even the 100 % pure fruit juices do not make up for the large amount of natural sugar content. Read that article linked within. It’s a gooder.  I tried to find the chocolate milk pamphlet online to link to, no dice. All I could find was the more generalized (perhaps LESS CONTROVERSIAL, ahem) milk in schools brochure. But as you can see from my picture above – they are blatantly promoting chocolate milk all on its own.

The Truth About Marketing

Unfortunately, food and beverage manufacturers aren’t always honest about what is in their products, keep in mind. The fact is, the fruit juice you find at the supermarket may not be what you think it is… even if it’s labelled as “100% pure” and “not from concentrate. There are 30 grams of sugar in flavoured milk (chocolate, strawberry). Flavoured milk also has other ingredients you won’t find in the plain stuff such as colours, flavours, artificial sweeteners, which definitely don’t make it more nutritious. Yes, chocolate milk is damn tasty and I prefer to give it to my kids occasionally as a treat. It’s not being given to them every single day as a healthy food choice.

About 1 in 3 North American children are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the first generation of kids who are expected to live a shorter life than their parents. By 2050, 1out of every 3 North Americans will have diabetes at the rate we’re going. This is a fundamental problem that no one is talking about. I’m paying attention and not listening to everything being marketed to me as touted being healthy for my kids and we’re teaching our kids about food brands and labels and how what they see on all of the food being marketed towards THEM aren’t honest. With this pamphlet coming home from school, we had to have another talk about chocolate milk being a TREAT, not an everyday healthy drink to consume like the advertising and slogan on the pamphlet would have their sponge-like little minds believe.

So I don’t mind having these talks with my kids. I believe that kids are being told some of the biggest lies they will ever hear in their lives by government and the food industry. It kind of boggles my mind though that we’re the ones who get strange looks at the grocery store say for example, when one on my kids pipes up asking, “look, mama, these gummies say they have vitamins and 100% fruit juice in them! That’s MARKETING right mama?! Is that true?” We’ve taught them to question marketing and to know that they are being sold lies. If we did not teach them this, they would believe what they’re seeing and reading. Kids are so trusting and innocent in this way. Just as we teach them about ‘stranger danger’, we teach them about sneaky marketing. You can think we’re zealots or go overboard with the whole healthy food consumption thing, all that you want. The stats don’t lie. MARKETING DOES. Especially advertising geared towards children. Take for example the chart that I’m looking at right now on my dining room table. It compares the nutrients of white milk and chocolate milk VS. “100 % apple and orange juice.” They list them all, calcium, vitamins D, A and C, including protein, fat and carb content. They don’t say that most of those ‘nutrients’  are injected into the milk and are synthetic. They very conveniently leave out the Bovine growth hormone content that is given to cows in the U.S. to make them mature faster and produce more milk, or the inhumane treatment that happens to cows on non-grass fed dairy farms everywhere.

Canada … Ontario, Get With The Times!

The biggest thing they’ve left out of that pretty little chart? THE SUGAR CONTENT in flavoured milk or 100% fruit juices. How convenient. Kind of sneaky in fact. We as a society are ready to analyze and question what we’re being sold in other areas of our consumption (clothes, cars, houses, etc.) We doubt, we question, we can see when we’re trying to be bamboozled. We do the research to make sure the product we’re buying is legit. Why on EARTH wouldn’t we do that when it comes to the FOOD THAT WE EAT?!

Look, I get it. Milk in schools is an easy, accessible way to help children get trough their day. So let us leave it at that, with plain old milk leaving the flavoured ones out. If the excuse is that kids are more inclined to drink chocolate milk over the plain, well yea! Of course they are. When we give them that choice. When we give them that power over their own nutrition. It’s up to us as parents to begin at home with these teachings.

Advocates like celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his Food Foundation movement, have stood by his Flavoured Milk campaign. His message is clear: the more sugar we consume, the more we tend to want. If even milk has added sugar, what doesn’t? Part of getting everyone to better eating is getting everyone familiar with more wholesome, less-processed foods. Milk closer to nature is a better choice than milk with added sugar and colourings and flavourings. Every eating occasion is an opportunity to promote health or oppose it. If schools take a lead role in promoting health, there will still be much work to do outside of schools, but school then becomes an important part of the solution, rather than contributing to the problem.

And I agree. Adding flavourings and sugar to milk offers no nutritional benefit. The harm of the sweetened dairy products, besides the added calories, is that the palate changes so that the drive for sweetness increases. No matter what Oliver’s critics might say. Speaking of which, his flavoured milk campaign is SO 2011. He’s since moved on to lunches that are served in schools and food education for kids, parents and teachers alike.

Socioeconomic and Demographic Accessibility

The hardcore truth of the matter is that some kids go to school without being fed breakfast. Or, if they have been fed breakfast, it was a bunch of sugary crap. Every single day. (Again, I’m talking about consistency here, not the occasional treat). And much the same continues throughout their day when they pull out snacks and lunch. Very little whole-food based food with REAL (not synthetic) vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and protein value. So milk is a simple, accessible (cost effective) choice for many families to jump on board with to supply their kids with at least SOME nutritional food value to keep going throughout their day. I personally know that most of the vitamins touted to be in milk are not naturally sourced. As in they’re synthetic forms of those vitamins and ADDED into milk to make it more marketable. A one stop shop to get a whole fleet of vitamins, minerals and food supplements: vitamin’s A, B6, D, B12, calcium, protein, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorous zinc. Healthy carbs and fats. (Questionable, i.e.: skim vs. regular, whole milk vs. 2%, organic vs. regular, etc.)

I realise that our family comes from a place of privilege wherein we (by working our butts off to be able to afford whole foods) can provide our kids a nutrient dense diet every day. There are several reasons that we view this as a high priority in our budget, which stem from cultural beliefs surrounding food and water being sacred, being medicine; core values and health issues that my husband and I have. The truth is that there are a plethora of other ways for even low-income families to feed their kids simple, whole-food based meals and snacks that provide all of the nutrients that milk and flavoured milk are advertised as having. But knowing and understanding this takes LEARNING and education for parents too. Which is why some North American schools have stopped including flavoured milks in the milk programs and have workshops and book informative public speakers to come in and provide hands-on learning tools about how to feed their families on a budget, exposing truths about sugar and industry marketing.

My reasons for writing this post aren’t just to rant and rave. I’m hoping to generate online discourse and proposing that parents who are interested in tackling this issue, DO SO. It is much easier to turn a blind eye to the horrifying statistics on childhood obesity and diabetes and continue on as we were. Buying the hype. At what cost? We need to rally together, support one another, regardless of socio-economic and demographic barriers. Start up a movement in your school. Research speakers and workshop options. Put together your own presentation and make a call-to-action with your school’s principal to present at your next School Council meeting. Share your knowledge with other parents and students in an approachable, helpful way. Make suggested alternatives to flavoured milk easy, price friendly and accessible. Be the motivation. Igniting community awareness and interest in a convenient manner is key. We can’t just TELL parents they’re doing something wrong. How pompous, right? In essence, they aren’t. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. With what we’ve been taught sold.

When industry partners up with the government (the Elementary School Program for example, or say – the Canadian Food Guide, which is a whole other bucket of worms, but take a comparitive look at our food guide compared to the Brazilian Food Guide ), the thought of challenging that strong-hold of power is overwhelming. I get it. Writing this post took me nearly two hours and I have many more (hours) ahead of me if I hope to get chocolate milk sales banned from my kids’ school and help other parents and kids understand why this is a GOOD THING. No, I don’t have lots of time on my hands. I work full-time too. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. We all have our own daily intricacies, problems and issues to deal with.

Don’t Just Take My Word For It …

Sugar, in and of itself has become a widespread, controversial subject. Please watch the documentary “Fed Up”. It’s a highly (scientific and evidence based) researched (albeit disturbing) look at sugar as the INDUSTRY it really is. Placing private profit ahead of public health. Watch the trailer below.

Learn more, know more.

What You Can Do

➵ Be friendly. DON’T BE PREACHY. Make it fun. Perhaps start off with signing up to have your school celebrate Food Revolution Day 2016 and use The Flavoured Milk campaign a springboard for small steps.
➵ Print and share the easy to read PDFs from Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation, Toolkits for Change under “Flavoured Milk.’ There are 3 sections (The Facts, Find Support and Create a Campaign.) Email my post to begin, if you want, to your school council members and principal. Post it on FB and tag your neighbours, your friends, etc. Find your allies at the school and join together.
➵ Contact your school council chair, your principal, your ministry of education (where the campaign comes from). This might be considered causing a ruckus depending on where you’re at demographically. I guess you need to be comfortable with that. Or be okay with being uncomfortable. I’m going to be communicating with my kids’ school council that I’m already a part of and the principal to make my own presentation.
➵ If you can get your school’s principal and council members on board, call an info night session for all parents to attend and hand out the resources linked above, put them on a overhead and use them as talking points to all parents in attendance. Better yet, make a mini, easy to digest power point presentation using these resources to accompany it. Send the printables home with the kids too, just like that chocolate milk pamphlet was. They may not be printed in colour on fancy heavy weight gloss paper, and that’s okay.
➵ Contact ME to use and modify my power point presentation (coming soon!). Sign up for my newsletter to find out when. Or simply use Jamie Oliver’s resources to create your own, that’s what I will be doing, he makes it easy.

This may be one small thing that you do – in eliminating flavoured milk being sold at your kids’ school. With the power to invoke long-term change; in how parents and kids know about and understand nutrition, how neighbourhoods and school districts to come together as a village, recognizing the importance of food education and diet-related diseases that we are facing with this generation.

Feature Friday For The Lovers: Introducing Digging Roots’ Single “I’ve Got it Bad” [VIDEO]

For The Lovers

When Raven and ShoShona, of Digging Roots, approached me to work with them on a music video for their song, “I’ve Got It Bad” … I was both terrified and honoured. Yet, as it goes with many things in my life, I decided to abandon fear and dive in. It began with Shoshona and I writing the concept. ShoShona wanted to experiment with the idea of not taking themselves too seriously so I presented her with a series of tongue-in-cheek treatment ideas and we hashed out many different concepts and story-lines. As is often the case, our original concept was a much longer story. But, as also is often the the case, we didn’t have endless funds at our disposal so we reigned shots in to utilize who and what we had to work with. Which, from a professional prospective; was a stunning well of creative professionals of which to draw from anyways.

From there, Raven, Doug (the D.O.P, co-director, editor and my husband), Sarain Carson-Fox, Shona and I just went for it. We decided on a storyline of, learning to love yourself. How do you tell such a story without being cheesy? Comedic relief. Over five days, we shot tons of footage in Longboat Key, Florida. Even when Shona was stung by a stingray on the third day, she kept going!

This video is truly a labour of love. Our children, ranging in age from 2 to 18, all helped. My mom and Shona’s mom helped and together we were able to have fun, work hard and put together a really charming and FUNNY video. Our actress Sarain was a dream. Such a great sport with fantastic comic timing and to top it off … she’s gorgeous! Her character tells the story of how a woman who thinks she’s in love, finds what she was looking for in herself instead. In her darkest moment, she sees herself and saves herself from her own heartache. She is, in essence, her own prince charming.

To be honest, those five days of production helped me forget how much pain I was in from the Lyme Disease that was infecting and attacking my body. That’s when you know you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing.

Thanks to Digging Roots for having faith and thanks to Doug for spending so much time on this project.

I hope you enjoy it!

Life With Lyme: On Turning a Negative Into a Postive


For the past couple of years my hair has been falling out. I had a LOT of hair so it didn’t bother me. When Lyme kicked in full force and starting attacking my body from all angles, the hair issue became more severe. As it thinned out it started getting me down. So I decided to kick this disease in the balls and show it that, even if I have to shave all my hair or go entirely bald, this BUG will not win. Anyway, I think JIM at HeadQuarters Hair Salon in Barrie did an amazing job and I LOVE my new do. Fresh start! Oddly enough, it feels and looks thicker. 

Trevor and Selena Got Married: Part Two

What’s a wedding without a party? Who likes to party? The answers are, not much – and we do!

I’ve thought long and hard on how I might prose this (largely) pictorial style wrap to the sharing of our wedding photos. Why? (Another question, oh yes.) Well, largely in part because the location of our reception turned out to be rather unfortunate. Not in our enjoyment for the evening of (more or less), but most definitely in the after-math.

I won’t say another thing about it but to link to a review (and other reviews at the end of the fun) when I’m good and ready at the end of this post. (I’ll edit and link-up when that happens.) Because – well – this was our wedding. We don’t want to continue to mar the beauty of the day with any more negativity than that which has already been attempted. We, our guests – our family and friends; set a stellar space, the music flowed (as did a few other libations) and the glow of love and joy was huge. That’s it, that’s all this post should be about; yet on the good word of some colleagues and those who are in the know…it wouldn’t be right to promote said business in a shining light given our experiences.

So I hope you understand the vagueness (I’m sure some of you want the scoop, who doesn’t love a dirty scoop – especially when it comes to a small wedding, in a small town at a local business?) You’ll have to wait for those reviews my pretties and just enjoy the positive flow of these photos. There is a video yet to come and a couple of posts over on Babble where I’ll highlight the kids’ involvement in our wedding a bit more.

Help us lift the memory of our evening up in the light, grace, style and class that it deserves…and leave the rest in the past, my friends. (All amazing photography by Ratul Debnath of Image Pros Photography. You can see PART ONE, The Ceremony, by clicking here.)


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