“Make me a superhero,” she said, eyes sprung, lips full, breath hot and honeyed. She was that close to me — leaning in.
“A superhero?” I said.
“Yes! A superhero. I want to be faster, lighter and live forever! That is what I want. Can you help me?”
The potential client sitting across from me on the stark, white bench in my fitness studio was already a superhero. A successful entrepreneur, she’d zipped over for a lunch hour consult. A svelte, size four, she was married to a man who loved her with two kids, a McMansion, a cottage, a couple of imported SUVs, and multiple European and tropical holidays a year. It was not enough.
She wants to be a superhero….
Next, I sit across from another client who says, “I wish something in my fix–me–cupboard would work.”
“What do you mean? What needs fixing?” I ask.
“Me,” she says. “I need fixing. I am not happy.”
“What aren’t you happy with?”
“Me,” she says, “I am not happy with me.”
I can relate to both women. I am a superhero cut from the cloth of something broken — me.
In 2004, I changed careers. I left the equine industry after 15 years as a horse trainer to build my nutrition and fitness coaching business in rural Ontario. I worked part-time in the evenings, as my days were spent with our daughter, Lila, who was born in 2003. In 2008, I brought my coaching business home to our horse farm. The business broke wide open; I was working full time—60 plus hours per week. To give work my full attention, I gave up my passion for horses — a staple for me since the age of four. We kept a few horses as my “golf game” and to eat the grass to cut back on the mowing. But, there was no time for golf — the horses became lawn ornaments.
To not fail as a mother, I coached clients early in the morning and late into the evening. This allowed me to wait for the bus and to go on school trips in between running my business. To keep up my roles as business owner, coach, wife and mother, my days percolated from one transition to the next: wife, mother, coach, feed the horses, mother, business owner, do the barn chores, mother, coach, wife.
I wore many hats. None of them fit well.
Full of fear and self-doubt, I lived on the edge of brimming over and being outed as a fraud. My enthusiasm for my work and loyalty to my clients kept me upright. But my stress levels were diabolical, and it showed. I was storing extra body fat because I was so stressed, and I was over–exercising to deal with the stress and the extra fat. The only answer I could come up with, based on my research and knowledge at the time, was to eat less and work out more. And, I did a lot of faking it out in the world — especially in my fitness business.
This leaning in was an exhausting front to maintain.
Behind the scenes, I did not sleep, because I was wired and tired from over–exercising and unintentionally starving myself. I lived on caffeine to keep me up and red wine to bring myself down. Both the caffeine and the wine added to my insomnia, which was also fed by my overly active, anxious, monkey mind — a mind that would not shut off regardless of fatigue levels.
I did not look or feel as fit as I actually was, I was not getting much for what I was putting in, and I was sick of the façade of go-getter. Feeling poorly was frustrating, given my nature and my line of work. But, how could I quit given my career choice?
I rallied. I delved deeper.
Curious by nature and determined to lead by example for my family and clients, I remained hopeful that the answer was out there somewhere. I valued the notion that if I worked harder — leaned in more — I’d nail it. I, however, had no idea what it was I was looking for.
As it turns out, what I was searching for was my life.
If we can’t hear the lessons we have on repeat in our heads because the volume is off, sometimes the universe slaps us to the ground. When we finally stop — when we are still — we’re forced to listen (or not).
In 2012, after leaning in too hard, I grounded to a halt. Carrying too much weight, literally and figuratively from over working and the related stresses that come with entrepreneurship, marriage and mothering, I subluxated both shoulders at the same time — my right side worse than my left. This was undesirable for all facets of my life!
Surrounded by people looking to improve themselves with nutrition and fitness taught me that it doesn’t matter how great we look, how much money we make or how full we stock our “fix-me-cupboards”. When we are rotting from the inside out — when we have to fake it — we’re never content. By content, I don’t mean hungry, eager and entrepreneurial. I mean we’re worn out, starving, sexless, sleepless, and sometimes, surly. We learn (or we don’t) that “harder” in our work, our work outs and our world requires more, longer, earlier, and later which includes forsaking our relationships, our children and ultimately, ourselves. No matter how hard we lean in we don’t fly. We’re wind burned and grounded in the most prohibitive way. Then, exhausted from faking it, sometimes we go fetal behind the scenes. We learn (or we don’t) that roaring around, full of purpose and passion, is as poor as aimlessly floating without a purpose.
Something had to shift for me professionally, personally and spiritually.
I turned to an earlier passion of mine — writing. Now, I use my university degree in English to deepen the value of the services I offer and to share ideas on how to honour the grey in life while protecting our precious margins. My writing makes me more accessible to clients, more human — a superhero carved from something broken that needed (and still needs) care — like many of them.
For over a decade, from and because of the business for which I am the sherpa, a community of people — super humans — blossomed. And, I did too. I unfolded and thrived with them.
The glue of my business is fostering self-esteem. Specifically, what does self-esteem mean for each of us an individuals and how do we acquire it? A challenge remains keeping clear boundaries with clients I see more than their doctors do and with exchanges that often have more quality in them than their own family time does. In many ways, I am on the front line of their health care team. This is an honour and I treat it as such.
When new clients say they do not have time for self-care, I ask them, “Who will look after everything when you fall?”
The burden of the sick falls on the healthy and the details of death and dying are for the living. The hand of the universe opens wider for people who help other people. But, as the saying goes, we have to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. Everything about life gets better when we practice self–care that serves us. A foundation of hydration, nutrient rich foods, sleep, and thoughtful, intentional exercise is key. And, so is stillness and reflection.
When we work smarter, we get bigger on the inside and lighter on the outside. Airborne with our feet planted firmly on the ground, we’re humbled. We accept the fact that there is no balance in a life worth living. Instead, we align our passion with our work and our lives. We find clarity. Guilt-free, we renew ourselves over and over as we track, assess, adjust and make progress — fresh and readied.
We are super humans…
This spring, on April Fool’s Day of all days, I received news that my first book will be published in the spring of 2016. I signed and returned the publisher’s contract last week. I have been dying to share the news with my tribe — all of y-o-u.
I hope my book will help to instil some of the offerings we’ve garnered from our work together at Custom Fit. The book is for people ages tween to 70+ including athletes and couch potatoes, consummate dieters, the ever curious and everyone in between. I am excited to share more details with you very soon! Stay tuned and thanks for reading.
Thank you’s to some super humans (and one very loved dog ) and lessons learned along the way…
I had crazy “who luck” on this book project. I need to thank some people:
Thanks to my husband Derek and daughter Lila for all of your patience and support. Thank you to my mom Isla Awen for instilling in me curiosity. Thanks to my dad, Tom Curley, for passing down your tenacity and drive.
Thanks to my Aunt FAB, Elizabeth Casey, for your efforts last summer in the early editing of my “vomit draft”. Your grammar policing…thank god!
Lessons learned: Show gratitude to those you love; be grateful for where you came from.
Thanks to Carey Dinkel for encouraging me not to pull the plug on the whole thing last summer when we sat together at lunch and I confided that I didn’t think it could be done. You disagreed… Thank you for being an early, patient reader as well.
Thanks to Jen Stewart for keeping Custom Fit humming along behind the scenes. I so appreciate you and what you do!
Thanks to Chef Cuddy, Stephanie Cudmore, for formatting the recipes. So helpful… You are such a steady friend.
Thanks to Kirk Mechar for telling me I “had to write a book”. You were right — I had to do this and I’m so glad that I did. Kirk edited draft after draft, all the way through and is still helping with the production plan. You are the perfect combination of devil’s advocate and cheerleader. Kirk always asks, “What’s the solution?” and I am most grateful for that.
Thank you to my dearest friend in the world, Linda Kelliher. Linda’s company, Kelliher Samets and Volk, whipped out the graphics for the book in no time flat. This would have taken me months and months to complete — if ever!
Lessons learned: Surround yourself with great people. Ask for help when you need it.
Thank you to all the Custom Fit Nutrition Coaching clients from fall of 2013 to right this moment. And, thank you to all the women from the Cf2 program — my initial, nutrition coaching offering for clients — where this all started in 2009.
Lesson learned (and lived): Joseph Campbell said to, “Follow your bliss”. We should and I do.
In January of this year, during our first week back to classes at Custom Fit, at the end of each class our clients shared their goals for 2015. At one of the last classes of the week, after listening to everyone else’s goals and recording each of them for them, scribbling as fast as I could, someone said, “Cait! What about you? What’s your goal for 2015?”
“My goal is to find a publisher for my book,” I said.
From saying that simple statement out loud, two very important things happened:
- Ann Oliphant sent me a note the next day about “a friend of hers who edits books for a living”.
- Pam Vorkapic told me that her “boss owned a publishing company”.
The lesson I learned from this is to open the closet door on your goals and share them! You never know — as long as you do the work required — just how “who luck” will show up for you.
Lessons learned: Write your goals down and declare them. Truly.
And, finally (just humour me here because I’m wired this way), thank you to Betty the dog, my constant writing companion and loyal friend.
Lesson learned: There is nothing like a great dog.
Photo note: The “When Pigs Fly” statue in the photo was given to me by Laura Glover, a friend, neighbour and client. The pig is a favourite of mine and lives on my desk as a daily reminder that anything is possible. Today is Laura’s birthday! Happy birthday to you.