Black Health Matters with Gigi The Vegan

We are so excited for our listeners to hear this episode!

We have a really fantastic guest today who has a fascinating story about how she healed her body with food as her medicine. She didn’t stop with her own health though… She started a health movement in Kansas City, focusing on the Black community in particular. Her name is Annette Jones, but she’s better known as Gigi The Vegan.

Gigi is leading the way for black women entrepreneurs and vegan businesses in the Kansas City Area. Stephanie came to know Gigi through her line of kale chips. (They are SO delicious!) 

This week is Gigi’s birthday, and she is opening Gigi’s Vegan Cafe where she will not only be cooking up delicious and health-promoting meals, but also growing her own produce and providing a sanctuary for healing through meditation and other types of practices. Gigi is a beautiful soul and she is not afraid to tell her own story which includes her journey to becoming a vegan and healing her body from cancer. 

In this episode, Gigi really opens up the conversation concerning systemic racism that has led to inadequate education and healthcare for the Black population in our country, in turn this has created a generational pattern that Gigi is fully committed to changing in her community.

In August of 2015, Gigi was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her doctor told her that she would need surgery but Gigi felt that she needed to find an alternative. At that time, she had a lot of stress in her life and wasn’t conscious of how she was eating, and wasn’t truly taking care of herself. That is when she decided to educate herself on cancer and how to make her body stronger for surgery. 

But what happened was remarkable! After educating herself, Gigi decided to go the holistic route with an all raw, vegan lifestyle. She learned to combine different herbs together to heal her body, and now, Gigi has been given a clean bill of health! 

It was more than just her diet Gigi changed. She also changed her mental health and stress levels. “It pretty much changed my entire life and my lifestyle. And since then, I decided to help others. I went to receive training through Parkinson’s Health Institute, as well as Dr. Campbell. And here I am. It wasn’t an easy journey for me, but it was the journey that I needed to take to make myself whole again. I’m getting another opportunity to do things over again with my children and grandchildren, inspiring them to change and live their best lives.”

At Vegan Life Coach Academy we place a high level of importance on mindset work. Mindset is important to Gigi as well, and meditation is now a vital part of her life. She had to reconnect with self and with God. 

In a world where we are so busy taking care of other people, we often forget about ourselves. Gigi said she always tells people when they first start on their journey toward a healthy lifestyle, that the first thing they need to do is, “spend time with yourself. Get quiet.” 

“Fill yourself up with so much love for yourself, and then we can distribute that to others.” And we couldn’t agree more. Gigi helps people become centered in quiet, and embody a state of peace.

Gigi attributes the success of her business to the mind, body, spirit connection. 

 “It doesn’t feel like a job. It just feels like something that I am supposed to do and I never get tired of doing it. I feel honored to be able to assist people, and their lifestyle goals and changes that they want to make in their life, and inspire others.”

Gigi’s desire to make a difference in her community is visible in everything she does . Gigi believes not only that black lives matter, but also that black health matters. She believes that African American health is in a state of emergency.  

African Americans are leading the numbers when it comes to COVID deaths, high blood pressure and diabetes. Forty percent of African American men are hypertensive, and forty four percent for African American women.  Thirty-seven percent of African American men, and fifty six percent of African American women struggle with obesity.

“So, for me, I think that there has to be a focus on black health care because black health care matters.” Gigi says. “I’m just here as a vessel to do the work, the information that I have, I just want to be able to give that to my community.”

And that is exactly what Gigi is doing with the opening of her cafe, Gigi’s Vegan & Wellness Cafe, where they grow much of their own food, as well as her line of Kale Chips, and her 21 Day Detox program. 

It was an honor and pleasure to have Gigi on our show. Her story is so very inspiring. We want to wish Gigi the Happiest of Birthdays and massive success for her restaurant!



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My Holiday Confession

For the majority of my adult life, holidays were a huge source of stress and anxiety for me.

If you’re thinking, “That’s the case for almost everyone,” I agree!

However, the stress and anxiety I experienced was not over gifts, travel, or spending time with family. Although it did involve food, it had nothing to do with being vegan either. Instead, the source was my disordered eating and distorted body image. I was terrified of feeling out of control around all the “fattening” dishes, snacks, and sweets.

I’m not talking about minor stress and anxiety here. I’m talking about being completely consumed by thoughts about how to “prepare” to be powerless over my food choices when surrounded by a feast of foods I don’t normally eat. I’m talking about being obsessed for weeks prior to a holiday get-together.

I would become fixated on doing whatever I could to make sure I didn’t gain weight from indulging on all the delicious vegan dishes I knew would surround me. If you’re someone who has struggled with disordered eating and a poor body image you can probably relate in one way or another.

It’s hard to believe that for well over a decade I experienced holidays from such a dark place.

If I wasn’t so comfortable being vulnerable and sharing my story at this point in my life, I’d be totally embarrassed about how I thought, felt, and acted. I experienced so much shame all those years that I didn’t share my struggles with anyone.

I hated that I was so selfish. I was ashamed that I was so focused on myself and my body during a time that was supposed to be about gratitude, generosity, and family. It was part of the self-destructive cycle I was trapped in. Beating myself up, hiding, restricting, binging, beating myself up some more, over-exercising, and flat out feeling unworthy of being accepted and loved.

Fast forward to 2017 when I finally broke through the shame by “coming out” with my story (read it HERE).

healthy vegan lifestyle

It was the last step I knew I needed to take to heal. All the work I had been doing to gain the self-worth I needed to feel confident and empowered over my choices came together. It was that same work that allowed me to build a healthy relationship with food and my body so that I could start eating and exercising mindfully and intuitively. It was never about food or my body. It was about my relationship with MYSELF that needed the attention!

The joy and meaning that my life took on after sharing my story prompted me to create the Plant-Empowered Coaching Program to help others transition to an empowered vegan life.

Instead of it taking years to heal, or worse, never healing, I began to coach people through a powerful six-month process that allowed them to gain the tools and embody the principles that took me years to master.

When I say “master” I mean that I feel completely confident in my ability to effectively work through any challenge or hurdle that presents itself in my life. That being said, I will always be working to grow and gain new tools and perspectives that will allow me to continue leading the healthiest, happiest, most meaningful life possible.

I am eternally grateful to be able to say that I finally feel free to enjoy the holidays in the ways I’ve always wanted to.

If my story resonates with you please join our incredible, free Empowered Vegan Life tribe. See you there!

The New Kind of Beautiful

We live in a society obsessed with outer beauty. We are all about our Facebook image, our Instagram likes, living off complements, needing the latest fashion trends, constant dieting, the magic pill, cream, and solution to all our problems.

We get so fixed on our outer appearance that we ignore our inner soul’s cry for help. We are ignoring what matters most… Our hearts. We are in a cycle of abusing ourselves. We see the magazine covers with the airbrushed supermodels and we think, “Why don’t I look like that?” We believe there must be something wrong with us because we don’t look that way.

So we do WHATEVER it takes to try to achieve perfection. We take diet pills that poison our insides. We skip from diet to diet plan because they are too difficult and restrictive. We put ourselves down because we can’t diet and exercise our way to a “perfect” body. We constantly compare ourselves to others, making us feel like we are never good enough.

But guess what… You ARE good enough. You ARE worthy. You ARE deserving of love, happiness, and respect. If you think that those models are happy just because they are a size 0. you’re mistaken. Happiness does not come from a number on the scale. Happiness comes from within.

So who I am to be telling you all this? I am someone who was right there with you. I’m a recovering binge eater. I’m someone who hated myself for most of my life. I never thought I was pretty enough or good enough. I was disgusted with my own reflection in the mirror.

But I am now a graduate and mentor in the Plant Empowered Coaching Program. When I discovered the program, I didn’t even know it was what I needed. But it completely transformed my life.

This program is a mind, body, and soul program. It really gets to the core of the eating issues, because, news flash, disordered eating is not about food at all. The food is just the way we cope with feelings of emptiness, hurt, loss, rejection, and fear. Food is the easy part.

When I first found the program, I was totally enamored with the idea of a vegan weight loss program. I have been an ethical vegan for 12 years and vegetarian for 22 years, and finally I was finding a program that was in line with my values.

People assume vegan automatically means healthy but that’s not true. I was a junk food vegan. My passion was to help, protect, and save animals. I didn’t care about what I put in my body, as long as it wasn’t animal products.

But I quickly began to learn from the program that food is our fuel. Food is how we nourish ourselves. It gives us the strength to accomplish our goals. It supports our brains. How can we expect to think straight when we fill your bodies with candy and chips? Just like a traditional car won’t run well on canola oil, your body will not work properly without the proper sustenance. When we eat junk it makes our lives a lot more difficult because poor fuel equals poor performance of mind and body. Now, reflecting on how I used to eat, it’s so clear how negatively it poisoned my mind.

You may be wondering, “Where do I go from here? Where do I begin?

Step one is to start showing yourself some compassion. You are doing the best you can with the tools you have. If you join the program, you will be opened up to a whole new toolbox of tools. The most empowering thing about it is, it all comes from within you. You learn this for YOU. YOU take action. YOU heal yourself because you deserve the moon, the sun, and the stars, and the program coaches you through this process, one baby step at a time.

I share this all with you, not as some sort of promotion but as someone who needed an extra boost to get to where I wanted to be in my life. The Plant Empowered Coaching Program helped me get there.

My mission in life is to help others see their beauty. We all have amazing gifts and importance in this world. I want to help you realize this and shine as bright as the light you are. I now look in the mirror and say “Wow I’m incredible.” I love myself with all of my heart. I approve of myself. My focus is on love, health, and feeling my best. I invite you to join me, and it all starts inside you.

All my love- Lindsay K.

Mindful Eating: Why and How

What comes to mind when you hear the term, “mindful eating”? 

For much of my adult life, eating was either about controlling the appearance of my body or numbing negative emotion. The transformation I went through however, completely changed the way I experience food! (If you’d like to learn more about my personal journey, click HERE.)

Eating mindfully makes a HUGE positive impact on my own life, as well as the lives of our Plant-Empowered Coaching Program clients. We’re even doing a mindful eating CHALLENGE in our free Empowered Vegan Life Facebook group (if you haven’t joined our incredible group, join us HERE now)!

Here’s what Jamie Rottura, one of our inspirational Program graduates has to offer to help you jump start the habit of eating mindfully…

The term “mindful eating” can seem quite vague to many people.  It is tough to imagine what it looks like to eat with intention.  The term denotes eating while in a meditative state… but what does that mean?

Before I began the Plant-Empowered Coaching Program (PECP), I would eat at designated times of day (i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner, respectively), usually in-between tasks or while working.  I shoveled my food into my mouth because I had waited to eat until I was so hungry that I NEEDED food or I would pass out. Then, I would eat until I was too full to move and be angry at myself and unable to do much for a good hour or so after. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this ONE thing made me feel so badly about myself.  I would feel sluggish and look at myself in the mirror thinking about how gross and gluttonous I was. I would go into a spiral of negative emotions about my body, therein feeling depressed and overwhelmed.  One meal could cause me to hate myself, back then. 

The mindfulness tools we learn within PECP have taught me how to break that awful cycle.  I now enjoy eating on a whole new level while also appreciating my body throughout the entire process. Eating is no longer another “task”… It is an experience that I look forward to without guilt or anger.  I taste flavors, feel textures and pay attention to the smell of food in a way that helps me savor every meal. 

Next time you sit down for a meal, try some of these tips that we practice in PECP:

  • Choose foods that fuel you instead of foods that are just there when you’re hungry.   
  • Chew food to a pulp before swallowing.
  • Ask yourself if you are enjoying the flavor and texture of the food.
  • Smell the food before each bite.
  • When you sit down to eat, make that the “thing” you are doing at the time.  Turn off the TV and other mindless distractions and enjoy the meal.  
  • Listen to your body’s reactions to foods. Ask yourself, “How do I feel when I eat this particular food? Does it make me feel energized or depleted? Am I satisfied or still hungry?”
  • Before you choose a particular food or meal, ask yourself, “Do I really want this right now?” If the answer is yes, then take a little at a time. If the answer is no, feel open to leaving that option off of your plate.
  • Remind yourself that you DO NOT have to finish the entire plate of food (that’s why storage containers were invented)!

Eating is an experience, not a means to an end. Enjoy every bite! 

My Story in a Nutshell


It all started when I was seven years old. 

My mom had picked me up after school to take me to gymnastics practice and asked how my day was. I told her we had learned about Daniel Boone (in case you don’t know, Daniel Boone was one of our first American folk heroes who infamously carried around a shotgun and wore a raccoon hat). 

I was confused. “Daniel Boone was supposed to be a hero mom, but he was not.” I said. “He was a mean man. He killed and ate animals!”

My mom was honest with me. She said, “Well Ella, we are just fortunate now-a-days. Unlike Daniel Boone, we get to go to the grocery store to buy our meat.” 

It was at that moment that I connected the food on my plate with the animal that it was. I was horrified! I told my mom, “I’m not going to do that anymore.” 

That was it – I never ate meat again.

I was extremely fortunate to have such loving parents. They gave me the freedom to explore who I was, and what was most important to me in this world.

Not only did I stop eating meat, but I had also discovered my purpose in life. Every chance I got, I wrote about how it simply made no sense for people to eat animals. Why would we kill another living being when we can easily live without inflicting such suffering? 

I couldn’t understand how anyone could love their dog and then turn around and eat a pig. I saw all creatures on this earth as equal in their right to live. And I saw us, as humans, the only species with the ability to consciously choose whether or not we eat other animals.

These strong beliefs came with a lot of weight, especially as I started getting older and discovered the truth about factory farming. I sought out information, and what I discovered was much worse than the image of Daniel Boone shooting Bambi that originally caused me to stop eating meat.

The undercover photos and videos I found of factory farmed animals felt like a knife in my gut. It was like I could feel the suffering of the animals and it tore me apart. 

When I discovered that the cruelty of the dairy and egg industries was no less than the cruelty of the meat industries I immediately went vegan. I was fifteen.

In my young mind, I thought that if only people knew the truth then surely they would go vegan like me. I didn’t see myself as different. I just thought I had discovered something other people were not yet aware of since the information back then was not readily available.

I therefore set out to spread awareness. I was a leader in a local animal rights group, organizing protests and leafleting every chance I got throughout my teenage years. 

I sat in cages on the sidewalk demonstrating the cramped conditions of chickens in battery cages. I wore buttons on my shirt at school, asking people to boycott companies that tested on animals. I led protests outside of fur stores, circuses, and pigeon shoots. I was on a mission!


After a while, I came to understand that many people simply did not WANT to know the truth about where their “food” came from. 

I was right that many people were unaware of the extent of the cruelty, but I was incorrect in thinking that simply presenting them with the information would be enough to motivate people to go vegan. This was a tough realization but it certainly didn’t stop me. I knew I’d be fighting for animals until the day I died. It was just a matter of HOW I was going to go about fighting.

Now don’t get me wrong… I believe we absolutely need those on the front line of this bloody battle. People to risk their freedom and even their lives to expose what goes on behind the closed doors of factory farms. 

We need people telling it like it is without concern for people’s feelings. I realize that may sound harsh to some, but there are millions of animals suffering, in horrible pain, and dying horrible deaths every second of every day. 

These animals, just like dogs and cats, experience love, happiness, grief, pain. If these were millions of dogs, almost everyone would be on board. They wouldn’t be calling the vegan movement “extreme”. But why? Why does a dog deserve life and love, and a cow does not? 

The problem is that people don’t want to let go of their defenses. It would make them wrong. It would mean experiencing negative emotions, including guilt, if they choose not to change their ways. Change is uncomfortable. Discomfort, however, is an investment in personal growth. Discomfort is the price of achieving not only a happy life, but also a meaningful life.

Going vegan is about wanting to make conscious choices. It’s about wanting to align your actions with what you truly value in life. It’s about not allowing yourself to say, “I love animals” and then turn around and eat their dead bodies. I learned that people have to be ready to open their minds and their hearts and care about the impact their choices make on other living beings and on the world, and to be willing to make a change.

Another important factor is believing that your voice, and your choices make a difference! Over 20 years after I led my first circus protest, in 2017, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus took animals out of their acts. That’s a huge deal, and it happened in my lifetime. What’s 20 years of effort to save the countless elephants who will now be spared a life of captivity and exploitation?!


I would call the vast majority of my adult life, up until just a year ago, a period of life-experimentation, self-exploration. I experienced a lot of joy and excitement, but also dealt with a lot of shame and frustration. 

Although I would never wish many of my experiences on anyone else, I wouldn’t take back even the most painful parts. Every experience provided me with an opportunity to learn and grow. I see now just how resilient I am, and how cool is it that we can rewrite the stories we create about who we are and what we are capable of. I love knowing we are that powerful!  Let me explain.

It started with my first serious boyfriend. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict. It was during my time with him that I wrote my story about being “unworthy” and “not good enough”. From there my self-image went downhill. It was like I felt that, beyond my mission of fighting for animal rights, I really didn’t matter. 

Ella Disordered Eating Image

For the next 15 years I worked in the fitness industry and struggled in secret with a distorted body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety, and terrible insomnia. 

Women were amazed by my strong, lean body and I was a walking billboard for the anti-stereotypes of what a vegan looked like. I inspired more people to start the transition to plant-based just by keeping myself in tip top shape, than anything else I could say or do. 

I put a ton of pressure on myself to be the shining example of a healthy, fit, vegan, which meant I couldn’t share my struggles. 

I was carrying around a lot of shame, which contributed to the disordered eating patterns. I would restrict my food intake, count calories, track macros, and walk around hungry 95% of the time. The other 5% I was binging, ashamed and alone (I could down an entire jar of peanut butter in one night).

The pressure I put on myself also led to body dysmorphia. I saw and felt fat that wasn’t there. After a devastating break-up from my fiance, I remember challenging myself to see if I could get below 100 pounds. I’m not one to lose a challenge and I managed it. I’m 5’7”.

My own food intake and weight were something I had control over. And with so much else out of my control I think that subconsciously, it gave me comfort.


It was a long, agonizing journey for me to come to terms with, and work though, my disordered eating and body image issues. It wasn’t until 2016, many years after I had built a name for myself with my brand, Sexy Fit Vegan, that I made it my mission to change my story of being unworthy and not good enough, and to heal myself.

I had worked my ass off creating my website and blog with the purpose of educating and inspiring people, but there was a disconnect between me and the people I aimed to help. I was frustrated by the lack of engagement. 

It finally hit me like a ton of bricks… It wasn’t about people lacking the desire to engage, it was about me not being honest with them or myself. I was presenting only the good, and continuing to hide all my struggles. Who can relate to someone who appears to have it all together?!

I set out to rid myself of the shame by getting vulnerable and sharing my struggles. I decided to not only come clean to my friends and family, but to all of my followers as well, which I did in 2017 with a series of blog posts I called “My Journey from Disordered Eating to Plant-Empowered Living.” Out of sharing came a sense of empowerment like I’d never experienced before. I finally felt free in my authenticity.

Now don’t get me wrong. The negative self-talk didn’t just disappear all of a sudden. It’s a process. I discovered a self-coaching system that allowed me to consistently do the work needed to finally reprogram my brain, rid myself of the limiting beliefs keeping me stuck, step into my power, and access the happiness that is already deep within all of us!

I then developed my transformational MASTER CLASS, started the Empowered Vegan Life Facebook Group, and created the Plant-Empowered Coaching Program to serve people who not only have the desire to transition to a healthy vegan lifestyle, but are also struggling with shame, an unhealthy relationship with food and their bodies, and are engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors that are preventing them from reaching their potential.

The coolest part is that what took me years to figure out is now serving people to their freedom in just six months! 

The new program is based on true transformation through empowerment and self-love.  It’s built on the basis of aligning your actions with your values. It teaches people to approach themselves with curiosity and compassion, to accept and respect themselves and their bodies. It coaches people down the path toward not only a healthy and happy life, but also a free and meaningful life. It coaches people to a place where they become the inspiration for others and make a positive impact in the world.

And though the program successfully helps people adopt a healthy, fit, vegan lifestyle, the focus in not about food! You see, for the people I work with, feeling powerless over food is just a symptom. And the countless diet plans and training programs they’d been beating themselves up over, were attempts at putting Band-aids on wounds that needed major surgery. 

And this leads me to where I am today! Continuing to spread my message of veganism through empowerment, through aligning your actions with your values and rewriting your story with self-love as the foundation.

10 Foolproof Ways to Be an Awesome Parent

During my 4.5 years of being a mother, I have noticed myself go from, “I am rocking this mom thing” to “I am screwing my child up for life” in a matter of 60 seconds.

I strive (daily) to be a good mother but this is the most challenging job I have ever had and it will be the job I am assigned to for the rest of my life… There is no retirement from parenting.  It is very stressful at times and I lose my cool more often than I like to admit.

I grew up with a screaming parent.  I had decided at a very young age that I would NEVER be that mom.  I wanted my children to feel loved and supported and for their feelings to be validated instead of shunning them for not obeying or losing my temper over their simple curiosity and comedic impulses. I wanted to be that parent who understands that children just want acceptance and hugs.  I read many books about child development and how to be calm, cool and collected at all times in this ever-changing job position.

But this morning, as I was having a screaming war with my son over brushing his teeth before school, I saw his small body trembling with anger and exhausted from the battle and I realized that I have allowed myself to lose sight of who he is… I have allowed myself to fall into patterns of behavior instead of using the tools I have learned about child-parent dynamics… I have allowed myself to be that screaming parent… and I crumbled. My beautiful boy deserves better.

So, I went back to some insights I have accumulated throughout the years to center my thoughts.  I am amazed at the calm I feel just by reading them out loud to myself. I am even more amazed that I have lost sight of so many of these thoughts for one reason or another over time.  My reality of parenting has not been jiving with my intentions and it is time for a check-in:

1)   Good parenting means taking care of yourself first.

Think of it the same as you are taught on an airplane… you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help anyone else.  If you neglect your own body and mind, you are really neglecting your child’s, as well. We cannot give a warm drink to someone with an empty carafe. Eat well, sleep well, exercise your body and take time to breathe and you can go into situations with enough understanding and awareness to make sure everyone wins. (This is something Ella certainly drives home in the Plant-Empowered Coaching Program.)

2)   Being imperfect is absolutely perfect.  

No one is perfect!  How beautiful and freeing that statement feels.  So many children are being taught that being wrong about something holds a bad connotation.  I remember being in school and being terrified to raise my hand because I was afraid of answering incorrectly and (possibly) being ridiculed by my teachers and peers over it.  

As an adult I realize that being wrong is important to learn anything. Do we ever truly learn from being right all the time? Our own focus on perfection trickles down to our children… whether it be about grades, appearance, weight or the like. Just as it is important for adults to know and practice this idea, it is even more vital for children to be comfortable with making mistakes and with being imperfect for their own mental health.  As adults, we can reason on a different level than children, whose brains are developing well into teen-hood. They are more susceptible to allowing negative thoughts about themselves and others to take over their lives.  Teach them that there is nothing wrong with a challenge and to welcome imperfection with a smile.

3)  Being mindful is more important than being in control.

The times when I am fighting for control are the times when I have lost control completely.  When I stop to take a breath to snap out of that space, my body is shaking from anger and my son is either screaming at me or crying because I hurt his feelings.  At that point, it feels like it is too late for this fight to come to a calm conclusion. If I had just opened my eyes to look at him and asked what he needed or wanted, it would have changed the course of the entire situation. Instead, I scoop him up and hold him in my arms and apologize over and over again, allowing the guilt to run so deeply that I ache in my fingertips.

Children’s feelings are often bigger than them and it is our job as the adult to help them to understand their emotions and focus their reactions appropriately.  Next time you feel that pit of anger welling up because your child is doing the exact opposite of what you think he should do… take a breath and walk away so that you can focus on his needs and to help him to work through his feelings.

4)   Take time to play and get in touch with your inner child.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”  Embracing the nostalgia of what made childhood so great is all about freedom to just have fun, to be outside, to run wildly, to explore, to play a game, to sing, to dance and to, simply, take time to laugh heartily.

While our idea of fun has changed quite a bit as we have aged, I have never seen a person, at any age, with a frown on her face while doing something she loves.  Play with your kiddo as often as possible… remind yourself what it was like to be that young… embrace it and do it often. Show your mini that you are never too old to have fun.

5)   It’s okay to be late.  

Let’s face it, when you have children, being on-time for anything goes out the window.  IT’S OK! It is not the end of the world and people usually understand (and if they don’t, that’s OK, too).  I am not saying be an hour late and expect that others will let it go… but being ten minutes late is not a make-or-break situation.  Don’t stress yourself and your child out by pushing perfection here.

6)   My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.

My mother had this sign hanging on the kitchen wall for my entire childhood.  While we always had a clean home, my mother never worried if our toys were in the living room because that meant we were having fun and that was more important to her than having everything in its place at all times.

Before I had my son, I had a rigid cleaning schedule for my home. I even had a calendar to remind me what to clean and when.  I realized very quickly into parenthood that that way of being caused me more anxiety than anything else. I had to let go a bit and know that the “Cleaning Police” were not going to barge into my house and take me away if there was a little dust on the mantle. If there is a choice between spending time with your family or cleaning… choose family and enjoy every minute.

7)   My child loves me unconditionally.  

I am always amazed that, no matter how many times I “mess up” this parenting thing, my son always gives me a kiss and hug before bed. He never holds onto the anger or resents me for my reactions.  He only wants to know that I will always love him, back. He wants my approval, my guidance, my arms to hug him and for me to play with him as often as possible. Children tend to be more forgiving than adults… we should take a lesson from them.  

8)   It’s okay to give in.  

There are times when I ask myself, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”  Not everything has to be something. If it doesn’t matter that much, then don’t make it a bigger deal than it needs to be just to prove a point.  It’s ok to let something go and give in to your child sometimes… you will not ruin him or make him a menace to society if an argument ends with you saying, “You know what? I don’t want to fight anymore… just eat the cookie for dinner and enjoy it.”  Pick your battles.

9)   Children are always testing their wings, not you!  

More often than not, children are trying to see the extent of their own abilities.  They are not purposefully trying to piss you off… it’s not personal. They want to be strong, independent and reach their dreams whether that means wearing the same Superman shirt everyday or climbing to the highest point on the playground.  They don’t know how you feel about the situation and they usually don’t care (children are naturally egocentric… their world is the only world). It’s more about living moment to moment for them rather than whatever consequences will follow.

Take time to explain to them what can happen, or why you are angry, or how they can make better choices rather than yelling at them for not doing something the way you want them to.  They might not always agree or understand, but they will likely feel more loved and respected if you talk with them rather than at them.

10)    I am enough!

There will be plenty of times when you will doubt your abilities and feel like you can do better.  I am a firm believer that the Universe gives us what we need when we need it. Our children challenge us to be better than we’ve ever been before and the Universe would never have done that if it didn’t know that we are ready for it.  You are enough.. in fact, you are more than enough. You are an AWESOME parent!


The Journey Back to Me, Embracing My PTSD

I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 2014 shortly after the birth of my son. His existence is nothing short of a miracle in the truest sense.   I still feel the sting in my heart and the tears welling up every time I remember the events of that day. It was the best and scariest day of my life.

It’s Time!

It was Memorial Day 2014 at 6:30 am when my fiancé (at the time) informed me that the mild discomfort I was feeling was indeed labor pains.  My mom was sleeping in the guest room in preparation for my due date, so I woke her up and told her it was time. We were all insanely excited that we were finally going to meet this mini-person growing inside of me.  

I was worried that, it being Memorial Day, traffic would be awful during the forty-minute commute to the hospital, but we managed to get there with no delays.  I was checked-in and getting transported to the birthing room by 7:30 am. I was already getting close to full dilation so there was no time for an epidural, which was fine by me since I seemed to be handling the pain easier than I had expected (though that threshold was quickly surpassed and soon I was yelling like every woman does when giving birth- I am not Wonder Woman).  

It was 8 am and the nurse had just told me that we were about ready to push when the alarms started going off on, what seemed like, every machine I was connected to. After that, everything went so fast and seemed like slow motion at the same time.  The doctor came into the room followed by three more nurses and they all worked together to detach machines and whatever else.

The bed began moving out the door and I asked (in a very loud voice), “What is happening? Where are you taking me? What’s going on?”. A nurse was walking next to my bed on the way to the OR attempting to put an IV in my arm while the other nurses spoke medical jargon back and forth.  I just kept repeating, “What is happening? Is my son ok?”. No one answered me for what seemed like an eternity.

We entered the operating room and the doctor looked straight into my eyes and said, “We are knocking you out now. The cord is wrapped around your baby’s neck and he needs to come out.”  After that, they must have knocked me out because my memory is blank.

Lucky to Be Alive?

When I woke up, my fiancé and mother were sitting to my left and the doctor was standing on my right. I felt so confused and everything looked so blurry. The doctor asked me how I felt, and I had no answer… my mouth just wouldn’t open, for some reason.  The doctor said, “Your son is alive in the NICU. As soon as he is stable, a nurse will bring him in. You are both very lucky to be alive.” Those words both relieved me and sunk into my chest like a stone.

He continued to explain that my son was born blue and it took a while to resuscitate him.  He said that, when I am ready, we can talk about the probable issues that my son will face due to the lack of oxygen to his brain for such a long period of time.  

He told me that there were two parts to my own near-morbidity: 1) I had grown a 3lb fibroid along with my son resulting in a twin-like birth and 2) I had suffered a placental adhesion (my placenta attached to my uterine wall and, when it birthed, it ripped the connective tissues).  The combination caused me to lose too much blood resulting in several blood transfusions. I stopped listening after that…the rest is a blur.

When my son was two and a half days old, I saw him for the first time.  He was still on machines, but I was not so the nurse walked me to the nursery to breastfeed him (I was very insistent). I remember the nurse brought me to his crib and he had tubes everywhere. I was afraid to hold him even though the nurse told me I could.

“I’m Not Enough” Sets In

I had heard that a mother feels an instant connection to her child when she breastfeeds for the first time… I did not feel it.  I couldn’t even breastfeed successfully… the nurse had to match my nipple with a tube to give him formula so that he would eat. I wasn’t enough to nourish my baby… I wasn’t enough to give him what he needed. I attributed my disconnection to the two and a half days that had passed before meeting him outside of my womb.

Two hours later, I went back to the nursery to try to feed him again.  I had read that a mother will recognize her baby in a room full of babies and I wished that would be me this time… that the connection would be stronger this time.  When I went to the wrong crib and picked up someone else’s child (the nurse stopped me the moment I picked the wrong baby up), I broke down and felt like a failure immediately… just two and a half days into motherhood.  

The guilt of not having given him a gentle birth and not knowing my only child even after housing him within my body for nine months was overwhelming. All I could think was that not only had my body almost failed me, but it attempted to kill my unborn child and now it feels no connection to him and it won’t let me breastfeed successfully. I hated my body in a fierce way. I hated myself.

The Diagnosis

We finally left the hospital on day five. The next three months were a mixture of intense fears, overwhelming emotions, dramatic reactions, severe nightmares, panic attacks and random, physical pain at extremely inconvenient times. I struggled to breastfeed, and I worried that my son was not gaining weight, so I was at the doctor often.  I was so sure that my child would die from SIDS or some other, unforeseen ailment that I needed to hold him every second to be able to build as many memories of him as possible.

I literally either had him attached to me using the baby pouch or I carried him. I was terrified to let him out of my sight. The one time I let his father stay with him while I went to the grocery store, I broke down crying while getting a grocery cart and I had to return home immediately to pick my son up and bring him with me.  I knew something was off the night I was suffering from the stomach flu and was holding him while vomiting. I was diagnosed three days later.

The Journey Out of Darkness

It has taken years for me to move through my symptoms of PTSD.  It has not been an easy journey and there have been times when my terror has incapacitated me.  It wasn’t until I learned simple tools like “the power of the pause” and “if that, then this” that Ella so insightfully spells out in her Plant-Empowered Coaching Program that I really got hold of my anxiety and irrational fears. I realized that, for my son to live a happy and care-free childhood, I get to channel that energy into positive experiences for both of us.  I am finally able to feel the freedom that comes with being able to rationalize my fears.

I remind myself (often) that I am grateful for my body.  Instead of resenting it for the challenges I faced, I embrace that it held onto my son and prepared him to be the strong boy that he is today.  My body is my ally in every way, always pushing me to overcome adversity. My body allows me to hug and kiss my son and to protect him and that is a gift. Every moment is a precious gift that could have been lost on that beautiful and awful day in May 2014.

Ready to Soar!

My son is now a happy and healthy 4-year-old.  He is within normal range for height and weight and he consistently scores above-average in every physical, emotional and logical test he enters. We try things together that I would never have thought possible… like standing at the seashore enjoying the water on our feet and taking a walk in the woods together.

I have learned that I am enough because I believe in my ability to care for him in every way and to teach him to live boldly. I am a proud mamma and my mini-me is thriving.  We will have adventures together, travel together, laugh together and remind each other how very amazing we truly are, together and apart. I will let him soar when his wings are ready because I know we will both be just fine.

*If you haven’t read Jamie’s first powerful blog post, Mindfully Ever After, check it out HERE!

Mindfully Ever After

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a fair maiden who longed for her prince to whisk her away from her circumstance and help her to live happily ever after.

OK, so “once upon a time” is really about four years ago, “a faraway land” is New jersey, “a fair maiden” is (yep, you guessed it, ME) and I never really longed for a prince to whisk me away, per se… but I did wish to live happily ever after.

I was in the depression of my life.

“Quarter-Life Crisis” hit me in the middle of getting used to being a single mom of a baby, moving across the country, having no job and living on government money, and being extremely overweight and unhealthy.  There is probably a few more details I am skipping, but you get the gist.  I was desolate, confused, hopeless and I felt like it would never change.

I tried my hardest to pick myself up.  I moved in with family, walked outside with my son as often as possible, I cleansed a lot, I did a bunch of yoga and running, I even found a fun job. Things were okay for a couple of months and then… I stopped. I don’t know why… I just stopped.  I felt the burden of the job that I was in, which took me away from my son for twelve and fourteen hours a day, I stopped making time to exercise because I was too tired, and I only found time to eat on the run so my body felt cruddy.

I wanted the change to stick but, like all the years of trying before during each of the, what I call “mini-depressions”, (all of the dieting and cleansing… all of the exercise routines…all of the feeling good) I just stopped every time I started getting the hang of the routine. I knew I had the brains to do it- I reminded myself that I am a college graduate and I worked hard to obtain that.  Yet, I could not get off the cycle.  I hated that piece of myself.  I hated the quitter in me that reared her ugly head every time I started to gain some ground and get my emotions under control.

I was 36 years old and had been doing the same things I had done all of my adult life ~ When life got in the way, I left ME behind.  I always did well at the job I was doing because that mattered more than anything else.  All the other stuff (like taking care of myself) just fell to the wayside.

It took me three more years of listing my grievances with myself until I sat in the emotion.

I stood still and listened instead of spewing out the venomous words of who I imagined myself to be.  I still hated myself for my patterns, but I was finally in a place to begin to accept my faults and move forward.  Instead of trying to control my emotions, I let them do their thing and I just… listened.

After a couple of months of this, I realized that I was ready to try again.  I didn’t know what to do, but I knew something needed to change now. I figured I would begin with food, since that would help me to feel good now. I had been eyeing an add that I kept seeing on my FB page called, “Sexy Fit Vegan” and I decided that it would teach me how to become a vegan, which was a life-goal of mine (living in an Italian family made it tough as resisting cheese was not my strong suit). So, I reached out to Ella Magers and we talked.

Oddly, the discussion about becoming a vegan lasted about eight minutes but the conversation lasted over thirty minutes.  Instead of talking about food, Ella asked me questions about me and who I believe myself to be.

She literally said, “If you want an eating plan, I can send you a book.  If you want a life change, that’s where I can really help.”  I wanted a life change.

After a day of deliberation, I called her back and (hesitantly) told her I wanted in.  Something felt different this time, but I was still so apprehensive considering I was a quitter and I knew that about myself.  I questioned spending more money just to be back in the same place I always wound up in.

I didn’t know what could come of the program, but I figured I would trust the process. After all, the Universe has my back, right?

From day one, I decided to go in it full-force and be “perfect” about it (same habit as always).  I exercised that day… woke up at before dawn and meditated, did yoga and ran.  Then I played with my son and went to work.  During lunch break, I was tired, but I listed to all the module one videos and printed out the materials to begin when I got home.  Can you guess what happened when I got home?  Yep- I had to make dinner, give my son a bath, get myself ready for bed, prepare lunches for the next day and then… I crashed.

The exact same cycle happened for five straight days.  Day six, I skipped the morning meditation, yoga and run to sleep in.  I had already felt like a failure just six days in.  However, I believe myself to be the Queen of Reinvention, so I put my big-girl panties on and tried again.

I decided to take a breath and do it differently this time; start small to get big results.  I began focusing on what mattered instead of trying to be perfect.  This change needed to happen for me this time… not because I wanted to look a certain way or focus on my future self. The change needed to happen to focus on my current self… to be a better me now.

In the next few months, I meticulously worked my way through the modules.  I drank in every bit of wisdom like it was the last water on earth.  I listened intently to the videos, I participated in the check-ins, I did my homework and I began to let go little by little.  Along the way, so much came up that I didn’t even realize was on my heart- and I still did the work.

Along the way, anger boiled within me and sadness took over- and I still did the work.  Along the way, regret and shame came up quite a bit- and I still did the work.  Along the way, I wanted to quit and I even wavered on my ability to handle more- and I still did the work.  Moving away from perfection has allowed me to become my true, authentic self.

Fast forward through six months of letting go, understanding, accepting, getting angry, celebrating, disappointment, and just breathing and I have come to the realization that I am pretty freaking awesome!

I like me… I never really liked me before. And that woman who was always a quitter… I understand her now.

I understand that the obsessive exercising and cleansing and crash diets were simply a band aid.  I understand that waking up at 4:30am to do what “should” be done was not sustainable because she didn’t know why it mattered to take care of herself.  I understand that she was so broken inside that a quick fix was never going to be the answer.  She and I are best friends now and we work together to pick up every little piece one-by-one to weave together our beautiful life quilt.

Sure, along the way, I also became a vegan… but that was not until six months into the program, when I was at a place where I truly let go of the emotions I was holding onto so tightly.

It is only now that I realize that counting calories and weighing food and constant dieting is NOT the way I want to live… it is simply too stressful.  I like eating in alignment with my beliefs and I like feeling good about what I am putting into my body and THAT is why I am a vegan. But I had to clear out a lot of who I thought I was to know who I really am.

And so, she lives… mindfully ever after.

You Do NOT Have to Go to Work Today!

I’m psyched to be delivering some fantastic news…

You do NOT have to go to work today!

Nor do you have to pick your kids up from school, prepare a healthy dinner, or get the oil changed in your car. In fact, you don’t have to do anything!

Okay okay, you’re probably thinking, “What the hell are you talking about Ella?”

Well in case you don’t already know, I am all about helping people get out of victim mode and step into their power.

The Power of Words

We’re big on vocabulary at Vegan Life Coach Academy, and how the language we use can dictate who we think we are, how we move through the world, and what we believe we’re capable of.

So one thing we work on with our members is empowering vocabulary changes… And WOW, let me just tell you that it never ceases to amaze me the difference replacing ONE word or phrase can make in our lives.

Think about how many times a week, heck, a day, that you say, “I have to…”

I have to get out of bed now. I have to go to work. I have to go to the gym. I have to make dinner. I have to go to my kid’s soccer game…

BUT, do you really HAVE TO? Are you being forced? Do you not have a choice? Are you really that powerLESS?


Consider this…

You DO have a choice! You DO have the power to choose what you do and don’t do with your precious time and energy.

Now you may be saying, “Ok yeah, but if I don’t go to work, I’ll lose my job,” or “If I don’t go to the gym I’ll never reach my goals.”

And that all may be true!

But here’s the deal… Are there consequences to your decisions? Of course! You choose not to go to work and you’ll probably get fired. You choose to grab fast food instead of making a healthy dinner, you’ll probably feel like crap. You get the idea?

So where are you right now… Are you a victim to your schedule, or are you empowered by what you choose to do with your time?

And you know, it’s not only about understanding these types of powerful mindset shifts, but also putting them into use every single day until they become second nature. And having a structured process with consistent individual and group coaching, accountability, and peer support is part of the formula that makes Vegan Life Coach Academy such a huge success for our Visionaries members.

So, I’m challenge you to own your schedule by replacing the phrase, “I have to,” with one of the following:

  • “I choose to”
  • “I get to”
  • “I’m grateful to be able to…”
  • “I’m fortunate I have the opportunity to….”

And why stop there?

The concept that we have control over our what we do with our time and energy can be applied to every aspect of our lives.

We all have the same number of hours in our day (I believe that number is “not enough”), so we have to constantly prioritize, which is often done without a second thought.

But by saying, “I choose to…” we are forcing ourselves to prioritize our time with intention. Pretty cool if you really think about it, huh?!

Most of the clients I work with are used to taking care of everyone else’s needs before their own. I call it “People-Pleasing Syndrome” and I am definitely a recovering people-pleaser myself! Are you?

But here’s the deal…

Putting our own needs last may seem unselfish, but it’s actually the opposite. You simply cannot serve others to the best of your ability if you’re not taking care of yourself… Not to mention the underlying resentment that undoubtedly forms when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed.

So it’s time to not only replace “I have to” with “I choose to,” but also start to prioritize self-care.

I know, I know, so much easier said than done (which just means that the time to start working on changing this pattern is NOW)!

What will you do, starting TODAY to consistently take better care of yourself? Start with just one activity to add to your routine, whether it be a dance class or just 30 minutes quiet time to read. Put it in your calendar and follow through with your commitment to yourself. (If you’re like our clients, your great at keeping your commitments to everyone but yourself.)

Want support?

Our Empowered Vegan Life Facebook group is a fantastic, free, space for connecting with other like-minded people, and getting and giving valuable support. So if you haven’t joined yet, get into action and join HERE now.

Looking forward to connecting with you there!

How to Instantly Become a Sexy Fit Vegan

There it was… A comment on my Facebook post.  An unsolicited, petty cut on my generally upbeat, self-deprecating Facebook page.

“You aren’t my perception of a Sexy Fit Vegan…”

My first thought?


And this is where I earned my crown as a Sexy Fit Vegan.  Now, I know that vulgarities generally don’t inspire regal images.  But, here I am, nonetheless, A Sexy Fit Vegan Bad Ass Queen.

The struggle to earn this has not been easy.  I have lived much of my adult life avoiding all criticism, insult, and slights.  Just a short time ago, my inner response wouldn’t have been nearly so bold. I would have found myself locked in self-doubt and punishment for days upon days because that comment would have only served to validate my own beliefs about myself.  I believed I wasn’t good enough to be sexy, fit, or vegan. Frankly, my daily life was an exercise in how invisible I could be.

And then, it all changed.

I was watching my daughter look at herself in the mirror, pulling at her clothes, tears in her eyes because she hated her new body and the curves that were springing in places that had been flat just months before.  She had previously been filled with self-confidence…more than self-confidence…a fearlessness that is uncommon in most humans I have known. At her core , that is just who she is: Brave and bold is the way she was born.

Now I watched her and realized I was watching myself.  She had learned this from me. She was putting aside her natural courage and confidence to play small, just like me.

No, I had never verbally criticized my body in front of her, but I didn’t have to. My years of striving to be invisible had spoken for me. And here it was…my legacy landed on my beautiful, fearless, bold daughter.  And the younger one was watching too.

And so, that day, I decided to love my body.

And, here’s how I did it:

  1. I acted.  I didn’t think.  I didn’t feel. I acted.  I invested in myself. I connected with Ella and the Plant Empowered Coaching Program.  I threw away all that I thought I knew about meal plans and exercise and micros and calories.  I trusted the process. I let it take me where I needed to go.
  2. I became relentless with the thoughts that weren’t serving me.  I chipped away at that belief that I wasn’t enough with evidence that I am MORE than enough and never too much.  I dug into the powerful self-coaching that Ella has so masterfully honed. I stepped back with curiosity and compassion to view these beliefs from a new perspective, and then I went to work becoming the master of my thoughts.
  3. I fully engaged in a vegan life.  These are my values. I could no longer put junk and suffering in my body.  I could no longer live in a way that didn’t fit with what I knew to be true for the sake of others’ comfort.  I had to live my values in the ultimate act of self-love.
  4. I began treating my body as I would treat anyone I love.  I made decisions about nutrition and movement out of a place of love.  I wouldn’t feed my children Mountain Dew and Doritos for supper, so why would I do this to myself?  I wouldn’t let my children miss a sports practice for a game that they love, so why would I miss a workout?  I wouldn’t allow anyone to speak unkindly to my children, so why would I allow me to do that to myself?

Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that I wasn’t just acting or deciding. I was believing. I no longer wanted to hide. My butt is still big. I have a mommy tummy.  My arms still jiggle. And I am fierce and loved. Not beautiful for a big girl. Not just a pretty face.  I am fully alive and engaged and independent and strong with all my curves and every imperfection. I am a Sexy Fit Vegan who makes decisions based in love of the body I have TODAY, not the one I might have tomorrow.

When I decided to love my body, my girls decided to love theirs.  Not long ago, the three of us decided to go shopping for new jeans.  We were in the checkout line, and a woman approached me. She said something every mother longs to hear, “You’re doing it right.” She went on, “ You and your girls are laughing and admiring your butts in the mirror.  Mine is still in the dressing room crying. You’re doing it right.”

And, you know what? I am. Now, I talk about how a banana and spinach make me feel alive in the morning. Now, I discuss what a badass I am after my kickboxing workout. Now, I look in the mirror and say out loud, “Damn, Girl!”  I am the example for my girls, not just the voice that tells them they’re beautiful. I’m the example that their own voices are the most important, truly, the only ones that matter

I watched this play out in another way just after that Facebook comment.  You see, I’ve taught my daughter something else through my actions. I’ve taught her to love herself enough to not engage in self-doubt because of someone else.  She had her first, young love break up this week. And when this little boy decided to dump her through text without explanation, her response was to say, “Grow some balls.”  Not, “What is wrong with me?” Not, “Why am i not good enough?” It was, “Grow some balls.” That’s my fearless, beautiful, bold girl!

So, forgive my sailor’s mouth when I say that one of my proudest accomplishments of this decade has been to respond to outside critics with “Fuck off”.  I am a Sexy Fit Vegan. I say that without apology or caveats.

My body continues to respond to my love, and if I never lose another pound I am still a Sexy Fit Vegan. I am fit and sexy and plus size and vegan. And another’s perception of what a Sexy Fit Vegan is simply makes no difference.  The fact is, no one gets to decide if I am a Sexy Fit Vegan but me.