Stacey’s Fitness Story

“I usually eat mung beans with fresh spirulina and sauteed greens for breakfast. Is that ok?”

This was Stacey’s first question when she joined my 28 Day Transformation Challenge.

That’s when people are usually giving me pushback about dropping their Diet Coke or nightly wine habit.

And she’s asking me for MUNG BEAN permission!?

I’ll be honest: I was like, “alright – who the hell is this person?”

And that’s when I learned that Stacey is a real food activist  who speaks to audiences of all ages about food, farming, and culture.

She eats mostly vegetables and most of her food comes from her San Diego back yard  – which is the size of an SUV and which she shares with 10 housemates. 


This is not my average client.

If you are anything like me, you are wondering:

  1. Why the hell would someone like that want to take an online fitness and nutrition challenge?


2. Is is seriously possible to grow that much food in that small a space? And is it a huge pain in the ass?

Since that day when she asked the Mung Bean question, I have become friends with Stacey and I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone as passionate about healthy living. This is Stacey’s Fitness Story.

(PS. Stacey is so into getting everyone to eat healthy that she’s offering a freebie on How to Grow Your Own Organic Veggies for Just Pennies <====HIGHLY recommended! )

Were you always an exerciser and healthy eater? Did this stuff always come to you naturally?

I was a free-range kid of the 70’s and grew up in my mom’s garden. I begged my mom for more Brussel sprouts, so I’ve always preferred vegetables.

But I’ve also had a wicked sweet tooth my whole life.

If it were up to my cravings, I would eat chocolate, cookies and greens for every meal.

My mom was super strict and didn’t allow candy, soda, cookies or chips in the house which probably saved me in my early years.

But I gained a lot of weight in college and during my masters degree was surprised one day to find myself in the obese category at my doctor!

I easily get off-track if I’m not having fun working out somehow whether that’s playing a sport or in my later years… farming.

What was the situation right before you signed up for the Challenge? What made you take the plunge when you were already pretty fit?

I’ve tried pretty much every way to stay in shape and eat well over the years. And just before the Challenge, nothing was fun.

I wasn’t feeling comfortable in my own skin. I was feeling resentful at all the energy I was putting into keeping weight off as I was aging.

Ever since 40, my body just doesn’t respond like it used to.

And what happened during the Challenge?

This is going to sound crazy, but lemon-ginger water in the morning changed my world as well as tracking how much water I was drinking throughout the day.

So much of what I was experiencing was me being dehydrated! And I had no idea.

I felt so energized in the morning and felt great in my body in a way I hadn’t experienced in years.

Without someone to shine a light on all your routines, sometimes you miss the most basic things.

The other amazing transformation was how inspired I was to wake up in the morning and rock my workout. It was so nice to have someone tell me exactly what to do so I didn’t have to think about it.

And I loved the workouts had a bit of gamification in them. I enjoyed trying to beat Oonagh’s times for those workouts.

After the first week, I felt strong again in my upper body. Over the months, I’ve noticed my shoulders changing shape and un-hunching after years of being hunched over. 


(note from Oonagh: ummm….results not typical)

I know you already had a really healthy diet before you signed up. Can you describe what you’d eat on a typical day?

I am vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, flour-free so I basically eat plants in their most basic plant form.

I like simplicity. Beans, greens, sauerkraut, avocado topped with hemp seeds and flax meal or flax oil 😉

But I prepare them a little different each sitting. Like refried beans with sautéed garden greens, rosemary-orange-lemongrass sauerkraut for one meal and then curried lentils with sautéed garden greens, dill-garlic sauerkraut another meal. Typically I have a couple berries each meal too.

Stacey’s usual breakfast. It includes spirulina fresh from her tank. Doesn’t yours?


How much of the food you eat regularly is stuff that you’ve grown yourself?

My garden is small, about the size of a large SUV. And I share that garden with 10 housemates.

About 50% of my typical meal plate is homegrown: all my greens, herbs and sauerkraut. Squashes, tomatoes, peppers are typically from my garden as well.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about growing their own food?

Most people tell me they don’t grow because it takes too much time.

Here’s the deal: yes, it takes a couple hours to set up a small garden. If you want to grow a lot of greens and root vegetables and you automate your watering. Then only thing you have to do in the garden is harvest which takes a couple minutes.

When you take the time to set up a garden right, it’s no different than brushing your teeth each day. It can be that simple. 

How has growing your own food contributed to your health and fitness?

I could tell you all the things that people typically say: my food is nutrient dense because it is fresh-picked, I know exactly what’s in my food, I know it’s organic, my garden gets me moving outside, and my food is packed with flavor! And all of that would be true.

But the biggest benefit I find is the peace I feel being this connected to plants. I watch the magic of life in my garden and suddenly everything is easy. Plants miraculously grow and flower overnight and turn into tomatoes. It is so beautiful to watch.


What would you say to someone who is reading this and thinking ‘I could never do that. I could never be fit and wholesome like Stacey.  I just don’t have the time.’ 

We alone set our priorities. We choose what we have time for. I have two ways of approaching this myself:

1) When I’m in scarcity mode and I’m thinking I have no time… Sometimes I trick myself. I force myself to stretch and move for 5 minutes right when I get out of bed. You know what happens? After 5 minutes, somehow I feel like I have time for 30 minutes, because all the endorphins have taken over, I feel great and I want to keep moving. 

2) When I feel like everything is getting to be routine and I’m a little bored and I want to just stop… I think about the alternative. Do I have time to spend in a hospital bed, sick and weak? That doesn’t sound like fun at all! 

And when all else fails, I think of my friend who has two kids 6 and 8, runs an international non-profit, puts 3 REAL meals on the table for her family and still manages to run at least 5 marathons each year. Which means she is running pretty much every day.

It’s all about designing your life so that your priorities come first.

I know you are so passionate about what you teach. Why do you care if people grow their own food?

I believe everyone deserves fresh, organic food and one of the best ways is to grow your own.

We have the power to nourish ourselves, to get healthy, to grow our own medicine and to live a wonderful life.

Growing food is a health plan that everyone can afford.

…And it’s up to us to show future generations how to carry on these traditions. 

When you grow food, you start to see the relationship between the biology in your garden and the physical health of your gut and you see why people say, “You are what you eat.”

It’s a cosmic moment that I see all my students experience, and their world is never the same. I feel so blessed to join them on that journey.

Anything else you’d like to say to people who are trying to eat better and move a bit more? 

You got this.

Have some fun. And if you’re not having fun, hang out with some people who are eating like you want to eat and moving (like Oonagh)… because this health stuff is contagious!

Note from Oonagh: I LOVE Stacey’s last note about having fun and surrounding yourself with people who have habits that you want to cultivate. I’m not going to lie – hanging out with Stacey makes me want to up my game a bit (just when you thought you were healthy…sheesh!).

If you have ever been curious about how Backyard Gardening could maybe cut your organic grocery bill, I highly recommend you check out Stacey’s awesome FREE Workshop:


Good Food For Good

Every now and then I meet someone who is so cool that I need everyone to know about them IMMEDIATELY.

Richa Gupta is one of those people.

One of my clients met Richa at a food fair and played matchmaker between us.  Her company, Good Food for Good, makes healthy sauces and when I learned that she does a Butter Chicken curry that is only 80 calories per serving (as opposed to 200 +) and includes hemp protein, I was about to storm her warehouse to get my hands on some.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to because Richa invited me to come and check it out. This is a quick video about the day we met and why I was so impressed with what she is doing to make the world healthier.


Wondering what to do with all that healthy delicious?  Here are some ideas from Richa’s site:

Massala Cauliflower Steak



  1. 1 head Cauliflower, sliced into two steaks
  2. 2 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1/ 2 tsp sea salt
  4. 1 jar Good Food For Good Tikka Masala Sauce


Heat the oven to 400 degrees, on a sheet pan place the two steaks and rub them with oil and salt. Bake for about 20-30 minutes till fork tender and brown on edges

If cooking on stove top, take a heavy bottom skillet and pour 1tbsp of oil. Once pan is hot, add the steak and cook on each side till it turns brown about 5 minutes if the cauliflower is still not fork tender, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for another 10 minutes.

Once the steaks are done, plate them and drizzle with warm tikka masala sauce and garnish with pommegrante seeds and cashews.

Delicious! Serve with basmati rice and salad or a warm naan.

Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes


  • 4 Sweet Potatoes, washed and brushed
  • 1.5 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 jar Good Food For Good Ancho Chile Enchilada Sauce or if you like spicy try the Chile de Arbol Taco Sauce.
  • 2 ripe Avocados
  • 1/2 cup chopped pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/8 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/8 cup diced deseeded tomato
  • Fresh lime juice


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Poke several holes into each sweet potato and place on the baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes.
  • Bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes till they are fork tender.After baking let the potatoes cool for 5-10 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are roasting, prepare guacamole and black beans.
  • Black Bean Sauce: In a shallow pan pour all the Enchilada sauce and black beans with 1/4 cup of water and cook for 5-7 minutes.
  • Guacamole: Prepare guacamole by dicing the Avocado, add onions, tomato, salt to taste and lime juice.
  • Assemble sweet potato: Slice each potato in half lengthwise like a hot dog bun leaving the bottom intact. Pour the saucy black beans in the middle and top it with fresh guacamole.
  • Garnish with chopped pepper and cilantro.

Did you like this post? Want more healthy recipes and features on other people doing cool, healthy stuff? Leave a comment and let me know!

The 6 things I did to lose 25 lbs in 9 months

Last week I asked some of my most successful clients:


I’m a personal trainer  – but there is something pretty awesome about tapping into a hive mind of normal people (with jobs and kids and social lives) who have collectively lost hundreds of pounds and completely changed their fitness trajectory.

They had a lot to say – and I’m so excited to share it with you in a series called Transformer Tips, starting with Holly.

Holly was actually our Fitness Story a few months ago. Since then, she’s reflected on the 6 things she did that actually delivered the results:

The 6 Things I did to Lose 25lbs in 9 months

by Holly Best

Scrimmaging through the storage closet for the only power cord we apparently own in the entire house, I stumbled upon our family scale.

Odd – as I had sworn I had thrown that sucker under the nearest bus this past spring, after it accurately informed me that I had gained 2.5 pounds.

Punch drunk from the paint fumes leaking out from the under a pile of skates, I recklessly decided to give it a go.

And it is at this point we all freak out when I reveal that  I most definitely have lost 25lbs.

Nine months ago, this plump, completely unhealthy, happy Momma (me) decided to get fit by joining all the things that Oonagh has put her name on.

And now with the holidays squarely in my face, I am THAT GIRL – the one who has A Weight-Loss Story.

That’s great, you wonder, but most probably shouting, how the hell did you do it?

Do these 6 things – and you too will be approaching strangers, yelling at them that you lost 25 pounds.


Nothing begins without a willingness to do something, anything.

Just do it for god’s sakes, who cares if

  • your clothes aren’t hip
  • your sneakers are sneakers, not trainers
  • that you tend to turn bright as a tomato after running half a block.

No one, truly cares, NO ONE.

But you will, trust me on this, you will every single time the endorphins hit and that little pride button starts shining.


2. Sweat:

Walking for 2 hrs –  while great – isn’t really going to burn the sweet muffin top off.

After working-out you should be an uncomfortably smelly version of yourself, vindicated by what you have accomplished but disgusted by your own body aura.


3. Support:

Find a support group, a work-out buddy, someone who will make you accountable because guess what losing 25 pounds healthfully is not going to happen after two weeks.

We are talking months people. MONTHS.

Personally, I enjoy having a trainer at hand, and a community of like-minded Transformers who will kick my butt while patting me on the back when things seem impossible.

Go figure, I am human.


4. Ignore:

Ignorance is bliss. Or at least it is with me.

The scale is my enemy, rather than showcasing a slow, positive decrease in poundage, the scale forever triggers my inner demon who whispers,

“you’re so fat”

“what the hell, only 2 pounds”


To replace the scale, I use the clothing perspective, when a pair of pants I had in the closet for 3 years, FELL OFF my body in August, I realized that this shit was real.

Screw you scale.  The pants don’t lie.


5. Reduce:

Guess what? I ate too bloody much. All the bloody time.


The only way I learnt this was by joining the 28 Day Transformation Challenge.

It forced me to portion control, eat my veggies like some type of guru, stop snacking on my kid’s uneaten meals, and finally instructed me that sugar is not my boyfriend. My gawd, I wish I had a sugar boyfriend. Wait, I’m married.


6. Enjoy:

With all things in life, you should enjoy yourself, as these annual trips around the sun, are finite.

Once I realized that I hated lettuce, I stopped munching on it like some sad, depressive bunny.

The same can be said of running: it sucks.

Kickboxing and Bootcamp for some reason do not – hence my continued commitment to do both for close to an entire year.


There are a myriad of healthy options out there, folks – find what makes your heart sing, and you too will have a partner call you a gym rat (happily).


My name is Holly and this is my weight loss story. I still can’t believe it.


Holly Best – @GirlsSciFi

Holly Best, stay-at-home momma by day, voracious sci-fi reader by night, is taking over the world, one book review at a time. Her blog, Thank the Maker  is her perspective on all things sci-fi, and how it all ladders back to being a doting mom. Acquiring full geek status (and keeping it) isn’t easy and it’s one task Holly takes seriously, as she curls up with her favourite space operatic tome, quietly avoiding the laundry.

Did any of these tips resonate with you? Or what would you like to know about losing 25lbs in 9 months? Leave a comment below!


Interview With Kathy Smart

Have you ever heard of gluten?

It’s this protein found in wheat that…


It’s 2016. Even your weird survivalist Uncle Fred is GF.

And it might be because of my blog guest, Kathy Smart.

Kathy Smart is the registered holistic nutritionist who wrote the best-selling cookbook Live The Smart Way – a  cookbook that was  Cordon Blue approved and defined Kathy as the reigning gluten-free expert.


It’s so awesome that it landed her appearances  on the Dr. Oz Show, CTV News, Breakfast TV, Global News, The Social, CH Morning Live, Canada AM and countless shows across North America.

She was awarded the Leading Women Award by the Canadian Government for raising health awareness across the country and was also named a 2015 Winner of the Top 40 Under 40 Business Achievement Award (Ottawa Business Journal).

And in her spare time, she’s a fitness trainer for the Special Olympics and sits on the panel for Media Action Represent (an organization for healthy women’s images in the media).

(PS. Sometimes I read people’s bios and wonder WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE.)

And, guys – she is probably the most generous person I’ve ever met in the fitness industry.

She’s giving away free tickets to her Live The Smart Way Expo in Toronto and remember that Cordon-Bleu approved best selling cookbook? She is giving it away to you for FREE as well. Links at the bottom of the interview!



 A lot of my readers are people who figuring out their healthy lifestyle a little later in life. Can you describe a bit about your personal history when it comes to diet and exercise?


My history with diet and exercise started when I was 12 years old when my ND diagnosed me with celiac disease.

At a very young age I made the connection that if you change what you eat, you can change your life.

When a connection is made like that at a very young age, you grow up wanting to help and tell everyone about the positive experience that food had on your health.

I started getting into exercise after recovering from bulimia at 16 years of age. I found peace and a calmness through yoga and running and a much smarter way to control my weight.

Can you tell us a little bit about the food culture you grew up with?

I grew up in a small town in Ontario, daughters of ministers and missionaries that saw mealtime and home -made nutritious food as a way to show love to the family and to others in need.

My parents would often invite those less fortunate to our family dinners.

You are knows as the North America’s gluten free expert and your Live The Smart Way Cookbook caused a revolution in gf eating.

For those people have NOT been diagnosed as having celiac disease, what benefit might they get by omitting gluten from their diet?

There is an interesting thing about healthy gluten free foods. They are actually just real food choices. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds and proteins are all just real food choices. When an individual goes back to eating just real food whether they are gluten free or not they will experience more energy, boosted immune system and natural weight loss.



 A lot of people would say there is an overlap between GF diets and the Paleo movement.

But you also provide a lot of vegan recipes. What do you say when people ask you which dietary approach is the best one?

My answer is always what is right for YOU!. There are 7 billion on earth, therefore there are 7 billion different diets. There is no one formula, no one special diet that is good for everyone.

My answer is to find what works for YOU! You should feel full of energy and jump out of bed in the am. If you don’t feel like that, change what you are eating until you are feeling amazing!

A lot of your advice is very individualized – which is fantastic. Can you give some examples on how to adjust eating and exercise habits for your body type?

Absolutely! In my experience, an apple body type ( holding most of their weight in their stomach) does best with gentle cardio, stress reducing exercises. They also do best on plant based proteins.
The opposite is true for a pear. ( holding most of their weight in the lower half).  I have found pear body shapes do best with HIIT training 2-3 x per week, and heavy strength training 3x week. Pear body shapes also do best on an eating plan based on dark greens and complete proteins.



…and what your farts can tell you about how well you are digesting your food? 🙂

Passing gas tells us A LOT about how well you are digesting your food.

If you are ‘ loud and proud’ you are having issues digesting carbohydrates. I would recommend a good probiotic 2 per day.

If you are ‘ silent but deadly’ you are having issues digesting proteins. I would recommend apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon per day in water 30 minutes before meals.


I love that you offer realistic recipes for people who don’t have a lot of money to spend on speciality ingredients.

Can you share your best tips on how to keep on budget while giving yourself a health makeover?

Some ‘ cheap and cheerful’ tips from me!

  • Do 1 plant based meal per day
  • Buy cans of beans when they go on sale as you can do a full meatless meal for under $2
  • Check the flyers and buy produce when it is in season and on sale and freeze
  • Buy frozen fruits and vegetables – much more cost effective and just as nutritious
  • Just drink water- cheap, cheerful and good for you!

Finally…What does Kathy Smart eat on an average day?


This is probably the most commonly asked question of all time!

An average day for me:

  • Smoothie bowl using plant based protein( like this picture- this is my Cherry Bomb Smoothie Bowl) with chia seeds and pumpkin seeds for breakfast
  • “ 2 Maca Balls’ from my cookbook- mid am snack
  • Vegetarian Chilli with quinoa- lunch
  • Apple and almond butter – snack
  • Salmon, veggies and brown rice- supper
  • 2 ounces of dark chocolate with a peppermint tea for dessert

Want that Veggie Chilli recipe?  


Hearty Protein Filled Chilli

1 lb. extra lean chopped beef ( organic preferred)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can of red kidney beans, drained
1 lg. yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 sm. green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
Pinch of cinnamon

Brown the beef and onions in a 12 inch skillet and drain before adding all other ingredients. Simmer for 1-2 hours.

Serve on a baked potato or with a whole grain bun for a complete meal!

Health Statistics

Easy to Make
Dairy Free
Gluten and Wheat Free
High in Protein
Egg Free
No Added Refined Sugars
Low Glycemic


As mentioned above, Kathy is giving away tickets to the Live the Smart Way Expo (Toronto Enercare Centre, Oct 22-23) where she’ll give giving a talk on “Why Aren’t You Losing Weight”. Here are all the details and the free tickets.

And if you want to get your oven mitts on more of Kathy’s Cordon Bleu- approved healthy recipes, go to her site and get your free download! 


Did you like this post? If so, leave a comment for me or Kathy below and please share with your friends who are into healthy eating!


The Cottage Workout 2.0

You know how you go to the cottage… and there’s nothing to do but sit around and drink beer and eat chips?

And you keep thinking,


And you’ve already done The Original Cottage Workout so many times?


Welcome to the Cottage Workout 2.0! It’s another full body workout using only items you will find at most cottages. You will need:

  • An old life jacket
  • A boat bumper
  • A ladder
  • A solid chair
  • Your Cottage Workout 2.0 PDF

Click here to download the Cottage Workout PDF

Make sure you warm up first – a 5-10 swim or a jog would do the trick. Alternatively, do 20 jumping jacks and 20 alternating lunges four times each to lubricate the joints and get the muscles warm and ready for action.

Then, do 20 reps of each exercise in a circuit, keeping the transitions between the exercises quick so your heart rate stays elevated. You should be huffing and puffing the whole time.

If you can repeat the whole circuit four times, you have definitely earned your Miller time.


Station 1: Ladder Dips

Station 2: Life jacket Lunges


Station 3: Ladder Pull Ups

Station 4: Bumper Wall Sit


Station 5: Muskoka Mountain Climbers:

Station 6: Bumper Plank Roll Outs

So what do you think? Is The Cottage Workout 2.0 as hard as the Original Cottage Workout? Are you inspired to bring your runners next time you head up north?  Leave a comment below and don’t forget to bring your PDF!(click below to download)

PS- If you liked the Cottage Workouts, you should check out the accompanying Cottage Menu by guest blogger Joy McCarthy from Joyous Health: