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:


Rebecca’s Fitness Story

Note from Oonagh:

I’m posting Rebecca’s Fitness Story at the end of 2017.

I’m literally about to publish this and attend one of those workshops on how to make 2018 the BEST. YEAR. EVERRRRR!!!

But I’m no sure that anything in that workshop is going to effect me as deeply as knowing Rebecca this past year.

In the picture above she is holding bags of rice that represent the 65lbs she has lost since January.

She posted the first in this series in May:



And this one in June:


(One of my favourite facts about ^^that one^^ is that she also mentioned that it was her first time in 15 years wearing pants that weren’t black 🙂

But that slow and consistent weight loss is just fraction of what she’s accomplished this past year.

Because she gave herself the challenge of trying something new every single month. Something scary.

And what she has done will blow you away.

Read below to find out how Rebecca conquered her mindset, her fears, got her family involved and now has so much fun that she literally glows from within (I can personally attest this to be true).

You are going to love Rebecca’s Fitness Story.

Tell me where you started from:

 I am a classic sandwich generation woman – kids, aging parent with a stressful job. 

I had made my life smaller and smaller and was not coping with stress properly. 

I didn’t move much at all. My life was going to work, coming home, cooking, eating, and sitting on my butt, watching TV and eating more. 

I think the major obstacle was my own mind and my own inner dialogue, basically telling me that this was my life and it was too hard, too late to make changes. 

Before I joined the 28-day challenge in January 2017, I was completely stuck.  I had gained a lot of weight  – and weighed more than I ever had before.

What made you decide that it was finally time to get in shape?

Honestly, I don’t really know! 

It was after Christmas and the New Year and I had been eating and drinking like a wildebeest!

I saw a friend on Facebook post about your program and she looked amazing – fit and strong.

I knew I wanted to try again and see if I could make some changes.

What happened after you made that decision?

I have made so many changes in my life;

I have not only lost a lot of weight and gotten stronger, I have worked on my mental game as well. 

I have gained so much confidence in myself and now push to try new things all the time. 

I started writing a bullet journal in March and decided that I would try at least one new thing each month – scary things!!

Some of those things include:

  • working out in the park with strangers (who are now friends),

  • joining a dragon boat team,
  • going to Essentrics classes at a studio,

  • going to those classes ALONE (<=====this is HUGE!!),
  • doing a C25K running program,

  • heading up a team at work to climb the CN Tower,

  • going to a hip hop class,
  • joining a Zumba class,

and more!!

I am so much more active now and have gotten my kids and husband on board with workouts. 


Instead of sitting around on weekends, we head to the boardwalk, go bowling or play laser tag! 

I feel great too – both physically and mentally!

I am not even close to being done, but I am confident I can get it done!!

What makes you push through when you really. don’t. want. to. ?

It’s all about the support from the group. 

I try to post every single day – the positive reinforcement I get is amazing – you kind of get addicted to it! 

And when things go sideways, someone picks me up and sets me straight – either with a good ass kicking or a sympathetic ear. 


The sharing and the openness and honesty in this community is like nothing I have ever experienced before.

It’s not just about getting healthy or losing weight – this community is about life – the ups and downs, struggle and successes and you know that someone is going to be there for you – whatever you need.


Where do you think you would be at now if you hadn’t made that decision to get in shape?


I think I would still be miserable – honestly, that is what I was before – miserable.

What is the best thing about your new life?


I am genuinely happy! 

It glows from the inside and I can’t stop smiling!  I love that I have an amazing group of people that I can go to for help. 

I feel strong and confident.  I think this shift will bring other good things to my life as well since I am now open and willing to try new things.

What are your major goals now?

I still need to lose more weight and get stronger. 

I will continue to try new things – December is the month to try a combat class!

I plan to run a 5k race and I am determined to climb the CN Tower again next year in under 30 minutes.


What is your best advice for someone who is in the same position you were at a year ago?


Do something – one thing, just get a little out of your comfort zone and try. 

I have gone from working out in the dark so no one would see me to joining classes and working out in the backyard! 

Small changes can lead to big things; surround yourself with a support system that won’t let you down and you will find success.

No one is too fat or unfit to start.


Were you inspired by Rebecca’s Fitness Story? Would you like to create the kind of year that she did? Leave a comment below!

All about maintenance and active recovery

Did you know that you can reduce the volume and intensity of your workouts and nutrition habits by two thirds and still stay in shape?

For reals.

It’s actually one of the foundational principles of personal training-

It’s Maintenance.

Now before you click away-

I know you are probably not reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body you have.

You are reading a fitness blog because you want to maintain the body that Beyonce has.

But let me tell you why maintenance is actually part of the process – why the bridge between you and Beyonce must involve maintenance phases.

But first – two things:

  1. Maintenance is not quite the same thing as a plateau. For the difference, go here.
  2. If the thought of decreasing your workout volume and intensity makes you freak out a bit because you are scared you will get fat or depressed, go here to learn how to NOT exercise.

So here’s how it works:

  • When you first lose weight (or get stronger or whatever your intention is), you will probably have a good amount of success relatively quickly.


  • Then, your body will hold in a maintenance phase for a little while and adjust to the new metabolic needs.


  • During this phase, you won’t have to work as hard as you did when you were actively trying to get better.


  • Then you can adjust your program/ increase your effort and you will lose a bit more weight (but not as much as the first time).


  • And your second maintenance phase will be longer as your body again adjusts to the new metabolic rate.

And so the pattern continues until you reach your stable weight/fitness level.

Which is a GOOD thing.

A couple of things to notice about ^^ this amazing image  ^^that will have you lining up to hire me as your graphic designer:

  1. The lines are wiggly because NONE of this happens in a linear way. You have ups and downs – daily, weekly, monthly (especially monthly. Ladies, amiright?)

2.The weight loss (or strength increase) will get less dramatic and the                 maintenance phase will get longer with each phase. Don’t spend                  your life – and blow out your knees – chasing that initial                      weight loss success and the resulting compliment                          onslaught. 

(seriously. This is like trying to chase the high you got the first time you fell in love or heard Hit Me Baby One More Time. There are some things you just can’t repeat.)

So – how do you pull off a maintenance phase that prepares your body and mind for the next cycle of kicking ass?

Can you just drink beer and eat hot dogs for a bit and then get your shit together when you are ready?

Nah man.  You’ve got to practice ACTIVE RECOVERY.

Active recovery is when you do things that actively promote the recovery of your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems and prepare it for the next increase in effort.


Think about the active recovery you do during your workout. Let’s say you are lucky enough to be doing a burpee tabata (so, 20 secs of burpees followed by 10 secs recovery x 8).

So you do your 20 secs of burpees  – and then in the 10 secs of rest, do you sit down and drink beer and eat hot dogs?

No. Because then your next 20 secs of burpees would be barfy hell.

What you do during that 10 seconds of rest is walk around and swear and take deep breaths and grab some water.

THAT is Active Recovery.

Same thing goes with your weekly cycle. Let’s say you workout every other day.

On your active recovery days, you don’t sit on your ass. That’s called sitting on your ass.

^^^fig. 1: NOT Active Recovery^^^


During your active recovery day you do basically the same thing as your active recovery ten seconds during your workout:

Walk around

Take deep breaths

drink lots of water

(swearing is optional but I’m usually a fan).

And now let’s pull the camera back even further and talk about the cycle of the year.

There are months where you will naturally feel an energetic push to take things to the next level (like January, May and September for most of us)

And there are months when it’s time to relax a bit, practice maintenance and active recovery (like August, December).

If you are enjoying a Maintenance Month, here’s how to do it properly:

Reduce volume and intensity of workouts but don’t just stop moving:


  • If you are used to 5 workouts a week, you can probably scale back to 3 without seeing a noticeable decrease in your fitness.
  • Or if you are used to hour long workouts every day, you could do 20 min workouts.
  • Or if you are used to doing Crossfit, try more swimming, hiking and yoga.

It’s pretty much NEVER recommended to sit on your ass. Our bodies were meant to move and ass sitting won’t help prepare you for the next step.

Sleeeeeeep like your life depends on it:

Because it kind of does. More about that here.

Drink tons of water:

Water is great at helping you eliminate waste products and combat the dehydration most of us have from too much coffee and booze (or, to use trendier language, ‘flush out toxins’)

You can chill a bit on your nutrition but don’t eat like a total asshole

The best way to rest and recover your physical body would be to continue to feed it well with lean protein and veggies and whole grains, etc.

But most of my clients need a mental break from the ‘rules’ as much as their bodies need a workout break.

If that is you, this is how I’d recommend relaxing the nutrition rules:

  • If you normally eat a really healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner – maybe you could relax dinner a bit but stay on target for breakfast and lunch.
  • If you normally measure out your food or count calories or macros, drop it and just eyeball your portions to make sure they are within reason.
  • If you normally try to eat healthy ALL THE TIME, maybe you relax it to ‘I eat healthy when I am cooking for myself, but when I’m a guest, I will just eat what’s being served and limit my portions of stuff that makes me feel like butt.’

And this is the best part about Maintenance phases – they are a chance for you to ditch the rules and the effort a bit and focus more on intuitive movement and eating and experiment with what actually makes you FEEL GOOD.

And of course, feeling good RIGHT NOW is the whole point – not when you’ve hit your goal weight.

And if you get antsy during your maintenance phases, remember that they are practice for when you hit – and maintain- your perfect weight/fitness level.

Happy maintaining! x

Are you in maintenance right now? Leave a comment below and let me know how it’s going?






sarah’s fitness story

Have you had this experience yet  – where you realize that something you always thought was mega lame is actually pretty cool?

In my case, I’m talking about…structure.

You see – I’ve always been someone with a kind of asshole-y tendency to question rules, defy even well-earned authority and demand absolute freedom.

But after 17 years of personal training, I’m realizing that most people (myself definitely included) kind of suck when they are given too much freedom.

In this interview, Sarah says that she had a gym membership before she started Bootcamp, but she never went.

Which is counter-intuitive, right?  You would think that a gym membership allows so much flexibility. You have all these different classes, you can show up anytime that’s convenient for you and get your workout done….

But the thing is, when people are given too many options, they often…don’t do anything at all. 

Trust me on this.

In my years of teaching fitness classes, I’ve realized that this is one of those situations where people really benefit from structure.

Bootcamp starts at 6am. Rain or shine. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  That’s it.

If you can embrace that structure, make it AUTOMATIC, then your fitness is taken care of. Easy peasy.

That’s what Sarah did.

And this is her Fitness Story!






TV Researcher/Producer

How long have you been training with us?

A year in May

Were you always an exerciser? What did you do for your fitness before signing up with FFG?

I’m always into something. I grew up doing ballet, moved to hot yoga, then spent about three or four years into long-distance running. Before I started with FFG, I had kind of fallen off with my fitness. I had a membership at a local gym but wasn’t very consistent.


What made you sign up for a FFG Bootcamp?

I had a friend who was doing the East End bootcamp and she looked great. She was getting some serious results and said Oonagh was awesome. It was an added bonus that Christie Pits was (and is) right beside my house. It seemed almost too perfect.

How has being an FFG Bootcamper changed your life?

It’s made working out automatic for me. I’ve become stronger and faster and it’s also a nice way to start a day.


What do you do when you are not Bootcamping?

In the summer, I head to the cottage, play softball with friends, and dine out; in the winter, I go snowboarding as often as I can. I also like to travel when I can.


What about coming to Bootcamp makes you jump out of bed at 5am singing the Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music?

Knowing I can get a workout out of the way in the morning.

When answering this question, Sarah clearly forgot about the time I gave her a weird carrot as a treat for our Halloween Trick Or Treat Bootcamp.

What exercise or drill makes you cower under your bed covers and pretend you don’t hear your alarm?


What makes you get up anyway – even when you REALLY. DON’T. WANT. TO.?

I can pretty much see Christie Pits from my house so Oonagh’s voice and visions of hill runs haunt me when I sleep through my alarm.

Best/funniest bootcamp moment?

When a fellow boot camper — she knows who she is — did a 30 min. wall sit so she could avoid hill runs and fitness testing. My hero!

Anika would have sat there all day to avoid hill runs. I threatened to sit on her lap and she was all like, ‘bring it’. #quadsofsteel

What advice would you give someone who feels like they are unfit and they don’t know where to start?

Make working out as automatic as you can and, as you start to get stronger and more confident, you’ll realize you’re taking better care of yourself.


What is the accomplishment or personal milestone you are most proud of?

I solo’d my first canoe last summer up a portage called The Devil’s Ladder in Algonquin. It was pretty much straight up, with steep stairs for over 500m. I realized how much stronger my legs were than they had ever been.

(note from Oonagh – I found a video of this situation online. ^^^ OUCH. )

What’s your next goal?

Work has been busy, so I’m just trying to stay consistent. Beating my old records would also be nice.

Sarah’s amazing consistency over the winter won her the Most Improved Bootcamper Trophy this Spring. Each winner has added a special touch and it’s aging like a fine wine. Now this lucky lady gets to feature this object d’art in her home until some other superstar Bootcamper rips it from her hands in September.


Leave Sarah a comment below to congratulate her on making her exercise routine AUTOMATIC (isn’t that the dream!?!) – and getting the results that come with that kind of consistency!

Also, I’d love to know – what is one small thing YOU could do to automate your healthy lifestyle?

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!