The Challenge of running a support group, restoring my passion

I left the Fatty Liver Disease Support Group I created 6 years ago on Monday after 2 senior administrators left and deleted me from their Facebook. I have known both for 3 or more years and i was friends with their family as well. I was told the drama in the group was my fault for not standing up for them clearly. That I am too lenient and I am too often allowing people to come to the right answers for themselves once they have been advised on things like not using supplements. That I am the reason for the dysfunction that happens in there

I want to be clear that I understand their viewpoint. When you are on the edge waiting for a transplant or you have had one there is a desperate need to demand that everyone else NEVER get to their stage of this disease. I agree completely with this, but my confidence has come from the fact that I am unaware of a single member who came in to the group with early stage fatty liver who has actually gotten worse with the advice given in here about eating natural foods and stopping the processed foods as much as possible. You are looking for a ratio of 90% natural and 10% processed.

I did a lot of soul searching on Monday and cried a ton of tears. I was blamed for drama on the weekend that i was not a part of, i did not witness but that i received 10 emails from angry members about how things happened with deletions and how it was handled.

The issue on the weekend was actually about a celebrity who is extremely controversial that some members wanted to see as a spokesperson and other members were dead set against him.

This had NOTHING to do with the disease and the group at the end of the day. Having someone famous talk about the disease would be helpful but they should be a little less offensive to a large portion of population.

I came to a decision that i would stop running the group if i was truly damaging it by being to kind. I even started accepting that after 6 years pouring my heart and soul into this group that maybe it was time to back away.

I received a large number of emails of support from within the group Monday and I am forever thankful to those that took the time to check in on me.

Tuesday morning I believe God intervened.

1.A local city politician asked to meet with me and have me help him because he has just been diagnosed with fatty liver disease. He respects this is a business for me and wants to pay me to teach his family how to read labels, how to determine what is a gmo veggie and which are not. How to start a small garden and how to conveniently start making meals from scratch.

Once i spoke to him i was energized with my passion for this disease and helping people again. The negative messaging about whether i am doing a good job or not seemed less important.

2. In the afternoon I received a tweet asking me what i wanted to ask for funding for from a group that helps create campaigns for crowd sourcing. I told them about my visions for raising awareness on fatty liver and they see it as a very worthwhile cause and they will help me get this going.

I rejoined my group on Tuesday I was clearly receiving messages from the universe that told me this is too important to back away from.

On Wednesday I was asked to speak at a women in progress lunch on avoiding fatty liver disease at the end of April and I will also be on a talk radio show in Toronto talking about fatty liver as well.

So while i am still quite hurt by the events of this, i lost a large number of friends because i try to look at all sides of a story before i make a decision. Each one who left and deleted me thought i was supporting the other side, when in fact i saw that they all had a point.

If you have gotten worse while you are in my group please let me know. If this is a common event I will reconsider my position again. I want to help not hurt people.

Please be kind to each other and please be even kinder to your liver


Another Fatty Liver Death, Get Tested, Find Support!

One of my Fatty Liver Disease group members sadly shared that her good friend’s brother Dan had died from NASH last week. Dan did not find out he had the disease until he went to hospital in December after thinking he was experiencing a stroke. Once he got into hospital they discovered it was extremely advanced Fatty Liver Disease.  Dan spent December – February in hospital with no hope of recovery. He died within 2 months of learning of the disease.

This chills me at a number of levels. Firstly….EVERYONE needs to have a yearly physical. I know there are a ton of people who hate going to the doctor, I am even one of them. BUT yearly you need to demand that you are given a blood test and that liver panel tests are done. IF you find this disease early YOU CAN REVERSE IT. Doctors DO not know why this disease progresses to the more serious level of NASH. So unless you are diagnosed early and you find the support you need to make changes to improve your health there is an unknown risk of this developing to a deadly diagnosis.

Even if you find out that you have NASH with Fibrosis  finding a good support group can mean that you SLOW or stop the progression of the disease. I have a large number of members who are staying stable at a higher level of the disease by altering their lifestyle choices to prevent further damage to the liver.

Our Fatty Liver Group on Facebook was created in 2008. We have over 1200 members from all over the world and we are a very active supportive group. Please see some of the comments below for what people said when I asked what the Group means to them. I am sure you can relate to one or more of their stories if you have been told you have fatty liver disease.

To join the group


Elisa Davis I love this group…you all have made a huge difference in my life since joining…i have more answers to my illness….the support is so wonderful

Mike Murray It’s so hard to talk to people about our fears, enzyme numbers, successes. Who knows what enzyme levels even mean? It’s meaningless to most people. I can’t imagine the past few months without the support I have from this group

Theresa Prebula I don’t feel as lonely and crazy about how feel with my liver disease.

Bill Pinson I wish I had checked on a group like this or had more information, I may have been able to keep from needing a Transplant, could still have my old job and my life would be as it was. I lost my retirement, nest egg and all savings along with material things I had accumulated to keep the family going.

Priscilla M Simoneaux I have enjoyed the fellowship with other people who understand what I’m going through bc they have the same disease that I do. I don’t have to make excuses or explain myself. I’ve enjoyed getting info and encouragement from others to help me with this and to stick to this new healthy lifestyle before it progresses. Mostly, the friendship from you Michelle Clermont and the info you’ve given with your work that your doing to take this to a national stage to get the world to notice what’s going on and to take this seriously. Not enough is being done to make the younger generation realize or understand what leads to this. I don’t feel alone or lonely bc I have this group and I know bc of you that there are others out there going thru the same thing I’m going thru.

Nancy Fowlkes I love being a part of this group. Sadly I didn’t know about it before all of this happened to me but I feel like I have learned a lot and hopefully I have helped others too. No one else knows quite how it feels unless you are going through it our helping someone else go through this. I don’t know if many people know this or not but this group knew about me way before I knew about you guys! Pam Qualls Maloley heard about my story through a good friend of mine and shared my journey with this group and some of you joined my prayer page and followed me. That meant a lot to me! Fortunately I made it! But I was in the same position her friends brother was in. It was too late for me to reverse it. You guys are great and I appreciate the friendships that I have made and this group helps keep me sane sometimes.

.Pam Qualls Maloley The friendships I have made in this group have become family, one even helping me out financially. No matter what the outcome of this disease for me, I will count it a blessing because of these people.

Linda D Roy I am new to this group but have learned so much. Group of loving people who understand because they are experiencing or have experienced similar things. Glad that I found this group and hope I can in some small way help someone or encourage someone else. One thing I can certainly do … Pray for everyone

Francine Irwin McGerty I know I haven’t been around on here a lot lately..but this group has life! You’re my family, you’re my friends and your the only support I have. Without this group I would have given up. And I can vent to anyone on here and no one judges me. You are all always here for me. Xoxoxox

Ganny Piro The people on here have made me believe that I am not crazy! My Doctors have not taken me seriously for years. I am now taking control of my life and my health. I will be eternally grateful for the support and information you have given me. Although we may live worlds apart you all feel like part of my family. Thank you!

Melissa Harbin Waid I felt alone & in the dark 4yrs ago when I was diagnosed. I was constantly reading and searching on the internet for answers to my questions..even though I have a fabulous hepotologist and supporting family I was afraid of dying. when you go in the hospital to get your gallbladder out and the surgeon tells you “you have cirrhosis ” that’s hard to swallow! 
I am very thankful for this group & all of you..there are few that I have become very close with and have a personal relationship with & feel like I have known forever though i’ve never meet them in person. 
Michelle Clermont, the founder of this group, I ‘ve said before to you that it saddens me that you found it from your daughter’s illness.. I applaud you for being the mother that you are and fighting for her. In the process we are benefiting from it..I thank you and I love you! We are here for each other whether it’s 2:00 in the am or 2:00 in the pm..that’s why I love this group.

Sara Skinner I was very scared and confused at first. I am only 30 and not a big drinker. Although the DR said it was Non-Alcoholic I only ever related liver disease to people who were considered heavy drinkers…and that is what most people think where they hear that I have liver disease. I don’t even argue with them. I know that people who really know me and care know that I am no alcoholic that drank my liver bad. This group gives me strength and courage to face the disease. It made me want to learn more about what is going on in my body and what can happen. I have learned of certain signs to look for to know what to ask my doctor about.

Gwen Davidson I didn’t think it was a big deal as I was told you have fatty liver. Lose weight exercise more. Nothing else. This group has made me realise it is a big deal and that I need to take control of my health  I also now have a list of questions to ask my doctor when I see him on the 27th.

Belinda Anne Tamara Sydenham I love this group. I have made so many special friends like DaliborMichelleRuth to name a few I know there are others that has helped me as well and still are. for me I find I have trouble talking with people cause I am so shy and all so I always bottle things up inside of me. so when I found this group I thought why not join and since then I have been given words of encouragement and have learnt alot along the way in my healthy journey in trying to stay healthy. So I thank you to this group for everything!
Kiran Chatha It gave more insight in to what is happening inside my stomach. It gave me a hope that, yes, I’ve real friends who can understand my situation and propose possible solutions. It gave more knowledge about my situation and now I can ask the Dr more questions. Can take more informed decisions. It made lot of difference. My mother passed away almost 15 years back with Cirrhosis. Had this group existed that time and had I been part of it, it could have made a difference. This group means a lot to me. Thank you all for your support. And thank you Michelle, for creating this group and making me part of it.
Robin Shaw When I was told I had NAFLD, I was also told that lots of adults have it and it’s nothing to worry about. So for a year, I took the advice and went on my merry way. When other health issues came up and I started looking for answers, I found this group. It has been encouraging, informative, at times heartbreaking, often funny…it is a safe place for me to learn how to cope and how to care for myself. In this group, I feel loved, accepted, understood, challenged to keep making the right choices…it feels like family, and I’m so very thankful for y’all!
Ruth Pinciotti Shegda I have tons of health issues from having an undiagnosed autoimmune disease until my 40’s. When my doctor told me 4 years ago that i had a fatty liver – – and do not worry just lose weight, alot of people have it”..i believed him. In 2013 when i had my annual ultrasound for the liver he told me you have gallstones. I decided to research on my own and found this group. it saved me!!! I finally understood what was wrong and what proactive steps that I had to take to help it not progress further. So many people here including Michelle Clermont, Melanie Melaine Smith Dalibor Smolík to name a few have been so patient and kind in answering even the smallest question that I had. I also made amazing friends in several members.
Marguerite Elliott Even though I’m 4 years post transplant, it was not until joining this and the Transplant Survivors and HE group, that I have become more aware of what happened to me. Although diagnosed with NASH in 2007, I personally had no idea of what lay ahead. I truly thought that having the varacies banded was my cure! Following my BIG HE coma in June 2009, my brother became quickly educated, but I did not really comprehend the seriousness of everything. I know some people figured I had just given up, as I found it difficulty to walk, eat, carry on a conversation and basically just live. I now recognize that the disease and particularly HE robbed me of almost two years of energy, cognitive reasoning and memories. Prior to my HE coma, resulting in two days on my bathroom floor, I didn’t have the where with all to do anything, but the most rudimentary research on NASH. In the past month, I have learned more, just by reading people’s comments and following links. I’m not sure if knowing would have made a difference in what was happening, but I don’t think I would have become so depressed thinking I wasn’t trying hard enough or that the confusion was permanent. Also, reading other people’s comments has triggered some memories, which I am thankful for. I am so happy that I stumbled upon this and the other groups. Perhaps, doctors should inform their patients of these groups, so that people can prepare themselves as best as possible, for what may lay ahead.
Denise Miller-Powers When I found out just a couple of weeks ago, I felt to overwhelmed and afraid. So I thought well lets just see if there is some one on FB. I found this group and I am so glad. It has helped me to know what to ask, what to look for in some signs. How to eat and most of all the great support from people. At one time we were strangers to one another and are now a family struggling through liver disease together.
Terri Stone Bordelon I came here in April 2013 suggest by a friend. I was so alone, my family thought because I was trying to find information on the Internet I was adopting all my symptoms from that. Even my dr would tell me to stay off the Internet. Everyone was mad because I was researching every symptom I could think of, because my doctor told me absolutely nothing. 
When I found this place and I got such warm greetings and most of all understanding, I cried like a baby. I kept on fighting and researching everything and learning from you guys. I got a diagnosis a couple of weeks later. This group has been a comfort zone and my strength! Thanks to everyone here! OXOXOXXO
Connie Kaye In 2011 when I was diagnosed I was so lost. The docs told me what I had but they were so vague as to what to do. Lose weight and exercise. Ok. How do I do that? There was so much conflicting information on the internet and I felt utterly alone. I floundered around and didn’t get anywhere. My family didn’t understand. They still think I am just a hypochondriac. Maybe I am. But there is good reason to obssessively worry about one’s health when you have the possibility of a transplant at some point in your future hanging over your head. Finding this group more than a year ago literally saved me. Support, information, and friendship helped me develop a plan and gave me the motivation to stick with it. I honestly don’t want to think about where I would be today if it were not for this group. I love youMichelle Clermont, and all the friends I have made here!
Cheryl Lynn First and foremost, sadly I know I am one of many…too many. This group lends support to each member and education is added daily. This is a constantly evolving disease. Every day we learn something new it seems. Some days I am ok dealing with this and others get pretty down so its good to have a group to sound off in. Thank you!
Suzy Freeman I find this group very comforting. There is a great deal of support and patience with we newbies to the group. I feel that I can come here and not only learn but I could vent if I feel the need. It’s nice to “be around” people who don’t think that you’re being a whiner. And, I really do appreciate the knowledge that I’m finding. So many people aren’t getting information from their doctors. Sadly, I don’t think a lot of doctors are educated about NAFLD/NASH.

Depression and a New Focus

I have been depressed. Absolutely without a doubt It started a few weeks ago when we learned that Megan’s foot is not healing and continued as I realized that in order to face the rest of 2013 I will have to back out of my passions in 2012.

My intentions with Jamie Oliver Food Revolution was to spread the word about eating whole foods and making sure our kids are healthier in the future by stopping the craziness now!

I got asked to become a volunteer in April 2012 and I accepted that challenge with excitement, I focussed a ton of my energy and support into creating a wonderful event in May 2012, I got lots of media coverage and the event was an amazing success.

My intentions with Ignite Health Ontario was to take the food revolution a step further and focus on the whole body experience, we need mental balance, spiritual balance, exercise, we need to eat balanced. Any of these factors being out of balance can cause illness and we always need to remember that.

I was inspired by Ignite London and additionally the creation of Ignite Culture where a full night of topics was related to arts and culture. If that could be done why couldn’t we create a night of health related topics. I was geared up and excited. I shared the idea in an ignite london talk and I had a number of great people come to me afte that to tell me to get in touch with them about this event.

We ran this event in October 2012 and it was a great success. I am very proud of both of these events and the work I did for them.

What I stopped paying attention too was the fact it was impacting my own stress levels, my ability to focus on work and now that we have no way to predict when Megan will be able to walk again I have to raise my hands and scream UNCLE!!

I decided that I need to shelve or back out of both Ignite Health Ontario and the Jamie Oliver food revolution for at least 2013. Making that decision broke my heart I am dousing the flames of passion with my tears. So over the last 3 -4 weeks I have been sleeping a ton, I have had a number of migraines and flus hit me. My Chronic Skin picking (dermatilomania) is at a level that I am struggling to get back under some control.

I have open sores on my arms. hands, chest, face and scalp. They are sore and begging me to stop. I am having so much anxiety around what I do with my life now. How do I translate that passion to taking care of my own health needs when I have never taken care of myself. Where do I start? How do I learn at 44 how to love myself when my entire life has been focussed on helping others. How do I get passionate about work again. There are quiet times that I need to fill with projects and I need to get excited about that and just do it. How do I keep the man beside me who has come into my life as a blessing and I can barely see with the challenges of working full time and being full time caretaker to Megan and the dog too.
I have been crying a ton and finally hit my breaking point last week . I made a doctors appointment to get Megan some more Tylenol 3 for pain and at the same time I asked to have my antidepressant Effexor increased from 75 MG to 150 MG.

I do feel lighter in my thoughts, I am not crying as frequently and do not feel as emotionally lost. I am now having insomnia instead of sleeping too much, I am having cold sweats but I assume thats related to upping my dose of Effexor and it won’t last long.

I have decided that I will focus on work, my health, my daughter, my boyfriend and I will refocus some of my energy to provide direction to Fatty Liver Disease support again. There are some demons that I will need to address in some counselling sessions and its time I took that step to take care of myself again.

I am not out of the woods but I will not hide the fact that yes I am dealing with depression again. I am also taking steps to fight back against its control on me. So 2013 will look very different for me but I hope to have some positive news for you all soon.



Voting with your Dollar – Guest Post Tommy Caldwell

Living well is expensive. There are people that will tell you that it isn’t- but as someone who chooses to live well I can assure you it is. It is definitely more expensive than living like crap anyhow. People who face this reality are often looking for a deal. They are looking for ways to make living well more affordable, more sustainable, and more accessible. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that task is nearly impossible. There is always a way in which you can live better on a budget- but better doesn’t mean best- and right now I am talking about ‘best’.
The good news is that living well and to the best of your ability, whilst expensive, is not impossible for most of the population; at least not for the majority of the population that thinks living the best ‘health life’ possible is out of reach. It is really just a matter of realizing what you truly value in your life and what sort of power you choose to put behind your dollar. You have to ask yourself “what am I voting for”?

The Power of the Dollar

Some people love money, and some think money is evil. Some think we should be able to make as much as we want even at the ‘expense’ of others, and some feel as though wealth should be spread evenly in order to sustain the world’s population. Whether you believe one, the other, or neither, there is one thing that can’t be argued: Where you choose to put your money is a direct correlate with what you value in your life at that moment.
Example- If I claim that I can’t afford to eat organic produce because it’ll cost me an extra $75 per month, yet I pay $50-$100 dollars for cable television, it isn’t really a matter of cost, is it? It is a matter of having a nightly source of entertainment trumping the importance of what I put in my body. I value television over food quality. This is one of many examples that people refuse to face in a realistic manner when it comes to all of life’s values. In most cases it isn’t a matter of affordability- it is a sense of misplaced value and a lie that you tell yourself to justify your poor lifestyle choices. There are of course the populations which truly cannot afford to live well, but that percentage is a massive minority in this country and not the topic of this article. If you are reading this on your laptop via your internet connection that you are using at your job or home- don’t kid yourself into thinking that food accessibility is a matter of money or lack-there-of.

The Greater Importance of Being True to Your Dollar Value

On one level it is important that you understand the value of your purchases because it directly affects your life within a short span of that purchase time. This is what we discussed in the previous paragraph with your purchases being a direct correlate to your value system. On a much deeper level, however, where you put your dollar can affect your entire community and even the entire world.
No company, organization, distributor, or small business produces any products, services, or materials that you aren’t currently voting for. Every time you buy a product that tests on animals, you are voting for animal testing. Every time you buy food that is covered in pesticides you are voting for sprayed foods. Every time you buy a genetically modified product you are voting for GMO’s- you get the idea.
This is exactly what you should be thinking about when you spend your money; what am I voting for and supporting?
And it doesn’t relate strictly to food either. When you watch reality TV every night you are voting for useless entertainment and the dumbing of your society. When you buy 40 video games for your child and allow them to play XBOX for 6 hours a day you are voting to crush the creative potential of budding generations.
I don’t mean to sound judgmental- and I truly am not- but I am trying to stress the importance of choice, value, and what your dollar really says at the core of its purpose. This isn’t about judgment, it is about IMPACT.

Make Life a Series of Votes- Not a Series of Spending

When you can change your mindset and begin to understand the depth at which your choice of spending can affect this world, it becomes much easier to put money in more valuable places. Instead of being just another person caught up in buying more of less, you can become the person who buys less of more. Instead of being the person who shops at Wal-Mart so you can get a lot of crap you really don’t need at an ‘affordable’ price, you can be the person who gets a little less from a small business, but less of what brings you far more ultimate value. You not only get greater quality, greater service, and greater care from supporting places that you can truly value, but you are likely supporting someone who has their heart and soul behind what they are offering to the world- and you are directly allowing that person to continue offering passionately.
This is about getting beyond the instant gratification- getting beyond the routine and false sense of needs- and letting your dollar do something far more substantial for you and those around you. Stop looking at each dollar you place in this world as a loss, trade, or direct exchange- and start looking at is as a vote, a change, and an investment in your own personal values.
You’d be amazed at how a simple change in spending perspective can not only better your life in a direct sense, but allow you to feel as though you are creating purpose with every decision you make. It is quite fulfilling and eliminates a lot of needless financial stress.
So when you spend more at the local food co-op, just remember that you are supporting sustainable food practices, organic products, local business, and progressive food thinking. When you spend $100 on a REAL water filter you are supporting clean water, true health, and poison free sourcing for you and your entire family. And when you avoid the big boxes, the big selections, and the big savings, you are revoking your vote for unsustainable business, low value services, poor farming practices, and negligent responsibility.
You are always voting on how the world operates with every single dollar you spend. So you need to ask yourself “what is more important- Value, or Values”- and then you must answer honestly and live accordingly.

Getting Stuck in Someone Else’s Ideals – Tommy Caldwell

We all have people we follow. They may inspire us, speak in terms that we understand and bring us clarity, or uncover topics or information in areas that we don’t frequently research. Whatever your reason, learning from others is the fastest and most efficient way to learn and adopt new ideas and life strategies. But when do we take it too far? When do we get so caught up in what someone else is saying/doing that we bypass our own logic and judgment in exchange for the excitement of a new thought? I’m sure you are all reading this and saying “that’s not me; I think for myself and make my own decisions in life”. I beg to differ, and I think we all need a bit of self reflection now and then.

Research Smesearch…It’s always a matter of opinion
Most things we learn in the age of information have some sort of stemming ‘research base’. When someone cites a reference or some sort of scientific experiment it somehow legitimizes what they have to say. For most of us this is enough to get our ‘eyes up’ and take some questioning away from any given persons spiel. I personally don’t cite references or research for any of my writing or findings because research is biased and quite frankly a bunch of bullshit.
Everyone has their motives- as both the speaker and the listener- and both will find a way of legitimizing what they want to say and what they want to hear; and research is a great way to falsely support our own inner investments. Here are some examples- If you frequent facebook you have seen the picture of the distance runner next to the elite sprinter; the sprinter looking muscular and cut, while the distance runner looks skinny, loose, and frail. If you’re someone like me who promotes explosive movements (sprinting) and somewhat condemns degenerative activities (distance running) it is easy to look at this picture and say “here’s your proof, sprinters look good and perform well and distance runners are flabby losers!” I’ve seen this picture posted by my colleagues and fitness folk alike to prove their point in a totally illegitimate and lame way. They can say ‘research shows that distance runners typically have a higher body fat and lower muscle mass when compared to a sprinter’- and they may very well be right… based on the research they chose to search out.
The worst part about this is that ‘proofs’ like this spread like a disease- with a bunch of agreeable people jumping on the bandwagon and spreading their new found ‘proof’ without asking a single question or looking into how one sided the information may be. You won’t hear questions like “do you think that perhaps big jacked muscular explosive people gravitate towards sprint based activities and excel at them while skinnier, lighter, fiber 1 type people gravitate towards and excel in distance based activities?”. Not to mention the fact that you could easily find a really jacked distance runner and a slightly overweight sprinter, place their pictures side by side and make the same adverse argument; but neither of those things will ever happen with a group of speakers and an audience of listeners that find it more important to prove THEIR point than to prove the point that is most legitimate in the most legitimate way.
You may be saying ‘ok, I get it, but that isn’t really research, that is an optical comparison’. You’re right, it is, but here is a legitimate research paper example that is equally moronic.
I was reading an article in a journal of strength sciences regarding how plyometric exercises (jumping, bounding etc) cause more harm than good. The article explained how they did a 6 week course of varying plyometrics in one group, and then a basic light exercise course in the other. After the full 6 weeks they had several minor injuries in the plyometric group resulting in very little overall gains, and in the other group they showed positive gains in strength.
Well, I did some further research on this article and dug up the stats that they didn’t tell you. Like most lame exercise research papers spread to the average reader, they used a population of elderly people for this testing. So in group one they were having 60+ year old degenerative participants jump around on their old brittle bones and weak stagnant muscles and via their conclusion that jumping around is bad for old people they publish a paper stating that plyometric movements may be bad for ALL PEOPLE. Junk science at its finest, and consequently the most abundant science we have these days.
The point is that you never get the whole story on research, the participants, or the environment- and even if you did, YOU WEREN”T THE ONE BEING TESTED!!!! Research on any other person other than you will never give you a result that should be followed specifically by you. So read your research with caution and skepticism.

Joining the Modern Day ‘Cult’
It’s great to be a part of something. As Seth Godin would explain we all have this deep seeded instinct to find our ‘tribe’ and belong to it. In other words, finding like minded people with similar values to share a portion of our lives with. This is a healthy, effective, and sustainable approach towards becoming part of a good cause, movement, change, or whatever you want to call it. But when does it go too far? When does it get to the point when you’re not so much a part of something as you are ‘under’ something? Where do you draw the line between belonging to something and becoming something?

Losing your true individuality
I come from the mindset that no person should ever just ‘be’ something. I don’t think someone should just be a republican or a democrat. That someone should be a Buddhist, Christian, or atheist. Why can’t someone just be who they are without subscribing to a pre planned train of thought, belief system, or set of ideals?
As soon as you decide ‘this is who I am, and this is what my people are called’, your individualization and potential for growth are over with… done. You build a box around yourself and remove your potential that pertains to everything outside of that box. You are essentially subscribing to one way of thinking in a given subject and blocking out all other sources of competing information.
I can’t think of a worse way to live your life. Having pre-determined thoughts and understandings of everything that surrounds you because you want be a part of something and attach a name to that group.
Unfortunately it is now all around us. In fitness, health, religion, politics and all other topics that allow some sort of adverse thought. You could argue that these different groups allow us to exchange ideas and create discussions, but people are only interested in spreading their own ideas and not truly interested in absorbing others. People these days argue to be heard and spread information to be known- not a lot of people do it to ‘get people thinking’ and create a platform for the open expansion of the mind.

An ‘Open Air’ Approach
People are always complimenting me in somewhat flabbergasted ways in regards to the shape I’m in, the sacrifices I make, and how well I take care of my body. I couldn’t see things more differently. I think getting in shape and taking care of yourself is a fairly easy task. In fact, I think it’s insane that the whole world population doesn’t take better care of themselves because it is the easiest thing you can do. It’s no different than brushing your teeth, going to work, and combing your hair.
What impresses me are the people in this world who have 100% control of their mind, emotions, stress, and intellectual outcomes. I have spent the last 3 years putting far more focus on the health of my mind than the health of my body- and I am nowhere near where I’d like to be. I literally exercise my mind with the intent of making it stronger and more efficient every day of the week, and I am literally moving at ‘crawl speed’ when I think about where I would like to be.
One of the big challenges I faced with the reconstruction of my mind was the ability to understand others first, and not let my own ‘interests and opinions’ affect how I perceived the information I received from those people. Truly listening to another individual who sees something differently than you with the full intent of utilizing their information over yours if it seems more logical is a very difficult feat. The ability to say “I’m wrong, they’re right, what else can I learn from them” is a trait that seems to go against every grain of human nature; but the more I work on it, the better I get, the better I feel, and the more I grow on a personal and professional level.
My point is that we subscribe to an ideal that likely isn’t even ours, from sources that are self serving, and then we put a name on our ‘group’ and shut out all adverse arguments and points, regardless of logic. None of us want to admit it, but we all do it in a completely selfish and childish manner. If you can realize this part of yourself and accept that it is how you deal with a lot of your ‘mental subscriptions’, you will see that you can still have the feeling of belonging to something great and contributing to that movement and yourself, without compromising who you are as an individual and as an independent thinker.
Listen to what others say. Get excited about new ideas. Listen to many many many many different people; but don’t get stuck in a single path of thinking in any given subject, and never think that you or the leader you are following has the answers to all your questions… or even their own. And if you find yourself following someone who is never wrong, constantly condemns others ways of thinking, or suggests that ‘their way is the only way’- you have unknowingly become a member of a modern day idealists cult. I suggest you get out IMMEDIATELY!

Teenage minds- Not ALL the same!

My name’s Megan I am 16 years old and I live in London, Ontario. Seeing into the minds of people my age can be difficult for anyone who isn’t my age. My generation faces new problems, new social norms, and new expectations. The way teenagers thought 30 years ago isn’t how we think today and the way we think now won’t be how teenagers 30 years from now will think. And within that every teenager will have different priorities and different hopes and dreams so clearly you can never have a full understanding of every teenagers mind. I have been sick for the last 5 years of my life and have been removed greatly from people my age so I can’t tell you much about the way they think but I can tell you about the way I think.

The thing about being sick for so long is I had a lot of time to think.  Most people envy being able to stay home all day and relax but being that isolated can become boring and tedious; you can only check facebook so many times. For the first few years of my illness I found small things to entertain me, video games, books, television shows, but as I grew older I spent more of that time thinking. I thought about my future and if I would get the chance to have one, I thought about my family and if I would always be a burden on them and I thought about the world and would I ever be able to do anything for it. I started spending more of my time reading about what was going on in the world and I started seeing things that I couldn’t believe were happening. For example a couple months ago in Iran 70 university programs were closed off to women because they were surpassing the men within them. And in many places around the world, such as Uganda, it is legal to kill a person for being a homosexual. Reading all this I wanted to fix it but never thought I would have the opportunity to.  At that point in my life I didn’t let myself dream or hope for anything but sickness, after five years of nearly constant illness how could I? So I ignored these problems and went back to my tv or video games.

Something changed for me a few months ago, I got tired of letting my illness stop me, I got tired of not trying to do anything because no one thought I could succeed, and I got tired of accepting that I would live the rest of my life being ill. I don’t know what changed for me but I did. I started researching universities and looking at careers in human rights and I started working towards a future for myself. I started volunteering in the community and doing things to see if I could handle going back to school. And now after five years I’m fighting my illness so I can do something with my life. I have decided I want to become a human rights lawyer and be the person that helps solve the types of issues mentioned above. So this year I’m working my butt of to do well in school and to get more involved so I can get into a good university and eventually a good law school. It is hard, I get tired and I get sick but I keep working because I have to, because I’m tired of letting illness rule my life.

So that is how I think, it may not be how every teenager sees the world but those are the challenges I am currently facing and I hope this gives some insight on a teenagers brain even if it is just mine. One thing I want to add is a quote from novelist John Green.

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

― John Green, Looking for Alaska

Ignite Health is building steam!

I am off and running to create my next event in London Ontario! Ignite Health was given more space in my thoughts after I presented at Ignite London in July and I told the audience about my plans to make a difference in London Ontario with The Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassador role I have and by starting Ignite Health.

I had Katy, Christian, Tanya and Pam all approach me after my speech to tell me that they want to be part of this event. I met with Timothy who is involved in the Ignite London event and he shared his ideas and support for the idea of Ignite Health.  I have had meetings with a number of people to pull together ideas for sponsorship, speakers, location, date, video, and photography!

Here is what I have determined so far!

1. The event will be on October 24, 2012. This also happens to be FoodDay2012 in the United States.  This will be a great alignment of ideas!!

2. The pillars of this event will be the following topics.

Food – For Farmers, Cooks, Researchers, Nutritionists to share their knowledge about food!

Exercise – For Athletes, trainers, to guide us into exercise concepts to strengthen our ability to deal with stresses.

Mental – For counsellors, advocates, to expand our knowledge and understanding of things that impact mental health

Spiritual – For coaches, guides to provide us ways to keep our spirit calm and strong.

Practitioners – For any practitioner that feels they can raise awareness of their services. Osteopath, Chiropractors, Naturopath, and more!

3. I plan to have a total of 10 talks in each Ignite Health event. 2 for each pillar , to create balance to help people to raise awareness of multiple ways they can improve their health! 

4. A slightly different format for the Ignite Health events.

We will start with a physical or mental exercise to get us ready and open to the ideas provided by our speakers.

We will wear name tags so that we can connect and network more effectively.

The talks will be 5 minutes in length and 20 slides that will automatically advance every 15 seconds.  For Speakers this is a true challenge and I would suggest you look at this as an elevator speech. You are introducing you, the idea, and why people should care!

So the presentations will run for about an hour in total. we will take a break in the middle to allow for thoughts to process.

After the speeches we will have 60 minutes of networking time. There will be healthy snacks available and the speakers will be asked to plan to stay at the end of speeches to allow audience members to ask questions or to find more information out about your topic. Speakers will be provided a small table to provide data to attendees.

To support the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution I will be sure to introduce the ambassador program and where it is headed at our first event!

I have been asked if I would be interested in having guests post on my blog. I think its a great idea and I will allow topics that fall into the 5 pillars of Ignite Health. So if you have something to share that will help people manage their health naturally then I will consider sharing your story on my blog.

I will say that I will NOT be providing a forum for Supplements , or anything that offers a quick fix. This is about a commitment to eating foods from the earth, from things that walk the earth and things that swim in the ocean.  This is about you taking ownership for your health and listening to your body for the clues it provides!

Any idea that is spoken about or written about in my blog is not to be taken as gospel. Please speak to your doctor, or practitioner to make sure that the idea will not cause other problems for you. Always know that every change you make will take time and commitment. You will feel worse before you feel better and you need to be patient and ignore the path of least resistance. If you are STILL feeling worse instead of better after 6 weeks then this is your body saying PLEASE STOP!. Listen to your body and try something else!

My First Guest blogger will be Jim Rollince , Jim is the head of creative writing for Gym Source out of New York city. He will provide insight into exercise for healthy living!  I am looking forward to sharing Jim’s post with your tomorrow or Thursday!

Thanks to all the amazing folks who are finding my blog when they search for healthy living and are taking the time to comment or email me. I will make this a much bigger and better blog with the addition of the 5 pillars of Ignite Health!

Take Care of YOU!