The Wholehearted Hero: Michelle Leatherwood

Michelle and I became friends on a short term trip to Germany and have shared long morning walks ever since. Michelle is always moving - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. She's one of the those people who isn't going to stay in the same spot and is always looking for something fresh, inspiring, new. And yet she's incredibly grounded, stable, secure. It's a beautiful balance. 

I feel many people my age are swept into what's trending or so-and-so's new podcast or someone else's pain. Michelle isn't easily swayed yet she enjoys life to the fullest and is relatable to all kinds of people. Today we're talking marriage, independence, renovation, and settling down deep. I hope you are inspired!

1. Hi Michelle! Your friendship was such a surprise little gift to me on our trip to Germany last Spring and into our time in Waco! Can you tell us about where you are now and what this season of life looks like for you? 

Thanks so much for having me on here on your blog space! Truly a place of inspiration and beauty!  

I currently am living in Waco and loving it. Hubby, Jonathan, and I just bought our first home and are in the process of renovating it! Life is full right now with house projects, creative ideas for home decor, helping Wacoans get into new homes at work, and enjoying the end of summer with friends! Honestly, it is a really sweet season we are in and feel super thankful. You gotta enjoy the spacious seasons and embrace the more narrow challenging ones when those come, ya know.  

2. I remember you talking so many times about settling in your spirit with God and with your husband and learning to put down roots. How did you and your husband choose to stay in Waco and build your life together there? 

Yes! Roots are essential for a healthy sustainable life for plants and for us. Deciding to stay in Waco was honestly more of a discovery than a big "sign in the sky" kind of process. Coming out of our time in Morocco, we had to choose whether to stay in the USA, go back overseas, stay in ministry or begin new careers. We considered and prayed through which community to invest in and where to essentially begin our new life together once we got married. We asked God to lead us in the next best for us and for peace to lead. As humans, we are so limited in our perspective to see the potential of every season. Making big decisions sometimes can feel overwhelming, but we found that as we knocked on many doors, the right ones opened up. There was always a peace that followed, and that's how we knew. Favor and peace. We decided to simply ask God to make a way for us in way of careers/jobs and people we could build family with. Thankfully, Waco was it.  

We just kept saying YES to the next thing in front of us. And every step, God met us and made a way for us. 

3. How have you balanced both compromise and independence in your marriage? 

This is a great question and can be applied to every area of life! There is a choice to be made between compromising or choosing to be independent in certain decisions and areas of relationship. I am not sure we are ever truly "independent" from each other as we will always influence each other. However, I would say there is something wise and right about preserving each person's preferences and "independence" per se. I think the balance is found in seeking to understand the other person and their value system.

How have you journeyed to find the ways you both complement each other? 

It's definitely an on-going journey/discovery. Seeing our marriage as a team and partnership really helps. Finding our sweet spots and leading out in our natural strengths instead of simply putting expectations on one another because that is our "conditioned gender" role or "i always imagined you would do this" roles has been key. I naturally am more of an initiator and he naturally is more of a supporter. Instead of being mad because one of us is stronger than the other in certain areas, we are consistently trying to look for opportunities where both of our strengths can build together.

I used to get frustrated because "the man" is supposed to initiate, everything. Right?! And I, "the woman", am supposed to support what the man initiates. Now, there is so much truth and good in that, but my point is, we all have different strengths and what good are they if we hold back and don't use them to strengthen the relationships we are in? They are God-given strengths and gifts given to us to serve and nurture those around us. Own who you are, give what you have to give, and grow with those around you. 

Have you had to give up things you didn't expect? 

Yes. Haven't we all? Mostly I would say my expectation of timing. I want things to go faster and I think I see what could be great, so why won't it happen or why won't they change. Essentially, I have had to give up more control of how I thought I wanted life to turn out. Every season of life changes, hence the word season. And each one requires something different from us holistically. Our heart, mind, soul, body. In each one, there is usually something we have to give up, but in each, we always gain something we didn't expect either. I am learning how to live more open-handed and with the attitude of a child's hope. Anticipating Good. 

Being so different from one another helps to strengthen our weaknesses and learn from the other. You either grow and learn, or fight and stay stuck. This is true for all relationships. God, parents, siblings, friends, roomies, spouses.

There's also a covenant relationship you're now in that fosters a safe place to explore who you are, to change, to question, and discover. I am more peaceful, quiet internally, way less stressed, I care less about expectations or ambition. I've experienced the joy of partnership and that trumps all of the previous self centered quests. I am more generous, gracious, and happy being married. I know Jonathan cares about me, stands by me, but most importantly, I can see how God is expanding my heart to love deeper through our marriage. (and sometimes expansion hurts as it pushes past your threshold) But I can honestly say it has been worth it, every time.

4. In your experience, how do you stay content and settled while still staying on edge, pushing limits, and running hard in this season of your life? 

The thought of being content used to scare me. I so closely associated it with "settling". I would say that now I love the idea of being content and settling! They mean thankfulness, being present, and investment. However, becoming "stagnant" is what we want to stay away from. 

Being content is a mindset and a perspective you choose to take on. There are a few things I tell myself daily. They're super simple and almost childish, in a basic kind of way, but they've changed my life. "God is Good" "There is grace for this moment" "I love me" <I take breathes throughout the day. I pause and breathe. In my car, at my desk, in the shower, before a meeting, anytime!> "I am thankful for..." I keep a close watch on my thoughts daily. What am i thinking about, am I choosing negativity or can I see xyz differently? If I can't shake something, I try and talk it out. To myself out loud, it actually does help! To someone I trust, a text, journal, whatever I can to get it out in the open. I've found that if I do this, I never stay "stuck" for long. We need others and honestly Jonathan is one of the most content people I know, so he keeps me grounded with all of his positivity and hope. 

I want to always have movement in my life. To discover, to create, to live in the "why not's"! Bill Johnson once said people who love God and believe in a higher power should be the most powerful and hope-filled humans in the world. I couldn't agree more. I am not saying this is where I am at, but I keep thinking about that and how motivating it is to believe these words deeply. HOW if I got deep hope (anticipation for Good) within me, I would risk more, love deeper, and enjoy every step of the ride. Thoughts like these keep me on the edge of my seat. What would God want to breathe through me into existence? For today.  

How do you balance self-care and giving your life away? 

Such a great question! I think everyone needs to know their own capacity and current life season. What is it that you need in this season and how can you get those needs met. For me, I consistently asses my capacity and where my heart is. Sometimes I need to make adjustments and cut back when I am trying to do too much. Other times, I realize I actually feel great and have more in me than I thought. It's like my running coach used to tell me, "if you feel like you can go, go! if you feel like you're spent, take it easy!" I live by these words. 

As we have different experiences in life we also come to realize more of what we need in different times. I would say I am a pretty aware person, I consistently evaluate how I am doing holistically (spirit, mind, heart, body) and make adjustments as needed. I don't feel guilty about putting less on my schedule and keeping certain routines, like an early bed time. I am all about good sleep! Find what you need in this season, and make adjustments. You'll have more energy, be more present, and definitely gracious and patient (with self and others!) You won't regret it! 

5. Can you let us into the freedom you've found in your own personal health and wellness journey? What does living free mean to you? 

I love learning! I think this is probably what I consider living free looks like. A life of openness and not being boxed in by self or others opinions.

Being given the opportunity to learn about ME. What works for me, what I love to do, what kinds of workouts I like, which foods are most nutritious + enjoyable to me, what makes me happy, asking who I am learning from and what I am learning about myself and wellness. I love to try new things and am kind of a nerd when it comes to research in this field. I literally listen 5-10 podcast episodes a week on health + wellness. I just love it all and there is so much to learn!  

Truthfully, there is only one me and only one me who will live and experience my life. So, I might as well try to enjoy it as best I can. I am passionate about health in the mind, heart, soul, and spirit. So, I pursue knowledge and experiences that give me a sense of wonder and enjoyment in those areas. If people find what they love and do that, I think that leads to a free life. Not living bound by "should" but living by "discovery". 

6. How would you go about counseling someone in practicing healthy rhythms in their life? I always ask my guests about the rhythms in their own life and I'm curious how you would suggest others make healthy habits. What are some daily, weekly or even monthly rhythms you put in place to help facilitate the process and journey you've been on so far? 

Oh yes I love this topic! If I could talk to someone about their healthy life rhythms I would sit down with them and first ask a few questions. What does your daily life currently look like? How do you feel in it? What makes you happy? What makes you feel purposeful? When and how do you rest? Simple questions that help bring awareness to self.

I would want them to write down their current season, described any way they want. A picture, a list, a story. Then, write down what you feel you need this month, this week, today. What kinds of rhythms do you like? What is one thing you can start doing daily in a category that feels important this week/month? 

Then, evaluate. What worked, what didn't, what did you love, what did you learn. It's very simple really. Just evaluate where you are at, what your needs are, and choose simple life-giving actions that are practical into your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly life. If you want, ask someone to join you for 1 or more of them! 

Personally, I have a few things I have come to learn are best for me through experience. My "miche routines" as Jonathan calls them.  

Weekdays, early bed and early morning. I wake up at 5:35 am, because yes the extra 5mins actually takes away any anxiety from an early morning alarm for me! It's all in the mind.

I make sure to have at least 2 free evenings during the week as to not overbook them and feel so drained. I try to not make set plans for Saturday mornings because those are my special days where I plan what I want to do. I have foodie routines that are fun for me too! Things like "Thursday smoothie" and "Friday Happy Harvest (local health spot) treat" and "Monday green tea latte" - I kind of have one for every day :) My focus is to nourish my body, keep it simple, and love doing it! These are some of my favorite daily and weekly routines. Monthly/Yearly: Getting involved and serving our local community in some way is important to us. It changes every year on how involved we are and what we are doing, but it has kept our love and action growing together. J and i try to make sure we get travel time and little getaways here and there. SO good for the soul, heart, spirit, mind, body, relationship, economy, perspective, discovery, all the reasons! ;) Girl trips for me and dude trips for him are also top priority! 

7. What does living wholeheartedly mean to you? 

Whole hearted - I think that if we are doing our best to be present, to love, and to be loved, that is being whole hearted. We contribute to the world uniquely and that is what we have to offer. When we walk in faith and take on challenges and risks even though we feel unprepared. To live with your whole heart is quite the quest, but as we seek to do so in our daily lives, I think we find a rich discovery in the most simple. 

9. Is there anyone or anything that's been inspiring you to live wholeheartedly recently?

My dad and mom are. They won't read this most likely so it's not for them that I say this, but as I am getting older, I have a new found respect and admiration for them. They live so present, yet with an eternal perspective. They give generously and don't hold back. They forgive and don't allow pain to turn into bitterness. They love us as their kids as best they can, and consistently ask for forgiveness and humble themselves before us. I mean wow. I can't even do most of that in my marriage, let alone 4 kids! I am inspired by their steadfastness to Truth, unwavering faith, and humility. It's like they just don't let fear hold them back. I want to be like that.

As everyone knows, Houston and South Texas has been devastated by the rains and floods. It has been beautiful to see so many give, donate, go, pray, and unite in all of this. My family and friends live in Houston as well as Jonathan's family. Thankfully all are safe but there will be much work in the restoration of these cities and lives. I have been moved to tears not because of the pain and destruction, though sad, but by the urge of fellow friends and strangers to rescue, restore, and give sacrificially. It's what our world needs, wholehearted people who are already on the move. 

And so many podcasts! For wellness I listen mostly to "balanced bites podcast" (one of my faves!) and "trim healthy mama" (sounds tacky but they're two Christian Aussie women who are moms, sisters, and talk about health from a Biblical perspective! + cool Australian accents!) and for spiritual, just the good ole Bethel Sermon of the Week and Kris Vallotton's podcasts! I listen to some marketing ones and mortgage related pod's too. 

Authors, I honestly wish I read more! I am currently reading Tim Keller's book on marriage, the purpose of marriage, and really liking it. It's a great read for anyone honestly ;) 


The Wholehearted Hero: Paige Forrest Martindell

I met Paige when she was a Junior at Kansas University. I remember sitting across from her over coffee and thinking 'this girl is going places'. She did some freelance design work for our church in Lawrence and I was always impressed with her commitment to excellence and creativity. She's a born leader and it's been such a joy to watch her (via social media) transition to and then thrive in Dallas. Paige has navigated her entrance into young adult life with grace and poise and has planted herself in a place to grow and remain. Cheers to you, Paige!

1. Hi Paige! Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you're doing in Dallas and how you got there. What prompted you to leave your full time job and work for a start-up? 

Hi Tori! I’m a full time Creative Lead for the tech/fitness startup StudioHop, I teach fitness before and after the work-day, and I am super active within the fitness and entrepreneurial communities in Dallas. To put it simply, I’m always on at least 5 different payrolls, I work from sun up to sun down, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

2. I've been following you on social media for a few years and have been so impressed by a) the amount of encouraging content you're putting out there and b) the way you seem to be going for it - both professionally and personally! What has motivated you to pursue new opportunities, learn, grow, and take advantage of what's in front of you in this season? 

Honestly, the Lord. Alongside the encouragement and love I feel from Jesus and my faith, is the love Dallas has shown me as a city and new home. I moved to Dallas in June 2015, two weeks after college graduation, pursuing design at Fossil Headquarters. I knew I was excited about Dallas, but I had no idea what God had planned for me down here. Because of a long-distance relationship I was in at the time, I put a time-frame on Dallas and only thought I’d be here a year or two. Now being single, working for a different company, I feel the most alive I ever have before (and am getting far less sleep, so crazy how that works out). This city, it’s a REALLY special place. It was made for hungry young people like me, eager to be doing more and more.

3. When and how did you decide to leave your job at Fossil and what do you do with StudioHop? Can you identify some of the challenges and rewarding things about this decision process? 

Fossil was such a great home to me; I felt supported, invested in, and I genuinely liked going to work every day. After a year with the company, leadership was changing drastically which caused my position to get shuffled around. I found myself really dreading going into work, and was no longer satisfied in my creative work (I was pushed to production design because of budget cuts, and was tired of laying out the same ol’ box die line day after day) I was ready for a change. StudioHop was always the dream, but with the company being so young, there was no room to hire me on full time until October 2016 when the company had done enough fundraising to bring me on. I was scary – leaving such a large secure corporate company, to be the fourth full time employee at StudioHop, but I thought to myself, “Paige, you’re 23, it’s now or never. You’ll regret it if you don’t!” so I made the leap and left.

4. When you first moved to Dallas, how did you get connected to community? What did you go in looking for and how did you approach the transition?

I still find this so funny, but I made most of my first friends from Instagram. I found other young, creative women, and set up coffee dates with them. From there I joined Circle Seven Five which is a young professional network for women (and was SUCH an influential part of me growing my community at first). I knew after college, having such wonderful friends there, I wanted to make sure I was meeting the RIGHT people in Dallas. It can be easy when you move to a new city, to hang out with just about anyone so that you’re not lonely, but I fought those lies of loneliness and just waited until I felt genuinely connected to people – which is why my network grew so organically – they were true people, inside and out. I’m blessed with the absolute best community here.

5. What sort of advice would you offer to someone relocating to a new city? If we could learn from your journey, is there anything you would have done differently? Anything you'd recommend prioritizing? 

The biggest lesson I learned when I moved, like I said above, stay true to yourself. It’s just like in any transitional phase, you can bend your beliefs and morals to be ‘accepted’ by the general public, or you can remain exactly who you are & who you want to be, and pray it out during loneliness. The right people will fall into your life when they are supposed to. I highly recommend prioritizing work over anything else at first. Get plugged into your job, work hard, stay late, prove to those around you that you deserve to be in the position that you’re in. If you’re not happy, it is OKAY to look elsewhere. Don’t be public about it, but I like to think life is too short to be unhappy each and every day you go to work. 8-5 makes up SO much of your life – chase a career you’re passionate about and do not stop until you wake up each morning GRATEFUL to be going into the office. Also just be extra friendly – when you’re in a new city, friends can be made ANYWHERE. So jump on opportunities to make conversations with those who you make connections with.

6. What's your favorite part about working for a start-up? What does your job and daily responsibilities look like? 

My favorite part of working for a start-up, is that I get to wear so many hats. I can never predict a day, because I’m being pulled in so many directions, but it keeps me on my toes! I’ve learned more in the past 6 months about business, than I ever had throughout college and working for Fossil. Day in the life of Paige: wake up at 5 am to workout or teach a couple fitness classes, eat the Tupperware breakfast I packed once I arrive to the office around 8:30, design, photograph, email and problem-solve the day away until about 6pm when I head home! Of course that’s a very condensed version, but overall, I come home VERY tired every night.

7. How has your faith and outlook on life shifted or been affected through your transition to Dallas? Do you feel you reached new levels of ownership in your personal life as you entered into young adult world? If so, how? 

My faith has never been stronger. There is just something about being on your own – relying on God and God alone for strength and comfort. Over the past two years (exactly! My two year anniversary was last week) I have grown more than I have in all the years before combined. I feel so confident and strong in who I am, all thanks to God for the story He’s written for me.

8. What are some daily, weekly, or even monthly rhythms you put in place to help facilitate your personal, physical, and professional growth? 

I don’t think I’m ever on a strict rhythm, each and every week looks SO different but they all have one thing in common – they’re full. I work 8:30 – 5:30 and instruct in the mornings so that leaves lunch breaks and evenings to make plans. I’m usually booked two weeks out but I love that. I plan meetings with girlfriends, entrepreneurs, companies, new friends, etc. It’s so fun getting to connect in the middle of the day too – fuels my afternoon.

9. What does living wholeheartedly mean to you? And how have your views on this sort of lifestyle evolved over time? 

Living wholeheartedly to me means being authentic to yourself in every part of your life. Being true to who you are, how you’re feeling, being transparent but also having grace on the days when you have no energy left. I think it will always evolve for me, as I continue to take on whatever comes my way but I want to stay true to my roots. People have always meant the most to me – others are the reason I do everything I do. Without the ability to inspire and encourage, I wouldn’t have fuel.

10. Is there anyone or anything that's been inspiring you to live wholeheartedly recently? Maybe a favorite author or podcast? 

I’m inspired by my boss, Natalie Wolfe, who is the CEO of StudioHop and has grown our company from the bottom up over the past two years. I also cling to Jake Thompson of Compete Everyday, a close friend of mine and mentor, truly a rock star in all areas of life and pushes me to the be the absolute best person, teammate, designer, athlete and believer I can be.

Paige Forrest Martindell is a 24 year old Kansan currently living in Dallas, TX. She's a fitness instructor by morning, Creative Lead for StudioHop fitness/tech start-up by day, and freelance designer / amateur chef by night. She's always on the move, but she wouldn't have it any other way. A good sweat fills her soul, but she wouldn't be who she is today without Jesus, her loving parents, supportive siblings and the rest of her dynamic community. She recently began blogging, but loves keeping her focus on her digitally journal - good ol' Instagram. She uses these outlets as a form of encouragement and strives to shine light on everyone around her, even if it's for a 45 minute sweat sesh. | Follow along on her journey at

The Wholehearted Hero: Carly Cooley

Last December I got a call from my cousin Carly who asked if I'd consider participating in a 10 week fitness challenge. And after all the holiday desserts and "cheat" meals, I knew I needed a bit of a reset come January! I did lose about 10 pounds and built some muscle; however, what I didn't expect, was to learn so much about my body and health along the way. 

I've always considered myself an average size, but Carly taught me so much about how to get to know my own body, rather than consistently comparing it to others. As women it's easy to look at the images portrayed in media and think there's something wrong with the way we look. Oftentimes, my go-to response is to look inward and become self-critical. Yet when we learn to approach our personal health from a holistic mindset, there's something so much more powerful and lasting. 

Below I've included an interview with Carly with questions about her business, health, and outlook on fitness and nutrition, and am so excited to feature her as April's Wholehearted Hero. I hope you are inspired to pursue your health wholeheartedly after reading! 

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you become interested in health and fitness? What are you doing now? 

My name is Carly and I grew up all over the west coast, born in Long Beach, CA and went to high school in Southern Oregon. I went to college in Abilene Texas for my Bachelors in Science in Dietetics. During that time I became involved in a wide variety of side studies and extra curricular activities that all centered around health, fitness and wellness. Since then I’ve been hooked on health and fitness! I took the verse “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and made it my mantra, as I really believe that we are created to MOVE and live fully! This snowballed and pushed me through my educational and vocational journey to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, and even to marry a Physical Therapist (just kidding, I married him cause he’s really funny). Now, I’m taking this show on the road! I launched my fitness and nutrition consulting site in October of 2016 and am traveling with my husband all over the United States, meeting wonderful individuals and offering my time and energy wherever I can to help people meet their fitness goals. 

2. How do/did you work to overcome the comparison and competition mindset in the health and fitness field? How did you work to create a healthy mindset personally?

I don’t think competition or comparison are bad things intrinsically. But as I said earlier, my philosophy is personal progress and growth. I think “overcoming” comparison/competition means taking those thoughts captive, keeping your eye on your prize, your goals. To be competitive with yourself, because your story and path is not the story or path of another person, and to get caught up in wishing you were someone else or had what someone else has can be a huge time waster and energy burner. I’d rather use energy to become the best me that I can, and grow in the ways I’m meant for. However, I want to acknowledge how vain and trapping the images we see can be, and how much of a snare it is to fall into that vortex of self obsession and criticism. I think in order to take those idea captive requires us to stay focused on the Truth that God loves us and loves who He mades us to be.

A few actions I've made ritual to focus on my Creator and created purpose are spending time in listening prayer, really just being quiet and trying to hear from Jesus and bask in the reality of who I am to Him. Because no matter how many reps, or miles, or pounds I change or lose or gain, I know that He sees me as complete and He loves me more than I could ever dare hope. This makes my heart so grateful each morning. Then, when I’m tempted to compare myself to others, it’s almost natural to hear that voice that remind me to be happy for them! I also like to remind myself that comparison can be the thief of joy. It’s so true, if I’m not enjoying what I do, I try to take a step back, reorganize and reset mentally. 

3. I appreciate the way you talk about health holistically, instead of just one aspect of who we are. We were made to be connected to our bodies - our hearts, minds, souls, physical strength, etc. How do you stay connected to your body and work to promote a holistic and healthy lifestyle? 

Great question, and this really is a big thing for me, because how my mind is set influences how my heart reacts, and then how my body feels. This can go the other direction too; If I eat poorly, my body feels bad and perhaps my heart or emotions will be influenced negatively, which can affect my mental clarity. I’m very passionate about daily disciplines that set each of these areas in place, and I’m pretty frequently stepping back and taking a look at my daily “rituals”, specifically the morning and evening rituals. Whether it be prepping a decent breakfast, carving the time out for meditation and prayer, or aligning my day so that I can get my workout in, I have to pursue those routine practices to create a sturdy skeleton for the rest of the actions I have in a day. It helps me maintain balance.

4. How do you approach your clients and what sort of support do you hope to offer? If you were to describe your role as a fitness coach and nutritionist, what would you say? How do you see your role in your client's lives and health journeys? 

My general approach is to ask probing questions to gain an understanding of where someone is coming from, what motivates them, etc. This helps me to start to build small, achievable goals with them that are aimed at their ultimate goals further down the line. So, my role plays out as an educator and encourager, because oftentimes people know where they want to go, but they may not know where to start, or they may have practices that they didn’t know were holding them back from reaching their goals. And of course, everyone needs encouragement to continue. I had a client recently who joined with me after a weight loss journey that had a lot of ups and downs and he was sort of frustrated and tired with his old approach. I got to help him create sustainable practices that he will keep for the rest of his life. He hasn’t been a direct client of mine for a while, but I still see him regularly and every time I do, he comes up to me and shares that he’s still making progress. So, I see myself as having this little opportunity to give people direction to a place that they want to be.

I think that if a person has unhealthy actions, then their mindset is most likely unhealthy and thats the most obvious sign that something needs to be addressed. I’d say if you recognize that your mindset isn’t healthy, and you’re really ready to change, then take a step back and evaluate what “healthy” really means to you. I would tell you that “healthy” means living fully and loving the way you’re put together, and if you really feel the need to change how you look or feel, then get help from a good community of people who love you and want your best, as well as possibly professionals who can help you reach your goals.

5. How would you describe the journey / process and do you believe in celebrating this process rather than the end result? Do you have any practical tips for those of us learning to embrace the process? 

I wouldn't say that I don’t celebrate the end result, because we need to celebrate the results. After all, thats why we start the journey in the first place. But I see what you’re getting at and I think it’s awesome. Thats why I focus on small reasonable goals for all of my clients. Goals that are pointed at the end result without being overwhelming or insurmountable. So when these mini goals are completed, we’re launched forward by positivity and energy gained by completing something good. The process is to establish habits that are healthy for long term progression. That’s one of the most important elements of the journey - to keep moving forward! The tips I would share are:

  1. Write down today the commitment to working hard for what you want. The journey is hard and you need to get your head around that right off the bat.
  2. Write down today your goals, so you can push through the hard work, you need to stay focused on the results you’re shooting for. Goal setting is critical in any area of life, because they draw us towards themselves if we keep our eye on them. 
  3. Infuse the journey with as much fun as possible. Create “healthy addictions” or habits that you enjoy that are good for you. Explore what’s out there, and set up rewards for yourself (non food if you can!) when you accomplish your short term goals. This way the journey gives you energy back and continues to push you forward!

6. What does a normal day look like for you and how do you normally start your day? 

I put a lot of emphasis on how I start my day. I’m a morning person and find that how I spend my morning strongly influences how the rest of my day rolls out. So, after getting a solid amount of sleep I have my quiet time with a warm cup of coffee (with a ‘lil milk and sweetener), spending time reading, listening and in prayer. Then I have a breakfast and visualize/write out my day. Then, before I start work, go to the gym for about an hour or so. I usually work out at local gyms that I partner with to offer my nutrition services. My husband, Nathaniel, works on Physical Therapy contracts, which allows us to travel and work in a new place every few months or so. Since we recently moved again, we are in transition and haven’t totally settled into a new gym yet. We’ve had good luck with Anytime Fitness recently, but there isn’t one where we moved to (who knows, maybe we’ll open our own). 

7. How do you prioritize your health? I'm sure many of us can relate to trying to fit all the puzzle pieces of our lives into a schedule and wondering where in the world we will ever find time for everything! (Sometimes it's a win for me just to fit in a 20 minute walk!) How do you approach this and where do you make sacrifices to intentionally care for yourself and your physical body? 

It’s pretty crazy how hard fitting self-care into a busy schedule can be! I can relate to that and I encourage celebrating even those 20-minute walking victories. Schedules vary person-to-person and season-to-season, so when it comes to tailoring plans to my clients, I take into account individual needs and schedules, really making the two “priorities” be feasible exercise and nutrition habits. Those are the two most important elements for healthy living as far as I’m concerned. As for myself, I try to “work smarter, not harder” to accomplish this. With nutrition, a great tip I’ve found is the idea of meal prep. My husband and I prepare five days worth of healthy lunches as well as grab-n-go breakfasts like egg muffins, overnight oats, etc. This makes it easy to make great choices when eating meals, because everything is ready to go and available. The food I use from Thrive Life foods also saves us a lot of time and money. These foods are basically ready for snacking and very easy to cook and it allows us to add in vine-ripened vegetables to any meal in seconds.

When it comes to exercise, I like to get up early and get it done with. I mentioned earlier how I like to set up my day for success with my morning routine… well exercising is a huge part of that. It’s also why I like to do “leg day” on the first day of the week. Accomplish something hard and you’ll gain the confidence to accomplish a whole lot of hard things the rest of the week! For me, this looks like waking up early for weight lifting, using work breaks later in the day for cardio exercise.

The sacrifices include:

  • Time - notably planning what I’m going to eat, planning my workouts, tracking my meals, etc.
  • Mindless eating - while I’m not really given to Big Macs or potato chips, we all have something that is our “achilles heel” when it comes to a balanced diet. The sacrifice is giving up that “autopilot” that we allow to dictate what we put in our mouth. We have to actually start thinking about what we’re eating, and so sacrifices the lackadaisical attitude about our snacks. (Snackadaisical?)
  • Laziness - This is a major thing to sacrifice for some people. The desire to sit on our behind can be so strong we don’t even realize we’ve played into that pattern. Try timing how much time you spend sitting on social media and you’ll see what I’m saying. We need to redeem the time we’re given, which is not guaranteed!

8. How do you practice listening to your body and paying attention to your needs? For those of us who are still in the process of embracing a healthy lifestyle, what sort of practical advice can you offer to begin training ourselves to do this? 

Food logging can be really helpful and is one of the first things I have clients do when they sign on with me. If someone struggles with a lack of energy, bloating issues, weight or some type of allergic reaction, it can be so enlightening to connect the dots between those reactions and what foods may have triggered them. This practice helps teach and reinforce good habits as well as mentally connect bad habits with the undesired consequences. This really is easy to do too, there are a plethora of apps, such as Super Tracker by MyPlate, MyFitnessPal, and Loseit, just to name a handful.

This practice also helps differentiate wants from needs. Because sometimes the things we feel like we “need” are not what they appear to be. For example, when I’m tracking and I FEEL like I need another piece of chocolate, I can look at what I’ve eaten recently and realize… “Hey I don’t really need that. But I AM low on fiber, or some sort of vitamin.” and learn how to fulfill cravings with what the body really NEEDS and will ultimately help satiate those feelings (like a handful of almonds in this case).

In the search for learning more about your dietary needs, I highly encourage working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. There’s a lot of misguided information out there and it is important to work with an expert to learn how much and what your body needs, as well as how to make these physiological and mental connections.

9. In your opinion, what does living wholeheartedly mean? And how have your views on this sort of lifestyle evolved over time? 

I believe living wholeheartedly means to live with intention, and not be swayed by the draw towards apathy or despair that I think affects a lot of people. I think truly living wholeheartedly means living a life full of awareness of God. As I already talked about earlier, personal disciplines are critical for me to foster this mindset/heartset. Those have of course evolved because I haven't always had the same set of goals or skills or experiences that I currently have. For example, over the last few years, the gravity of how important sustainable practices in food production and the awareness of the consumer in what the cost of food production is has really hit me. The prevalence of CAFO’s, use of GMO’s, etc. are having a huge toll on us and a huge toll on the earth, and it’s shocking how much of it is disguised from public view. So being intentional in this place helps me reach my goal of glorifying God by being a good steward of the earth as well as a good steward of my body, which carries my soul, which I want to be in constant community with God. 

10. Is there anyone or anything that's been inspiring you to live wholeheartedly recently? Maybe a favorite author, blogger, or podcast?

Where do I start?! Social media has truly been a blessing for making connections with people who are trying to live fully.I’m going to start to share more of these connections on my blog with an upcoming series of interviews with people who inspire me ;) I’ve also been investing my time heavily on intake of business progression literature as well, and really digging this book by Joel Salatin on sustainable farming and purpose of humans in “tending the earth”. These are some of my current reads/listens:

How to Host Your Own Personal Retreat

This past weekend I took off for a quick 24 hours to get some rest, space, and time to look forward into the new year. It's something I try to do a couple times a year if possible to pause, reset, and get what I need to keep going and saying yes to what's in front of me. 

Once my roommate and I arrived at her family's homey sweet little lake house, I immediately breathed deep and realized there was finally a sacred space for all the thoughts rolling around in my head to fall away or find some place to land. I didn't have anywhere to be or anything to do - it was just me and that little lake house in the middle of East Texas.

This time I did go along with a friend, but we intentionally separated for most of our time (me upstairs and her down). We did get some time together during dinner and breakfast the next morning, but it was important to both of us to carve out some time by ourselves and with God. Typically I go alone, but I didn't mind having a friend to make the drive or eat meals with. And I'm not too fond of sleeping all alone, either. 

There's something about getting out of town away from all the responsibilities of everyday life to allow yourself to let go for a little while. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or as if there's a billion thoughts running wild in your brain and you need some space, take a personal retreat. I promise you won't regret any time you intentionally set aside to keep your mind and heart healthy. 

I've put together a list of some packing tips as well as ways to prepare and spend your time. In the end, don't stress about making your personal retreat the perfect experience. Set some expectations on the front end, but allow your mind to wander and your heart to settle. This takes time and I almost always come home with something different than I originally imagined. 

  1. Pack comfortable clothes. No one wants to relax in a pair of tight jeans. 
  2. Pack a book that you've been wanting to read or some sort of activity that refreshes you (i.e. not the 1,000 page biography that's been sitting on your shelf for years). Sometimes I'll pack a small puzzle in my bag or the ingredients for a recipe I've been wanting to bake. 
  3. Throw in an extra notebook or two. If you're like me, and you have a short term memory, you'll want some extra paper to be able to write down all the thoughts coming to mind during your time away. I also like to visually see how the thoughts come together, so the bigger the paper, the better. 
  4. Bring a portable speaker. This has been a game changer for me - music is both soothing and empowering to me and oftentimes a little background music tends to our souls in a way words or thoughts never could. 
  5. Make a list of what you want to reflect on or think about before you leave. You may not get to everything on your list, but at least you've got an idea of where you want to go. (If you need help, take a look at my previous blog post with 20 questions for the New Year). 
  6. Turn off your phone. You won't regret taking time away from your friends and social media networks for a day or two. I actually found this quite freeing. 
  7. Let yourself sleep in (or go to bed early). The point of taking a personal retreat is to come back rested and refreshed. 
  8. Drink lots of water. This may sound funny, but drinking water makes me think more clearly and also helps flush my body of any unnecessary toxins. I'm not a health expert, but there are so many benefits to drinking more water. Do yourself a favor and pack a water bottle or two. 
  9. Set aside some time at the beginning to process emotion. There's almost always emotions lurking beneath the surface of our hearts, and if ignored, they begin to take root as much deeper issues. A wise friend once told me to carve out time in my schedule to grieve the disappointments in my life and to celebrate the happy moments. When I intentionally pause to allow the raw emotion to surface, it frees my heart to be itself and to release whatever I've been stuffing or holding onto. I'm an emotional person, so this may be harder for you, but try to give yourself some time to think through your current circumstances and check in with your heart. 
  10. Do something active. I wholeheartedly believe there's a deep connection from our physical bodies to our hearts and minds, and whenever we engage one, we must engage the others. Sometimes I have to do something physical in order for what's in my head to safely deposit deep down into my heart. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but I do hope these ten tips are helpful to you as you plan your own personal retreat. My retreat will likely look very different than yours, simply because we are different people with different needs. Be free. Do what you need to do to get refreshed. Happy retreating!

The Wholehearted Hero: Chelsea from Live Free Be Fit

When I first started thinking and writing about wholehearted living, so many people came to mind that embody this concept to me. A few years ago I listened to a podcast about championing the people around us, calling listeners to begin a sort of hero revolution. The idea resonated so deeply with me that I started looking for ways to encourage and promote others whom I admired. This series, then, is my attempt to share the inspiration I've gathered through some of my personal heroes, all of which embrace living wholeheartedly in their own sphere, style and words. 

Today I'm sharing an interview from one of my dear friends, Chelsea, from Live Free Be Fit. Chelsea began her health and fitness journey a few years ago and has approached her process so holistically, allowing it to transform her from the inside out. I'm so thankful she's allowed her followers a window and raw glimpse into her journey - her vulnerability is both challenging and inspiring!


1. How did you first become interested in health and fitness? 

I would say my passion for health, in a holistic sense, began in 2013. From the age of 10 I was obsessive about weight-loss. I was the girl who was buying every magazine with "Drop 10 Pounds Fast!" It wasn't until 2013, when I was about to get married and start a family of my own, that I realized that I didn't want a quick fix. I wanted contentment and comfort in my own skin - whatever that took.  

2. I love your social media handle and blog name: Live Free Be Fit. What inspired the name and what does living free and being fit mean to you? 

So much of my health journey has been about freedom. Freedom from insecurity and lies about my identity being tied to my physical appearance. LFBF felt real and fitting. 

Being fit has a great deal to do with freedom for me. When I am healthy, I am secure enough to run - physically run - without being afraid of how my belly is jiggling. Or sitting on a couch and not needing a pillow to cover up what I am ashamed of. There was so much shame tied to my weight and being fit freed me up. 

To form a lose definition of what I mean when I say fit, I mean strong and healthy. I don't mean six packs and bulging biceps because I am far from that. That was never my goal with fitness. I just want to be fit enough to run with my children and not be winded, exhausted or ashamed. And so much of that is mental, which is where the live free part comes in. 

No amount of weight lost or muscle gained will fix a broken mind and heart. Seek first freedom and then pursue fitness out of that new found, liberating freedom. 

3. I've heard you talk about how health and fitness is about an inward journey as much as an external one. What did your internal process look like? How did you learn to embrace and love yourself? 

It is an ongoing process of the inward journey just as much as it is for the physical journey. So let's just dive right in: In 2013 I lost 35 pounds. Between then and now, I ran a half-marathon, biked from DC to Gettysburg, and gained about 15-20 pounds. All the while, my exercise and eating did not shift majorly from when I was in losing mode. 

To be honest, it's shaken me. I have to figure out what it means to walk out the freedom I've claimed and choose to believe all the times I've said the number didn't matter or define me. That is a lot easier to say when you are happy with the number on the scale, by the way. 

What I'm learning now is that I want deep, soul-satisfying contentment in my skin - at all stages. I always want to be challenging myself, bettering what I can, but at the end of the day, I want to be free and to enjoy my body while I am in this stage of life. Because if I can't feel content and confident unless I am a size 6, then what on earth am I going to do when I have a big pregnant belly? 

I refuse to think confidence and health is reserved for the smaller sizes. At the same time, I want to make sure I am healthy and physically strong. So it's a balancing game of mental and physical health maintenance. One that will have its ups and downs, but is tied together with a tight knot of commitment to the process. As almost all worth-while things are.

If you are looking for the secret of long lasting health, I know it. And it can be summed up in three words: Just. Don't. Quit.

4. What are some daily, weekly or even monthly rhythms you put in place to help facilitate the process and journey you've been on so far? 

Daily, I spend time in stillness. That is where I find peace in God and where I draw life from. Weekly, I work out 5 (ish) times a week in some way, shape or form and meal plan every Sunday. Monthly, I try to lay out some goals for the month. For October this includes taking a daily walk to watch the leaves change, drink one PSL and I set a small weight loss goal. it doesn't all have to be physical health related, but setting yourself up to thrive. 

5. Have you ever chosen to take a break from those rhythms? If so, can you bring us into that a bit? How do you listen and respond to your body and your own needs? 

In 2015 I got some medical news that was scary. I had to go on and off some medicines and I knew space needed to be made. I stopped going to cross-fit at 5 a.m. every morning, and instead took long walks (and cried). I stopped my rule of one or two desserts a week and baked all the things. But that was a brief season. I came back to middle ground with the help of my friends and family. 

On vacations I chill out my workouts. I take walks and eat whatever I want. But I've noticed my eating habits have really changed. I actually love fruit and (certain) veggies. I prefer black coffee to sweet, heavy drinks. Things shift and just because I am on vacation doesn't mean I binge and lose control. 

Listening to your body is incredibly important. I actually took a course on intuitive eating last year and it was so interesting! Your body wants to be nourished. it doesn't want to be stuffed or deprived. The teacher actually told us to eat WHATEVER we wanted for a full week. If we craved Cheeto's and Velveta, then eat it. She promised after a while our bodies would beg for a salad. It was true. Our bodies want to thrive and sometimes they need a nibble of chocolate and sometimes they need some kale. 

Trust yourself and evoke that self-control when needed. 

6. Do you have any tips for those of us still learning to love and listen to our bodies? How can we live wholeheartedly by taking care of ourselves and how would you suggest initiating a journey of living free and being fit? 

There is nothing in the world like gratitude. Start your journey there. Speak out the ways you are thankful for your body, right now, as is, every time you feel self-critical. Dig deep into your heart and be honest with your insecurity, then uproot that junk and replace it with truth. Really do this and your body will fall in line with your mind. 

From there I would suggest finding something active that you enjoy doing and carving out space to do that 3-5 times a week. Our generation is the most sedentary in history, Fight, fight against that. Go enjoy the outdoors! Explore and experience the world. Shake it in a Zumba class or pump it out in the weight room or go for a jog. Look at exercise as an opportunity to enjoy the body you were given and experience the world we live in. 

7. What does living wholeheartedly mean to you? And how have your views on this sort of lifestyle evolved over time? 

Living wholehearted means living life through a lens of love with purpose and passion. It's somewhere between that feeling you get when you are drinking something warm, looking out over the mountains as the sun rises and that feeling you get right before you free fall on a roller coaster. 

I don't want anything to get in the way of my living life like that. Not money chasing, not size chasing, not comparison, not regret, not shame. I literally have no time for those things. 

I am honestly more confident now than I ever have been. I look back at photos of my younger self and just cringe at how hard I was on myself. I don't want to waste my life on that. I want to live to my fullest potential in every aspect: relationally, physically, emotionally. 

8. Is there anyone or anything that's been inspiring you to live wholeheartedly recently? 

I am inspired by so many people and things. Some fitness related, some not. 

Andie Mitchell. if you struggle with your weight, go to her website and read every single blog she has written on weight loss. 

Ree Drummond. Girl knows how to live. To me, she is radiant and joyful. She knows what she loves and lives in balance. She makes a mean cinnamon roll and takes daily long walks. I just want to be with her all the live long day. 

Shauna Niequist. All of her books mention health and her struggle to find contentment and balance. I appreciate her honesty. I just finished Present Over Perfect. I recommend that and then go back and read all of her other books, and her blog for that matter. 

Alexa Wible. I have walked closely with Alexa for years and for the past three years specifically in our health journeys. She is full of wisdom and good food. 

I just want to end by saying we are made for wholeheartedness. It's available and achievable and deserves to be written about. I am so thankful Tori is taking the time to talk about this and get a discussion going on what it looks like to be women striving for wholeness. Brava!

Chelsea is a content and social media marketing strategist for Consilium Interactive. She is passionate about creating effective and creative content to push across mediums to promote her clients. In her free time she is experimenting in the kitchen or writing side projects. 

Follow her journey at Live Free Be Fit