Nikki Bergen

Belle Talk

Healthy Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

By: Nikki  

Sometimes you need chocolate, and that need gets even more real as the holidays approach! Here’s a healthy truffle recipe that’s easy, delicious and absolutely guilt-free. Think of these as fancy peppermint flavoured “energy balls” to get you through  your holiday to do list.  Vegan, gluten-free and full of fibre and healthy fat to keep  you going all day long. Take a breather and enjoy these little balls of happiness!

Makes 15 to 18 truffles

1 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon organic peppermint extract (not mint extract, peppermint is the way to go)
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder, plus additional for rolling

Soak the dates in a bowl of warm water until they soften up a bit, about 10 minutes. Drain the dates and place them in a food processor with the almonds, coconut oil, salt, peppermint extract, water, and cacao powder. Process for one minute or until the mixture forms up into a ball.

Remove the “dough” from the food processor and form 15 to 18 small round truffles with your hands. Sprinkle additional cocoa powder on a flat surface and roll each truffle in the chocolate until well coated. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set. Remove from the fridge and top each truffle with powered icing sugar if desired for extra fancy flare ( or if you’re trying to impress guests!). Feel free to omit the decorative sugar topping too. It will be sweet either way! These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for several weeks. Don’t store with the powdered icing sugar. Save that for right before serving 🙂

Latest Scientific Research on Diastasis Recti

By: Nikki   ,

The following is an incredibly informative summary written by my mentor, Dr. Sinéad Dufour PhD.  Dr. Sinéad practices as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at The Womb in Milton, Ontario in addition to lecturing and researching as a professor at McMaster University.  She consulted on our Bump Method Pre and Postpartum videos, and we are blessed to be so in the loop on the latest scientific research thanks to her. Diastasis Recti (often referred to as ‘mummy tummy’ or separated abdominals from pregnancy) is a common condition that can happen when the pressure of a growing baby causes excess stretching of the pregnant mom’s abdominal wall. The postpartum result can mean a significantly weakened core, pelvic floor dysfunction and back pain, coupled with a pouch of loose skin and a gap between the abdominal muscles. Here’s Dr. Sinéad in a video interview explaining more about diastasis recti –  a condition that affects 1 in 4 pregnant women.  In the article below, I’ve taken the liberty of summarizing the points in more layman’s terms, in bold italics.


Pregnancy-Related Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA): Top Five Updated Insights!
The discussion points in this blog are based on the findings of a recent Canadian study co-lead by Dr. Sinéad Dufour (McMaster Univeristy, Ontario) and Stéphanie Bernard (Laval University, Quebec) 1 .

1) Determining the “gap” between the rectus abdominis muscles is not clinically relevant. Our experts agreed (over 80% consensus) that determination of the inter-recti distance (IRD), the conventional method of actually determining the presence of DRA, is not clinically relevant. Rather our experts contend that like dynamic tissues elsewhere in the body, meaningful
assessment techniques need to garner aspects of the tissue function and behaviour. So, if determining IRD was not recommended by our experts, what is? Assessing for the development of tension through the linea alba during a voluntary pelvic floor contraction topped the list at almost 90% consensus.

Summary 1: Don’t get too obsessed about how many fingers you can fit inside the “gap”. The tension of your abdominal wall is what matters more! 

2) The function of the linea alba is interdependent with the function of the pelvic floor. As demonstrated in insight number one, our experts indicate a clear connection between the function of the linea and alba and the pelvic floor. Beyond assessment, this understood interdependence was highlighted in many of the other practice principles that were generated. For example, one practice principle highlighting this was applied to all three domains of perinatal care indicated the following: Commence inner unit exercises that facilitate optimal isolated and synergistic activation of the inner unit and once control achieved, progress with tailored outer unit and functionally oriented exercises.

Summary 2: Your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles work together! You need to ensure you know how to properly engage your pelvic floor muscles (aka kegels) to activate your core!  

Diastasis Recti

3) Optimal Management of intra-abdominal pressure is key.
Moving from the inner unit muscles to the concept of the canister these muscles actually create, of which the lina alba is anatomically and functionally a part of, is what we call the “manometric pressure system”. Our experts were clear in their agreement that DRA, as understood to be more than just widened IRD, needs to be considered within the context of the
manometric pressure system. The general summary statement that was developed conveys this important perspective and is outlined at the end of the article 1 Establishing best practice principles for pregnancy-related diastasis rectus abdominis: A consensus study. Presentations: ICS, Florence Italy; CSM, New Orleans. Manuscript in development.

Summary 3: Diastasis Recti is caused by excessive pressure pushing out on the abdominal wall (think growing baby, poor posture or breathing mechanics, even a man with a beer belly can get diastasis recti). It’s not as simple as just calling the condition “separated abs”.  

4) Women’s health physiotherapists have an importance advocacy role with respect to optimizing pelvic and abdominal health through labour and delivery. Although it was not until round 2 of the Delphi consensus that this insight was transpired, by
the end of round 3, four practice principles were established within the domain of intra-partum care. The two practice principles that were considered to be of primary importance in this domain were: Advocating for the ability to be mobile during labour and avoiding directed pushing practices that increase intra-abdominal pressure for sustained periods and close the
glottis (Eg. Valsalva manoeuver). It is exciting and important that our experts acknowledge important emerging roles for physiotherapists that promote women’s pelvic and abdominal health upstream!

Summary 4: To reduce unnecessary strain on the pelvic floor and abdominal wall, research shows that women should be allowed to be mobile during labour and not confined to a bed. They should also avoid intense Valsalva bearing down style pushing, and ideally wait until they feel the urge to push themselves. 

5) There is no place to recommendations that could potentially induce fear of movement.
Our Delphi consensus commenced with 82 statements and ended with 28 developed practice principles after three rounds of iteration. The language in all 28 final practice principles was tweaked and modified through each stage based on experts’ feedback to ensure that potential fear of movement would not be elicited. As one of the lead researchers on this work I was happy but not surprised that our expert colleagues hold this important and scientifically substantiated perspective. Other recent research of mine on the topic of pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain confirmed that pelvic health physiotherapists do a much better job of using language that will not elicit fear when compared to physiotherapists who do not have additional post-graduate pelvic health training.

Summary 5: Don’t be afraid to move! Movement is medicine. Find yourself a specialized pelvic physiotherapist to help you if you’re experiencing pelvic pain! 

To close, I leave you with a summary statement from this work that puts it all together. Pregnancy-related DRA represents an important and under-recognized concern. All relevant health and fitness providers working with pregnant women should know how to promote best care practices for this condition, however general agreement of what constitutes the best approach to is lacking. Given that the complex three-dimensional tissue of the linea alba is intrinsic to the thoraco-pelvic abdominal manometric system, compromised integrity of the linea alba needs to be considered within the context of this system. As experts in women’s health, we have come to understand that the impairments and dysfunctions related to DRA as multi-dimensional and multifactorial. Further, in line with other thoracic, lumbar and pelvic conditions we manage in the profession of physiotherapy, the interaction between the musculoskeletal, nervous and immune systems represents a central aspect of our global care approach, which is then individually tailored. Thus, our approach allows for the integrated targeting of modifiable factors that are potential drivers of DRA and associated impairments or participation restrictions across multiple dimensions. As a group we have agreed that a set of practice principles are needed when working with women in order to guide clinical decision making with respect to pregnancy-related DRA. These practice principles have been developed with intent of
guiding practice of all relevant care providers.

Dr. Sinéad is hosting a course on Saturday November 25, 2017 at The Womb, covering these advanced topics in perinatal care. Details below! 


Tips for New Moms from West End Mamas

By: Nikki   , ,

I’m here with Dr. Sarah Mickeler, Chiropractor and owner of West End Mamas, an incredible wellness clinic in Toronto’s Bloor West Village, dedicated to pregnant and postpartum moms.  It really does take a village, and that’s what Dr Sarah has created in her warm and inviting clinic – a sense of community that you can sense from the moment you walk in. We sat down for a chat as I wanted to learn more. Dr. Sarah has lots of wisdom to offer moms! 

This is hanging in the reception area when you walk into West End Mamas. Love it so much.

1) Dr Sarah, as someone who has worked closely with pregnant and new moms for over 15 years, tell us, what inspired you to open West End Mamas? Was there a need you saw that wasn’t being met? 

After being in practice serving only the perinatal community for over 10 years, it became abundantly clear to me that we have lost the sense of “the village” in Toronto. Mamas were scrambling to find experienced healthcare practitioners to help them during pregnancy and in postpartum, but weren’t sure who to trust, and had to go all over the city to find them.  Childcare during appointments was always a barrier, and there was a lack of a supportive community.  West End Mamas was born out of the desire to fill that gap – to provide excellent perinatal healthcare to mamas in a supportive environment where we try to think of everything that a mama might need to make life easier.

2) What is the one main tip for new moms you would offer? I realize this may be hard to narrow down!

Ask for help.  Be willing to accept help.  Be ok with not being able to do everything on your own.  Ok – that’s three pieces of advice, but it’s really all the same thing.  Somehow, over the past few centuries, we’ve come to think that we should be parenting in isolation.  That we should be capable of doing everything ourselves. But the reality is that this isn’t how parenting should work. We are not meant to do it all alone.  We are meant to raise our kids in community and to have the support of others to help us navigate the wildness that is new motherhood.  Motherhood is really, really hard, and we’re not meant to do it alone.  Ask for help.

3) Many moms have shared with me personal stories of feeling pressured and shamed for struggling with new motherhood – especially postpartum anxiety and breastfeeding challenges. What are your thoughts on societal pressures facing new moms in 2017 today? 

It’s hard to even know where to start with this one.  I was convinced I knew everything about parenting – until I became one.  “You do you” is really my new mantra.  Some women can breastfeed easily.  Some can’t.  Some have babies that sleep.  Some don’t. Some breeze through the postpartum phase, and some (like me), really, really, really struggle with it.  However, there is no right or wrong.  Seeing as how these little bundles of joy don’t come with instruction manuals, parenting is 99% intuition.  I’m a firm believer in “educated, informed choice” is best.  Not breast is best, or even fed is best.  A mama that is educated on all of the available options so that she can choose what is best for her family will make the best decision for her and her family. If co-sleeping is working for you and your family, then co-sleep.  If it works better for you to have a night nanny so that you can sleep and function, then that’s great.  If you’re going a little nutty because you haven’t slept in weeks and your little bundle of “joy” is less joyous than you expected, understand that that’s ok. We don’t have to love it all, or even most of it.  Sometimes just getting through the day is enough.  The sooner we can all be honest about how hard it is to be a new mama, the better.  I’m here to lead the charge, help women find their voices, and help them find their tribes so that they can be properly supported the way they are meant to be.


Dr. Sarah Mickeler

Thank you Sarah for sharing your wisdom and for opening such an amazing clinic for mothers in our community. This really is the definition of women supporting women, and it’s pretty awesome! 

8 Tips to Get Back in Shape

By: Nikki   , ,

If you blew off your workout routine for a few weeks (or the whole summer…it’s ok, we get it!), getting back to your pre-hiatus fitness level can feel overwhelming. But don’t worry, we got you! Whether an injury, illness, vacation, or overbooked social life is to blame, having to start back at square one is never fun—but here are 8 tips to make the transition back to fitness a smoother one.

  1. Practice Self Love. Perhaps most importantly, do NOT berate yourself for having taken a break from working out. Be kind to your body and know that you 100% will get back in shape – it may take a month or two, but it’s going to happen.
  2. Cut out Sugar.  If you have to have it, no more than 15 grams a day and stay away from artificial sweeteners. (No diet sodas).
  3. Challenge yourself to break a sweat at least 5 days a week for an hour. This can be in the form of a group fitness class, a brisk walk or run, soccer game, swimming, cycling – anything you want!
  4. Drink More Water. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. Try a big glass lemon water first thing in the morning, and all throughout the day. Lemon water also helps liver function to detox your body and shed extra pounds.
  5. Eat Soup. Have a vegetable based, low sodium soup as dinner every other night for a week. Homemade it best! Make it Sunday night and enjoy for several days. You can always freeze the excess. Here are some recipe ideas from Oh She Glows that we love!
  6. Prep Snacks. Wash and chop carrots, celery, and peppers and place in tupperware or baggies for easy fridge access when hunger strikes. Add hummus dip for an extra satisfying snack containing protein.
  7. No white bread, rice, flour or pasta. Switch to quinoa, millet, brown/wild rice and buckwheat. Bonus: these are all gluten free which means easier to digest, and delicious!
  8. Breathe and Let go. Turn off your devices and meditate for a few minutes at least once a day. Close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply in and out. Visualize yourself healthier, happier, sexier, feeling good, and taking care of you.

Enjoy the last 2 weeks of summer! We’ll see you back on your mat this September 🙂

Watermelon Mint Mocktail Recipe

By: Nikki   ,

Here’s something to sip on! Enjoy this recipe by Belle Holistic Nutritionist, Laura De Sanctis! 
With summer comes fresh seasonal fruit and usually cocktails on the patio or on a rooftop. The problem with many of these summery drinks, is that they are packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners and food dyes.
What I love about this mocktail recipe is that it’s super hydrating and only uses a few seasonal ingredients. The mint leaves, which I call nature’s gum, adds that extra kick of flavour. I use mint more than just as a flavouring agent, but because of it’s nutritious and healing benefits. Mint helps aid in digestion, alleviating symptoms such as IBS, dyspepsia and indigestion. It also acts as a natural antibiotic and is anti-fungal.
What’s a summer drink without any watermelon? Watermelon is one of my go-to fruits for the summer. It’s one of the most hydrating foods with over 90 per cent water.  That’s right, 90 per cent water!!!
If you’re looking to whip up something this summer that’s quick and easy to make, healthy to serve, and packed with flavour (minus the alcohol, artificial sweeteners and colouring agents) try this easy mocktail recipe.
Watermelon Mint Mocktail Recipe
2 cups of organic watermelon (packed)
8 mint leaves
2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-4 ice cubes
*Blend all ingredients on high until smooth and enjoy!
*Another option is to use the recipe above, to make summer popsicles. Include all ingredients mentioned above except for ice. Place the liquid in a popsicle stick tray and freeze until solid.
*Nutritional tip: Watermelon is one of the most hydrating foods with over 90 per cent water. Eating hydrating foods such as watermelon and cucumber are great for weight loss and detoxification.
Another benefit of watermelon is that it’s packed with lycopene, which is a great-anti-inflammatory. Lycopene also gives watermelon it’s reddish-pink colour.
About Laura De Sanctis 
Laura De Sanctis is a Holistic Nutritionist, speaker, health blogger and international health and wellness ambassador.  She aims to provide individualized care and assessments to all clients, and bases her treatments around sensible and holistic dietary and lifestyle advice.
Laura is a Holistic Nutritionist with Belle Nutrition, and specializes in coaching women on digestive wellness, detoxification and post-pregnancy weight loss.
She also conducts educational and corporate seminars, speaking on topics such as the importance of overall nutrition, gut health and mindful eating. We’re lucky to have her on our team!

“ELVIE” Review: a FitBit for your Kegels

By: Nikki   , ,

We’ve come a long way. Pelvic health is becoming a less taboo topic, and women are starting to open up about their struggles with sneeze leaks, painful sex and prolapse – all very common postpartum issues that our own mothers and grandmothers often suffered from in silence. In fact, the latest statistic shows that incontinence affects 1 in 3 women.

So how do we treat these issues? The answer has almost always been to strengthen your pelvic floor and “do your Kegels!”

However, there are problems with this strategy. Here’s a list of them:

  1. Experts say 30% of women are doing Kegels wrong, bearing down instead of lifting up.
  2. Many women don’t get results from their Kegel exercises, and then give up.
  3. Many women are too focused on “holding their pee” when their pelvic floor muscle recruitment should really come from farther back near the perineum and rectum (try holding in a fart without squeezing your butt – you’re doing it now aren’t you!)
  4. Many women are already very tense in their pelvic floors, and need to learn how to release the muscle down before squeezing it up. Women with tight, hypertonic pelvic floors often suffer from painful sex and urge incontinence ( having to pee all the time and can’t hold it). Traditional Kegels for women with tight pelvic floors will make their issues worse!

So if traditional Kegels aren’t the answer, what is? Ideally a visit to your local pelvic health physiotherapist for a pelvic floor assessment and personalized therapy, followed by a focused exercise program to regain core and pelvic floor control.

However, there’s another option. While it’s not a replacement for pelvic physiotherapy, it makes a great add-on to a personalized program. I quite like it.

It’s called the “Elvie”, and it’s like a FitBit for your vagina. Yes that’s right. I recently got my hands on one, and have been testing it out for the past 6 weeks.

The Elvie looks pretty sleek and slick. It is an egg-shaped sensor-packed device made of silicone that you insert into your vagina before doing your Kegels.

It comes in a chargeable tube-shaped case, and can be paired with your smartphone app. The app (which feels like a video game) allows you to visually see if you’re doing the exercises well.  As you lift your pelvic floor, you can watch a little diamond bounce up and down on the screen, depending on the strength or frequency of your squeezing motion.  The 5 minute workout takes you through several different kinds of exercises. Lifting, pulsing, holding, speed and stepping. Strength is measured in LV’s – a unit of measurement created by Elvie, which isn’t totally clear. Regardless, I found this workout rather entertaining and actually became very competitive with myself.

Confession: I started squeezing my butt to get into the “perfect” zone on the score board, even though this is clearly cheating. My score went down once I stopped the butt clenching, but in the name of good form I had to leave my Pilates Instructor ego at the door. Sigh. The app instructions even guide you to relax as you breathe and not clench your stomach, buttocks and thighs. Ya, I know. Thanks for the reminder Elvie.  One day I will beat you. One day…


Here are my top 3 favourite benefits of the Elvie:

1) Elvie can help you learn how to relax your pelvic floor as you inhale

My favourite thing about this device is that it mirrors your breathing, and can help you connect to your “core breath” through biofeedback.  Your pelvic floor and diaphragm are a tag team – they move together like a piston. When you inhale, your pelvic floor and diaphragm drop down and expand (think release your Kegel as you inhale). When you exhale, the pelvic floor and diaphragm lift back up (lift your Kegel as you exhale).

Synching your breath with your Kegel is something most have struggled with at some point. In fact, learning correct breathing is the NUMBER ONE thing we prioritize in teaching our pre and postnatal Pilates classes – it’s that important for a strong, functional core. Too often women are so concerned with lifting their Kegels as much as possible and don’t learn how to release the muscles between reps.  They may end up hypertonic and tense in their pelvic floor. That’s the equivalent to walking around with your shoulders hiked up by your ears all day long.

The good news is that the Elvie CAN help teach you to relax your pelvic floor. When the exercises are done correctly, the gem on your screen will drop down when you inhale, and lift up when you exhale. If you’re not releasing your pelvic floor between reps, the gem won’t drop. You’ll see right away if you’re releasing enough.

2) Elvie teaches you to ‘lift’ the pelvic floor instead of bear down

30% of women studied will bear down when asked to do a kegel instead of lift and squeeze their pelvic floor. The Elvie sensors will not register if you bear down, and will ask you to try again.  In one exercise you need to keep a gem above a line; something that can’t be done unless you’re exercising your muscles correctly.

3) Elvie offers an adjustable fit 

Its silicone exterior and egg shape make for a comfortable fit that is small and discreet. And because not all vaginas are the same, Elvie comes with an optional cover that you can put on if you need it to be a bit bigger to fit your body perfectly.

Elvie was created by female-led startup Chiaro in collaboration with the designers and co-founder of Jawbone as well as engineers from Dyson. The female-led company is helping change the conversation around the vagina, and is giving women better technology to improve their pelvic health – something that has been sadly neglected for a long time.

This is a company and a mission I can get behind! While the device is not inexpensive, it’s an investment in your health (better sex, no more sneeze leaks, stronger core and more). The app is supported by both iOS and Android and the Elvie is available online for $199 USD.



How to Sleep Better

By: Nikki   ,

The following is a guest post by Belle Nutritionist Laura De Sanctis who has learned firsthand how to improve sleep for better health, digestion and vitality. Mom was right – sleep is the best beauty medicine too! Thanks Laura! 

Counting Sheep?  Here’s how to fix it


Feeling exhausted and frustrated because you can’t get some shut eye? Have you lost track as to how many sheep you’ve counted over the week?  I know many people turn to an over-the-counter sleep aid or even medication to help fall asleep.  During stressful events in my life, especially when studying for exams in university, I also turned to over-the-counter sleep aids. Upon waking I found I had severe brain fog (similar to what happens when I eat gluten) and was slow to start my day.

When it comes to lack of sleep and insomnia, one of the biggest issues we overlook is determining what the root of the problem is. While an over-the-counter sleep aid is a band-aid solution, dealing with insomnia or sleeplessness (the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep) can be what’s ailing you, and can be a culprit to weight gain.

Sleep is necessary for hormone balancing, cellular rejuvenation, stress management and brain health.  Ideally, health and wellness practitioners suggest getting seven to nine hours of sleep.  Anything less will interrupt your sleep cycle and imbalance your hormones.  Lack of sleep can also inhibit your body’s efficiency to rest, repair and eliminate wastes.

As a holistic nutritionist, I strive to treat the problem not the symptom.  I recommend my clients re-set their sleep patterns.  If you feel you are experiencing sleepless nights, assess how you are feeling.  Increased levels of  pain, anxiety, stimulants and your bedroom environment can be major culprits. Stress (high levels of the hormone cortisol), depression, hypoglycemia and sleep apnea (interrupted breathing) can also lead to insomnia.

To help get a better night’s sleep, and have a relaxed and restful night, try incorporating these tips:

1.Exercise early into your day.  This helps give you an outlet to release tension and running thoughts that are going through your mind.  Plus it also releases endorphins, so you can mellow out your nerves and anxiety.  A great way to incorporate exercise into your day is trying an early morning Pilates or Yoga class.

2. Avoid coffee and stimulants.  Learn to wean yourself off of coffee, caffeinated beverages and sugar. These are big NO-NOs.  Change your habit of drinking warm coffee or tea in the morning by substituting it with warm water and lemon. You’ll feel better and have a little mini cleanse every morning.  Now that’s a win-win!

3. Don’t drink and eat a big meal late a night.  Alcohol combined with a big meal late and night may initially make you feel bloated, stuffed like a turkey and sleepy. Plus it leads to indigestion or heart burn (even weight gain) and can cause you to wake up during the night.

4. Reduce your exposure to electronics – including laptops and your cell phone before bed.  Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can lead to sleepless nights.  Instead, make it a habit to shut off all electronics and unwind at least an hour before bed.

5. Add a few drops of organic lavender oil to your pillow before bed.

6. Create a wind-down routine at night, so your body has a natural rhythm.

7. Try a few yoga poses in the evening like viparita karani pose (legs up the wall). Place your gluts right up against the wall with a rolled up towel or pillow behind your lower back. This will slow down your heart rate and calm your nervous system. 

8. Meditate.  Close your eyes and sit in stillness for a few minutes before going to bed. Download the Headspace app for free easy guided meditations.

9. Do a brain dump.  Got so many thoughts, ideas and feelings going through your head? Write it all out on a piece of paper or notebook then go to bed.  Upon waking, look at the notebook.

10. Try taking a Magnesium supplement at night. Magnesium is a natural relaxant and tranquilizer.  It relaxes skeletal muscles and smooth muscles of the blood vessels and GI tract. A recommended dosage per day ranges from 310 – 400 mg.

Assess your diet and sleep patterns.  Do you usually eat your meals late at night? Do you frequently have coffee and or other stimulants mid to late day?  Do you wake up every night at the same time?  Track your patterns for a week or two.  You may be surprised at what culprits in your diet and lifestyle can be preventing you from getting better sleep.

Did these simple sleep strategies work for you? Sweet dreams!


Our Struggle With Infertility: Part 1

By: Nikki   ,

This might be the most personal I’ve ever gotten online. I can remember shaking with nerves when this video interview was first posted to YouTube. See, I’m supposed to be the one inspiring others with health and wellness – sharing pictures of perfect kale smoothies and video tips on how to get strong flat abs. I never imagined I’d be posting Instagram selfies in pre-surgery hospital scrubs and a video interview with a psychologist about the very real struggles with infertility.

But here we are.

We are in the middle of our first IVF cycle after three failed IUI cycles, one miscarriage and almost 2 years trying to conceive. Through this journey I have met so many women who have also walked this path – some for as long as a decade. And they are still resilient, positive and hopeful at one day growing their families.  If this journey has taught me anything, it is the breathtaking strength of women and the powerful community that forms when we open up and share our most vulnerable moments with each other.  These women are my inspiration and give me strength to keep going.

The fact is, no matter how much acupuncture you do, or how pristine your paleo/gluten/dairy-free organic diet is, or how many Naturopath recommended supplements you take – infertility still happens. Miscarriages still happen.

There should be NO shame in this. But it still exists. Women often don’t openly share their struggles precisely because of this outrageous notion that they’ve done something wrong to deserve it – that they are somehow inadequate. Shame around this topic breeds silence, and silence is so, so isolating for the 1 in 8 couples experiencing infertility.

The fact is, women’s bodies bear the double burden of invasive medical interventions and society’s judgement when it comes to infertility, regardless of the cause. I’m sharing my story to let others know they are not alone. There is no more room for shame in this conversation of infertility.

Please watch part 1 of this conversation as I talk about the struggle of infertility with my friend, psychologist Dr. Stacy Thomas 


When Breastfeeding is a Struggle

By: Nikki   , , ,

The following is a piece written by long time Belle student Julie Holder. Julie first joined our BelleFusion Pilates classes about 5 years ago, switching to the Bump Prenatal classes when she became pregnant after several years of trying to conceive. I’m thrilled to say that she welcomed a beautiful baby boy 5 months ago! Julie is an incredibly warm, caring person (not to mention an incredible fashion designer – she might be the coolest, most creative chick I know!) She is bravely sharing her story of breastfeeding struggles. Julie, you are awesome. Thank you for helping so many other women know that they are NOT alone. 


I sat awake the night our baby was born, staring at him with amazement. Our birthing story was one of ease. We were lucky to birth him at home with a smooth and relatively short labour. In the 9 months of being pregnant I learned from friends and even strangers what I thought was every detail surrounding pregnancy and birth. I learned that if you play music they can hear it. I learned that the weekly size of the fetus can be compared to fruit. This makes zero sense really. How can a baby be the size of a leek? I learned about the hospital bag essentials. Particularly how embarrassing it can be to run into your partner’s friend while stocking up on adult diapers for said bag. I learned about the love you can feel for something that is only the size of a peppercorn yet has a heartbeat. And most importantly I learned that no, wearing spanks during pregnancy can not harm the baby. We had waited for this baby for over four years but, while being no stranger to hard work, I wasn’t prepared for the struggles that came after the ring of fire.

Following the birth, the midwives tucked us into bed and snuck off into the night leaving us with this new human staring back at us–his big blue eyes channeling the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors saying “Feed me Seymour”. The next day during our visit from the midwife she told us our baby had a tongue tie which needed to be released so that he could feed properly. The earliest appointment for this was a month out. Although he was already precious, patient and calm, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be understanding about waiting a month to eat. So we attempted to figure out this feeding thing while our midwife stood overhead until her phone rang and she rushed to the many other babies waiting to be birthed. We struggled for the next few days through nipple shields, hospital–grade breast pumps, numerous books, cracked nipples, bottles, two types of formula, lots of tears and many hours of what I have learned to be the biggest new mother no no….the dreaded deep hole of the internet…Google.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 9.08.08 PM

Photo cred: @SummerandStorm

I am pretty sure I have read every possible website advocating how wonderful breastfeeding is with supporting glamorous Instagram photos of women sipping heart-shaped foam lattes while casually feeding their babies with hashtags sporting “#the breast is best”. I sat sobbing in a sports bra with holes cut out so I could pump hands free. This was far from the images on my Pinterest board of half–naked women feeding their babies on beaches displaying what we are told our bodies are naturally made to do. It was during this time that I wished I had spent even just a little bit of time prepping for this so I didn’t feel so absolutely helpless.

What I now realize is the best thing to come out of my extensive research was the term Lactation Consultant. I called the first number my close friend Google gave me, Lynda Kirby. The voice on the other end of the phone was so magical that for the first time I felt relaxed knowing that my boobs would be in good hands, literally. Lynda arrived at our door with a bag full of tricks including a doll she used to show different breastfeeding positions whose name is Flow…get it?! I loved that she found humour in something which seemed so painful at the time. She came over almost every day for the next three weeks for what she called Booby Camp. The power sessions involved football holds, tubes, cups, bruised boobs, more and more tears but most importantly emotional support. Lynda amazed me with her selflessness and dedication to her work of helping others. Her compassion and warmth are something I think about daily. I thought back to our struggles to conceive him and how I never thought we would be able to make him. I told myself that as with those struggles, this too shall pass and that like all worthwhile things in life, they take practice and perseverance. It was with her support and the hard work of all of us that we made tiny baby steps each day to perfect the delicate dance of breastfeeding. Each day we lay together for hours, baby and I, making small progress until one day everything fell into place and he lay sucking away happily while I rubbed his feet as smooth as silk.

While breastfeeding isn’t everyone’s choice, and sometimes not possible at all – we must do what works for us in this crazy world of new parenting. What I pictured to be the most natural thing in the world didn’t start off that way. However, with help and perseverance it has paid off in the form of a chubby boob-loving baby who enjoys spending his days at the cafe eating while his mom sips her heart-shaped foam latte dropping croissant crumbs into his hair.

10 Tips for Better Gut Health

By: Nikki   , ,

I started struggling with digestion in my late-twenties, and it finally got to a point that I could no longer accept a diagnosis of IBS as good enough. The bloat was horrible, my skin was breaking out and I lacked energy and vitality. There didn’t seem to be any answers, and I was eating “so clean”: spinach smoothies, veggie stir fries, protein bars and lots of hard boiled eggs. Turns out, there is a lot to know about gut health, and I had to learn what to eat and how to heal my inflamed tummy after years of consuming “healthy” foods that my body couldn’t properly digest. The following is written by Belle Holistic Nutritionist Laura De Sanctis, a true expert on this topic who has helped so many people reclaim their gut health. Thank you Laura! 
digestive health - photo via tumblr
Restoring balance to your body takes time, but with a clean diet and proper supplementation, you can dramatically improve your digestive system.  It is important to remember that if we are unable to digest and absorb fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, poor health will definitely follow.  From an energetic standpoint, if we are unable to digest our food, our reality on the outside, then we are unable to digest our reality on the inside.
As a Digestive Health Coach and Holistic Nutritionist, I’ve met so many women who struggle with IBS, Crohn’s disease, constipation, excessive gas, heartburn and reflux.  While there is no quick fix for curing these issues, there are several holistic remedies that can help heal your gut.
Through years of struggling with IBS, I’ve found that changes to both my lifestyle and food choices worked in synergy to help me heal.
Below are my top 10 tips to help keep your gut in good health:
  1. First thing in the morning, drink at least 8 oz of warm water with lemon juice in the morning.  This allows the liver to begin dumping toxins accumulated during the night and will help produce a bowel movement in the morning.
  2. Eat breakfast 20-30 minutes after drinking lemon water.
  3. Incorporate 1 tbsp of Omega 3, flax seed or borage oil in your morning smoothie or shake.  Oils help lubricate the colon, heart and joints.  They also help reduce inflammation in the body.
  4. Take a probiotic!  Multiple strains of probiotics help restore proper micro-flora in the small intestine.
  5. Avoid eating raw foods, as they are hard for the body to breakdown, and can lead to excess gas and bloating.
  6. Drink water at least 20 minutes before a meal, and again 1 hour after a meal.  I caution my clients to avoid drinking with their food, to prevent them from diluting digestive enzymes which are needed to breakdown food.
  7. Avoid sugar and high glycemic foods as these foods are nutrient void, raise blood sugar and cause inflammation.
  8. Drink a minimum of 2-3 litres of water a day!  Add a few tablespoons of liquid chlorophyll, lemon or cucumber to your water. This will help alkalize yoru body, cleanse your body of toxins and reduce acidity in your body.
  9.  Follow proper food combining rules.  A good rule of thumb is to remember that vegetables and salads should be eaten with meats, or vegetables and salads should be eaten with carbohydrates.
  10. Get a food allergy/food sensitivity test.  We are usually allergic to the foods we constantly crave.  In Energy Medicine, and in many spiritual healing modalities, food allergies are connected to fear, while food intolerances are connected to judgement or inadequacy.  Food allergies and food sensitives contribute to many diseases including high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.  Known as “silent inflammation,” food allergies and food intolerances can damage your immune system.
Eating clean, wholesome foods, managing stress, exercising and embodying a powerful mind-body connection will help lead you to a path of gut bliss. Be mindful of what you eat,  how you eat and take the time to chew your food.  Savor every bite – as you truly are what you eat.  Most importantly,  extend gratitude and kindness to yourself.  Be kind to your body and be kind to your gut.