When I was a teenager I was obesessed with being thin. I suffered severe emotional and physical abuse as a child and even as a young adult, part of which I was told I was worth nothing, I was fat and ugly and I didn’t deserve to live. Because of this I developed many addictions as a way to numb myself but also as a way to acquire control (in a weird twisted way) because I didn’t have control of the abuse I was enduring.I developed eating disorders, starvation, then secretly binging on phenomenal amounts of food followed by secretly throwing up, laxative abuse, and obsessions with exercising for long periods of time. No matter what I did, I could never be skinny enough. I hated my body. I was revolted by it. In my head if I wasn’t skinny I was worth nothing. I used to clip out photos from fitness magazines and tape them to my wall, desiring their sculpted, muscular, lean bodies so badly. They were my idols, the bodies I wished for. I wanted so badly to be strong, athletic, muscular, powerful. But nothing I did seemed to take me there. I was puffy & bloated from the excessive vomitting and malnutrition, sick, angry, sad, and scared. While my friends were posting photos of handsome teenage actors on their walls, I was posting photos every month of the Oxygen girls on my wall. These were my idols. That was 20 years ago.
Fast forward to 13 years later…..7 years ago. I broke up with winter and decided to live in the tropics. I just wanted a simple life. To be anonymous and just live and be happy (and be warm). As a nutritionist, I wanted to help people with food and nutrition, and how to happy and healthy through the lessons I learned from going to a professional nutrition school, and healing my addictions, and my broken spirit. I developed my small retreat business in Nicaragua and somehow that started taking me around the world to teach (never my intention).
And slowly people started noticing what I was doing in these remote locations where I just wanted to live this anonymous life….
Fast forward to now another 7 years later, at age 44, and I unexpectedly find myself in OXYGEN magazine as the SPOTLIGHT athlete of the month. 20 years ago I dreamed of being one of these girls. My younger self would have put my picture up on the wall. Somehow I have become what I always wanted to be 20 years later! Seems so incredulous to me! On top of that I am representing yoga and plantbased eating in a traditional fitness magazine! I am so honoured to be representing this conscious living & conscious eating movement that is much needed happening in our world today.
I tell you this because I want to inspire you.
Life is not over in your 30’s or 40’s or 50’s or 60’s….or 70’s or 80’s for that matter (I have worked with many inspiring clients who prove this to me daily!!)
Take care of your body and your temple. Move your body. Live your dream. Follow your heart. Your body is so powerful! Your mind is so powerful!
Somehow I have manifested this without even consciously trying. I don’t have all the answers but what I do know, is that if you are passionate about how you live and how you share, things seem to fall into place. Unexpected things! Miraculous things!
Please don’t give up on yourself. Anything is possible. At any time and any moment.
You can be happy. And healthy. It’s not easy to face yourself and your pain, and to really dissect the walls you have built around yourself to protect yourself…but it can be done.
Anything can be done. Anything can be undone.
You can do it…..dissolve your pain into joyful power.
Here’s the article and a sample of my beach yoga fusion workouts in the Sept/Oct 2017 Issue of OXYGEN Magazine:
In 2010, while working as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Personal Trainer in Toronto, Grace Van Berkum decided it was time to break up with winter. So she enrolled in a yoga instructor training program at an ashram in the Bahamas and upon completion headed to Nicaragua for a two-month teaching opportunity. It’s now six years later and she’s never left.
“I sold everything I owned, left everyone I knew and cared for, to go follow my dreams by myself of living off the grid in the tropics on a beach, while teaching my passion and strong beliefs that conscious eating and conscious living will help you live your best life possible, physically, mentally, and spiritually,” says Van Berkum. “Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be where I am today. And this amazing journey would not be possible if I didn’t have the courage to face my fears, follow my heart, embrace change, and explore new ways of living.”
To help spread her message of plant-based nutrition and self-love, Van Berkum has hosted more than 100 Gracious Living Lifestyle Retreats around the world. And, earlier this year, she opened Gracious Living Oasis Semi-Private Healing Retreat Centre, situated in a remote location in Northern Nicaragua surrounded by surf, wild horses, and coconut trees. She believes in the healing powers of nature and simplicity, and models her business around the paramount importance of unadultered, fresh foods from the earth, connecting to nature, a yogic lifestyle, and daily, mindful, physical movements.
“We are all more powerful than we even realize … the best wholefoods and plantfoods combined with a healthy, balanced, loving mind and open heart, can heal the body (and planet) of disease,” she says. “An efficiently running, healthy body enables us to use more energy toward our life purpose. If we want to make the world a better, happier place, we all need to become more mindful, aware, and conscious of how we are living. Then we can start to make choices in our lives that are nourishing and uplifting instead of draining and destructive.”
Having grown up in an abusive environment and foster homes, Van Berkum spent many years depressed, angry, and full of addictions to numb her pain. “I have worked diligently over the last 15 years to heal my pains and transform my life,” she says. “I have chosen to make my mess my message. I do everything in my power to make choices everyday that help me feel good and positive. I keep my body strong and fit, I fuel it with good food, I surround myself with good people and avoid toxic, draining people, and I spend time outdoors as much as possible.”
Now, her mission is to help others who have been through similar struggles (abuse, drug addictions, eating disorders, depression). “I think this is why we are put on this earth: To heal ourselves, and help heal those around us,” she says. “We are all connected. We are all here to help each other and learn from each other. Without connection we cannot heal. And this is also a big part of my retreats … creating community.”
“Starting each day by sweating helps my body function efficiently, feel strong, and helps my skin glow,” says Van Berkum. “I like to do circuit training with yoga incorporated, because I live in a remote location and there are no gyms or yoga studios. I have to use nature to stay fit and love working out in my bare feet so I can absorb the earth’s energy.”
Warm-up: Arm circles forward and backward while skipping on beach. Hip circles. Hanging rag doll loosening torso, relaxing neck, getting into hamstrings, and breath work. Chest and shoulder stretches with towel.
20-min beach run: with 100-meter sprints every 5 minutes 12 pushups 24 walking lunges (12 each leg) 12 burpees
3 Rounds of:
Downward dog for 10 breaths
Move into plank for 5 breaths
Move into side plank for 5 breaths each side
Move back into plank
5-min beach run
6 rounds of sun salutations: Moving into Warrior 3, hold for 5 breaths, move into half moon for 5 breaths, then reverse half moon for 5 breaths. Come into standing splits. Then handstand work. Do 3 rounds each side.
20 cartwheels down the beach (10 each side) Rest in deep squat for 20 breaths
Dancers pose or wheel for 10 breaths (5 each side for dancers pose)
Rest in hanging rag doll with breath work
Cool down: Sit in stillness cross-legged on sand near water. Focus on breathing exercises. Set intentions for the day. Express gratitude for what is currently going on in my life and the opportunities for growth. Ask the universe for guidance, support, and clear signs on my path. Smile, put my hand on my heart and connect to my heart beat and tell myself I love myself.
Why Grace’s Staple Products are Sunwarrior’s Warrior Blend and Ormus Supergreens:
“I love Sunwarrior Warrior Blend in Vanilla because of how clean the plant-based protein powder is. It blends so creamy and smooth — I never make a smoothie without it and it’s a great addition to my raw, vegan, protein bars. I also love the Mint flavored Ormus Supergreens, which tastes great and has amazing ingredients to help heal and detoxify the body. It’s a big component to getting my chlorophyll requirement everyday.