I help busy professional working mothers to lose fat and get back their bodies and lives.
It’s my mission to help you find the movement that moves you and your “forever” way of eating to support your health and wellness goals.
We’re going to do it go together, elevating our lives eight minutes at a time with Lauren’s Eight Minute Everything! Minimum Time | Maximum Results
What you’ll find here: fitness, fun, low-quality (for now!) food photography, travel, non-sequiturs and my philosophical (and not-so-philosophical) ramblings and musings.
Who is The Golden Graham Girl?
Get ready for a LONG read (you might want a cup of coffee and a comfy spot to read the whole sordid saga):
I’m Lauren Graham. Born and raised outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia, I’m currently calling Calgary, Alberta home but I’ve literally lived all over the country and had an expatriate experience living in South Korea (not teaching English!) for three years. Every where I’ve been, I’ve found a way to incorporate fitness and healthful eating while enjoying the local culture and food.
I’ve got an extensive “movement history” – if it’s a sport or a way to move your body, I’ve likely at least tried it! My mother was an aerobics instructor in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so I spent my formative years surrounded by leg warmers and Spandex. Hanging around at a gym or fitness studio was just a normal part of life for me and my brother. I started attending the classes when I was about 12 years old and I’ve still got an awesome around-the-world, A-step combo. That was back when step aerobics had some pretty intense “dance-y” choreography and I loved the energetic, supportive community feel of group fitness classes.
There also happened to be a pool at our community fitness centre and I LOVED to swim. It was a natural fit for me to be on the swim team and I spent most of my teenage years water-logged and chlorinated. Not only did I swim, but I also worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. My students ranged from infants in Parent and Tot classes to seniors’ Learn to Swim classes. I made the varsity team at Dalhousie University and swam for one semester before switching to the University Club Team. I have continued to swim with Masters Swimming teams all over (the country AND the world), including Penguins Swimming in Edmonton, the North York Masters in Toronto, Calgary Masters Swim Club (CMSC), Mount Pearl Marlins Masters in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and even the Ulsan Dong-bu Swimming Club in Ulsan, South Korea (yes, I had to learn the stroke names and distances in Korean).
As I progressed with my competitive swimming, we started incorporating dry-land training with weightlifting and conditioning circuits. The confidence and strength that comes from lifting heavy weights sparked a fire in me that continues to today and resistance workouts have been a staple in my training no matter what other activities I pursued – I’m a very happy and well-versed gym rat! It really helped me out when I added competitive kayak and canoe paddling for my “off season” sports (competitive “winter swimming” just about follows the North America school calendar of September to June, so I had my summer months of July and August open to spend on Nova Scotia’s lakes).
Despite having swimming as my “first love,” like a lot of kids, I got a chance to try a variety of other sports and activities through my school’s physical education program. So I played soccer and volleyball and dodgeball and soccer-baseball (anyone else play this hybrid game?) in gym class. I was also on the junior high school track and field team (specializing in 800m and triple-jump). I even had a brief stint on a local community gymnastics team (and haven’t been able to do the splits since then).
To keep me extra busy in the summers outside of school, my parents also had me on a community fast-pitch softball team. I got to (had to?) ride my bicycle to and from the field and I ended up being a strong southpaw orthodox pitcher and competed at the provincial level in Nova Scotia. It was a genius parenting strategy because I really didn’t have the time or energy to get into trouble.
Are you exhausted yet? Whew! After graduating from university I got a full-time job in Calgary. I resigned myself to #adulting and figured it was time to take up the “dullsville” sport of running because I saw so many Calgarians on the city’s beautiful paved pathway system. Since I have a “go big or go home” style, I launched myself into training for a full marathon and ran my first road running race with the Calgary Marathon in July 2006. I also joined CMSC to return to my swimming roots and meet some new people.
Thankfully Calgary is also home to Canada Olympic Park (COP) and close enough to various ski resorts in the beautiful Canadian Rockies (Rocky Mountains) to also give rise to a lot of winter sports enthusiasts and I also got into skiing and snowboarding. One weekend trip of skiing at the Kimberley Ski Resort was enough to tell me that I needed to try snowboarding instead (let’s just say that I am not very good at skiing). I took lessons as a beginner adult at COP and can finally comfortably navigate most blue runs.
I’d settled into my “adult” running routine when I got to re-visit my gymnastics roots: I randomly won tickets on a local Calgary radio station (Fuel 90.3 before it was AMP) for the FlyBanff Flying Trapeze facility (in Canmore, despite the moniker). I was HOOKED! I didn’t think I’d be able to pursue my passion when I was relocated to St. John’s, Newfoundland, but lo and behold, Acro Adix Trapeze was home to Eastern Canada’s only flying trapeze rig east of Montreal (of Cirque de Soleil fame). I got to try a variety of other aerial arts including silks, lyra, and static single, double and triple trapeze. I kept it up until I was pregnant with my son, and then switched my focus back to Masters Swimming with the Mount Pearl Marlins. It was an excellent and comfortable (gravity-defying) way to stay in shape until the very end of my pregnancy.
History has a way of repeating itself and just as my mother took me to toddle around the gym, I started taking my son to the child care at Goodlife when he was a few months old. I slowly got back into shape and re-joined my swim team when he was about 18 months old. I was a lot smarter about my training and my sleep (new parents sometimes have to be, out of necessity) and I was swimming well enough to qualify for the FINA World Masters Swimming Championships in 2014. It was this goal and commitment to compete that saw me continue to swim when we relocated to Korea in 2013. A community swim meet in Korea is a memorable experience, not to be missed.
I took a hiatus from swimming after World Masters and took advantage of the free gyms at my office and apartment buildings in South Korea to work with an online body-building coach. It was the first time I trained for aesthetics over athletic performance and it was an eye-opening experience and gave me some insights on the unique mindsets for each. It was also my first opportunity to work with a sports-oriented yoga teacher (I never did get comfortable with more “spiritual” yoga practices), to balance the tightening and shortening of muscle tissues & fascia associated with heavy lifting with restorative, lengthening yoga poses. I did, however, miss swimming enough to seek out a team as soon as we returned to Calgary in 2016. Literally and figuratively my life went full circle and I returned to CMSC for the 2017-2018 season, almost exactly ten years after I left it.
The three years I spent in Asia (and seven total years away from Calgary) saw an absolute explosion in “boutique” gyms in Calgary. With my comfort and confidence in trying new movement patterns with new people, I eagerly dove into the local gym scene as a “gym tourist,” checking out most of the fitness trends and fads (I haven’t tried barre or Crossbarre classes yet) to see if anything clicked. I discovered that CrossFit really sparked my competitive fire and combined movements from my weight-lifting background with the cardiovascular endurance I had as a swimmer and runner. MMA training also had the appeal of multi-disciplinary training modalities combined with competition against self and others.
ALL of that training and my single biggest a-ha was when I realized that not everyone had the courage, confidence or comfort level to embrace the joy of movement or the wherewithal to even discover the most enjoyable activities for THEM. I embarked on a mission to educate and empower people to try new ways of moving, to find their own fitness solutions. This saw me enroll in the CanFitPro Personal Trainer Specialist certification. So that’s the fitness portion of the wellness equation. I’m also incredibly driven to pursue and achieve my sports performance goals and I like to push others to do the same via my Accountability Coaching services.
You’d think (or hope?) that with all of that fitness experience and confidence that I would also have the “fuel” (nutrition) part figured out as well. Let’s just say that my nutrition background is just as “colourful” as my fitness background. It’s also where I feel a bit more vulnerable, and that’s why it’s buried at the end of this very long introduction.
It was at the tender age of ten years old that I first started thinking I was “fat,” and should restrict my food intake to deal with it. I didn’t really know anything about proper nutrition. I just loved food (ALL food – still do!) and had a big appetite (also, still do!). I remember spending that summer trying to eat just one slice of bread for breakfast, but the rest of the day inevitably saw me eating more than usual (no surprise given what I now know about bread). I started with my first swim team (the Sackville Waves Aquatic Team) that fall and my increased activity was enough to balance out my big appetite.
The next major challenge was shortly after my parents’ divorce when I was twelve and between the seventh and eighth grades. I couldn’t have pinpointed it at the time, but on top of the sadly all-too-common teenage girl pressure to diet, I also found a very satisfying sense of control by being rigidly in charge of what I was eating when the rest of my life (my new home life with a single mother in a new neighbourhood) was so wildly OUT of my control. My strict food rules and tightly controlled portions developed into full-blown anorexia nervosa. My weight plummeted to ~90 lbs (at a height of 5’4”), my periods stopped and I was constantly cold. Thankfully my swim team coach had her own history of disordered eating to be able to see the warning signs in me and she forbade me from swimming until I was back at a doctor-determined “healthy” weight. My passion for swimming was strong enough that I doggedly ate my way up to 120 lbs to get back on the team. Once at that weight, I swore I wouldn’t step on scales again (a promise I kept for over a decade until my pregnancy, and even then my doctor simply recorded my weight while I looked away).
Unfortunately, my “recovery” was lacking in that I still hadn’t learned about proper nutrition. My formative years were in the hey-day of the low-fat movement and my mantra became that if it was low in fat, it was an unlimited food choice for me. This saw me eating countless bowls of cereal with skim milk or dry pasta. I was a carb queen. Again, my swim training burned those calories, but it wasn’t a balanced or optimal way to eat to fuel my training. I even experimented with vegetarianism as a way to completely rule out some of the fattiest foods I could think of (meat and cheese and eggs).
This unbalanced approach to eating caught up to me in my twenties when I stopped swimming competitively and started working full time. I still hadn’t learned to honour my body’s hunger and satiety cues and years of restricting entire food groups backfired with episodes of compulsive overeating or binge eating. I panicked and responded to the weight gain with the only approach I knew: high-volume cardiovascular exercise (hello, marathon training!).
Thankfully by this time, low-fat was moving out of favour and the Atkins diet was gaining traction. I had the opportunity to read books on sugar and carbohydrates. All along I had thought that I was “in the know” and following a healthful approach by eschewing fat as much as possible (many days I ate fewer than 15 total grams of fat). I was sorely mistaken! I started trying to change my ways but I really found that any time I ate something that had previously been on my “forbidden list” (like chocolate bars or bakery cookies), I had an “all-or-nothing” mindset that saw me finishing entire packages in one sitting. Of course, as the scarcity mindset abated, I was able to achieve some more moderation.
The real blessing was when I met the man who is now my husband. He was looking to make some lifestyle changes when we met, and falling into a routine of working out together and supporting him with his dietary approach (L.A. Weight Loss) saw me naturally adopting healthier, balanced habits as well. Plus the whole phenomenon of “living on love” seemed to be true. It was one of those times when everything in life just “clicked” and I experienced first-hand how balanced physiological load opens the door for effortlessly achieving and optimal “natural” weight.
I haven’t always lived with a balanced physiological load, however. Periods of stress saw (and still see) me resorting to compulsive eating patterns. I’m not a perfectly balanced eater even now, but I embrace that about myself. I know how to be kind to myself and to recognize those eating patterns for what they are: attempts at self-care (however misguided or ineffective). I also know how to get back on track much more quickly.
One eye-opening approach for me was counting macros. Because I was so hung up on “clean” vs “junk” food and the related all-or-nothing mindset around those foods, it was a helpful tool for me to learn that I could have a moderate serving of cookies and still make progress toward my goals. No need to think that all was lost after one cookie and decide to polish off the whole box! Also, years of eating well past the point of fullness or forcing myself to stop eating when I was still hungry meant that I wasn’t very good at recognizing natural hunger or fullness cues. The portion control of macros tracking also gave me a better sense of portion sizes. I’m still working to transition to a more intuitive style of eating, incorporating what I’ve learned from tracking macros.
I’ve also tried other approaches to eating, hoping each one would be a “silver bullet” to effortless, natural weight loss and maintenance: Whole30, Paleo, keto…but all of those played into my “bad habit” of classifying entire categories of food as “off-limits” and created a “no-limits” approach in my mind to the “allowed” foods. With unlimited foods and a poor sense of fullness, I found I rebelled against the restrictions in these programs by overeating. I see the benefits for some people, depending on their own unique backgrounds, education about and experiences with food and I often create paleo-friendly, micronutrient-dense meals, but any time I start thinking I should give up bread completely, I know I have to have a slice before I eat a whole loaf.
I’m optimistic that sharing my story will help others who have experienced (or are experiencing) something similar and to show that we ALL have our “skeletons in the closet.” Even though I’m not a “perfect” eater (who is?), I’m still in a position to teach, educate and help others.
Feeling inspired to work with me?