“I am thankful. Ready to continue on this path. I feel excited for the future.”
At 34 years old, Lauren Merrell is the happiest she has ever been in her life. But it hasn’t always been easy.
A few years ago, she forced herself to gather her strength and courage in order to escape an unfortunate and potentially dangerous marriage. She rebuilt her life, met her fiancé and eventually moved back to British Columbia from Toronto to be closer to family.
“I turned everything around but, in the process,
I let myself go,” says Lauren.
“So, about a year ago I started going to the gym and committing to a healthy lifestyle. I was feeling good, gaining muscle but I wasn’t losing weight. In late December 2017, I decided to go to a Naturopath. We had met a few times and then he prescribed some supplements. After I had taken them for a couple of days my entire body felt overheated.”
When Lauren checked back with him, he said her symptoms were not unusual. Two days later she experienced what doctors would later describe as a Grand Mal seizure. “It lasted for eight minutes. I was turning blue. My teeth were clenched. I’m so lucky my fiancé Adam was there to call 911.” Countless tests found nothing medically wrong. The doctors concluded Evening Primrose Oil in one of the supplements had shut down her nervous system.
“I learned how important it is to research all prescriptions myself.”
With no recurrences Lauren continued to maintain an active lifestyle, working out and eating well, but remained frustrated with her lack of progress in her weight loss.
In July, she saw the Facebook posting for the Okanagan Woman Extreme Makeover contest. “I’ve never entered a contest before, but I was inspired and sent in my letter right away. I was chosen as the winner in early September.” Her recent official designation as a Certified Property Manager has her on the road a lot so, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program has been a challenge. So how did she reach her current sweet spot lifestyle?
In mid-September Okanagan Woman introduced Lauren to Nutritionist and Fitness Coach Tania Gustafson of Kelowna’s FIT nutrition, Fuel, Ignite Thrive.
“When I started with Tania, I weighed 209 pounds. I’m 5 feet, 6 inches tall. I didn’t have a specific goal for the 12-week program other than to lose weight at every weigh in. My ultimate goal weight is 165 pounds.”
“As Lauren already had a fitness program of her own that was a good mix of strength, cardio and intervals, I worked with her mainly as a nutritionist,” says Tania. “We concentrated on a three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, Detox, Ignite and Thrive.”
Tania worked with Jeunesse Global products and their Zen Transformation pack, which was generously gifted to Lauren during the makeover. The pack contains all-natural protein shakes, detox supplements, non-thermogenic metabolism boosters and amino acids to compliment Tania’s program.
Nutritionist & Fitness Coach (IBNFC)
Tania, owner/founder of FIT Nutrition, is currently one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to coach a proven, three-phase program providing education on the importance of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting. For more information go to fuelignitethrive.com.
“We met weekly at first, then bi-weekly for weight, body fat and measurement checks and to tweak and adjust for the coming weeks. We looked at her lifestyle and work schedule and set weekly goals, planning and prepping ahead of time.” They discussed also how to succeed when travelling and on holidays. As Lauren began to notice her clothes fitting better, feeling more energetic and the weight loss, she was motivated to continue living the program.
“I set personal wellness goals every week and for the month,” says Lauren.
“I work out three to five times a week plus I walk to and from work five days a week; that’s an hour of walking every day. I love the program. It’s a great feeling to see the scale go down at every weigh-in. I follow Tania’s recommended plan PFC 3 of eating protein, fat and carbs at every meal and eating every three hours to keep my metabolism working.”
“Lauren is a rock star,” says Tania. “Her results were consistent even over the Christmas holidays. To date Lauren has lost 17 pounds, eight inches and 3 per cent body fat.”
Lauren says she never felt restricted to certain foods. “It’s a long term, healthy lifestyle I will continue. Anyone can do the program. I drink lots of water, no alcohol. I love veggies but when travelling for work, I occasionally supplement my diet with a protein shake or Quest protein bar.”
AFTER ALL THAT EFFORT LAUREN WAS MORE THAN READY FOR HER
OKANAGAN WOMAN MAKEOVER BIG DAY.
Lauren’s skin noticeably glowed following her visit to The De Pieri Clinic, on Ellis in Kelowna, where she was treated by Stephenie Merten, skin care technician, to a Hydro Wand ® Facial paired with Neocutis ® and ZO ® Skin Health Products.
Next, we were warmly welcomed to Kelowna’s Crimson Hair salon by vibrant, ginger-haired owner and senior stylist Tara Sebastianis. Tara took some time to consult with Lauren to make sure she left with the perfect hair for her lifestyle.
“I want something easy to care for, but a bit edgy.
I’m super happy in my life so I’m glad to take a chance on my hair,”
says Lauren, sipping a delicious bulletproof coffee supplied by neighbouring Half Blind Bean Coffee. HBB coffee house can be found at 106 - 3320 Richter Street. Kelowna, just across from Save-On Foods in the Mission.
Her smile grows wider as her hair is being styled and she can see the new colour shining through. “We call it Merlot,” says Tara, as she creates some sassy curls, adding styling product to give body to Lauren’s fine hair. As Lauren finally inspects her new look in the salon mirror, she got really excited and said this was her dream haircut.
Next step we went in search of Lauren’s wardrobe at Blue Sky Clothing Company, downtown Kelowna, where we met the manager, Kim Rutherford.
Kim helped us to select a number of beautiful outfits which were hung in the fitting room waiting for Lauren. After a succession
of fittings of skirts, pants, tunics and kimono’s, in prints and coordinating solid colours, we finally selected a floral crushed velvet, fit and flare dress, which flattered and accentuated Laurens fabulous new figure and complimented her Merlot locks.
Big bonus! We discovered, thanks to Kim, the dress offers two outfits in one. This versatile dress comes with its very own black bamboo underslip, which can also be worn alone. This gave us the opportunity to style Lauren in two completely different ways.... which was our pleasure do.
With the help of Cathy Schneider from Strut Footwear and Apparel in the Mission Park Shopping Centre, we found the perfect footwear.
Narrowing this down was no easy task, as we were so spoiled for choice. We finally selected two pairs of beautiful shoes.
The Atelier leather sling-back, peep-toe, high-heeled shoes paired incredibly well with the floral dress, and the black dress looked stunning with the more dressy, champagne sling-backs boasting a trendy shimmering metallic heel.
A raw crystal pendant with matching earrings by Dana Henning was also found in Struts shoe store which we used to complete the floral ensemble.
We then entered the magical world of Bonne Belle Portraits. Photographer Bonne Donovan welcomed us into her studio; a very relaxed atmosphere where Okanagan makeup artist Tammy Peterson sets out her kit. Tammy invites Lauren to a stool near the window for the natural afternoon light and gets to work. “The makeup I’m using is inspired by the mélange of colours in the floral design of the dress,” says Tammy dipping into a fully stocked case, and sipping her glass of locally sourced white wine. “I use lots of products from The Body Shop where no items are tested on animals.” When Lauren first looks in the mirror her wide smile shows off her enviously high cheekbones and a hint of dimples.
“My eyes look so big and bright,” she says.
Before we lose the daylight, Bonne’s artistic talents come into play. She poses Lauren in ways that bring out her confidence & sparkle.
Bonne has soft background music playing and has a natural way of putting everyone at ease.
In between shots the Okanagan Woman team approaches Lauren with handfuls of bracelets, necklaces and earrings to find just the right accessories to accompany her beautiful new look.
As the shoot progresses, both Lauren and Bonne share a sense of bonding with their quirky sense of humour and positive spirit.