I Blamed the Broccoli

  house-of-margot-personal-branding-photography-3I remember playing defense in the infield on my 2002 college softball team when a hard hit ground ball hummed my way. I bobbled the ball, messed up the play, and the runner was safe at first base. I stared dumbfounded at my glove, as if it were my glove's fault that I botched the routine play.

"It's not your glove's fault, Fowler!" my coach yelled out to me from the dugout. She was right. It was obviously MY fault, but it was easier to look at my glove and try to find the reason for the error there rather than be embarrassed for my mistake.

You'll laughingly witness the same thing at a little leaguer game. The cute little players with baseball pants up to their ears blame their gloves for pass balls all of the time. And if you're lucky you'll get to see them launch their gloves across the dirt in an effort to stop a moving ball. Ball gloves served a fine job of assigning blame for many plays on the diamond. Aw, the days of sunflower seeds and bubble gum.

Speaking of bubble gum.

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In 2014 I participated in three fitness challenges that required me to be on a very strict eating regimen. I wasn't competing for anything, but the weight loss challenge featured a money back option if you lost the allotted weight within the challenge. In addition to the strict meal plan provided, we were given unlimited access to workouts, accountability, and weigh-in.

I lost a lot of weight within those three challenges that I completed. I was at my smallest weight as an adult (smaller than I was in the 4th grade), and I was determined to play by the rules, follow the eating plan, and revel in my weight loss success. Having struggled with obesity at a young age, I was navigating into a new me, and it felt good at the time.

The problem was that I was starving myself. If we weren't on a high carb day, I was eating under 1000 calories for my meals. That's ALL of my meals put together. I would eat my breakfast, only to count down until I could have my next protein shake. Once I'd have my protein shake, I'd count down until I could heat up my prepped chicken and broccoli. Then I'd time it just right so that I could have my afternoon protein shake and a small, small handful of nuts, and then the count down ensued for my tilapia and asparagus dinner. Every. Single. Day.

I didn't fully understand this at the time, but I was starving, you guys. I couldn't drink enough water to make the hunger in my belly go away. I couldn't even complain about being hungry because I was losing weight. I was supposed to be hungry, right? The goal was to lose weight to feel more confident, but my social life and my outings with family and friends revolved around food. I measured my food, and I obsessed with every day results.

In an effort to avoid "cheating" and eating more than I was supposed to (I always ate more than my allotted nuts - TRUE statement), I chewed on gum all day long. I'll admit, I'm that person that always asks for two pieces of gum BECAUSE I LIKE TO POP BUBBLES. Don't judge me. But I began to chew gum incessantly. When I felt hungry, I chewed gum. When the flavor went away, I popped in a couple more pieces of gum. Directly after dinner, I'd have GUM for "dessert" so that I wouldn't get hungry before bed. Every trash can in my home and at work left proof of an obsessive gum chewing monster roaming the house. Gum was deemed as my saving grace in this weight loss challenge.

Until the gas bubble came.

I was still dropping weight in our bi-weekly weigh ins, but my stomach started to experience major bloat and constant gas. It even became a joke in my inner circle of friends. WHY WAS I SO GASSY?

"It's gotta be the broccoli."

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My naivety in this situation is admittedly pretty embarrassing. But you really don't know something until you know. You know?  ;)  At that time I was blaming broccoli for my gut issues. I was even going so far as to searching the internet for broccoli side effects. (I'm SO serious, you guys. WTF!) I once faked sickness in my graduate level class because I could not comfortably sit in a classroom without flatus outbreaks. Embarrassing as it might be for both the physical and the ideological sides, it all happened because of my obsession with gum. Apparently excessive artificial sweeteners do not sit well with me.

For me, the gum obsession was a side effect of the restrictive eating plan. I was resolving my "overeating" problem, but I was bandaid-ing the issue with another obsession - gum. Replacing a problem with another problem isn't the answer. The ACTUAL answer is forming healthy habits, ones that don't fall on extreme sides of the spectrum - the good or the bad.

Sometimes smokers pick up unhealthy eating habits when trying to quit smoking. Sometimes drinkers pick up unhealthy shopping habits when trying to quit drinking. I wasn't cognizant that my new gum obsession was detrimental in so many ways.

After my challenges, I quickly gained weight back (hello water and carbs and satiable food), and I discovered that not only was chewing gum messing up my digestive system, but I had lost my menstrual cycle, I was losing my hair, I developed night sweats, and the list goes on. I'd gotten to a body weight 1) that I'd never, ever been at before and 2) I believe this body weight was much too small for me.

Hindsight is 20/20, and I can look back at that time in my life and still be thankful. The problems that I experienced forced me to become more educated about nutrition and body awareness. I now talk about eating in moderation, and I never blame foods for the problem. The problem is our relationship with food (or gum), and the outcome is the response to our actions with those specific foods (or gum).

Let me also mention - I think striving for fat loss is an admirable goal to have, but I now understand that FOR ME eating a strict regimen and white knuckling my way to the next meal with gum in cheek is not a sustainable way of eating. Sustainable fat loss takes time. It takes knowledge about your own body. There is no one size fits all nutrition plan.

This realization wasn't without disappointment. There are days that I think "Oh, if I can just go back to a really strict diet I could quickly get back to my leanest self." It just doesn't work like that anymore for me, though. I can mutter those words all I want, but I KNOW I have no desire to eat like that again. There's a way to dial in on nutrition without restricting yourself to obsession. If I go about fat loss, I realize now that it can't be a quick fix. The faster we lose it, the faster it comes back. I want to eat the same on Saturday that I do on Wednesday. Making it a lifestyle is the goal.

I obsessively chewed gum for a long time before realizing what the problem was for me. And gum wasn't the actual problem. The amount of gum I was chewing was my problem. The strict regimen was my problem. My inability to ask questions and educate myself at the time also contributed to the problem.

I think it's more important than ever that we ask questions when it comes to nutrition and movement. We can't work on autopilot and expect to get to know ourselves like we should. Ask questions. It's true trial and error. Find the things that work for YOU. It can be an overwhelming process, but credit yourself with the ability to figure it all out. TRUST yourself in the process. Some of us want to be handed an exact meal plan with exact instructions because we don't really trust ourselves. And why should we, right? Nothing that we've done has worked so far.

But it CAN work.

My story has lots of wrong turns, stop signs, and MANY instances of running red lights. But now I pay attention to the signs. I give my body the compassion and grace it needs. I love it right now, regardless of my body fat percentage. And I can still strive for wanting fat loss, but when and if I do that, I can do that in a healthy, sustainable manner. NOT in a manner that forces gum to come to the rescue of my ravenous belly.

I now moderate nutrition with the 80/20 rule, I lift heavy weights, and I practice compassion with myself on a daily basis.

I eat my veggies, too... But I don't blame the broccoli anymore.

 

I Almost Had A 6 Pack

       

These pictures were taken just one year ago - February 2015. I was finishing up a strict nutrition regimen for a weight loss challenge, and I had dwindled down to a scale weight of 160LBS standing at 5'10". 

YOU GUYS - I had never, EVER seen this weight in my adult life, my teenage life, and honestly, I had already surpassed 160LBS by the time I was in 5th grade at 10 years old. 

In that picture I was focused. I was SO determined. And I was so proud of my "almost a 6 pack" abs. I had come a long way from 240 LBS. 

My weight loss journey has occurred in many phases - my college phase (losing the most weight), my running marathons phase (all throughout my 20s), and then my "ah-ha, nutrition matters" phase that started at age 30. 

I was obsessed in the pics above. I awoke every single day to step onto the scale, letting the number dictate how my day would go. I pinched my belly and frowned up my rolls. I constantly looked for reassurance from my wife on my physique. While her responses were always positive, my constant questioning for validation was a tad alarming. I was at my smallest weight since elementary school, and it still wasn't enough for me. 

Once the weigh-in was over for the weight loss challenge, I found myself addicted to the strictness and structure, but my willpower was wearing thin. When I allowed myself to indulge in sweets or less than healthy snacks, I completely and embarrassingly found myself bingeing on those foods. "I deserve this!" Following a binge, guilt would take over. It was a vicious cycle that left me terrified of food. 

I started seeing my extreme leanness disappear, and some of the weight started to appear back on the scale. 

Here's what I learned:

- for ME, strict regimens do not work. Yes, they yield physical results, but the mental ramifications are far too damaging afterward.  

- I'm thankful for the experience (hindsight is 20/20 lol), but going forward I know that mindset guidance is just as important as nutritional guidance. 

- there is certainly a place and a time for fat loss, but extreme measures do not serve ME well. 

- just because my willpower wears thin with strict regimens does not mean that I am any less disciplined. 

- white knuckling my way through nutritional methods leaves me feeling less powerful of my own decisions. 

- the faster I lose it, the faster it comes back.

- today I'm 175 LBS, and I'm wearing the same pant size that I did at that weigh-in 1 year ago. 

- not only am I physically stronger, but today I am mentally stronger in all aspects. 

Listen, last year I was chasing a number on the scale. I was VERY lean in those pictures, but I was NOT HAPPY. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was living with a measuring cup in my purse. 

This year, I might be heavier on the scale (that I rarely EVER step on by the way), but my mindset has shifted. I have learned to love the skin that I am in, and I don't let a number define me. 

I don't have washboard abs, but I have strong quads, muscular arms, and a strong core to support my movement. I have the capability to grocery shop and know that while 90% of the shopping cart items are healthy, I'm not scared to allow the other 10%. 

I could easily look at those pictures above and want to be back in that lean body. But I don't. I strive for fat loss in a sustainable way, one that allows me to live my life outside of traveling Tupperware. I eat healthy. I exercise. I lift. But I'm not afraid of a cupcake. 

Today I feel powerful in the skin that I am in. I'm stronger than ever. I'm confident in my body and all that it does for me on the daily. Our bodies work SO hard for us!

No number on a scale can take any of that power away from you. It's yours for the taking! Go get it, 6 pack or not. 

Engage. Empower. Elevate. 

- coach fowler 

PS - yes, I constantly keep chapstick on my bathroom mirror. lolol 

         

The CliffsNotes On My Body

IMG_9293.jpg The other day I had to step on the scale, and if you know me or read my blogs, you're probably surprised that I still even have a scale in my house. I let go of "the number" on the scale a very long time ago, and I stopped letting the scale dictate my mood, meaning that I very RARELY weigh myself. I used the phrase "had to step on the scale" because I was actually inputting my baseline information into a spreadsheet to submit for the Strongest You Coaching Program that I'm participating in through Girls Gone Strong. Along with our weight, we also submitted body measurements and rated our levels of stress, sleep, energy, etc...

Surprisingly, I was pretty happy with the number. Happy in the fact that I endured the holidays eating chocolate and drinking wine and eating movie popcorn and STILL kept my body at the same weight that it was a few months prior. To be 100% honest, my pants fit better today than they did a few months ago. I actually stopped paying attention to the details in the food that I was eating. I stopped letting food control me. The only thing I really allowed myself to focus on was eating to 80% full, while prioritizing proteins and veggies first and still allowing myself indulgences along the way. That's it, folks. Moderation for the win! It seems to be working for ME.

So, back to the Strongest You (SY) Coaching Program that I'm involved in.

Yes, I am a certified personal trainer.

Yes, I've already been through a 60# weight loss transformation.

Yes, I write about fitness and nutrition.

So, why do I need to be coached? Well, coaches need coaches, too! I continuously strive to put myself in places where I am encouraged to grow and learn in the field of fitness and nutrition. I opted to join in on this group to get the very best mindset, nutrition, and fitness coaching tips from the lovely Jen Comas. There's a very diverse group of ladies within this SY Coaching group. We're all very different in our backgrounds and careers and life stories, but we all have one common underlying theme -  we're trying to find the best version of ourselves through mindset, body acceptance, nutritional habits, and fitness plans.

So just when I thought I was doing pretty good with self acceptance and body image and all of that jazz, Jen assigned a mindset challenge for us. The challenge was to watch a video featuring Kathryn Budig - well renowned yogi guru - as she hands out some honest talk about body image and her own experience in social media body shaming. It was, no doubt, life changing for me. Do you have 27 minutes? If so, click HERE to watch the video. It may resonate with you, and it may not. But for the love of all things regarding body image and self acceptance, find some quiet time, plug in some ear buds, and GO WATCH IT! Please. xo

Without giving the whole video away, here were a few of my favorite takeaways -

"I'm a girl that eats healthy, but I'm not afraid of cookies."

"We need to put weight into the words that we share."

"Jealousy will never serve you."

"The way we use our words is like casting a spell - they have power."

"When we step down from a challenge because we let our insecurities get the best of us, we give others permission to do the same." - WOW.

"I love this vessel, this vessel holds my soul."

"I call my body a meat suit."   ---> that might actually be my favorite line. EVER.

I don't want to give the entire video away because I think you owe it to yourself to watch it, but here's what happened at the very, very end. Kathryn challenged individuals to grab a sticky note to write something positive or something showing gratitude to a part of the body that needs some self love, then post the sticky note on that body part and share it with the world. We were encouraged (if we felt comfortable enough) to share this within our SY Coaching group.

At first I had a VERY difficult time trying to decide where to even put the sticky note. Topping out at 240# in high school left me with some battle scars. I am very uncomfortable with my softer belly. I dislike the stretch marks on my NON-giving-birth hips, I've always hated my breasts - they're never the same after a huge weight loss transformation. My feet have their own issues - I'm forced to get a pedicure every three weeks so that my lovely nail lady can take care of an ingrown toe nail problem on my right foot. I have a single hair that grows out of my chin! I am freckly and moley. I have dense muscles and it makes me feel uber "thick."

BUT WAIT.

The stretch marks on my body tell a story about my skin. They are a reminder of where I was, and where I've come in this weight loss transformation.

My feet? I may not have the best looking feet, but those feet allowed me to run for miles and miles in several half marathons and full marathons, and they were a catalyst to my weight loss journey. They've allowed me to see the world and all of its beauty. I should love these feet.

My freckles? They tell the story of my childhood and the years I spent in the sun playing on an old ball field that would eventually allow me to earn a college softball scholarship, another huge catalyst to my weight loss.

The chin hair? WHO EFFING CARES. Pluck it, be gone.

So, the assignment. {sigh}

I posted THIS photo in our group to complete our assignment. I chose to put the sticky note on my hips, and my self love phrase said "I love my hips. They don't lie."

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Posting that to our private group was a scary thing, and it's even MORE scary posting this for all of you guys to see in my online community. It feels less safe, and it feels vulnerable. Some responses that I've articulated in my head include:

"She's too big to be posting a picture like that."

"Needs some abs before posting this."

"That stomach? Gross"

"What stomach?"

"If she were truly overweight, then I would understand the hesitancy."

"She can't even relate to being big anymore."

"She's not lean enough."

"Put your clothes on."

HERE IS WHAT I FINALLY DECIDED. What anyone says about my body is NOT MY BUSINESS. 

MY body, the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it operates, and the things it accomplishes, AND HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY BODY - THAT's my business. 

I opted for my hips and the side profile in the picture for my SY Coaching group because I was terrified to show my belly. That wasn't very authentic, and that wasn't the takeaway from the video. So, here you go.

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I'm authentically doing this to show you that self image issues among individuals do not discriminate. Damaged self image issues come in small framed bodies, big framed bodies, skinny bodies, strong bodies, obese bodies, female bodies, male bodies, and the list goes on - WE are all capable of experiencing a lack of self love which contributes to a negative self image. AND THAT is a scary reality, folks. But we - you - can change that.

I'm not posting the picture to say "hey, look at me, look at me, look at me."

Just.. NO.

I'm posting the picture to say, "My name is Stephanie, and I am guilty of shaming my own body. I did it when I was obese, and I mentally still do it now -even at the best shape in my life. Come with me. JOIN ME, and let's change the conversation together."

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That video? It changed me just a little. I cried a few times (the whole time) watching it. I needed to see it, and my guess is that if you struggle at all with self image, you might need to see it, too.

It was a POWERFUL thing for me. I honestly practice self love at my gym with my clients, and I TRULY abide by it verbally, but mentally I have given myself absolute anguish. No more, though.

Physically, mentally, and spiritually - this vessel is all that I have. It works EXTREMELY hard for me every single day, and I will now return the favor with self love.

These are all of the CliffsNotes that go on my body. They are the story of my skin, and they are the proof that I have lived, loved, and endured.

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My words have power. I will choose words carefully to empower myself.

This was a game changer. Go give your body some love. You owe it to that meat suit! xo

Video link once again - right HERE. Please, PLEASE, please go watch it.

xo

Engage. Empower. Elevate.

#eeetribe

Coach Fowler

 

You Can Stay The Healthy Course Even When Your Spouse Isn't On Board. 

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I love kale and spinach and then more kale and more spinach. I also love brussel sprouts and zucchini and broccoli and anything else GREEN. I am not a picky eater, which is probably a major contributing factor to my obesity while in high school. I genuinely like all kinds of food. And I never had trouble finishing any meals. "A happy plate is a clean plate." Anybody else grow up hearing that?

My wife, on the other hand, has a strong aversion to most healthy foods. She does like green beans, but I think the word "like" might be slightly exaggerated. I think it's just the one veggie that she tolerates. Oh, and glazed carrots. But those don't really count. Hello, brown sugar.

 

 

Mit grew up on a ranch in northwest Oklahoma. She's talked about meal habits and has expressed that it wasn't uncommon to sit down to "supper" and happily enjoy a dinner with grass-fed protein and 3 sides of starch - corn, mashed potatoes, and bread. This is NOT a foreign concept to me either. I remember the days of eating dinner and enjoying that soft, white, sliced bread and smothering butter on top of it. Sometimes it was 2 or 3 slices. And this was just a supplement to dinner. LAWD help my high school waist line. But the main difference is that I've always liked veggies. ALL THE VEGGIES. She avoided them like the plague at each meal.

So let's fast forward to now. I'm not here to judge eating habits or condemn any foods. That's not my job. But I DO want to express to you that you CAN keep healthy habits even if your significant other doesn't enjoy the same foods.

First off, when I'm cooking a meal at home, 80% of the time I cook the same protein for each of us. The other 20% is when I cook fish. She no likey seafood. Bummer. But when I cook veggies, I get really creative and always cook some sort of varied veggies for myself. Mit - she always gets green beans. Always. So this usually means I'm cooking something extra, or sometimes I might make two completely different meals. It might sound like a headache, but I'm honestly okay with it. I want her to enjoy her food and me enjoy mine.

When it comes to eating at restaurants, if eating healthy is your goal, then stay the course. We sometimes allow ourselves permission to make bad decisions due to our surroundings. And let me be clear, if you decide to indulge in something not so healthy, then by all means OWN IT and move on. But if you want healthy, opt for healthy, OWN IT, and move on.

Here are a few scenarios of what restaurant ordering might look like for us:

Mit orders a cheeseburger plain with mustard and ketchup. I order a Cobb salad.

Mit orders a cheeseburger plain with mustard and ketchup. (She's pretty consistent). I order a cheeseburger, no bun but wrapped in extra lettuce.

Mit orders chicken and waffles. I ORDER CHICKEN AND WAFFLES. I will not live in a world where I don't allow myself to indulge in chicken and waffles every once in a while. That's just absurd. AMIRIGHT? I'm health conscious, but LIFE.

 

Let me also defend my wife and tell you that she certainly has appeased me and will try nearly everything I put in front of her. She strives to eat healthier, but she does this for herself, not for me. She also knows that I opt for healthy meals majority of the time, and she is so very supportive of my journey - even at my most extreme and restrictive times. She never comments on my decisions in any negative manner and vice versa. In my humble opinion, resentment occurs when we judge our spouse for their eating habits. Nobody wants to hear, "don't you think you've had enough of those chips?" Ouch.

Now, would it be easier if Mit enjoyed the same healthy foods that I do? Of course! I'd be making big, BIG salads every single night. ALL THE VEGGIES! But here's what I've learned: There is strength in our differences, and my ability to work around those differences has taught me to demonstrate more discipline. That's not a bad thing.

I obviously like to talk about healthy foods BECAUSE yum. But if your spouse isn't on that same page, don't let THAT be the excuse that keeps you from healthier options for yourself - if that's your goal. 

What are some differences that you and your spouse have when it comes to choosing meals?

Engage. Empower. Elevate. #EEEtribe 

xo

Coach Fowler

Sisterhood. Getcha Some.

beach radiance “Better not let me catch your azz!” This is a phrase you might hear me yell to my girlfriends during any given workout sesh. They love it. We’ve learned how to motivate one another to bring out our best efforts during each workout. I love them. THEY make me better. To me, they embody sisterhood. The term sisterhood hasn’t really ever been on my radar. This word was mentioned numerous times during my trip to Venice Beach for the 2015 Radiance Retreat this past March 2015. I discovered the Radiance Retreat while #deepinthecreep one day on Neghar Fonooni’s Instagram account. (If you don’t already follow her, I truly believe you are missing out.) While perusing Neghar’s older photos I came across a picture of her alongside Jill Coleman and Jen Sinkler, and I followed the link under the photo to learn more about this so-called Radiance Retreat.

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Aren't they just lovely? 

Click. I instantly fell in love with what the Radiance Retreat was all about and desperately wanted to attend, but I delayed booking my flight because of too many intimidating (and now laughable) factors. I wasn't yet a certified trainer, nor did I (at the time) have my own blog, my own business, or anything of the sorts. But I had a story. And the story embraced a desire to pursue a career in the fitness industry after a successful body transformation. I needed this trip for confidence. I needed this trip for clarity. Screw it. I’m going. The registration deadline had already passed by the end of January, so I sent a message to the 3 lovelies asking if there were room for just one more attendee. Jen Sinkler e-mailed me back almost immediately. Flight booked. Here. We. Go. Now fast forward to my flight en route to LAX: I LOVE traveling. I also value traveling alone. There’s something so empowering about independently boarding a flight for a solo adventure. In addition to my excitement for the retreat, I was also admittedly terrified beyond belief. I was stepping way outside of my comfort zone, and saying that I felt inadequate among the other attendees is a complete understatement. My balcony view for the weekend was pretty incredible, and the experiences that I encountered throughout the weekend were invaluable to me and my future.

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We had the opportunity to hear Neghar, Jill, and Jen speak about so many different things throughout the entire weekend, but the one thing that resonated with me the most was the power of sisterhood. Fifty (50!) vibrant women from all walks of life and various states and countries all united in a cozy room to cuss, discuss, and share fitness related ideas, advice, goals, and life experiences from one another. From here we meditated on the beach, we set goals within our newly formed accountability groups, and then we sweat it out together through yoga on the beach with Neghar, metabolic effects workouts with Jill, and lifting heavy shiz with Jen. This was happening.

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Sisterhood. To me it means complete, unfiltered support of one another. And that's exactly what the Radiance Retreat gave me. In an environment where I could have felt as if I didn't belong, as if I wasn't as far ahead as others in the game, or as if everybody were out of my league - instead I was pushed to follow my heart and start getting sh*t done. #GSD Why not? I can't even begin to explain to you how empowering this was for me. At some point in your life you have probably been directly involved with a group of females where jealousy was prevalent, and rather than supporting one another, "she" was constantly trying to stay one step in front of "her". Competition at its finest, right? And while I can say that I think competition can be completely badazz, there really is a healthy way to compete with others. But secretly hoping that others fail so that you can get ahead - that's NOT healthy competition. At the Radiance Retreat success was repeatedly celebrated. #sisterhood While working out with my girls at home success is encouraged AND expected from one another. #sisterhood Jen Sinkler saying "Hop on my back!" for a picture. THAT'S sisterhoodI'll celebrate that!

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Best. Picture. Ever.

I already knew that I had an UNMATCHED amount of support through friends, through my family, and through my sweet wife back home in Oklahoma. But I had no idea that I would receive that same amount of encouragement from 50 beautiful women that hardly even knew me. We were all there to better ourselves, but the incredible part to that is that each and every one of us completely invested in one another, and that made for an empowering weekend. Oh. And mimosas. :) But seriously.. Do you have a group of women that cheer for you when you succeed?  Do YOU cheer for them when they succeed? I sure hope so, because everybody deserves it.  Me. You. And all the ladies out there. We are in this thing together. Don't forget that. Engage. Empower. Elevate. #EEE xo Coach Fowler P.S. (You REALLY, really should follow Neghar, Jill, and Jen! They've undoubtedly helped pave my path ahead. And while you're at it, look up the lovely Molly Galbraith, too!

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