My full-time gig

Health and wellness hasn’t always played the role in my life that it has within the past 4 years. Prior to attending IIN, becoming a personal trainer and exploring the world of wellness I was and still am a full-time photographer.

For as long as I can remember and as cliche as it sounds, photography and becoming a photographer was all I thought of. I always dreamed of traveling and documenting the world through my lens. After college graduation I had dreamed of moving to NYC and pursuing a fashion photography career, but instead I met my husband and launched AKP in 2003.

As it happens for many photographers I was asked to photograph a few weddings for family friends and created a full time career traveling up and down the East Coast and Internationally photographing weddings & events. When I wasn’t traveling I was photographing Lancaster County High School Seniors. Side note: I actually dreamed of moving to NYC and becoming a fashion photographer instead of wedding & portrait photographer.

In 2014, I decided to take a brief hiatus from photography to explore the world of health & wellness but if I am being fully transparent, my heart & soul never felt as complete as it does when am behind my camera and working with my clients.

So, that’s it… my full time gig is being a photographer who helps women embrace their own definition of beauty.

Last October (2017), I was able to turn the key and step into my own natural light studio just outside of Downtown Lancaster. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a studio space to play & create until my heart is content and after 14+ years in the photography industry that dream has come true.

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Inspired by the Wheel of Life

This website & blog has been weighing heavy on my heart and as I was journaling, the idea to blog in relation to the Wheel of Life hit me. If you aren’t sure what the Wheel of Life is - here is a link to the original post and freebie download.

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Each quarter I complete a new Wheel of Life to determine how things are going and if there is an area of my life that needs a little extra TLC.

The Wheel of Life is divided into segments or wedges:

  • Home Environment

  • Physical Activity

  • Career

  • Creativity

  • Spirituality

  • Relationships

I want to take the blog into the direction in 2019 playing off the segments that align with the Wheel of Life so I can touch on more topics and areas that excite me. Simply writing about diet and exercise isn’t providing the whole picture. I want to address struggles in career being a self employed business owner to discussing finances and the role that money plays in our health & wellness. And let’s face it, what blogger doesn’t want to talk about fashion, travel, and food so those topics will also be popping up too!

I know this blog and website has taken a lot of twists and turns throughout the past few years, but I’m really excited to share the things that come up in our household and lives.

Bring on 2019! Who’s with me?!

HANDLING THE HOLIDAYS WITH MY SECRET WEAPON - CBD OIL

How many of you get anxiety and a bit more stressed around the holidays?!?! Family dynamics, crazy holiday gift giving stress, insane parking lot madness.... 

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yeah, me too!


Over this past year, I’ve worked hard to find alternative ways to combat my anxiety, be a social butterfly, and keep my stress level super low. My secret weapon has been using CBD on a daily basis.

My day typically starts with a drop or two of 500mg Peppermint MY SOUL CBD in my coffee (I’ll admit, I’m a peppermint mocha girl any time of the year - I’m so not team PSL), and I’ll apply muscle & joint cream post workout or post photo shoot to avoid any aches or pains that cause irritation at night.

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Of course, I could take prescription meds to keep my anxiety away but I quickly discovered that the medication I had been on left me feeling numb to my emotions, always feeling tired, not enjoying workouts, gaining weight, and quite honestly, not feeling like myself - almost as if I was going through the motions, but not really enjoying anything.

After 8 months of taking my daily dose of anxiety medication I decided to cycle off (totally not following doctors orders, but hey… I had to try it on my own). When I felt a bit of panic or anxiety set in, I decided to focus on how CBD could become part of my daily routine. I began to feel like my old self; happy, full of energy, clearer mind, and ready to get back to doing what I love; working out, cooking, standup paddleboarding, and running my business.

To say that I am an advocate of using CBD would be an understatement. We’ve even introduced CBD to our anxiety filled 130# great dane who suffered from anxiety and being a bit overprotectiveness when people come to visit.


SO WHY I CHOSE CBD OVER MEDS? 

CBD WAS THE PERFECT ALTERNATIVE TO USING DAILY MEDS WITH UGLY SIDE EFFECTS. 

My side effects from using anxiety meds:
feeling numb to everything
tired
emotionally blah
weight gain
foggy & hazy Brain

USING CBD GAVE ME - well, ME BACK: 


I RECLAIMED CLARITY IN MY THOUGHTS & EMOTIONS
I FELT HAPPIER & MORE ALIVE
BACK TO MY "OLD" SELF
NOT FEELING CO-DEPENDENT ON A PILL


WHY I CHOSE to ALIGN MYSELF WITH SOUL CBD... 

SOUL CBD's mission is to provide people and pets with the highest quality, all natural solutions for: pain, anxiety, inflammation, sleep, digestion, and overall health to thrive in their daily lives.

All Soul CBD products are produced in a food grade, GMP-compliant facility, and are tested by third parties for safety and quality.

GENETICS
Our strain of isolated Crystalline CBD is the foundation of Soul, and is high in CBD,
stable and resistant to pests
and pathogens.*

FARMS
Our farming partners are family owned and operated, and have been innovators in hemp agriculture, propagation and cultivation techniques for decades.

PROCESS
Our unparalleled purity quality is a
result of farming in the rich, fertile soils
of Kentucky, along with our proprietary harvesting and processing technologies.

PURITY
Our products are produced in a food-grade, GMP compliant facility and always tested by third parties for safety and quality, yielding the cleanest CBD available.

Are you like what the heck is CBD? Don't worry I got you!

CBD, short for Canabidiol, is a naturally occurring ingredient found in both industrial hemp and cannabis. Our CBD products are only sourced from Hemp. This ensures all of our products are legal, safe and non-psychoactive.

CBD affects the Endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS helps maintain homeostasis in two areas: the firing of brain cells in the nervous system, and the inflammatory response of the immune system.

CBD is present in more significant quantities in hemp than marijuana, and because it is non-psychoactive, CBD is widely regarded as the cannabinoid with the most health potential by researchers.

READY TO GIVE CBD A TRY?  - I'M SHARING MY AFFILIATE LINK HERE

My first time speaking was a disaster

Not everything goes to plan.

Three (or maybe four) years ago, I completed an application to speak at a photography retreat in Rhode Island and was shocked & honored when I was picked to speak. I spent weeks prepping for the event and closer to the date my nerves were at an all time high. In fact, I sort of felt like an imposter.

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Self doubt and negative self talk flooded over me - I even left the welcome party early to go back and rework my entire presentation. My presentation was on the second day of the retreat and as I was listening to other presenters I felt so unworthy of being there. I had about two hours to share my presentation and flew through what I had prepared and was left there standing twiddling my thumbs for what felt like a lifetime.

Several people loved what I had to share and others hated it. A survey landed in my inbox a few weeks after the retreat confirming the feels I had already been feeling. While the speaking event might have been a disaster - it was also a major industry milestone for me. I stretched well beyond my comfort zone. I spoke from the heart and shared my story - the struggles, the wins, the failures and no one could take that from me.

We live in a time where everyone shows their highlight reel, but so few are willing to share the bad days, the failures, and the things that didn’t go as planned. I don’t know if I will ever stand on a stage again, but if I do… I promise to bare my heart & soul once again and if it changes one life… than I did my job.

FOODIES TRAVEL: North Myrtle Beach, SC

Allow me to share a little bit of a back story - We are self proclaimed foodies who basically plan our vacations around different dining establishments rather than sights to see. Personally, I’m a menu junkie and love finding places that are local.

This is our third visit to North Myrtle Beach, SC so I feel like we have a good grasp on dining establishments and have returned to a few of a personal favorites.

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Tupelo Honey - At the Market Commons - an upscale restaurant with a hipster type vibe. Plenty of outdoor seating, nice big bar and a unique menu with a lot of southern flare. Our waitress brought us fresh out of the oven biscuits with honey and blueberry jam while we waited for our meal to arrive. Remember - vacation calories don’t count :)

Menu picks:

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  • Slow-Roasted Pork Grilled Cheese - white cheddar, smoked jalapeno bbq sauce, pumpernickel bread


  • Pimento & Fried Pickle Burger* -
    creekstone all-natural pasture raised beef, pimento cheese, fried house-made pickle

Dietary Notes: The gluten free bread is really good! My mother-in-law had her meal on GF bread back in March when we came to Tupelo Honey for the first time.

Outdoor Dining & Puppy Friendly: Outdoor dining on a Sunday afternoon in the mid 60’s at the end of October doesn’t get much better. Very pet friendly providing water bowls and a doggie menu.

Shopping at Market Commons - Coming from the North East there isn’t a lot of outdoor shopping areas so this is a perk for us. After lunch we strolled through the commons and did a bit of shopping. Several chain stores and a few local to the area boutiques. All in all - a great way to spend an afternoon.


Boardwalk Billy’s - We felt like locals when we entered Boardwalk Billy’s a very laid back neighborhood restaurant and bar. We choose to eat on the deck and had little to no wait. However, our first time to Boardwalk Billy’s in March was a different story with a 30 - 40 minute wait.

Menu Picks: Go for Happy Hour if you are looking for drink and appetizer specials.

  • We ordered two sushi rolls (California roll & a Shrimp Tempura roll) along with 10 wings with mild sauce. We’ve never had wings coated in so much sauce!

  • My mom (who is a picky eater) opted for fried flounder with cole slaw & fries

  • Patrick had Calabash fish bites with a spicy type of sauce

  • My dad and I opted for the coconut shrimp (he had the basket with fries & slaw) - I had the appetizer size. The sauce served with the coconut shrimp has a lot of flavor.

Overall - the place is no frills and where you’d expect to meet up with your friends after a day of golf or being on the beach.

Dietary Notes: I didn’t see many items listed as gluten free

(sorry, no photos - my cell died and I didn’t bring my big camera!)


BurgerFi - Perfect lunch spot for a damn good burger. If you like Five Guys you’ll love BurgerFi. With all natural ingredients you can taste the goodness in each bite.

Menu Picks -

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  • BURGERFI BACON CHEESEBURGER

Double Natural Angus Beef, Double Bacon, Double American Cheese

Available as Single Burger and without Cheese

  • BURGERFI THE CEO

Double Wagyu + Brisket Blend Burger, Homemade Candied Bacon-Tomato Jam, Truffle Aioli , Aged Swiss Cheese

Available as Single Burger

Sides are a la carte to include fries & onion rings. If just two of you are eating here - you can share a fry - it’s a good serving size.


Twin Lakes by the Sea - Sunset Beach, NC

We can’t say enough good things about Twin Lakes by the Sea! In fact, we’ve waited 9 months to get back here for dinner. And, 9 months later dinner was worth the wait!

  Some people wait 9 months for a baby to arrive. I'd prefer to wait 9 months for a bowl of authentic shrimp and grits at    Twin Lakes By The Sea

Some people wait 9 months for a baby to arrive. I'd prefer to wait 9 months for a bowl of authentic shrimp and grits at Twin Lakes By The Sea

Menu Picks -

  • Hushpuppy basket with honey butter - AH-mazing!

  • 5 Cheese Pimento Dip - served hot with naan bread - another AH-mazing way to start our dinner

  • My dad & I selected the shrimp & grits that I’d drive 8+ hours just for this meal again and again! Served with a chef style salad.

  • Patrick selected a fried platter combo - popcorn shrimp & flounder with mac & cheese with coleslaw

  • My mom selected fried flounder with a baked potato & cole slaw

Take Home Desserts -

  • 9 Layer Chocolate Cake - thin layers of white cake with a rich chocolate fudge filling between each layer

  • Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

  • Double Cookie Cake (a big rich cookie dough type of cake)

Sunset Watching - sadly, we’ve always been in the area during the off season and haven’t been able to witness a sunset here, but I can only imagine how incredible it must be.


Blueberry’s Grill at Barefoot Landing - EPIC BREAKFAST SPOT!

On our last morning in North Myrtle Beach we decided to go out for breakfast and Blueberry’s Grill at Barefoot Landing surely did not disappoint. From the outdoor seating area to the sweet, savory, and even healthy menu options (plenty of gluten free and even a few vegan options) this is one restaurant that shouldn’t be missed.

I’ll be honest after an incredible dinner the night before I wasn’t sure my stomach could handle another epic meal…but I wasn’t going to shy away from a challenge. I had the Monte Cristo on gluten free bread (word of caution: this deep fried breakfast sandwich isn’t cooked in it’s own oil - so if you must have a fully gluten free meal - this isn’t an option for you, but don’t fret there are plenty of other choices)

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Menu Picks:

  • Monte Cristo - on gluten free bread if required! Plated with blueberries, strawberries and an amazing homemade blueberry jam.

  • Blueberry Pancakes - three fluffy blueberry pancakes topped with blueberries, bananas, and blueberries.

  • Melted Scrambler - eggs, onions, mushrooms, ham, and kielbasa with melted cheese served three slices of bacon and an english muffin

  • Blueberry Muffin and Eggs - two eggs any style with a grilled blueberry muffin and granny smith apple slices with peanut butter and bacon




Things to Do:

  • Enjoy the beach - in North Myrtle Beach you won’t find the beaches filled with boardwalk rides or shops - it’s very quiet and peaceful, only a full large hotels sit along the beach.

  • Go for a run or two with plenty of sidewalks not overly busy streets makes for great running.

  • Boardwalk on the Beach - very touristy (so not our scene!) Lots of big chain restaurants (Hard Rock, Dave & Busters, etc)

  • Barefoot Landing - several larger retailers and a lot of local smaller boutiques and dining options.

    • Treat yourself to a Praline from River Street - but only purchase a few and don’t let them talk you into buying a pound - you’ll have $25.00 less in your wallet quicker than you think.

    • Earthbound Trading

      • A personal favorite boutique with hippie eclectic clothing & gifts.

      • We stopped for a quick lunch at Ultimate California Pizza

        • Personal Pans are great if you are looking for a slice or two

        • The salads are HUGE with a good serving of protein



I hope that you enjoyed my first travel & foodie blog - I plan to continue documenting our trips and sharing our favorite places to eat at and things to do. Our next big adventure will be Orlando in early 2019 - and it won’t be a Disney themed entry!



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falling off the wagon - exposing my embarrassment & being vulnerable

The past year has been an incredible struggle for me in my health & wellness journey.  

In full disclosure, I'm embarrassed at how far I've let myself slide into old habits. For most of the year I was either recovering from an anxiety attack or making big career decisions(deciding to let go of coaching or fully relaunch my photography business). 

Yesterday (October 17th), I looked in the mirror and for the first time in a very long time I  didn't like what I saw. I saw a girl who was falling back into her old habits, making excuses, and failing to want to put in the effort.  The reflection staring back at me was the old Amanda (the 220 pound, Amanda) the one who was in denial about her weight and health, the one who ate whatever she wanted without a care, and the one who gave everything to everyone but herself. 

As I sat in the chair at the hair salon yesterday, I saw her (the old Amanda) and she whispered to me… this is your WAKE UP CALL, don’t waste it.

Part of me wanted to say it’s all or nothing, but that’s not my current reality. My current reality is rebuilding a business, working part-time (with full-time hours), managing a household, trying to be a good wife & daughter. So, I have to figure out whatever this “new normal” is. Does it mean I am working out 5 days a week one week and maybe only 3 times the following? Am I following a strict eating plan or one that gives me a little freedom? Those are things that I haven’t figured out, but one thing is certain - any more of what I have been doing is unacceptable. I’ve come to far to only come this far and when I step on the scale the number blaring out me breaks my heart because I feel like I’ve let myself down.

I keep hearing that voice saying… get up, get off the floor, you got this.

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You can have all of the education and certifications in the world...

…but if you don't have heart it's meaningless. 

I've been on a hamster wheel since 2015 trying to make holistic coaching work. I've invested a ton of cash in courses and working with mentors along with spending countless hours designing a website, sending out weekly newsletters and trying to come up with a witty caption to accompany photos on social media. 

I've downloaded my fair share of 6-figure blueprint plans from top coaches in hopes to find a magic bullet for making this coaching thing work. I kept telling myself it shouldn't be this hard, I am educated, I have certifications, but what I failed to see is that I didn't have heart. 

You see, coaching isn't my first love or my second. While I loved studying health & wellness as a hobby or outlet from my creative life, it doesn't inspire me like my first love, photography. 

I can't go a day without dreaming up a new photoshoot concept, styling a client, or scouting a location. With coaching, those feelings never tugged at my heartstrings or made me feel alive. So there it is... all out in the open. 

Part of me thought why is this even important to share, but then it dawned on me that so many people stick with shit they don't like simply because they paid for it or because they are trying to make someone else happy or proud. You don't have to prove anything to anyone, only yourself and if your heart isn't in it (whatever IT is) run toward whatever does set your soul on fire. 

For me, what lights me up and makes me happy is being a photographer. It's WHO I AM since my first introduction to a 110 camera in the gift shop at Dutch Wonderland to taking photos at Penn State games with an old film 35mm camera that wouldn't work below 40 degrees and now with the opportunity to travel the world with a laptop and digital camera. I hope that my passion for photography never dies and that I am able to press the shutter until my final days. 

Find a career or hobby that gives you the same feeling and never let it go.


7 MISTAKES I MADE DURING MY WELLNESS JOURNEY

Boy, do I wish I could go back in time and not waste all of the time and energy I did when I first attempted my journey of health and wellness improvement. I made some HUGE mistakes when I first decided it was time to change my relationship to health & wellness. I’m sharing the 7 areas where I screwed up with the hope that you won’t follow in my footsteps and make the same mistakes.

Reality Check: watching late night TV and scrolling social media for a quick fix feels like the greatest solution at 1am, but I promise you with every ounce of my heart & soul the answer to your problems isn’t in the Wait… if you buy now we will double your order.

MISTAKE #1: Throwing Money At Quick Fixes.

I can't even begin to tell you how many thousands of dollars I spent on shakes and pills. I've literally tried every weight loss program on the planet and none of them provided me with the "claimed" results - the only thing I ended up with is a depleted bank account. Of course, I am going to get some pushback - did you really do the program, you must have done something wrong, you didn’t give it your all. Truth… maybe, maybe not. Here’s why those options failed.

Rather than buying into quick fix products, I needed to understand why I was making the poor food choices to begin with. Along with understanding why I couldn't get off my tush and workout when I KNEW that was the outcome that would work. Until I had a clear understanding as to WHY I was creating these habits, my weight wouldn’t change, I wouldn’t have more energy, and I wouldn’t be closer to my goal.

PRO TIP: Stop spending money on shitty products with promises. You have to fix yourself because no matter the claimed outcome, you won’t make lasting changes. Oh and don't even think about calling me a hater because the products didn't work...let's be real for a minute: investing in a program that is attached to a subscription based product more than likely means that you will yo-yo right off the moment you cancel your order! #boom!

MISTAKE #2: Waiting Until Rock Bottom Before Seeking Help.

Some might argue that you need to hit rock bottom in order to muster up enough courage to seek help. Get over yourself, stop being stubborn and reach out for help. The truth is... if you aren't seeing results than something isn't working. End your self-sabotage/yo-yo lifestyle once and for all! Which leads to point #3

MISTAKE #3: Failing to Invest in Support!

I'm blown away by the amount of health advice that is provided from those who have little to no knowledge behind being a coach or providing nutritional support. I've seen this with several MLM business models where their product advocates are called "coaches" when many don't have a certification or education within the health and wellness realm to be calling themselves a coach.

On a personal note: I shelled out a lot of cash for a custom meal plan (provided by a well-known local trainer)only to request that the plan not include grains (it did!) and when I reached out for support, the "trainer" was MIA failing to return calls or texts.

Find a coach that is willing to work with you over the phone, in-person, skype, via email and text. This is an incredibly vulnerable time in your life and having someone who has been in your shoes and understands your struggle will help you far more than the jacked and ripped Instagram celebrity that just wants "fans".

MISTAKE #4: Not Lifting Weights Soon Enough.

I am going to call out my momma on this one. She embedded into my brain during my teen/high school years that lifting weight would make me bulky. Sorry momma, that just ain't the case. I wish I would have explored lifting at a much earlier age and/or at the start of my journey rather than being a cardio junkie. Now, I would rather do burpees, deadlift, and back squat than cardio!

MISTAKE #5: Not Sticking To What Is Working For YOU.

Once you begin to see shifts (weight loss, muscle definition, looser fitting clothes, etc), it's easy to take your foot off the gas and revert back to your old ways. In the past year, I've bounced around from diet to diet - counting macros, plant based, paleo, gluten free, grain free, intermittent fasting, and even following the crappy diet from Mistake #2. For the three years prior I knew that eating whole foods, drinking green smoothies and taking my vitamins worked for me, my lifestyle and my body - yet, I was looking for the next best thing - hey, I'm human and look for the easy button too from time to time.

MISTAKE #6: A Sub Category Of #5

Don't become fixated on what anyone else is doing. It's super easy to get sucked the latest fad diet or workout craze. I fell into this trap by following an excessive amount of fitness people on youtube - hence leading down the road of counting macros and adding confusion to my life.

Unhealthy comparison began to consume me. Rather than focus on how far I'd come and celebrate progress, I was was comparing myself to their highlight reel. I neglected to add that I run two businesses, have a husband, family, and dogs to juggle daily where many of these youtuber's have made their life youtube. Right or wrong - it doesn't matter - as long as you are sticking with what works for you and aren't comparing yourself to anyone else.

MISTAKE #7: Giving A Damn About What Someone Else Has To Say About YOUr Diet And Lifestyle.

When we (P and I) decided to transition to whole foods eating we took a lot of shit from our family and friends! At first I let it bother me, but the results (physical, emotional, mental) couldn't be argued. I no longer give a damn if someone is unhappy that I brought my own food or declined plans because my workout or meal prep came first. Oh and when we take a new recipe to share... we rarely come home with leftovers, so my shit isn't weird after all!

Can you relate to any of these mistakes? I'd love to hear how you overcame those mistakes, leave a comment below!

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LESSON LEARNED: TRADING SERVICES FOR EXPOSURE

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If I've learned one thing in 15 years of being a business owner is that trading your services for exposure rarely pays off.  I have never gained the promised exposure by giving away my services in trade.  

Remember you are not only giving your time and talent for the actual event or project but also lead time and post-production time.  You'll have logistic emails and calls to make with deadlines to meet.  Again, if you are trading services for exposure you better make sure that the entire "deal" is ironed out and in a contractual form as a handshake isn't good enough. 

Keep this in mind when being asked to donate items for charity auctions, fundraisers, etc.  Most often those who win these actions or fundraisers aren't your ideal clients or fail to redeem the offer.

Okay, I know I sound like Debbie-Downer so let me follow up with this... if you feel called to donate your time, talent or products, do it out of the goodness of your heart with no expectation for exposure.  For example years ago, I donated my time to Help Portrait and felt far more fulfilled creating and providing those who attended the event with images than giving away a gift certificate to never be used.

What about collaborations with other industry people? 

I think collaborations are a fabulous way to network and meet other like minded creatives and business owners.  Again, make sure that all of the details are ironed out as to who is expected to provide what for the project and that realistic deadlines are created for everyone.  

 

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