Every month we are inspired by our Best Lifers. See how these seizers of opportunity, love, happiness, and adventure, connected during July.
Being a Champion of Your Health
Shabnam Islam’s parents came from Bangladesh with less than $20 in their pocket. “I grew up in Richmond, Virgina competing in gymnastics as a child and playing volleyball and performing in show choir throughout my high school career. In my sophomore year at James Madison University, I found my passion for fitness as a group fitness instructor at my college recreation center.
“The summer of 2013 was the worst time of my life. I was crossing the stage in my cap and gown receiving my Masters Diploma... and then it started. For four months I lay in a hospital bed not knowing what was causing such pain, illness, and distress. Within that time I also had two kidney surgeries and my gallbladder removed. Things were so bad that I was no longer in
school, no longer working, and my mother had to become my live-in caretaker while my husband worked to support us. Eventually, they were able to diagnose me with Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, a neurological disorder that can be mediated with medication.
“I’ve been hospital FREE for over two years. I have been able to work, seek adventure, and experience time at home with the ones I love. I have a DEEP love and appreciation for ALL that I am able to do now...even drinking my own green tea in the morning in my home garden. I love COOKING and experimenting with a plant-based diet.
“I am living my BEST LIFE NOW because the Universe is giving me another chance. Living my best life means being healthy on a multitude of levels...having a healthy mind, a strong body, emotional health, and achieving spiritual wealth.” Follow Shabnam on Instagram @shabnamsays
Finding Your Quiet Confidence
Alex McGillivray’s best life project has been a journey, and like all great adventures, there were lots of hidden gems along the way.
“In 2013 I weighed my heaviest at 276lbs and was probably the most miserable I’ve ever been. I remember breaking down into tears one night because I felt so incredibly unhappy with myself. I didn’t know where to start or how to fix it, but something inside said that I would find my way. At the time, I had a friend who was training for her first half marathon that fall. I ended up coming across an ad for Color Me Rad and sent her a message saying something to the effect that it might be a fun way to spice up her training. 10 minutes later I got a reply saying she signed “US” up. I thought the “US” was a typo. I was wrong, and that’s where my official running story began.
“That summer I ran both Color Me Rad and The Color Run with my friends. After finishing both races, that same friend convinced me to take on the challenge of running a sanctioned race, so I chose the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront 5k. As I finished the Scotia 5k, I decided I was going to dream big and set the goal of running a half marathon in the next year. In August, I ran lululemon’s Seawheeze half marathon in Vancouver. After years of living with self-doubt and self-hate, I was now part of the half marathon club! Sometimes, I still can’t believe it.
“Those first 8 months of running were some of the most difficult but most rewarding months of my life. I was lucky to be surrounded by people who were kind, patient, and understanding of the commitment my big dream required. My biggest accomplishment during this time wasn’t even a finish line. It was learning to love myself and find my quiet confidence with each step. It was pushing past some really uncomfortable feelings not only in my calves, but in my soul. It was learning that my body was amazing no matter its size and no matter its flaws. I began to feel happier and I felt like the most authentic Alex was beginning to take shape.
“In March of 2015, I crushed my first 30K race and man was it ever an experience. I learned so much more about myself during that race. I learned how tenacious I truly am, that come hell or high water, once I commit to something, there is no stopping me. I also learned that even when we think we have given our all to something, there is always room to give to others.
“I have to say that my best life is continually evolving and growing. I continue to set and chase new goals, with my biggest for 2016 being my first triathlon in July. I continue to dream big and I continue to be unconditionally supported by this amazing community of people, but when I look back at all of this, what I am most grateful for is unearthing my true sense of self. It has taken a lot of work; work I continue to put it in everyday because hey, I am still human and have days where the struggle is real, but I know deep down in my core that I am authentic, determined, courageous, loyal, and kind. I have learned that despite not having ripped abs, or chiseled biceps that I am a tenacious competitor and an athlete that would crawl across a finish line before ever giving up. I know that I have what it takes to accomplish anything that seems impossible, and most importantly, I know that I am the navigator of my own happiness. Most of all, I want everyone reading this to know that you too are capable of great things, loving yourself just as you are, and worthy of being loved in return. AND, that you, yes, YOU, are so amazingly capable of living your best life too!” Follow Alex on Instagram @audaciouslyalex
Raising a Plant-Based Family
For Fadi, going plant-based is about family. “We are both acutely aware that we are shaping and growing new humans who will need strength, nutrition and a steady moral compass on their journeys, and they look to and depend on us to provide them with these.
“People often seem concerned when we confirm that the boys eat an exclusively plant-based diet, but seeing our intelligent, articulate, physically active toddler, generally provides the most eloquent rebuttal of any conventional concerns about the absence of meat and dairy from his diet. We are also glad that our choices allow us to present a clear and logical position as to our relationship with animals and nature, without hypocrisy. Of course, the boys will grow up knowing different people make different choices, and our children will ultimately make their own. We hope, however, that we will have given them enough information and a broad enough perspective to make choices driven by honesty and a sense of responsibility.
“Our project has been to document and share what we are doing, eating, feeding our kids and otherwise experimenting on and we hope that in doing so we can encourage people to try plant-based dishes for the family table and to broaden the awareness of and choices available to us old fogies as well as the new generations.” Follow Fadi on Instagram @the_bethnal_greens
How do you live your best life? Share your story by tagging your post with #BestLifeProject.