Quit your job, sell your house, travel. While this sounds like a quote plastered on a popular Internet meme or the scenario of a self-discovery book, it is exactly what Heather Ancliffe did in 2013. After spending a year trekking through Australia and discovering Asia, the 33-year-old Montrealer is now back home with a new career and a positive outlook. Heather is the public relations coordinator of The Foundation for the Compulsory Study of Genocide in Schools. She landed that job after completing a public relations course at Concordia University upon her return from abroad. Public relations was the perfect extension of her marketing background and a natural fit for her outgoing personality. When Heather is not busy coordinating media interviews or promoting the importance of talking about genocide, you can find her outdoors. Her passion for fitness and healthy eating started in her twenties and has grown throughout the years, even through life’s ups and downs. Here she talks healthy living and happiness.
How do you stay fit?
I stay fit by doing activities that I enjoy. I go to the gym when it’s too cold outside because I can’t stay stagnant. But in general I stay fit by hiking, running, cycling, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing…basically anything that’s outdoors. I love being outdoors, I love nature and any activity that I can do outside and that makes me sweat.
What is your eating philosophy?
Fibre! Lots of fruits and veggies, legumes, complex carbs…I do have a sweet tooth but when I am baking I generally try to substitute regular, bleached flour with whole wheat. I drink a lot of water, I don’t drink much juice. And I do indulge in fatty foods every now and then but I try to eat as clean as possible and avoid processed foods.
What is your favourite workout and why?
My favourite workout would have to be biking. I really like the fact that when I am cycling I get from point A to point B and I often do it along a river or a forest so the scenery is really beautiful. I put some music on and just try to get absorbed into the moment and the hours passing by. I work up a sweat; it’s a great exercise. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s also a mode of transportation so it’s a triple winner!
What about your favourite healthy dish?
In the summer I really love salad. You can make amazing salads with amazing fresh ingredients. You can add nuts, protein, cheese and different types of veggies and get creative. In the winter I really love soups and stews. My go-to pre-workout snack is a peanut butter, soy milk, banana and blueberry smoothie with flaxseed . But my all-time favourite healthy food is eggs. You can do so much with them: boil them, poach them, add them to salads or omelets…
What is your favourite treat?
I love pies and cakes. And I really love sushi or a nice big bowl of pasta with creamy sauce. That’s probably why I workout a lot, to counterbalance my big appetite!
How do you de-stress?
Exercise definitely helps, doing yoga too. It’s also important to eat well in order to keep your cortisol levels low. It’s nice to relax, spend some time alone and do some reading and reflect. I also try not to overthink things and to have an appreciative attitude about life.
Describe the ideal weekend.
The ideal weekend involves sleeping in until 10 a.m., having eggs for breakfast and then doing something outside with my boyfriend, like taking a road trip to go hiking somewhere or going for a walk or run on Mount-Royal. Then maybe having a drink or two with some friends and going to a restaurant.
How do you manage a healthy lifestyle with a busy schedule while maintaining a work/life balance?
You really have to make an effort to put yourself into your schedule. You have to make time for yourself, for exercising and for alone time. You want to see your friends, your boyfriend, you have work and/or school, but sometimes you really have to say “Ok, today after work I am going to workout for at least 45 minutes.” Sometimes I just force myself. I put on my workout clothes the second I get home to motivate myself.
When do you feel the most confident?
I am most confident after completing a goal that I have set for myself. Whether it’s small or large; short-term or long-term. Whether is is working out harder, faster, stronger, finishing a course, traveling to a place I said I’d travel to or buying my first home (then selling it). I always have a list of goals and it is so rewarding when I check them off the list.
What would be your advice to a friend going through difficult times?
Have an attitude of gratitude. It’s so important to realize where you are in life and how fortunate you are even in the rough times. Knowing that rough times are changeable and that they won’t last forever really helps and once you get through them you’ll be stronger mentally and you’ll have learned something. Appreciate what you have: your friends, your home, free healthcare…Terrible things happen in life. But the emotions that go with them are temporary and just knowing that is a bit less daunting.
What is the greatest challenge that you’ve had to overcome and what did you learn from it?
The greatest challenge I’ve had to overcome was the loss of my mother. My mother and I were very close. She had multiple sclerosis since I was eleven and later on in life she was diagnosed with colon cancer. So she didn’t have it easy but she was a very optimistic person. When she passed it was bittersweet because she was gone but at the same time her suffering ended. And that’s when I decided to change my career path and move to Australia.
What I learned from all that is that sadness is temporary, even though there will always be a hole in my heart for her. And people can do two things when something terrible happens: Allow the grief to take them over and let it destroy them or let it make them stronger and overcome it. But you have to make an effort to overcome it. You have to force yourself to be active and to seek support. Being in nature and exploring was a really good way for me to overcome things. Having support is also absolutely necessary. I have the best friends, I am so fortunate.
Finish this sentence: I feel the happiest when…
…I am in a forest hiking or when I am doing yoga.