for the 40+ woman!

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I love to hear from successful women who re-found their health. And what is
even more satisfying is hearing women say that they are loving the journey….

See, what we do is a journey, and for success in building health, it must be seen as such. We will meander in and out and we will falter, and that’s part of life. We talk a lot about this in my programs, because women need to know that this ‘mis-step’ is also part of the journey. We’re not striving for perfection, we’re striving for improvement, learning and growing at every turn… to become our Best Self!Dawn Riddell BSC

I thought I would share two lovely ladies who completed the 10-Week Challenge with firm goals and they found success: Dawn (middle) and Kathryn (bottom), lovingly known as Miss pipes now!.

These lovely ladies all know that the journey they started on continues, and they’re up for the task! That’s because this is a lifestyle, now. It simply must be, in order to stay well, really well!

Enjoy where you’re at ladies, but also enjoy the many changes your body and Kathryn Branson Best Pipespsyche will go through as you meander this healthy living journey of yours.

– karen

PS Don’t fall off the wagon this summer’s way too long to be away from your proper eating and training! Check out my 8-Week Makeover Program, complete with videos, instruction, eating and lifestyle plans, and a big focus on emotional and spiritual health as well! You can start at home, and progress to the gym, if you wish! Take it on holidays with you! ENJOY~!

CLICK HERE for more info! You will also have access to our Private Members FB page  for all the support you need and deserve! Join us TODAY! 🙂


I love the movie The Notebook, the story of two young lovers, Allie and Noah
who are crazy about each other, but duty and differences threaten to keep them apart. My favourite scene is when Noah and Allie are standing outside her car, as she readies to leave him forever for her wealthy husband-to-be, whom her parents highly approve of over Noah.

There they are, standing at the car, and Noah continues to ask her, “What donoah YOU want?” To which she replies, “It’s not that simple, I have responsibilities, people depend on me….”. Noah repeats his question over and over again, trying to show her that it is indeed her life, and she is free to choose.

Simple, yes. Easy, not always.

Why do I bring this up, being a fitness gal? Because it speaks to all women, everywhere, who struggle with voicing their needs, even in the area of their own health and wellness. For many women, the ‘right’ to take the time to go to the gym, to change to a healthier way of eating, to want to look and feel good is still, sadly, often met with resistance, and it’s almost always coming from family and close friends.

“I had to cancel out because I had to make my hubby happy,” said one client recently. Another client felt so guilty for going to the gym, she resorted to sneaking her gym clothes out the door in a big duffel bag every day to stay under the family’s radar. And still another woman was being so ridiculed for being ‘obsessive compulsive’ about her new health regime, she quit just to keep the peace.

Don’t rock the boat. Focus on others first. Don’t be selfish. Don’t be vain.  Blah, blah, blah….

Ladies, know this: you DO deserve it. You do.

I always say to all my women that training and eating well is one of the greatest acts of self-love you can do. It is not sel-fish, it’s self-less. You are taking time out of your very-busy day and paying your good money to do so. You are reaching and striving to be more, to be strong, able, healthy and vibrant. And you are teaching your children to aspire to the same.

Congrats to the 26 lovely, brave women from the 10-Week Best shape of YOUR Life Challenge who knew what they wanted, and went for it. Now they are onto our Warrior Woman monthly Healthy Living Program to continue our important work together. You know that this healthy lifestyle of ours takes courage, commitment and support from other like-minded women, all striving, reaching, and changing their lives for the better.

And ladies, know that you are, without a doubt, changing the lives of those around you for the better, even if they don’t think so. In time they will. They will.

– karen

In our fast-paced lives, protein bars have become a quick, readily available photo (2)snack choice for many people, but it’s important to know that most popular protein bars are high in fat, sugars and artificial sweeteners. Reading labels, and knowing what you are reading, is important here. Sugar in all its forms has over 30 listings. (The average Canadian eats 100 pounds of sugar in a year!).

Artificial sweeteners are another dangerous addition to many protein bars, including aspartame, sorbitol, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, or maltitol, to name a few. And while they are touted as ‘zero calorie’ and ‘no carbs’, it is this very fact that makes them dangerous. Studies show they get lodged in organs and tissues (in particular the digestive area, which as we know is where our immune system originates). As well, artificial sweeteners have been shown to make us hungrier because they do not act on our ‘hunger control area’ and turn it off when appropriate, probably because of the presence of these ’empty calories’. So eating artificial sweeteners can actually lead to over-eating.

Finally, trans fats, which are stabilizers in many popular snack foods, are a dangerous addition to any food and one should take extreme caution with these, given the health risks involved. And while labels are supposed to list them, manufacturers are legally allowed to label anything as having zero trans fats if there is less than 2 grams of trans fats in a serving size. (Look for the word ‘hydrogenated’, another word for trans fats).

If you’re looking for a nutritious snack, whole foods are still your best bet. For me, protein bars aren’t part of my agenda. If I do indulge, it’s only if I’ve left home without my food (which doesn’t happen often), and then I break off a bite (that’s about 1/4 of a protein bar) just to see me through…but that’s it! I simply see them as another chocolate bar, is all (and the protein source is not one that I prefer over my egg whites, meats and such).

I’m a food lover, and a planner. And that makes all the difference in the world!

Ever wonder why some people in the gym work so hard and never reallygirl-wont-eat-590x295
change their physiques? It could be due to many reasons – not being consistent, not having a solid program to follow, not lifting heavy enough or….not eating enough.

Yep, us females are still in a calorie counting culture: just look at the rise of food apps and watch the number of people plugging their next bite into their phones to see if it’s a pass or a fail. Do you really want to live that way?

Sooooo many of my clients want to know this at the get-go, like we are just a mathematical formula that we can plug into for the perfect results! This is the hardest thing for new clients to get around…making that shift out of the calorie counting culture.

Remember ladies, you have to EAT to build…if you restrict calories too much, you will halt your progress. You simply cannot build in a deficit. Park the cardio and lift. And eat, for heaven’s sake!

But if you want to stay naturally lean all year, say, 18-20% bodyfat (what, you don’t know your bodyfat? That’s way more important than body weight, because as you lose weight, you can lose precious muscle (all that work!) and water, and that’s what carb restricted plans are all about), then you’re going to have to app2choose – do you want to change your physique with weight training, or do you want to stay lean all year?

This is particularly important for us older women – 40+ – who just restrict and cardio away to stay lean (and many thin women enter shows because they are naturally lean, but they don’t often progress beyond, because their body doesn’t have the nutrients to grow year after year. In time, everything drops away, including muscle, because that’s what Father Time does. Oh my!

Now some women can stay lean and build well at the same time but it’s rare, and it’s what every new competitor thinks will happen when she starts on the body-shaping journey, but it’s (usually) not so. That’s one reason why your IFBB avaPro’s like Nicole Wilkins, Erin Stern, Ava Cowan (right), are, well, pro’s. They only add 5-8 pounds off season, and they can still grown gorgeous muscle. Lucky gals! (And they’ve been in fitness their whole life too – Ava and Nicole are gymnasts, and Erin is an Olympic level track star!).

So when we read that so-and-so eat such-and-such and take in this many calories, we think we can do the same. But it just ain’t so for the majority of us. These women are genetically gifted. That’s why they are pro’s. (And have you ever seen a pro train? My gosh, it is INTENSE!)

That’s the beauty of the human body. It is our canvas, our work of art. We can alter it, add to it or subtract from it. And your relationship with food and your body is the most intimate of all relationships, and it takes time to learn and grow these factors together.

Coach Karen

I heard a scary statistic this morning. By 2020 experts say the number one disability will become depression.

Depression. By the time you hit forty years old, you have likely had a bout with it. That’s what the stats say too. 29

I had my time battling depression, and its sister, anxiety, for years. Being brought up in a chaotic household, and overcoming by becoming an over achiever set the tone. Then, with a desire to please, low self-esteem and learned helplessness, I dipped in and out of depression for years. And then I suffered through years of debilitating panic attacks (sometimes 20 a day) as I struggled to work through childhood issues and coping mechanisms that no longer served me, rather, they were  strangling my spirit.

When my son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, the clouds returned, and stayed for 8 long, dark years. I struggled to get through each day. I cried myself to sleep, night after night. I couldn’t relate to anyone, or to the outside world. I was a prisoner in my own mind, helpless and drowning.

It took a long time to turn it around, but slowly I came to dismantle the destructive thought patterns and beliefs that once had served me so well as a child (in order to survive) but that were now crippling me. I came to understand that when you say, “that’s just the way I am,” indeed there is much hidden deep in our subconscious that simply needs to see the light in order to create the necessary shifts. But becoming objective about your patterns is indeed work.

And I found my path to healing was based in healing my physical body. I re-connected with weight training, because it helped be to connect with my power. Because when we are depressed, we are powerless, lost. Am I here to tell you that weight training or any kind of exercise will miraculously lift your spirits back into the light? No, that would be irresponsible of me. But it did give me a toe hold back into reality. There, in the gym, I could start to feel the connections again between my lost self and the self that had always been there, somewhere. This, along with proper eating and biofeedback work, slowly helped to part the dark clouds, and the sun began to shine bits of rays at a time. I could feel my spirit return. I had been there all along, behind the veil. Now the veil was parting.

If you are struggling with your own clouds, know that there are millions of us out there, all struggling to stay afloat, to fight back the clouds. My biggest lesson was in learning to let go, to accept, and to know that ‘this too shall pass’. It was about dismantling the old, and staying open to the new.

Today, in all that I do and all my programs, we touch on the mental and spiritual aspects of things, simply because we cannot NOT touch on them. We are not just flesh and blood, to the contrary, we are a complicated mix of spirit and physical, all colliding to help us to bring our individual gifts and our purpose to life…if only we could see through the clouds. Sometimes we simply need validation that those clouds are real, and that it’s ok to have cloudy days, and to know that we are not alone in our journeys. Many of us have walked the path, and we can help. I believe that’s why we are here on this planet, to use our special gifts to help others. It’s as simple as that really.


PS: My Fall session of the 10-Week Best Shape of Your Life Challenge starts soon. Grab your spot. We’d love to have you join us!

Not a week goes by when I don’t get an email from a client trying to work through her ‘binge’ eating. And with my latest batch of 10-Week Best Shape of Your Life Challengers, it’s no different: we do so well, and then it hits, that food tsunami, and there’s no getting away from it.

Yep, we all have those moments, but what I say is this…when you are in control of it, and you do it once in awhile (that, in my book, is once every 7-14 days, and it’s a cookie, a small bowl of ice cream, a bag of chips), then it’s what we who live clean and lean called a controlled cheatA controlled cheat is a once-in-awhile-treat.

In fact, I build cheat meals into my Best Shape Challenge, as a way to feed the soul and help with additional fat loss (yes, it is a fat loss tool when used properly), but it must be done right. The majority have stolen the cheat meal from competitors, but it’s rarely done right outside the competition circles).

For me, my ‘treat’ is a big, fat chocolate chip cookie from Starbucks. I just love them! (I’ve been known to dip into a jar of Nutella too, but I’ve learned I can’t keep it in the house, period. So having to go out and buy a Starbuck’s cookie keeps me in line a little better…). I used to eat Starbucks muffins on a daily basis. My reason: It was my quiet time, my reward in the middle of a busy day where I was taking care of everyone else…so now it’s MY time!

Well, whatever….sure…I could have stayed with that story, but I was getting fat and feeding a sugar habit that wouldn’t let go. Day after day. Some reward. I still remember those feelings of guilt and self-loathing….I never, ever wish to live there again. Ever.

Fast forward several years and that same Starbucks treat has been re-tooled into something that actually works for me. Rather than an addiction, it’s now become a tool. It holds a different meaning, and it holds no power over me any more.

Yep, controlled cheating is an art, and lean people (and lean-living competitors) have mastered the skill. But more importantly, it’s a mind set. I like to teach my women to use a treat as a tool for clean eating and proper weight loss, to control the cheat, rather than have it control you. Therein lies the rub: whom – or what – is controlling whom?

And that’s where we have to dig, because there is freedom, and happy eating, on the other side of it. Are you truly hungry, or is that bite of cookie feeding something else? And if it is hunger, why not eat some broccoli? Ah, there’s the truth coming at you….

So next time you feel the urge to splurge, ask yourself why, why do you want that cookie? Never mind saying because it tastes good…dig deeper. Do you feel entitled? Sad? Mad? Lonely? Perhaps you can learn our way, the Warrior Woman’s Way, and say, I choose to and it’s ok. It feeds me in other ways, and I am in total control here.

Eat with eyes wide open, I always say. and cheat that way too!


PS My next 10-Week Best Shape of YOUR Life Challenge starts in April. Grab your spot! (The Advanced Challenge starts then too, and is open to graduates of the 10-Week Challenge only).

Can you hear it? That echo? It’s rampant in the fitness/health industry these day.

What echo, you say? Regurgitated beliefs and perspectives about healthy eating that people just pass along like hand-me-downs. I sometimes wonder what happened to free thinking, free spirited thought, based not on the norm or the majority, but based on something outside the norm, on the periphery. How to choose?

As a Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor (Masters Level), we certainly don’t follow the crowd. We draw from the teachings of traditional cultures and research: Pottinger and his team of cats that taught us about generational nutritional deficiencies and how it applies to today’s children, dentist Weston Price and his findings on the link between dental decay (or lack of decay) in traditional cultures, and how it summarizes the body’s health, Chinese values of eating in Season, homeopathy, naturopathy, metabolic typecasting and more.

So many people put labels on their eating (paleo, pescetarian, low carb, keto), because it comes to define them. But what if you were label-less?

For me, I’ve been at this for many, many years, and I eat according to my body, cultural background, goals, and priorities, and I still can’t label it. So in our work, my ladies and I call it the Warrior Woman Way…eating within certain guidelines, but intuitive, with the individual woman in mind, flexible, real. Some of us eat dairy, some not. Some are meatless, others not. But the common thread is in our perspective and intention – clean, nurturing, health-building and community-building, based in sound research from long ago, blended with modern day stuff…a quick mix, so to speak. And not hard lines …..if you don’t eat meat and you’re on an airplane, starving, with no other choice, and someone offers you a ham sandwich, please take it, because as a woman offering another woman nourishment, that is more important. Don’t break the bond, loosen the grip in order to create another bond, something much more important and lasting. (I learned this from Susun Weed. Lovely, really. Earth changing…)

Old school, indeed. Timeless, sometimes lost research that few know about and fewer ‘nutritionists’ or coaches in today’s fast-paced fitness industry even know about. “Don’t eat saturated fat, it’ll increase cholesterol” (wrong). “Eat low fat” (wrong, in fact, eat higher fat, and don’t forget to eat the chicken skin!), “eat clean” (and what exactly does this mean anyway? You gotta eat a bit ‘dirty’ for a good immune system!). “Eat Paleo” (the latest….but our tribal ancestors were not interested in expending energy in any way, especially in a gym atmosphere where we work to build muscle. They were about saving energy at all costs! So true paleo wouldn’t work for us!).

Eat Vegan, it’s better for Mother Earth (untrue). “Beware eggs(the perfect protein…really?). Always use olive oil (not in all instances, and it’s very low in the necessary omega 3′s we dearly need), eat omega 3 eggs (marketing), eat raw veggies (nope, not for all! Your poor thyroid!), eat your fruit (depending….)….

Find someone who bucks convention. Be brave. Be the voice, or look for the voice in all the noise. Expand your horizons. Dare to be non-traditional, to NOT follow the crowd.

Be a voice, not an echo. Don’t worry about having an eating label. Be label-less and see how you fare. I think you’ll find it very freeing! And much healthier in the long run, to be sure!

Oh yeah, and enjoy your chocolate.  Us Warrior Women certainly do!


PS  My next Challenge starts in April. Join our tribe! Unconventional, fun, real!

It’s crazy but true, some of the worst support systems in the world are other women…friends, family, co-workers.

untitledI see this every time I start a new group of Challengers….it usually starts around now, in the first few weeks of the Challenge. The innuendos and soft undercuts start coming…

“You’re too skinny”.
“You’re obsessive about training.”
“You’re no fun anymore.”
“Oh come on, let loose. It won’t kill you.”

Here’s the deal ladies!…when we get healthy, we become a challenge to other less healthy people. Why? Because we become a mirror that reflects them back to themselves…it’s just part of the journey. It always saddens me to see women drawn back into an unhealthy lifestyle OR stop their healthy living program to ease the nasty comments, rolling eyes, and criticisms coming our way.
Like how about this one….”
I hope when you’re done competing you will stop all this silly stuff,” or “you’re no fun anymore,” or my favourite (and this has personally been directed at me), “You’ve gotta have implants to win a show”. really? Check out Erin Stern, or Rachel McLish or last year’s Overall winner at the BC’s.
One gal mentioned she’s not sure if her friend was being supportive or not…her friend looked down at this woman’s newly-manicured toenails (she’s competing shortly) and told her “nice, but oh, they look a tad bit too long.” This is the old classic give-them-a-compliment-but-undercut-them-slightly-afterward tactic. Nice….!
I promptly told this woman that indeed she was at the receiving end of jealously and an inner unrest in the other woman who had neither the strength or discipline to improve her own life, so she was tryin  to ever-so-subtly bring her down a notch.

Ladies, IGNORE THIS! If you stick with your healthy eating and training lifestyle, you eventually find another ‘tribe’, the healthy kind, because you’ll find you have less in common. It’s not bad to leave your old life / friends / community or tribe behind if it means you can move toward health, vitality, and power.

You have 2 choices: you can either move forward or you slide right back into un-healthiness again, and re-join the old pack! DON’T let that happen! They chose their life, you chose yours. You don’t need to join them on their self-destructive path! Nor are you responsible for them. And if they make you feel guilty about not partying, always going to the gym, or not ‘hanging out’ because you’d rather be moving forward, that’s THEIR deal, not yours, but they are trying to sucker you into the old ways, to make themselves feel better.

It’s almost as insidious as the druggie or alcoholic that reams all over a newly-sober person who has walked away from that life. I’ve lived on the other side of the track, like a lot of you. And I made a choice many moons ago to make the most of my body, this life and this opportunity. And I know it all too well with parents who died in their 40′s and my son who lives life from a wheelchair, and can never know the beauty of a strong, working body.

Just walk away. You can let go with love. You don’t have to preach or fight back, just smile, grab your bowl of chicken breast and greens, and know that you are on the right path – YOUR PATH and at any time they are welcome to join you. Surprisingly some do, most don’t. Live your life wearing your fullest colours. It’s how it’s supposed to be!

So to all those apparently well-meaning and so-called supportive women out there, we’re on to you! And we’re throwing it back at you! For me, I never get those comments anymore, because I’ve been on this path way too long and everyone knows it’s my lifestyle now. Besides, my ‘tribe’ has changed slowly over the years, and there is no explaining or defending to do ’cause we all live the same way: empowered, healthy, supportive, caring.

Stay strong!

LADIES: Have you ever found yourself asking the following?

  • How much protein do I need?
  • Should I go low-carb? And what is low carb?
  • How many times do I need to eat in a day to maximize metabolism?
  • Should I eat a low-fat diet, and if so, how much??
  • What should my caloric intake be at my age / activity level / weight?
  • How many days of weight training is enough to see real results?
  • How much cardio should I do? What type?
  • What if I’m vegetarian? Is there a different approach?
  • I have some injuries…how do we work around that?
  • How much should I lift and how often should I change up my program?
  • What about recipes….what should I be eating?
  • What is a realistic weight loss goal for 10 weeks?

Oh yeah, all good questions, and ones that have plagued women for their entire lives (more than likely). Sadly, most women get their answers from 2 sources: the Internet and well-meaning family and friends. Both are fraught with disaster!

Women on my 10-Week Best Shape Challenge get the real goods: we go through it all, and more. What makes this program successful is multi-faceted. First, it’s based on real-life experiences gathered from hundreds of women over the years who have improved and solidified their physical, nutritional, and spiritual health and wellness (yes, spiritual…a BIG component of our work here at McCoy Fitness). We use sound nutritional dictates, sports nutrition research, and yes, we use weights to build, shape, tone and strengthen those lovely vessels of ours!

And we offer TONS of support: coaching calls, email, and whatever a client needs to move forward on her healthy living journey. Because this is a journey, to be sure, and one that we can embrace with confidence, with no gimmicks, built from the ground up, sustainable, practical, and successful.

I created the Challenge 6 years ago because I was frustrated with the fitness industry, and seeing women spend so much money on trainers who simply could not relate to a 40 or 50+ woman and all her complicated needs (really, can a 25 year old trainer really relate? And can you PLEASE stop making us do burpees?!. And what about the Canada Food Guide… really? (Let’s scrap that one all together)! And us women need a support network of like-minded women to call on, something all of us on the healthy living journey certainly need for success. It’s time we serve women properly, professionally, with integrity and within a limited budget that they can afford. Enter on-line training….real on-line training (which is NOT just a workout program emailed to you with some recipes!)

With the Challenge, you get it all. For the price of four 1-hour sessions with a trainer, you get 10-weeks of non-stop learning about fitness, nutrition and how we can feed our thirsty spirits! And I’m with you every step of the way. Promise! You won’t fall through the cracks! And we have a philosophy for living, a motto, a creed, that guides us Warrior Women out there. Real. Honest. Earth-based.

Come join us. Because no woman is an island. We’re all in this together!

For more info, please visit We kick-off in 4 days! We have a few spots left! We’d love to have you join us!

I loved every part of the Challenge! I learned sooo much, and there was so much support every week. I especially loved the Coaching Calls and the Q’s and A’s Audios. And you cleared up all the nutrition info that we are bombarded with every day! And I’m loving my body changes. I didn’t think it was possible at 53, but yes, it is! And it’s just the start for me! Thank you Karen!”  – Denise Carbonde, Alberta

“Down 13 pounds and 7% bodyfat. Doesn’t that say it all? Thanks for a non-stop program Karen. It’s hard to explain it to people, there’s nothing like it out there! I’m yours forever!” – Samantha Grabowski, Vancouver, BC