My Story

February 21, 2011

in Blog

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I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you my story, or better yet, my journey. Many of you might want to know how I became passionate about health & fitness. I must say, it hasn’t been an easy path.  There have been many obstacles along the way.  But, if there is a will, there is a way. So alas, here’s my story.

Active Childhood

dance.jpgMost of it started when I was young.  My parents wanted to ensure my brother and I were involved in activities.  When I was 4 years old, I was put into dancing.  I had done everything: ballet, tap, musical theater and jazz. Later on, I also did gymnastics, ice skating and softball. In elementary school, I ran 100 meters, and was also involved in volleyball and basketball. While these were all great experiences, dancing was my favorite.  I continued to dance until I was about 18 years old, until I was finished high school.  Growing up, I’d describe myself as competitive.  I always wanted to do well in school, sports and dance, and make my parents proud. It gave me a big sense of accomplishment if I could reach a goal I set out for myself.  Food-wise, we were a pretty health conscious family.  My mom grew up vegetarian, so she knew a lot about nutrition.  I was one of those kids that had their sandwiches on whole wheat bread with natural peanut butter!  Since I was surrounded with healthy food, naturally, I became interested in natural health from a young age. I remember going to our local health food store as a kid. My dad and my brother weren’t as healthy as my mom and I.  Looking back, I can’t believe that my mom made two meals for the family most nights.  Something for her and I, then something separate for my brother and my dad. I wish I could say that I have amazing genes, but sadly, I do not.  Being overweight runs on my dad’s side of the family, so I really do have to watch what I eat, and if I ate unhealthy, I would for sure gain weight.

Food Sensitivities

When I became a teenager, I was like most kids at that age and ate a lot of junk food.  Most of the time, my lunch in Junior High was fries with gravy, chips and a chocolate bar, or pizza bread and a pop!  I knew it was horribly unhealthy food, but it was all about fitting in. I just wanted to eat what all my friends were eating.  The only saving grace, was that since I was active and walked everywhere, I managed to keep the weight off.  It wasn’t until I was about 14 years old that I noticed I was getting sick a lot.  After many visits to the doctor, being tested for Celiac disease and Crohn’s it was discovered that I was sensitive to dairy products.  I ended up going to a Naturopath, and was diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome caused from an overgrowth of yeast in my intestines.  Doing a food sensitivity test also determined I was sensitive to 26 different foods! Thankfully they were sensitivities and not allergies (big difference!), as I don’t have serious anaphylactic reactions, just a lot of stomach discomfort, bloating, headaches, itchiness etc.  It was very difficult as a teenager doing to a yeast free, sugar free diet when all my friends were eating all the junk food I used to eat.  On the bright side, it sure made me realize the importance of eating the proper foods. I was even vegetarian (practically vegan) for a couple years.  The big downfall to the special diet was that I lost a lot of weight and ended up getting to under 100 lbs.  For my 5’6 frame, it was way too skinny. I had gotten to a point where I was so scared to eat something, that it turned into an eating disorder.  My family started to get very worried, and I of course wanted to be healthy, so I made an effort into expanding my diet and gaining back the weight.  Once I made the decision, it wasn’t before long that I gained back everything I lost (plus a few extra!).  Then, when I got re-tested for sensitivities, it went from 26 foods to 12, a big improvement.  I was then able to have some things in moderation and feel ok and no more food paranoia or restriction.

Feeling Healthier

Then, entering my early twenties, I was doing well.  I felt healthy if I stayed away from dairy products and ate wheat in moderation.  At 19, I started college, ate pretty well and worked out regularly at the gym on campus.  During college, I met my future husband Brent. He was similar to myself health-wise and we’d regularly see each other at the college gym before we started dating. But at this time, I still wasn’t that consistent with working out. If life got busy, it was the first thing that went on the back-burner. During this time, I also would do the occasional diet or cleanse to lose a few pounds. I never did anything that drastic, but I read many books on different diets and eating styles. After a short time I realized diets and cleanses weren’t for me.

Health as a Career Path

Having an interest in health, I had done my college practicum at a natural foods company.  A big turning point was when I attended my first natural health expo. I immediately fell in love with the industry! In 2005, I began working with a well known Canadian supplement manufacturer as an Account Manager. I furthered my education in health and became a Natural Product Advisor and have kept up-to-date with the industry.


In 2005, we got engaged, so of course I wanted to kick up the fitness regimen for the wedding.  I went to kickboxing 3 times a week and really enjoyed that. I watched what I ate, but it was all about keeping portions small.  I thought that in order to look the way I wanted, I had to be hungry a lot of the time.  Even though I knew a lot about health and which foods were healthy and which weren’t, I still had no clue about what to eat to get leaner.  Back then, all I cared about was being a small size.  I had hoped I would get toned, but all my life, I was sort of skinny fat, so I never thought that I had the potential of looking fit.

Here are a couple perfect example of what I looked like before.  My weight frequently fluctuated by 10 lbs.

Thumbnail image for dominican.jpgThumbnail image for skinny fat.jpgI never worked out properly, so my body never changed.  I was a cardio queen.  I dabbled a bit with weights, but had no idea what I was doing and was intimidated by the weight room altogether!


wedding.jpgAfter our wedding in April 2006, I began working out more, 5 days a week.  At this time, it was still pretty much cardio.

Losing a Parent

mom me.jpgUnfortunately, this has been the hardest part of my life to date.  After our wedding, my Mom started declining in health from colon cancer (she was diagnosed in 2004).  By this time it we learned it had spread into her lungs. Later, it also moved into her spine. Exercising helped me deal with all the emotional pain I was going through.   If any of you have ever had a close family member or friend go through cancer, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Its the most helpless feeling you’ll ever experience.  After a long tough battle, my Mom lost her fight in September 2007.  She was my best friend. She was such a healthy person, I just didn’t understand why it happened to her.  She was a perfect example of someone who shouldn’t get cancer.  My dad had been overweight and smoked, yet he was fine?  It just didn’t make sense.  It definitely made me think about throwing in the towel with being healthy altogether. But I knew I couldn’t; my Mom would have never wanted that.  Plus, I knew it gave me such a better quality of life, I couldn’t abandon it.


Happiness after Heartache

bfp.jpgA few months after my Mom passed away, we were blessed with the news that I was pregnant!  It couldn’t have come at a better time, and I believe that this baby was a gift from my Mom.  She knew I always dreamed of having a daughter.

32 weeks pregnant


I had a rough go during pregnancy.  Morning sickness for 16 weeks, then major sciatica and hip pain often referred to as SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction). I was going to massage therapy every week to help with the pain.  But it was all worth in because on July 30, 2008 we welcomed Sienna Lee (Lee was my Mom’s middle name). She was 6 pounds, 6 oz and 3.5 weeks early.

sienna.jpgLabor was pretty quick, and I was able to do it naturally, with no epidural, thanks to the help of my midwife.  I tried to remain as active as possible during the pregnancy, but with the morning sickness, then hip pain, walking and yoga was the best I could do. I gained just over 30 lbs during pregnancy.

Flabby Forever?

So after giving birth, I looked in the mirror and was pretty freaked out!  My body had stretched to some unknown shape and I was flabby all over!  Then I really started thinking my body would never be the same.  I took it easy the first few months, as my energy was low and breastfeeding took a lot out of me. Here, I was hovering about 15 lbs over my comfortable weight, in Sept 2008.

Oct 2008.jpgThen, when Sienna was a few months old, I decided it wanted to do something about it. I enlisted the help of a trainer. I had a good knowledge of nutrition and knew that whole foods were best, but I never had learned the importance of protein until then. So from that point on it was healthy food choices, plenty of protein and lower complex carbs.  Within 1 month, I was seeing a lot of results.  I couldn’t believe it, my body was actually changing!

Compete, Me?

never thought I would ever be fit enough to enter a fitness/bodybuilding competition.  No way. Never in a million years.  I never thought I could actually have abs!  But with the progress I was making, my trainer convinced me that if I wanted to do it, I could. Here I am a few weeks out from my first show. Sienna isn’t quite 7 months old.

pre comp.jpgFrom my first show. I came 4th place in the fitness model category

7 months post baby.jpg My last show (Oct 2009), where I came 1st place and received my Pro Card

re-size.jpgI’m not going to lie, it was hard work.  It took a lot of focus and determination.  I had done a big transformation in a short amount of time.  Skipping workouts and eating badly was not an option.  There were many times I wanted to give up.  It was the biggest mental challenge I’d ever encountered.  But, now that I’ve completed that goal, my mindset has totally changed.  I think differently, I know so much more.  I feel in control of my health and body.  It is a very empowering feeling.  I expanded my knowledge further and became a certified weight trainer.

Even though competing was a good experience, and I have no regrets, in the long run, I’ve decided that its not for me for many reasons.  This post expands on my struggles post-competition and why I decided to retire from competing.

Next, Came Clara

Getting pregnant with Sienna was easy, so I figured when we decided to have a second, it would be too. Wow, was I ever wrong. I never thought I’d have to deal with infertility. For over 2 years we tried with no success. It was for an unexplained reason. All our tests came back normal. If you read my post about why I decided to stop competing, I believe much of the problem was from that, as it really disrupted my hormones. I also suffered an early miscarriage before becoming pregnant with Clara.

Finally, just one month away from our first fertility treatment, I became pregnant. She was born in August 2012.

38 weeks

38 weeks (Copy)

The SPD was even worse this time, and so was the all-day sickness. Even though I went into this pregnancy fit, I simply couldn’t keep up my routine with the pain I was experiencing. I ate as healthy as I could. Walking was even excruciating. Even though I couldn’t exercise, I still managed to only gain around 35 lbs. She came a little early as well at 38 weeks. I posted her full birth story here.

Thankfully, my birth went even faster this time, and was done naturally with no drugs or epidural. I felt amazing even after 1 week, and was anxious to start back at the gym. After 4 weeks postpartum, I gradually started back at the gym. I also did a lot of walking with the stroller the first year.

I wasn’t in a rush to get back into shape this time. It was gradual. No diet needed (or wanted). I really did just exercise and eat the recipes I post on this website.

1 year post-baby

pic 7_e


I’m balanced. Its taken me this long. I never do a diet. I do eat unhealthy foods occasionally, and so do my kids. In our house, its about moderation. I don’t think deprivation is the way. I work out 4-5 days a week, as I feel and look my best when I do.  I  follow a gluten-free way of eating simply because when I eat wheat, I get extremely bloated and tired. I also watch my carb intake a little. I don’t count calories, I just stop when I’m almost full. I guess you could call it intuitive eating. I wouldn’t say I’m a “clean-eater” as that definition is different to every person you ask. I’m just healthy, and like anyone, I like to enjoy the not-so-healthy things sometimes too. I never pretend that I’m perfect, cause I’m the farthest thing from it.  I guess you could say I’ve found my way.  I know there could potentially be more bumps, but now I’m ready for them.  I will never regret the past, as its guided me to the person I am today.

kristine fretwell_6

Now, I’m taken my passion to show people what I have learned.  My focus for this blog is healthy recipes that taste great and are easy to prepare. Most are gluten-free as that’s how I live, but instead of using complicated gums and flours, I have had a lot of success using oat flour (just ground up oats in your blender). I always want my recipes to be 10 ingredients or less, with things that you can find at your local grocery store. We’re busy, I get it, and the easier and yummy something is, the more likely we’ll stick to it. They fuel my active lifestyle (and yes, chasing a toddler counts as an active lifestyle). Most recipes are also low in sugar. I like using stevia and less-processed sweeteners like honey and coconut palm sugar. I use whole food as much as possible, but if there is a healthy shortcut, I’ll take it.  My recipes work with many styles of eating, and I always do my best to provide substitutions. I do also post workouts occasionally, which is also a snapshot of the workouts I’m actually doing. Most of my daily workouts are my 12-week Body Assault Program and I’ve done this full program myself at least 3 times.

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of who I am and how I got here. I hope you stick around to follow the rest of my journey, and get some recipe and workout inspiration along the way. This blog would be nothing without the readers, so its you that I thank for inspiring me to keep my passion going. Hearing your stories touch my heart, and when a healthy recipe is a hit in your house, and can even please the critics, it absolutely makes my day. Thanks for your support!


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I'm Kristine Fretwell, busy mom of 2 little girls, author, blogger, and former pro fitness competitor. I love almost any kind of cookie, anything coconut or pumpkin flavored, and Thai food. A perfect day for me is enjoying my family, getting to the gym, and whipping up a new healthy recipe. I've got a collection of over 300 healthy recipes, and other tidbits like fitness and health tips. My recipes have been featured on websites such as Huffington Post, Savvy Mom, Shape and Skinny Scoop.
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  • Nooc4

    Just read your story.  What a journey, congratulations for your success and I look forward to following your posts/blog.  I’m going to try your oatmeal muffin cups today! 

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  • Sarah

    Oh my story with bad guts is so like yours…and i’m super underweight right now (30 years old) but so not wanting to eliminate foods…i cannot afford a naturopath and my doctor just tells me to eat and gain weight and that will solve the gut issues (apparently generic RD’s and docs just saying ensures …ugh)…i eat “healthy” but do eat dairy, chicken, fish, gluten-free grains, a lot of fats, smoothies, fruit (too much?), nuts, and at night lately i’m so ashamed cause i’ve been binging ALOT on chocolate and gluten-free granola bars 🙁
    the trouble is then my guts feel all not-good, i’m underweight, not gaining…ugh…can u email me? i cannot afford  a consult (i wish)…but LOVE your site (i’m a Canadian too!!…thanks for any help…would love to chat with you,…you seem so balanced and normal)…i need to start gaining now…i’m so disappointed that in the last 3 years i’ve lost my job, failed to gain, and am at a loss…wasted time and still haven’t gained…ugh.
    sorry…i’m clearly frustrated 🙂

    p.s..i don’t even exercise anymmore…i walk once a frustrated, unmotivated, and discouraged about this and not sure what to do when i need to gain…my bmi is only about 14 or 15…30 years old…

    • Kristine Fretwell

      Sorry to hear about your health issues 🙁 I will email you to discuss. Thanks for following along and reading my story! Glad to hear you can relate.

      • Sarah

        Thanks…look forward to hearing from you…you seem so healthy and happy and successful!

  • Anna @ The Guiltless Life

    I’m so excited to have found your blog! I live in Vancouver, BC too (not sure if you live here now but you were raised here so it’s similar!) and I also follow a low-sugar/naturally-sweetened lifestyle as I have always felt sensitive to sugar, I get extreme highs and lows off only a tiny amount, whereas natural sweeteners (lower GI foods) tend to not bother me as much at all. I also have recently really tried upping the amount of protein in my diet because I’m a vegetarian and even though I avoid sugar my naturopath reckons I do have a bit too much starch in my diet relative to protein and fat. It’s tricky but if you manage your food well you can get the balance there in the end! It’s just ideas on how to sneak protein in – particularly into snacks, as I have to snack throughout the day to keep my blood sugar stable and I noticed I tend to rely on sweeter snacks like Larabars, fruit and homemade low-sugar baked goods rather than savoury, so that’s a toughie! Also, I lost my father to cancer in 2008 so I totally feel your pain there, it’s never easy and I was only 23 at the time so it just felt too fast. I think your mom would be super proud to see what you’ve accomplished! I can’t wait to read your blog some more and I’ve already added it to my blog’s Blogroll. 🙂

    • Kristine Fretwell

      Hi Anna! Thanks so much for all your kind words! Its great to meet other local bloggers! Yes, I still live in Vancouver…but in the burbs. Moving back to Port Coquitlam soon, that’s where I grew up. I hear ya on all the sugar stuff….agave isn’t even great for me, that’s why I stick to stevia. Being vegetarian definitely makes it tougher. If you have whey protein, I find that really helps to sneak into recipes. Brown rice protein is great too. Glad you can relate to losing a parent….its really is tough, isn’t it?

      Your blog looks great! I’ve subscribed by email 🙂 Looking forward to following your posts!

      • Anna @ The Guiltless Life

        Yay it’s great you’re local! PoCo is fab, my best friend lives out towards that way (right by Coquitlam Center) and I used to live in south Burnaby but just moved to North Van to be closer to work as the commute was proving a bit of a killer. Have to say I love being closer to the water though! Thanks so much for your kind words and for subscribing, that’s so sweet! I can’t wait to become fast bloggy friends; your blog’s interface is also so pretty! Happy New Year xx

        • Kristine Fretwell

          Ok cool! North Van is beautiful! Yes, I love new bloggy friends too. I need to start a blogroll, haven’t got one of those yet. Thanks, just got the site revamped. So many moving parts! lol!

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