Meet DEANNE VINCENT

#FanGirlFriday

"If we can share our struggles, our flaws, our weaknesses, we can celebrate who are are. I embraced my imperfections because I realized how much it can help other women. I am now so crazy passionate about my journey that I wake up every day wanting to empower other women to do the same. Now, after admitting and embracing that I’m not perfect, I can be anything I want!"

Deanne Vincent (a.k.a. Earthgirl) was born with Hirschsprung's Disease and due to surgery scars, she always felt inadequate and different. What she later realized is that those scars are just part of who she is. She decided to love herself and help others in the process. She started an instagram account (eearth_girl), website and YouTube channel (coming soon) to help women share their stories of perfect imperfection. Now she is happier than ever and is an exercise physiologist and holistic health coach, aiming to help and inspire women everywhere.

Every Ella: Tell us a little about yourself

Deanne Vincent: Hi, my name is Deanne! Also known as earthgirl! I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada where I still live, and my summers were happily spent at my family cottage with my two older sisters and family. I went on to pursue my love of activity and sports growing up with a Bachelor’s in Physical Health and Education with a minor in Psychology and then a post-graduate diploma in Exercise Science for Health and Performance. I love working as an Exercise Physiologist.

Although after several health challenges (spoiler alert!) I am about more than just exercise so am now a certified Holistic Health Coach. I know with all my experiences and what I have gone through that I am passionate about more - my clients ask my if I’m a psychologist! - and want to spend every day helping women love themselves, feel their best, and believe in hope and better.

You were born with Hirschsprung's disease. What is that and how has it affected your life?

Long story short, Hirschsprung’s Disease means that those affected are born without nerves in a part of their large intestine. My sister, who is in med school, could explain it better but basically for me (and everyone is different) it meant I had 4 surgeries as a baby. I don’t remember that part of it - all I know is that I have scars on my stomach and I’ve always had a “sensitive” stomach. I’ll spare you the details, but for me even some “healthy foods” are aggravating to my digestive system and I’m commonly left not feeling my best. I never knew how integral gut health is to your whole well-being. If you have ever suffered with a health struggle, especially related to the digestive system, you’ll know how it can affect your life. Not only because of my sensitive digestive system, but because of my scars I knew I was different. I grew up quiet, shy, and often embarrassed and ashamed of how I am different. Not a lot of people know this actually, but I went to speech therapy as a child. It is amazing how something that might seem “fixed” in your doctor’s eyes manifests in different ways throughout your life.

You also suffer from ovarian cysts and struggled with embarrassment from your surgical scars. What made you decide to embrace your imperfections?

All my life I was embarrassed about my scars. Growing up I compared myself to other girls who were flawless and hated my body. I wasn’t like other girls and I was not only self-conscious about the marks on my body but how it has affected my digestive system. I felt different. It’s hard. I told very few people about my scars because I wanted to be perfect. When I first told my boyfriend about my scars, I cried. It wasn’t until I found out I had a large ovarian cyst that it really shook me.  Again, I told only close family and friends. And after I had that first surgery, I just wanted to put my ovarian cyst and women’s health struggles behind me. But you know that funny line about something sticks around until you learn what you need to from it? It wasn’t until two years and two surgeries later that things actually changed for me. My fertility doctor and surgeon didn’t want to do another surgery to remove a cyst only to have it grow back a couple months later. The next surgery I would’ve had was going to include an oophorectomy. A removal of an ovary.

I want kids, and although you can still get pregnant with one third of one ovary, this wasn’t what I wanted. All my health practitioners were telling me to have a baby now while I could. So naturally, I thought if I was going to get pregnant I needed to take folic acid - but what folic acid? These were answers I didn’t know, so I saw a naturopath and holistic nutritionist to figure out how to make me the healthiest I could be for my future children. I didn’t do it for me. I had given up on me.

So for my unborn children - cue dramatic music - I totally revamped my diet and lifestyle, started with different vitamins and supplements, and I stopped taking the birth control pill that my fertility doctor wanted me on non-stop in the effort to control my cysts. Changing my diet, my habits, my life, I was willing to do anything I could to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. I never thought I could heal myself. The funny thing is, when I did this - I felt the best I had in my whole entire life. I was stunned. I didn’t realize I had lived my whole life feeling like crap. For the first time I felt like I had control over my digestive system, and body. Knock on wood, now over a year later, I am cyst-free and it has been the longest in four years without having a surgery!

It wasn’t until I decided to be honest about how I wasn’t perfect from birth that I could heal myself. And a funny thing happens when you start feeling your best - you start thinking your best and acting your best. I started to think I could live a life I wanted to lead, instead of something that was dictated by my health. I started to believe in myself and love my body. I felt truly confident. And I started to share my story. (Even though at first it was only through an anonymous instagram account; @eearth_girl!) I was vulnerable. It was scary, trust me, but the more I opened up about my struggles with other women in my life, the more I learned I wasn’t the only one. Everyone has a story. If only I knew this before! These struggles are so normal, yet it feels so isolating. We feel the need to hide our imperfections while comparing ourselves to others who are also silently not perfect either. And then we feel inadequate and even more ashamed about our flaws.

As women we see so many images of “perfection” that you want to be that perfect girl too.  You don’t want to have something “wrong with you” or be different or be anything less than perfect.  It is so hard to be happy with your “imperfect” self.  It is a battle.  We strive for perfection, are our own worst critic, and aren’t happy if we fall short of those standards we set in our minds.  For so long I was unhappy because I am far from perfect…  I used to feel like something was wrong with me.  I will never have the perfect, flat, six pack stomach that I see so many times on other women.  I was born imperfect.  And I’ve only gotten more imperfect since - heck, even my nose is too big to be perfect.  I have my flaws, that’s for sure.  But I remember hearing a quote that says “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” (John Steinbeck)  And that is such a powerful relief.  For my whole life I’ve tried to hide my flaws.  I wanted to be perfect.  But why?  We have flaws, we are not flawed.

If you allow a negative to have power over you, then it will have power over you.  Trust me, there were a couple years of my life I wish I could get back because I was in such a negative mindset and letting my lack of control over my health dictate my life.  Today, I am grateful for my struggles and my imperfections because I now believe your story and your lowest lows make you powerful.

If we can share our struggles, our flaws, our weaknesses, we can celebrate who are are.  I embraced my imperfections because I realized how much it can help other women.  I am now so crazy passionate about my journey that I wake up every day wanting to empower other women to do the same.  Now, after admitting, and embracing, that I’m not perfect, I can be anything I want!  And so can you!  Because we are so much more than our imperfections.  There is beauty in your struggle.  I wouldn’t be who I am today without my struggles, and my imperfections, and neither would you.  Vulnerability is scary, but it without it we can’t experience true connection and meaning.  Release that idea of “perfection”, there is no such thing.  Be more than perfect.  There is beauty and hope in your struggles and I want you to feel empowered by being you.  You are not alone.  This imperfect life we lead can be so gloriously perfect if we let it.

Everyone has a story. And there isn’t a single person you couldn’t love once you heard their story.  I want to empower women to own their story and embrace their imperfections.  We are all perfectly imperfect women, and once you unearth yourself you can live a life that is powerfully passionate.

Tell us about your career as an exercise physiologist and health coach.

I am so lucky to be working in a field that I eat, breathe, and live.  I believe in exercise and food as a medicine.  After everything I’ve gone through, those things have been there for me and have changed my life.

I will be the first to say I’m not a superstar athlete, but I love working out.  If you take the time to look after your body, it’ll look after you.  Physical fitness and commitment to health builds mental toughness.  Being disciplined in working out and nutrition not only translates to your body, but to every aspect of your life.  I knew with this mental toughness that I could handle a surgery.  Without this background of challenges already I don’t think I would’ve been able to make it through multiple surgeries back to back.  Mentally more than physically.  These physical struggles have made me mentally strong and now, I know I can do anything.

This is what I try and share with my clients, this passion for hard work because you want to be better, yet approaching it with love.  This love for yourself is what my health coaching clients learn.  You shouldn’t punish your body or hate it, or feel like you have to break it down.  I want women to know that the key is loving their body.  Loving your body enough to nourish it, listen to it, treat it, take care of it, understand it, and be proud of it.  I know what unhealthy and unwell feels like, so I know the difference feeling healthy and well makes.  I have dreams and plans and ideas and wishes that I have only because I am feeling so good now.  Only when you feel your best can you be your best.  When you take ownership over your body and health, you have ownership over your life.  And when we help ourselves, then we can help others.  Whether it is through exercise, nutrition, or both, if someone feels better about themselves then they will help others feel better.  It is a cycle.  When we help others we become better people, and those better people want better.  They want better in their health and loved ones’ health, in the difference they can make in this world, and in their life and in their dreams.

What do you love most about helping others?

I am happiest when I am helping someone.  I want others to feel good, simply put.  I use exercise and nutrition as a means of accomplishing that, but it turns into more than that.  I am really passionate about talking to people and hearing their story.  At the end of the day we all just want to be heard and feel like we’re not alone - we just need each other.  After finding out I had a large ovarian cyst when I was 22 I never felt more alone.  I didn’t want to tell anyone what was going on - I wanted to be perfect, as if there was nothing “wrong with me”.  But slowly, as I did tell some, I learned how many of us have had some connection to a similar situation to mine in their own personal life.  These struggles we all have are so normal, yet it feels so isolating.  And if we get rid of the shame and fear a person can feel, then they are unstoppable.

When I first told my Mom I started an anonymous instagram account and shared my “story” and was starting to share other women’s stories of perfect imperfection, I was somewhat sheepish.  But she just looked at me with watery eyes and said, “That’s what I always used to say when you were a baby.  Even though you had your surgeries and well… you are perfect.  My perfect baby.”  I knew in that moment that I was meant to do this.  I started slowly by owning my story, and I am empowering others to do the same.  Because I know what it feels like to be embarrassed, inadequate, worried, negative, overthink things all the time, to struggle, and not fully feel like yourself and love your life.

If we could share our stories, be vulnerable, perfectly imperfect, then it will help.  Help us feel okay with ourselves, help us learn from others, help us connect, and help us feel better.  We’ve all been through something, have struggled, and felt alone.  Would it have helped if you could hear of someone who’s been through something similar to you, parallel experiences to give you hope, inspire you, so you don’t feel alone?  I know it would’ve helped me.

Brené Brown said, “Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” Let’s risk vulnerability to gain connection and love.  I want women to know we are in this together and by being powerfully passionate about how you are perfectly imperfect you will fall in love with your core, yourself, and your world. And you can not only change your world, but the whole world.

I have started sharing women’s stories (#earthgirlstories! on instagram and now branching out to be YouTube interviews) so you know you are not alone, there is strength in struggle, and there is always potential more more and better.  You are surrounded by a community of acceptance and belonging, united by our flaws and scars, and always focused on the good.  Being vulnerable isn’t easy, I think I will always struggle with it, however I have a fire burning inside me to help women like me, like you.  Our stories make us us, and make us better than perfect.  By risking vulnerability we are gaining connection, worth, and love.

I want to help you to love yourself, just as you are, and to love the heck out of every second of your life!  Loving yourself through all your struggles is one of the hardest things to do.  Trust me, I know.  But you are worthy.  Worthy of love and belonging.  I want you to love yourself so much you take care of yourself, believe in yourself, and be the best you can be. So that you can go out and be who you are meant to be and do all that you are meant to do.  I want you to never stop hoping and trying and living and loving.

As earthgirls, I want to help you unearth yourself so you can live your life so fully, that there is nothing holding you back. I want you to fall in love with your world. With braver loving and braver living.

What are your goals for the future?

I want to make this world a better place.  I want to be happy and healthy, making the most of every single moment, yes, but there is more to my future.  My life is given meaning when I help people.  I want to empower women - not only through fitness, nutrition, and health, but in their life.

So of course, I don’t think my future could exist without being an Exercise Physiologist and Holistic Health Coach in some capacity.  I will always want to help women feel their best and teach them how to move and eat with love.

But I also want a world of earthgirls.  I will continue to share #earthgirlstories on instagram and my blog, and I am now interviewing women and sharing them on YouTube. A goal of mine is to start a podcast for earthgirls so they unearth themselves, live powerfully passionate, and fall in love with their world. I have dreams of creating a movement of open, vulnerable, real women who are owning their story.  These earthgirls are empowered, accepting, loving women who are gloriously, happily, and perfectly imperfect.  They are not afraid to be honest, challenge those around them, and live with purpose every single day.

My goal is to help women become alive.  So many of us go through life without really living.  No more I say!  I have recently started Empowerment Coaching where I dive into what is missing in women’s lives; be it health, wellness, purpose, passion and/or self-love to change your life.  It a one-on-one coaching program for those who are feeling stuck, uninspired, unloveable, struggling, unhealthy, lacklustre, unwell, unfulfilled, apathetic, unworthy, and/or unhappy, BUT have a fire burning inside them and they are passionate about making a better future.  Because every woman has a story they can own. This coaching is from my heart, and I want to help women who are meant to be and do more, so we unearth the passion inside them and reveal the person they’ve dreamed of being, and are meant to be!  I want to help women become passionate about their lives and making a difference, and be a force for good.  So get ready to unearth the real you and set your soul on fire, ladies!  Because the sky is the limit for you, earthgirl.

I would say Future You deserves it, but truthfully you deserve more.  You deserve the world.  So let’s give you the world.

Name one woman who has inspired you.

One?  Now that’s a hard question.  I am going to say something selfish, but honest - something I would’ve never let myself say before now.  One woman who has inspired me is me.  I never used to allow myself to feel special or proud.  How could I be inspirational?  I was flawed and had a dysfunctional body.  I try to be humble and shrug off compliments and make it about other people.  Because making other people happy and making this world a better place is what gets me up in the morning.  But I’ve realized that being “selfish” is not always selfish.  If I take care of myself and am confident, I am unshakeable.  I will quietly continue to inspire myself, because I believe in myself more than ever before.  I inspire myself both from me ten years ago, and me ten years from now.  Me ten years ago because of all she has been through and all that was yet to come; full of potential, innocence, and love.  Me ten years from now inspires me because I aspire to be the best person I can be, making those goals a reality, and will never stop living and loving.

And that me is also you.  I want you to be inspired by you.  We as women so often sacrifice ourselves to make others happy, and put everyone else ahead of yourself.  So be selfish, goshdarnit.  Because you need to love yourself, take care of yourself, and do things for you every single day.  Inspire yourself, commit to you, make it happen.  Make yourself your #MotivationMonday, heck, and your #WomanCrushWednesday, and you’ll live a life of health, happiness, and pride.  Create a life you want.  So you can be in love with your world.

What do you like to do for fun?

As an Exercise Physiologist working out is my idea of fun!  I know, I know… but it is my “me time”.  That and playing sports for fun.  I love being physical and active because I love my body.  It is an amazing thing to just be breathing, controlling your body, without thinking, just feeling strong, and pushing yourself to be better.

The other thing that I do for fun is food!  I must confess, I am a self-professed foodie!  I have always loved food.  My boyfriend jokes that there is nothing that makes me happier than food.  I happily spend hours in my kitchen making master salads and baking healthy treats, think about what I’m going to eat next as soon I finish one meal, and can’t help but do a little dance when I eat something particularly delicious.  I have turned my love for food into a love for healthy food.  With a tea in hand, music or podcast playing, there is nothing that makes me happier.  Other than perhaps spending time with my close family and friends.  It makes my heart happy.  I’m a real homebody.  It’s tough to beat a good tea, a warm fire, a captivating book, and feels-like-home cuddles.  It’s the simple things in life, folks.

What one piece of advice would you give women today?

Love love love.  That’s all there is.  Simple.  I want women to fall in love with their world.

Life is so short - you shouldn’t spend a single second unhappy!  Fall in love with your body (right down to your core), take care of it and your mind, own your story and who you are, and give love away.  Don’t be so hard on yourself, don’t overthink, don’t compare, don’t worry, just love.

Love yourself enough to treat yourself well and speak to yourself well.  Love others enough that you can't help but say it and they know how much they are loved.  And love the life and world you create.  Be brave in your love and brave in your life.

Don’t stop loving, don’t stop living.  Always.