Life's Lessons

One of Hélène's favourite morning walks along the water in Ottawa.


Hélène Sinclair knows about hard times. She knows even more about overcoming them. 

Over the past ten years, Hélène watched her life fall apart, only to rebuild it piece by piece. And now, at 46, she's at a good place.

"My mom used to say 'life begins at 40,' she says. "No looking back, always moving forward. It's never too late to be what you might have been." 

For Hélène, the tough times started when her husband left her. Then, a month later, her mother died of cancer.

Suddenly, Hélène was a single mom with two girls - one five, the other 18 months. Both her parents were now gone. And eventually, she lost her job, her house - everything. Emotional eating became a source of comfort. And Helene gained weight. 

Over time, her doctor put her on medication to control her blood pressure, depression and stress. "That was my wake-up call," she says.

With a family history of depression, heart disease and stroke, Hélène knew she had to change. 

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Six years ago, she started exercising. Two years later, she and her girls moved to Ottawa from Sudbury (where Helene grew up).

"I didn't have a job, everything was new," she says. But Hélène hit the ground running. She found a job, eventually got laid off, but that same day applied for a new job. 

"I knew as soon as I saw the posting, it was for me," she says. "And out of 200 applicants, I got it."

That job was at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. Hélène is part of a team that studies obesity in kids and encourages active living.

"Being surrounded by people with the same passion for helping others, especially children has really helped me," she says. "I'm lucky to be where I am."

But that's only part of Helene's transformation. Exercise is a big part as well. 

Since moving to Ottawa, Hélène has watched her diet, tracked her calories, and logged her activity minutes. Each day at lunch, she walks a few kilometres. And she works out five times a week - usually at home with weights, an elliptical, or a DVD.

As of this summer, Hélène has lost 30 pounds and wants to lose another 20. 

"I don't put pressure on myself. It's not a time limit, it's a lifestyle change," she says. "The weight loss hasn't happened overnight, but with consistency and changing things up, you get there."

Now, Hélène has more energy and sleeps better. She's off blood pressure medication. And she says exercise is great for depression. 

"I live near the river and go for walks, which is really nice," she says. "My bike is next. We have a lot of trails which I haven't checked out yet."  

Along the way, Hélène joined Live Right Now and Sparkpeople.com - building a network of hundreds of friends with common goals. "So, when you don't feel up to it, you've got someone 

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there to push you." 

She's also read self-help books and attended conferences and workshops - all to create a healthy life in mind, body and spirit. 

"I used to be negative, grouchy, unhappy," she says. "Now, I read positive things. I blog. And I've learned not to hold on to negative things."

Hélène has learned simple things too - control her portions, bring her lunch, and arrange her fridge so she sees the healthy stuff first. 

Plus, she plans ahead and tries a new recipe each week. "Now that my girls are older (16 & 11), it's easier to get them to try new things," she says. "And I get them involved. My older daughter loves cooking now."

And Hélène loves her new life. In fact, she's hoping to become a life coach to help people facing similar experiences.

"You can either be a victim or take control and write your own story. Every day is a new day, a new chance," she says. 

"Life is full of surprises, it's how you deal with it. You get hit with shock and trauma. You go through grief and anger. But I got through it. And I wanted to make a better life for me and my girls."

Safe to say, she has.


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