Vol. 17: Rachel Birenbaum

Vol. 17: Rachel Birenbaum

Today I get to introduce you to my friend, neighbor and client Rachel. She's Toronto born and raised and a single mom of two school-aged kids. Rachel is a proud Humewood community member and has lived in the neighbourhood since 2013. She recently left her job as an SVP at a fast-growing company after sixteen years and is taking some time to explore her next career step. She's also a breast cancer survivor. Rachel is fiercly independent, an incredibly reliable friend and has a dry, witty sense of humor. They say that it's hard to make new friends as adults and I'm very grateful to gained Rachel as one of mine. You're going to love, love, love reading her mantras and feel-good tips.

Tell me about your morning self-care routine: I love mornings and feel pretty useless after 9pm. No morning is without coffee, a healthy breakfast, and a shower. I wash my hair every day and you will never convince me to do otherwise. Dry shampoo people – you are an enigma to me.

What is your favourite, nourishing breakfast? My favourite breakfast is some combination of fruit, plain Greek yogurt (with milkfat), and granola. These days I pre-make smoothies the night before for my kids and me, with granola added in the morning and sometimes some chia seeds and raw cacao nibs too. I definitely do not make the granola myself – we eat A LOT of One Degree granola for its relatively low sugar content and price point compared to other organic granolas, and one of the flavours is cacao. You all now have permission to eat chocolate for breakfast. You’re welcome.

What's your feel-good beverage of choice? Any dark roast, organic and fair-trade coffee made strong and served black will get me going. Some days, a glass of wine or splash of Sambuca in my tea keeps me going.

What does your weekly movement routine look like? For several years I was a fairly consistent, three days per week participant in Justine’s 6:30am workouts. This was the foundation and any additional movement was bonus. Lately, my week-about parenting schedule coupled with not working has made consistency a real challenge. I’m trying to lean into this rare opportunity for rest while I’m off work while staying at least a little bit active. I’ve recently added 1:1 workouts with Justine to help me with that through the fall. Every so often, I’ll go to a dance class with a friend at City Dance Corps in the neighbourhood. I once walked 100km in 36 hours as part of an Oxfam fundraiser; today, walking to St. Clair can sometimes feel like a struggle. I’m working on that.

Name your top values and tell us a little about why they're important to you - what do you stand for? Family and friends, man. In June 2022, barely a year after I left my marriage and a few years after losing my mother, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was very scared that I had no gas left to withstand this latest blow, after already having faced such significant challenges (not to mention the pandemic). And then all my people showed up for me in all the ways. I am incredibly privileged and grateful to have such an amazing community of friends, family, neighbours, (former) coworkers and I do not take it for granted. This is what matters to me.

When it comes to mindset, are there any mantras that you live by? One is: Simplify, simplify, simplify. I think this one explains itself. The second is: Take the help. In our society, accepting help is not that highly valued and is seen as a sign of weakness or neediness. How about this instead: you are deserving of the help that is offered to you. I urge you to take it. The last is: Go after pleasure. It is perhaps a rebranding of my late mother’s saying, “don’t deprive yourself.” There is enough pain and hardship in this life; going after joy or pleasure in that context feels, for me anyway, reasonable and necessary.

What is your number one indulgence? CHOCOLATE. The darker, the better. Give it to me raw and organic and with political diatribes written on the wrapper and we are friends forever.

Tell us about a feel-good product that you're obsessed with. I’m a longtime user of Routine natural deodorants, switching between the baking soda and charcoal formulas from time to time. I swear by this deodorant and love the smell and hipster branding (they literally have a scent called Dirty Hipster and it makes a great shampoo!).

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