Photo Credit: Becca’s Photography
Shannon Craig wants to inspire others. This certified health coach, group fitness instructor and mom of two can’t help but to inspire every person she encounters. It’s in her words and the way she speaks. She inspires healthier lifestyle choices, and she inspires others to love themselves on a very deep level.
But she says it wasn’t always this way, and that at one point in her own life, even when it seemed that she was living the healthiest of lifestyles, it all came crashing down. Her health failed for a brief period due to a rare autoimmune illness, and just when she thought she knew everything there was to know about living healthy, she was forced to make big changes around more than just food and exercise.
Not only are we beyond excited to share Shannon’s personal story with you here, we are also excited to announce that she’s coming on board at The Southern Well Being as our Creative Editor. So, you’ll get to learn even more from her beautiful perspective and how she chooses to interact with the world around her.
Read on to get to know Shannon more and to hear her story, and be sure to stop by her personal Instagram page to say hello and welcome her to The Southern Well Being. As always, feel free to reach out to Shannon or any of us with feedback on what you’d love to see more of on The Southern Well Being.
YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY VERY HEALTH PASSIONATE. TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR OWN HEALTH JOURNEY AND HOW YOU CAME TO STUDY AND COACH OTHERS AROUND HEALTHY LIVING AND NUTRITION…
Nutrition and fitness sparked my interest as early as my late teens. I studied nutrition in school and worked at a local gym in my college town. I would read books on all the latest nutrition trends and continued to focus on my nutritional intake and physical movement well into adulthood. I had an understanding at an early age about fueling the body for optimal performance and pushing for physical excellence. This is what health looks like, right? Eat real foods most of the time and push your body to peak physical performance most days of the week?
But, I found out on Christmas Eve in 2008, that optimal health and wellness is so much more than simply eating what I considered to be healthy foods and pushing the body to exhausting places. I was finally forced to consider the possibility that dis-ease that shows up in your body can actually be a blessing for the soul. I can wholeheartedly say that my battle with an autoimmune illness which flared up that Christmas Eve, is the very thing that has blessed my life everyday since. I truly believe that it was the disconnect between my mind, body and soul that manifested this rare autoimmune disease in the first place. And my health and wellness journey took a big turn after that health scare.
I went on to become a certified health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I began to focus on a more balanced way of living. I now focus on a more personalized way of eating, listening to my body and eating foods that serve my body and my digestive system, moving my body in a way that actually feels good and not just pushing through intense workout sessions because I think that’s what I should be doing, creating a new passion for fueling my mind with positive and inspirational books and podcasts and the most challenging but definitely the most rewarding…developing a deep sense of love and compassion for myself through quieting my mind and body every single day with a practice of 10-15 minutes of mindful prayer and meditation. This has actually become the kind of food that I crave the most, this soul food. I find it so rewarding to not only live this lifestyle around centered and balanced health but to also encourage and inspire those around me to begin their very own personalized health and wellness journey. This journey is the one that fuels the mind, body and soul to optimal health and wellness. I speak from personal experience.
AS A GROUP FITNESS INSTRUCTOR, WHAT KIND OF A ROLE HAVE YOU FOUND THAT FITNESS AND MOVEMENT PLAY IN LEADING OTHERS TO TAKE A LOOK AT OTHER AREAS OF HEALTH? DO YOU FIND THAT EXERCISE IS A SORT OF GATEWAY TOWARDS WALKING A MORE HEALTH CONSCIOUS PATH?
I absolutely love teaching group fitness! It’s so rewarding and inspiring to be around a group of people that made a choice to walk into a space for the sole purpose of bettering themselves. Moving our bodies, in my opinion, is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences that we are privileged enough to do. Coming from a place of having this privilege taken from me while recovering from my autoimmune disease, I strive to never take this pleasure and privilege for granted. Releasing all of the feel good endorphins and cleansing the body of stored up energy and toxins can switch a mood so quickly. Having the opportunity to lead others to better physical health is not a task that I take lightly. I choose to use this time to speak kindness and encouragement into my class with the hopes that I send them on to conquer their day feeling inspired and encouraged to face the world with more confidence. I believe that when we add in the element of daily intentional movement through exercise, we stay more connected when it comes to making mindful and healthy choices for the rest of the day.
HOW ABOUT NUTRITION…WHAT PART DO YOU BELIEVE FOOD PLAYS IN LIVING OUR HEALTHIEST LIVES?
The way we fuel our bodies nutritionally plays such a vital role in our overall health. Food can be our healing medicine or our harmful drug. So often I hear someone say, “Just tell me what to eat, I’ll follow your directions and recipes,” and this stops me in my tracks. Our health is no one’s responsibility but our own. I urge everyone to invest in yourself whole heartedly and take the necessary time to determine which foods are your medicine and which foods are your poison. Eating the wrong foods for your body (and I want to be clear here that I’m even referring to some foods that are considered to be very healthy) can literally be poison to your individual makeup. We shouldn’t feel bloated, uncomfortable, gassy, tired or experience reflux or heartburn after we eat. These are all signs that whatever you just digested does not serve you or your health. Ignore what your neighbor, co-worker or spouse is eating and tune into what feels good for YOU to eat. You should feel energized, happy, awakened and vibrant after eating foods that serve you. Don’t sacrifice health for a short period of satisfaction. Feeling good looks good on everyone, and when we feel good, we live good.
IN THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS SPACE, ONE OF THE BIG TOPICS RIGHT NOW IS AROUND BALANCE AND HOW IT’S TRULY THE THING WE ALL SHOULD STRIVE FOR. HOW DO YOU FIND BALANCE IN YOUR OWN LIFE?
If I’m completely honest, I don’t always. Life has curve balls and valleys but I can say that balance is always at the forefront of my mind and I’m striving to always be conscious of what my mind and body are trying to tell me. I’ve been known to set a reminder on my phone just to remind me to stop and check in to what my mental and physical status is. If I’m stressed or overwhelmed I’ll take time to work through that emotion with intentional breathing and then I’ll try to release that negative energy. If my body is under distress I try to recognize it and take a minute to bring understanding to why that discomfort is present and what I can do to eliminate it and move forward without it. I’ve found that a daily walk works wonders for me. My phone, earbuds, tennis shoes and an inspiring podcast can bring me back into balance in a heartbeat. Staying conscious of the moment as well, and creating awareness around my physical and mental status and the amount of fun I’m having in the moment helps me to regain and keep more balance in my days.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS HOLDING PEOPLE BACK THE MOST WHEN IT COMES TO LIVING THEIR HEALTHIEST LIVES WITH THE MOST JOY, FULFILLMENT AND HAPPINESS?
Past experiences and failures and eating more in the current “fad” diet instead of recognizing or knowing which foods serve them and which foods are harming them. Bioindividuality is a concept I learned through my studies at IIN and it’s truly a game changer when it comes to helping others on their health and wellness journey. Not only around discovering which foods to consume and avoid, but also tuning in to what type of physical movement serves them for the day, which relationships are propelling them forward and which ones are holding them back, recognizing areas of their life that are stagnant and not supporting growth, shedding any negative stored emotions that are literally weighing them down and preventing optimal health and radiant living and lastly but most definitely not least, the lack of self love and self care. When people begin to see the value in daily self care, that’s when the light bulb seems to get brighter and brighter and they finally see that they are the light they were intended to be, not only for themselves but for the world.
AS A MOM OF TWO, WHAT DO YOU FIND HELPS YOU MOST IN YOUR DAILY LIFE TO HELP YOU STAY ON TRACK WITH FEELING GOOD YOURSELF, SO YOU CAN ALSO TEACH YOUR KIDS AND GUIDE THEM TOWARDS LIFESTYLE CHOICES THAT ALSO MAKE THEM FEEL THEIR BEST?
Being a mom to my two girls is so rewarding and yet so challenging at times. The responsibility of raising two little people to essentially grow up and become two well rounded and functioning adults can be down right overwhelming at times. I find that the days that I stay on track with my morning routine of waking before them and fueling myself with self care and compassion, are the days that I tend to have more grace and patience for what the day has in store as a mom. I encourage my girls to always check in with their bodies. If they are tired, then rest. If they are struggling with digestion, to consider what they had to eat that may have contributed. If they are upset, to take a moment and name the emotion that they’re feeling. I truly want them to learn to live more intuitively by checking in with their physical and emotional status often to gain confidence around being able to heal most all discomfort themselves. Our children are so impressionable and they are always watching us. Leading by example and encouraging them to always ask questions are a couple of the ways I strive to support them on their journey through this big, amazing world.
WHAT ROLE DO YOU BELIEVE FOCUSING MORE ON YOUR SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND PERSONAL GROWTH HAVE PLAYED IN GETTING TO THE PLACE YOU’RE IN NOW WITH YOUR HEALTH AND HAPPINESS?
This part of my lifestyle has had the most significant positive change in my overall health and wellness journey, without a doubt. Investing in myself with personal care and inspirational books, surrounding myself with positive and like minded people and really diving into a passionate and intimate spiritual practice has improved my own health more than I could have imagined. When I miss my quiet time with God, that time when I get completely still and in receiving mode and listening to the spirit inside waiting and longing to guide me, I feel lost and very scattered. Before I began this daily practice, I was quick to snap and I would let my emotions get the best of me. I lived mostly in a state of fight or flight, battling anxiety and struggling to breathe deeply. I know I had constant inflammation and dis-ease in my body. Creating such an intimate daily ritual of investing in my soul is how I have found so much more peace. It’s easier to surrender to the process and trust that where I am is exactly where I am supposed to be, leading from a clear sense of understanding and making decisions more from my heart rather than my head.
WHAT DOES YOUR MORNING ROUTINE LOOK LIKE THAT SETS YOU UP FOR A CENTERED, PEACE-FILLED DAY?
Mornings are sacred. I’m an early riser and I truly believe it’s only because I know how much I benefit from spending this time with myself every morning before the hustle of the day begins. I’m at a point in my life where nothing sounds better than self care. A typical morning for me is up before the sun, warm cup of green chai tea, my daily devotional, 10-15 minutes of prayer and meditation and then journaling. It truly centers me, bringing me into a place that feels relaxed and in control. I’ve asked for guidance and grace and I’ve surrendered to God’s outcome for the day before it even happens. And my mood really pays the price if for some reason I’m not able to go through my morning routine.
WHAT’S THE MANTRA YOU’RE CURRENTLY LIVING BY?
Right now the word “language” keeps coming up for me. I believe this is referring to the words that I choose to speak into myself and into those around me. It’s referring to being mindful of the power of words and staying positive, creating more space for loving thoughts and less room for negativity and engaging with strangers and speaking kindness into them as well. I also believe this means placing myself in social situations that breed kindness and not gossip or icky chatter, and soaking up positive language through the books I choose to read and the music and podcasts I choose to listen to.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT IN COMING ON BOARD AT THE SOUTHERN WELL BEING?
Connecting with people! I absolutely love learning from others and I can not wait to dive in and collaborate with incredible and inspiring human beings from all walks of life. I’m most excited to showcase how amazing people are and I believe that just by simply sharing the stories of others, someone else out there may be touched, inspired and encouraged to create a positive change in their own life. We are such creative beings looking for foods, activities, relationships, deeper connections and inspiring places to wander that deepen our relationships with ourselves and others. Inspiring others to explore new things and new places, to implement new self care rituals and to discover new ways to heal ourselves are all things I hope to provide to the readers of The Southern Well Being, simply through sharing stories from others as well as providing continued findings via my own personal exploration and research.