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Anna Mackenzie is a Software Engineer at GrowSumo, a Toronto based startup that powers partnership programs into serious revenue. She studied at the University of Toronto. When she is not working, she enjoys sharing her passion for development as a JavaScript mentor at HackerYou and at Canada Learning Code (formerly Ladies Learning Code). Additionally, Anna is the co-founder of The Expecting Playbook, a toolkit designed to help startups roll out a competitive parental leave policy, no matter their size. She also sits on the board of #MoveTheDial, an organization dedicated to increasing the participation of female leadership in tech. 

Anna is also passionate about Essentrics, a movement class she teaches at Framewrk studio in downtown Toronto. Essentrics is a full-body technique that works through the muscle chains, liberating and empowering the muscles, relieving them from tension in the process. 


Do you have any morning rituals/ what’s the first thing you do when you wake?

The first thing I do when I wake up is find 5 minutes to sit with myself and greet myself into this day. Sometimes I try to pinpoint exactly how I am feeling just to get a sense of what might be going on internally. I try to tune into if my energy is high or low etc. Then I head to the kitchen to make a morning concoction. Usually it’s coffee with coconut oil and collagen but sometimes I switch it up and put a banana and some protein powder in. Lately, I’ve been inspired by you Hilary and have been doing matcha mornings. I always put everything in my blendtec because I like it to be warm and frothy. Then, depending on which day of the week it is, I will either do some journaling in the sun room and try to appreciate the stillness and the sun or the moon OR I will work out (essentrics) in my living room while my fox hound, Maui, supervises (aka sleeps on the couch). As a general rule, I never like to rush my mornings, when I do I feel off for the rest of the day.


What does a typical day of eating look like for you?

For my eating schedule I try my best to eat only when I am hungry so sometimes that means a delayed breakfast or no breakfast and sometimes that means multiple snacks throughout the day. It all depends on how much energy I’m using. I typically get to work around 9:30am and since I’ve put coconut oil & collagen in my morning concoction I am usually satiated until about noon. However, if I had a really hard workout or a morning run or I spent a lot of mental energy working in a logic problem I’ll have a snack around 11am (almonds, oatmeal, banana).
Lunch is typically between 12 and 12:30 and I usually get something from Kumphert and Kim (vegan lunch place) because it’s near my office or I’ll bring a protein / veggie situation from home (grilled chicken, salmon, salad, zucchini, asparagus, sweet potato).
Afternoon I will sometimes have a snack, again depends on how I feel. Sometimes I bring snacks and don’t eat them but other times I need double snacks. Afternoon snack is usually greek yogurt, dry oats, berries, chia seeds, hemp hearts, coconut shreds and nut butter OR a vegan cookie :). I’m not a vegan but I’m allergic to dairy so I end up choosing that kind of thing because I know it’s safe for me.
Dinner varies as I am often teaching essentrics after work or going to a fitness class or I have a work event. I wish I was home for dinner more but unfortunately this is the nature of my job. I am still mindful of eating well. I know what is good for me and what is not when it comes to eating out so I will go out of my way to find something that aligns with my fitness goals. I think that being allergic to dairy helps because I often don’t have to choose to not eat junk as a lot of it has dairy! For instance, at tech events they always have pizza so I will jump out to a salad place before the event to make sure I’m not hungry. Luckily, I live and work downtown so there are a LOT of options for me to eat healthy on the go.


What are some of your fridge and pantry staples?

Because of how busy I am and since I don’t live close to a grocery store I have to choose things that are non-perishable but still give me what I need as much as possible. In the summer it is better because I am near a market and I can get fresh everything but in the winter I have to be more selective and make sure my kitchen is stocked with healthy things that give me the nutrients I am after. Below is a list with a few details on why I keep these around and why they are the first things to run out.

Great Lakes Collagen - I absolutely love this stuff and put it in whatever I am having first thing in the morning. My friends use it too and we have all noticed a huge impact in our skin, hair and nails. I did a lot of research on this particular brand and it’s the only one I will use. Also, most people don’t know this but  if something topical contains collagen, it is really useless. It is not going to get into the intercellular matrix of collagen under your skin because collagen is a large molecule. It won’t pass through cell membrane pores. However, collagen stimulating is different. I’m not saying topical collagen stimulating products work but it is more likely to work. Ingestion of collagen, however, does work and I highly recommend it.  

Coconut Oil - For obvious reasons I use this in my coffee and smoothies. I sometimes cook with it. I bake with it. I often moisturize with it.

Tahini - Yum, such a great source of healthy fat. I use tahini when I make my own bowls (quinoa, veggies, etc) or I often put it on toast with nutritional yeast. It is so delicious. Sometimes I make it as a breakfast to go, especially if I am teaching an early morning class and I need the carb energy.

Nut butter - sometimes it’s almond, sometimes it’s peanut butter. I go for whatever is on sale. I choose the nuts for you brand but anything organic is fine. I just never go for the kraft ones. Nut butter is great for everything in order to satisfy the sweet tooth.

Natural Calm Magnesium - Every night I take this! It helps my muscles relax and it helps me fall asleep. They call it the anti-stress drink. All I know is that I can’t live without it.

Fish Oil - I try to take this every day but sometimes I forget because it is really disgusting to take the liquid form. It is so good for you though and so I make myself do it.

Almond Milk - for coffee and smoothies etc.

Fresh Salsa - yum, another go to snack especially if I come home starving and am super busy. I use it with eggs or with blue corn tortitas. Some brands have a super fresh version and this is my go to. I get it from this little health shop near my house and it is like someone just chopped up the tomatoes just for you!

Chickpea Pasta - in a pinch if I am hungry and it’s late and dark out I try to always have this in my pantry. Sometimes you feel like warm pasta and this is a good option because it is not just carb but also protein. It is actually pretty good with canned tuna, spinah and olive oil. My roommate thinks it’s gross that I do that but I love it.

Bone Broth - I originally bought this to put in my dog’s dinner because he likes it with his kibble but now I eat it too and it’s delicious! There are tremendous benefits and great for when you just want a light snack.

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Do you have any wellness non-negotiables and if so, what are they?

-I still drink coffee. I know people say it’s not good for you but you have to enjoy life!
-I pay a lot for skincare products and regular facials. I know it’s expensive but it’s not something I am willing to stop doing.
-Never cheap out on haircuts. I believe haircuts are a form of self-care. This is not an area where you should skimp. You have to look at your hair every single day and a good cut makes all the difference. Go to a good stylist!
-I will continue to pay for a gym membership or a class membership. It’s important to set aside the time and the space for you to honour your body.
-I see a therapist and I’m not ashamed and I honestly think everyone should. Again, expensive, yes, but worth every penny. In the same way that you have to invest in taking care of your body, you need to invest in taking care of your mental health.

* I know that it seems like all of these things are expensive and it’s true but there are also ways you can get these same benefits in a more affordable way. I wasn’t always able to afford them so I would have substitutes. Work hard and live with authenticity and you will manifest what you want. (Ex: you can do homemade face masks, you can ask a therapist for a sliding scale or go to an appointment at lunch and pay less, you can work at a gym and do an energy exchange - just don’t cheap out on the haircut though, for real).

What’s your favourite form of movement?

100% hands down essentrics. Essentrics is a full body work out that rebalances your entire body so that your posture is aligned and you recruit 100% of your muscles and therefore don’t experience pain. Since it works all 650 muscles you end up getting all these extra benefits like toning and weight loss and improvement in your digestive system and lymphatic system.

The bottom line is that you need to move, you need to move everything and you need to move it every day. Movement slows down the aging process. Movement is going to be better for you than any kind of supplement.

Essentrics is a true gift to this world that I feel so lucky to have found and I am so grateful that I get to teach it to others.  

When do you feel your most authentic self?

I feel the most myself when I lose track of time. Sometimes that is during movement, sometimes it is when I am writing, sometimes it is when I am having a big belly laugh, sometimes it is when I am having a sad and soulful conversation. I feel most at peace when I am searching for truth and meaning and I get to have discussions about that, whether it is with words or movement. I think that is the highest form of self-alignment, the search for truth.

Where do you find inspiration/what inspires you?

I find inspiration in women that I admire. I truly believe that female friendships are the most important relationships in our lives. You need to value those above all else. They are the family you choose and they will literally hold you up when you can’t hold yourself. They will be your lungs when you can’t breathe. I know because I have been there and I have experienced it. When you learn something that helps you, you should share it with your female friends. Once we figure out that women helping women is the key to everything, the world will change.

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

(rules for life)  
1 - Try not to worry, you were never in control anyway.
2 - Wear sunscreen.
3 - Honour your body. It is the only thing you have with you your entire life. That includes what you say to yourself when you look in the mirror. You are always listening.

4 - Lemon + water is delicious and solves a lot of things.
5 - Don’t drink when you’re sad.
6 - Dedicate yourself to love and love is what you’ll find.


What advice do you have for someone who is wanting to build healthy habits?

If you are reading this at the beginning of your fitness journey I encourage you to stick with it. If reading about my life overwhelms you, I want to remind you that it has taken me years to get to this place. I started by switching one unhealthy food for a healthy one and very slowly overhauled my pantry. It can’t just be an overnight fix, that never works. I committed to 25 minutes of essentrics every day until I was itching to do more (30, then 45, then 60). Take it at your own pace and focus on one healthy decision at a time.