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I had the pleasure of Byrdie from Byrdies Babes reach out to me after reading a post I did on Instagram about Mental Strength. She provided me with 6 interview questions surrounding this topic. At first glance the questions seemed quite straight forward until I began answering them and diving deep into my past and feeling these emotions resurface. It was my pleasure to do this interview, as it gave me a glimpse of my past and how far I have come all thanks to my Mental Strength. For those of you who are interested in better understanding what it is and how you can use it to become your best self – read below. Enjoy xx

BYRDIE: Can you tell us a little about who you are and how you got into the wellness industry?

LISA: My name is Lisa Manzo and I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N), a Personal Trainer, author of the book Healthy is Sexy and the founder of PurEnergy Wellness Lofts in Toronto. Apart from my business titles, I am a wife and mother. I am motivated and passionate about everything I do; helping others to live a healthy and happy life is my life mission.   My drive is to motivate and inspire others to gain a deep connection and excitement about life and the positive changes that can come when we focus on nutrition, wellness (both spiritual and physical) and fitness. My eyes sparkle when I can walk this journey with other people and know that they will benefit from all of this.

I began my wellness journey at the age of 18 (17 years ago yikes!) when I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Being told that the solution would be thyroid ablation (meaning the thyroid is knocked out finally and forever) I instantly began researching more holistic ways in which I could control the levels. Although I was active from a young age, played soccer at a competitive level and ate mainly a Mediterranean diet this was just not merely enough. I began as a Fitness Instructor which lead to being a Personal Training and then finally a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Wellness back then was simply a tool to help rid this condition. However over time I have come to the understanding that there are no coincidences in life. I was led to wellness because it is my divine purpose. Also at the age of 18 is when I began my struggles with self esteem, self worth, self love, where exactly I belonged in the world, my deep rooted anger, my drive for perfection which constantly led to my desire and need to escape. Wellness saved me and I am forever grateful to be able to share my knowledge and passion with others.

BYRDIE: What is mental strength? How does it differ from mental health?

LISA: Psychology often discusses mental health which is a state of well-being. However what is not often discussed is a clear definition of mental strength. Mental strength can sometimes be confused as mental toughness. Where an athlete would need to use mental toughness when pushing through an injury or the last few minutes of an already long training session. Mentally strong is not about acting or being tough. It is not about surviving; it is about thriving. Mental strength involves more than an intense drive or willpower; it requires hard work, commitment and dedication to self-improvement. It is about being aware and regulating your emotions, managing your thoughts and learning from painful past experiences. Developing this skill is about finding the courage to live life according to your personal values and being bold enough to create your own definition of happy.

BYRDIE: How is this term significant in your life? Can you tell us what it means to you?

LISA: My younger self has had to learn mental strength as a means of thriving and achieving bigger and better goals. When I lacked mental strength, my self -doubt won consuming my mind with negative self- talk. The energy of this unhelpful advice would draw the wrong people and relationships into my life. I began to surround myself with others who lacked self value, self worth and self esteem. Their negative patterns became my negative patterns; their unhelpful criticism and bad advice drowned out my inner voice and as a result contributed to my unhappiness. Learning from these past experiences (some more traumatic than others) has made me truly understand the incredible importance of mental strength.

On those days, weeks or months that I feel discouraged, tired or lost mental strength is what keeps me motivated towards my desires. It allows me to stay true to my values and keeps me focused on making the best decisions for ME regardless of the advice others share. Self-improvement is key to learning and growing. We must own our sh!t (excuse my French lol) and humbly accept responsibility for our actions.  No one is perfect nor are we meant to be (that would be a very boring world); mistakes are what help us develop and emotionally mature. I made a commitment to myself a long time ago that I would not allow my fears to dictate how my life goes. We all face different fears and that is okay.  What is not okay is avoiding them. Mental strength allows you the courage to step out of your comfort zone and face them head on regardless of how frightened you are. This confidence will lead you to a more fulfilling and content life. With facing your fears comes the fear of failure.  We have been conditioned by society to think that failure is not an option. We immediately associate failure with negative thoughts: loser, stupid, useless, not enough, wrong, etc. This thought pattern causes most people to either give up or not even try to begin with. Once I changed my perspective and looked at failure as a positive opportunity, I used past failures as learning lessons for today’s successes. It wasn’t until achieving this last step, although it took many years of dedication, that I pleasantly realized that I have fully and whole-heartedly gained self-worth. Role modeling self-worth is my maternal obligation now that I have a daughter. If she manages to retain a strong sense of self in the face of future recess rejection, tween tumult, and size-zero celebrities I will be one proud mama bear!

BYRDIE: Do you practice mental strength daily? Can you share some ways you do this and tips for others wanting to begin this journey?

LISA: Developing mental strength requires conscious effort, dedication and daily practice. Much like strength training, you must train your mental muscles. The journey of self discovery will lead to acquiring mental strength. Do not be afraid to confront foreign feelings, in fact bringing them to the surface will allow you to acknowledge them in a positive manner and bring you closer to managing these emotions effectively. Here are 3 tips to help you begin the journey of mental strength:

    1. Positive Self Talk: We live 90% in our heads which means you must be mindful of the words you are speaking to yourself. All day, everyday our mind is flooded with thoughts that direct us to leading the lives that we live. How we speak to ourselves determines our journey, our success and also our failures. Albert Einstein says it best, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” 
    2. Your vibe attracts your tribe: This saying has stuck with me over the years. The only way to attract your tribe is to be yourself. If you are pretending to be someone that you’re not, you’re going to attract a tribe that has nothing in common with the real you. Therefore keeping you small. Find a tribe that cheers you on when you succeed and gives you the extra pep talk (you are also giving this to yourself) when you hit a hurdle. Your tribe should accept you for who you are and be your support system, your cheering squad and provide you with a sense of community.
    3. Get Grounded Daily: Clear your mind, recharge your energy, strengthen your instincts, regain your center and calm your emotions. To me, being grounded is being fully present in my body. Staying rooted in our physical bodies eliminates getting distracted easily, feeling spaced out, over thinking, engaging in personal drama and experiencing anxiety and perpetual worrying. These are all clear cut signs of someone who is ungrounded. Being ungrounded is a worldwide epidemic. Grounding techniques redistribute the energy from your head or mind into your body having an instant calming effect and feeling in control. Grounding techniques can include long deep breaths, earthing, mindful walks, meditation, restorative yoga, or journaling.

BYRDIE: Do you believe practicing mental strength is vital to a holistic lifestyle?

LISA: Absolutely! Most individuals think that practising a lifestyle of holistic wellness only includes eating right and working out. Your body, mind and soul are not completely separate entities that need different things to keep them well. Anything that benefits one will benefit the rest. It is important to indulge in an array of healthy delights and activities so that every part of you can thrive.  Learning mental strength skills will allow you to develop courage and confidence to live a life of power, purpose and passion!

BYRDIE: If you could share an inspiring message with our BABES, what would it be?

LISA: Don’t ever compare your journey with some else’s. Your journey is YOUR journey not a competition. Just like Jon Acuff quotes “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”. Your journey will be filled with emotional highs and lows. It is imperative to learn emotional maturity and help regulate these emotions. Adopting this skill will allow you to stay grounded and focused on your true desires so that your rollercoaster of emotions do not cloud your judgement or lead you in a different direction to what you truly desire. Life will throw you some interesting curve balls but, with mental strength, it’s nothing you can’t handle with confidence.

Beetroot’s deep, overpoweringly red juice has earned it the reputation as the most bossy of vegetables.  It is difficult to resist the ruby red juiciness especially when you know just how good they are for you. It is a great source of iron and folate while also containing antioxidants and magnesium.
As a Fitness Trainer, I adore beetroot because it is suggested to enhance exercise performance.  Beetroot is packed with nitrates which our body converts into nitric oxide, a molecule that enhances blood vessel dilation. As a result, this increases blood flow capacity, lowering the amount of oxygen your muscles need. Beetroot also enhances energy so grabbing a beetroot juice or shot around 3pm, when most find their energy dips, is much healthier than consuming caffeine (which causes a crash and burn effect).
So with all the benefits beetroot provides why not spice up our regular hummus with this superfood? I say Hell YA!
This sophisticated twist on the breakfast sandwich will liven up your day! Enjoy xx
Beetroot Hummus:
  • 1 boiled beetroot
  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  • 2 garllic cloves
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 a lemon (juiced)
  • fresh parsley to garnish (optional)
  • Brown Rice Sourdough
  • 1/2 hass avocado
1. Place 1 peeled medium size beetroot in a pot of boiling water. Boil on medium-heat for approximately 15 minutes or until soft.
2. Place lemon juice, olive oil, garlic cloves, tahini, chickpeas and the beetroot (in this order) into a high speed blender (a blender will give you a smoother texture than a food processor). Process until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add some cold water until the mixture is a smoother consistency.
3. Season the mixture with salt, cumin, extra olive oil (optional)
4. spread the beetroot hummus on sourdough bread and top with 1/2  an avocado and then top with fresh parsley (optional).

I am super excited about this recipe as it is simple and sooooo good! It is both creamy and tart. I taste tested this on a few of my family and friends who are not dairy free nor vegan and they loved it!

The crust is only 2 ingredients and the filling only 5 – must I say more? Go on and give this recipe a try. Enjoy xx



1 cup pitted dates
1 cup raw pecans (you can use any nut here)


1 1/2 cup soaked cashews
1 large lemon juiced
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Blueberry Jam:

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lemon grind


  1. Add dates to a high speed blender or food processor and blend until it forms into a ball. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add nuts into blender or food processor and blend into a meal. Then add dates back in and blend.
  3. Lightly grease, with coconut oil, a spring foam pan
  4. Place crust into the foam pan and press with your fingers to fill the old. Pack the crust mixture down using the back of a spoon. Set in the freezer to firm up.
  5. Add the filling ingredients to a blender and mix until very smooth.
  6. Pour the filling mixture on top of the crust and smooth with a spatula
  7. Pour the blueberry jam on top of the cheesecake mixture and cool in fridge until served

Blueberry Jam:

  1. Put the blueberries, lemon juice and lemon grind in a pot, cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove the lid and cook on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. The mixture will reduce by 1/3 and thicken.
  3. Blend the mixture until a smooth consistency.
  4. Pour the mixture into a jar and store in the fridge.


Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Refined sugar-free

Yields: 10 truffles

This simple 4-ingredient recipe is made with no heavy cream or refined sugar and takes less than 15 minutes to make! As many of you know by now, I have a love affair with chocolate (always have!). It is a nice sweet treat that I love to keep in the fridge for when I am feeling it. Most truffles are far too decadent for me and they typically contain dairy which I am highly intolerant to and steer away from. In replace of heavy cream I have used heart-healthy avocado as the base and let me tell you – you wouldn’t even guess that this is what makes these truffles super creamy.

As you begin to rid your diet of refined sugars, artificial flavours, preservatives, msg and the list goes on you retrain your taste buds to want and crave healthier foods. By eliminating these ingredients you begin to detoxify the body giving it only real ingredients that is recognizes and can eliminate.

I decided to coat the truffles with maca powder for its many health benefits. You can also use shredded coconut, cacao powder, chia seeds, etc. Maca is naturally high in minerals (calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc), sterols, essential fatty acids, lipids, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids. It is often recommended to those with adrenal fatigue as it nourishes them and reduces stress hormones. It is also fantastic in helping boost hormones, fertility, increase energy and more!

With Valentine’s Day just one month away I really wanted to perfect a decadent chocolate recipe to share with you all. Enjoy x


  • 1 Hass avocado
  • ¾ cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips (I use Enjoy life)
  • A pinch of Himalayan sea salt
  • Maca powder (to roll balls in)


  1. With a potato masher, mash one avocado until smooth and lump-free
  2. Melt chocolate chips in a double broiler
  3. Pour melted chocolate into the bowl with the avocado and mix until well combined
  4. Place the mixture into the fridge to set for 30 minutes. Once th e mixture has firmed up, remove from fridge and make the truffles by rolling a tablespoon at a time into a 1-inch ball.
  5. Fill a shallow bowl with maca powder and roll each truffle until coated. Roll some truffles in the maca powder and some simply sprinkle a few Himalayan sea salt crystals on each truffle. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

Yields: 8-10

As a child Brussels sprouts was one of those vegetables that I cringed even at the thought of eating them.  They have become one of my favourite adult vegetables (when in season of course).  Brussels sprouts are a great source of iron and potassium (important for bone health) and offer other benefits that can boost your overall health. Butternut Squash is a staple in my household in the fall and winters months.  It delivers an ample dose of dietary fibre as well as potassium and vitamin B6 (essential for the proper functioning of  both the nervous and immune systems). I try my best to incorporate vegetables, herbs and spices that boost the immune system during the fall and winter months to protect us from the common cold.

I adore the combination of ingredients here with all the flavours of winter. This dish is not only low-maintenance but it makes a beautiful presentation too – it was a wonderful holiday side dish that made a great addition to our Christmas menu.

Enjoy xx


  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts (halved)
  • 1 medium size butternut squash (peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup pecan halves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (Roast). Place the butternut squash chunks in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. Place the Brussels sprouts halves into another large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to distribute the oil evenly.
  2. Place the butternut squash on one baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place the Brussels sprouts on another baking sheet lined with parchment paper (tip: place the Brussels sprouts cut side down so they caramelize much more evenly).
  3. Roast the vegetables for 25-30 minutes, flipping them gently 1 to 2 times.
  4. Place the pecan halves in a pan and toast for 5-7 minutes until golden.
  5. Gently place the roasted vegetables in a large serving bowl or platter. Drizzle olive oil and toss the vegetables gently until they are lightly dressed. Serve warm.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined Sugar-free

Yields: 10-12 cookies

In nursery school, my daughter Savannah has been learning about Christmas traditions. She comes home one afternoon and asks me to make gingerbread men cookies for Santa. She was so excited and I could see the sparkle in her eyes, I couldn’t resist but agree! I immediately realized that I had never made Gingerbread men cookies before – yikes!  I never grew up with this cookie which meant I needed to make it a few times until I was satisfied.  The first time I made them the shape of the cookies were distorted but the taste was there. My mistake was rolling out the dough too thin.  It is imperative that the dough is no less than ¼ inch thick to ensure the gingerbread men do not break when transferring them from the cookie cutter to the baking sheet.

I absolutely love the spices in this cookie. I use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger; all spices that remind me of the Holiday Season. The best part of this recipe is making it with my daughter and enjoying the process. Being present in today’s society is becoming more and more difficult. As life becomes busier we become more and more distant from the present moment.  Engaging in activities that bring you, family and friends together will help with presence. I am so happy that Savannah came home and asked me to make these cookies because it allowed me to get out of my comfort zone.

Now I can comfortably make these cookies on Christmas Eve to leave out for Santa with a Camomile tea 😉

Happy Holidays xo


  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower seed butter
  • 3 Tbsp molasses
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup 1-to-1 baking flour (Bobs Red Mill)
  • ¼ tsp baking powder


  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder. Blend well.
  2. In a small pot, combine the coconut oil and molasses and heat up for only 20 seconds until well combined. Add the coconut sugar (leave the 2 Tbsp for sprinkling) and whisk until blended. Add the egg and whisk the mixture until thoroughly blended.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry and mix until combined. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 2 sheet sof plastic wrap on your working surface, placing one dough on each and roll out until ¼ inch thick.
  5. Use cookie cutters to cut out cookie shapes and place each cookie on the baking sheet. Combine your dough scrapes into a ball and roll them out again repeating until you have used all of your dough. Sprinkle the cookies with coconut sugar.
  6. Bake for 8-11 minutes (8 minutes for a softer cookie and 11 for a more crisp cookie). Place cookies on cooling racks to cool.

For a drink with holiday spirit!

Dairy- free, Gluten-free, Refined Sugar-free

Yields: 4

As soon as it begins to get cold I start to crave eggnog. It screams Christmas to me and I get this warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Eggnog, or also knows as egg milk punch, is traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. It is a creamy dairy-based beverage that I have steered away from for years because of my dairy intolerance. However last year I decided to give this holiday drink a try making it gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. The holidays just aren’t the holidays without eggnog so I am happy I perfected this recipe (and so are my family and friends).

Some of you may be reading this blog thinking why make your own when you can buy a festive carton at the nearby grocery store. Store bought eggnog is filled with thickeners and stabilizers, artificial colors and flavors; some are also sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Making your own eggnog may initially appear intimidating but I promise that this recipe is simple. Making your own will spare you these additives and preservatives and you can create variety in the flavours of your eggnog. Using an orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and maple syrup will give your homemade egg nog the boost it needs without any refined sugars.

Some recipes use raw eggs to avoid tempering but typically these recipes call for quite a bit of alcohol which acts as a preservative and sterilizer. My recipe involves tempering the egg yolks but it is a quick process and you can still add in alcohol if you choose to 😉


  • 6 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 stick whole cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and maple syrup until thick. Set the bowl aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, slowly heat the almond milk with the cinnamon stick, stirring frequently, until the cinnamon becomes fragrant. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and discard the cinnamon stick. Pour the milk very slowly into the egg yolk and maple syrup mixture, whisking constantly. This is how to temper the eggs, so they don’t scramble. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and stir in the coconut milk.
  3. Return the saucepan to the stovetop, and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble slightly (not a full rolling boil, or it will curdle) and starts to thicken.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla, nutmeg, and ground cinnamon. Chill completely in the refrigerator until ready to serve.