How I unf*cked my life with Grace & Grit

Margaret Durnan
Jul 2, 2017 · 11 min read

An individual’s health story is not linear and in order to create an appropriate ramble, this will not be written as such. Bear with me….

A year ago I made the decision that I wanted to work with Courtney Townley from Grace & Grit LLC.

I was in a place of bewilderment and extreme stress. Looking back, if you’ve seen the movie Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds, it was like I was in that chamber of oxygen deprivation. In the space of a year, I had separated from my husband, dealt with fires burning towns to cinder, and loss. Much loss.

Two years prior, my dad had been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and I had found the Ido Portal method which was my saving grace and happy place.

But, in the soup of stress including sleep deprivation- my training which had turned my weak shell of a body into developing strength I never knew I could achieve, turned on me and started to add to the cortisol shit storm that was my life.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my lungs would not move even utilising the Pranayama I had learned 3 years earlier and often turned to in stressful situations.

To give a bit of background: I grew up in Port Hedland, northern Western Australia. My father and mother married out of circumstance, not love. He was an English ex-army mine worker and she a Filipina migrant cleaner. There was 26 years difference between the them.

They divorced when I was 17 in a horrible way. I had moved out of home by that time already as had my older sister. The remaining 4 children were taken from my father and not allowed to see him. When I tried to get them back, she physically attacked me as she had done many times before to myself and my siblings. Except this time I was bigger and fought back. I have not spoken to her in the 12 years since.

She has psychotic Bipolar violent tendencies and from the age of 9 she had my siblings and I believing my dad was trying to murder the whole family. She hallucinated murder attempts with poison and assassination and fed me lies which left me in a permanent state of ‘The protector’. I developed insomnia at a young age from fear. Fear my father was going to stab all of us in the night. I shared a room with my mother and 3 other sisters. Although, it was not just my father I was afraid of, but also her. I was recently reminded by my cousin when she made my brother and cousin at the age of 6 and 7 “FIGHT TO THE DEATH!”.

I try to laugh about it now. What can else can you do? “dress in drag and do the hula?!”

Since that time I had developed hyper vigilance and also hyper resilience in a way and many triggers to work through. But once I hit teenage years I realised my mother was mentally ill and everything I had believed from childhood was a lie.

So I studied my butt off to get into uni to leave and make a better life. I still had bouts of insomnia and exam anxiety- I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and succeed. I decided against an Arts degree in favour of a course to provide financial security.

With this Chiropractic course came: poor nutrition, shit sleep, many many hours of work and study and stress for 5 years.

Stress was all I knew, really. That and hard work. I would set a goal and then break my back to achieve it.

It’s the reason why I pulled myself out a socioeconomic cultural background which would have had me with children to 3 different fathers as my mother did.

I had worked my way to getting my degree as a Chiropractor, getting married and running a successful business only to realise it was all about seeking safety and security- but none of the material possessions in the world could save my dad from cancer or heal my wounds from childhood. It didn’t make me happy.

It wasn’t until I started training movement and learning from Ido Portal that I found a process and a culture of people who valued growth as much as I did. Those who have met the man, you know already. For me, I found a process to rehabilitate my hurting body and mind. I identified the father issues I needed to work on and voila! Damaged relationship with my father healed. I had issues with some women in my life and encountered some triggers and kablammo! I have healthy relationships now with these women. Movement and more important, seeking out great teachers has been the most important tool for expansive multidimensional growth I have encountered.

Enter Courtney Townley.

I had watched her 1 year progress video and was in awe of her movement See HERE and we had connected through the Ido Portal Method womens community.

Even more, I loved the end of her clip her son moving and playing. In him, I saw my nephew who is around the same age and it made me even more determined to set a healthy example for my sisters’ children…because my closest aunt- my mother’s sister, was also Bipolar and my childhood memories of her are when she attempted suicide and she and my 6 cousins came to live with us…So this is important to me, to show children the good at an early age. I don’t think many parents realise how perceptive children are.

I had health coaching before, when I finished uni. I did the CHEK institute’s HLC level 1 and worked with Sarah Hopkins in 2013. I was looking to get serious about stress management when my dad was first diagnosed and I had passed out from the pain of a ruptured ovarian cyst and recently gone off the heinous contraceptive pill forever, plus abused the intermittent fasting fad.

I had a brief stint with Marc Morris from Poly health who worked on flexible dieting but I was after more than just macros.

After I separated from my husband I sought out Kelly Martinovich when Charles Poliquin recommended her in his Tim Ferris Podcast. She sounded like she knew her shit. I only did one session with Kelly before the Waroona fires hit.

If you are in the realm of bodybuilding and competing, Kelly is the best in the business. Incredibly important changes I implemented from my short time with her which spearheaded the formation of some great habits.

1. Eating 5 protein meals a day: I was STARVING myself before out of fear from getting fat and no where near eating enough for my training load.

2. Eating some carbs is OK!


4. Use consistent measurables such as BF % as markers.

What I needed though really was a teacher who I could check in with once a week, because change was coming from all directions and someone who really could be my person. I live about an hour and a half from Perth so face to face time is very difficult to schedule.

I had been following Courtney Townley and after listening to her Podcast, Grace & Grit, I KNEW she was the person I was looking for to help mend the fabric of MY health story

The first thing I started doing which I had done before with Sarah, Kelly and Marc was keep a food diary.

Now, given I was training 4–5 hours a day plus working on my feet, I was basically starving myself.

I was in the cycle of “oh no! i’m putting on ‘weight’ I better cut calories and train harder” .

What this was doing was driving my stress hormones through the roof. I knew I needed another way but you know what, when you are in a state of being chronically underfed, your body will signal to down regulate your metabolism and it takes work to bring it back.

This was the pattern over YEARS.

Since the age of 14 I worked in hospitality. When I started working late nights and double shifts behind the bar, I would go for 10 hours plus without eating a thing. I would run around like a headless chicken and then repeat, 7 days a week as I worked 2–3 jobs always.

When I became stressed, I ate less. This made me more stressed. When I was 21 I would just get skinnier. Now I was 29, the opposite effect occurred in what I term “cushingoid” appearance similar to that of a person on corticosteroid use long term. This in my theory, is a subclinical presentation and not a diagnosis but rather a state.

I felt fear when I first started coaching with Courtney. I was afraid because I was about to start a new job for a one year contract which was double the amount of hours I was used to working. I would not have the autonomy that I was used to and so I needed my body to perform.

I wanted to train every day, get a good night’s sleep, work hard and maintain my sanity and relationships. I needed to shift into 5th gear mode but I didn’t want to burn out.

I needed help. It was the same with learning from Ido Portal. There’s only a certain point you can get to without guidance- a teacher or mentor.

Courtney was able to take a bird’s eye perspective of my life and see what needed to be worked on.

But she didn’t just give me or tell me what to do. She didn’t write out an instruction cookie cutter manual or meal plan.

She educated me, highlighting areas to be worked on. She drew my attention to areas of my nutrition, life, relationships that didn’t serve me, or worse, INFLAMED me.

I considered myself a healthy person.

But what I ate needed to be combined with when I ate, how much (it was too little it turns out) and why. Also, how much I slept, how much work was on, how much water I drank amongst other things. You may think you have a handle on all these things…but really you would be surprised.

I needed to fuel my body. So this is what I did. Every week or couple of weeks for a few months I progressively ate more and more whole, nutritious food. I supplemented with protein shakes and when I was eating around 2400 calories I couldn’t believe I was not the size of an elephant.

In fact, the diet and fitness industry has got it all wrong. A quote I heard from Courtney’s podcast which she quoted from regarding exercise but for me the same is true with food:

“Treating exercise [food] as a means to be more, as opposed to viewing it as a never-ending struggle to be less, is absolutely a game changer.”

5 years ago (left) I had zero muscle, abused exercise and didn’t eat anywhere near enough food.

Ladies, start eating real food. Just eat real food and move your body.

I had come such a long way in my training through Ido and Odelia. I was capable of doing great things, but habits and hormonal issues in my life with often fear-based motivations needed to be addressed.

People often make excuses for not investing in their health I hear it all the time with movement training that “it’s too expensive”. It’s not, you’re priorities are just not there.
The fact is, if you invest in quality, then you reap tenfold the reward.

What Courtney Townley ( Ido Portal thank you for bringing me Courtney) has given me are the tools to manage stress in any situation. She’s shown me how to remember to grant myself GRACE when I slip into the habit of mental or physical self punishment. I see this ALL THE DAMN TIME- you are training your butt off and use it just as any meth or heroin addict uses their drug. You abuse your body when it is clearly telling to you change course or do something different. I was guilty of this before. Training was a form of escapism. Not any more. I train because it is this ‘means to be more’. I don’t beat myself up mentally (or physically) now because I “should” be at a certain level, or because everyone else is getting press handstands ring routines etc etc etc. There is no longevity in this approach.

Awareness and Consistency are two of her hall mark messages and I try to be consistently aware!

The things I can control in life I do: when and how much I move my body and my food choices are mine and I feel AMAZING when I choose to do each in a way that brings me joy and serves my purpose.

I just finished a year of working like an Ox, still with MANY challenges and hardships. I set up a movement facility, my younger sister had a psychotic episode, my dad etc etc. THIS IS LIFE! We can choose how we walk through it and I refuse to ever be a victim to circumstance. I’m not made of sugar and I’m not eating sugar!

I made it to the end.…I don’t even really believe I did it. I finished in strong fashion and made a difference to people. I trained, I did not lose my sanity. I am leaner than before (do I even really care anymore though if I can accomplish all that I want and am comfortable in my own healthy skin?). I am stronger than ever and will continue to get stronger as a woman at ease with both masculine and feminine energies. I am on track to becoming a better person and doing more internal work. I created a shit storm of growth and came out the other side. I know I can get through anything. Come what may.

This is really what I think we need to do- unfuck our bodies so we can start working on unfucking our minds.

Maybe you were hoping for a week by week example of what I ate and how much and my routine blah blah. To be honest, what Courtney does is so individualised it is an art refined by YEARS and YEARS with skin in the game. To coach women to mend the fabric of their health story does not occur in a 12 week transformation. It doesn’t occur in a year, but so much good can happen. This is how amazing the human body is if we just give it the environment.

Strategies I now use consistently to live a level 10 life:

  1. I eat breakfast (before was coffee blended with protein powder after training in a fasted state)
  2. I eat every 3 hours and get hunger signals (ladies if you “don’t get hungry” there’s a red flag!)
  3. I eat veggies with every meal
  4. I eat a shit load more protein than before
  5. I eat a shit load more carbs than before
  6. I am ok with eating all of the above
  7. I prioritise my health and things that level up my health and life
  8. I am aware of ‘permission’ foods and what this is signalling to my body as well as where the desire to eat them comes from
  9. I temper my training and deload if my body is letting me know I’m doing too much
  10. I say NO more often
  11. I let go
  12. I sing and dance more
  13. I control my inner fire a bit more

Courtney, you are an amazing role model, mentor, coach, teacher, friend! You walk the talk and give so much to women worldwide. Your knowledge base and fire is inspiring to say the least. I have so much gratitude for having you in my corner over the last year. Thank you for teaching me how to unfuck my life with Grace & Grit. I don’t think my words even do your work with me justice.

A special shout out also must go to my nearest and dearest without who I couldn’t be so lucid, you know who you are.

Also, to the assholes I met and/or cut: you also taught me a lot, for which I am also grateful.

Ramble over. I hope there’s someone out there who reads this and finds some sort of life lessons earlier than I did :)

MD xoxo

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