Total Health: Leigha Verbeem of Lang Leven Collective On How We Can Optimize Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
17 min readJun 15, 2022

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Take a break from social media. Especially throughout the early stages of the pandemic, so many of us were experiencing information overload from doom scrolling. All we see online is negative, scary news stories and it’s important that we give ourselves a break and step back from social media and news outlets and just enjoy life for what it is in the present moment.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigha Verbeem.

Leigha Verbeem is a Women’s Movement Specialist and Integrative Nutrition Coach, specializing in exercise, stretch therapy, pelvic floor health and health behavior change. The combination of her education in Kinesiology and her own personal health struggles motivate her to create an integrative and whole health experience for each of her clients. She helps women who are feeling unheard, stressed out and hopeless by empowering them with the health resources they need to take back control of their health and their life using her signature RELIEF method.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thanks for having me! It’s funny, often my parents wonder how I ended up in this career — especially coming from a family that was not focused on sciences — so I love sharing stories from my childhood and showing my parents just how impactful they were.

I grew up just north of London, Ontario, Canada in a rural area, so a lot of my life was spent outside. I never took to sports, but my dad was always encouraging my sister and I to be active — jumping on the trampoline, climbing trees, riding bikes, kayaking, swimming, skiing, you name it. My mom was more interested in food, cooking and was always teaching us all the way that food could improve our health.

Between skiing and a running club that I joined when I was 14, I ended up suffering from knee pain and was diagnosed with PFPS (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome) and had to seek out a physical therapist. I remember the PT explaining to me how my knee moved, and she showed me on a model, and I just thought it was the coolest thing. Part of my recovery was building up strength in my legs and from there I became more interested in working out and started lifting weights when I was about 16 or 17 years old.

Although it took some figuring out, I naturally fell into the health space and now I promote health through movement and food, just as my parents did for me!

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

After many years of trying to navigate the healthcare system and working on my own health issues, I was able to see up close how broken the system was and had to advocate for myself. I started struggling with stomach pains when I was 19 and was in and out of the hospital for about a month before I was finally given antibiotics because the doctor said it “sounded like” I had salmonella. After the round of antibiotics, my symptoms seemed to intensify, I missed a lot of school and then I started experiencing an irregular and painful cycle. Two years later, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C).

From there, I went to my family doctor and was referred to a gastroenterologist. I was told I had to take a pill for the rest of my life, to reduce stress and try the FODMAP diet. The medication gave me heart issues, I reduced my stress as much as I could as a student with multiple jobs, and I was given no indication about how to go about the FODMAP diet safely. I felt alone and unheard and I knew this course of action just wasn’t for me. I was struggling with severe bloating and constipation, brain fog, fatigue, hair loss, my anxiety increased dramatically to the point of having sleep paralysis, and drastic changes in weight. I wasn’t suicidal, but I knew I couldn’t live like that.

I feel fortunate enough that I was studying health sciences, and could afford to see a Naturopath, and was able to understand what was happening in my body and why. There are so many people who have a very similar story to me but aren’t in the health science field and are left in the dark. To put it simply, I became the coach that I wish I had.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I was hired at a gym on a contract, to cover another woman while she went on mat leave. Her name was Carolyn Chylia, and she trained me for two days before I took over the position. We hit it off immediately when she realized I wanted to take the Kinesiology program that she took, and she helped me get in touch with the academic advisors, gave me advice on classes, and overall inquired about my long-term plans. We stayed in touch ever since — she encouraged me to get my stretch therapy certification, start my own business and mentored me along the way. We have continued to stay friends and work alongside each other even to this day. She’s helped talk me through career goals and continues to inspire me every day. She’s been there for the entire evolution of my business and me. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for her and I’m thankful for her every day.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

When I was training for my stretch therapy certification, I was practicing stretching some of the other girls. We use a massage table and use straps over someone’s legs to help them feel secure. But at some point, I pulled their leg over too far and the table completely fell over! I’m thankful that it happened with friends while I was still in training, and we all had a good laugh about it. It hasn’t happened with a client, knock on wood, but we do laugh at the idea when I’m treating someone!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Oh yes, one book that I recommend to most people is “The Body Keeps Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk. We often learned about the mind-muscle connection and how important it was to use movement and stimuli to improve that connection. The idea of a mind-body connection was not lost on me, but I started seeing just how interconnected my mental health was to my digestive issues when my anxiety increased, and I became hypervigilant. As I started treating clients, I also saw first-hand how someone’s stress levels, previous traumas and overall mental health impacted how they moved or gave them physical symptoms. One story that stands out is a client who was complaining about tightness in her neck for months. But the day we finally broken through, and she casually told me about her relationship with her parents, her shoulders dropped and relaxed instantly for the first time in months. Our mental and physical wellbeing is closely connected. I wouldn’t be a good practitioner if I ignored this fact, even if it means simply letting someone rant to me in the treatment room.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

My favorite quote would have to be “Choose your hard.” One thing about fitness that I love is how much it continuously challenges you to be better, and constantly requires some level of discipline. So even on days where I’m feeling lazy, my hard would be either getting a workout in or not getting a workout but possibly feeling worse later. In that moment, I feel like I have two options. Of course, that feels like it is on a micro level, but I apply it to everything in my life. Would I rather stop learning, and stay stagnant in my job or would I rather learn something difficult but watch it elevate my career? It’s all about choosing your hard, and it is always individual to each person. I also feel like it makes it feel like the decision is a choice and not something that you have to do.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I spent so much time and money trying to understand my IBS and how to manage it, and now I live symptom free! I went from one extreme to the next, thinking I would have to quit school and go on disability and worrying about my ability to ever live a normal functioning life, to almost never having a flare up. I have crafted a coaching program to help other women who have been diagnosed with IBS, are feeling unheard by their medical team, and wanting to know how to go about introducing the right changes to help manage their symptoms. I have so many resources, plus my ability to coach people through health changes, so that others don’t have to go through the extreme pain and suffering that I did while trying to understand the diagnosis.

With my background in Kinesiology and my experience with IBS, I learned more about the connection of the pelvic floor to our digestive system. As I continued to study the pelvic floor and pelvic floor dysfunction, I became certified as a Pre and Postnatal Exercise Specialist. Although prenatal exercise and IBS seem so different, they really are closely connected through pelvic floor work. I am putting together a VIP offer to help women who are 7 months pregnant and preparing for birth. We will review exercise for the last term, learn how to breathe and push properly, teach them how to stretch and implement mobility work to improve their aches and pains, craft their birth plan, discuss nutrition, and postnatal work as well! I get so much feedback about the lack of preparedness women feel in the birthing room (or at home) and want them to know someone is advocating for them, helping them feel prepared and setting them up for the best outcome possible. I am super excited to offer this program! (Although, I am always taking on clients who want a health coach and personal trainer to work with them throughout their entire pregnancy.)

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives: Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I’ve found one of the best things for my mental wellness was learning how to better organize and plan. I had to get realistic about how much time things took me; limit the number of tasks I wanted to complete and built a better understanding of how much energy certain tasks took as well. Working with a productivity and time management coach (Alejandra Marques, fellow Authority interviewee) has been a game changer in the way I organize my day to day and has helped me life a much more stress-free life.

Sleep is a non-negotiable for me. I am never functioning at my best self when I am tired. My workouts are subpar, I get brain fog and overall lose focus more often during the day. Getting that extra hour of sleep is well worth it. Often people sleep less so that they can squeeze in an extra hour or two of work, but if you can’t get anything done in that extra hour because you’re too tired, then it just wasn’t worth it. Plus, sleep is so good for improving your memory and helping your body recover, we should never think of it as a waste of time — our body does so many good things during rest.

Learning new things and challenging ourselves is key in maintaining mental well-being. Our bodies work on a use it or lose it system, so we thrive when we are challenging ourselves to learn something new. This can be anything from learning a new art, taking a course, or learning a new job role. Our brain is always looking for ways to be more efficient and giving your brain new information only improves that process.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I think it really depends on how my body is feeling that day! Sometimes I find I need a more guided breathwork session, other days a nice walk and getting some fresh air or just stretching on my own are all helpful in clearing my head and helping me find mental clarity. Personally, yoga doesn’t get me out of my head as much, but I do enjoy stretching and focusing more on my body’s needs and playing with different ranges of motion. There is no one practice that is better than the other — I just listen to what my body needs in that moment and go for it!

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Being that my background is in kinesiology, I am of course going to say exercise. Find an activity that you can schedule into your day or week is crucial. In fact, the recommended amount of exercise each week is approximately 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, and at least 2 days of strength training. This can be any type of cardio and resistance training, not necessarily running and weightlifting. Yoga, Pilates, body weight training… it doesn’t matter. I can’t stress this enough: the absolute best type of exercise you can do is the one you actually like, because it’s the one you’ll actually stick with.

Stretching and improving mobility is paramount to our health. Our bodies were built to move, and so much good comes from it. We want to keep our joints moving so we can maintain our health and move as pain free as possible as we age. Motion is lotion. The more you move your body, the more you’ll be in tune with it and knowing what it needs in that moment. If you’ve been sitting on your computer all day, you might need to incorporate some wrist stretches. But you don’t always have to set aside special time to stretch, you could spend 10 minutes stretching while you wait for the oven to heat up for dinner or find a bedtime yoga video so you can do it in bed before falling asleep.

Move often. Just like one salad doesn’t negate a week of fast food, one workout doesn’t negate a week of sitting down at your desk. This modern society doesn’t make it easy, when most of our jobs involve sitting at a desk in front of a screen, hunched over our phones or crammed in the car during rush hour. Keep moving throughout the day, whether it’s grabbing a glass of water, going for a small walk between meetings, or parking at the back of the lot when you get groceries.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Things that I see often with clients is having this mindset of “I can’t eat this.” I find when we tell ourselves that we can’t do something, we just want to do it even more. Do you crave chocolate as much as you do when you tell yourself you can’t eat it anymore? This is especially prevalent when helping my clients try to follow the FODMAP diet — it is a long list of foods to avoid. We must change our mindset and focus to what we can have or what is healthy for us. Realizing all the yummy options we have for fruits, veggies, and other foods and how you can incorporate them into your favorite meals is a game changer.

Another reason I think it’s difficult to for us integrate eating changes into our lives is because we have access to so much knowledge, so many different diets and are influenced by those around us who are having success with a certain way of eating. But we are all different, we move different, we live differently, and we need to eat based on our own personal needs. Eating healthy shouldn’t be so complicated, restrictive or incite guilt. We need to learn to give ourselves grace, too. If one person is allergic to dairy, it doesn’t mean you are. So, if one person does well on a certain diet, it doesn’t mean that diet will impact you in the same way. By paying attention to how certain foods make us feel personally and building awareness around that, we can come up with a way of eating that is perfect for us.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Be mindful of who you surround yourself with. If everyone around you is consistently negative, doesn’t try to improve their lives in any way, or maybe parties more than you’d like… you’re going to adapt those same attitudes naturally. Your emotional wellbeing deserves to be nurtured, but it cannot be nurtured by people who don’t take care of their own emotional wellness.

The Vagus nerve is a powerful tool to help us regulate our emotional wellbeing. When we stimulate this nerve, we are activating our parasympathetic nervous system, which is our rest and digest state. This is when we feel calm, relaxed and can de-stress. You can try alternate nostril breathing, cold showers or an ice pack on the chest, deep breathing, gentle movement like yoga or tai chi, meditation or even laughter.

Take a break from social media. Especially throughout the early stages of the pandemic, so many of us were experiencing information overload from doom scrolling. All we see online is negative, scary news stories and it’s important that we give ourselves a break and step back from social media and news outlets and just enjoy life for what it is in the present moment.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

If you’re in a bad mood, and someone continuously smiles at you… you’re bound to smile. Our mental and emotional states show up as physical symptoms, and we know that we can improve our physical symptoms by regulating our emotional state. Our physical movements can impact the way our brain functions. So, although my knowledge is in how moving the body and additional stimulus helps to improve our brain plasticity, I can absolutely understand how using our smile muscles would bring about the same effect. Our bodies are so smart, we have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I always felt like this was an area I lacked in until I learned about Blue Zones. There are studies being conducted around these zones in the world where people live to be over 100 years old and are still active in the community. One of the regular practices that each of these communities cultivates is some sort of spiritual practice. But these practices can be anything from regular religious ceremonies, hiking in nature or meditation. Find the spiritual practice that gives you that “awe” feeling and helps ground you. Surrounding yourself with people who also enjoy those practices or enjoy some kind of regular spiritual practice is also important. Like I said earlier, who you surround yourself with is so important, and the same applies to spirituality. We feed off of this energy from others and if you’re wanting to learn how to ground yourself, learn from others around you and witness the energy that they give off. If you’re the type who has a regular religious practice already, then I’m sure you understand how joining everyone else also gives you the same energy. For me, it’s spending time with people who also like to enjoy nature. Currently, I spend every Sunday in my personal “church” and go hiking or walking with a friend.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

I remember hiking in Colorado in October of 2018, and we were pretty high up in the mountain so there was quite a bit of snow. Despite the snow, the hiking still had us sweating and shedding our layers as we trekked through the morning. At this point, I think travel had slowed down a lot and everyone was at work, so we only passed a few people on the trails. When we got to the top, it was just our group of three. It was almost eerie — it was quietness like I had never experienced before. There was a lot of fog and all we could hear was the snow starting to melt and ice breaking off some of the peaks. But it was probably the most surreal experience of any hike I had ever done. One of the girls wanted to check out another climb that was a bit steep, so I just waited for her, but I could’ve waited there forever. I was just a girl on this massive mountain with who knows what animals around me. That moment stays with me forever, and 4 years later it still feels like it was yesterday. If you take a second to really enjoy what is around you, nature is an amazing way to cultivate spiritual wellness.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

When I was experiencing my most severe IBS symptoms, and not feeling heard by my specialist, I decided to reach out to a Naturopathic Doctor. She was so informative, included me in every decision and I felt heard by her. I know the importance of making sure everyone on your health team stays connected and updated, so I told my specialist that I was seeing the ND and what I was learning from her, and he told me to choose between him or her. At that moment, I lost respect for western medicine and realized it was not interested in my well-being. In my lifetime, I hope to see both western and eastern medicine join forces to become more powerful and more client centered. They both have so many strengths and rather than fighting against each other, I think healthcare would have so much more impact if they were able to better connect.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

If I could have a private breakfast or lunch with anyone, it would be with Elon Musk. I love to learn and listen to others’ perspectives. Elon has a way with words and is always 10 steps ahead; regardless of if you agree with his comments or not, what he says it always well thought out and I admire that. I am not the type to fangirl but having the opportunity to pick his brain would be an incredibly valuable experience.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me at www.leighaverbeem.com, and on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I have room for some new clients, and I’m offering a series of complimentary workshops, so please reach out and join me. I make sure to hold space for women so that they feel heard, empowered, and find relief — I’d love to hear your health story!

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Thank you so much for having me!

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