The Most Economical Way to Achieve Good Health


.This article first appeared on the Spirited Natural blog on August 8th, 2019. 

Inexpensive, no special equipment, no supplements or shakes and you can choose to participate online or in person, at work or at play, in the morning or the night.  What is this magical key to good health?  Healthy Relationships!  Scientific studies have shown that having meaningful relationships boosts our health as much as a proper diet, adequate sleep and exercise and managing stress.  In addition, research shows that conflict in relationship and social isolation is associated with increased inflammation, higher risk of heart disease, depression, cognitive decline and earlier mortality.   Here are some tools to nurture the relationships so you can live a long and happy life.
Quality not Quantity is What Matters
All relationships, not just romantic relationships, can meet our need for social connection – family gatherings, hanging out with friends or work colleagues, community or religious activities.  Having just one non-judgmental relationship is more important that having many trivial relationships.  They key is having relationships where you feel supported and that there someone is there for you, in good times and in bad times. 
Deal with Conflict
Conflict is an inevitable part of human relationships.  When we feel criticized or rejected, it can trigger a stress response in our bodies. And often, we respond by getting defensive or withdrawing emotionally, which can escalate the conflict.  Avoiding conflict is not a healthy solution for you or the relationship as unexpressed emotions fester below the surface and resentments could build up.  Furthermore, it does not create space to solve the problem at hand.  Dealing with conflict head on gives you and opportunity to repair and heal, which can ultimately strengthen the relationship.
Mindful Listening
One of my favourite quotes on communication is by Mark Nepo, he says “To listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”  We are often so focused on what we are going to say next or being right, that many of us don’t truly listen when we are in a conversation.  When people feel like they are truly listened to, they feel valued, respected and appreciated which are important foundations of a healthy relationship.
Focus on You
To nurture healthy relationships, we have to be willing to work on ourselves.  While it may be easy to find fault in our spouse, children, friends or colleagues, the reality it, there is only one person we can change. We can learn to be more loving, compassionate and understanding so our relationships will flourish.  We can choose to recognize that our personal baggage, insecurities, fears, desires and hurt feelings are impacting the quality of our relationships.  We can stop taking things personally, playing the victim and trying to control the outcome to develop a stronger emotional connections.  This work is no easy task, but opens the door to beautiful relationships and a joyful life.
Small Things Often
Quality relationships don’t require lavish gifts, but small positive actions done every day.  Whey you express your appreciation and tell people what you love about them, it helps both you and them.  People need to feel validated and it serves as a reminder to you of why this relationship is important to you.   Find out the “love language” for your important relationships and show love in ways that they can receive it.
Kaylan Bartholomew is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Hatha Yoga Instructor who helps busy parents make healthier choices for themselves and their families, creating a balanced and joyful life.  Kaylan can be contacted at +1 868-332-9841.

The Self-Love Revolution

In the Underpinnings dressing room I am privileged to see women smile at their reflections, do happy dances and even squeal with joy. I have also seen and heard women apologize for their bodies, lamenting stretch marks, tummies and the dreaded “back fat”. As women, we can be our own worst critics, and there seems to be something about a dressing room that brings out buried insecurities in so many of us. I created the Uplift Project video series as a way of trying to help women come to an appreciation of their whole selves, by showcasing the beauty of self-confidence and self-appreciation. Over time, and through continued interaction with women through my work at Underpinnings, as a facilitator of the Springboard Women’s Development Program, and yes, through my own journey of personal growth and introspection, I’ve come to realise that many of us find it challenging to be truly loving and accepting of ourselves. These show up in so many ways: we constantly find fault with our bodies, we settle for relationships or jobs that are unhealthy, we hesitate to try new things because we are afraid that we will fail because we are “not good enough”…the list goes on.

I believe that self-love is the act of acknowledging and accepting all aspects of myself: the physical, psychological, spiritual and emotional, even while I continuously grow and evolve. Developing this habit is the best thing we can do for ourselves, and while it takes work at first, with consistent practice it can become the default setting.

Here are 5 simple ways you can practice loving yourself.

1. Know your self-worth: Practice listening to yourself. How do you feel today? What do you need and want to make you whole? Be mindful of who you are as a person, rather than relying on others to provide affirmation.

2. Take care of yourself in order to take care of others: You cannot pour from an empty cup. To be a great wife, mother, employee or business woman you need to connect with yourself often, find your centre and take care of you. Allow yourself to be selfish sometimes; your inner circle will appreciate it. A refreshed version of you is always more willing to go above and beyond for those you love.

3. Engage in positive activity: Self-love doesn’t always mean bubble baths and spa retreats. Practicing self care can take the form of engaging in healthy activities, social interactions, intimacy, exercise and providing your body with sound nutrition.

4. Allow yourself to say no: Don’t be afraid to set boundaries! Loving yourself means knowing when you need to say no to the numerous activities that deplete your energy stores (physically, emotionally and spiritually).

5. Be unapologetically you: Never apologise for who you are! Live in your truth and your purpose. The more you do this, the more you will love yourself, and the more you will find the fuel to create your best life.

When we make a decision to actively love ourselves we become more conscious of the actions we take and thoughts we have. This awareness allows us to choose rather than just react. I choose love, and I hope you do too.

My First Ever Bra Fitting with Underpinnings Part 2: Getting to know Kieran


By Samantha Thornhill

​After my personal triumphs and revelations from my successful fitting at Underpinnings, I wanted to share this entrepreneur’s insights with others, so I returned to Underpinnings to talk shop with Kieran Valley-Gordon. Come with me to meet the woman behind the vision.
ST: Tell me some things about yourself, and what you’ve been up to.

KVG: I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister and more recently an entrepreneur. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was a full time corporate banker. Like many entrepreneurs I started my business to solve a problem that I was having myself, in terms of finding bras that fit my body, were comfortable and were pretty. For the past 4 years I have been trying to solve that problem for other women as well.

ST: So did you just wake up one day and think, huh, why don’t I start a bra boutique? What on earth could’ve inspired you to leave your corporate job to do something more, pardon the pun, fulfilling?
KVG: It happened almost exactly like that with one small exception. I was already on sabbatical from corporate life when I decided to start Underpinnings. The idea came to me because as I mentioned, I was having difficulty finding bras that had the combination of fit and comfort in styles that I liked. Once the idea took root, I knew I had to do it and so I proceeded to do several bra fit training courses and the rest, as they say, is history.

 One thing I will say is that while the boutique was started to solve what I considered to be a practical problem, I soon realized that it was also addressing an emotional problem, in that many women, especially my fuller busted clients, viewed their breasts almost as an affliction. I think this stems from a combination of not being able to find appropriate bras in mainstream stores and the emotional baggage that can come with that, along with the very real physical discomfort of wearing bras that have not been supporting them properly. What I hope to accomplish through Underpinnings is to encourage women to see that there is absolutely nothing wrong with their bodies and that they don’t have to settle. I want to help women dress in a way that instills a feeling of beauty and confidence that they can then project outward.

ST: Was your husband supportive? 
KVG:  My husband is my number 1 supporter in this venture. Somehow he understands the problems I am trying to solve, perhaps because he has seen my own frustrations in the past. Entrepreneurship brings its own challenges too, so it has been good to have that support and a sounding board at home.

ST: Something you said at the end of our session stayed with me. After you showed me the proper method of putting on a bra, something I’d never learned, I said to you, wow, there is really a science to this, to which you replied, “An art.” Can you expound on that?
KVG: That is a great question. I think the answer to that lies in the fact that every woman is different so that while there are certain key things that I will address for every fitting; the things that have to be technically correct for the bra to do its job in supporting the breasts; the art comes in a variety of ways. Firstly, in my interaction with the client. The fitting room is a place where any insecurities a woman has about her body can raise its head so in dealing with clients that is something that I am sensitive to. Secondly, and this may be stating the obvious, every woman’s body is different. For example, the position of the breasts on the ribcage, shape and fullness can vary widely, and these factors can mean that two women with the same bra size would be best fitted in different style bras. Thirdly, even if a bra is technically a good fit there is also the very personal aesthetic that the woman is going for and understanding that plays a role in the styles I would bring for her to try.

ST: Why does it or should it matter how our breasts show up in the world?
KVG: It is not so much how they appear to others, but how your appearance impacts the way you carry yourself in the world. For example, I have seen women hunched over because their bra does not support the weight of their breasts. When someone carries themselves like that they can seem closed off, timid or lacking in confidence, and this may very well not be in keeping with who they are. When they wear a bra that fits and supports well, not only can they stand taller as the weight has been lifted off of their shoulders, their clothes fit better and this contributes to their own feeling of confidence. It’s this combination of physical comfort and confidence in their appearance that ironically helps to remove the focus from how they look and allows them to just be themselves.

Samantha Thornhill is a published poet, educator, producer and author of three children’s books. A performer on stages across the United States and internationally, she holds an MFA from the University of Virginia. 
Watch “Ode to Twins”, a spoken word piece by Samantha, dedicated to none other than her girls.

My First Ever Bra-Fitting with Underpinnings – Part 1 of 2


By Samantha Thornhill
Four years ago, Kieran Valley-Gordon took a break from her corporate banking career for the wild unknown. In her case, it was starting Underpinnings, a super-inclusive bra boutique in Port of Spain with cup sizes going all the way up to K.
When we auspiciously met six months into my postpartum, my bra game was pretty sad. I hadn’t gone clothes shopping since the pregnancy; under loose maternity dresses and blouses, my breasts hovered comfortably just above my navel in the hammock my worn out nursing bra had become. No matter what I wore, my voluminous boobs stole every bit of thunder from my Coke bottle waist lurking below.

Having a smallish back with a cup size that’s higher than most vitamins makes it difficult to find adequate and comfortable brassieres, so I’ve spent two decades settling mostly on cheap, undersized and utterly unflattering selections.

Though long overdue, it was a radical act of self-love for me to book an appointment with Underpinnings for my first ever bra-fitting— time and money well-spent. From Kieran, I learned at least three things in the half hour I spent in front of her dressing room mirror raising my arms like a flamenco novice, then leaning, clasping, smoothing, and twirling tentatively before my grinning reflection.

​Firstly, I had been using an improper technique to put on bras.  Secondly, I was way off on my cup size, which I didn’t even know existed. Most importantly, I realized that I was still carrying internalized shame around having unusually large mammaries since my youth. In my late teens especially, I often felt ashamed of my breasts precisely because of the unwanted attention they garnered me, from everyone you can imagine. I thought I had gotten over a lot of that, but some of these unpleasant feelings resurfaced during my pregnancy when people frequently remarked how huge my boobs were going to get once I started lactating. Once again, my breasts were everyone’s business, and come postpartum, I was swimming in my clothes and wearing scarves in summer—a teenager once more.
In the dressing room mirror, one glance at myself in a bra Kieran had expertly plucked from a teeming rack was enough to snap out of it. Having true coverage looked and felt great. I sauntered out of Underpinnings two brassieres richer, a few hundred dollars lighter, and excited to buy clothes for the first time since before the pregnancy. Also, Kieran’s seamstress could convert any of my purchases into a nursing bra for a kind price by the week’s end. It was time to say bon voyage to my convertible beige tit slings.  

Once I started wearing my new bras, family members noticed that I looked remarkably slimmer (now that my breasts were being held up and away from my stomach). Finally, my flat tummy and curvy waistline were getting the shine they deserved, and I have since bought some waist-hugging new threads that entice me to leave home more often. Furthermore, my new bras have transformed the way I walk into crowded rooms and onto stages.

The domino-effect importance of buying the right bra for my size has been undeniable, and I am forever thankful to Kieran for ditching her corporate banking career to follow the trail of breadcrumbs to her dreams. I’m convinced that many women like me are better off because of her decision to do so.  
Note from Underpinnings: If you’ve had a fitting with us we’d love to hear how the experience affected you. Please share by sending us an email or leaving us a review.
Samantha Thornhill is a published poet, educator, producer and author of three children’s books. A performer on stages across the United States and internationally, she holds an MFA from the University of Virginia.
Watch “Ode to Twins”, a spoken word piece by Samantha, dedicated to none other than her breasts.

5 Steps to Creating the Life That You Want in 2016

​I’ve broken more New Year Resolutions than I care to remember. There’s something about January 1 that inspires many of us to create lists of things that we think we should do but funnily enough these are often lists of things that we don’t actually want to do! So last year I made no New Year Resolutions, instead, I decided to really spend time thinking about the few things that, if I accomplished them, would really make 2015 a success.   Here’s the process I followed:

1. Focus on only a handful of goals.

​Instead of making a mile-long list of goals (hello overwhelm…and inaction!), it helped me to focus on three major areas of my life, myself – meaning my physical and emotional health, my relationships- ensuring I made time to connect with family and friends, and, of course, my business – my intentions for Underpinnings and for serving my customers.  In each category I then identified 2 or 3 outcomes that would make a meaningful positive impact if they were to be achieved.

For example, maybe one of your desired outcomes is to deepen your relationship with a significant other or your children. A goal in that category could be something as simple as spend 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time connecting with the person on a daily basis.

2.  Make your goals actionable.

​Ok, so we’ve all heard this one before. Goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). I’ve never liked the idea of “realistic”, since I find it can limit options…if I were being realistic I would not have left a full-time corporate career to open a small business…didn’t I know that most small businesses fail within 3 years?!
For my inner rebel I’ve replaced “realistic” with “relevant to your current life circumstances”.  Feel free to use whichever ‘R’ speaks to you more. Notwithstanding my tangent, thinking “SMART” has a lot of merit.  What, specifically are you going to do that will move you closer to your desired outcome? How will you know when you’ve accomplished it? Using the example of wanting deeper relationships – the specific, measurable action item is to spend 10-15 minutes daily with the person. It will be easy to tell if you are accomplishing this goal – if 2 weeks pass and there’s been no quality time, well, something needs to be adjusted, which brings me to…

3. Track your progress. 

​Creating and writing your goals is the first step; but reviewing them is what will keep you on track. Schedule time each week, maybe Sunday evening as you are getting ready for the week ahead, to review your goals and the action items.  Have you been doing what you said you would?  If not, why not? What adjustments can you make? Tracking your progress helps you keep motivated, and, well, on track.

4. Make yourself accountable.

​By the time March rolls in, will you still be working toward your goals? The reality is many of us would have given up on some of our targets. It helps to have an accountability partner to prod you when you feel like giving up or when you’re not taking any action. But you need to be selective in whom you choose. Your accountability buddy should be someone who is committed to helping you improve, whose opinion you value and who can help keep you motivated in a way that does not criticize you

5. Set goals based on how you want to feel – not on what you want to have.

​This might be the most important step, what do the outcomes you are working towards mean to you? I find that when there’s an emotional connection between me and my goal, I have a higher chance of achieving it. Let’s go back to our goal of improved personal relationships.  How would it feel to have that deeper connection? Would it bring more balance to your life? Would you feel happier? More able to be fully invested in the other areas of your life if your relationships are solid? It’s easier to be committed to accomplishing a goal when you can visualize how you would feel when you accomplish it.
There’s a saying that if you don’t know where you want to go then any road will take you there.  2016 can be just another year or you could make a decision that it will be a GREAT year!  If you don’t have any goals for next year yet, I encourage you to start thinking about them and writing them down.  It’s a basic human need to strive for improvement and personal growth.  Let us know, how will you be different at the end of 2016…tell us one of your 2016 goals and one action item in the comments below.

5 Secrets for the Female Feter


The Carnival season is in full gear and whether you’re dressing to impress at an all-inclusive or dressing for the bacchanal of a cooler fete here are 5 tips that can give you the comfort and confidence you need to look and feel fabulous as you party the hours away…

Breasts, Biology and Bras


Do you know how to dress your breasts?  It may seem like an odd question, but as women many of us give a lot of thought to our outer wear; the styles, sizes and cuts of clothing that best complement our bodies.  But how many of us think about these things when choosing bras?

Since wearing the right bra for your body can help you feel more comfortable, confident and beautiful, this post aims to help you understand the changes that occur within the breast over time, how those changes affect the shape, fullness and firmness of your breasts, and how different bra styles may best complement your body as it changes.


During this time the emerging breast tissue may be sensitive and tender, and girls may experience itchiness of the skin as it stretches to accommodate the growing breast.  Some young ladies may find relief by wearing a supportive undergarment such as a camisole or a bra.  Early bras are less about providing shaping and structure to the breast tissue and more about offering support and modesty under clothing.  If you find yourself responsible for one of these early bra-shopping experiences with an impressionable girl please be mindful that any comments you make can impact her body image for years to come.  A young woman’s breasts will develop at their own pace, and can take from a few months to a few years to fully develop.  Try to avoid descriptive words such as “big” or “small” and try to assure her that whatever breast development she has is completely normal.  Your bra fitter should also help to ensure that the experience is positive.

Pregnancy and breast feeding

We’ve covered the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy and breastfeeding in these previous posts:

1. How to choose bras during pregnancy
2. Guide to choosing nursing bras
3. Will nursing my baby cause my breasts to sag

In summary, as a woman’s body is going through these changes quality maternity and nursing bras can help ensure her comfort.  Look for bras with wide side bands as this will help support the increased weight of the breasts.  The straps should not be overly narrow, as this may cause them to dig in at the shoulders.  Bra cups that are made of a slightly stretchy material will accommodate growing breasts while breathable fabrics will help keep a woman cool as nursing can raise body temperature. For women who are used to wearing underwired bras and choose to continue to do so during pregnancy and nursing it is crucial to ensure a proper fit to avoid any potential issues with mastitis – a painful infection caused by blocked milk ducts.  Your bra fitter will check to make sure that the underwire rests on ribcage, not breast tissue, and does not dig in.

Before, during and after menopause

As a woman ages the milk producing system atrophies and is replaced by fat.  Having more fat than milk ducts makes the breasts both heavier and softer.  Additionally, the connective fibrous tissue loses strength and it is this combination that is largely responsible for the loss of firmness that many women experience over time.  Some women find that they are no longer able to fill out the moulded cup “t-shirt” bras that they wore in their 20s and 30s as their breasts change shape and lose volume. Bras with seamed cups help provide structure and shaping to softer breast tissue and are also especially useful in providing support for full-busted women.

Choosing bras that fit and flatter

Breasts vary widely in terms of shape, volume, firmness and spacing on a woman’s body.  Even women who wear the same size bra may find that different styles are more flattering.  Our last words of advice are to (i) always try on a bra to know how it is going to work on your unique body, and (ii) select styles that fit and flatter both your body and your sense of style.  There are beautiful bras available to suit every woman.

Disclaimer:  This post is not intended to offer medical guidance.  Please seek advice from a healthcare professional if you have a concern about any changes to your breasts.

Underpinnings Bra Makeover

Late last year Underpinnings held its first “Love Your Body | Love Your Bra” makeover competition. Contestants were asked to share why they loved their bodies as well as why they thought they needed a bra makeover.  Five lucky women won a complimentary bra fitting and a $50 Gift Voucher.  One complete bra makeover was awarded to Ayanna.  Here is her experience.