Sonia Couto – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“I always think of myself as part of a team. We’re all here to achieve the same goal, and if we all achieve success, we’re all going to be successful.”

It’s quotes like this that make Sonia Couto an award-winning leader. As Director of Konverge Digital Solutions and Founder of MenuSano, she’s gleaned a long list of awards, including CEO of 2019 from the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). During my interview with her this week on my podcast, Girlfriend, We Need To Talk!, it became obvious that they were all well earned.

“I try to lead by example. If I ask for something, I’ll also do it, just so that I’m leading, but I’m also showing that I can do the work.”

And her work is meaningful. Menusano launched in 2010, providing labelling software for users to calculate nutritional value in recipes and adjust ingredients to meet nutritional demands. And its development stemmed from the personal needs of both her team and herself.

Sonia is a breast cancer survivor, and her treatment journey unfolded while developing the software. Once in remission, she needed to be careful about what she put in her body. Now she’s able to keep track of that, and her clients are able to provide the info. For example, restaurants can provide calorie information on their menus and create labels on take-out, and users can create their own food analysis, which then allows them to replace ingredients in the software to bring down calorie count. It’s available on the cloud, so anyone can subscribe and use as needed. Brilliant!

I love that this idea came from a genuine need, and I love even more that she survived breast cancer, something she lists as her greatest personal achievement.

“This is such a big thing in my life, and it’s such a huge accomplishment to be able to survive it.”

Beyond the business and beyond the awards, Sonia also found a new approach to life and leadership as a result of her diagnosis.

“I learned how to trust people, I learned how to trust my team, I learned how to delegate. I used to be the type of person who thought that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. But getting sick and having to step back a little bit, and having to take time off for treatment and surgeries, I really had to delegate and trust that while I was away the work was going to get done. And my team just stepped up. They didn’t ask any questions, they just started doing the work, so I realized that I don’t have to do everything myself.”

Not afraid to admit to being “a bit of a control freak at times,” this was a valuable lesson, indeed. And a great way to practice self-care.

At one point in my nursing career, I worked in oncology and saw, firsthand, how cancer can change a person’s life. I have also seen, on numerous occasions, how people’s priorities can shift. And so they should, quite obviously, but how rewarding to create a product that can help others fight the good fight with a solid nutritional arsenal.

“Nutrition and food can be medicine. It’s something I live in my personal life.”

And we should all be grateful that she does, setting an example for others. The trick for the rest of us is learning how to appropriately fuel our bodies before we’re faced with this type of challenge instead of after.

Sonia and I agree on the importance of nutrition, and we agree on something else:

“The thing is catching it early. When your body tells you, and you go and you get it checked out, you have a chance to fight it and live a good quality of life afterward.”

Cheers to that. Congrats Sonia!!

You can listen to Sonia’s interview –> HERE <-- and it’s also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

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Menusano Website
Konverge Website
Recent Award for Menusano

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In it blows, December’s wind
Leaving in its wake,
A blanket thick with virgin snow
Where angels kids will make

With magic clasping mittened hands
All snowmen breathe in life,
And lights come out and lights go up
To decorate the night

Trees appear in windowed homes
Tradition hung to branch,
As years gone by bring smiles, tears
And thoughts of past romance

I dream it still, as though a child
In fields of sparkling white,
That winter’s joy and beauty
Will bring hearts and souls delight

For in that field I also see
A chance to forge a path,
That leads to my December years
With peace and love intact

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, December 1, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-seven of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Leana Delle

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Jeanette Bessinger – The Girlfriend Takeaway

Jeannette Bessinger is here to save our butts over the holidays. Well, to save them from getting any bigger, that is, but she’s also an all year round health and consciousness coach who knows a thing or two about balancing women’s fitness, food, and mood. I’m all for that. And she applies her know-how to the awesome lifestyle transformation program that she founded and designed called MeBoot.

This outstanding woman was my guest on Monday’s podcast, and I liked her immediately. She delivered great energy, a great story, and even greater advice.

Jeannette had been working on a previous gig that had been successful but eventually left her feeling burned out. As a result, she took some time off, slowly pulling back from work pressures and the demands of social media. This led to a full-on break, involving a long road trip with her husband and beloved pets. It’s while on the road that “a shift happened,” which, after she returned, continued. She got a rare, if not singular, opportunity to spend several weeks alone with family taken care of elsewhere, and soon after, she and her husband downsized from a four-story house to a home with just four rooms.

What did she have to show for all of these radical changes? Epiphanies, that’s what, and we’re all better off for her having had them.

“It’s almost like all the pieces of my career, all the different things that I had done and people that I’d worked with, all of them kind of rose up in the air and rearranged themselves, and when they settled again, I had a completely different picture of what makes a vibrant, healthy lifestyle for women today.”

The result was the birth of MeBoot, her interconnected program that’s making a world of difference to her subscribers. She attributes this brainchild to her sequence of events, but she admits that the act of clearing out, both her space and her mind, led to one of the five essential pillars that make up her trainings.

“Before you can even begin to make changes in what you eat and your daily rhythms, you have to make space for something new to come in. It’s like a spiritual law of physics.”

But how does all of this relate to healthy eating?

“Changes occur in our forties and over on the plate but off the plate, as well. All of the other parts of ourselves and our lives are intermingled deeply, profoundly, with the way that we eat.”

Jeannette reminded me that 95% of weight loss attempts are failures, and there are fundamental flaws in the ways we operate. It’s all about that interconnected approach.

And the holidays? A time when people, including myself, traditionally gain poundage?

She talked about decision fatigue or our willpower batteries getting low.

“I think we’re on decision burn out all the time, and in the holidays it gets cranked up. If we have to make a decision every single time we’re faced with a holiday treat challenge, we’re literally going to wear out that battery by nine o’clock in the morning.”

And we all know that that lasts over a long period of days, not just Christmas morning.

My biggest takeaway from Jeannette was that we need to set behaviors and decisions in advance so that we’re prepared. An example of a decision could be, I’ll have one drink or one dessert, or I’m going to have one dessert in the next four days. But the trick is to make it non-negotiable. And the best part is this:

“Every single time you stick to it, you strengthen that track in your brain of being in a certain kind of mastery around your choices.”

In other words, craft your formula, and if stick to it, you’ll strengthen your choice muscle and reach mastery. BAM!

And one of the best pieces of advice that applies not just to the holidays but to literally everything in life: “Stay present.”

I couldn’t agree more, and although we’ve now made it through Thanksgiving, her advice will get us through Christmas, as well. Only Santa really needs those cookies.

Check out Jeannette’s interview –> HERE <--.

You can also listen on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever your favorite podcasts are heard.

Thanks, Jeannette!

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A special message from Jeanette

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Thanks Giving

A day draws near for gratitude
One for giving thanks,
Though prep and planning in advance
Can fill a soul with angst

With travel near and travel far
As families reunite,
The bustle of the season
Can frustrate or delight

But in the midst of mayhem
A moment does await,
A pause, a rest, so fleeting
To blink may change its fate

When all have finally gathered
And worries fall away,
As voices mix with laughter
And stop only to pray

This is when it matters
This is when our hearts,
Should fill to overflowing
Before another parts

For those that are and those that were
And moments that we’ve shared,
Are truly all that matters
Truly something rare

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, November 24, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-six of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Debby Hudson

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Karen Sugar – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“I learned a long time ago that we’re all connected by many of the same experiences walking the planet, because we’re women.”

Karen Sugar always felt compelled to make a difference. She’d worked with women and poverty issues for years, but after learning about micro-finance in grad school, she felt sure she could expand her reach. She describes micro-finance as “providing very small loans to people that don’t have access to traditional banking and loan intervention.”

But where could this approach have the most impact? When she heard about a post conflict region in Uganda, the decision finalized and the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) was born.

Africa just wasn’t getting the attention that other locations were, and they’d been through hell. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had just ended its long reign of terror in the region, which included the abduction of children to be used as soldiers and sex slaves. That conflict ended in 2007, and the region is now in full recovery.

The changes since have been exponential, and the word “empowerment” is in the organization’s title for a reason. Empowerment is being delivered and sustained! WGEF to date has given out over 17,000 loans to women borrowing groups without a single default, and 572 women are now serving in leadership positions. They’re owners of restaurants, hotels, beauty shops, farms, you name it, and their daughters are following suit.

I did ask if there’d been cultural resistance to the changes, or if men, in particular, had been angered.

“In the beginning, there’s often push back when a woman enters any empowerment program, depending how culturally conservative her community is, but the longer and more successful she is, the more acceptance and change that happens. That’s definitely the case for us.”

And helping to micro-finance the endeavors of these women is only the start. They’ve also had 4,600 literacy participants and their Healthy Periods Initiative (HPI) continues to amaze. Prior to its inception, pads were either non-existent or unaffordable. As a result, girls were using rags, newspapers, and even leaves, making it impossible to go to school. The only option was to quit.

“It’s a human rights issues, and it’s about dignity.”

Thanks to HPI, a machine has been purchased that produces sanitary napkins. They’re locally made and sourced, and, through the initiative, WGEF has dispersed 3.5 million pads to 16 schools and three refugee camps over the last 2.5 years.

“This is changing girls lives, and it’s not rocket science. We want to keep girls in school longer, reducing child marriage and giving them the opportunities they desire and that they deserve.”

The contribution that Karen and her organization are making is phenomenal. Yes, one person can make a difference, but changing the world requires help. WGEF needs funding in order to fund, and Karen needs a community.

“I need some good sisters around me. I cannot do this on my own.”

If anyone knows what it means to be surrounded by a faith filled sisterhood, Karen Sugar does, but the more the absolute merrier and the greater the impact.

Oh, and she’s planning a trip to Uganda in April. Contact her below if you’re interested in seeing WGEF’s work firsthand.

Thanks, Karen, for all you do!

Karen’s inspiring interview can be heard HERE.
It’s also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

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