Hey - we're Leah and Ashton, the husband and wife team behind Totem. We're so excited and happy that you're choosing to lead a stronger, healthier, and happier life with us and the rest of the #TotemTribe. We named our company Totem because a Totem is a symbolic emblem of the life you want to live and of the qualities and traits you do your best to embody and identify with.
Totem was founded because we saw a disconcerting and deliberate disconnection from the things that make us human and make the journey of life fulfilling in favor of a culture of quick fixes, detox teas, and instant gratification. And we noticed that when you're severed from the things that make you most human, you start to feel unfulfilled and malnourished - physically, mentally, and emotionally...
Totem was founded in 2018, but the road to starting a wellness company dedicated to helping other people find their way to sustainable wellness was a long and winding one - with a lot of false starts, self doubt, fear, and embarrassment.
For a long time, being healthy and well wasn't a priority for us. It simply didn't cross our minds that the unhealthy habits we clung to (most of which we didn’t realize were unhealthy) and the patterns that we thought were normal and necessary, were not only holding us back from feeling (and looking) good physically emotionally, and mentally, but they were also holding us back from living a larger life with purpose, passion, and abundance.
Living post college life in Chicago was filled with beer, pizza, and late night taco runs. Our jobs were low paying, stressful, and ultimately unfulfilling, but we took solace knowing that we could always drink a little, have some pizza, or waste away on the couch all weekend to numb those uncomfortable feelings away. Looking back, it's alarming how much we normalized this lifestyle and how miserable it made us emotionally, mentally, and physically.
We were overfed and undernourished in every sense of the word. We were fat, out of shape, stressed, broke, pale with dark circles under our eyes, sleeping terribly, uncomfortable in our own bodies, depressed, unfulfilled, moody, had zero energy, and were completely disconnected from each other. We knew that this wasn't the life we wanted and that we needed to do better for ourselves, but we felt so trapped in a vicious cycle of trying to do better, not making progress, and falling right back into the very habits we so desperately wanted to avoid. Our entire life felt out of our own control because we expected some quick fix, fad diet, one jog around the block, or BIOHACK (ugh hate that word) to change us overnight.
The final straw came when a trip to New England led to our hiking Mount Monadnock. Out of shape, drenched in embarrassed stress sweat, and gasping for air - we trudged as if we were on a death march, lagging behind the entire group. Guzzling water, pounding granola bars, and aching all over once at the summit, we had had enough. As a couple who thought of themselves as outdoorsy, this was embarrassing, shameful, and the exact wake up to reality we needed.
Getting happier, healthier, and stronger felt daunting because, up until this point, everything had felt so out of our control and permanent. Combined we had nearly 100lbs to lose, no real exercise experience whatsoever, and we had to reengineer our entire lifestyle to bring forth stronger, happier, and healthier versions of us. It was scary to take a step in a completely new direction and leave behind the comfort of what we knew. But there was a tiny voice inside of us that reassured us it would be worth it, and over half a decade later it has been.
For us, it started with food and nutrition. We found that focusing on high quality meats, eggs, seafood, fermented vegetables, bone broth, high fat & high quality dairy, green vegetables, and low sugar fruits (like berries and avocados) worked best for us. Although there's a lot of conflicting information out there about the kind of food you should eat, we think it's important to trust your self and your body when it comes to the food you choose to eat. Do you feel better, stronger, and clear thinking after you eat it? Cool, eat more of it. Once we started eating better, it didn't just change how we looked and felt -- it changed everything.
When you're eating poorly it's pretty easy to let brain fog, lethargy, and mood swings from blood sugar crashes and food that doesn't sit well with you keep you trapped in a life you don't love. We noticed that as we started to eat better and feel better, suddenly we had energy to be active. Our mental clarity improved significantly and we could no longer tolerate low paying and stressful jobs. With more emotional stability, we connected more as a couple. As our energy improved, our desire to be outside in nature doing things grew immensely. The flood gates were open and there was no turning back. Life was fuller. Seeing daily progress physically, mentally, and emotionally made us fall in love with the process of health, strength, and wellness, not just the "end result" (there is no “end result”!) Loving the process and the lifestyle granted us the freedom to pursue (and get) better jobs, move to California (and Colorado for a hot minute), fall in love with each other again, get more involved with where our food comes from, be consistent in our training and movement, get outside as much as possible, and stay anchored to things the things that make us feel most human. All of which, we believe, are essential to sustainable wellness.
Since changing our diet, our lives have never been the same. It's hard to look back at pictures of us before we made big life changes because we feel like completely different people now in the best sort of way. Learning to choose courage over comfort, led us to a deep nourishment that, previously, we didn’t even believe existed. Before, we were undernourished on all levels and expected a quick fix to change our poor health and lifestyle with little effort on our part.
Now we know, it just doesn't work like that. It takes a lot of courage to get out of your comfort zone to try new things for the sake of your health. It takes discipline and consistency to see the fruits of your labor. It takes a willingness to look stupid or do something unconventional in the face of other peoples' judgements. It means that you toughen up, get comfortable with discomfort, and do what needs to be done to live a life with purpose, passion, and abundance. Once you start putting in genuine effort, you realize its the effort itself that most nourishes you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
We want to help guide you on your own journey of nourishment. We started Totem to help people like you navigate toward a more human life through diet, nutrition, movement, community, healing, time in nature, mobility, self love, and self trust. We're here to tell you that no one has your answers but you, and it's up to you to figure them out so that you can feel, look, and perform your best physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our goal is to help 1000 people tap into the innate wellness within them and lead a stronger, happier, and healthier life with purpose, passion, and abundance.
Thanks for joining us, we're excited for you to begin your journey. We're here to light the path to wellness for you, but it's up to you to have the courage to keep walking.