May 2023

Turning Nightmares into Bliss

This morning, Jaime McFaden’s 6-year-old daughter Sofia came into her room in tears after having a nightmare. Her dream – that her mom was taken onto a pirate ship and killed by pirates.

“I think the greatest legacy that I can leave my daughter is that every moment of every day is a gift,” said Jaime, 37, who lives in Capitola.

This is a conclusion that Jaime came to after her father died of alcoholism when she was just 18 years old.
The death of her father caused a mindset shift in Jaime, after watching him be seemingly unable to control the decisions that made him sick in the first place. Jaime knew she did not want that to be her life and thus began her wellness journey that would ultimately change the trajectory of her life forever.
Single mother and wellness guru, McFaden has had a life that was anything but normal – but she took her experiences and turned them into motivation to help herself and now she uses what she knows to inspire others through self-care and giving fitness classes for moms in Santa Cruz.

Born in Redwood City to a large and proud Greek family, Jaime had a happy childhood. That is, until her blissful childhood years became plagued with nightmares and visions.

From ages 8 to 12, Jaime struggled with severe depression, anxiety, and insomnia, with her visions getting so intense that she was studied at the Stanford Medical Center and even featured on the TV show Dr. Phil.
All of these struggles culminated in her hospitalization at age 12, which Jaime describes as “a life changing experience that made me realize I wanted help and support, I just had no idea how to do it.”

Breaking her own cycles, Jaime transformed her life for the better; she even went on to win Miss Junior California at 15 (which Jaime describes as very uncharacteristic for her).

All of this came crashing down when Jaime’s father fell ill and ultimately passed away.

Feeling herself slip into her old habits, Jaime then dedicated herself to understanding mental health, behavioral patterns, and the best ways to take care of yourself.

Starting with physical fitness, Jaime threw herself into challenges, worked with a handful of trainers, and ultimately started gaining clients of her own.

During this time, personal training was a side business for Jaime. Graduating high school a year early, she lived in Greece for one year which inspired her lifelong passion for traveling, even going on to become a flight attendant with Virgin Airlines.

As a blossoming fitness guru, one of Jaime’s biggest role models was renowned fitness and life coach Jillian Michaels.

When Jaime found out that Michaels would be speaking at an event she would be attending, she did everything within her power to figure out how she could meet the woman who helped change her life.
She called and emailed Michaels’ office with no luck and even found herself approaching Michaels’ security during the event to see if they would let her get a glimpse of long-time role model.
Her persistence paid off. Jaime was granted permission to go backstage and meet Michaels.
After only a few minutes of conversation, Michaels asked Jaime to join her on stage for her workout event.

“She put me on stage and there were like a thousand people in this room and I did this workout that I had no idea I would be doing. It was so wonderful and scary and challenging and all the things,” said Jaime.

From there, she was invited to audition to work with Michaels. Today, the two still have a relationship, having worked together for over 10 years.

Working with Michaels opened a whole bunch of doors for Jaime. She began working for other fitness platforms such as Aaptiv and Grokker – she was even featured on Good Morning America, doing a segment on the different types of injury-free exercise.

Jaime eventually began working exclusively for Aaptiv, which gave her freedom to travel or work from home which was a great benefit for her now that she had her infant daughter. Life was perfect.
Then, just before Christmas in December 2020, her whole team got laid off.

With no job and no other business ties, Jaime decided it was time to “do this on my own.”
Jaime created her own brand, W.A.V.E. by J, which works to teach others, specifically moms, how to practice self-care and take back control of their own lives to create a happy and healthy existence.
She also runs a podcast called Self-Care Secrets where she provides “a full toolbelt of action steps you can take daily to put yourself at the top of your priority list, having more to give to the world.” She also wrote a book titled “WAVES of Self Care” of which her mentor Jillian Michaels wrote the forward.
Now, Jaime spreads her message her way. Having a podcast, a book, 13,500 Instagram followers, and content across several fitness platforms, Jaime spends her days working with clients, practicing her own self care, and spending lots of quality time with her daughter Sofia.

When asked her favorite part of her journey, Jaime instantly knew it was motherhood.
Part of her overall goal is to give Sofia an example of a positive role model who approaches life with confidence and kindness.

“If I can show her that mommy can be healthy and work hard and be empowered and be kind and loving and show up every day for myself as well as for her, I hope that can instill in her a confidence that she is not only worth living a happy, healthy life, but that it’s totally possible.”

Like many others, Jaime used to think self-care was selfish or a luxury. But that is exactly the misconception she hopes to break with her work.

For her, the ultimate self-care is taking responsibility for your own life first so you have room to care for others – and that’s exactly what she preaches throughout her work.

“Sometimes self-care is actually getting work done. Sometimes self-care is shutting off my phone. Sometimes self-care is literally doing nothing besides playing with my daughter because playtime is a huge part of self-care that adults forget” Jaime said.

The biggest theme throughout both Jaime’s work and her own life is that everyone has the ability to take responsibility for their life and if you’re not happy with where you are, you have the ability to make a change for the better and you are not alone in this.

See her online fitness videos and learn more:

Writer Gabrielle Gillette is a Cabrillo College journalism student who wants to pursue a career as a reporter and will attend U.C. Berkeley next year.

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