10 things that have changed since going gluten and dairy-free

I hate running.

Making muscles on the back porch

Making muscles on the back porch

This afternoon I went for a run and didn’t hate it.  In fact, I liked it.  I ran longer and faster than I have in double-digit years.  As I made my way past tomato stands and cornfields in rural Pennsylvania I couldn’t help but attribute it to my recent elimination diet and resulting gluten and dairy-free lifestyle.

When I first approached my doctor with the idea of being gluten intolerant 4 years ago  she scoffed, said it was just a fad, and waved off my question. At that point, I was less direct and didn’t pursue it further.  Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I’ve changed and she’s no longer my doctor.  My history with food is pretty busted. I’ve written about it at length here, see Related Posts below for more. After feeling off my game for years, I decided to try a gluten-free elimination diet/cleanse of sorts. I’m in love with Rebecca Wood’s, revamped, book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. It’s not a diet book. It’s not a cure-all. It’s information.  I’m in love with information and I want it to be my baby daddy.  The book is just what it calls itself, an encyclopedia about whole foods. Not the over-priced market, Whole Foods but the plants that grow out of the ground you’re supposed to eat.  I learned all about new plants and even picked up a few recipes.  I was able to find any ingredient I needed at my local co-op.  Look for one in your city. They’re worth it.  My life has changed since going gluten and dairy free. Here’s how.

  1. Energy: I’m anemic, I have Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), Polycystic Ovaries, Lactose Intolerance, I have allergies that rival Bubble Boy’s, and I’m an educator starting 3 companies simultaneously.  My body is put through its paces regularly.  I assumed that all those issues were the reason I was so tired. Cutting out gluten and dairy reset my body to “normal” and I’m no longer fighting “the itis” or ethnic fatigue.  I feel like my body came back to me.
  2. Waist size: 3 or more inches have disappeared from my waist. It might be weight loss, but I think it’s bloat. Probably both. I was constantly gassy and bloated. My clothes rarely felt comfortable and I  never felt completely empty even if I was famished.  My midsection is notably smaller.  I’ve also stopped farting like a frat boy after drinking PBR.
  3. No joint pain: After I stopped skating derby I started seeing a physical therapist.  My hip was hurting and my ankle quickly followed.  She gave me exercises and the pain started to go away.  I attributed it to the exercises, but I noticed that the pains came back after I’d been “glutened.” My joint pain has disappeared. It doesn’t hurt to move.
  4. No more insomnia:  I have a history of my body hating me.  That would manifest itself in the form of 3am wake ups after midnight fall asleeps. That’s no longer the case. I often arise with the sun if I’ve gone to bed at a decent hour.  More importantly, I sleep for 7-8 hours regularly and awake feeling refreshed and excited to get my day started.
  5. Wheezing: I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma a few years ago. I attributed it to being out of shape. My Ear Nose and Throat Doctor said it was asthma and prescribed an inhaler.  I filled the prescription once and then never again.  If my breathing became labored I would just stop the exercise until my lungs stopped punching me in the chest.  Since cutting out gluten and dairy I can run for at least 1-2 miles without encountering labored breathing. Even then, there’s no mucous, and I don’t end up bent over fighting for air.  It’s nice.
  6. Weight loss: Of course. It just seems like a natural progression. If one cuts out breads and cheeses (the only meat I eat is fish) they’re bound to lose weight.
  7. Uncontrollable Cravings: My current doctor (and physician soulmate) prescribed (or rather suggested) I start taking digestive enzymes after I told her how I CRAVED sweets and bread.  I don’t mean, “Oh, I could go for a piece of chocolate.” I mean I’d be sitting in my apartment feel the craving and somehow find myself teleported to Safeway with a basket full of Spicy Nacho Doritos, sugary drinks, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Snickers, and whatever else I stumbled upon. It was bad, folks.  I took the enzymes for awhile.  I’ve since stopped.  The cravings have also stopped. Also things taste different. Processed food has started tasting…well…gross.
  8. No itchy Skin: For the longest time I thought I had lice. It felt like there were flies on random parts of my body.  This might be a result of my recent trip to Morocco where there were literally flies on me all the time, but I doubt it. The itch has gone away and I’m grateful.
  9. Mood swings: I’m pretty even-keeled at this point. Granted, I’m not as stressed as I was previously.  Well, at least I’m not stressed in the same way.  My grandfather is still dying. I’m a new entrepreneur. My salary technically makes me impoverished. I’m writing and acting in a one-woman play that goes up in 8 months. But I’m not snapping at people. My emotions aren’t all over the place.  I feel like….a person.  I’m different.
  10. Pooping:  It used to be weird. Now it’s not. I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

This is not a post to convince you that you should eliminate gluten or dairy.  If I could go back I would jump buck naked into that pool with the quickness.  I can’t though. My body has been sending me messages for years. Things like poverty, lack of knowledge, and plain ol’ stubbornness have preventing me from hearing them.  I’m walking away from this experience feeling like I have more control over my health than I previously believed.  That’s what I’d like you to take away from this experience.  Your have more control over your well-being than you think.

Related Posts:

Emotional Eating

Body Image

Fasting and Babysitting Leads to Reconciliation


Sugar Cravings in an Athletic Woman

A simple update

I am strangely exhausted.  This morning I tried to take my niece to the playground to wear her out so she’d take a nap early. The idea was to get her to the Chicago Children’s Museum during its free hours from 5-8.  The weather was like, “Ha! Y’all mofos need to stay were y’all at.” We slowly walked a few blocks. At times, the wind literally prevented her from moving forward and her little hands were red like she’d been throwing snowballs. We stopped for hot chocolate which she said she wanted, but then didn’t drink (she’s not human) then made our way back to her house. The morning did not go as planned.

I had a doctor’s appointment at the Travel Clinic so after I dropped her off I took the train downtown and got my shots, pills, and prescription for diarrhea meds while overseas. My arm hurts from the shots and this is all becoming very real; I’m going to Morocco. I’m going to be there for 30 days. This is my life.

Other than the events I just described I didn’t do much — oh, wait…I know why I’m tired. I just remembered like I’d blacked it all out. I won’t get into much detail, but my weariness is a result of emotional strain. It’s been a rough, and honestly childish, week and that can take a lot out of a 30-year old woman. I’ll just say that people are hard, and I’m pondering a life of narcissism. If I’m overly focused on myself then maybe I’ll forget everyone else and it won’t hurt so badly to deal with people. “Hell is other people.”

For now, I’ll focus on finishing up the curriculum for a training I’m facilitating this summer. That’s been fun and tiring as well.  It seems that my lifestyle as of late, is more depleting than restorative. What am I doing to replenish myself? Exercise replenishes me in a way because it’s good for me, but I’m not doing the exercise that makes me happy. I’m doing the exercise that is free and convenient, running. I don’t care too much for running. I miss skating derby, riding my bike through traffic in the city, and taking boxing classes at the boxing gym. I miss being able to hit things.   I think that may play a role in how quickly I imagined myself resorting to violence during an argument I had last week. Seriously, I experienced glee at the image of me choking someone out. Those that love me don’t understand how prone to violence I am. If there were awards for restraint, I’d be a Hall of Famer.  Hitting things keeps me in check. I began writing something last night that triggered a few tears.  Emoting that way was helpful, but not enough.

I need to figure out what is enough.

I’m so very tired.

I need to climb

Before I left Seattle my good friend over at Eat, Climb, Love taught me to climb outdoors.  If she didn’t have a life I’d try to climb with her every weekend. Well, actually every day but who wants to sound creepy? She’s gracious and fun, and super talented on the rock. When I get my residential school started I’m DEFINITELY going to try and recruit her to teach. 😉

I’ve wanted to become a bad ass climber for years. In fact, I bought myself a climbing carabiner years ago as a reminder. I used (and still use) it for my keys as a constant reminder to go climbing.  I don’t mind climbing indoors. It’s fine. My interests, however, are in outdoor climbing. I don’t want the safety of mats. I don’t want colorful handholds adorned with pretty tape. I want Mother Nature’s knuckles ready to bust me on my head or extend a friendly hand. I want to look down and see her bosom eagerly awaiting my impact.  I want to climb mountains like I did trees as a kid. When I’m done with that, I want to mountaineer.  Climbing Mt. Kilaminjaro has been on my “Do Before I Die” list since Semester at Sea in 2004.

I am fortunate to have been awarded the NOLS Gateway Partnership Scholarship. It’s helping pay for a 30-day Outdoor Educator Backpacking and Whitewater Canoeing course in Yukon Territory, Canada.  This will help me accomplish another of my goals which involves me mastering the art of maneuvering whitewater.  It will improve my skills as a practicing educator and enable me to sharpen my water skills. I would love, Love, LOVE to take a NOLS rock climbing course as well. During my search for rock climbing intensives I’ve yet to find a program willing to take me out for 10 or more days a time to focus on my climbing techniques. I’ve even been looking into classes offered at climbing gyms just to get practice.  The problem is, I no longer own a car, and any climbing gyms in or near where I live in Georgia are 6-10 miles away.  There’s also limited public transportation. I have to walk 4 miles through serpentine suburban roads with no sidewalk to get to a bus stop. It’s complicated and dangerous.

I feel restless because now that I have the time to dedicate to improving my work, I don’t have the resources. If any of you have any ideas as to how I can make any of these things happen please share with me.  In the meantime, I’ll keep doing research and keep my fingers crossed that I get the NOLS Southwest Fellowship applied for. There may be an opportunity for me to learn climbing in Arizona, and that’s just badass.

Body Image

To say I have a problem with body image is to Mitt Romney might be a Republican.  My struggle with weight has existed since college.  While many put on freshman 15, I put on freshman 40 (+/-).  My face puffed and my calves, which are usually fat free expanded with cellulite as well. I have a pictures where my potbelly looks like I’m 6 months pregnant.  It’s been a struggle. Often a struggle of which I was unaware, but a struggle nonetheless.  During my last Obgyn visit in 2010 my doctor told me I needed to lose 50lbs.  A few months ago I went to the emergency room with chest pains. At a follow-up visit the doctor told me I was strong, but I “needed to lose weight.”  I can pack on 20 lbs in a season without thinking about it.

Photo 326

After proofreading this post I wanted to take this down. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to remove it…for now.

One of the biggest issues that comes with these weight fluctuations is a skewed body image.  No matter how much I weigh,  when I look in the mirror I see that 6 months pregnant not actually pregnant 19 year old. This is a picture of my back a few months ago.  My bra is too small and back fat is spilling out the sides.  The thing is about 2 years ago this bra fit perfectly, and was, in fact, an eensy bit too big.

I don’t have a picture of of my back, but this is a random picture of me from that summer when I was at my most fit.  Photo 49

I spent the summer leading backpacking trips and had less than enough food to eat.  I remember cooking a red pepper with an onion, adding salsa, and putting it in a corn tortilla.  I couldn’t afford bus fare to and from work, so I’d bike the 10+ miles to and from the base each day I was in the front country.  Seattle ain’t flat. In the back country I’d carry a pack between 50 & 80 pounds (+/-) and hike 2-7 miles daily.  I was in great shape.

It is nearly impossible for me to maintain that level of fitness in the front country.  Fitness was my entire life. The problem with the off-season is that I was not burning the same amount of calories, I consumed relatively the same amount of calories if not more, and I wasn’t consuming the same quality of calories (Red Hot Blues vs. G.O.R.P.).  As a result, I needed to find a way to burn a large amount of calories + go to work and lead an urban life.  Not simple. I’m not a fan of pretend exercise. I don’t want to go to the gym. I’d rather hike 14 miles to get from one campsite to another. With the hiking it’s mandatory exercise. The gym is pretend.

I started roller derby in June of 2012. I skated about 3 times a week from June until August.  I was in a different kind of shape. Just look at my legs.  Here is a picture of me in July or August of 2012.

Photo 335

My rectus femoris (totally had to look that up) are AMAZING. My gracilis (again with the look up) are lacking.  I know you can’t “spot” burn fat, but that’s a place I would if I could. I’d like to accomplish a few things:

1. Reconcile what I look like in the mirror with what I see in pictures, and what is true in real life. There is a huge disconnect for me.

Photo 317

I had no idea my stomach looked like this until I took this picture and saw it. Even when I looked back at the mirror I couldn’t see myself as I was.

2. Develop an eating lifestyle that is not reward based and does not lend itself to stress or emotional eating

3. Understand that women are different. Websites like My Body Gallery are fantastic.  I don’t need to look like: Michonne.1.2  imagesimages-1images-2

No matter how much weight I lose I won’t be shaped like them.  My body is built to climb mountains not to grace the covers of magazines stocked on shelves in a society that oversexualizes women.  Their bodies are beautiful.  I just don’t need to make them the mile marker for my own.

Taken 3.20.2013

Taken 3.20.2013

Related blog entries:

Chest Pains – She is indeed Undone

Detox – Wearingmyblackness

Knock Kneed Mary – Wearingmyblackness

All images of copyright of their original owners. If you see your photo here and would like for it to be removed just let me know.


Tripod the Yoga Destroyer

The friends I’m visiting (well, I think visits last a few days, I’ve been here a week. Stupid ING Direct/Capitol One 360) adopted a dog.  This visit is the first time I’ve met him. I think I like him more than my own dog.  No joke. He’s a little bit of something and a whole lot of Cairn Terrier minus his front right leg.  It’s been assumed that he was hit by a car, but no one knows for sure.

His name is Tripod.

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time together while my friends are at work.  We went for a jog the other day which ended in me carrying him because he decided to just lie down 1/2 through. It was adorable.

I’m starting a juice cleanse because while I’ve made better choices during this road trip than during past jaunts, I’ve still been eating less wonderfully than normal and exercising even less.  The cleanse is a bit of a reboot button on my digestive system.  I digress.

This morning I decided to do yoga on the floor of my friends’ living room.  Roughly 3 seconds in my “Oms” this happened:

First .

Then this happened:


Finally this

Eventually I gave up my pursuit of centered breathing and stretched muscles.  When I’m done writing this post I’m going to take both he and my dog for a run.  I’d like to wear them out so maybe mama can get peace.  If not, I’m seriously going to call him Tripod the Yoga Destroyer for the rest of his life.

P.S. Here’s a picture of my dog’s similar disregard for personal space:DSC_0021

life, decaffeinated

I took my blood pressure today and it was 141/101.  It’s been high like this for weeks.  My ADPKD will worsen with high blood pressure.

One tactic patients try is to reduce their protein intake. I’ve been a vegetarian since 2004 with recent additions of fish over the last few years.  I’ve recently removed animal meats, and reduce dairy to creamer  in coffee.
I need to completely eliminate caffeine.  This is frustrating.

I’ve enjoyed my frequent visits to my favorite coffee shop patronized by local hip hop heads, and neighborhood friendlies.  I’ll just have to switch back to tea– decaffeinated.

It’s not the worst thing that could happen.  I am still afraid, however, that my ADPKD will get the better of me before I can finish leading the life I want.

Rock Climbing

I have a friend.  We haven’t known one another very long, but she is a friend indeed.  Her blog Eat. Climb. Love is a fun read.  She took me on my very first outdoor rock climbing trip. I had a BLAST!

Here are some pictures from our day climbing at Exit 38

This is the approach. How gorgeous is that?!

I think this is a 5.6 climb. For those of you who don’t understand why climbing is rated the way it is here are two explanations:

  • Class 1 is walking on an even, often planar, surface with a low chance of injury, and a fall is unlikely to be fatal.
  • Classes 2 and 3 are steeper scrambling with increased exposure and a greater chance of severe injury, but falls are not always fatal.
  • Class 4 can involve short steep sections where the use of a rope is recommended, and un-roped falls could be fatal.
  • Class 5 is considered true rock climbing, predominantly on vertical or near vertical rock, and requires skill and a rope to proceed safely. Un-roped falls would result in severe injury or death.


Yosemite Decimal System (YDS)

Yosemite Decimal System is a grading system commonly found in the United States. The basic concept behind the Yosemite Decimal System is simple and utilizes the following format: Format: Class.Sub_Grade Suffix Danger_Factor Example: 5.11b R (5 is Class, 11 is Sub_Grade, b is Suffix and R is Danger Factor).

Classes (Yosemite Decimal System)

An example would be 5.9 where ‘5’ is the ‘Class’ and 9 is the ‘Sub-Grade’. In YDS the class has a value from 1 to 6.

1 = Walking

2 = Hiking up steep trail

3 = Steep hiking

4 = Steep hiking / scrambling. Some parties may want a rope.

5 = Climbing. Most parties will want a rope. Exposed terrain.

6 = Aid climbing only

In free climbing most grades will be class 5. Mountaineering typically involves everything from class 1 to 6. Aid Climbing focuses mainly on difficult class 5 climbs and class 6 climbs.

I think my most difficult climb that day was a 5.8. This girl was SUPER proud of herself.  =]!!!

For the record, I’m terrified of heights.  I did fine that day.  I was a little afraid on my first climb, but after that it was just fun. I did use my knee and took home a little injury.

Let’s discuss my climbing gear.

  1. Helmet- Petzl. I’m a fan of the brand and when I went to REI it was the only helmet that fit my large head. True. Story.
  2. Harness- Black Diamond 2011. I also enjoy their brand and it was on sale at REI last year. The padding isn’t overwhelming and I could move freely and easily.
  3. Shoes- 5.10 Mocassins. I borrowed a pair from a friend before I bought these.  I love them.  I’m a big fan of gear with few seams.  It’s totally me, but I feel like the more stitches it has the more places the fabric has been compromised.  That’s one of the reasons I chose the Mocassins.  That, and when I tried my friend’s they were super comfortable because he’d worn them in.
  4. Chalk bag-Black Diamond
  5. Carabiners –  Black Diamond — all the Black Diamond gear came together and was on sale for, I think less that $90.
  6. Polar F7 Heart Rate Monitor – Love. I often like to wear my HRM during derby.  I was interesting to wear it while climbing.  I’m not sure how many calories I burned.
  7. Ropes – Yeah, those belonged to my pal. If you visit her blog. I’m sure she’d be happy to share her opinion on gear.

I wish I could climb 3 days a week and skate derby the other 4.  If you’ve never climbed or skated you are missing out my friend.  🙂

Black people don’t swim

I had a conversation with a coworker yesterday.  At some point he said, “Black people don’t swim.”  I laughed.  For the most part he’s correct… I guess. I mean, maybe. When I envision the lap swimmers at a local pool I don’t picture a bunch of Black Americans doing laps for exercise.  That’s probably because I haven’t been to a pool in YEARS. As a culture, we don’t swim. I’ll embrace that.  We hang out in the pool acting a fool and socializing, but we don’t linger on weekends to perfect our butterfly stroke. Do some Black people swim? Of course.

We “don’t do” activities because historically we were denied access. We were marginalized into our own communities with little access to awesomeness.  Think about it.  Name something Black people “don’t do.”  Now look back at when it became popular in America. If, at some point we were denied access through legal or social infringements it’s probably not apart of our culture now and frankly Black people, that’s lame. We gotta do better.

I’ll swim.  I don’t mind it.  It’s not like I’m afraid I just haven’t had the opportunity in recent years because of work.  If I’m at the pool I usually supervising a bunch of excited youth from the sidelines.  Becoming a whitewater rafting guide, however, is on my “Do before I die” list.  I’m in this place with work where I want to quit but haven’t figured out my next step.  I like my apartment so I want to keep that, but I also want to travel.

Whitewater rafting The New River

That’s me in the back, by the way. No, not the white guy….


*Dance Break*

I just had a mini daydream about happiness.  In it, I went to the local co-op, bought bulked goods, and put them in a storage container in the back of my yet to be purchased vehicle with all my camping gear.  I pictured myself traveling with my dog and cooking food on my camp stove and sleeping in the back of my car with the hatchback raised so I could see the sky.

Why don’t I just do that?

Note to self: Answer the above question.

*End Dance Break*

One reason I haven’t swam/swum/what word goes here? in a while is directly connected to body image issues.  I haven’t felt at home in my body and I don’t want people doing to me what they do to women at the beach. I am uncomfortable when people remark on my body even if it’s for a compliment.  That’s why derby is so fantastic.

I can skate around in fish nets, panties, and a halter top and throw myself around for 90 minutes without someone saying ANYTHING about my body.  I love those spaces. I’m going to try to make “swimming holes” spaces like that for me.

Summer goal: Engage in the activities I want regardless of societal pressures.  (I’ll let you know how that goes.)  😉

knock-kneed mary

According to the internet I’m obese.

I remember being in my 10th grade biology class and discussing knock knees, bow legs, and “normal” legs.  For some dumb reason I said, “I want knock knees!”

I’m an idiot.

I GOT them and I HATE them.  In fact, I’m working on getting rid of them.  I’ve done some research on the internet and discovered that you can fix them.  Some people go through surgery to break and realign bones. That’s way too serious for me so I’m going to do it by strengthening muscles in my legs.

I took some preliminary pictures so I can document my progress.  It fits into my desire to lose weight and get more fit, too!

This is how my legs should align when I stoop down

If you look, my knock-knee-ness is not that bad, but when I walk it gets worse.  I’m a thick woman and so my legs are thicker than average.  They rub together when I walk and it’s annoying.  I’m aware that no matter how much (healthy) weight I lose my thighs will probably always touch.  If I strengthen my adductor muscles it will probably help my situation.

I went to roller derby last week and they noticed how knock-kneed I am and mentioned how it might impact my roller skating.

As I bend my knees you can see the natural tendency “knock” against one another. This is my current “normal” bend.

So, I’m doing certain exercises, and tweaking my running form to improve my body’s alignment and overall performance.  Roller derby is something I’ve only done once, but I’m in love.  The thought that I could get good enough to be drafted onto a team excites me.  It’s not my goal, but it’s exciting.

I’ll keep everyone posted.