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

Pooping

Sugar Cravings in an Athletic Woman

Still wheat free…kind of.

Last night I sneezed like I’d put my bed in a field of pollen and licked a cat hair lollipop.

Earlier in the day I made lentil walnut burgers that came out with too much liquid.  What does one do to absorb liquid? You add breadcrumbs.  In my case, I should’ve added gluten-free breadcrumbs, but I didn’t. I didn’t have any in the house. Plus I’m on a budget and didn’t want to and couldn’t walk to the store in time to get them and get back to watch my grandad. So I just tossed them in there thinking, “No big deal.”

It was a big deal.  Shortly thereafter, I started to sneeze. A lot.  I’ve had these fits often in the past.  I always thought they were just random allergy attacks even though I was on allergy medicine.  I’ve had them twice since on this gluten-free elimination test that Rebecca Wood suggests.  Both times align with accidental (sorta) ingestion of wheat.  So I’m going to continue to eat wheat/gluten-free to see if that’s really the case.  I also haven’t consumed any dairy since this test began.  I feel great, for the most part. The Cheetos cravings are getting crazy, but so has my life.  It’s hard to walk away, but I do.  They wouldn’t even be here except there’s a teenage boy in the house and I have no control over what he eats. So, they’re here. To tempt me.

I’m in the process of cooking some staple foods to make sure that I have pieces of recipes ready when meal times arrive.  It’s easier to toss some vegetables and seasonings in a pan when most of the work is done.  Overall this is difficult. It’s been a stressful week, but I’m thriving in spite of its events.  That’s nice. At least one thing that’s going well is how my body feels. I like that. I can’t control the events that occur outside of myself. I can, however control what I put into my body to fuel it.

** Side note, as I was tagging this post my grandad — who is having one of his bad days– came into the kitchen.  He wanted to know where I’d been since I left with that man last night.  I told him that I’d never left and that after I said goodnight to him I went downstairs and went to sleep.  He said, “Ok. You know that you shouldn’t be with a man who will beat you up.”  The rambling continued and I got increasingly sad.  He’s not the person I knew. He’s fading and it’s sad.  Being here with my grandfather makes me very sad.

Emotional Eating

Kale salad

I have this thing with food. I’ve talked about it at length in other blog posts like here and here.  It’s a process.  I’m back in Georgia and I’m stressed.  As I’m typing this my grandfather is taking a shower and I’m sitting outside the bathroom door as a precaution.  He’s already had 2 or 3 near falls this morning. Luckily I was there to catch him.  What do I mean by near falls?  His breathing becomes labored. His eyes roll to the back of his head. His body becomes rigid. His spirit goes away. When these “spells” occur, he has no control and will often fall or clutch the nearest object with the death grip to win all death grips.  Two or three times I was there. Once I wasn’t.

I heard something that sounded like marbles against a wall from the other room. I walked into his bedroom found him in the closet in an awkward diagonal with his head against the wall, stomach on boxes, and feet on the floor. I put him in the rescue position on the floor of the closet and put his head on a pillow.  He resisted told me he wanted to “bade” (take a bath).  I responded that I wanted him to stay there for a few minutes because he’d just hit his head.  He argued that he hadn’t and that he was fine.

He wasn’t fine.

It’s always difficult when I find my grandad after he has fallen.  The last big fall he had left him bloody and covered in his own urine.  Afterwards, I craved Cheetos. It was immediate. Once the adrenaline settled the craving took its place.  That time, I ate them. This time, I did not.

I’m on day 6 of a 21-day gluten-free elimination test.  I craved Cheetos last night and refrained from eating them. After his fall this morning, the craving returned and I refrained from eating them again.

I continue to be amazed at how connected I am — at a chemical level– to food. The events of this morning have renewed my sadness and reminded me that he is going to die.  I will have no grandparents left. I will no longer be tethered to this family that hurts. At least not tethered through obligation merely bloodline.  As I continue to explore my odd position in this family and the oddities of this family I can’t help but wonder what will happen to me when his life goes away.

The reluctant gluten-free vegetarian

Alright y’all, I’m LOSING it.  Its 5am I haven’t been to sleep all night because I was up watching, “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix (bomb), painting, and “cleaning.”  My stomach is rumbling and my head hurts. My hips and ankles are sore and I keep clenching my teeth even though I basically shattered a molar two months ago.  Being in Morocco was an exercise in controlled starvation.  Let’s just say there were a lot of potatoes and white bread involved.  I will not deny the presence of Pringles as well.  When I returned to the States I craved vegetables.  That’s all I wanted to eat. Veggies. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I regained some of the weight I’d lost, but I felt better.

I’ve never wanted to be vegan. If that were a choice I had to make it would be for health reasons and not ethical ones. I’m lactose intolerant. I rarely eat meat.  When I do, it’s seafood. Now I think I may have a problem with gluten.  Seriously?! This is getting ridiculous. There has to be something behind my joint pain, stomach cramps, weird cravings, head aches, and SERIOUS allergies.  That’s why I’m eliminating gluten, dairy, and meat. I will still e eating eggs. They’re not actually dairy, just an animal byproduct.

I’ve been thinking about going gluten-free since 2009.  A co-worker of mine and his family were gluten-free and pretty much had me convinced to do it then. I didn’t.  So when I came back from Morocco, I figured this was as good a time as any.  My stomach was basically empty anyway.  I’m also planning to do a juice fast a la “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead,” but first things first.  It doesn’t feel right starve my body of basic nutrients by being in a veggie dessert for a month to then fast on only fresh squeezed juice for 60 days.  So I’d like to balance my system by going on a 21-day gluten-free elimination diet. If that goes well and answers some questions then I probably won’t fast for 2 months. I’ll still fast though.  Fasting clears my head and centers my spirit.  Plus, I think it will help me address some of the questions I have about food related allergies.  It will also allow me to get a better result from introducing and eliminating problematic foods. I just want to feel better.

While visiting a friend in Oregon I went shopping for the basic grains and goodies at Trillium Natural Grocer in Lincoln City, Oregon.  There aren’t any food co ops near my home in Georgia so my friend suggested I mail things home.  I did.  That shopping trip cost me $200+. Mailing the package cost another $69.  I know. I know! I got excited. Bulk food shopping is a spiritual experience for me.  I bought enough short grain brown rice (it’s the business, y’all!) to last me for like 6 months.  I bought a bunch of quinoa as well.  Copious amounts. In the end I felt good about my purchases.  Quinoa here in the suburbs of Atlanta is about $6.79 a pound and I think I paid $3 -$4 at Trillium.  In Seattle, I’ve paid as little as $1.79 for a pound so nothing beats those prices.  As I type that I feel IMMENSELY guilty about how the surge of interest in foods like quinoa in the United States is making it nearly impossible for residents of small towns where the quinoa is sourced to afford this common food. And still I buy it.

Overall, I’ve set myself up for a successful gluten-free journey.  In my package I included gluten-free flours, mixes, and oats as well as other grains.  I had to grab some groceries when I got here so I’d have something to eat while waiting for my food bundle of joy to arrive from Oregon. I wanted to try new grains and I’ve never eaten barley so I got excited and bought some. Weeellllll, for those of you that know anything about gluten, barley is NOT gluten-free. It’s like the epitome of gluten.  Soooo, I’ve been super gassy and my stomach has been bloated and crampy for the past 48 hours.  Whoops. Experience is the name we give our mistakes, right?

My package should get here on Tuesday and in the meantime I’ll be eating gluten-free by cooking with veggies, nuts, fruit and whatever else I can find.  If you have any suggestions or similar experiences I’d love to hear them. I need some serious help, family!

Thug Kitchen, I love you

Listen. I have a problem with loving Thug Kitchen. I think it’s because I don’t know the person behind the posts.  Oppressive cultures do a great job of taking the pieces of marginalized cultures and swimming in their profits. I don’t know if that’s the case here though. It is the case when you’re talking about this guy who says that he took “urban” youth on hikes, but doesn’t. Not linking to it, but it’s out there.  Narcissism for the dubiously modest talks about it on their blog. While I sit in a moral quandary, I want you to enjoy the brilliance regardless of the person behind the curtain:

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Preparing for that which I cannot control

The possibility of taking a 23-day NOLS course this fall is the first thing to excite me in years.  I’m responsible for at least 50 visits to the NOLS website over the last few weeks.  I’m not really worried (maybe a little) about my mental capacity to handle the backpacking. I’ve hiked from 2-14 miles in a day in the past and handled it well. I’m used to spending time in the backcountry for long periods while covering long distances and tackling rolling terrain.  This is not to say that I’m under some foolish impression that any part of my NOLS course will be easy. It won’t be.  Many of the difficulties I may have I cannot prepare myself for.

What I can do is address the physical aspect to being on course.  I started jogging again when I was in Georgia and the weather was nice.  I tried to keep it up when I got to Chicago, but couldn’t. The temperatures aggravated my asthma and I was a complete shit show. I don’t have insurance so me going to the emergency room isn’t something I can afford.  So, I started with P90X again and get outside when I can.  Additionally, I started another fast. I’m on Day 4/Day 2 (depends on who you ask) and I feel great.  I’ve been moderately active and I haven’t been able to complete my P90X workouts. I also haven’t forced myself to, either.  This fast is about resetting my system and trying to reprogram old habits.

I have a pretty fucked up relationship with food at times.  Before you start thinking I eat 4 supersized meals and a small kitten for breakfast, that’s not the case.  I love vegetables and the cooking kale for breakfast is a common occurrence.  I was a vegetarian for almost a decade then I started adding fish to my diet.  In fact, I’m more vegetarian than pescetarian.  Soda is rarely my go to beverage and hasn’t been for about 2 years.  I make fresh juices with my juicer and drink homemade teas and lemonade flavored with stevia when I have a hankering for something sweet.  My problem isn’t often with food choices. Mostly it’s about quantity. When it isn’t about quantity it’s about choice in a big way. Go big or go home, right? *She shakes her head* I’ve used food as a coping mechanism for a long time. Probably ever since I was able to control what I ate which hasn’t been long. Let me explain.

My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much. My mother did what she could, but I spent a lot of time feeling hungry.  She was from the islands and fed us the rural island version of cuisine.  Well, at least what was available here in the states. That was probably fine, but we were in America and when my brother and I hung out with friends, McDonald’s was a go to. She worked something like 4 jobs and we were left to our own devices often. We’d steal money from her coin jar and go to the baseball field, or corner store and buy candy until our faces exploded.  Fast forward six years and I was sent to a boarding school for financially needy and social orphans called Milton Hershey School (MHS). At The Milt, we had access to plenty of food, but I’ll be damned if it was good for us.  We’re talking Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking.  We ate casseroles, potatoes, cream chipped beef, bullseyes (the breakfast egg dish not the seeing orb of a bull), sugar coated french toast, and their nutritionally deficient cousins. Everything  came in the big box truck known as the meal bus.  Not only was the food for shit (props to the ladies in the Central Kitchen even though it was nutritional shit is was pretty tasty… those birthday cakes and cookies?! I still dream about those) it was also controlled by someone who wasn’t me. I did not grow up learning about the food around me. I just remember we had to set the tables with meat first, starch second, and then the vegetables.  Our portions were controlled. If we wanted more it was kinda a no go. If we wanted less, or none we couldn’t.  We had one “No Eat” food and that was it. Because my mom didn’t want me eating pork, that was my “No Eat” food. Everything else, I had to ingest.

That was middle school. High school was a bit different, but not much. The atmosphere of the school changed and we started shopping more often at the local Giant Food store.  Nonetheless, my education did not include food.

In college, I became a vegetarian.  I don’t remember when or why, I just did.  The cessation of meat consumption didn’t really, at least I don’t think, come with knowledge about healthy eating.  It wasn’t until I went to work for Milton Hershey School full-time at Springboard Academy that I began to teach myself about nutrition.  I’d began some studying in Chicago, but I made pennies and couldn’t afford healthy shit anyway.  When I got to Springboard I made enough money that I could live alone AND afford healthy food items.  Hell. Yes. When I learned about quinoa I damn near lost my shit. Stevia? Hell, that knowledge pretty much gave me an aneurysm. Even then, I was in a SUPER toxic relationship with someone who had CF.  You may not know, but people with CF need to consume large amounts of fat.  People with ADPKD like I have don’t. So with this toxic relationship not only was I not strong enough to set healthy boundaries for myself, the person I was with had the exact opposite dietary needs as I had.

Moving to Seattle is what did it for me. I was working as an Outdoor Educator and physical activity was my life.  When I started with Seattle Public Schools, I had enough money, again, to afford the food we all deserve.  My apartment was across the street from a Jewel Osco, and few blocks from Trader Joe’s, and the Central Co-o: Madison Market — my favorite place in Seattle. I spent so much time at the co-op learning about vegetables, buying fresh breads and cheeses, selecting kombucha, and focusing on my overall well-being. This was two years ago. I’m twenty-nine years old and my healthy relationship with food and nutrition just started. I’m still a baby.

My hope is that my fast will tune my brain and my heart to the key of my stomach. I don’t want to eat when I’m not hungry. I want to remember what hunger feels like and associate that with goodness. Like it’s a message from my body that reads,

Hey, thanks so much for that last meal. We’ve sent it on to do great things and are looking forward to more. ”

Instead of,

Holy shit we’re hungry. We’re hungry. Fuck, when’re we going to eat again? Are we going to eat again? Who remembers how to make biscuits?! Flour’s cheap. We can use water instead of milk. That’ll keep us from dying, right?! Right?!

Two very different messages. I’m tired of teaching my body that panic is a good way to approach meeting its needs.

This NOLS course will test me physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally. I’m worried about meeting my cohort and being the only  Brown person. Worse yet, would be finding out I’m the only Brown person with no White allies.  My standard for interacting with Whiteness is pretty concrete. I’m not going to sacrifice my wellness because of ignorance. I will not allow someone to learn off of my back. My story is not a novelty it’s my life. I don’t know how I can/would/should respond to racist shit that occurs Outside in this situation.  Actually, I don’t want to deal with it all I just want to fucking play outside because it’s my favorite thing to do.

What I can do is prepare (as much as possible) my body for the physical challenges that are certain. Cause NOLS is hard, y’all. I can sharpen my mind and clear out space for frequent visits. Other than that, I can only rely on the me that’s been alive this long and has not gone to prison for reacting to hate — purposeful, or accidental.

Fasting and babysitting leads to reconciliation

Oy. My head hurts, and my lips are dry. My nose is stuffy, but that’s annoyingly usual. My shoulders are sore and I feel like there’s a cat litter box on my tongue.  There’s a lot going on.

I went to the Zoo with Magoo aka Goober aka Goo, today.  It was nice to be around her in this way.  I was her only option for safety and she clung to me just as her parents said she would.  We had to fake her out though.  Before we left we pretended like Daddy had to go to work, Mommy had to leave, and Grandpa was going to the doctor. She said her goodbyes and everyone bolted to corners of the house, except for me. Heh Heh Heh. We walked down the block and she held my hand. A two-year old’s hand is really fucking small bee tee dubs.

We still have our issues, but it was a good day.  We took the bus, which she loves, and she fell asleep. The little White girl and adult Black woman in public is an eye catching dynamic to say the least.  There will probably be a post about that later.  I carried her from the bus stop to the zoo and the wonderment commenced. That little lady fuckin loves animals.  Like lost her shit with excitement and loves all animate objects not human.

I was nervous about spending the day with her because she cries as soon as I hold her. It’s kinda like I’m the plumber and she’s the drain. Her pores and ducts let loose when I’m around then I look like I’ve kidnapped a small child. Her grandpa joked that he was going to put out an Amber Alert as soon as I left the house, the bastard. I laughed, but was totally willing to chop him in the throat

We met up with my friends who were in town and their two kids. I go way back with those little munchkins. Like since before fertilization back.  I almost delayed moving to Seattle so I could see the youngest be born.  We’re close.  Having the opportunity to hug and love on those little buggers filled up a part of me I didn’t know was empty. Hopefully I’ll get to hangout with them tomorrow.

I sat down with the intention to create a post about this fast I’m on.  It’s the second day and I’m kinda feeling it as I mentioned in the first paragraph. Instead, I talked about the children in my life.  Huh. Maybe I just needed to get that out. In my early twenties there came a point when I wanted children of my own. My biological clock stood in place of my heart and I felt like I would expire if I didn’t procreate.  Being around my Friends With Kids (great movie) over the last 4 years has changed my mind. I love kids — not all of them by any means– but I’m not sure I want to expel any from my vaginal cavity.

My excitement comes from reading the course syllabus for my PhD program. My heart palpitates at the thought of traveling the world. I salivate thinking about sleeping in my car in the dead of winter while driving cross-country for the seventh time.  When I think about dating or having children the part of my heart dedicated to dreams and passion shrinks like a flaccid penis.  I’m not there anymore.  My ADPKD is supposed to flare up when I’m about 37. Dialysis will begin shortly thereafter.  It’s not wise for my body to endure dialysis and pregnancy separately let alone simultaneously.  The longer I wait to have kids the more likely it will be that I shouldn’t.

Perhaps all of this is my body, my heart, and my mind reconciling that I’ll always be,  “Auntie Jéhan.” If it’s not, and I feel that yearning again I have no qualms about adoption. 🙂

Related Posts:

Detox

I am a Mouthbreather

Body Image

What to do about Magoo

Eat Rite Health Promotion Center Amarillo, TX: a review

When I was a kid I tried to make bubble gum. I read the list of ingredients on the side of a Bubble Yum package and compiled what I could from the kitchen. It should be no surprise that mama’s ingredients did not Bubble Yum make.

Today at almost 30 years old I had a similar experience. I walked into “Eat Rite Health Promotion Center” in Amarillo, Texas looking for BCQ or Boswelia Curcumin Quercitin. They didn’t have it so they handed me other bottles with other ingredients including what I was looking for. Sort of. I was going to experiment, but then felt uneasy and told them I found it online. Which I did. The men– who were less than friendly– said oh, what’s in it? In one of the most condescending ways I’ve been spoken to in a very long time. I showed them the ingredients from my iPhone and they exchanged some dialogue and sent me on my way. I left the exchange feeling like they were mocking my choice and, in fact, me. I returned the items to the shelves and started to purchase the other items in my basket. I looked over my shoulder to find the older gentleman sneering at me. Sneering. Like Lord Voldemort.

It’s been 30 or so minutes since that interaction occurred and I’m still angry. I would drive away, but then they would walk away from that feeling like it’s okay to treat people in that manner. It’s not.

They were offering me dehydrated apples and apple juice and telling me it’d make an apple just fine. That’s not true. I had a specific product I wanted and they didn’t have it.

I’ll never shop at Eat Rite Health Promotion Center again and I hope you won’t either. In a second, I’m going to go back in there and give that gentleman some feedback that’s probably long over due.

Has anyone else had a similar experience at this location?

attractiveness is relative and that sucks

Seattle weather as of late has been impressive.

I could just kiss your face

When the sun comes out in Seattle, residents collectively lose their shit. Everyone is outside, running, jumping, throwing frisbees, walking dogs, playing soccer, eating organic locally grown kale, and working in their gardens.  We’re like the antithesis of vampires. Wednesday I was a happy member of the flock.  I rode my bike 4-5 miles to a restaurant to eat with a friend.  At dinner I didn’t snort the pre-dinner bread and oil like I usually do (yay good choices!).  We ate a sub par meal (I didn’t eat it all and I’m proud of myself).  Then I biked home — well, part way– I biked downtown and took the bus uphill.  Then, because the weather tickled my athletic parts I changed, leashed my dog, and went for a run. Ladies and gentlemen, zes and hirs that never happens. I don’t work out more than once in a day unless I exercised in the morning and was chased by a mugger at night.

He was equally surprised

Upon my arrival home I signed up, at the urging of my friend, for My Fitness Pal.  It’s like Weight Watchers, but free AND awesome.  Today I logged on via computer and discovered some other cool new features (you can write on your friend’s walls).  I even picked up a friend or two.  I hope my enthusiasm lasts.  I think it will just maybe not at the same intensity.  It’s kind of fun.  When you use the mobile app you can scan the bar code of what you’re about to eat and it uploads the nutrition label.  I’ve uploaded homemade recipes and it calculates the contents; vitamins, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fat, etc.  My favorite part is how it incorporates your exercise into the mix.  I went to my boxing fitness class and burned 916 calories.  I can then see how it impacts my food intake. It’s like a lazy person’s food journal.  Okay, maybe not a lazy person’s…more of an electronic food journal for busy people — so basically the opposite.

This recent burst of athletic vigor allowed me to realize that sometimes I don’t do a good job of looking in the mirror and recognizing what I see. Granted,  I’m getting better at it.  I’m trying to see my body for what it is and not what I think it is, or what plutocrats and media outlets tell me it is.  Most recently, I noticed one thing that I have that works in my favor; my athleticism.

I am athletically inclined. I excel at sports.  I was a fantastic basketball player, field hockey goalie, and track and field shot putter/javelin thrower/discus tosser.  When I tried sparring for the first time I rocked it.    When I do cardiovascular exercise I shed fat and my musculature is evident.  I don’t have to try hard to look ripped. That being said, I also struggle with looking at myself as feminine and seeing myself as attractive. Ah, there lies the rub.

Now, even though I don’t see myself as attractive, I feel attractive when I’m working out. No, that’s not right, I feel confident when I’m working out.  I’ve heard they come hand in hand.

How does this tie into Blackness, you ask? Well, closely.  In a book I’m reading Black Rage the author mentions (this is not a direct quote) how White women can exert little to no effort and be seen as attractive.  They can wake up, brush their hair, walk out the door and be viewed by society as prreetty.  Black women, however? We must exert much more energy and focus into looking socially acceptable.  Have you seen Chris Rock’s 2009 movie Good Hair? If not, watch it. If you have and you still disagree, watch it again and read Black Rage. In the Western culture we aren’t socially acceptable if we walk out the door with our hair two stepping in the wind just as it grew out of our heads.  Before I had locks nightly I would oil my hair, two strand twist it (at least an hour’s worth of work), wrap it up in a silk scarf, go to sleep, wake up fix the scarf, go back to sleep, wake up, untwist it, style it, and then I still look liked what people would call a “ragamuffin.”  Trust me, I did the “just brush and go” often, and that choice has had me playing in the basketball court of androgyny way too long.

So, when you look at me — natural hair, athletic build, darker skin (we haven’t even gone there yet), and deep voice I am not attractive as deemed by society.   Then, let’s whip cream my lack of familial influence in my upbringing, coming from a “broken home,” AND my naked love of things that are not generally accepted in “b”lack culture.  I’m screwed when it comes to self-image.  I didn’t grow up hearing “You’re beautiful” or at least “You’re visually acceptable.”  That’s why I’m a 28-year-old woman who is still coming to terms with being Black and seeing myself as attractive.

Attractiveness is relative.  I am slowly digesting the possibility that media tycoons, stupid psychologists, and government officials could be wrong.  There is a possibility that when I am at my best — well exercised and properly nourished– I have the makings of a handsome woman (that term still makes me giggle).  Now that the Seattle weather is nicer, the anti vampires have come out of their tent cocoons, and I’ve become best friends with My Fitness Pal, I’m definitely examining a cleaner petri dish.  My hope is that when I’m at the weight I’m supposed to be (T-minus 34 lbs) I can re-examine my self-image and self-worth.