Stephanie has had some very cool adventures in life and in fitness!
Stephanie Diamond, age 33
I grew up in Hope Valley, Rhode Island. I currently live in Bujumbura, Burundi, Central Africa.
Sports and accomplishments
Running and hiking. I trekked to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2009.
I was under a lot of stress at my job and I’d lost nearly 10 pounds in a short amount of time. I was already pretty thin, so losing weight was a weird thing for me. Plus I was moody and just not feeling great. Being aware of the symptoms, it didn’t take me long to make the connection to celiac disease. I also quit the job. I was diagnosed in the summer of 2003. A couple years earlier, my brother had been very ill; it took a year for him to be diagnosed with celiac disease. I was able to see the symptoms in myself and get tested and get on the gluten-free diet before I got as sick as he did.
I’m building my base for half marathon training. I run 3 to 5 miles several times a week. On my off days I play tennis, go hiking, or do yoga, depending on my level of energy. I never really got into strength training, even when I had to do it for my high school and college teams. When I was training for Kilimanjaro I weighted a pack to about 20 pounds and walked up and down the mountain that I live on. Three miles, three times a week. It really helped prepare me for wearing the pack on the trek.
I become a monster when I have an empty stomach so I graze most of the day. I listen to my body and eat what it tells me to. Sometimes that’s a lot of fruits and veggies, sometimes it’s a big chunk of meat. I do try to balance things. But I love ice cream, cheese, and other heavy, creamy foods. I run so I can eat them.
I love the grass-fed beef and other meats here in Burundi. I never thought I would eat goat, but it’s delicious! We get good fresh milk and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Many of the local traditional foods are gluten-free and I’ve had fun trying them. Lots of rice and cassava and beans. They brew beer from banana and millet. It’s a yummy treat.
When trekking, a good portion of my weight is Lara Bars and Kind Bars. They are convenient for snacking on throughout the day. I also bring gluten-free instant hot cereal for breakfasts. I love to start a day on the trail with a hot breakfast.
Pre/post workout food
Pre workout I eat very little. Before tennis or hiking I’ll usually have a bowl of gluten-free granola mixed with some flax cereal because I need to be sustained for a couple hours.
On running days I’m up and out so early to beat the heat that my stomach’s not awake yet. I usually have a little water and sometimes half a Lara Bar. I rely on having had a big healthy dinner the night before–lean meat with veggies, rice and beans, or quinoa pasta.
Post workout I love toast with peanut butter and a tropical fruit smoothie. (Mango and pineapple are always in season here. I love it!) I brought my breadmaker, so if I get 3 hours of uninterrupted electricity I can make my own gluten-free bread. There’s no Whole Foods to run out to for a loaf if I’m really craving it.
I take a multivitamin with my snack after a hard workout. I started doing that on the Kilimanjaro trek. Every afternoon when we got to camp we had a snack of popcorn and tea. I took a vitamin and some ibuprofen. Luckily I don’t need the ibuprofen on a daily basis. But it helped on the mountain.
I’m looking for a half marathon to do the next time I’m back in the States, which will hopefully be this winter. I haven’t run one since before my celiac diagnosis. I’d also like to spend a week or two on the Appalachian Trail next summer. I wish I had time to try the whole thing!
Advice for other gluten free athletes
Regardless of whether you’re gluten-free or not, you have to find the foods that work for you. It takes time and dedication, but anyone who wants to be healthy has to do it.
I’m just a regular person who likes to spend time outdoors.
I was a picky eater before my diagnosis, and I was scared my choice of foods would be all but demolished. But the gluten-free diet pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’ve tried so many new, delicious foods that I could have been eating all along.
Getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on that last day was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s mentally and physically draining. But now I feel like I can do anything. It’s a little corny, but it’s true. I think of it whenever a challenge comes my way.
As you can see, Stephanie has some unique and very interesting stories. Please check her out:
Life in Africa blog: http://whereintheworld-stephanie.blogspot.com/
Gluten-free blog: http://stephaniefood.blogspot.com/
Twitter ID: @StephanieSD
Thanks so much for sharing your story Stephanie! I’m ready to go out and hike the closest mountain! (Here in South Florida that would be the bridge over the Intracoastal.) OK-maybe not, but all of these athletes have been truly inspiring.