Gluten Free Fitness


Why I Don’t Wear Shorts


Sometimes we teach best what we need to learn.

A good friend of mine told me this, years ago, as he could always tell what was going on in my personal life by the way I taught my Spinning class.  (This was back in the infancy of Spinning when it was a bit different than it is today.)  If I taught a very meditative, focused class, he knew it was because my own life was in turmoil.  By teaching with focus, and creating that internal quiet for my students, I could hope to quiet the chatter in my own mind.

I haven’t taught Spinning in many years, but I see that concept overflowing here in the blog to what I write.  If I write an article about awareness, it is because I feel that awareness slipping away from me.  If I write about being kind to yourself, it may be because I have been especially hard on myself lately.

So I continue to teach best what I need to learn.

I believe very strongly that we have everything that we need to succeed, that we have to simply draw it out and choose to use it.  I believe that celiac disease is a blessing in disguise. But sometimes I am overwhelmed, and scared too, and doubt fills me.

As some of you know, I have had multiple surgeries on both knees.  My knees are pretty torn up with scars and scar tissue.  Most of the time I look at these scars and bumps with a sense of pride that I’ve managed to overcome a few obstacles in my path.

And yet, why don’t I wear shorts?

I very rarely wear shorts.  Even though I live in subtropical South Florida, I generally wear pants, capris, or skirts.  I have returned to fitness competitions, and even though I wear a bikini on stage, I am acutely aware of the scars.  I recognize the scar tissue, and the way it deforms the lines of my legs.  I look at this picture from last year, and the first thing I see is the scars.

And on a more abstract plane, the scars and scar tissue are a reminder of my own weakness, of fallibility, of being imperfect in many ways.

So why is it so hard?

I’m not sure.  I know that I am a perfectionist by nature, and that sometimes that makes it very difficult to accept imperfections in myself, even when there is nothing that can be done.

Most if the time I can recognize that which I cannot control, and I can let it go.  But sometimes I cannot.

And so I struggle.  And so we all struggle from time to time.

A friend of mine is an incredible athlete, a wonderful empathetic person, a wife, and an emergency room physician.  She also is very hard on herself from time to time, and I remember encouraging her to be as kind to herself as she is to others.

So why is it so hard?

For some reason it’s easier to see the good in others.  It’s easier to remind someone else to be kind to themselves, to give it a rest.  To step back and observe, enjoy, and celebrate the accomplishments.

It’s hard to do for yourself.

So once again I am teaching best what I need to learn.  I hope you all choose to be kind to yourselves today.  Feed yourselves well, spend time with people who make you happy.  Please leave a comment and share one thing you will do to nourish yourself well today.

And me?

Well, I’m going to wear shorts.  And I’m going to be okay with it.

The Magic Bullet for Living a Healthy Gluten Free Life


The Magic Bullet for Living a Healthy Gluten Free Life

No, not the Magic Bullet, one of my favorite small kitchen appliances… Not a pill, or potion, or lotion, or gimmicky late night infomercial product or fitness program…

Actually, it’s not very sexy at all. But, it will get you closer to your goals than a kitchen gadget, a pill, a potion, lotion, or gimmick.

It’s awareness.


Since you can’t package it and sell it, I’m afraid this little tidbit may be receiving less attention than it should.

If you’ve been reading my rantings, you may have heard me rant about this before. I believe that celiac disease is a blessing in disguise, a built in necessity where we HAVE to become more conscious of what we put in our mouths.

Awareness can extend much further than the gluten status of a food though

1. Be aware of how much you move-sitting, standing, lying. Be conscious of your movement or lack thereof, and try to add more general movement to your day.

2. Be aware of how eating different foods make you feel. Do you feel energized or listless? Do you feel good or no so good after eating french fries or something with a list of unpronounceable ingredients longer than your arm? (Gluten free of course-whatever it may be.)

3. Be aware of your sleep patterns. Many, many of us aren’t getting enough sleep, and that can lead to issues with appetite and weight control. On top of feeling tired, which just stinks. I am guilty of trying to get a lot done in a small amount of time, I understand totally. But sleep is crucial. 7-9 hours is ideal. Really. I get up at 5AM, but I’m lights out by 9:30-10 PM.

4. Be aware of your stress levels, and minimize them whenever possible. If you find yourself getting aggravated, try to focus on your breathing, count to 10 in pig latin, whatever it takes to talk yourself down. Every day life throws a lot of chronic stressors our way, and we’re just not built to live well under that constant low level stress. It’s very different than the stress of running from a lion, you know? In that case you run and it’s over. If you find this interesting, a great book to check out is Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky.

5. Be aware of the nutritional value of your food. You don’t have to change anything, just take a look-see. You may find that your habits begin to slowly change, and gravitate toward more “healthful” foods just by being aware of your choices and not just grabbing by habit.

So it’s not a pill, or a potion, or a lotion, or a gimmick. But give it a try and see what happens. You may be surprised what a little awareness can bring you.

Leave your experiences with awareness below…I love to hear from you guys!


Fast Weight Loss for Better Long Term Results?


Maybe slow and steady wins the race, but you get to the finish line thinner/fitter if you start fast.

Last week a study released from researchers at the University of Florida. I’m just going to cut and paste their conclusion here since it’s not in science-ese.

Collectively, findings indicate both short- and long-term advantages to fast initial weight loss. Fast weight losers obtained greater weight reduction and long-term maintenance, and were not more susceptible to weight regain than gradual weight losers.

Lisa Johnson had blogged about her thoughts on the research yesterday, and I responded on Twitter that I agreed completely. To me, fat loss is best approached like a band-aid. Get in, get it done. Rip it off and be done with it, then get on with your life and maintain your new and improved physique.

I’m not the only one beating this drum. Leigh Peele has written about it before, in fact I’m sure many times, but the post I came up with was this one on goal setting for fat loss. Lyle McDonald wrote a whole (excellent) book about it.

This does not mean that this approach is right for everyone. Now watch me backpedal.

Not for everyone

The impression I get from reading this abstract (because the full text isn’t available for free, one of my pet peeves) is that all the women were encouraged to intake a calorie level that would achieve a weight loss of .45 kg/week (approximately 1 pound per week, which is fairly standard for a weight loss diet. These women were also categorized as obese, so potentially COULD see more short term weight loss than someone closer to their ideal weight. (The fatter you are, the easier it is to lose a large amount of scale weight-hence the huge loss numbers on the Biggest Loser, which aren’t realistic unless you are also that size. And are sequestered. With a trainer, chef, kitchen, and nothing to do but exercise and learn about healthy habits. But I digress.)


Since I can’t see the full text, I also do not know the specifics as far as actual calorie and macronutrient breakdown, compliance measuring, and individual variability within the subjects. The groups of fast, medium, and slow “losers” were compiled based on their rate of loss after the first month of treatment. We do not know if those groups were evenly matched for obesity rates, age, activity, health history, etc and so on.

Having said that though, there have been other studies in the past which have also shown positive results from a faster rate of loss. Lyle wrote a very good article which references these studies and also explains a bit about how you can determine if this type of rapid weight loss diet may be a good fit for you.

So here’s why I think that a rapid weight loss at the beginning of a diet is a good thing.

  • It develops good eating habits which can then be transferred to a maintenance level of eating
  • It provides positive feedback-reward for your efforts. We are a society of immediate gratification.
  • It gets you in and out of the dieting mentality. Here’s what I mean.

You ever meet someone who is ALWAYS dieting and yet always looks the same? Forever complaining how they can’t have this or that, it’s “not on my diet.” (Of course-I’m referring to a calorie-reduced diet, not something like a gluten free diet-as I addressed in my Gluten Free Cagematch-Diet vs. Lifestyle article.) Do you want to be this person? Heck no! Get in, work hard, eat well and strictly, get your results-and get OUT! Maintaining a certain weight/look/body fat level is WAY easier than getting there in the first place. So if you can get there faster-that may be something to seriously consider.

This is definitely a personality thing too. Some people prefer to suffer a lot for a short period of time and be done. Others prefer to suffer less, but go through it longer.

  • Suffer more and be done=larger calorie deficit, more hunger, but over faster
  • Suffer less and go longer=smaller deficit, less hunger, but goes on longer
  • Same or close to the same end result.

Which of those choices do you prefer?

Rip the band aid off quickly, or pull it off slowly.

There’s the answer to your dieting personality quiz 😉

What’s your preference? What kind of band-aid remover are you? Share in the comments! Let ‘er rip (ooh-bad pun alert.)

The tale of the clear heels: The gluten free princess takes the stage


I’ve been a little absent this week.

As some of you know, I had a date to be on a stage with a fake tan and wearing clear heels yesterday.

Get your mind out of the gutter 😉

Yesterday I competed in a figure competition-kind of a fitness modelly type of competition that requires a bit of muscle and a good amount of leanness to show that muscularity. The fake tan is so the muscle shows under the bright stage lights. I’ve been preparing for about 3 months specifically getting lean enough and training. Although I always train and try to eat well, getting to this level of leanness is a whole different ballgame.

It’s quite a journey, but it also is very rewarding to be able to achieve those goals.

But there is a point here, dear reader. Promise.

It’s been a convoluted road in coming to this particular goal. When I was growing up, I was a competitive equestrian. That ended when I went to PT school. In PT school, as a poor student I fulfilled my need to achieve a physical goal with starting to lift weights and running. Throughout this I was beginning to have my knee problems, and the running went away, and more knee surgeries came. So time to readjust the goals. I changed from a saddle for a horse, to a saddle on a road bike. I started training in cycling, and did some long distance charity events. Then more knee surgeries. After my second to last knee surgery I learned about the sport of figure. I had seen the magazine Oxygen, and loved the strong but feminine look. I immersed myself in learning more about the proper method for training with weights and optimizing my cardiovascular training. In 2006 I was lucky enough to find an incredibly helpful and knowledgeable coach who could help me with getting into competition shape, and did my first figure show. (Yes, I have the diet and training knowledge, but it’s very hard to be objective when looking at your own physique-especially when you are dieting. Someone once said “The person who trains themselves has a fool for a client” and I agree with that.)

Seeing the changes in my body was incredibly empowering. I felt strong, and was physically stronger.

Throughout all this though, my knees were getting worse. In April of 2007 I underwent my last surgery, which was a complicated procedure. It involved being in the hospital for a week, a wheelchair and braces on both legs for two months, and then crutches and braces for another two months. I was completely physically dependent. I needed assistance to get from the wheelchair into bed. I was in machines which moved my legs passively for 8 hours a day, because to protect the surgery I was not allowed to move my knees on my own for several weeks. I had machines that circulated ice water around my legs for most of the day, including night time. I slept in our guest room with all these machines. I had to rely on my fiance (boyfriend at the time) for everything. Everything. I couldn’t reach into cabinets, open a door, nothing.

Going from an independent, strong person to being completely dependent sure does kick you in the ass.

I had a choice. I could whine, (and I did sometimes) or I could suck it up, do the work, and get back to being me. So I did. I did the incredibly tedious 8 hours a day in the machines, I did all the rehab exercises, I got in the pool when I was allowed, I progressed slowly. I went back in the gym when I was still on crutches to start training upper body. I looked at my legs-two sticks of mush and scars, with no muscle at all. And I decided I would make it back to a figure stage one day.

It was a long road, but 18 months after my surgery I stepped back onto a figure stage, 5″ clear heels and all. My legs were still underdeveloped, and I had problems going down the stairs from the stage, but I did it. I proved it to myself. I’ve continued to rebuild, and yesterday marked exactly 3 years since my surgery. I stepped onstage, presented the best physique I’ve had to date, and placed second.

It’s not about the placing. It’s not about the trophy. (It’s nice, don’t get me wrong.)

What it is about is having a goal, working like hell to reach that goal and not giving yourself room for any excuses.

Anyone can do this. I am not special.

It may be running a marathon, it may be running a block. It may be improving your cholesterol in order to be able to stop taking medication. It may be lowering your blood pressure. Maybe it’s fitting into your clothes better. Maybe it’s the ability to go up stairs without getting winded. Maybe it’s setting a good example for your kids. Maybe it’s helping your kids to be more healthy. Maybe it’s carrying groceries more easily. It doesn’t matter.

Just pick something. Something objective, measurable. Give yourself a time frame, and stick to it. No excuses, no slacking. You can totally do this.

What’s your goal?

Give me your goals. Put it out there, and make it real. Commit.

One person who leaves a comment below with their goal will be randomly selected to receive a free copy of Marlisa Brown’s book Gluten-Free, Hassle Free: A Simple, Sane, Dietitian-Approved Program for Eating Your Way Back To Health.

Contest will close at Midnight EST on May 1st, winner will be notified on May 2nd.

Weight Management and Celiac Disease: Wrapping it Up, Gluten Free Style


There’s been a lot of ground covered over the past couple of weeks regarding managing your weight on a gluten free diet, and how celiac disease can affect weight control.

In Part 1 of this series, I revealed how I was a cheater at the gluten free diet. In Part 2, we covered some physical and psychological reasons why you may experience weight loss or gain with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. In Part 3, we reviewed some action you can take to lose weight/fat if you choose, on a gluten free diet. In Part 4, we covered strategies for gaining weight in a controlled and healthy manner if gaining is your goal.

The upshot of all this is that whatever you goal is as far as weight and/or body composition, you can achieve it.

And really, achieving those goals in within reach for all of us.

You choose a goal, make a plan to get there, and execute.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

In reality, it may not be quite that easy.

But it doesn’t have to be terribly hard. You can achieve what you set your mind to. You choose a goal-whether it’s to reach the top of those stairs, lose 20 pounds, fit into a smaller pant size, do 10 push ups, squat a bunch of weight, or run a marathon. The only thing stopping you-is you.

We need to get out of our own way. To set aside the preconceptions of our abilities. To shatter the expectations that others may have of us.

For today-choose one thing. Make that one thing your goal for this week. I was talking to a client yesterday, and her goal this week is to bump up her water intake to 3-4 liters a day. That’s a great goal-measurable, achievable and realistic. When that one thing becomes habit and no longer takes work, then you set a new goal. With time, all of these things add up, and you’ve changed your lifestyle in a maintainable way.

In my post on the gluten free diet as a lifestyle, I talked about the definition of “diet” and how it may be more beneficial to wrap our heads around the word/concept in a different way. This is your life. Live in it now, not with “if only” and “should have”.

What’s your goal for this week? Don’t be shy-post it below! When you put it in black and white, it becomes real. Go get ’em!

How I Was a Cheater at the Gluten Free Diet


How I Was a Cheater at the Gluten Free Diet

Yup, I was a cheater. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I cheated on the gluten free “test.”

How is this? What the heck do I mean?

I didn’t cheat in the sense you may be thinking. I didn’t, and don’t, eat any gluten foods. But I was cheater in the sense that my “test” of going gluten free may have been easier than it was for some people.

Here’s why:

Diet and exercise

Prior to being diagnosed with celiac disease, I had over the years been moving more and more toward a diet of primarily unprocessed whole foods. I was finding I had a love for exercise, and a desire to see where my drive and ability could take me from an athletic perspective. I was focusing more on body composition (fat vs muscle ratio-how you look and perform) and was educating myself on how food impacted how I looked and felt. So although at that point I was still ingesting gluten, I was not eating much at all of processed gluten foods like bread, pastas, etc.

Hidden gluten sources

When I was diagnosed, my biggest challenge was learning hidden gluten sources. It wasn’t hard for me to give up bread and pasta because I had already minimized them. Going gluten free was simply one more step in my nutritional journey. I stopped eating grocery store brand oatmeal, tried buckwheat and quinoa flakes (because GF oats were not widely available then) and increased my rice and potato intake, along with fruits and veggies. So yes-it was a change, but not a life-altering-OMG-this-changes-everything-and-requires-a-complete-overhaul moment.

Different starting points

So that’s how I was a cheater. I had it easier than many of you. I admit that. If you are starting from a more typical diet, which includes a good bit of bread, pasta, cereal, breaded stuff-it’s going to be a tougher transition. However, I think the fact that I cheated has given me perspective on how you can make the gluten free diet a healthier one, if you so choose. I am not saying that everyone needs to eat only naturally gluten free foods.

If you choose to eat gluten free breads/pastas/etc that’s not a bad thing. If it’s working for you-you’re happy with your health and weight, absolutely have at it. But what I keep hearing are stories of people who have gained weight either before or after their diagnosis, or those who lost weight and want to regain it-but in a healthy manner. Also, the idea that the gluten free diet is expensive or lacking in nutrients-this is not necessarily the case. Like all things-it depends. Sure, it can be-but it doesn’t have to.

Small steps

If you want to transition to a less processed and more nutrient dense (for the calories) version of the gluten free diet, don’t try to make wholesale changes. Take it one step at a time. Make the changes over time, and gradually. Give your brain and body time to get in sync, to get used to the new perspective and new food. You can totally do it. Give yourself permission to change, and start slowly.

Other options

There are many wonderful options out there now that are gluten free versions of ordinarily gluten foods. Also, there are an increasing number of health and nutrition conscious options-companies are beginning to use more whole grains and being aware of sugar content. These also weren’t widely available when I was diagnosed, so I guess I cheated there too. And my habits were built without these options. They are fabulous to have as an occasional treat though!

Weight management

From what I have observed and what you have told me, the issues of health as it relates to weight management (whether weight loss or weight gain) are big issues in the celiac/gluten intolerant community. This is the first in what will be at least a 4 part series of posts (I reserve the right to make it longer) on food, weight, celiac disease and the gluten free diet. Please leave comments below and weigh in (pun intended-really bad pun, but intended) with your thoughts.

Have you found weight to be an issue? What challenges do you face in managing your weight? Speak up!

Gratitude, Awareness and Prevention: Living a Healthy Gluten Free Bountiful Life

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This is going to be a bit of a one-off blog post: consider this my “op-ed” section. We all as individuals have developed our own opinions and outlooks that are shaped by our own unique experiences. I hope some of you will share your outlook in the comments.

Attitude of gratitude

I like to think I live my life, for the most part, with an “attitude of gratitude.” Just like everyone else, I certainly have my fair share of days where I forget my overall outlook and succumb to a “poor me” day, or get annoyed with things that I really shouldn’t let bother me. In general though, I try to take just a few minutes each day to mentally review all of the wonderful things in my life. (Usually in the shower. Seriously. It’s a guaranteed 10 minutes of quiet time daily.)

Tessa the Queen dog on her couch-throne

Tessa the Queen dog on her couch-throne

As some of you may have read in my previous post, I consider the fact that I have celiac disease to be a blessing in disguise. I work in health care, which is a very stable line of work even in an uncertain economy. I have a family that loves me with all my imperfections. I have a very cool dog. And I have my health. And this is where I hope to share a bit of awareness and hopefully, a bit of prevention.

Metabolic syndrome

In 2007, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute published a paper showing that at that point in time, 47 million Americans (25%) had metabolic syndrome, and I’m quite certain the numbers have grown since that date.

Metabolic syndrome is a term used to describe a collection of health problems that linked with higher incidences of heart disease and other medical problems such as diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

It’s preventable

For the most part, the causes of metabolic syndrome are PREVENTABLE. Some are not, such as genetics, and aging. However, the preventable causes are a large waist circumference, which goes hand in hand with another risk factor, being overweight/obese. Lack of physical activity is another preventable risk factor.

Now before you tune me out, remember that I am not here to preach or judge. I am simply providing information for you to then go and make your independent informed choices. At the end of this article I am going to provide you with some links you can visit for additional information on metabolic syndrome.

Making changes

So what can we do to reverse or prevent metabolic syndrome? (Which will then lower our chances of developing one of these preventable diseases.) Well, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. It will take perhaps a change of perspective, and definitely a change in habit. But it is certainly achievable, and within everyone’s reach.

  1. Weight loss. As little as a 7-10% reduction of body weight will help-I’m not saying you have to be a bikini model. (Although you can certainly do that of you wish!) This will take a combination of eating less, easting smarter, and moving more. It does not mean deprivation or hours upon hours of exercise. What it does take it time, dedication, and consistency. One of my favorite quotes from Lyle McDonald is “Time+consistency+ass busting work=results.” It’s that simple. (not easy-simple.)
  2. A healthy eating plan. This will help with weight loss! And frankly, celiacs have an advantage here as far as I’m concerned. As I mentioned in the “blessing in disguise” post, we already have to be hyper-aware of what goes into our mouths. Naturally gluten free foods can be very nutrient rich and satiating given the right choices. So take it a step further, and use that as a springboard to a weight loss plan. For more specifics on this, please sign up to download the nutrition guide which you will see at the end of this post.
  3. Increase physical activity. Again-will help with weight loss. It doesn’t take hours of extremely intense activity. Start by walking more. As much as possible more. Start with down to the corner if you have to, and gradually progress. Remember, the road to health is not a sprint-this sucker is an ultra-marathon. Start with some, and increase to more, and your progress stalls-increase again. Don’t over complicate it. Walk if you can stand, stand instead of sit, you get the idea.
  4. Quit smoking. Just do it. That’s all I can really say about that. (channeling Forrest Gump.)

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, you may be wondering why I am choosing to make this post today-to make you feel guilty about eating some goodies tomorrow?

Absolutely not. A handful of holidays a year is not going to make or break your health. It’s the other 359 days that you need to be concerned about.

So go ahead and eat mindfully and with joy. Make smart choices as I mentioned in my holiday season post. But remember this is about the long haul-not one meal. I am writing
because upon reflecting on my gratitude-I am thankful that I have this platform to assist in educating others, and hopefully making their lives better and healthier.

I am very fortunate to have learned about living healthfully and fully early in my life, and sometimes I know I may skip over stuff because it is second nature to me. So call me on it. Ask me to explain something if I’m not clear. My goal is to make information about living well easy to understand and implement. In the words of Jerry Maguire-“help me help you!”

Have a fabulous holiday!

Links for more information on metabolic syndrome

Blog Award? Who me?!?



Imagine my delight and shock when I read the post on my friend Kim’s blog at Gluten Free Is Life where she presented me with this award!

Here are the rules:

  • This award is bestowed upon blogs that are exceedingly charming.
  • These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends.
  • They are not interested in self-aggrandizement.
  • Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated.
  • Please give more attention to these writers.
  • Deliver this award to six bloggers who must choose six more and include this cleverly written text into the body of their award.
  • I will pass this award to some of my bloggy friends that I find exceedingly charming…

Now I get to share the fun with six more! (It’s like a chain letter-but this is actually fun!)

Heidi at Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom. Heidi had me laughing at my computer with her story of the brussel sprout adventure. Definitely check her out. I’m a firm beliver that humor makes everything just a little better-and Heidi delivers.

Cara at Cara’s Cravings. Cara is a gal after my own heart who likes lifting heavy stuff in the gym. She is also a kick butt cook and creates healthier versions of favorites, which I am all for. And we both like cottage cheese-what else needs to be said?

JC at JCD Fitness. Now-JC is neither female, nor celiac-and I have doubts that he will pass along the love with the blog awards (I know you’re a good guy JC but I can’t see you putting all this love out there-although it would be bro-love.) JC has some fabulous, no nonsense training and nutrition info-and some of it he has geared specifically for the ladies, never fear.

Leigh at Leigh! Leigh also is very no BS, and has a lot of good info. She did the video which I used in the Calories Count Part 2 post. She blogs about music and mindset as well as diet and training.

Peter at No Gluten, No Problem. Peter was profiled as a Gluten Free Athlete here as well. He has started a guide to gluten free small towns which I love, and am adding places to my “places to see before you die” list. He and his wife also have published a very cool cookbook called Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking: More than 250 Great-tasting, From-scratch Recipes from Around the World, Perfect for Every Meal and for Anyone on a Gluten-free Diet–and Even Those Who Aren’t.

Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. As you can imagine, I’m always on the lookout for flavorful and healthy recipes-and Amy delivers. There’s A LOT of recipe options over there. She must cook all day long 🙂

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful content you provide!

Calorie Intake and You: Calories Do Count – Part 2

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In Part 1 I talked about how important movement, any movement, is in overally daily caloric expenditure. (Now everyone-get up, walk around the house, and come back. Seriously. Or prop up your computer and stand, that’ll work.)

(You guys are going to think I’m lying, but I seriously got up and took the dog for a 15 minute walk and came back.)

Another option-and this thing I totally love, can’t believe I didn’t come up with myself and get a lot of reading done on-is the SurfShelf. It rocks. And then today I found Hulu. I may never watch TV on the couch again. But now I’m WAY off topic, and it’s only the beginning of the article. Yeesh.)

Back on it…

Calorie intake and you

In this “episode”, we’re going to touch on the importance calories you take in the food (or franken-food, or whatever you like) that you eat. Something that people tend to forget is that EVERYTHING counts. The cream in your coffee, the scraps when you clean up dinner, the extra spoonful of rice-it all counts. And it can all add up. To the tune of several hundred calories or more.

There has been a good bit of scientific research on this, and the people that “eat hardly anything and still can’t lose weight.” I will preface this with saying there are some medical conditions, medications, and issues that can make it very difficult for some individuals to lose weight. But that is a TINY percentage of the overall. And frankly-this is one area where you really don’t want to be a unique snowflake. That’s a whole ‘nother medical can of worms.

More than likely, it is an issue of eating more than you think you are.


I am going to give you a bit of research that backs up what I am saying. I will tell you, don’t blindly trust what anyone has to say about research though, not even me. Go to the source, and read the paper. Research can and often is, skewed to meet whatever result is desired. So once again-get educated and make an informed decision. (My friend Leigh Peele has a section on deciphering research in her Body By Eats, and a nice overview is also presented by the Guttmacher Institute here.) And if you are really a science nerd like me, you might want to check out Alan Aragon’s Research Review.

The paper by Lichtman et al in N Engl J Med. 1992 Dec 31;327(27):1893-8, indicated in their conclusion that:

The failure of some obese subjects to lose weight while eating a diet they report as low in calories is due to an energy intake substantially higher than reported and an overestimation of physical activity, not to an abnormality in thermogenesis.

Underreported food intake at an average of 47%!! And they are not by any stretch implying that this underreporting was done intentionally. Physical activity was overreported at an average of 51%. That’s a huge, ginormous difference between perception and reality. Another study by Asbeck et al showed underreporting in normal weight subjects. It happens. The key is actually KNOWING what you are eating, not just guessing.

Measuring vs. weighing

Some people like to measure their food with cups and spoons. While that is totally fine, and works for some, if you are trying to lose fat and feel like you are stuck, or you don’t know why you’re not losing-you may be eating more than you think. Check out the video (put together by Leigh Peele)

You can see that weighing is much more accurate. And it’s really no more difficult than measuring, in fact I think it’s easier. Get a decent digital scale and you’re good to go, you don’t have to mess with different sizes of measuring devices. Set whatever you want to put the food in on the scale, tare it back to zero and off you go. Easy-peasy.

I can guarantee you will be surprised. There are countless stories of dieters who have been frustrated to tears or homicidal tendencies, and when they began weighing and calculating their food so they were actually eating the calories they THOUGHT they were-the weight came off. If there is a magic bullet at all to the fat loss game, it’s that. Know what you’re eating.

Putting it together

Then of course, put it together so you can see what your intake is on a daily basis. I’ve been using Fitday PC for years, I like it, I have all my custom foods there, it’s easy to repeat foods if you tend to eat something often with the favorites feature-it works well-it’s familiar. I’ve tried a few others, but didn’t like them as much.

It is important to be able to log your food in weight measures like grams and ounces, not just cups or servings. So look for that.

A few that people use are Sparkpeople, The Daily Plate, Calorie King, Diet Controller, Nutridiary, a personal Excel spreadsheet, or a notebook. Whatever. NutritionData is great for getting nutritional info as well, not a tracker. Some of these are paid, some free-so it’s up to you. Fitday PC (the download version) gets a lot of positive feedback from what I have read/heard-and obviously it’s what I use. I understand that Nutridiary allows you to track in weight, so that may be a good free option.

When you get a good handle of how much energy you are taking in, and how much you are putting out (see Part 1 for details) then you can begin to make adjustments if you want/need to.

Oversimplified-if you want to lose weight and you are not-eat less and move more. If you’re happy where you’re at keep doing it! If you want to gain, eat more.

Of course, quality of food does matter. Absolutely it does. However, you can’t beat thermodynamics.

Let me know how you make out! If you use a different method of tracking, or if you use one of the methods I mentioned above and you like or hate it-speak up. I love hearing from you all!

Stephanie Diamond: Gluten Free Athlete Profile

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Stephanie has had some very cool adventures in life and in fitness!

Stephanie and her husband-that's the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in the background!

Stephanie and her husband-that’s the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in the background!

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.

Celiac trigger

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.

Nutritional philosophy

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.

Sports supplements

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.

Upcoming plans

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.

Final notes

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:

Gluten-free blog:

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.