Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

By: Rachel Sircy

There are a lot of things to beware of when you have celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten intolerance. Label reading becomes a part of your life and you not only have to eat differently, but you have to think in a different way about food in general. It all seems pretty daunting, especially if you’re starting out. I know the feeling of being in a rush to get somewhere and thinking that I need to grab a quick bite to eat only to realize that there is nothing around me that is both quick and safe for me to eat. I have broken down and cried in a few of those situations. In those moments, I start to remember all the fast food places where I used to be able to eat. I start thinking that a drive-through dinner could solve all my problems if only their breaded chicken nuggets weren’t a complete hazard to my health.

It’s easy for those of us with a gluten intolerance to try to find quick fix solutions for a life-long problem, but that usually leads us into the danger zone. In fact, I just read an article about a new sort of pitfall for the gluten intolerant that is out on the market. Allergic Living Magazine published an article that answered some serious questions that I’ve had about some supplements I noticed on the shelves of some of our local health food stores. These supplements claim that they can help break down the string of proteins known as gluten so that people who are sensitive to gluten can digest it. Now, I have run into these supplements here and there for the past three or four years. A few well-meaning people in my life keep trying to get me to take these supplements so that gluten won’t bother me. They seem to think that these supplements work like an epi-pen, so that if I eat gluten I can quickly take a supplement and there won’t be any harmful effects. It’s all seemed pretty sketchy to me from the beginning. Celiac disease is sort of a digestive disease, but in truth, it’s an auto-immune disorder. It’s not that my tummy just isn’t happy when I eat gluten, it’s that my white blood cells think that gluten is poison. The digestive discomfort that occurs when I eat gluten is a result of my own body attacking itself. So, it didn’t make sense to me that a new kind of probiotic could help the root cause of my sickness. Unless these pills could break gluten down into a form that my body wouldn’t recognize as gluten, then their claim meant nothing to me.

As it turns out, my gut feeling (pardon the pun) about these supplements was right. According to Allergic Living’s article, dietary supplements in the United States are not regulated by the FDA. As long as they do not claim to cure any particular illness, they can make any claims that they want. According to a brief interview with Dr. Stefano Guandalini, the medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, there has been research that proves that the supplements on the market are ineffective for celiac patients. So, while these supplements might provide some benefit for people who may have some digestive discomfort after eating gluten-laden products, they DO NOT make it safe for people with celiac disease to eat gluten.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of things that you can do in a rush to make sure you don’t go hungry. Fruit makes a wonderful snack and there are plenty of gluten free trail mix bars and whole food bars on the market. Keep your pantry stocked with quick, healthy, gluten free snacks and you won’t have to worry about what to eat on the run. And, if you’re craving some of your old favorite snacks, there are some pretty good gluten free substitutes on the market these days. If you can’t seem to find the exact replacement for your favorite cookies, doughnuts or fried chicken, take the opportunity that you now have to find something new, something healthier. Remember, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Suggested reading: Below are the links to the articles that I mentioned in this piece. If you have celiac disease or know someone with a gluten intolerance, they are well worth reading. I truly believe in getting your information from reputable sources. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (especially by crazy bloggers like me…) Make sure your sources are good ones, backed up by actual medical doctors and dieticians. Happy reading!

http://allergicliving.com/2017/04/19/a-gluten-free-reality-check/

https://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2014/04/01/can-glutenase-pills-help-people-with-celiac-digest-gluten/

Becoming a Runner

By: Ashley Whisonant

Exercising was something that never came easy to me. I hated going to the gym. This dates back as far as high school gym. We had the choice to walk 7 laps or run 3…guess which I would ALWAYS choose? You got it. Seven laps here I come.

Hitting my thirties was a wakeup call to me. I wanted to exercise to be around for my boys. Having two active boys under 5 made our Saturdays full of soccer, bike riding, and outdoor fun. Momma needed to keep up!

After joining FiA, Females in Action, I felt more energized and overall happier. The early morning boot camps started my days with laughs and fellowship.

I was ready for a new challenge: running! I began training with a good friend to prepare for our first 5K. We were both non-runners working towards the same goal of completing the 3.1 miles. We pushed each other in the cold, rain, early morning, and nights. We sacrificed sleep and time with our babies, but we did it to prove something to ourselves. Pushing ourselves to reach a goal was healthy. It was healthy for us to have time away getting better – better together.

We successfully finished the Hot Flash 5K in Timmerman Trail. Did we come in first place? Not even close. But we did reach our goal and pushed ourselves further than we ever imagined.

Five Tips to Get You Back on Track If You’ve Gained Weight

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I recently looked back at my weight over the past two years. Except for the initial weight gain when I returned from Shepherd Center, I’ve generally I’ve stayed about the same. I felt a little crazy. Despite all of food tracking and measuring, exercising and gym visits, obsessing over ever calorie and measuring food, I was about the same weight. Whaaat?

Around that time, I saw a book called Body Kindness in one of my social feeds. The book promised to “show you how to create a healthier and happier life by treating yourself with compassion rather than shame.” Life is too short to be at war with my body, I thought as I ordered it. If I’m not going to benefit from “dieting” and assigning myself a goal weight, I may as well enjoy food and quit worrying so much.

The part of the book that resonated with me was “firing the food police” and seeing food as neutral, declassifying foods as “good” or “bad.”  I gave up recording in My Fitness Pal (MFP), bought foods I haven’t eaten in years and had a lot of ice cream. But food freedom didn’t automatically transfer into more mindful eating, an indifference to “problem foods” or weight loss. When I finally weighed myself after a few weeks, I was up a couple of pounds. That isn’t the end of the world, I know, but if you’re short and already have a few extra lbs., it’s a good warning sign.

Despite my tendency to overeat using the Body Kindness concept, I did love the “Body Kindness” tips. I loved striking morning power poses in the mirror; getting more sleep and practicing more positive body self-talk. I loved feeling less conscious and more empowered. It didn’t lead to weight loss or even maintenance, but it felt good.

I’ve decided that for me, meal planning and food journaling worked; it’s empowering and energizing. I’ve returned to food journaling and my goal to eat healthier. But I also decided to continue incorporating those body kindness tips as I worked toward getting closer to my goal weight.

Until then, I was stuck with a few extra pounds on top of what I wanted to lose before. For inspiration, I visited MFP’s website, where I found these tips to get back on track from MyFitnessPal’s blog.

According to MFP, these five tips will help you get back on track:

  1. START NOW AND START SMALL

Stop saying “I’ll start over tomorrow.” Instead of me focusing on the 22 total pounds I want to lose, I’m going to start with the five pounds I can realistically lose in one month. And I’m not going to obsess over working out for an hour every day of the week, when a nice walk outside for 20-30 minutes will be a good start.

  1. LOSE THE GUILT

It’s easy to feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed when you gain or regain weight. Weight gain happens, so I’m going to shift my focus from the past and set my sights on concrete actions I can take to move forward. I’m going to set attainable goals and celebrate when I hit them – striving for progress, not perfection.

  1. CONSIDER HELP FROM THE PROS

Whether it’s a personal trainer, nutritionist, medical doctor or therapist, it can help to have someone holding you accountable. I love my trainer, and he keeps me honest. My body is still recovering from the time I spent in bed during my rehabilitation, and my frozen vocal cord prevents me from doing too strenuous a workout. Cash helps me determine what exercises are off limits for the moment and ways I can modify others for the long term. He also knows me well enough to know when to push me a little, too.

  1. MAKE A MEAL PLAN

It’s always helpful to plan out your meals to prevent you from falling back into old bad habits like eating ice cream every day. I started by jumping forward one day in My Fitness Pal and plugging foods into each meal ahead of time. Taking the time to think it out helps, and once I’ve journaled it, the “getting ahead” is more likely to keep me honest than fleeting good intentions in my head.

  1. REACH OUT TO FRIENDS

Tell your circle of influence that you’re working on healthy eating. They may want to join you, and everybody knows that it’s easier when you have a fitness/food buddy. They can help by keeping junk food out of sight or not tempting you with unhealthy food in the first place.

It’s only been a few days since I shifted my mindset, so I haven’t magically lost that weight I gained. I’m eventually going to weigh myself again, and I haven’t lost sight of my goal. Instead I’m going to judge my success by how I feel and how my clothes fit. Weight gain happens and weight loss is hard work, so I won’t give up or feel defeated if I struggle. I’ve got this, and I’m not alone.

Have you ever looked up and suddenly gained more weight than you anticipated? What was your wakeup call? What did you do? And what are your tips for staying on track? I’d love to hear from you.

5K With a Little Help From My Friends

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

In November of last year, I blogged about walking the Get to the Green 5k to celebrate the second anniversary of my survival from a near fatal brain aneurysm rupture. Today I’m proud to announce that I did it: I walked 3.1 miles. I didn’t run, as I’ve always hoped to do, but that doesn’t downplay my walking on the very day I had the rupture.

Those of you who are familiar with the story of my brain aneurysm rupture may remember that I had to “re-lean” how to walk during my rehabilitation. I wasn’t paralyzed, per se, but my muscles had atrophied after being in bed for a month. The whole time I thought it would be a cinch and would all come naturally. I even had thoughts of walking in downtown Atlanta while at Shepherd. But it wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of assistance and patience.

The process was complicated somewhat by a breathing impairment created during intubation. My vocal cords were damaged, and I had two surgeries and a trach tube while in rehab. The result is an impaired airway that impacts my voice and my breathing to this day.

One of the reasons I decided to do the 5k was 1) because I could; and 2) to keep me engaged in my strength training and balance work. Even up until the day before the walk, I was a little anxious, mostly about my breathing limitations. Any concerns I had were put to rest the day of the race, when my sweet friends and family gathered at Maxcy Gregg Park to walk with me.

I’ve been so fortunate to have such a great support system during my recovery, and they did not disappoint on the anniversary either. About 12 special friends joined me for the 5K, including one who is dealing with MS and another who walks with a cane due to issues from an AVM. One of my nurses showed up, who is recovering from back surgery. My cousin came from Charlotte with a sign of support that she carried throughout the race. And my sweet sister had created t-shirts for our team, so we looked the part. It truly was a team effort.

I know I walked the 3.1 miles – I had a sore hip and full Fitbit to show for it – but I almost felt carried by my loving friends. We laughed and talked and looked at houses along the way, and we were at the finish line before I knew it.

Next up, I want to add “hanging abs” back to my strength training program. I know you can’t rush these things, but it’s on my 50 in 50 list. So I’m hoping to be able to do one again by September 24.

Are You Exhausted?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I’m exhausted. I’m so tired, it hurts. Why is this? I ask myself all the time, why does it seem that I’m always so worn out physically and mentally? It’s that time of year for me, when my world is rocked by deadlines, school requirements, performances,…some of my greatest career accomplishments tend to happen during this time of the year, so yes, I’m overwhelmed and overworked. But after so many years of feeling this way, I’m beginning to get really frustrated about it. Is it just the fact that I’m a teacher? Or is it just me? Is it because I’m an over-achiever?

sleepless_every-woman-blog

I have a terrible time sleeping. I literally cannot shut my brain off. I don’t take medication to sleep, and I probably should, but I’d really rather not! I’m sure if I could actually get good, restful sleep and a decent amount of it, I’d feel so much better! But heaven forbid I actually be able to achieve that. Most unfortunately, a good night’s sleep is totally foreign to me these days.  I live in constant fear that I’ll get sick because I know my body and mind need rest. But I’m stumped when it comes to figuring out the right formula to actually achieve this.

So I decided to do some research. A healthy living article in the Huffington Post called “How To Shut Your Brain Off When You Just Can’t Sleep,” by Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D. gives several tips for those of us with an overactive mind. The problem is, I’m not so sure these tips can or will work for me. For example, one of the tips is to “not worry in bed.” Yea, um, not an option for me! I’m a mother, a teacher, a wife…worry is something I will never be able to get rid of. I try not to let it rule my world, of course, but worrying is a fact of my life. The article suggests that when you can’t calm the worries that plague your mind, to get out of bed. Getting up and going to another room, doing a simple chore, etc may help someone else realize how sleepy they are and enable them to go back to bed and actually sleep, but I guarantee you that WILL NOT work for me! Not only would that wake up the pets and truly give me more to deal with, but if I get up out of bed and start doing something, my body will think it’s time to get stuff done! Sadly, that is a technique that will not work for me in my circumstances.

On a plus side, the article mentions “mental imagery.” Now this is something I do try to attempt when I can’t shut my brain off. They say there’s a reason why people say to count sheep. Something about the repetitive, soothing nature of it. I’m not a math person, so that would just aggravate me, but I do like to use visualization. So I’ll try to envision myself getting a massage or floating on a cloud, or lounging weightless in a glorious, hot tub. Sometimes I am able to actually do this and it helps me get back to sleep. Yet sometimes I work so hard trying to focus on relaxing imagery that my brain engages and leads me to other thoughts that keep me awake. Though it doesn’t always work, it’s definitely worth a try!

They say to write things down, create your to-do list so that you don’t engage in “unproductive worry.” I am a to-do list maker, something major! And, fortunately, this past year, I have found my go-to solution for helping me remember to do things. In addition to hand written to-do lists, I create alarms on my phone to remind me of things that I need to accomplish, whether it’s a simple daily task or something major. That alarm going off on my phone is my little savior at helping me not to fret about forgetting to do something on my list. And I don’t have some annoying alarm noise go off, I use a song that will make me smile or do a little dance as I’m reminded of what I need to do. My family, students and fellow teachers know that if they hear a song start randomly playing from my pocket, there must be something Shannon needs to do. It’s funny, but hey, it helps!

sleeplessI wish I had the time and energy to create an official daily wind-down, decompression time that could allow me to engage in some honest relaxation, distancing me from worries and to-do’s, but some days I don’t have the energy to make that bubble bath. Sadly, sometimes I think of a soak in a bath as more work ‘cause I’d have to prep and clean the tub and in the end, use up more time that I could’ve/should’ve just been in bed sleeping. Pathetic, I know. Ever feel like you put yourself in a position where you just can’t seem to win? Yea, me too.

There are many tips and techniques to help one get better sleep, ranging from drinking a warm glass of milk to turning off the TV and any other stimulating gadgets. I’m a firm believer that the TV should be off and the room dark and calm, but… and yes, another BUT…some days when I have had a really tough, stressful day, I need that TV on, at least for a bit. Watching something light and fluffy can help keep my mind off the stress, so that I
can indeed eventually get some sleep instead of letting the stress consume me. That’s what good stories, whether from a book, magazine, the television, etc., are wonderful for – helping us escape! I could write page after page of tips and techniques. Ha! I wish I had the time and energy to do so, but who am I kidding, my phone alarm has already been playing a Bruno Mars song repeatedly, reminding me of yet another thing I must accomplish on my fat to-do list.

So what are the techniques that work for you? After doing my research, I know that I’ve got to make more of an effort to get more exercise, create a solid routine for winding down at the end of the day and some way, somehow find more ways to simply relax. If I ever figure out the winning equation for shutting my brain off at night, I’ll definitely share. In the meantime, please do share what works for you. It might just be something that could actually help create some zzz’s for us overactive brainiacs!

Here are some links with more info on how to get better sleep.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/shut-off-brain-cant-sleep_n_5161774.html

http://www.youbeauty.com/life/habits-for-better-sleep/

On Being a Caregiver

By: Chaunte McClure

At some point in life I realized that one day I will have to care for my mom, but I honestly never considered the day I’d care for one of her siblings. That’s been my reality for the past 11 months. About a week after I turned 40, my 50-something-year-old aunt suffered a stroke while visiting my sister.

caregiver

I was sitting nervously, waiting to give a presentation in my African American Church class. Then my phone vibrated and I saw my sister’s name displaying. I knew she was aware that I had class, so I thought she must really need me. The conversation went something like this when I stepped out of the classroom to answer:

“We’ve called the paramedics for Aunt Jane,” she said.

Doing my best not to panic, I calmly asked, “What happened?”

After she explained my aunt’s symptoms, I told her to keep me posted and I’d head to the hospital after my presentation. That wasn’t soon enough. It’s not easy to keep track of time during emergency situations, but what seemed like about 20 minutes later, my phone vibrated again. This time I heard a very concerned voice almost begging me to get to the hospital. My aunt had coded.

My classmates were taking too long to present. I finally interrupted and explained that I had a family emergency. My professor excused me and began to pray before I could even exit the classroom.

Thankfully, the hospital was only about two miles from my location. I hurried in to comfort her daughter who rode in the ambulance with her mom, my aunt.

After asking more questions when I arrived, finally, the staff rolled my aunt’s weak body back into the emergency room.

She was admitted into the hospital and stayed there just a few days before going to a rehabilitation services provider for a few weeks. Still needing additional therapy, because she lost mobility on her right side, we found an inpatient rehabilitation facility with 24-hour skilled nursing care. After about three months there, her care became our full responsibility.

While I was trying to be fabulous at 40, I was also 40 and worn out at times. We’ve been a caregiver team, but the responsibility is still challenging. From organizing meds, to coordinating medical appointments, to understanding insurance, to running errands and doing chores – it can all become taxing, especially when we each have our own personal responsibilities.

If you ever become a caregiver, here are few tips to help keep you from getting overwhelmed:

  • Make sure each caregiver is carrying his or her load. That takes the burden off one person. You can’t do it all by yourself.
  • Take time for yourself. While caring for others is important, self-care is equally important.
  • Organize your responsibilities. Choose what tasks or chores will be done on specific days and by whom.
  • Seek outside resources. Consider hiring someone to do what you can’t or ask responsible family members and friends.

To protect her privacy, my aunt is referred to as Jane in this story.

Working with Friends

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently read an enlightening article called, “How Coworkers Affect Your Job Satisfaction,” written by Jacob Shriar.

In the article, I came across an interesting bit of information about the results of a 20-year study on the work environment in all sorts of different job fields. They expected factors like long work hours or having a mean boss to be a major factor affecting a person’s health. According to the article, “What they found instead, was that the factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers. The meaner a colleague was, the higher their risk of dying. According to the study, middle-aged workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.”

 Wowzers! Isn’t that crazy!? This was really eye opening for me, especially since lately I have felt especially thankful for my amazing coworkers. I am truly blessed to have colleagues that are not only supportive, but many of them are like family. We’ve created a special bond that has helped us all to better survive and make the best of our job situations. I always say, if it weren’t for them, I’d never last in my position in our messed up education system. We band together and lift each other up. We always have each other’s backs. We love and care for one another. The support is real and genuine. I can’t imagine my life without these people I’ve come to know and love.

Reading this article just added scientific back-up to what I knew in my heart already: having friends at work is truly important to our mental health. Check out the article link above and take stock of your own work environment. Do you have a friend at work? Do you have a family of fabulous colleagues? It really is important and can be so beneficial to your overall health! If you’re like me and are blessed to have an incredible support system at your place of work, thank those special friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. As they say…appreciate the good people in your life. They are hard to come by!

To my family at CMS, I positively adore you all! I’m here for you and can’t thank you enough for being there for me in return. You fill my heart and lift my soul! Big smiles and millions of thank you’s!