Tag Archives: exercise

Insomnia: A Sob Story (with Gluten?)

Yawwwwwwn. If I’ve seen you lately, I’ve probably graced you with one of those. It’s not that I’m bored or being rude. It’s just that sleep . . . hasn’t been happening lately.

I’ve written before about such light, possibly celiac-related topics as bloating and hair loss. After several low-sleep months, I felt it was time to address this new one. I’ve tried writing this post many times already but kept falling asleep in the middle of a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding. Honestly, if I could fall asleep so readily, I’d welcome it (and then complain about it). But, I can’t. So, with all of us alert, let’s talk insomnia.

In the past, I’ve occasionally gone up to a few days having trouble falling asleep. Lately, though, it’s been constant.

Insomnia, among other sleep disorders, is on the laundry list of conditions associated with celiac disease. Jane Anderson has written it up for About.com. That said, like bloating and hair loss, it’s also associated with a million other conditions and sometimes exists on its own. (The NIH can tell you all about it.)

So, where’d mine come from?

Because my insomnia started long after I went gluten-free, I have a feeling, for once, celiac’s not to blame. However, in the past, I did wonder if occasional insomnia meant I’d been glutened. (I’ve never “caught someone in the act” of glutening me, so it’s hard to be sure. Still, certain blech patterns appear.)

Thus, my first thought was: have I been eating something new and contaminated that I didn’t properly check? I don’t think so . . . though I did eat too much gluten-free junk this winter. A dietary spring cleaning is underway, and way needed.

Insomnia cookies

Not gluten-free. Probably for the best.
Photo © Robyn Lee | Flickr

My next thought was to blame a new medication. Insomnia’s not a known side effect, but I wouldn’t put it past my body to react in a unique, idiotic way. It’s slimly possible that the medication was contaminated; though I checked with the manufacturer, I received the standard “We can’t guarantee it” response, since they don’t test their final product. Having stopped taking it, I’m waiting for changes. So far, zilch.

Or maybe it’s stress? It is a possible trigger for roughly 75 percent of bad things. A colleague gave notice and I got promoted right around the time this started. Not bad, except that I feel even more buried than usual underneath a mound of work that never shrinks.

At night, as I try to make myself a willing vessel to oblivion, my mind jumps to multiple unchecked to-do list items. I’m not going to do any of them in the middle of the night, but I do shift position, refluff my pillow, and worry about it. (Mindfulness gurus would say to keep a notebook on my nightstand to jot these things down. Setting this up is something else I never manage to check off my list.)

Sprue Jr says labeling it “insomnia” is the problem: that by expecting it, I perpetuate it. But I disagree. It is . . . what it is. And insomnia by any other name would still suck.

While I’m not sure what is causing my insomnia, I can tell you one thing my insomnia has caused. Sleeplessness, you see, leads to bloglessness. For some time now, I’ve been down to one post a week. And it’s not for lack of ideas or time, I swear. It’s lack of sleep.

insomnia digital clock

Watching the clock is another insomnia no-no. Seriously. Don’t do it.
Photo © Fairy Heart | Flickr

Sleeplessness spawns laziness in more ways than one. It saps your energy, motivation, and attention. Sleep is incredibly (though still largely inexplicably) valuable to humankind’s ability to think, learn, and generally function.

Staying awake too late the night before encourages endless snoozing sessions (a horrible habit, and not actually restful at all, but tell that to my half-conscious brain) and skipped morning workouts. Bummer, because “regular exercise” is another top tip for insomnia prevention.

After feeling tired all day, it’s inescapably appealing to go to bed as early as possible. Plus, standard anti-insomnia advice preaches not to stare at backlit screens at night, so I’ve been trying to power down earlier, even if it means no post the next day—and even if I’m likely enough to simply lie in bed, unable to nod off, for hours, wishing I’d just stayed up to write.

Sluggishness and sleeplessness: two miserable conditions that reinforce one another nightly.

I’ve tried melatonin, chamomile tea, and valerian root, which I must tell you smells like death. None worked.

Still, I’m hopeful this’ll be the last time I complain to you about sleep. It’s spring: time for regeneration, spending time outdoors, being active, and maybe less stress at work. Somehow, I feel this must get better.

But for the time being, at least, my posts will continue to come about once a week, possibly sporadically, and I hope you’ll keep checking in despite that (subscribe, even—make my day!). At heart, this blog is about health; and right now, for me, that means getting back to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

Do you struggle with insomnia, or have you ever? Does it seem to be linked to gluten? What works or doesn’t work for you? 

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Crossfit: There’s a first time for everything, unfortunately.

Have you ever done Crossfit? Sprue Jr. has been wanting to for a while, so I bought her a Groupon to a “box” nearby for Christmas. I knew I’d never try it without a buddy, so I got myself one, too.

Last night, we went for the first time. Today, I have no idea what to say in response to such basic questions as “How’d it go?” or “Did you like it?” To sort it out, I’ve turned to facts.

Body parts that don’t hurt: 0.

That’s an exaggeration; my forehead feels okay.

Percentage of kneecaps covered in bruise: 100.

That’s not an exaggeration. Repeatedly throwing yourself onto a wood floor to do “the one exercise to rule them all” will do that (if you’re doing it wrong).

bruised knees from doing burpees at Crossfit

This will look even prettier tomorrow.

Degrees to which I can raise my arms: 20.

Wait. You want me to do four minutes of pushups?

New exercises I learned: 0.

But I did get forced to do ones that I would never, ever, ever do on my own. And do a lot of them. Really badly.

Number of times the instructor singled me out: a lot.

I was the group’s “problem child.” Whenever I thought I was doing something right, I wasn’t.

Likelihood I’m going back: ?!

It’s important for even those of us with chronic illnesses to do what we can to get or stay fit. And you may recall that last year I was suffering from daily-cardio-induced workout fatigue, so it makes sense to try something new. Besides smacking painfully of gym class, this was certainly new.

The decision shouldn’t be made while too sore to think, so I’ll reserve judgment. For now, I’m working on a response to, “How are you?”

Are you trying any new health or fitness strategies this year? And…how’s that going?

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26 bulletproof reasons why NOT to go to the gym: from A to Z

Do you like Scattergories? I love it. If you aren’t familiar with the game, the point is to come up with words or phrases that begin with a certain letter (as determined by a die roll) and that fit into various categories on a list. One of my favorite categories is “reasons to be late for school or work,” because there are a million reasons—from “attacked by rabid squirrels” to “zephyr carried me away”—to be running late.

Another category I think I’d excel at, if it existed, is “reasons to skip the gym in the morning.” Once upon a time, I was almost machinelike in my adherence to the six-a-week workout schedule. But these days, despite knowing that exercise is an important part of staying healthy, even (or perhaps especially) for us chronic types, I truly manage to find an excuse for every letter of the alphabet.

Like so:

  • After all, tomorrow is another day
  • Bed’s too warm
  • Can’t find sneakers
  • Dreamed about going (close enough)
  • Eating breakfast sounds better
  • Fitness is overrated
  • Gotta write a blog post
  • Have a chronic disease
  • It’s [snowing/raining/sleeting/windy/dark/cold/hot] outside
  • Just don’t wanna
  • Kept hitting snooze; now it’s too late
  • Lots to do
  • My stomach hurts
  • No energy
  • Over it
  • Playlist is stale
  • Quit caffeine
  • Rest days are important, too
  • Sick (see: H)
  • Toe cramp (see: J)
  • Up too late on Twitter
  • Vile thing, that elliptical
  • Whatever, I look fine
  • Xercise, schmXercise
  • Yeah, yeah, I’ll go in a minute
  • Zzzzzzzzzzz…

gymEvery morning, one must win.

Photos © Allie HolzmanJoint Base Lewis McChord (Flickr)


Do you make excuses? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

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Bloated

Do you get “the celiac bloat”?

Spend enough time in the gluten-free blogosphere, and you’re sure to find posts about bloating. Many consider it the first sure sign that they’ve consumed gluten. Some even share photos, as though to prove they aren’t imagining things (which, no doubt, many of them have been told).

Though I won’t be posting a photo, I wanted to share a bloating story of my own. This one’s from the archives: an email I sent to my dad back in 2010.

The only context you need is this: my junior year of college, I lost a third of my body weight. (On purpose, although I kept it going a bit longer than I should have.) Just weeks after hitting my “target” weight, I became very ill.

By the time I wrote this email, I’d started to experiment with what I now see as Band-Aid management strategies. They were helping, but not entirely—and not at all with what seemed to me the worst part.


. . . the thing that’s most upsetting is that my belly is constantly swollen and bloated, and gets progressively worse throughout the day. After I worked so hard to get in shape, now I can’t wear my new clothes because they’re too tight. I haven’t had any days for a while where the pain got as bad as it did those few days, so I’m really only dealing with mild discomfort most of the time (although sometimes pretty bad discomfort by the end of the day). But I just feel depressed and embarrassed all the time about the way I look.

I guess you’ll probably think that I’m noticing it more than other people are, and that’s probably true, but if I wore my fitted shirts people definitely would notice. By the end of the day my stomach is often so distended that I literally look several months pregnant. . . .

I’m afraid this will never go away no matter what I try and I’ll never be happy with the way I look or feel ever again. And I’m trying to gain some perspective because I know I could have far worse troubles, but it just seems so devastatingly unfair that at the time in my life when I should be my most healthy and look my best, instead I get this.

Note: This was originally all one very long paragraph. I’ve made cuts and added paragraph breaks because it was utterly unreadable. Sorry, Dad.


When I wrote this, I was strength training several days a week, “doing abs,” and running almost daily. To have this uncontrollable bloat “ruin” those efforts was frustrating, especially since I was more image-obsessed then than I’ve been before or since.

Back then, I felt I would rather deal with mild and increasingly worse discomfort every day possibly forever than be bloated. It was more important to me to look good than to feel good. Sad, right?

Since then, some of my other symptoms have improved. My weight has gone slightly up and down; I’ve worked out more or less consistently; and I’ve eaten more or less cleanly, on a few different diet plans (omnivorous, vegetarian, low-FODMAP, and now gluten-free). But the bloating has continued. I both feel bloated—that awesome “please just pop me now” balloonlike feeling—and look bloated—just a little, usually, but sometimes a lot.

sad mime holding onto balloons

See? Balloons make him sad, too.
Photo © Jorn Idzerda | Flickr

I’m in a healthier place now than I was then, body-image-wise. But you know what? I still find the bloating unfair (if not devastatingly), and I still find it depressing. Some days, I still want to just stay in bed.

Bloating is one of the symptoms that consistently pops up in descriptions of celiac disease, perhaps because it’s less graphic than the alternatives. But it also affects 10 to 30 percent of the general population, often for unclear causes.

Some people don’t think of bloating as a big deal. “Oh, everyone has that from time to time,” they might say (as a friend did to me back when I first got sick). Protesting that it’s different when it’s every day may or may not penetrate, but it’s true: it is different. Sure, in comparison to other symptoms—including my own!—bloating is mostly just a nuisance. But when it happens every day, it gets to you.

These days, I think of bloating as just one more frustrating aspect of a frustrating illness. One more daily bit of proof from my body that I’m not the boss of it.

One day, maybe, I’ll prove it wrong.

What’s your least favorite symptom of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? Any good “bloat begone” tips to share?

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