The past 16 months, especially the last two weeks, have been extremely emotional, confusing, and heart-wrenching for all past and present gymnasts and their families. As of now, I would think every living person in the United States has heard about the life sentence that former Team USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, has been ordered. Of equal attention, are the ongoing investigations happening at several other organizations that comprised his involvement.
I have not spoken about this publicly, and still will not. If you are here to read my story, turn back now. Yes, I was a gymnast. Yes, I had a relationship with Larry Nassar. No, I will not be sharing my personal story.
I want to talk about what gymnastics gave me. Like most girls and women who have shared their stories, gymnastics was my life. I know I am not alone in this. I know I am nothing special and I was not a “special” gymnast. However, I do still love the sport and always will. Gymnastics taught me some of life’s most fundamental lessons and made me into the person that I am today. Even after all the negativity, shame, and black eye fog that has settled over the sport, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was given as an athlete and for the wonderful relationships I formed along the way. I know every gymnasts’ experience is different; below I am sharing mine.
Most of my favorite childhood, adolescent, and teenage memories involve my teammates from gymnastics and diving, from level 5 to college. My teammates are some of my nearest and dearest friends. I am forever grateful gymnastics brought these wonderful people, relationships, and experiences into my life.
This is an embarrassing topic that most are uncomfortable discussing, but we need to! Let’s talk about gas! Have you ever been in a meeting or out to eat with friends and not been able to hold your gas? Like, it’s seriously painful to hold it in? Yeah, me too. Of course, sometimes this is normal, right? Like when we eat “windy vegetables”, such as beans, lentils, and cruciferous vegetables. But when is that gas and bloating not normal?
What should you do when gas effecting your life?
If you are having significant gas and bloating on a daily basis, it’s time to start logging what you eat, in order to figure out the culprits. One thing you may find, is that your body is resistant to FODMAPs. You may have heard this term before and wondered “what the heck is that?” The low FODMAP diet is not a weight loss strategy or fad diet. Certain people, like those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or people who have frequent bloating, may not tolerate foods that contain FODMAPs. Current research has shown that a low FODMAP diet has emerged as a key player in the management of gastrointestinal disorders, such as IBS.
What are FODMAPs?
The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols (polyols) that include fructose, lactose, fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides (fructans and galactans), and polyols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol). Short-chain carbohydrates are carbohydrates with chains of up to 10 sugars; which vary in their digestibility and absorption. Sugar alcohols come from plant products, like fruits and berries. The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process, which allows them to provide fewer calories than table sugar (sucrose). This causes these products to be poorly absorbed and creates a laxative effect in the GI tract.
What is the problem with FODMAPs?
As you can see, the main problem with these short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols is poor absorption, specifically in the small intestine. This group of carbohydrates are also rapidly fermented by bacteria, which can cause gas production and distention. It is important to note that FODMAPs are not the cause of gastrointestinal disorders, but they absolutely may worsen symptoms. Individuals that suffer from IBS are very likely to see decreased flare-ups and symptoms, such as gas, bloating and diarrhea, when following a low FODMAP diet.
Which foods contain FODMAPs?
Here is a list of the foods to avoid when you figure out that a low FODMAP diet is for you:
If you feel like your gas or bloating has been effecting your life, my suggestion is to start tracking what foods you eat, to pinpoint which seem to be causing the problem. If the FODMAP foods appear to be part of the problem, cut them out to see if your symptoms get better. The best approach is to work with a dietitian to determine how to cut these foods out and when they can be slowly incorporated back into your diet.
Gibson, P. R., & Shepherd, S. J. (2010). Evidence‐based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: the FODMAP approach. Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology, 25(2), 252-258.
Shepherd, S. J., Lomer, M. C., & Gibson, P. R. (2013). Short-chain carbohydrates and functional gastrointestinal disorders. The American journal of gastroenterology, 108(5), 707-717.
On January 1st I took off my Fitbit and placed it on a counter in my bathroom; where it remains today. Not the normal New Year’s resolution, huh? So, why did I decide to stop wearing my Fitbit after using it every day for the past 8 months?
I was wasting time constantly looking at my phone. I am busy, and my schedule is confusing. I currently have one-part time job, two contract positions, one per diem job, and am running my private practice. Time is SO important to me. After wearing my Fitbit for a couple weeks, I noticed that I was constantly looking at my wrist to see how many steps I had taken. I would obsessively check my phone to see how many “active minutes” I had for the day or to analyze how I had slept the night before. This became a huge waste of time for me. In today's day and age, I do not need one more technological thing to keep track of.
I felt guilty for not hitting 10,000 steps. Then I started feeling bad about myself for not getting 11,000, 12,000, and so on. There is no research suggesting that 10,000 steps is the magic number to ultimate “health”. Yes, walking 10,000 steps or more is great; however, there is not a single number threshold that will turn you into an elite athlete if you hit it or cross it. You will gain health benefits and reach the CDC’s weekly physical activity guidelines (150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity) by walking less – approximately anywhere from 7,000 to 8,000 steps. Most days, I was getting well over 15,000 steps; but I continually felt guilty for not hitting a higher number each day. This is not a healthy behavior.
Obsession over the number of calories burned. Another reason I would check my phone was to watch how many calories I was burning during the day. This became another parameter that I was trying to one-up daily. We all know that current recommendations for weight loss are to get more physical activity, in order to increase total energy expenditure, or to burn more calories. However, a growing number of studies looking at the long-term metabolic effects of exercise suggest that the relationship between physical activity and total energy expenditure is much more complex than calories in and calories out. Dr. Herman Pontzer, an associate professor at the Department of Anthropology, Hunter College & City University of New York, has studied the Hadza hunter gather tribe in northern Tanzania to compare their total daily energy expenditure (TEE) to that of an adult in a western developed country. His findings indicate that the Hadza people’s TEE was not larger than non-hunter gatherers, despite being 15 times more active. This shows that our bodies are extremely adaptable and may perhaps burn about the same amount of calories no matter how much extra activity we are doing.
I over analyzed my sleep patterns. When I first got my Fitbit, I thought the sleep tracker was an awesome feature! Then I noticed, one time while lying on the couch, my tracker counted it as sleeping. And I hardly ever got over 7 hours of sleep; even on the nights that I really thought I did. I am not sure of the accuracy of these sleep trackers; however, mine did not seem very consistent. I began analyzing and overthinking how I was sleeping; which then made my sleep worse! Also, I have the Charge 2 and it was not very comfortable to sleep with.
It didn’t fit well under some of my clothes. I have to admit it; there were times that the thing was just so uncomfortable. For example, trying to fit a blazer or suit jacket over my Charge 2 was awful. Then it just felt weird for the rest of the day.
There are things I like about fitness trackers; especially for people who need the extra reminder to get up and move. I enjoy moving my body and rarely have to be reminded to get up and go for a walk. This year, I am vowing to do more activity that I enjoy, stop wasting precious time, and to not obsess about numbers that may mean nothing at all.
Pontzer et al., 2016 – Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans
Pontzer et al., 2015 – Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and the Evolutionary Biology of Energy Balance.
Pontzer et al., 2015 – Energy expenditure and activity among Hadza hunter-gatherers
Ruby et al., 2015 – Extreme endurance and the metabolic range of sustained activity is uniquely available for every human not just the elite few
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
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