Some of you (including myself) may think its pretty strange that it took 17 years to diagnose this intolerance since I’ve been living with it my whole life and didn’t realise. It was only when I knew what to look for that I began to notice.
I have always had a mixed relationship with food. Being a female athlete that probably didn’t come to much surprise to most of you, as you know that most girls are so very caught up in their body image and with the added pressures of trying to fit the stereotypical athlete physique that comes with being a sports person.
Thankfully finding out about my intolerance really opened up my eyes and explained a lot of the struggles I have had over the years regarding food. I almost feel frustrated that the answer was in front of me the whole time and I simply overlooked it.
On race day I used to really struggle with fuelling myself at breakfast before the race. At the time I could never understand what the problem was and why I began to feel so unwell that even the sight of the food was revolting. My stomach would go rock solid and I would feel bloated and nausea. at the time I just put it down to nerves but now I realise it was because I was trying to eat foods like weetabix, sandwiches and toast, which are all very high in gluten.
I bet that all cyclists reading this post will have at some point have been told to get the pasta down you the night before a race to ‘carb load’. Pasta is also very high in gluten so after eating a bowl of this I tended to feel a little queasy, which more often than not would give me a rubbish sleep before the race which further inhibited my performance. I also used to put this down to the nerves before a race.
I know what you’re thinking, but what about when I wasnt racing? how did I not notice the symptoms. To be honest I don’t really know, mainly because it all seems so obvious now after my coach James McCallum started to notice a problem with me feeling unwell pretty frequently so got me to do some trials like going gluten-free and dairy-free for a week to see how I felt in comparison to normal and that was how we caught it as when I dropped gluten from my diet I had never felt so great in all my life.
I guess I never noticed because that’s how it always was. I always had stomach pains after eating most of the time as the majority of my meals would include gluten. I always had restless sleep so I simply just didn’t think anything of it. Until over the past few months it really came into light when it was brought to my attention by james.
Going back to what I said earlier about females and athletes in general and the ‘ideal’ body image. I was always very angry at myself and couldn’t understand why I was so ‘fat’ compared to the other girls I knew when I was eating all the right things and getting all the exercise I needed from training. Turns out it was because I was unintentionally punishing my body with gluten which caused me to be extremely bloated. So now after I have cut out gluten I am feeling much more healthy mentally and physically.
Looking back now though I realise that I was treating myself in a pretty unhealthy way, comparing myself to other girls like that. so now I am trying to just focus on me and my body and trying to ignore all the stereotypes and stop caring about what everybody else will think and it’s probably the best thing I’ve done.
However sometimes I still find myself checking social media to see what other athlete’s diet habits are like…so still a work in progress but I’m getting there!
I know this blog post was a little different but I hope you enjoyed it anyways 🙂
My next post will be about how I’m coping with this and how I’ve had to adjust a lot! and of course, if i’ve cracked.
Also it’s the first ever junior female British national series event this weekend so there will also be a post about that coming soon 👌🏼
thanks for reading,