My Eccentric Journey

FeaturedMy Eccentric Journey

Depending on how you pronounce it, the word “eccentric” has two meanings. I’ll let  you look it up, but you are either talking about a weird or off-beat character or characteristic, or you are talking about a type of movement. While either definition may be applicable to me, the  latter definitely is.  I started in late 2017 on a journey to become certified to teach Essentrics®  This is a fitness program designed to re-balance every part of the body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening of all 650 muscles. It also lubricates all 320 joints to keep them supple and moving well. Did you know you had that many muscles and joints?

The program name uses the “soft c” pronunciation, with a different spelling: Essentrics®–tweaked by using part of the creator’s name: Miranda Esmonde White. Miranda is a former member of the National Ballet of Canada, and since developing this program more than 20 years ago, she has become a TV personality, author, much-sought after speaker, and of course, she is still teaching at age 70!

Miranda Esmonde White    

I’d been watching Miranda’s PBS program “Classical Stretch” for many years, and it continues to draw huge audiences. The program seems to be geared more to Baby Boomers, and younger generations wanted this type of strength and stretch program, but  with a different name. So Miranda and her daughter Sahra developed Essentrics®, which is now taught around the world.

After doing the exercises by myself, either watching “Classical Stretch” or working out with a DVD, I introduced the program to friends, and we’d do it together. Then I decided to become a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. 

That’s where the “weird” or “offbeat” part of “eccentric” comes in.  Many people will tell you that I have an eccentric sense of humour. Telling myself that I could become a fitness instructor at age 65 might be the funniest joke of all!  Yet, here’s the thing: I knew I had the support of family, friends,  a great group of Essentrics® instructors, and the Essentrics® training team, so I knew I could do it. No joke.  I am now a Certified Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor. I love it! I love sharing this program with even more people. I move more easily. My posture is better.  I am almost pain free from my fibromyalgia and other chronic issues and I look and feel younger! Check my Essentrics Classes page on my website to find out why you’ll love this program.

I  want to, as Miranda and many others are  clearly doing, “age backwards.”

Please join me as I continue on this eccentric/Essentrics Aging Backwards® journey.


Losing–and Finding–My Passion

Do you ever feel like a fraud? I was starting to feel like a writing impostor.  I’d been a freelance writer for many years and I was becoming tired of it all–not so much the actual writing but all of the stuff that goes with it: the seemingly endless work of finding markets, pitching to editors, waiting for answers, and then, if that all went well, waiting to get paid. I wanted, no, I needed, to get out of this loop. I’d lost my passion for the work, and in this game, if you’re not passionate about the writing then the rest becomes a chore. I wrote a few articles and really tried to stoke the fire but I had to let it all go, including this blog. I couldn’t really call myself a writer anymore.

What was I though?

I’d always loved sharing my passion for writing with others and really enjoyed the time I’d spent with my writing group, but how could I teach others about writing when my heart wasn’t in it?

I still wanted to teach though and enjoyed teaching a fitness class at the Seniors Outreach Services (SOS) centre in Napanee.  I’d made new friends, they enjoyed my class, and I was improving my own fitness at the same time. With the support of the program director I’d changed my class from low-impact strength training into a strength-and-stretch class. The new program was inspired by Essentrics®.  I had a new passion: learn this program well enough to teach it. As I moved along on my Eccentric Journey I became more enthusiastic. The Essentrics® program evolved and there are now two tracks for instructors. The Aging Backwards® stream is perfect for me.  I know how much it will continue to help me and the people in my classes and anyone who needs a gentler exercise program because of chronic pain or injury. I received my certification as an Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor in December 2019.

I now teach three or four classes a week and I love it!

As my enthusiasm for teaching Essentrics® grew, a funny thing happened: I found the passion for writing again. Now I want to write articles about health and fitness and specifically how we can all “age backwards” and take better care of ourselves. I want to share what I’ve learned and tap into the knowledge of others. I won’t even mind the pitch-wait-write-wait-loop again. I want to help other writers promote the work they are passionate about, so I will be posting more book reviews here. Check the Captions Communications page on my website for more news about my writing.

My passion for freelance work is also fueled by the fact that there will be a new Canadian Freelance Guild launching in May 2020. My writers’ organization, the Professional Writers Association of Canada, is a founding partner. Being a member of this new organization will help my work as an independent writer and Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor.

I no longer feel like a fraud or an impostor. I am a fitness leader. I am a writer. Sometimes these two passions will come together. I will continue to write about them both with more passion, which I seem to have lost but now have found once more.

What’s your passion? How do you fuel it? What do you do when you start to feel like you’re losing it? Please let me know.

A perfectly planned Australian holiday

While getting away on holiday is great, the planning can be stressful. Especially if you are travelling thousands of kilometres away to Australia and you may only have a few weeks to travel. You want to make the best of your time away. What if you had someone not only suggest the best use of your time, but also offer ideas of how and when to travel, and give you an idea of the cost? Well, you have all of this and more, thanks to Michela Fantinel  in her book, Your Australia Itinerary, published by her company,  Rocky Travel.



(On Goodreads and Amazon the book is listed as“The Ultimate Guide to Australia Itineraries” with a different image.)

Michela, who is Italian, spent more than 10 years travelling solo around Australia and she outlines the many things that there are to do and see in this country she loves so much. While her suggestions are geared to women travelling alone, they are good for couples and families too. In about an hour, this 85-page e-book will help you learn about the varied attractions Australia has to offer—no matter what kind of holiday you are looking for.  Everything from the coastal ocean roads and beaches to the desert Outback to the vibrant cities and everything in between is covered. Michela is your personal trip planner and she will help you decide just what is right for you—depending on your budget, desired mode of transportation, and required accommodation. There are maps, charts, and other detailed outlines to plan your trip, and Michela even provides four sample itineraries for each different type of vacation: landmarks, cities, beaches, nature and wildlife—you’ll find it all carefully outlined, along with beautiful photographs to entice you. Then, in about a week, you’ll have your trip planned.

In each section, you’ll find how to break down your trip so it is at the pace you want. You’ll learn the best type of trip for you,  depending on the time of year, weather, and other considerations. And—and this is the biggy—you’ll get estimates of costs, and ways to customize the trip.

I really wish we’d had this book before going to Australia in September 2015. The nice thing is that after reading the book, I know that we actually got a lot of things right. Now I’ll know how to make the next trip even better.

Your Australia Itinerary is available as a PDF or in iTunes. The Apple format is a little more interactive, but both give great information. With each download from Michela’s website you get information on how to contact Michela for a free 15-minute consultation to discuss any details about your trip, and you also get a savings on Michela’s trip planning services. You can sign up for Michela’s blog, and learn more about her travels on her website,

Take the stress completely out of planning a trip to Australia and let Michela Fantinel help with this “Ultimate Guide to Australia Itineraries” to make this your perfectly planned holiday.

Leaving Australia on a sweet note

Talk about a sweet ending to our trip to Australia.


On our penultimate day, we drove for about 90 minutes west of Sydney to the Blue Mountains. Whether, like us, you just want to stroll around Katoomba, the main town in the area, or you’re up for some more rugged bushwalking, this area should definitely be on your “to see” list.

208-150916The rugged cliffs and deep forest valleys topped by the Three Sisters rock formations add to the grandeur, and if you’re as lucky as we were, you’ll get a bright sunny day to really enjoy the vistas.

We could have taken a trolley tour or gone to see the visitor centre but we had to get back to the city and, because it was such a beautiful day, we chose to do a couple of walks through town and a drive around the local area.


One of the highlights, which took a little while to actually find because it’s smaller than you’d think, is the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company.

Given its name, you might think it would be something larger than a house yet that’s exactly where this company is located, and all of the chocolate making is done in the kitchen.


Out front there are shelves full of bags of chocolate,  other sweet treats, and a large case displaying so many types, sizes and shapes of chocolate that it was a bit overwhelming. Completing the scene is a café where you can enjoy your special snack.


The highlight—and something the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company is famous for—is the hot chocolate. This is no ordinary hot chocolate! It’s made in a specially-designed fondue pot, heated by a tealight, to which you add steamed milk and as many of the little chocolate wafers as your taste dictates.  200-150916

The chocolate slowly melts into the milk as you stir and sip with the distinctive straw-spoon. (spoon-straw?)

It stays nice and hot as you linger over it and keep eyeing those chocolates in the display case.

The hot chocolate can be made with regular or soy milk, and you can buy your own 5-piece Choco Fondue set.

(They were out of stock, and we really didn’t have room in our luggage for the set, but I am on the lookout now.)


While the sky was blue and the sun was bright, there was a cool, brisk wind, and after strolling around Katoomba looking at some magnificent street art and checking out some of the local shops, we were definitely ready for a hot drink.189-150916 192-150916

We drove back to Sydney to return our camper van. Then we settled into the apartment we’d booked for our last night in Australia, still talking about that magnificent hot chocolate and looking forward to the delectable chocolate goodies we’d purchased. What a sweet ending to our trip.


Now that I’ve started at the end, I might just go back to the beginning of the trip to Australia in my next post. So, stay tuned.

Being a tourist in my old hometown

I grew up in Toronto, [Ontario, Canada] and in many ways, I still consider it “my old hometown.” So I’m looking forward to the Editing Goes Global conference this weekend, hosted by the Editors Association of Canada and co-hosted by the Professional Writers Association of Canada. I won’t have a lot of time to check out these attractions, but they may appeal to some of the 400+ delegates coming from 12 countries around the world, including Canada, of course.

The CN Tower—

Toronto_-_ON_-_CN_Tower_bei_Nacht2Photo: Wikipedia

The Look Out, the Glass Floor, the Sky Pod, and the Movie and Motion Theatre Ride are certainly great attractions for this landmark, but why not go Way Out There when you are Way Up There? Take a walk on the wild side with the Edge Walk.  Your admission price includes a keepsake video and photos, your Certificate of Achievement and re-entry to the CN Tower to give you the Total Tower Experience, which includes all of the above.  Of course, just enjoying a meal in the revolving restaurant is great too. You’ll get some great vistas.

When you’re back down on terra firma, head over to:

Canoe Landing Park-– Why is there a giant red canoe on the top of a hill? So you can climb up, and climb in, to look past the cars whizzing by on the Gardiners Expressway for a great view Lake Ontario. This 8-hectare park has walkways that wind from Fort York to the Rogers Centre. The giant canoe is a stand-alone art installation by one of Canada’s foremost writers, designers, and visual artists, Douglas Coupland.   Back on the walkway, you’ll notice other unique artwork. During my last visit, there was a display of some very special running gear, a highlight on the Terry Fox Miracle Mile. I hope it’s still there.

If you’re looking for some “culture”, head to the Harbourfront Centre   where you’ll find a number of concerts, author readings, dance recitals, and special kids activities on most weekends and many evenings throughout the year. There are also plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, and nightclubs along The Quay, so there’s no shortage of activities to keep you hopping. There is also a large pond that becomes a skating rink in the winter months. Heading north on Spadina from the waterfront, watch for the giant thimble, a gateway to Toronto’s Fashion District.


spadinaave27Photo from the Toronto Shopoholic site

The Fashion District, also known as “the garment district” is where you’ll find a terrific selection of local fashions, and home décor items in stores ranging from small specialty boutiques to Winners. Many of the outlets are in refurbished warehouses, which have become very trendy. There are lots of great restaurants in this area, in case you’re hungry or thirsty from your walking around.

Heading back to King Street West, be sure to check out  Canada’s Walk of Fame in front of The Princess of Wales and Royal Alexandra Theatres.  Initially designed to playfully mimic the “stars walk” in Hollywood, this walkway has grown into its own as a place to permanently recognize the achievements of Canadians in all fields, primarily the entertainment industry. You can stand on the stars honouring legends like film director Norman Jewison, actor Donald Sutherland, musician Neil Young, and comedian John Candy.

If those aren’t enough stars for you, you’ll certainly find them just a short hop away in the

Hockey Hall of Fame—a must do for hockey fans! Highlights include The Home of the Stanley Cup, the Stanley Cup Ring Displays, a tribute to the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series (which has also been honoured on the Walk of Fame), the 2010 Olympic Hockey display, and a tribute to the current Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings. Before you even head into the building though, be sure to stop by the exterior sculptures. There is a lot to see, and do, here, so plan your visit carefully to maximize your time.

While the conference is the main focus for my visit to Toronto this weekend, I’m looking forward to being a tourist.  I’ve only mentioned a few attractions here. There is definitely something for everyone.

Whether it’s your first visit, and you come often, there’s lots to see and do, so get out there and have fun!

Please visit my other blog, Local Business Matters, to see one of the many reasons I love my “new” hometown of Greater Napanee.

This post was edited from one written in September 2012 for the “King Blue” website, discussing all of the great things around the King-Blue Jays Way  and King West Village area. The King Blue condo development on that corner, one of many developments, is attracting more people to come down and live and play in downtown Toronto.

Out in the Miami Sunshine!

“The sun is out! Oh, this is what I was hoping for today,” came the delighted comment from the next room. We’d had two days of rain so we were more than happy to finally see the sun!

My friend, and fellow author/blogger, Doreen Pendgracs and I were sharing a beautiful two-bedroom suite at the Metropole one of the South Beach Group of hotels in Miami. It was lovely, but we couldn’t wait to get out into the sunshine. After a quick breakfast we were off to the beach—just a few minutes away.  It was great to see so many folks  also out enjoying the Miami sunshine, even if many were covering up under these bright umbrellas.


The winds were high, and the waves were higher, so there were posted flags indicating that going into the water wouldn’t be safe. Flags or no, we had to at least wade into the ocean a little. Our feet got wet when the waves rolled in–but that was just fine!  For these two Canadian women escaping the cold and snow in November, this was bliss!


IMG_00000643Doreen was definitely giving the “thumbs up” to the warm, sunny day.

CP at the beach I had to hang on to my hat! (photo courtesy of Doreen Pendgracs)

After a leisurely stroll on the beach, we headed up the street to soak in more South Beach colour–and more sun. Ocean Drive is awash with these primary colours showing off the condos, boutiques and restaurants.


Then it was back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and off to Bayside where we were looking forward to a patio lunch and boat cruise. Since we’d made our way there twice for the bus tours, we felt quite confident in our commuting and found the right bus to get us to the “other side.” Within the hour, we were strolling by the marina at Bayfront Park.


We checked out a few of the restaurants and decided to have lunch at the Tradewinds Waterfront Bar & Grill where we enjoyed Mojitos  and kept the souvenir glass. I was pleased they could do a nice non-alcoholic version of this popular drink. I think I got extra ice and limes as the lid wouldn’t even fit. Oh—lunch was good too. Seafood—of course! (No photo—it wasn’t that special.) We didn’t know until the drinks arrived that the Tradewinds is partnered with the Island Queen Cruise line. Smart marketing!


The cruise was next on our agenda, and thanks to Jennifer at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, we had free passes. We had a bit of time before we sailed so we perused the shops and watched some lively salsa dancing in the square. They were moving too fast and there was too big of a crowd watching the show for me to get good photos, so I just enjoyed all of the dancing–the pros and the amateurs from the crowd who’d joined in.

The cruise line operates boats of several sizes, and we were on one of the smaller ones, which meant we both got window seats, and the boat had a more intimate feel to it. Our captain was a delightful tour guide.

In my last post, Round and around on the Big Bus Tours I shared this photo of this “quarter-billion dollar” yacht. Owner Dennis Washington doesn’t like to talk about how much he paid for the yacht, or how much he spent renovating it. He says that what’s important is the joy it brings others in his life. Classy. I could handle some of this joy.


We also saw how “rich folks” can enjoy seclusion on Fisher Island. Apparently Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey have (or had) condos here. I guess they can afford the $270,00/year rent! Our captain told us that if boats get too close to the island, the skipper could be arrested, so to avoid that, he wasn’t going too close. It made for an amusing story—and who knows?– maybe it’s true. We just enjoyed the scenery.


All too soon, it was time to head back to port, just as the clouds were starting to roll in. Having seen the tall skyscrapers from the buses, we enjoyed seeing the Miami skyline from the water– and the start of a beautiful sunset.


Our day out in the Miami sunshine was coming to an end, and we’d thoroughly enjoyed every minute!


For more stories and great pictures from our Miami trip, please read Doreen’s posts on her travel blog, Diversions with Doreen.








Round and around on the Big Bus Tours

If you want to see what a city is really like and get around its different neighbourhoods, hopping on a bus is a great way to go. When you’re a tourist and don’t have a lot of time, a bus tour can give you a great snapshot of what the city has to offer. That was definitely the case with the Big Bus Tours in Miami last November.


I’d been invited to go to Miami with my friend, author Doreen Pendgracs, to be with her when she received her Bronze Medal at the Readers’ Favorite Awards for her book Chocolatour. 

Hmm, Miami in November? It was cold and snowy here, so–Yes! Thank you, Doreen.

While we’d hoped for warmth and sunshine, we only got the warmth for the first two days. The rain and winds were quite strong, which made looking at palm trees fun, but not much fun walking around—so we hopped on the bus. Thanks to Jennifer at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, we’d been given some passes for the buses, which we took full advantage of  by taking three tours in two days!

We really saw the diversity in the city—everything from Millionaire’s Row to Historic Overtown. We also learned a lot about the history of the city. Some of it was a little sad, but you take the good with the not so good. Millionaire’s Row, while beautiful,  is now in what used to be large avocado groves, and Overtown was a thriving black community until the building of the I-95 forced the destruction of many homes, and the diversion of traffic away from this business district. It is slowly coming back, thanks to the unique street art and shops in this area. All of this gave us a glimpse into the history of this wonderful city. That’s where taking a guided tour is better than venturing out on your own. On a tour, you have someone sharing the stories of places we drove by, which made them all that more interesting. The guides were all informative but our first guide, Jake, seemed to be the most spontaneous in his presentations, so that made the tour fun, making up for the dull weather. We learned that Thomas Edison brought the palm tree to Miami from Cuba. They’ve certainly thrived, haven’t they?


Another fun fact we learned from Jake—the Gantry cranes—used for loading and unloading ships in the Port of Miami —inspired the design of the Imperial Walkers in Star Wars. I couldn’t get a good shot of these, but found this one with a “Google search.”

Miami port dockside gantry cranesI see where George Lucas got his inspiration. Do you?

As I mentioned, we saw some lovely areas of the city. Coral Gables was especially beautiful–no doubt because  homeowners have to get their choice of paint colour approved to make sure it will “fit” with the local décor.

This Coral Gables church is one of the most popular choices for local couples to get married because they are one of few churches to offer interdenominational services.


One of our tours took us through Little Havana, home to a thriving Cuban community. I would have liked to hop off to buy my souvenir Cuban cigars here, but there wasn’t time.

IMG_00000631I was able to purchase them back at Bayfront Market, the hub where all of the tours start and return.

Looking back on our Big Bus Tours map, I am reminded what a wide area of the city we were able to cover  in such a short time. There are three loops–the Beach loop, the City loop, and the Uptown loop, and we were able to do them all.


Jennifer (at the Conventiona and Tourist bureau) also gave us passes for a boat cruise. The warm sun was shining that day, although there were still a few clouds.  I’ll tell you more in a future post. Here’s a teaser:

One of our first sights was of a yacht , the Attesa IV, owned by billionaire construction magnate Dennis Washington. This little jewel now is complete with a helicopter onboard for quick get-aways.  My photo does not do this magnificent vessel justice. You can learn more about the yacht and Washington in this YouTube video


Looking back at my maps, guides, and other little souvenirs from this whirlwind five-day trip, there is so much to tell you about our accommodations, food, and fun.

Stay tuned!

For more great stories and photos, please visit Doreen’s travel blog, Diversions with Doreen.

Bigger, Brighter—and Better!

Bigger, Brighter—and Better!

Posted April 22, 2015


My third time visiting the Yoga Conference and Show was, as I predicted in my last post, definitely the charm. This year’s show, held April 9-12, 2015, was bigger, brighter, and …better.

From the moment I stepped into the halls booked for the show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, I was impressed with the different layout, which was more spacious than in previous years. There also seemed to be a more positive energy, which you “yoga people” will understand, but one that’s difficult to put into words. The room seemed brighter too. Maybe it was because of the larger space.

The energy was evident in the Yoga Garden where continuous classes were offered, and I enjoyed doing some Pilates. (Yes, it’s called the Yoga Show, but many studios offer Pilates, and other movement therapy, which is all part of the show.) This was a chance to try a new movement style, or experience it in a new way with the addition of a prop. The Garden was definitely bigger so we all had more room to move.

“Ecstatic!” That was how Amanda Bond, the public relations director for Yoga Conference and Show summed up her feelings about this year’s event. Attendance was up—approximately 24,000 over the three days, almost 3,000 more than last year. There were more exhibitors—290 this year, 250 last year; and the feedback coming in, especially on the show’s Facebook page, has been very positive.

No wonder she was so excited when I chatted with Amanda a few days after the show. She told me that things would continue to grow every year and get better. Plans are already underway for next year.

“We’ll be at the Convention Centre and since we expanded our space this year, and plan to do so again next year, as that seems to make a lot of difference to our exhibitors. Everyone had more room to engage with visitors to their booths, and that seemed to lead to more discussion—and more sales, which of course made everyone happy.”

With the focus on health and wellness, the exhibitors offered a variety of products and services. What struck me more so this year was a lack of duplication. While there were some exhibitors offering similar products, there was still a bit of difference between them, giving visitors a lot of choice. There were familiar faces among the exhibitors and some newcomers. While you were certainly encouraged to buy from these vendors, and there was some pressure to do so, it wasn’t a high-pressure sales event as some trade shows become. Perhaps it was the larger space—visitors didn’t seem to feel rushed to move on to the next booth to make room for more visitors.

The trade show is, of course, a large part of the event, but it is the Yoga Conference that sets this show apart from others, according to Amanda.

“What we’ve been hearing is that the workshops we offer—everything from a two-hour to a full-day session with one of 60 international faculty—really add value to the show.” “Rather than these yoga practitioners having to go to see the faculty, they came to us, and there were opportunities to work one-on-one with them during the workshops, which everyone enjoyed.”

Sharing the day with my friend Lillie, who hadn’t attended a show before, was wonderful as I was trying to see it all for the first time as she was. Lillie shared her thoughts on the show on her blog.

As I only attended the event for one day, I didn’t take part in any workshops, but I will give serious consideration to doing so next year, which will mean that I will attend the 2016 Toronto Yoga Conference and Show for more than one day in order to take it all in. Lillie and I commented that you really do need more than one day to really enjoy all that is offered.

In a coming post I will give you more specific impressions about some of the exhibitors and faculty I was able to meet or talk to. The 2015 show was definitely Bigger, Brighter and …Better this year. I look forward to next year, already scheduled for March 31 to April 3, 2016.

I hope to once again attend with a friend, or perhaps a group of friends, as the experience is so much richer when shared. Amanda alluded to that in her comments about the sharing among the yoga community, which is a good wrap-up for this post.

“The Yoga Conference and Show brings so many people together, who are going deeper in their personal yoga practice combined with other core elements of spirituality and personal development. In the future, we will continue to focus on our brand and keep developing the Conference and Show portion to serve the needs of our community. By creating human connections, one-on-one, between Faculty, workshop attendees and other participants, our event offers something currently unprecedented in North America.”






Living Well with “Gluten Freedom”

The Background Story:

There is no denying that the term “gluten free” can evoke very interesting, and sometimes combative, discussions. There are those who will insist that only those diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD)—a relatively small percentage of the population—need to follow a gluten-free diet. That is difficult for the millions of others who will insist that they are healthier, both physically and mentally, by cutting gluten from their diet. I am one of them.

After a process of trial and error, and a lengthy “elimination diet” I cut out gluten-containing foods several years ago. Therefore I cannot go for a test that would definitively determine whether I have celiac disease but health professionals and I agree that I am likely Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive (NCGS), and following a gluten-free diet has made an improvement in my health. I am always looking for ways to continue this healthful journey.

I’d read a review of Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano on the blog, The Patient Celiac,  and wanted to read it myself. While I was certainly aware that there was a “bandwagon” that many people have jumped on, this is not the situation for me. I’ve made changes to my diet before to help improve my health, and I never did so without doing some research. Changing to the gluten-free diet was no different. I researched it well before making the change, and I continue to read a great deal about all of this. So I was happy to receive this book.

The Book:

Gluten Freedom

Fasano, Alessio M.D. with Susie Flaherty

Wiley General Trade (Turner) 2014

ISBN 978-1-118-42310-3 (hardback)

312 pp

Gluten FreedomImage found on

 The Review

Gluten Freedom is divided into four sections, taking you from looking how gluten entered the world to looking towards the future with new therapies and new treatments that might make it easier for us to live gluten-free, and maybe even are able to better tolerate gluten. The layout of the book also allows you to choose where to start, depending on where you are in your life.

I started with the chapter Gluten in Your Golden Years, because I was in my 50s before I was diagnosed. I don’t know if your 50s are considered your “golden years”, but that seemed like a good place to start.  It was interesting for me to learn that while Celiac Disease is often diagnosed as a paediatric condition, it can come on later in life. Or, it may be that while the disease actually never goes away, the condition can improve due to diet changes—and then come back if those diet changes are not made permanent. It was also good to read stories from others who had a later-life diagnosis.

The personal stories are a definite asset to the book, but at times they are a bit too long. That said, it’s good to have them, so that reader knows he/she is not alone. By the same token, the research is a bit too detailed, which made me, and perhaps other readers skip over it at times, which is unfortunate, because it’s important research. We can learn from both the research and the stories.

The research comes from Fasano’s Center for Celiac Research & Treatment, which he founded in 1996. Since it’s definitely become easier to live gluten free, it is difficult to imagine dietary hardships and other problems faced by those with CD in the earlier years, or the need for a research facility dedicated to this. Clearly there is a need for the center*, and I for one, am grateful for the research done there.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and there is a need for more research (hence the Center) For example, why is CD diagnosed in some people as children, yet not until later in life for others? Why are there only intestinal problems for some while others experience symptoms affecting different systems in the body, including the brain?

Whether you are seeking Gluten Freedom for yourself, or you know someone who is, I urge you to read this book. You’ll understand more about what affects your gut health, and how important a healthy gut is to your overall health.  Then you can decide whether there is a need for a CD test, or whether you or someone in your family may have developed NCGS. I wish I’d known before I removed gluten from my diet the importance of the tests, so that I would have had a more accurate diagnosis.

Living with gluten sensitivity is not fun, but it is manageable, and there are more products available, which makes it easier. Information and research being done by Dr. Fasano and others is welcome.

Have you tried a gluten-free diet?  Is anyone in your family or circle of friends “gluten free”? What were the results? Share your experiences here.

Head over to my other blog, “Local Business Matters” where I talk about the importance of supporting local businesses. While there may be more choice of gluten-free products in larger centres, I can get what I need in my local stores, featured in this post.

*I am sticking with the “American” spelling of center, as the Center for Celiac Disease is located in Boston, Massachusetts. I would normally use the “Canadian” spelling of “centre.” Either is correct.






Fighting chronic illness with humour and hope

As I hope you can tell from the posts in this blog, I try to approach most things in life with a sense of humour and a sense of hope. These are especially important when you live with a chronic illness—or two or three– as I do.

I hesitate to call them “illnesses.” Sometimes I may be not all that well, but I’m not really sick–at least not all that often. I may be fatigued or have some discomfort, but I don’t think of that as being sick.  I am however constantly trying to calm waging wars in my body. For the past couple of weeks, it’s been my stomach fighting with the rest of the internal organs. The conversation goes something like this:

Stomach: “I’m hungry. I need to eat something.”

Internal Organs: “Don’t you dare eat anything else until we figure out how to deal with what you’ve already eaten.” [I’ll spare you the details of the conversation, as it gets kind of gross.]

“Water with lemon for you, missy—maybe some soup.”

Stomach: “You’ve got to be kidding! I have to eat.”

Organs: “Well, ok. But take it easy. Nothing greasy, fried, or raw. Only gluten-free and dairy-free.”

[I’m guessing the organs really didn’t like the really good french fries I ate last Thursday or the delicious salads I ate on Sunday as much as I did.]

This conversation or something pretty close to it happens frequently. Then there is the one that happens between my muscles and my brain.

Brain: “I need my body to get more aerobic exercise.”

Muscles: “No, you don’t. The strength and stretching exercises are better for your fibromyalgia and the aerobic stuff just exhausts you too much—and then you don’t want to do the other exercises that are better for us.”

Brain: “Well, I can at least walk, even if I can’t do the cardio classes.”

Muscles: Yes, that would be good. Don’t forget about the stretching though.”

So, what do I do?

I try to eat a balanced, gluten-free, dairy-free diet that includes a good balance of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates [with not too many grains or raw foods] and I stick to my strength and stretching exercises sneaking in a little bit of “cardio” when I can.

I also try to remember that I am living my life with a sense of humour and a sense of hope to make things better. It really is the only way to live, isn’t it? I also remind myself that there are plenty of people dealing with a lot more than I have to, and I admire their strength and tenacity.

The conversations and wars may get interesting over the next six months as I may be participating in a research study looking into some potential treatments for fibromyalgia. If I am chosen, I’ll be writing about it. So stay tuned.

What are your coping strategies if you’re living with a chronic illness? I’d love to hear what you do to keep yourself healthy and how you calm the wars raging in your body.