CNZ member Charlotte Moss talked to Coeliac Link about being coeliac as a professional SPORTSWOMAN, and how she adapted to her diagnosis
At age 18, record-breaking weightlifter Charlotte Moss was a mess.
Her hair was falling out, she was having trouble swallowing food and walking home from the bus stop was exhausting enough to end in tears. Specialists were prodding and testing her, flinging around diagnoses of reflux, food intolerances, sleep disruption and life overload.
To be fair, the overachieving Aucklander had plenty on her plate juggling full-time university study with twice-daily weight training. Having smashed both New Zealand youth and junior records and achieved good results overseas, she was vying for a long-shot place in the Commonwealth Games weightlifting team. Weekends were devoted to dinghy sailing competitions.
“They used to have to pull me off the boat at lunchtime for a sleep,” she says of the months leading up to her coeliac disease discovery.
To complicate matters, dieticians were advocating special eating plans; one to slim her down enough to compete in a lower weight lifting class and one to eliminate foods might be making her sick.
“They’d told me to steer clear of corn, nuts, kiwifruit, green beans, chicken, lamb all sorts of random things.”
Ten days before leaving for a weight lifting competition in New Caledonia, a gastrologist made the coeliac diagnosis and gluten was duly added to the banned foods list.
“I didn’t know what to do. I thought, ‘what can I eat’? I was so lost.”
Three years on, Charlotte is vastly more healthy and happy, waiting to hear whether she has a place on the 2018 Commonwealth Games weightlifting team. In March this year, Charlotte lifted more than 150 per cent of her body weight in one event, to help cement her second place in the Australian International contest.
While gluten has gone from her life, kiwifruit and lamb are back on the menu and she is working to complete her University of Auckland arts degree, majoring in political science and international relations. Part-time study is now slotted around part-time work; Charlotte recently became a ‘customer love co-ordinator’ at the My Food Bag meal delivery company.
And of course the weight training continues five or six days a week, up to three hours a day.
“I love training. The people I train with have always been really inspiring. It’s good to get the body moving and the mix of training, study and work means I’m thinking ‘I’m so over this essay but I can go to the gym now’.
“Sport teaches you so much, it’s the challenge of constantly trying to overcome. It’s helped me so much in my life and it translates to work and study and personal situations.”
Charlotte has faced her coeliac diagnosis with a determinedly positive attitude, too.
Australian-based nutritionist Amie Cox has helped her slowly, carefully shed enough weight to drop down to the more desirable under-48kg class, while managing her gluten-free needs. Dining out and travelling to overseas competitions can be difficult to manage and she is wary of being lumped in with fellow 20-somethings who avoid gluten only sometimes.
“I’m in the demographic where people think maybe I’m just following a health trend, I feel a little misunderstood. People just think I’m being picky and I’m so not picky. I would eat anything. I love all food.”
On the other hand, she suspects this trend is delivering more culinary choices for coeliacs. And diagnosis has helped her sports diet; she is never tempted by a piece of fattening cake.
The diminutive sportswoman, who began weightlifting to cross train for sailing competitions, also views her 155cm stature as a blessing.
“If you’re built closer to the ground, there’s less distance for the bar to travel.”
You will hear more from Charlotte over the coming months, as a leader and spokesperson for the CNZ Young Ambassador programme.