Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

In the past 15 years internships have gone from a great opportunity to rise above the rest, to a requirement to even be considered for an interview (and then face rejection in favor of someone with more internships.) Although internships as we know them have been around for a while, there has been a clear shift in their purpose and benefit. In fact, people are getting fed up and have begun fighting back against big companies, including Warner Music Group.

According to Forbes, there are the six legal requirements for a position to be considered an internship:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If these guidelines were followed by every company offering internships, there wouldn’t be a problem. But that’s rarely the case in the entertainment industry. Here are ways companies are screwing over their interns…and anyone new to the workforce.

1. Hiring Interns To Do Unpaid Labor

Companies abuse this power in many forms. The most common is setting their interns up to do infinite data entry, which provides little to no value to an eager college student. More than that, though, it causes them to become bored and disengaged (as it would most anybody,) which is exactly the opposite of what these “learning opportunities” should be doing.

Another, less common but still prevalent, abuse is using their interns for various janitorial or maintenance duties. This is more likely to occur when a business’s revenue is primarily earned through entertaining, such as a venue or a restaurant. For a personal anecdote, I interned for a venue and my daily tasks included cleaning the vents, fixing a plant hanger, scheduling Twitter posts, and removing tape from windows.

As I already had a fantastic, engaging internship, I made the decision to leave the venue internship (even though I was very interested in learning their operations. I tried several times and my inquiries were ignored.) and spend more time in a better environment.

2. Intern Requirements Go Beyond School Experience

This one is particularly frustrating, because the whole concept of an internship is to get experience. If a company’s internship requires candidates to have “a proven ability” to do anything, are an “integral part” of the company, or need knowledge of something they wouldn’t learn in school (for instance, Photoshop for a music marketing intern) it’s not an internship. It’s an unpaid job.

3. Internships Are Indefinite

It’s generally accepted that internships should be kept short – about a semester long. Three months is enough time to gain some knowledge and make connections, but more importantly, that’s the standard because internships usually provide school credits. If you’re in school, and in an internship for longer than a semester, it’s likely not worth your time. Unless you are always learning something new, keep it short. If you want more experience, find a new internship.

4. Entry-Level Jobs Have Been Lost

There once was a time when entry-level meant exactly that. Anyone with a knowledge of the industry and a little bit of experience could find a job at a company, which would then train them for the job. Now, however, entry-level requires 2-3+ years of experience, a difficult feat when coming right out of college. To get this experience, students have to know exactly what job they want when they graduate, and then find internships in that field to rack up experience. Not sure what field is best for you, so you tried a few different areas? Good luck finding a job.

For a similar take on internships, which includes a guide to finding the best one for YOU, check out this SlideShare by Julian Weisser, whom I respect very much, of Ideas Then Lemonade.

Story Time

Three weeks ago, I (and a very kind soul) traveled from central Ohio to the Rockies. It was a little over a 20-hour drive, with the largest stretch of the trip going through Kansas. If you don’t know anything about driving through Kansas, it is one of the longest, most monotonous drives known to man. Probably. There is very little in the way of “civilization,” being mostly filled with grain, corn, and other agricultural endeavors.

No hard feelings, Kansas

At one point in the afternoon, we had been driving for about 8 hours, with 5 more to go, and were running low on fuel. Plus I had unfortunately consumed a little too much Cherry Coke Zero…so we decided it was time for a pit stop. There was just one problem with our plan – Kansas hates gas stations.

We got off at an exit that had a beat up, worn out “gas here” sign. After driving half a mile down the road, we found an equally as worn out station with three old-fashioned pumps. Unfortunately, as we pulled up, we discovered a “sorry, we’re closed” sign taped sketchily in the window.

Back on the highway, and a few bypassed exits later, we repeated this same decision, with eerily similar results. The whole thing left me wondering if Kansas had closed early.

Proving the durability of the human spirit (and because we didn’t really have a choice) we traveled on. Eventually finding exit that took us to a veritable oasis in the middle of the Kansas desert, including a gas station complete with working pumps and bathrooms.

Cheesy metaphor time.

There’s little more frustrating in life than making a decision and having it fail. Whether it’s because you can’t see the path ahead (like on a road trip), are given bad information (that stupid gas sign), or just make a poor judgment call (too much Cherry Coke Zero), it’s a very defeating experience. In the music industry, this is a reality for every band, manager, venue, booking agent, engineer, producer…you get the point.

It seems like it should be common sense: no one can see the future, therefore everyone can make mistakes. But it’s something almost everyone struggles with.

Huskies make everything better

Truth-telling time

Since I’m at a time in my (and most people’s) life when I’m diving into the “real” world for the first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the decisions, opportunities, and denials that come along with it.

So my lesson to myself and everyone in my position: Just say screw it, the world will have to deal with me as I am. Fear can take a back burner.

I have lived in Boston for nearly three years now, and much of that time has been dedicated to enjoying and planning live shows. I’ve seen great bands play in amazing venues to create a transcendent experience, but I’ve also seen these same bands play in venues that leave everyone involved with a sour taste in their mouth. To assist in avoiding the ladder, I’ve compiled a list of Boston venues and ranked them out of ten. Although this is not a definitive list, as I haven’t been ambitious enough to have been to every venue the city has to offer, these venues are by and far the ones that I get invited to on Facebook the most (what other proof of legitimacy do you need?) That being said, the one venue I really wish I had a chance to check out is Church, so if anyone has any thoughts on it, please share in the comments. It’s a public service, really.

For this review, I’ll be judging venues based on ambiance, quality of music, and ease of booking.

My Guide To The Top 5 Venues Boston Bands Play

The Middle East

Ah this venue. Every band has a story of when they played here. Even my brief stint as a performer resulted in a (poorly-attended) corner show.

The Middle East refuses to be contained in one venue; it consists of two restaurant portions, both of which lead to a stage area, one called “the upstairs” and one “the downstairs.” Not satisfied with that amount of confusion, the owners added a restaurant in between the other two called Zuzu, which also hosts musical acts on occasion.

Ignoring the tiny restaurant performances, the upstairs and downstairs venues are actually pretty decent (once you find them.) Having attended many upstairs shows, the bands that play there are generally of at least decent quality, and a good portion are of great quality. The sound varies depending on the night (moody sound engineer perhaps?) but it’s never unbearable, and generally is above average. If you can stay in between the random pillars on either side of the room, the sight line is great and grants a visual of the entire band.

The downstairs is a venue I am more familiar with behind the scenes. I’ve managed a couple shows there and management has been very accommodating. It’s a larger capacity room, with two bars and a larger stage. It’s great for rock and punk bands, as it’s underground and has that grungy, dirty vibe to it. My main suggestion would be to bring your own sound guy, because at least one of the house engineers is kind of a dick.

There are two separate booking contacts for the upstairs and the downstairs, but both respond to emails and will give any band with decent pitching skills a chance.

Rating: 6/10

TT The Bear’s Place

I seriously love this place. Having only made it out there for the first time a few months ago, I was surprised to discover that it’s right behind the behemouth that is The Middle East. It definitely deserves a spot with higher visibility.

The venue is separated by a half wall (and some pillars) into two rooms. One hosts the stage area while the other contains the bar (there’s also an area to play pool, but that didn’t really appeal to me.) There’s something about this setup that is just perfect – when I’m in the stage area, it feels like the band and the audience have formed together to create their own little ecosphere, where the audience feeds off the music and the band feeds off their sweaty, dancing energy. The sound is great and, although I’ve only been there a few times, I thoroughly enjoy the music showcased.

The other side of this musical ecosphere, the bar area, is perfect for people who just want to take a step back during a set that isn’t really their style, or are tired of standing and jumping around, or just want to get wasted. It’s far enough away that the music isn’t overpowering to conversation, but close enough to feel the pulsing energy coming from the stage.

The one thing that brings this venue down is that management can be difficult to get ahold of. I have tried, and failed, a couple times to make contact with their booking agent, but in this industry, I might just not know the right people.

Rating: 8/10

The Red Room at Cafe 939

There may be a bias in the sample here, seeing as this venue is run by the very college I attend. But I can assure you it’s not just a “college venue,” they have many larger acts, such as The Civil Wars and The Lumineers, come in quite frequently – often right before they hit it big.

I have attended and managed shows at The Red Room, and the best thing about this venue is that it has high sound quality. Let’s be real though, as a Berklee-run venue, it would have to unless it wanted to hear every other sound engineer-in-training bitching about the room’s shitty acoustics or the apparent deafness of the sound guy.

It’s also a very unique atmosphere. It’s a small venue with a classy yet cool feel to it – the walls are decked in dark red and the stage area looks like a mix between a recital hall and a jazz club. The music is extremely varied, ranging from students singer/songwriters to jazz-funk ensembles to country bands and back.

A downfall is that working with The Red Room management can be frustrating…they are extremely busy and tend to take a while to respond – even sometimes double booking nights. That being said, they really are passionate about the music and try their best to be accommodating.

Rating: 7.5/10

PA’s Lounge

Consider this a PSA for the musicians of Boston. Please, for the love of everything great about music, never play here. I’ve only been once, but that experience was enough to put me off the place like it’s day old Chinese food. Not only is it a bit too far of a trek outside the city to easily draw a huge crowd, but the sound is horrible and the management is pretty much nonexistent. I was there to watch a friend’s band and ended up having to pester the sound guy for a different microphone cable, seeing as the one they were using was opposed to the idea of actually staying attached to the microphone. Unless they change their ways, I would highly recommend staying far, far away.

Rating: 2/10

Midway Cafe

Midway is an underrated venue, mostly because of its inconvenient location in Jamaica Plains, but it has a great vibe and deserves more credit. It’s a small venue with a low stage and dive bar attitude that allows for a feeling of closeness with the band. I’ve never noticed issues with the sound, although I’m sure you could bring your own engineer if desired, and the bartenders are always extremely friendly and accommodating. It feels more like a community than any other venue I’ve been to in Boston.

My suggestion with this is to maybe make a night of it and try to get an after party in the area. Or to focus promotion out there instead of primarily with friends in Boston. At the very least, check it out sometime – it re-inspired my passion for music and it could do the same for you.

Rating: 7/10

Everyone could use a little more love, though especially Bostonians this week. So I wrote down some thoughts.

According to Google:

Love is “An intense feeling of deep affection.”

To love is to “Feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).”

Love is often boxed in, laid out with a specific set of rules and regulations, so that YOU WILL KNOW THEY LOVE YOU IF THEY DO THESE 5 THINGS (or 22 apparently). It’s segmented into actions and looks and words that ultimately prove nothing. Everybody expresses and experiences their feelings uniquely, and love is no different.

I spent a good part of my late high school and early college years trying to dissect love. I read stories, studies, and opinions on the subject – even tried experiencing it myself – and it always seemed to elude me. I think I’m starting to realize why.

I’m an extremely analytical person, sometimes to a fault. I research a subject, come up with a strategy, implement it, and analyze data. The unfortunate thing is that you can’t. Analyze. Love. You can’t make a points system with a checklist that will magically tell you when you know someone’s in love with you, or vice versa. One point for calling you back, 3 for flowers, 5 for remembering your favorite animal is the blue-footed booby. Of course, saying I love you would have to automatically reach the allotted number of points, but you’d have to deduct for unloving behaviors such as lying, forgetting your birthday, and not arguing fairly…

And then you’re this

Not only would that be exhausting, but it would be fruitless. Our perception is our reality – everyone feels and expresses their love differently. “Real love” is only definable by the individual experiencing it. The only distinction I’m willing to make is the love that encourages growth to both persons and the love that discourages it.

Love is not always patient, it is not always kind, and it certainly can show jealousy. The difference between Encouraging and Discouraging Love is that, with encouraging love, these instances are outweighed by times of patience, kindness, and understanding. When there is a fault in an Encouraging lover’s actions, the lover recognizes the pain they’ve caused and wishes desperately to remedy the situation. As my mother says, “it’s not hard to be kind to the one you love.” Love is one feeling of MANY that a person has in any given moment, it is not a trump card. Every feeling that contributes to a person’s decisions can be diluted or intensified by the other emotions. Love can be healthy with confidence and happiness, and it can be consuming and harmful with fear and anger.

“Love at first sight” may occur for certain people. Those who experience strong attraction as love may experience that feeling daily, while they’ll only consider it such if that love continues after conversing with and getting to know the person it is directed towards.
Let’s talk about “love at first sight.” When you say you love someone at first sight, it implies that the only tangible reality you have to go off of are their looks and the way they carry themselves. Everything else is your perception of who they could be based off of what little you know (and in this case, what you want them to be.)

Or maybe it’s just hormones

It is my belief and observation that those who claim to have experienced “love at first sight” are the ones who are willing to believe that the perception they have is actually reality. Maybe this person just happens to be very close to their first impression, or maybe they are so devoted to that perception that they can look past the discrepancies. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never experienced love at first sight.

That’s not to say that this love is “less real” than other types. Whenever I see “Real Love” in media, the implication is that it is everlasting and that if, one day, you no longer feel it, it never existed in the first place. A better definition is that you can feel love how you want and there is every possibility that those feelings will change. From moment to moment, neither you nor the person you love is the same, so how can your feelings permanently remain the same? In fact, even someone in love feels differently from day to day or hour to hour or moment to moment. That’s why it’s so much work and so imperfect. There is no control for love. There are no rules. There are individuals and basic societal guidelines that may work better for the majority of people, but could be catastrophic for others.

I am no expert on love…I haven’t done or felt it long enough to know everything about even my own experiences with it, but I have observed and analyzed and read other people’s observations and analyses. For me, love is admiration without idealization, it is compassion without pity, it is awareness that you are closer to someone than most (any) people ever will be, but that you will never know everything that person feels or thinks or does, and that’s okay.

Love is not perfect, but how could it be when neither lover is?

I’m surrounded by musicians all day, every day. I see their struggles, I know their work habits, I understand their passions and beliefs. And we really need to clear some things up…

It’s not easy surviving as a musician. It never has been, it never will be. Most musicians have been told this their whole lives, but instead of accepting that it’s inherent in the career, they tend to look outside the lifestyle and toward those that listen to, sell, or provide services for music and musicians.

1. Record Labels Are Evil, Greedy Bastards

This is the most commonly spouted belief, and it makes sense why. The labels take a massive percentage of sales, leaving you with little. Not only that, but they have screwed over thousands of hopeful artists!

The Realistic View:

Record labels (generally) aren’t non-profit organizations. They need money to stay afloat. To make money, they need highly marketable artists with huge sales profits. Unfortunately, most of the artists they pick up are NOT cash cows, so the ones who are end up making up for the less successful investments.

Reevaluate:

Think of it as a loan. The record label gives you money to make a record, go on tour, etc. which YOU have to earn back. They aren’t there to hand you free money. You’re an investment. Remember that.

2. Pirating Caused The Industry To Collapse (and must be stopped)

That damn Napster had to start the whole file sharing craze and cause no one to ever want to pay for music again. Anyone who downloads music illegally should be fined thousands of dollars to stand as an example to the others.

Slowpoke: enemy of musicians everywhere

The Realistic View:

This is a huge, tangled ball of finger-pointing, advancing technology, human nature, and old-fashioned beliefs that is really impossible to fully evaluate in a short, 4-point blog post. Pirating isn’t the insanely horrible act that (most) everyone in the industry makes it out to be.

I understand that it seems to have led to a steep decline in CD sales (although, for the record, that is highly debated and there are many other reasons that contributed to the decline,) but the fact of the matter is it comes with the territory. People want accessibility. That’s obvious by how technology is always moving toward ease of use, instant connection with anyone all over the world, and access to information. Facebook, Google, Spotify, they all have different services, but they provide one thing that people want – access.

Reevaluate:

Use (most) people’s natural inclination to pirate (because it’s easier) to your advantage. Find ways to extract valuable information, such as an email address, whenever someone downloads your song (on your site, for free) or make it easy to pay for your music. Downloads for donations are a great way to do this. As Amanda Palmer recently brought to media attention, it’s better to “let” fans pay you than to ask them to pay you. Spotify is another great example, because all it takes is one time to sign up and there are millions of songs at the user’s fingertips. Speaking of Spotify…

3. Spotify (or Pandora, iTunes, etc…) Is The Enemy

A newer cliche, this rant came about when the Internet started to find ways to monetize the digital music revolution. Similar to the record label argument, it claims that Internet streaming and MP3 download companies hog all the profits and only pay artists a pittance for their work. You may see where this is going…

The Realistic View:

Spotify is NOT a bottomless pit of money. In fact, right now they are struggling to find a way to turn a profit and stay afloat (although the situation is constantly improving. Perhaps more on that later.) If we focus on Spotify, we can look at how insanely difficult it is to get labels (and their repertoire) on board for a “fair” royalty rate, which leads to a struggle to get advertisement revenue, which means a smaller amount of money to pay labels, which leads to fewer songs…it’s a pretty vicious cycle.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, each play may earn a VERY small amount of money, but artists do get paid for EACH PLAY. If your songs merit many listens, eventually it will add up.

Reevaluate:

The vicious cycle I brought up earlier can easily be reversed. It just takes a little bit of faith and cooperation from labels. If labels trust Spotify and their ability to attract users and advertisement, then Spotify will have a larger collection to work with, which will lead to more people being interested in the service, which will lead to more advertising revenue (and paid subscribers,) which will lead to more label confidence, more songs, more listeners, etc. It can be reversed, and I believe we’re slowly coming around to the right track.

You, the artist, need to focus on using Spotify as a fantastic marketing tool, and get those listens up as much as possible. Do you put your music on Bandcamp or Soundcloud? Spotify is free for possible fans, and it will automatically pay you. Bandcamp and Soundcloud won’t. There is a small fee for getting your songs up there, but with a big enough fan base, it can easily be worth it.

4. I Create Music, I Deserve Compensation

Musicians say that they should be paid because they make music. They spent time and creative energy to put out a piece of work and now they deserve their reward, dammit! People don’t steal coffee right? Why is it ok to steal music?

Let’s really think about this for a minute

The Realistic View:

That statement is unrealistic. Yes, you put time and effort into your music. Yes, it’s shitty when you don’t get paid for all of that effort. But listen, it’s not about how much work you put in – It’s about supply and demand. If people don’t feel that your music is worth paying for, sorry, it’s not. As for the coffee thing…coffee is a tangible object, it is far more difficult to steal a cup of coffee from Starbucks than it is to download a file. It’s apples and oranges really.

Reevaluate:

Again, it’s all supply and demand. Give the fans a reason to pay you for your time – use human nature to your advantage. After the very base needs and safety, humans crave love and belonging. They want to feel like they are part of something and it’s your job to inspire those feelings. Music, at it’s core, isn’t a product for a base need like food or shelter. It is there because we need more than that. It elicits feelings of every kind – joy, sorrow, anger, frustration, understanding, remorse – and YOU are the ones that create it. The fans want you to know how your songs make them feel…but more importantly, they want you to live up to those feelings. To understand them like the songs do.

Make them feel understood and they will give you their last dollar without question.


Musicians do wonderful  and inspiring work. Music has led me through every chapter of my life and will be with me until the day I die. But the fact that you are part of that mystical community that creates art, doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the economy. There is a business behind music and, as much as it may pain your artistic nature, you’re going to have to deal with it if you want to make this your life’s work. Otherwise, maybe it’s better as a hobby.

You may (or maybe not) remember from when I first started blogging that I love going to shows. If I can find a good show for every night of the week, it’s been a fucking fantastic week. There was a blizzard (snowpocalypse? yay sensationalism) this past weekend and the worst part wasn’t that every place to get food was closed or that I could barely walk anywhere, it was that the shows I was excited for were canceled.

Pictured: not me

That being said, there are so many shows each week that I have to pick and choose. And I’ve noticed some patterns in the shows that get the shaft. So here are some reasons I won’t be going to your band’s next show:

1. You Had A Show A Week Ago

And have one next week too. Even if I haven’t been to any of your shows, I’m more likely to see the band who plays, at MOST, every two weeks than someone I know I can just wait to see next week.

If I have seen your show, playing so often provides no distinction between each performance. It’s better to play a show, then take the time to develop your songs, performance, or stage presence, and THEN play a show. That way it feels completely new and interesting and I’ll actually be interested to see what you have planned for next time.

2. I Have No Idea What You Sound Like

This baffles me. Fans don’t become fans by finding you on Facebook and waiting until they can go to a show to hear your music. Fans are formed with the least effort (for them) possible. Put up at least one song before you start playing out – unless you’re playing open mic nights where there’s a guaranteed audience.

3. It’s In Another State

Facebook has ways to sort your friends for a reason. If I’m in Boston and your show is in Rhode Island, there’s no way I’ll be coming…just don’t even invite me. I’ll get all excited for it and then realize it’s definitely not walking distance. If you want to offer me a ride and place to stay, that’s a different story…I’m always down for a good adventure 😉

4. You’re strategy consists of PLEASE PLEASE COME TO OUR AWESOME SHOW WE’LL LOVE YOU FOREVER!

You cannot annoy me into attending your show. And for the love of god, don’t send me a personal message unless we are close enough that we’ve shared a fork.

 

Now here are some tips from my favorite Internet places:

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/11/how-do-bands-promote-custom-tabs-on-facebook.html

http://howtorunaband.com/10-ideas-to-promote-a-show-in-a-different-city/

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2011/10/how-to-promote-a-show-you-may-not-like-what-youre-about-to-read.html

http://schiffblog.com/2012/03/18/the-aar-cycle/

A couple weeks ago, I cut out gluten, dairy, certain fruits and vegetable, and all meat excluding chicken, turkey, and fish.

What led to this insanity? Well I didn’t get here of my own accord. My body’s an asshole.

My body would never go for this

Let me be clear, however. I don’t have any life threatening diseases – I can still live my life normally. I’ve just living the past 5 years or more not knowing if the next thing I eat will end in debilitating pain. It’s more than a little annoying.

About two years ago, I started to focus on figuring out why I was having this problem. I went to a couple different doctors, did all the online research I could stand, and spoke with my mom – who had a similar issue that were solved by having her gall bladder removed. After much deliberation, as well as failed fiber and pain medication regimens, I decided to get my gall bladder checked. 6 months and a (confirmed) useless ball of gall bladder later, I went into surgery to have it removed.

They might as well have removed my pinky toe for all the good it did.

A few different doctors and a lot of pain later, I decided to take on the Elimination Diet, which I’d been putting off for a while (mainly due to my insatiable love of bagels).

The basic idea of an elimination diet is to severely cut down on the types of food that you consume, then reintroduce them to test for reactions and sensitivities. The strictest diet I found would have been far too difficult to stick to, and I already know that I do not, in fact, react to some of the foods that are listed, so I came up with a personalized version. The foods I’m testing are:

Gluten

Dairy

Fats

Dark Meat

Several types of fruit (Apples, watermelon, grapes)

Several types of vegetable (carrots, broccoli)

I’m also going to test out beans, but I want to do that after I’ve added in a food or two, because they’re a great way for me to get protein without becoming bored of having chicken all day, e’ery day.

Currently, my diet consists of a lot of eggs, beans, chicken, hot sauce, bananas, smoothies, and oatmeal. The smoothies are great because they are so versatile, and it’s definitely a fun challenge coming up with different recipes with the foods I can eat and all the different spices and sauces available (guaranteed gluten-free, of course).

The most challenging aspect, however, is eating out. It’s amazing the number of restaurants that have gluten or dairy in nearly every meal. Our culture is kind of obsessed with bread and cheese. Unless I find a place that has a specifically Gluten-Free section or options, I’m stuck with a basic salad with (hopefully) grilled chicken. Yay.

ANYWAY. I’d like to use my experience to help others in similar situations. While there are a lot of helpful sites dealing with digestion/intestinal/anything-in-the-stomach-region pains, there can always be more. It’s a very individual problem, and the more experiences shared, the better.

Also, disclaimer: I’m not a professional. I’m not even working with a professional (been there, done that). All I know is how my body feels and reacts to what I put into it.

Signs you may have food sensitivities and/or IBS (you may not experience all symptoms all the time, but if a few occur regularly, it’s highly likely):

Stomach pain

Bloating

Constipation

Diarrhea

Nausea

There are also allergies to food, but those reactions tend to manifest like other types of allergies (rashes, difficulty breathing, etc.)

If you are experiencing any of these problems, first, go see a doctor. There may be something more serious than simple food sensitivities and it’s better to know sooner than later. Already did that? Well, then let me show you path that I took to finding what I can and cannot eat:

1. Keep A Food Diary

It’s a pain in the ass…but it really helps with understanding and seeing connections between symptoms and certain foods. For me, oil was the first to go as every time I ate a fried food or one full of oil, I would feel absolutely awful the next day. I would be in pain and still feel like I just ate that meal, even though I was hungry.

Excel is a great tool for this, as are numerous apps and websites created for this very purpose.

2. Up Your Water Intake

If you don’t already get enough water (I drink at LEAST the recommended amount for my body weight), CHANGE THAT RIGHT NOW (insert bitchslap here). If you do, awesome, I know what it’s like to feel like you pee way more than should be normal too.

Water can help with digestion and keeping everything working properly, so it’s pretty important.

3. Up Your Fiber Intake

This goes hand in hand with the water thing. IF you are not getting sufficient fiber (20-25 grams a day for women, 25-30 for men), and you decide to increase that amount WITHOUT sufficient hydration, you will pay. Severely. Also, up your intake slowly so your intestines can figure out exactly what’s going on.

4. Cut Out Sketchy Foods

Here’s where that food diary comes in handy. If you notice a pattern occurring, over the course of at least two weeks, with certain food items, try cutting them out for 2-3 weeks and see what happens. If that helps and you decide to add one or more of them back in, it should be even more obvious which ones are the culprits. Hopefully only a few foods will need to be removed and you can carry on without a care. If not…well it’s time to get real serious up in here.

5. The Last Ditch (Seriously, You Gotta Be Desperate To Do This)*

Here’s the hurdle that I just recently jumped. Cutting out HUGE food groups that make up large portions of the average diet. It took me quite a while to get here…I thought I could live with and manage the pain, but I was wrong. After my most recent break at home (which included the holiday eating fests), I just constantly wanted to curl up and ignore the world. I figured this called for a drastic measure.

And, after two weeks gluten and dairy (and a few others things) free, I’d say I was right. I no longer dread going to class after I eat for fear of having to stay in an upright position while my tummy attacks me, and I feel energized and noticeably not bloated at the beginning of each day. It’s a wonderful thing.

*If you want to do an Elimination Diet, here are some great links to get started. And please make sure you’re getting enough calories to remain a functioning member of society!

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/allergies-elimination-diet – Describes the process of this diet

http://www.nourishingmeals.com/2010/01/elimination-and-detoxification-diet-its.html – Lists foods you CAN eat and has a number of great recipes

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-dietThis has the chart I based my diet off of (although I included a couple foods it excludes)

Now go get better and tell me how you did it!