I guess in crossfit it"s always best to start with an introduction. So, Hi, I"m Michael. If you haven"t met me yet, don"t be too shy to strike up a conversation after reading this blog.
I think the two most relevant things I can disclose upfront are that:
1) I manage a team of analysts and our job is to measure performance (statistics is basically my life)
2) Before I came to Crossfit Strong I had not done a pullup since 5th grade phys. ed.
Furthermore, as you might have guessed, I haven"t made much of a serious attempt at any kind of exercise routine since then either. I have been at Crossfit Strong close to three months. In that time I can think of nothing that HASN"T changed in the way I arrange my thoughts around fitness, health, diet, and how the former three shape overall wellbeing.
Because of this, it will be extremely difficult for me to write about this topic without ranting on like a total zealot. So be it; consider this your fair warning. The proof is in the pudding though. I"ll leave this advice here for any newbies that are reading. Next time you find yourself collapsed in a ball at the end of the WOD huffing, puffing, and probably wishing you actually HAD died halfway through...just remember the old adage: "You are what you eat."
To be perfectly honest, I probably signed up for this challenge because it was the path of least resistance to meeting some of my short term goals. While calling not drinking alcohol or eating sugar for a month the "path of least resistance" might sound a little bit nuts, youtube is full of testimonials of crossfitters of all shapes and sizes knocking huge chunks off of their benchmark times after a paleo challenge. I didn"t really know what was in the special sauce, but I knew it worked.
So I dove right in.
The hardest part about "eating paleo" is not actually the diet or the eating, it"s actually the intense amount of preparation that goes into gathering and preparing unprocessed foods.
If "man has not had his hand in it," that means you will have to. I believe this is what makes it very accurate to refer to this as a lifestyle challenge. The ideology surrounding which foods one consumes in a strictly paleo diet are in direct opposition to the well-established food status quo.
I should probably take this opportunity to disclose two other key pieces of information:
3) I live alone
4) I"m an absolutely awful cook
So a busy young professional who lives by himself and can"t cook. Man, this pullup is practically going to do itself! (haha)
This challenge definitely meant that there was more on the line than waging war against the excess fat cells in my body, I would have to engage in behavior contrarian to my own bachelorhood(baking) and simultaneously contrarian to major structural social forces(doing it with coconut flour).
If I had any doubts that any of this would work, I buried them under a mountain of research to the contrary.
As it turns out, the internet full of like-minded individuals who have had tremendous success with any and all variations of the paleo lifestyle. After spending much time looking at testimonials raving about the efficacy of this lifestyle, I started to research as much of the science behind what and when to eat as I could. I wish I could exhaustively share all of that information, but most people have probably stopped reading by now anyway.There are many great resources linked directly from the Crossfit Strong website.
Rather than bore you anymore, I am going to wrap everything I learned about nutrition into one coherent argument.
The average American eats about 19 pounds of livestock a month. I ate close to 25 pounds of meat and 3 dozen eggs.
Over half of U.S. adults are overweight or obese (over 60% actually). I greatly increased the quantity of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit that I was eating on a regular basis. I reduced my blood pressure. I am no longer in the "overweight" category. I lost 7 pounds, gained plenty of lean mass, and am in the best shape of my life.
I finished my first DB Hell II in 31:00 minutes...I finished out the month at 25:55.
I could barely overhead squat the bar in "The Cheese" at the begining of the month. I added 20 pounds and by the end of the month could perform the lift athletically adding only 2 minutes to my finish time.
And oh yeah, it turns out I did get that first pullup. I actually got 5 in a row. And now I"ll tell you how I changed everything.
I took what I "knew" about diet and exercise and filed it away somewhere. I took my skepticism for what I considered glorified fad diets and I shelved it. I listened to my trainers and I followed the rules. I abandoned the social norms around food I had grown accustomed to and commited the greatest moire of them all: I became "that guy." The guy who has to send his salad back because it has a couple specks of feta on it.
I became meticulous about the quality of food I put into my body(only the best!)
And I would(will) do it again.
No one meal I can remember in my entire life up until this point can compare to the satisfaction I feel when I look in the mirror and see what I have accomplished by fueling my body with only the best. I can think of no food I wouldn"t give up in order to feel this immense pride in my hard work and its payoff.
Regardless of how "healthy" experts claim eating certain foods are, the kernel of wisdom I leave this challenge with is how situational "good" and "bad" foods are.
The difference was listening to my body and learning that sometimes the "good" stuff isn"t so good, and the "bad" stuff is just taking a bad rap. Prior to this challenge I was pretty afraid of fats, especially saturated fats. I should have been. I was eating a diet loaded with saturated fats in equal proportion to grains and starches. I wasn"t exercising regularly either(before CrossFit).
In the past month I ate more food and spent more on groceries than I ever have before. Even knowing I was eating the highest quality foods and knowing the science behind a diet like this, it was still difficult not to fear consuming so much fat. But I continued to burn fat, shed weight, and build strength.
Watching that transformation slowly happened convinced that absolutes don"t really have a place when you are talking about food in general. What I have learned is this: there is a right time and place for most things when it comes to food, even if it is for the sole purpose of preserving one"s sanity. Especially if you follow the 80/20 rule, practice moderation, and know when to cheat and how to cheat.
The greatest part of this challenge for me has been becoming reaquainted with the myriad of positive results that come out of spending so much thought, time, and effort on constructing a diet around high quality whole foods.
Right now I"m a lot more focused on what I never plan to add back into my diet rather than what foods I can"t wait to start eating again.
It"s just too hard to put a price on waking up every morning and feeling like the best version of yourself.
What foods would you trade in to be able to say that?
I"d pretty much trade them all.