When I did my first Crossfit workout on February 23, 2012, the concept of the Paleo diet was foreign to me. As I did more research on the Crossfit website, I came across the Paleo blog from Crossfit Naptown’s first Paleo Challenge. I read the blog in detail, and something about the diet just clicked with me. I thought, “Of course! That’s exactly how we’re supposed to eat!” During my third week of Crossfit, I began to adopt Paleo attributes. I made a special trip to the grocery store. I purchased carrots, bell peppers, onions, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. I headed to the meat department and grabbed extra chicken breasts and pork chops. In a word, I was ready to do this.
I started with an 80/20 approach to the diet. I was eating most meals Paleo. One meal a week was reserved for a “cheat.” Things seemed to be going well. With a mixture of Paleo and Crossfit, I was down about 15 pounds within two months. However, my weight loss seemed inconsistent. I was still using Whey Protein supplements. Then suddenly, my weight loss seemed to plateau. What happened? Well, as much as I thought I was being “strict” with Paleo, I was giving myself far too many cheats. Cheats included:
1) Snacking at work: Tortilla chips, potato chips, and Laffy Taffy. All were in very small moderation but began happening on a daily/semi daily basis.
2) Whey Protein: I found myself drinking more shakes (1-2) daily instead of when I really needed them for replenishment.
When the Paleo Challenge came around for a second time, I was determined to be successful. On Day 1 of the Challenge, Jason Vanoskey proclaimed me the early favorite to win. It was flattering, but I was really unsure about it. Considering my consistent cheating before, I was worried about my success. The day that the Challenge started, I picked up two mini notebooks. One was labeled Crossfit WODs and one was labeled Paleo Food Log. I believe this was the strongest key to my success. By forcing myself to log my meals, I was also forcing myself to relive any mistakes I’d made during that meal. A friend of mine told me early on, “Food isn’t fun; it’s fuel.” I still use that quotation today when I struggle with making healthy choices.
I struggled most with the Paleo Challenge during times where I was extremely busy and hadn’t adequately prepared meals in advance. For instance, Wednesdays were really busy days for me. I worked 9-5, did an 1 hr Crossfit workout, showered and changed, and was headed back to my part-time job at ComedySportz for performer practice until 9:30pm. Afterward, the cast would head to Chatham Tap for a drink and bar food. If I didn’t make sure to prepare both lunch and dinner, I was left struggling to stay strong or scrambling to find something Paleo to eat in a sea of pubs and bars on Massachusetts Avenue.
During the challenge, I found myself leaning almost exclusively on chicken for lunch and dinner. Breakfast was, and currently is, the same: 1-2 eggs prepared either fried or scrambled 1-2 pieces of turkey bacon, and some sort of fruit. Lunch varied between turkey burgers and grilled chicken most days. I leaned heavily on Tyson’s prepackaged chicken breast bites on busy days. 60 seconds in the microwave, and I was back to eating Paleo.
About two weeks into the Challenge, I was struggling with temptation. I re-read the information in the Paleo guide looking for guidance. Ultimately, I was bored with my diet. Foods were bland. Steamed veggies had lost their flair. Roasting veggies took too long to be practical. I was sure I was going to crack. Then, I came across Coach Jared’s word: “Quitting carbs isn’t hard. Quitting DRUGS is hard.” I found a renewed sense of self. I also went back to my weight loss log in the bathroom. I weigh myself every morning and log the number in a book. I was amazed at how quickly the weight was pouring off. I was losing 1-2 pounds every other day. That was all the motivation I needed to succeed. It also didn’t hurt that I was getting compliments from people nearly every day about how good I was looking.
I must admit, I did break one day. May 5, 2012. Cinco de Mayo. I hadn’t prepared any meals that day, and I attended a party full of carbs. I had some Chex Mix, some tortilla chips, and some mixed nuts. The next day, my stomach was upset. I felt bloated and gross. I was disappointed that I hadn’t “stayed clean,” so I made a renewed effort to finish strong.
Overall, my support system of friends was amazing during the Paleo Challenge. My fiancé was incredibly understanding when choosing restaurants for date nights and other evening out. Two of my friends had just started doing Tim Farris’ “Four Hour Body” which is very similar to the Paleo Diet with some minor changes in food options. They kept me strong as we checked in throughout the weeks of the competition.
I am so happy with where my body is going. I can see my shape changing every week. That is so crazy to me. Sometimes, I find myself standing and flexing in the mirror just because I can. It’s weird, I know. I just can’t imagine that a guy who had been so inactive for his entire life is finally on his way to releasing his inner athlete. There was a time in 2006 when I stepped on a scaled and weighed in at 326 pounds. The person standing on that scale wasn’t happy. That person ate fast food 2-3 times a day and smoked a half pack of cigarettes a day. That person had given up on himself.
(Whoa. Look at that double chin. Over 300 pounds.)
NOW, the man I am is the person who plans to live a long and active life with his husband. I plan to live long enough to see grandchildren and spoil them. I plan to experience life to its fullest.