I love CrossFit. I love getting dirty, sweating in 105 degree heat, running on the blacktop, lifting heavy (well, it’s getting heavier…) weight, and fighting through reps with my teammates and coaches. I love it. I can’t imagine my life without it now.
I’ve always been reasonably athletic, and I’ve worn many athlete hats over the years: varsity high-school swimmer, marathon runner, triathlete, black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Bikram yogi, black-diamond downhill skier, and endurance runner. Out of all of it, I loved my high school swim team the most… varied workouts every day (dry-land, in the pool, in the weight room), accountability and pushing from my coach, camaraderie and solidarity with my teammates. In my adult life, I’ve hopped from sport to sport trying to recapture that environment to no avail. Martial arts got close, but at the end of the day, it really stinks to get punched in the face. No joke.
I was introduced to CrossFit about two years ago by my younger brother Andy. He was and continues to be a dedicated CrossFitter – he’d been working out at Dallas Central while in school at SMU. I remember the first time I saw him after he started CrossFitting – I was awed by what incredible shape he was in. At the time, I actually thought it sounded like a great workout and a lot of fun. However, he was pretty up front with the fact that I wasn’t going to get the results I wanted unless I was willing to fundamentally change the way I ate. And in all honesty, I just wasn’t ready to make that kind of change yet.
The idea of eating “Paleo” sounded like an exercise in deprivation for someone who fancied herself a gourmet… I regularly cooked five-course (Italian) meals for fun, my pantry was stocked with all kinds of gluten-rich goodies (pasta! bread! cookies!), and I even owned my own successful cake design company (Wicked Cakes). I was the queen of macaroni and cheese – it was the ideal fix for a bad day, a grumbling stomach, or just a bout of boredom. Food was fun, and food was love. I told my brother it sounded great, but that it just wasn’t for me…
Fast forward to April-September 2010. With my wedding fast approaching in November, I buckled down and managed to drop 25 pounds by running 16-25 miles/week and eating <1300 calories a day. These calories were almost entirely processed, gluten-rich or high-sugar items like cereal bars and bananas. Nary was a vegetable to be found. Not surprisingly, as soon as we hit the wedding, honeymoon, and newlywed stages, I quickly returned to old habits and regained 10 pounds in about three months. Not good.
That brings us to April 2011. I was about 30 pounds (of fat) overweight, I had constant heartburn, sleeping problems, and chronic allergies. Despite the fact that I had an incredible husband and stepson, amazing family and friends, a great job, and a beautiful home, and I still felt bad about myself. I knew that it was time to make a real, fundamental, and lasting change. My brother came for a quick visit down to Austin, and I realized it was time to march myself into CrossFit Central and change my life.
In 2.5 months of following a strict (essentially Zoned) Paleo nutrition plan, CrossFitting 3x/week, and running 5k up to twice a week, I achieved the following:
- Lost 23 pounds of scale weight
- Lost 22+ body inches
- Lost 4 dress sizes
- Lost 12% body fat
- Completed 5 unbroken, unassisted kipping pull-ups
- Switched from knee push ups to Games-standard
I’m no longer on allergy medication, my heartburn has disappeared, I’m sleeping like a baby, and I feel physically better than I’ve ever felt before. I am in the best shape of my entire life up to this point.
There were two key components to my success: a strict Paleo diet (90%) and 3x/week CrossFit plus 2x/week short runs (10%).
Let’s be clear, unless you’re willing to optimize the fuel you’re putting in your body, there’s no way you can expect it to perform or behave optimally. My weight loss was 90% about the kinds and amounts of food I was eating, and I would not have been successful without that change. Roughly, here’s what I did, under the guidance of my CrossFit Coach John Del Peral:
- Drank 1-1.5 gallons of water a day (and nothing else)
- Eliminated all grains, dairy, and sugars from my diet (yep, no fruit for a while)
- Ate five smallish meals a day that consisted of about 4 oz. of high quality meat (turkey, beef, chicken, fish, etc.), a full serving of vegetables (salad, broccoli, asparagus, etc.), and 1 serving of good fat (olive oil, almonds, avocado, etc.)
- Didn’t eat anything after 7pm.
This was a significant change for me, but it was critical in adjusting my tastes and creating a kind of “muscle memory” for making good choices. My diet is more moderate now, but I credit the discipline of the stricter food list with preparing me for a real long-term change.
This change in my diet, coupled with 3x/week indoor CrossFit classes and my 2x/week 5k easy runs helped me achieve success early and build momentum to really change how I looked at food and fitness.