Yep, That’s me (Oh… Hi guys… I’m Melissa *Shakes Hand Nervously*.) What more do I even have to tell you? Well, I can tell you that currently I am actively doing CrossFit 3x-4 a week, and trying to keep up with 20-30 minutes of active recovery on my rest days. Sometime’s that works out, sometimes….not quite. I can describe my eating habits as Pretty Much Paleo – a mixture of paleo and what I learned during the Whole Life Challenge. I occasionally have legumes (Homemade humus Yum!) though that’s happening less and less, and once in a while I’ll have rice (usually when I get sushi I’ll opt for a roll to go along with my sashimi), but most of the time I stick to a paleo foundation. Ultimately, what works for me is a
diet nutritional lifestyle centered around eating nutrient dense, quality foods,while cutting out processed foods, artificial additives, sugars, and “the crap” permeating the standard American diet today. I also cut out things that make my tummy and digestive system sad….but more about that later.
Now, I guess I should tell you how I got to where I am today; right? I should probably let you know why I am throwing my two cents around the interwebs, telling you guys about food and stuff.
As long as I can remember I’ve struggled with my weight. When I was young, food and desserts were plentiful. Sometimes I even ate dinner twice, and I didn’t really know better; I loved food. As I got older, and heavier, I lost all my self-esteem. I hid in baggy clothes, ate, and grew. I’m not totally certain, but I believe at my heaviest I was around 175 lbs. On my 5’3″ frame, big bones and all, that much weight doesn’t look good. At some point, a light bulb went off, and I decided I needed to make a change. I’ve tried, it seems at times, a million diets. I’ve cut fat; I’ve cut carbs; I’ve cut calories. I’ve swapped white bread for wheat bread and rice for quinoa; I’ve put veggies on my plate next to my lean meats and proteins; I’ve calorie tracked every bite. Nothing has worked in the long run. I’ve gone to Bally’s, curves, and planet fitness. I’ve done tapes and zumba classes. I’ve run countless miles on the street, ellipticals and treadmills, and done gym-machine circuits that left me sweating and sore. All of those times, I thought I was doing the right thing. Eventually though, it all ends up the same story – I get bored, plateau, and stop. Then, I gain all the weight back again, and the vicious cycle repeats.
In 2009 when I was using a calorie counter app and going to the gym 5 days a week after work, I was at my lightest. I think I was around 125 lbs. How good I looked, and how healthy I was, all centered around a scale number and a pant size. I looked good, but looking back now, I had no tone. I was still soft and squishy. I remember going to the gym, doing shoulder workouts with 5 lb weights, and stopping after a few reps because “it hurt”. I had NO IDEA how to push myself. I remember eating lean cuisines for dinner, and snacking on carrot sticks and celery. I remember low-fat, low-calorie yogurt and 100 calorie packs. I was skinny….but I wasn’t healthy. I was eating 1200 calories or less a day; with the deficits from exercising I was basically starving my body. I looked good in a bikini top though, right? Because at that time, I thought THAT was the important thing. That was the goal; That I appeared skinny (ie.healthy) and was appealing to others.
Eventually, there were some changes in my schedule. This caused my gym schedule to suffer. I no longer was eating as well and I was losing track of all those calories I spent so many wasted minutes counting. I got bored with the routine, stopped, and I gained weight. In 2011, I started to lose control and gained some weight back. I still looked OK, but I was heavier.
Then, by the beginning of 2012, I was really heavy. It was hard for me to find pictures; I just hated looking at myself. I was fat.
In the summer of 2012, I started eating healthy again. I ate whole grains; I filled my plate with vegetables, lean protein, and carbs with exotic names like quinoa. I ate salads. I ate small meals every 2 hours and drank my coffee black. I started exercising again. I was running a few times a week. I thought I was doing everything right, but my body didn’t change, my weight hardly budged. My life got crazy; I changed jobs, changed shifts at work, and I moved into a house with my boyfriend. It was a busy, hectic few months, and my weight was not even on the radar. I got comfortable, I got overwhelmed, I don’t know which. I slacked off from good habits. I stopped running when my knees began to bother me. I think I gained a few pounds after that. I tried not to call attention to my weight, but secretly it was destroying me mentally. I think my weight was up to 168lbs and I looked terrible. When I saw those numbers, honestly, I was shocked. I knew I gained weight, but I had no idea that I let myself go that far. I needed to do something drastic; I couldn’t stay like this; I needed something to stick.
At some point in August 2012, I heard about CrossFit. I looked into it and read about the varied “WODs” and the intensity. I didn’t know too much about it, but I thought the constantly varied program would suit me since I get bored easily. I also liked the idea that the classes were small, and the coaches would help guide you to ensure proper form. It was worth a try. “What the hell!” I thought, let’s go in for a free trial class.
It just so happens there is a CrossFit Box 2 minutes from my house, so I went there first. The baseline workout was tough. I rowed – I squat – I did push ups – I did pull ups – and I sweat. The push ups were on my knees of course (I’d never be able to do regular manly push ups I thought) and the pull ups were assisted with a thick black band, (I could never do a pull up I thought), but I loved it. The workout felt great; I was being pushed, and the coach was friendly and engaging. I was fat, uncoordinated, and weak….but I didn’t feel judged. I needed this in my life. I tried out another box, also nearby. It was another good workout – but I didn’t get the same warm and inclusive feeling from the people. They were nice…they just weren’t for me. The next week I officially joined CrossFit Stonybrook.
Let me just say now, that CrossFit is amazing and exactly the type of fitness I always needed. I have never pushed myself as hard as I do every time I go. I’m stronger than I ever imagined, and I quickly learned I can lift A LOT more than 5 lbs with my shoulders. I’m always getting stronger, and it makes me strive to do everything I thought I couldn’t. Now, 10 months later, I can do regular push ups, climb a rope, do a strict pull up, toes to bar, knees to elbows, a handstand, and more. The handstand was tricky, and It really was more a battle against self-doubt. I was spastic, I was nervous, I was afraid to fall on my head. Every time I tried to do one, I failed, because I set myself up for it. Then one day I did it…and that was the end of that mentality. That is CrossFit.
Now, after the first few months of CrossFit, I definitely got stronger. My body changed a little, and I got a little thinner, but my fat-loss seemed to plateau very quickly. I gave it time, and I loved that I was building muscle, but It was just so difficult, as it always is, to lose the fat on top of it. I went to doctors, they did blood tests, I was “normal”. I didn’t really understand; I thought for sure I had some sort of medical condition, because I ate healthy; but no – It seemed I was just genetically predisposed to weight gain. That’s what my doctor said anyway; that was the conclusion. The battle was definitely ahead of me. I was stubborn, I didn’t believe, or didn’t want to admit, I had a problem with my diet. After all, the “little piece of candy here or there” (every day) wasn’t bad, and the “Slice or two” of pizza a week isn’t going to make me gain 10 lbs. – Excuse after excuse, It wasn’t getting better any faster.
Then, after the new year, my CrossFit box started advertising that we were participating in the “Whole Life Challenge”. It was an 8 week challenge, with people around the world participating. It pretty much followed something close to the paleo diet, with a few differences (like allowing legumes). Up to this point, I was always skeptical about paleo. I didn’t believe the evolutionary theories and stood behind my quinoa and cheese as being OK foods. I liked a challenge though, and I thought “Hey it’s only 8 weeks” maybe now is the time to try something new and out of my comfort zone. I was also very curious to see if (like my mom) I had a grain or gluten sensitivity. I decided to do it. Besides, I got an extra day at CrossFit out of it.
At the beginning of the challenge we did a workout and took our measurements so we could compare ourselves at the beginning and end of the challenge. Every day we gave ourselves points on the website for how well we stuck to the challenge each day. It was a combination of goals for diet, exercise, mobilization (stretching), supplements, and lifestyle (like drinking water). Honestly, a lot of it was getting into the correct mind frame. Some people have really hard to kick “food addiction”, but I’m not one of them. I had already begun decreasing my carbs, and wanted to cut back sugar anyway. I just kept reminding myself that If I was going to do it, I was going to give it my best shot. The hardest part for me was not drinking socially; (did I mention the no alcohol part?) since I was used to drinking a beer or two several times a week. I told myself at the start of the challenge, that this was essentially a detox, so if there was anything I wanted to stay strong on, it was that. Cheese was a little hard, as I LOVED cheese, the rest i didn’t find to be a big deal. It forced me to cook at home more and eat out less (I love to cook so this isn’t a bad thing), and it really opened my eyes as to how much CRAP and SUGAR they hide in our foods. I am proud of the fact that I read labels to everything I buy; I am aware now, of what is in my food. The challenge gave you bonus points to use on “cheats” – I barely used any. Most of the time, if I did use one or two, it was for (in theory) compliant food that I ate at a restaurant; I didn’t truly know if there were hidden ingredients.
One thing I didn’t do was starve myself. I have no idea how many calories I consumed, but I ate as much as I wanted. I made really yummy things, that even my boyfriend (who wasn’t participating), couldn’t believe was healthy and compliant. I changed my diet, and the weight started MELTING OFF. I felt great! I recovered quicker and got better faster. I had way more energy. I wasn’t bloated anymore (I have always had bloating issues), and in the entire 8 weeks I did not have one headache; In the past I used to have a few during the typical week. If this was being healthy, I was in. After the challenge ended, I would do some testing, but I wanted to feel this good for the rest of my life. I also felt mentally stronger, like I didn’t need those things in my life, and I finally was in control.
At the end of the challenge, I came in second place. I improved my score on the base workout and I lost a few inches in my waist and hips, along with 13 lbs. After the challenge was over, I added in occasional drinks, and very occasional use of sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, but continued to eat how I did on the challenge. I ate as much as I wanted of good quality nutritious foods, and although it might have been a little slower, I was still losing weight, and getting stronger and leaner constantly. I found it extremely sustainable, and it felt great to feel healthy. Most surprising to me, was how negatively dairy affected me. I used to eat yogurt, cheese, and milk based dishes all the time. After cutting it out of my system, and having my gut heal, if I have something milk or cream based it will destroy my digestive system for sometimes DAYS! I will feel like crap and be miserable, It’s just not worth it. I tried to see if cheese would be any different (It’s a different milk protein) and it actually sent my stomach into SPASMS! Even lactose free casein free ghee (from grass-fed cows) bothered me! That is why I truly think EVERYONE should do the Whole Life Challenge – It’s extremely eye-opening, how we get so used to feeling crappy – that it takes learning what feeling good is, to realize that we weren’t. I realized if something negatively affects my system, I have the ability to make choices. I weigh the consequence and decide if it’s worth the discomfort. I am in full control, and it feels amazing.
Today, I continue to lose weight, without even trying. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing, and see where I end up, but I feel great. My skin is softer, my anxiety is pretty much non-existent, and I have tons of energy. Mornings don’t require coffee to function! I just continue to eat paleo, and love cooking new delicious things. I definitely watch my “treats”, and I generally don’t use a lot of nut flours or sweeteners in my cooking. I did another Whole Life Challenge for Fall 2013, and lost another 4 inches in the waist and 2.5 in the hips.