F4D Profile of the Week: Paleo Challenges
It’s a new year and Paleo challenges have started in most Charlotte area boxes. CrossFitters are ready to shed those post holiday pounds and get back into a routine of eating clean and WODing regularly. Most boxes do a similar type of challenge – Paleo eating for a set amount of weeks, baseline WOD, weight and measurements, and before and after pictures. As in all things CrossFit, this provides the participants tangible, quantitative results rather than the “I feel better” to gauge their progress and meet their goals.
For those that have been living in a cave….uh, wait a minute, then you know all about this way of eating…For those of you unfamiliar with Paleo eating, it is in simple terms eating like cavemen (and women) with a diet consisting of lean meats, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. It does not include grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, sugar, and processed oils. So, that can of Spaghetti Os, bowl of Lucky Charms, and triple venti Caramel Machiatto with whipped cream are no gos for Paleo eating. Okay, those are obvious examples of things not to consume Paleo or no Paleo, but Paleo does force you to really examine the foods you are consuming and how/why your body is reacting to them.
Our modern lifestyle and eating highly refined and processed foods has contributed greatly to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and all kinds of conditions that shorten our lifespan and negatively impact the quality of our daily lives. Who doesn’t want to live a long and healthy life? More people are looking less towards modern medicine for a “cure” of what ails them and more towards prevention and discovering the root of the problem.
CrossFitters by nature want to live long and healthy lives. Isn’t it the joke – “What are you training for? I’m training for life.” I mean, think of all the WODs you’ll miss if you’re sick or you’re gone, really gone…Seriously though, CrossFitters are always striving for improved performance and more effectiveness and efficiency. CrossFit is a far cry from techno fitness gadgets to make things easier. Working out of a garage or a hole in the wall with makeshift weights and the “No Excuses” attitude makes CrossFit and Paleo eating a natural fit. CrossFit didn’t start out as mainstream, neither did Paleo, but with the increased exposure and EFFECTIVENESS of both, more and more people are trying it.
Having stated that, this year’s local Paleo Challenges include veteran CrossFitters and Paleo virgins. Fix 4 The Day did a survey (okay, so I asked the question on a facebook status) and we learned that everyone, regardless of experience, struggles with similar issues. Here are some of “our” issues:
1. Planning and Food Prep. Eating Paleo requires you to plan your meals and food prep ahead of time. There’s no paleo box of goodies to grab off of the shelves when you’re freaking starving and just got home from work or a Paleo fast food drive thru (someone please find a way to make this happen though!) for your incredibly short lunch break. I feel it’s a blessing in disguise. Yes, it’s a lot of work and time consuming ON THAT DAY of meal plan and food prep, but think of the time you’re saving throughout the week and you’ve avoided the hassle of “what’s for dinner?” Although some people complain about the cost of eating Paleo, I’m willing to bet you spent more pre-Paleo on last minute grocery runs and eating out because there was nothing at home. Maybe it’s just me, but something about looking at my fridge shelf, stacked with Tupperware containers, all organized with healthy food just makes me feel better about my life in general. Bottom line: you want to be successful at eating Paleo, at any goal – YOU MUST MAKE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT. Suck it up and do it.
2. Elimininating _____(insert your evil here – sugar, bread, chocolate). Yeah, there’s no magical formula here either. The longer you stay away from it, the easier it gets. It’s like an ex boyfriend- stop calling his cell phone to hear his voice on the voicemail, don’t reread all the texts, don’t drive by his house, defriend him on facebook, throw away the pictures/cards/tshirts that smell like him…just stop and stay away. Each day it gets easier and then one day, you don’t even think about the bread (or the boy).
3. The Amount of Food You Eat. This is both a pro and a con for people. Paleo doesn’t count calories and that throws some people off. Zone Paleo gives blocks or serving sizes, which is very helpful. For those not following Zone, some people are under the impression that just because it’s Paleo, they can eat as much of it as they so desire. No. Portion control, people, especially for those wanting to lose weight on Paleo. Yes, those almonds and that bacon are Paleo, but no, you cannot eat a pound of each in one sitting. Well, you can, but you won’t lose weight. On the flip side, some people find once they take out all of those “fillers”, like crackers or other carb snacks, they can have lots of Paleo friendly foods. Very active people feel like they are eating all of the time. One even stated, “I feel like eating is my second job.” What other “diets” have that effect?
4. Travel and Schedule Conflicts. Many of you travel for work or have incredibly busy schedules. Nothing is going to be 100% ideal and I think there may be times when you fall off the Paleo Wagon. One participant (remember it was a survey?) stated lunch was frequently brought in for his work when he traveled. It usually consisted of sandwiches, which he easily made Paleo, or pizza. His question was, “Do I eat the pizza or eat nothing?” You all can chime in with advice. I think the best remedy is to always have something (even if it’s snack-like) on hand to tide you over. Again, this is one of those things that requires thinking ahead and planning. Yes, it’s a total pain, but is it worth it to you? And realize this, this isn’t a “diet”. It’s a way of life. As soon as you work it that way, it becomes your habit and it isn’t such a pain. Also, think creatively and be brave when you find yourself without your planned meal. One of my friends ended up at her college cafeteria and taco salad was the meal for the day. She asked for the shredded chicken and all the Paleo veggies with guacamole and none of the “bad stuff.” The cafeteria lady was stunned about the no cheese and all things that made it a taco salad, but get used to ordering like Sally from “When Harry Met Sally.” You don’t have to explain your choices when you get the weird looks or I usually say “I’m allergic” and they leave me alone. My friend said, ‘Don’t question it, just give me it.” Or you could say that….
5. Lack of Variety. People new to Paleo get into the habit of cooking the same “safe” things and then they get bored with them. There are so many resources available now – cookbooks, websites, companies that make your Paleo food, pinterest, people posting a gazillion pictures of their Paleo meals on facebook - so use them! Ask your coaches, your fellow CrossFitters, food lovers, anyone and everyone for their ideas. People love to share their passions. So, I’m asking you all, Paleo snacks? Help.
The biggest challenge for all of us is sticking with it and doing your best. Remember when you walked into your box for the first WOD? Did you bust out a lot of kipping pullups? Don’t answer if you did and you’re one of THOSE PEOPLE….Most of us didn’t, but we learned because we kept trying and practicing. Following a new way of eating is the same concept. Try new foods and new recipes. Be excited about this! You’re not depriving yourself, it’s not a punishment. It’s a path to better health and longer life. In the end, if it’s not for you, then it’s not for you. At least try though and give it your very best effort because at the end of your Paleo Challenge, if you don’t like your newly sculpted abs or the fact that you’re crushing the WODs now, then you can just stop. And go eat a bagel or something.