This is another in a series of personal reflections penned by Elite Athletic Development / CrossFit Arlington Heights / CrossFit Axis athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. The following reflection was submitted by Laura M, who has trained with us since May, 2010, and seen many a 30 Day Paleo Challenge come and go. Something about the July 2012 Challenge piqued her curiosity, though, and she decided to give the Paleo plate a chance .. with tremendous results. Keep up the great work, Laura — we look forward to your continued success!
To describe what the challenge has been to me, I would simply say this: life changing. I read all of the personal reflections that other people posted from past challenges, and to be honest, I didn’t really think it would end up applying to me in the same seemingly drastic way as it has so many others. Boy was I wrong.
I’m pretty proud of myself for honestly, no b.s., sticking to the 30 Day Paleo Challenge nearly 100 percent. I went on vacation in the middle of the challenge, and my only cheats were a couple of small deserts, a couple of glasses of wine, and a couple of pieces of bread. Otherwise, not a single cheat. I was pretty amazed at myself for that.
As far as the results are concerned, well, they are pretty amazing – and to be honest, unexpected. The most obvious is weight loss. I lost nine pounds in that first 30 days – being less hungry than I think I’ve ever been and working out less than I ever have due to a crazy work schedule. And the beautiful thing is it was nine pounds of fat. The muscle mass is still there. I felt stronger than I have in a long time and look better than I have in a long time.
The second most obvious result was my cardiovascular system. Those who know me know that cardio is by far my biggest weakness. It always has been. I can practice running all summer long and never be able to make it past two miles. Obviously, CrossFit has helped that a bit, but I still never considered myself anywhere near where I should be.
About two weeks in to the challenge, something changed. I went for a run one night and literally went for a solid four miles at a way faster pace than I had ever run before, and didn’t even think twice. It wasn’t really hard. I felt like a friggin’ gazelle! Figuring it was just some kind of fluke, I didn’t really think too much of it. Then I tried it again a couple of nights after. Same thing. I couldn’t believe it. And every run I’ve gone on since then has been like that. I’ve gone from struggling to make two miles at slower than a 10 minute pace to running approximately four miles at at least a nine minute pace comfortably. Every time. No problem. One of these days I’m going to actually time myself on a 5k and see what happens. Actually push it. If I don’t shave at least five minutes off, I will be very surprised.
At the end of the challenge, I attended a CrossFit class, and noticed that I was very obviously able to push myself farther than I ever had before. When I hit the point where I would normally start slowing down or stopping to take a breather, I just kept going. And it wasn’t a mental thing so much. I wasn’t pushing myself harder. I could just feel that point that would normally slow me down but now I didn’t need to slow down. It’s like my brain changed from telling me, “holy crap slow down, you’re going to die” to “yeah, this is getting tough but oh well – it’s no big thing.” It was the weirdest feeling. Coach Josh commented that I was moving a lot better. And I was. For goodness sake, I could fly through a set of 10 burpees without stopping, even at the end of the workout. I’ve never been able to do that. Not even close.
The third thing I noticed was my relationship with food. As many women do, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with it. On days where I felt like I had eaten like crap, I tended to figure the day had already lost any hope of being a success from a dietary standpoint, and would decide that I may as well enjoy myself and screw it up completely. Yeah, my relationship with food was a mess. And I knew it was. But I figured it would always be that way, because you always want what you can’t have, right? Well, I now know that’s wrong. And I think the solution has been two-fold. First, I no longer count calories – or even think about them for that matter. So, if I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m not, I don’t. That was something I knew going into this I was going to have to trust if I was going to make this work. Which brings me to the second part of this: in learning to control cravings, I’ve allowed my body to re-program itself to actually understand what hunger is. I now know the difference between hunger and a craving. And through this whole thing, I’ve learned to think of cravings as your body’s way of being a bratty kid. And I hate bratty kids. So I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a bratty kid push me around. Thus, cravings aren’t able to control me nearly like they used to. What’s left is hunger. And when I’m hungry, I eat. So, problem solved. I just still can’t believe it was that simple.
The last major thing that I noticed, and I didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out to me as one of the things that this diet could do, is my skin is brighter – especially my face. The circles around my eyes are gone. Given that I just turned 30, it’s nice to be looking better instead of worse!
So, moving forward, yes, this is something I plan to continue, without a doubt. It’s really not much of a burden, and the results are so incredible, I never want to go back to feeling the way I did. Now yes, I will have some cheats, but they will be planned and thoughtful. What’s also helpful is a lot of the food I used to eat doesn’t even sound appealing to me anymore, so it’s really not hard to have Dave sitting next to me eating a pizza and have me eating a steak, avocado, and veggies. I dislike the feeling of being bloated so much now that most of that stuff kind of turns me off. Since the end of the challenge, I had one week where I fell off of the boat 100 percent. It was a hell of a week. But it was easy to get back on, and aside from feeling bloated, I really didn’t have any negative consequences from it (well, the ones I had were from drinking too much…)
Also worth mentioning at this point is the fact that weight loss has continued. I’m now down almost 15 pounds. I’m getting close to having to think about getting some new clothes, because while the things that I used to have to squeeze myself into still fit okay, the things that fit normally now hang on me. But trust me: this is a good problem. I’m just not going to go too gung ho on buying things until I have an idea as to where my size is going to level out.
And the one last cool thing about all of this is that results talk. My sister thought I was just doing some kind of hippie diet when this whole thing started. Then we went on vacation together and she started mimicking how I was eating. She has been very impressed at the results I’ve had, so she started doing 100 percent Paleo. Her results are incredible, too. Although she didn’t have any weight to lose, she can now get a good night’s sleep, her focus is much better, and she’s in a much better mood. My Mom saw these results and is now starting to make her own Paleo bread and whatnot. And now my Dad is starting to get on board with eating Paleo.
Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about what the 30 Day Paleo Challenge has done for me, and I’m excited to see how far the benefits can go …