I am a CrossFitter.
My closet boasts multiple pairs of Nanos. My workout clothes easily outnumber my work clothes. Multiple jump ropes live in my gym bag. I have framed posters of CrossFit athletes hanging in my guest bedroom. I write a CrossFit blog. I’ve watched every episode of Danny Broflex countless times and I still laugh. My bookshelf has an entire shelf dedicated to CrossFit-related books. And with the exception of injury-related absences, I have maintained 4-6 WODs per week for nearly two years. I am in love, obsessed, and taken with this thing called CrossFit.
I am a CrossFitter. I am not Paleo.
It’s not like I haven’t tried. My copies of the Hartwig’s It Starts With Food and Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution are dog-eared and stained with coconut oil. I’ve shut myself away in the bathroom with my loud, high-pitched blender to make countless batches of Melissa Joulwan’s Homemade Mayo. I have inspected the contents of every jar of salsa in Kroger to find one without sugar (This took me an hour and a half. Unless you’ve done this, you won’t believe the multiple places Kroger stocks salsa.). I gave up my treasured Diet Dr Pepper, my beloved gum and cream in my coffee. I have filled my fridge with veggies, overcome my aversion to fat, realized the advantages to grass fed protein and developed a healthy condescension towards vegetarians.
The first time I heard about Whole30, I knew I had to try it. I’d been doing CrossFit for 5 months, and although I was still losing weight and seeing PRs, I was certain that doing the Whole30 would elevate me into a new level. The science behind it made sense. Besides, I love doing these things. My husband often jokes that I’m happiest when I’m about to take on a new project. The research, reading, preparation, planning, scheduling – I love that stuff.
If you visit the Whole30 site, you’ll find extensive information and resources to help you through your 30 days. There’s a forum and an active Facebook page where you can communicate with other people participating in the challenge, and often a Whole30 staff member will chime in. It’s all very well done. One of my favorite articles was the Whole30 Timeline, which I printed out in color and kept neatly folded in my copy of It Starts With Food.
So I began.
It wasn’t that hard for me. I love vegetables and meat, so I didn’t feel deprived. I swapped out my Diet Dr Pepper for LaCroix. I was tickled pink I could eat avocados without guilt. And new recipes? So much fun! I downloaded the NomNom Paleo app and bought the Well Fed cookbook. I committed to the plan and trusted I would see the results.
But I didn’t.
Within a few days I noticed a dull fatigue, which was expected. As I continued on my Whole30 adventure, I didn’t notice much of anything. My performance at CrossFit didn’t change. There was no difference in the way my clothes fit. By the last week of the challenge, I was disappointed. Using the Whole30 forum and the Facebook page, I asked for tips – what was I doing wrong? The unwavering answer I received: You must not be eating enough.
Yet I was following the meal planning guidelines. But I had committed to commit, so I began to add more to my plate. And still nothing changed. My dull fatigue continued. I never experienced a nudge of tiger’s blood. And where I had never had stomach problems before (I’m a goat), I felt a permanent discomfort in my belly.
Whole30 will tell you that this is not a weight loss diet. Although weight loss is absolutely a side effect in the journey to excellent health, it is not a guarantee on Whole30. However, for most of the people doing Whole30 (including me), this was a very attractive side effect.
When I stepped on the scale 30 days after I began my challenge, I had lost two pounds. And immediately went out a bought a Diet Dr Pepper and gum.
What I Learned
I reread my books. Reevaluated my diet. Reconsidered the science. Everything was there. I truly believed in the program.
So I did it again. And had the same results.
Could it be…Whole30 doesn’t work for me?
I can’t say my experiences were a complete waste of time. I tried so many new things! New vegetables, new methods of cooking. Ghee, coconut oil. I fell in love with selecting quality produce and meats. Ingredients became an adventure. And now I savor black coffee. Without Whole30 I never would have discovered the Well Fed cookbooks, which are still my companions in the kitchen.
The Paleo Problem(s)
After my paleo undertakings, I was lost. My weight loss – so consistent until I went paleo – stalled. I wanted to go back to counting calories, but now I knew that counting calories was “bad.” If I was running low on money, I wanted to buy regular beef – but anything that wasn’t grass fed was “bad.” My stomach returned to normal when I reduced my fat intake, but not eating enough fat was “bad.”
I, the ultimate planner, was without a plan.
If you are paleo, and if it works for you, I am pretty certain you are thinking I must have done something wrong. Maybe the wrong combination of meat and vegetables. Maybe I didn’t eat often enough or ate too often. Perhaps a grain of sugar snuck into my jar of ghee (because it wasn’t in the salsa!). Most likely you will believe I did something wrong before you will accept that paleo just doesn’t work for me.
(I understand. I’ve heard people say CrossFit didn’t work for them. And I doubted them. Because in my mind, CrossFit works. Period.)
It took me 14 months to overcome my paleo hangup. I mean, I am surrounded by beautiful, healthy, glowing people who are paleo. It works!
It was my (brilliant) husband who asked me the simple question, “What was the last thing you did that worked?” And I looked back through my food logs, back to nearly two years ago when my weight loss was consistent, I was performing well and was getting through my days without the mid-afternoon slump.
Weight Watchers. That’s what worked for me.
My Paleo Solution
On January 1 I re-enrolled in Weight Watchers. For me, it’s the best of both worlds. I consume quality food and I count my calories (or Points). It’s convenient. It fits into the rest of my life. My weight loss is consistent. I feel in control. I feel lean and energized. And happy. I’ve been really, really happy.
The Do-Nots-Do-Nots-Do-Nots are gone. The stomach upset is gone. And the Food Stress is gone.
My optimism is back.
What I’m Saying Is…
It’s possible you’ve decided to start your own challenge in 2015. It’s very possible that challenge involves the paleo diet. It’s highly likely you will be successful and experience a life change as a result.
But if you don’t…that’s okay. If you’re honest with yourself, if you know you gave it your best shot, let it go. Just because paleo didn’t work for you doesn’t mean nothing else will.
(And no, I don’t gobble endless boxes of processed foods just because I’m on Weight Watchers. That’s so early 2000’s.)