I have blogged about this a few times, but am rehashing because the CrossFit gym I go to is doing a “healthy eating challenge” (is there a gym that isn’t?). Instead of filling up Facebook I figured I could write more here, include some pictures and post the link.
Here is my story (I hear the old Law and Order voice in my head…).
I have tried it all. I started losing weight about four, maybe five years ago. I am guessing 4.5 years. Since fall 2011.I started losing weight so I could run with my son when he got older and started playing sports. Didn’t want to be that fat dad sitting on the sidelines. I started to lose weight by running and going to Weight Watchers (my highest KNOWN weight is about 280, but I am guessing, as you will see in a picture below, I weighed well over 300 pounds for a good chunk of my life). I lost about 50 pounds doing that and then I plateaued. That’s about when I found CrossFit in 2012 and in 2013 I started eating Paleo. The combination helped me drop another 30’ish pounds.
I have gained about 20 pounds since my lowest recorded weight (201 and now I weigh in close to 220). However, I think that is mostly muscle. When I started CrossFit my best deadlift was 185 and now it is 385. I couldn’t snatch a bar and now my all time best snatch is 190. When I started I couldn’t press more than 130 pounds or so, now I can strict press over 200. I have definitely gotten stronger. My metcon times have also dropped – a lot. When I started CrossFit I couldn’t do Fran in less than 10 minutes and that was scaled. Now my Fran time is under 4 minutes. I don’t run nearly as much, but I ran the Turkey Trot this past Thanksgiving in really cold and snowy weather in less time than I ran it about 3 years ago in much better weather.
I put in the work in the gym. Just look at my logs on this site and you will see I rarely miss a day. But I think the quickest way to lose weight and make a change in your appearance comes in the kitchen. Work your ass off all you want in the gym and if you go home to crap food and beer you won’t see much change, if any.
So, that is my story and why I think I can help anyone who would like help. I have lost 80+ pounds and kept it off. If I catch myself just right after a workout, in the right light, with a unicorn behind me, I can see a six pack. After 30 years of being over weight and 18 or so of those being flat out obese, I still have some work to do and that is where my experimenting with diets has come into play.
Here is a side by side of me at what was probably my heaviest circa 2001 and me about 2 and a half years ago.
Here is a picture of me holding my son in March of 2009. This is a little more than 2 years or so before I decided it was time to make a change. A serious, life long, change.
Finally, here I am about 4 months ago on a hike with my mom.
What I recommend.
First, write down everything you eat. EVERYTHING. Track it ritually. Track your cheat days. Track that piece of chocolate you eat at work and think “ah, it’s just a bite size Snickers, it isn’t worth that much.” Track those beers on Friday night. And hopefully you only drink once a week, maybe. All of it. Do it religiously. Don’t take a day off. Get a true understanding of not only what you eat, but what is worth the calories and what really isn’t.
Try Weight Watchers. I am a firm believer in it because it does start to show you how to track your food and what is terrible for you and what is good. You will start eating more fruits and vegetables for sure.
But if you don’t want to pay for that sort of thing, definitely download MyFitnessPal (MFP). It is a must. No questions asked.
If you want to learn how to eat Paleo, do so cold turkey. Jump in feet first and just suffer for a few days. You will have sugar cravings. You will crave bread. You will crave beer. You will have CRAZY cravings. You will feel like you are STARVING at night even though you just had a big dinner. You will so, so badly want to get a spoon and eat a heaping spoonful of peanut butter. But you have to do it this way. I used to think you could slowly eliminate the bad things from your diet, but going Paleo requires you to just do it.
It’s painful, but it is worth it. After about 5 days you will start to feel amazing.
And the best way to do it? Do a Whole 30. It will be super painful. It will require you to cook. You HAVE to cook and cook often if you do a Whole 30. You really can’t eat much of anything that doesn’t require an oven. You will learn to cook in bulk so you don’t have to cook every meal. Both great things to know how to do to continue to live a healthy lifestyle, even if you do decide Paleo isn’t for you.
Want to know what I ate during my first Whole 30? Lucky for you I tracked what I ate. Just click on the “Nutrition” button at the top of this page and you will see what I ate each and every week of my first Whole 30. The full one from January 2013, not that one I quit on…but that failure is listed on this site, too. Can’t ignore your failures, that’s how you learn.
I have tried the Zone diet. This is by far the hardest diet I have tried. Weighing and measuring foods is one thing, but also trying to ensure your carb, fat and protein blocks even out for every meal or snack is really difficult. This requires a lot of math. For me, this didn’t last long. I have weighed and measured food before (and am currently doing so), but making sure everything equals out per Zone guidelines takes it to another level. A level I wasn’t willing to stick with. It came down to my personal goals. I want to lose the last bit of “hard to lose” fat that I have, but I don’t want to run spreadsheets just to figure out my breakfast.
I stuck with Paleo for a long, long time. There was easily a year straight where my “cheat” meals was going to a Mexican restaurant like Hacienda on the weekend and allowing myself to have chips before dinner. That along with 2 beers a week on Friday after work were my ONLY cheats for a long, long time. Of course, other than the chips I still ate Paleo for my meal (no cheese, tortillas, beans, etc at a mexican restaurant…that was my life for a long time). After a while I relaxed a bit and allowed myself rice at places like Chipotle. For a year, at least, I only had salads at Chipotle. Just recently I have essentially ditched Paleo eating.
I have had my blood tested, twice, and both times the results were stellar. After eating Paleo (and a lot of fat) I wanted to be sure I was healthy. Sure my outside looked better, but what about my inside? Everything you read is right: olive oil, egg yolks, avocados, etc are all good for you. My blood was perfect in every one of the 30 some odd checks that I had tested.
I have recently had my body fat tested twice using a dunk tank – the same tank that is coming to Crush on the 20th. This is what took me to my most recent dieting venture.
I had long wondered if I was eating enough food. I heard that the dunk tank will provide a resting metabolic rate and that was enough to finally get dunked. Honestly, I hadn’t done it sooner because I was afraid it would tell me I was fat. In August of 2015 I got tested. I weighed in at 207 pounds and had just under 14% body fat. That put me in the “athletic” category for a guy my age. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.
I learned I burn about 2,300 calories a day if I just wake up and lay on the couch all day. At that point I had been tracking my food on MFP and I was eating 2,200 calories a day on the days in which I thought I ate a lot.
From August to November I ate at least 2,300 calories a day. I added in extra calories for any/all exercise. I used MapMyRun to track any/all activities. I of course put in my CrossFit time and all my long walks (I like to walk a mile or 3 at work if I can during my lunch). I even tracked how many calories I burned walking from my office to my car. This added about 200-800 calories a day, depending on my activities.
Eating like this for a few months put on a few pounds. When I got retested at the body fat truck I weighed about 214 and added just under 1% body fat. This meant I put on nearly 5 pounds of lean mass. My ultimate goal right now – add muscle and get stronger. I want a 400 pound deadlift, 315 pound squat, 200 pound snatch, etc.
Then I read an article on prepareandexecute.com which trains repeat games athlete Margeaux Alvarez. It essentially said I should eat 3,200 calories a day and eat 40/30/30 carbs/pro/fat. I figured why not give that a shot for a few months?
So just before Thanksgiving I started eating 3,200 calories a day regardless of activity level. I entered those macro nutrient ratios into MFP and I have been doing my best to track my food daily and hit the target of about 300 grams carbs, 240 grams protein and 100 grams fat each day. It’s hard. Really hard to hit all 3 targets a day, much less days in a row, but I am trying.
I plan ahead, and this leads me to my meal prep today. If there is one thing you take away from this, it’s this:
You MUST meal prep on Sunday’s to be successful. You MUST set yourself up for success during the week and not having healthy meals (whatever you decide that to be) at work is not going to work. Take the afternoon on Sunday to prep enough food to get you through at least 3 or 4 days of good eating at work.
As the saying goes, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you don’t prep on Sunday I guarantee you will not succeed. Guarantee it.
For me this means I need to make enough for breakfast, lunch and a 3rd meal each day. Since I get up early and go to the gym I don’t ever eat breakfast at home during the week.
Here is what I prepped today:
Top left is 6 servings of 1.1 pound grass fed ground beef, .9 pound ground chicken and 2 leftover pork sausages from Sprouts. Mixed with it is a perfectly clean marinara sauce. One trick I have learned is to mix a really, really lean meat with ground beef. The flavor is still there, but it cuts the fat by quite a bit.
Each serving of the meat mixture was weighed. I put the ingredients into MFP’s recipe builder and put it as 6 servings to get my calories car/fat/pro numbers.
While my noodles for the spaghetti were cooking I mixed 3 servings of tuna (buy from Costco, cheap and perfectly clean). Each serving is 1 whole can of tuna, 1 TBSP of Just Mayo mayonnaise and a bunch of relish. I will take 2 pieces of Dave’s Killer Bread from Costco and make a sandwich everyday.
The middle picture on the left is a picture of MFP. I already know what I am going to eat for 4 days this week. The only missing piece of the daily puzzle is dinner. I will work with what my wife makes to make it fit into my allotted remaining calories and macros.
Middle right is the finished spaghetti with noodles.
Finally, to get some volume into my diet with little calories, yet healthy, I roasted a bunch of cauliflower, broccoli and celery. It ended up making 4 12oz servings after cooking. Other than the frozen veggies (nothing added) I mixed with generous amount of salt and pepper and 4 TBSP of olive oil.
After everything was all packaged the bottom shelf in our fridge is basically my shelf. Each week it starts packed with food and by Friday it is empty. It makes packing my food daily very quick and easy. Grab what I need and go.
Add in some Perfect Food Bars for a quick snack on my way to work everyday and I have plenty of food. In fact, I might have overdone it a bit. Pretty sure I won’t go hungry, but the fat I have prepared already will make it somewhat difficult at night.
All and all I spent maybe 30-45 minutes actually prepping and distributing my food today, and another hour or two letting it cook (the vegetables, frozen, took a long time to cook).
While I am not doing the challenge with the gym (I do a pretty good job holding myself accountable and haven’t needed a challenge to motivate myself for the past 3 years). I am definitely available to bounce questions off of. Any questions about prepping, what’s paleo or not or just how to survive breaking yourself of any cravings, let me know. Would love to assist.
Good luck to everyone who is doing the challenge, especially anyone doing a Whole 30 that is used to eating non-Paleo foods.
To summarize, what I think is the most important thing to eating:
- Write down everything you eat. Everything. And when I say “write” I mean you MyFitnessPal. Overestimate if you don’t know exactly.
- Eat ENOUGH food. I bet most women at the gym eat close to 1200 to 1400 calories a day. If you are doing CrossFit 4 or 5 times a week and getting a few running days in, too…then you are eating WAY too little. Bump that up to 1900 or 2000 calories a day and stick with it. Watch your results jump on you.
- Eat clean as much as possible. While I am eating things like bread and noodles now, I still try to eat foods with as few ingredients as possible. However, to get in close 300 grams of carbs a day I have found bread is needed. I suppose I could bake a lot of sweet potatoes, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Finally, I will leave you with this picture. It sums up the importance of eating and is really easy to understand.
The only thing I would add is that CONSISTENCY wraps the entire pyramid. If you are not consistent you will not succeed. Try to be as close to perfect as you can 5 days a week. Allow yourself to cheat a bit on Saturday or Friday night and then on Sunday get back to it. If you eat really good 6 days a week you will see results (as long as that 7th day is a face plant into pizza, ice cream and beer).