As I stare down at my Tupperware of chicken, I am reminded of the previous day’s pork. It gets me thinking about food and diet and how far I’ve come. I remember when I started CrossFit. Jason was talking about diet and one member said, “This is the part where he’s going to tell us we can’t eat pizza.” And for the most part he didn’t. But he pointed out that diet is a big part of life and of fitness.
I’ll be honest. I kind of ignored that thing called a diet and just moved on with my life. Even as I started CrossFit, got more into working out, played softball, went to lifetime lifetime, I was doing something active pretty much every day. I would try to eat “right.” What I didn’t realize was that I knew absolutely nothing about what eating right was.
My early versions of eating right meant salads filled with dressings and bars filled with sugar. Rich sauces on everything. When I ate out, I’d just eat a little less and not get an appetizer or dessert. I’d spent a better part of a decade eating out daily, most days at least twice, and ordering in pizza minimally once a week. I would get in the car and ask, “Where am I going to eat?” Not because there were so many choices, but because the choices of where I hadn’t been lately were so limited.
Then something came up that I was asked to participate in called the Whole Life Challenge. I declined, saying I didn’t need that to control my eating, and I could do it on my own if I “needed” it. I wasn’t convinced that I did need to make a change. Things were going fine, I was dropping some weight, and I was working out. A couple of weeks passed, and a good friend gave me the hard sale on it. She called me out, and she gave me a guilt trip for needing to be more supportive and back her up on things like this. She was aggressive. I agreed to do it.
When I started it, I thought to myself, I can do anything for a little while and then I can go back to “normal” when it’s all over. I also thought I could kind of just half ass it and go into it with good intentions. Well, I’m here to tell you guys the road to hell is paved with good intentions. My hell is being fat.
What most people don’t understand about me (and I’m sure with a lot of others in similar situations) is eating was something I did all the time. It was planned out and calculated. If I was going to be eating with people, I would sometimes eat before so I could eat less around them. If I was grilling for my buddies, I’d eat a burger or a hash brown before everyone came to eat. That way when I ate one with the group, it would appear I ate like everyone else.
I’d even convinced myself that I was eating like everyone else. The guilt I would feel from pre-eating or hiding bad food that I was eating was an enormous weight that got bigger as my body got bigger. It’s hard to describe the guilt after a bad meal that I knew I didn’t need but ate anyway.
I also operated on a reward system. I’d reward a good workout with fast food. Ever stand in line at a Taco Johns covered in sweat from a workout? I did, many times. I’d eat extra food because I thought I needed it because of a good workout. Or if I didn’t have desert at a restaurant, I’d eat something equally bad at home instead. Rewarding good things like working out or not taking seconds with more food… It’s a slippery slope. I could always justify my eating, always.
When you get a role in your life and you serve it for years, it becomes part of who you are, almost your entire being. I was the guy that ate big and fast, and I liked that role. I could eat more, and I always had room. My friends knew me as that, and I was identified as that. I played my roll very well. Even with the shame and the horrible self image, I still fulfilled my role. Why? Because I felt I had to. People will say it’s easy. I’m here to tell you it isn’t.
But it doesn’t have to be that way; you can change your role in life. Fitness changed my life and forever will have an impact on me. When I was in high school I found the weight room. When everything was going to hell or I needed an escape, the weight room was it. Being on a team (though I rarely played) and being a part of something meant something to me. I lost it for some years, but I’ve found it again. Making time to work out is as important to me as making time to sleep. This won’t be easy either; making changes never really is.
The Whole Life Challenge brought to the forefront how bad the food I ate was for me. Not only did I learn a ton about what I should be eating, how much sleep to get, and how much water to drink, I learned I have the capacity for really good self control around food. I didn’t half ass this challenge; I crushed it. I was going for 15 minute bike rides at the end of the night (after workouts). I was rolling out and stretching and doing mobility every day. I was drinking water and cutting out things that days previous I said I could never live without.
No bread, no sugar, no dairy, no peanut butter, no corn, no potatoes. HOW WILL I LIVE? I purchased half of a cow and found a new love for steak. I discovered a new love for cooking! I read an awesome post that said if it doesn’t have a face, soul, or a mother, don’t eat it… haha. Very true. And I was (am) living this new found love for good food. Food where the ingredient list is the food item. What’s the ingredient list on my roast with carrots? Roast and carrots (and some salt, pepper, etc.). You know what isn’t in the stuff I eat now? Things I can’t pronounce or don’t know what they are. Go ahead. Challenge yourself one day to look at the food items you eat and what’s in those items. You’ll be shocked.
I learned every meal shouldn’t be so delicious you can’t stand it. It doesn’t need to be filled with rich sugars, sweet sauces, and breaded and deep fried to be good. Food is good, good food is great. Everything doesn’t need an ingredient list a mile long to be good. What happened to eating to survive, or eating because your body needs it? I’m not sure when things changed for me, but I am changing them back. One paleo meal at a time.
At what point did my meals become something all new? Something that had to create an all new feeling of full? I would spend hours after these rich meals tired, run down, and feeling fat. When did I change how I needed food in order to fulfill something else? When did you?
Food doesn’t have to be boring because you don’t have half a loaf of bread with it. Food doesn’t have to be filled with crappy stuff in order to be good. I’ve found a love for cooking and for food, and best of all it’s great for me.
My workouts have gotten insanely awesomer (yes it’s a word). I’ve gone from just trying to survive a workout to killing them. I’ve gone from pure hell to, well… let’s be honest. They are still pure hell. But my strength, my endurance, have all gone through the roof. My ability to get things done is four times what it was. My mind is clear and strong. I’m feeding my body what it needs to do better every single day.
By the way, I finished 82nd out of 7098 in the Whole Life Challenge.
So will I never eat another carb, drink another glass of milk (it’s been 8 months since I had a glass of milk), or have another sweet dessert? Of course I will; those things are good. What I will not do is return to a life of indulgence and eating crappy food for every meal, every day. I won’t ever be as fat as I was, not on my watch.
Could you pull off a cleaner diet? Do you think you could cut out processed foods from your daily regiment? If not, why not? Just like with anything, whether working out, a diet, or a sport, the only way to realize your potential is to try. So ask yourself, why not? What do you have to lose? Give yourself a goal. You may learn you can do something you never thought you could.
Want to learn more about it? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment here, do whatever you want. I’ll talk to you about it. Want to learn about paleo? Want to talk about zone? Have you had success? Got an awesome recipe? Want to talk CrossFit?!?!? Talk to me, because I still have parts of my old role in my life: I talk a lot. 😉 And my new role, one of fitness and improving your life, is one that I much rather talk about then the guy that once ate 87 pizza roles after eating a burger and hotdog an hour before. My new role will add years to my life and life to my years.