Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Food and Family

Even the Duggars might disagree on food and health

This past weekend a lot of families got together to celebrate Passover, Easter, spring break, or just nice weather. My family was no exception. My aunt just started CrossFit, so as we were talking about working out, the topic of food came up. Some of my family know about this blog, so they started asking questions on how to start eating healthy. Most of them do not CrossFit and are not familiar with words like "Paleo" or ideas like "grains are unhealthy." Trying to explain the basics made me remember that people are going to be on all levels of understanding when it comes to nutrition, but it was a good reminder. 

As our gym is almost a week into our Zone/Paleo/Primal/Whole30 food challenge, some of you may be experiencing anything from fat loss to headaches. Remember that there is an adaptation period lasting anywhere from 1-4 weeks or even longer depending on how metabolically deranged you were going into the switch. Metabolically deranged? That refers to the whole high blood sugar/high insulin levels you will have if you consume a lot of grains and/or sugar. In other words, if your diet looks like "cereal, soda, coffee with sugar, ice cream, pasta, bread, etc." then you are probably highly metabolically deranged. Blood sugar and insulin levels look like a roller coaster throughout the day.

For those just starting out, or who want to start changing their diet, just change one thing. One. Uno. 1. One single thing. This could be cutting out soda. This could be cutting out sugar from coffee. This could be cutting down half your coffee intake. Whatever it is, make it manageable. I would rather see you make small progressive steps than one huge progressive step and a fall back into old habits. Like we say at the box, "check your ego." This goes for food too, don't think you can do it all at once. If you are more advanced and have most of your nutrition dialed in, then yes, go for a strict lifestyle and see what tinkering you can play around with. Remember, at its core, this is a LIFESTYLE not a diet. One or two months over 30, 40, 50 years is nothing. 

If you are focusing on grains and sugar, remember that both act like crack to your body. Yes, crack. Your body will literally go through withdrawal when you don't give it what it wants. Nicole Carroll writes about "Getting Off the Crack" in a CrossFit Journal article. Headaches, irritability, crankiness, and just plain feeling like crud are all normal because your body is craving that sugar (or grains that turn into sugar). I imagine a good amount of you are experiencing this about now. Or if you got your family involved, then they are at the point of wringing your neck now. I promise that after a few weeks you will get used to it and not feel like robbing someone for their hoagie. Just remember to stick with it and replace those things with lots of vegetables and fruit and a decent amount of fat like nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, etc. This will give you the carbohydrates to keep up your workout routine and the fat you need to burn for energy instead of using sugar.

So if you are starting a lifestyle change, make small steps and stick with it. You will adapt and change and realize how much you don't need those grains and sugar. If you are trying to get others to change (like family, friends, loved ones) it might take them awhile to get used to these crazy ideas. Give it time and try not to force it (which will just turn them off even more.) Instead, let your results speak for themselves and when they see you rocking wods or not needing a "bikini crash diet," then maybe they'll ask you again about what you do. It's in that window of opportunity that you can talk more freely. 

Is your family or friends curious about what you're doing? How do you explain it to them? Same can go for co-workers.

What are you experiencing if you changed up your nutrition lifestyle? Any side effects for good or bad? Don't forget to send your food logs to Aimee!

Check this out for tips on handling family: How to Win Friends and Influence Paleo by Melissa Urban


  1. I'm experiencing a complete lack of support. It's amazing how some people completely disagree with the concepts of being healthy.

  2. great post, Chris. two things from my end:

    1. my family already thought i was nuts. my friends are basically used to my eccentric dietary ways, although most of them wouldn't try it themselves, all of them understand why i am. i have used diet as a means to manage my health for years, and it's paid big dividends for me. it makes sense that the way that you nourish yourself has a huge impact on how you look and feel. when you say it that way, people nod their heads and either glaze over (conversation finished :)) or they ask for more information.

    2. impact so far: i've been doing whole 9 for 6 weeks now. my skin is clearer, my body is less stressed by the activites i'm doing (and i added roller derby to the mix right about when this started, so that's saying something). i am sleeping way less and feeling ok despite that (used to need 8, now i am fine on 5). most interesting to me is that i was shocked to hear my friends on facebook complaining about allergy season, because i have awful spring allergies even with meds, and i usually get slammed. this year, so far, i am totally asymptomatic. i don't know if the spring grasses just haven't come in yet or what, but if this continues through may and june, i will be a serious advocate for Whole 9's program on that basis alone.

    i do think i have seen reduced overall strength since starting the program. i was typically eating pretty clean, but i was heavier on sugars than i wanted to be, a major reason for trying this. also, i did start derby which is heavy cardio 2hours 2x/week, so that could be sapping some energy. so part of my reason for extending another 4 weeks is to see if that reverses course.

  3. Donkey, a lengthier explanation will go into a future post, but watch out for those extended metcons (anything over 20 minutes) Considering you're doing this at least 2x/week with roller derby, plus however many days you are at the box, you could be looking at future adrenal fatigue and could explain your current strength loss. If have the luxury of picking when you can come to the box, pick strength days. Or, (and I know you're going to hate me saying this) scale wods so that you get them done quicker. (e.g. Fran should take between 3-10 minutes. Doing Fran Rx'd in 25 minutes may give you the Rx next to your name but it does absolutely nothing for your physical adaptation to get more work done. This fact goes for everyone out there and yet another future post about scaling)

  4. SCALE? grr.

    the way i've been managing this new stuff is to double up on workouts T/Th (xfit and derby), and then pick another day for an xfit WOD, and then take the other days as rest. although rest might also mean a lazy walk, or a long rollerblade, or something.

    i am definitely looking forward to your future post about scaling, though. it's to the point now where i am finally able to make choices (instead of simply surviving a WOD) about whether to push for a faster time, or a heavier weight, or better form on a particular move, or some combination of the above.

    looking forward to your wisdom on this topic.

  5. Donkey - if you're feeling weak it could also be due to not enough sleep (you need more than 5 hours...) or not getting enough calories, especially pre and post wod/derby. If you're not eating recovery foods right after working out, that's something we can and should talk about! (for a 2 hr cardio session, you also need to eat mid-workout)

  6. Dan,
    I am experiencing a complete lack of support also. In fact, I would call it flat out anger towards my new way of eating. I am mocked that "bread is the devil" and that I shouldn't even touch it because I might turn into a pillar of salt if I do. There is definitely a resentment towards me for making positive changes in my diet. I spoke with Cindy about this and she really helped me to understand where my family and friends are coming from.
    In our culture, food represents many things including a common moral value system. When I sit down to dinner with a different meal than my family, I am removing myself from this experience of sharing a meal. I am instead choosing a different meal than what everone else is eating. This didn't seem like it should be a big deal, but it was and still is. Although I consciously try not to impose my lifestyle on others, they way I eat stirs up lots of emotions for them. Whether it is is a feeling of being "less than", a sense that I am on a different path in life than them, or even guilt for eating a plate of spaghetti in fron of me.

    I am over being mad and saying to them "F-You, what I put into my body is my choice". Instead I have decided to be patient and to give them time to get used to my change. It was easy for me to change because I made the decision. It is hard for them because they don't live inside my head and know why I feel so strongly about it.
    I hope this helps anyone who is in my situation. And thanks Cindy for being so wise and helping me with this.

  7. I can understand how dan and dorothy feel! Eating like this surely makes you the oddball out. Luckily I am mostly supported by others around me. however I have to correct people often who talk as if I am on a diet. The most flack I have gotten is from my mother who struggles with her own food and self-care issues. Who makes comments like " all you do is buy food for yourself" As time goes by being the oddball gets easier!

    Chris are quite gifted at your ability to balance knowledge and "streets smarts" aka real life. Not everyone can do that, many people will learn from you!

  8. One size does not fit all. I'm the Chris' aunt who just started Crossfit at 47 years! I have a lot of experience with fitness and diet. Much has been personal trial and error. At age 47, I finally found what works for my body. I encourage everyone to be open to the fact that not every one's body responds to what works for your body. The diet plans mentioned above work because the activity level is matching or exceeding the calorie intake. Read more about this concept at http://barbaramonahan.blogspot.com.

    I have many years of training professionals in the business world and had a coaching business for many years. Life is varied (constantly varied, as in the tilte of this blog) on all levels. It is best not to provide one solution for all. And it is very important for the client's success to fully understand where they are in their life, struggles, joys. All of this effect how we take care of our mind and bodies.

    Keep up the great work and know that starting somewhere is better than not starting at all!


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