I love food and I know you all do too. One of the main things I’ve learned in my three-and-a-half years of doing CrossFit is that the better or cleaner I eat, the better I train and feel. This dilemma impacts me even more because I am a “morning class” guy. Because of my jobs as a teacher and coach, it is nearly impossible for me to train in the afternoon or evening. Therefore, what I eat has even more effect on my training because what I ingest the night before is almost always the only thing hanging out in my stomach when I get to the box.
I was introduced to Paleo back in March of 2010 when I went through my On-Ramp with my trainer Brian. My initial reaction was, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” But the more I read about it and the more I started to infuse its practices and diet adjustments into my life, the more I realized that there might be something to it. I cut soda completely out of my diet. To some, this might not seem like much of a change, but I was drinking four to six sodas A DAY. I began to scale back the breads and grains and increase the meats. What I noticed was that the less processed foods and grains I ate, the better I felt in the morning, usually resulting in a better workout.
Simple right? Stop eating processed foods and grains and those types of things, and I will reach all my fitness goals and look like a Games athlete when I take my shirt off at the water park. In theory, yes, it is that simple. In practice ... not always.
The problem for me is twofold. One, I have learned since going Paleo that I am a sugar addict. I struggle with a few aspects of this diet and lifestyle, but cutting sugar is very difficult for me. I can go weeks without bread or pasta, but making it one day without any kind of sugar is a battle I often lose. Secondly, I live in America. So great for thousands of reasons, but monitoring food and drink consumption is not among them. We live in a society in which advertising is king. This statement should not be surprising. What I was surprised by is how much I noticed the advertisements and the lure of mass food consumption once I became more aware of the adverse effects of this food on my body and training. To put it plainly, we are saturated with ads for food, alcohol and soft drinks; not just TV commercials, but print ads, internet links and pop-ups as well.
It’s easy to say, “Just don’t buy it, just don’t eat it.” No kidding. If you have kids, who, like all their friends, like the occasional treat or bag of chips and, I don’t know, freakin’ bread on their sandwiches, then the “just don’t buy it” motto goes out the window. The issue then becomes that it is in your house and you have to control what you do and don’t consume.
I have played around with all types of trends in diets and nutrition over the years. Everything from packaged meals delivered to my house to shakes to Paleo and, I’ll admit it, I was even a vegetarian for six months. All of these diets have worked to some extent. I would argue that if he or she really wanted to lose weight, a person could do any of these things and achieve results. However, when it comes to controlling food consumption, the issue is sustaining longevity.
I have been “mostly” Paleo for the best part of three years but have recently been toying with the Zone Diet as well. While I have noticed a marked improvement in stamina, rest patterns and an unprecedented reduction in headaches and allergies, in our society, Paleo is not always the easiest thing to follow. There is a growing trend toward gluten-free and grain-free items, and that is a huge step in the right direction. But my battle with the sugar monster will be one I continue to wage.
I’m not offering solutions or suggestions here; I’m just explaining my journey. I hope, as many of you do, to find and latch onto the one that works for me and gives me the best results over a long period of time. Making a lifestyle change is the key to any success — in CrossFit, Paleo, anything. Being disciplined is where I sometimes fall short.
I’m sure many of you have successes and failures with dieting and nutrition. I’d like to explore this topic in a later column. Please email me your stories; I know everyone has one. Send them to jtolgrinder @ gmail.com.
Stay on the Grind.
— Jamie Toland (JTol)