My 90 Day Paleo Challenge. Is Success All About the Numbers?

Whole9

Today I'm getting personal.  

 

I had a crappy few days and threw myself a pity party becasue I didn't get what I wanted.  Thank goodness, I decided not to permanently park in "boo-hoo-poor-me-ville" (yep - I made that one up myself!), and survived the storm.  The experience really got me thinking about how easily I gave power to something I had no control over, and I realized that sharing my story could help someone else.  So I'm going to expose my wound.

 

I've been on a journey with fitness, health and wellness my entire life.  I've been exercising since I was a kid, and it sparked such a passion that I have two degrees in the field, numerous certifications and have been teaching and training others since I was 19 years old.

 

Most recently, I "drank the CrossFit cool-aid" and started my own CrossFit journey back in 2011.  By October of 2012 I was ripe and ready to take on the Whole9 nutrition program.  My story of evolution in both CrossFit and with nutrition using the Whole9 lifestyle has had an absolutely positive impact on every aspect of me in mind-body-and-spirit.  

 

Except for one.  

And I almost lost the whole point of why I've made these changes.

 

Today I'm going to talk to you about numbers and how they can inflict great damage when given power to do so.  This is my story, and what I decided to do with it.  

 

My 90 Day Paleo Challenge:  Is Success All About the Numbers? 

Let's start at the beginning.

 

If you've been a subscriber to Achieving a Pain Free Life and Living, you well know my workout of choice (after a regular postural therapy practice of course) is CrossFit (see 3-2-1 Go! My Jump from Postural Therapy to CrossFit).  I joined CrossFit Templar back in August 2011.

 

At the time I thought I was pretty strong.  But the numbers didn't lie.  I realized that I was group fitness "fit", but somehow, I had lost my way as a former athlete.  My CrossFit Total was 265 (Shoulder Press = 55 lbs., Dead Lift = 135lbs., Back Squat = 75lbs.)  I had some work to do.

 

That day, I remember my Elements Coach telling me the one thing she directly attributed to a dramatic affecting her performance for the better was her diet.  And by diet, I mean eating Paleo.  If you saw my Elements Coach doing a WOD, you had to take notice.  She was (and continues to be) amazingly strong and powerfully fast.  

 

I payed attention, but freely admit I also had the typical knee-jerk reaction most people have when introduced to the concept of Paleo.  I thought okay..... whatever... seems extreme.  I politely dismissed it and I went to work.  

 

It didn't take long to fall completely in love with CrossFit.  CrossFit was everything I knew and loved about sports and training all wrapped up in a power packed hour (or less).  As a former competitive rower, I knew and loved these kind of workouts, and it felt like "coming home".

 

I got strong, and my body changed pretty quickly.  By the time January 2012 rolled around, I was totally "in" and ready to take on a 30 Day Paleo Challenge.  

 

I'd had time to read and learn more about what Paleo actually was and what was required of me.  Considering my history of severe allergies, it made complete and total sense.  Why wasn't I doing it?   And what the heck?  What's the worse thing that could happen?  30 days wouldn't kill me now, would it?  At this time, a BodPod analysis (University of Minnesota) was NOT mandatory, but highly encouraged as a measurement tool.  

 

So being a Phys.Ed grad myself, I jumped at the chance to get a baseline number and took the BodPod plunge!

 

Here's me Day 1 of my first 30 Day Paleo Challenge (January 2nd, 2012)

 

Here's my results:

  • % Fat = 29%
  • % Fat Free Mass = 71.0%
  • Fat Mass = 44.373 lb
  • Fat Free Mass = 108.656 lb
  • Body Mass = 153.028

 

Hmmm.  The numbers didn't lie.  

 

At that time, I wasn't overly surprised.  In fact, I was regretful that I hadn't done one at the very start of my CrossFit journey because I knew my body had already changed for the better.  

 

The numbers were motivation.  I was committed to making dietary changes through the Paleo challenge and was very happy to have a baseline to measure my results from.

 

Here's me Day 31 of the 30 Day Challenge (January 31st, 2012)
 

My BodPod analysis was:

  • % Fat = 27.9%
  • % Fat Free Mass = 72.1.0%
  • Fat Mass = 42.484 lb
  • Fat Free Mass = 109.946 lb
  • Body Mass = 152.429

 

Improvement!  The numbers were in my favor.  Everything was going in the right direction, so I was happy.

 

My body composition, strength and performance in the gym was noticable.  I felt great and loved what the addition of the BodPod analysis did for me as a motivational tool.  

 

I didn't win that Paleo challenge at my Box, but it didn't matter.  I felt like a winner!  This was a new lifestyle and I loved it.

 

So fast forward through the next 7 months.  Because I hadn't made the complete connection between my diet and performance I played the numbers game.  You know, the one where you say you're  eating "Paleo" 90% of the time.  I thought it was a great compromise.  

 

Even though I could feel the difference in my phsical performance and allergy symptoms when I ate non-paleo foods (grain specifically), I thought my 90% solution was working for me.  I'm mean hey, I had a busy life - a husband, three kids, a business to run, WOD's to do, and I sometimes eating "clean" wasn't always easy and accessible.  I justified it.

 

And the numbers supported me.  After 7 more months, and adhereing to the "90% Paleo concept",  I went back in for a BodPod in August, 2012.  (Sorry, no photo taken this time).

  • % Fat = 27.2%
  • % Fat Free Mass = 72.8%
  • Fat Mass = 41.435 lb
  • Fat Free Mass = 110.948 lb
  • Body Mass = 152.383

 

I was on a roll!  Even without eating so strict, the numbers were still moving in the right direction.  So when my Box decided to offer a 90 and 180 Day Challenge in October of 2012, I was IN! 


But this one was different.  

 

This time a BodPod analysis was required as a before and after comparison.  We were given the option to look into Dallas and Melissa Hartwig's Whole9 Program and consider using that for our dietary guidlines for nutritional change using Paleo.

 

I am SO GLAD I did!  

 

What I learned in their book "It Starts With Food" and from their free resources truly changed my dietary habits and life for the better.  

 

They were able to convey very complex nutrition information in a simple and concise way.  I finally understood that eating 90% Paleo wasn't doing me any favors.  As long as I believed that lie, I would never truly know what being 100% healthy felt like.  

 

I learned that I had every marker of inflammation and insulin resistance due to my history of severe food allergies, a love of super-abnormally flavored foods, and eating disorder brought on by my participation in competitive weight-class rowing in my late-teens and early 20's.

 

Eureka!  I finally made the connection between allergies, chronic inflammation, low energy and how it all related to food and my body's ability to process it.  I understood how it important nutrition was on my physical performance.  it was as if everything came together and finally made sense.

 

A Change For the Better!

Not only did the Whole9 nutrition program change me, but I now had an easy to share resource to give my own clients who were experiencing chronic pain (once the body is aligned, and you still have pain, then you HAVE to look at the diet).  I was able to educate them about the connection between physical pain and diet.  I began sharing it with my clients and family.  And they began to change and get better too!

 

So I'm sure you're thinking - what's the point of your story girl?

 

It was all well and good until two numbers didn't do what I wanted them to do.  

 

At the start of my 90 Day Challenge we repeated the CrossFit Total.  My numbers had gone up dramatically in one year, going from 265 to 455 (Shoulder Press = 90, Dead Lift = 205, Back Squat - 160).  We did a Baseline Test (500 m Row, 40 Air Squats, 30 Sit Ups, 20 Hand Release Push Ups, 10 Pull-ups) and I recorded a 5:10 .  

 

I was happy, until it was BodPod time.  This time the numbers didn't seem to be playing by the rules.  My results got worse.

 

In October, my results were:  

  • % Fat = 29%
  • % Fat Free Mass = 71.0%
  • Fat Mass = 44.373 lb
  • Fat Free Mass = 108.656 lb
  • Body Mass = 153.028

 

What?  The body fat went up?  Hmmm.... I wan't too pleased.  Now that I had read It Starts With Food, I realized that I had not been eating enough.  But honestly, who really knows?  I took the results and plunged into my Whole9 90 Day Challenge with a re-newed commitment and vision to truly change my nutrition.

 

Boy of boy!  Were Dallas and Melissa right.  I changed.  My body changed, my mood changed, I got stronger, I felt good, and nothing was going to stop me.  I was hitting PR's and RX'ing WODs at a pace that truly surprised and motivated me.

 

I made it though Thanksgiving, birthdays, family visits, Christmas, New Years, and traveling out of state an abroad without any slip up.  I could always find proper nutrition wherever I went as long as I planned accordingly, and that's what I did.

 

So you can imaging how excited I was at the end of my 90 Days.  I figured for sure I had lost body fat and gained muscle.  My CrossFit Total went up from 455 to 495 (Shoulder Press = 95, Dead Lift = 215, Back Squat 185)  and CrossFit Baseline went down from a 5:10.0 to a 4:51.0

 

Set up to Fail?

I was expecting good things (results wise) the day I went in for my BodPod analysis.  Except, I didn't get what I wanted.  Not even close.

Day 98 of the 90 Day Challenge (January 26th, 2013)

  • % Fat = 32%
  • % Fat Free Mass = 68.0%
  • Fat Free Mass = 99.286 lb
  • Body Mass = 146.088

Sure I lost almost 7 pounds, but what the heck?  It said my body fat went up by 3%.

I was super confused by that, and told the operator those results couldn't possibly be right.  He didn't know what I had done, the sacrifice I had made, the hours I had put in.  It couldn't possibly be right.

 

I asked him to re-test me right away. 

So he politely obliged me, re-calibrated the bodpod and re-ran the test.  This time my body fat decreased by 1.8% and my muscle mass was down by almost 2 pounds.  

  • % Fat = 27.2%
  • % Fat Free Mass = 72.8%
  • Fat Free Mass = 106.367 lb
  • Body Mass = 146.080

My head was spinning.  I asked how there could be such a difference (a 5% change in body fat from one test to the next? A ten pound muscle difference?)  Irregardless of the two results,  I think we can all agree that the BodPod has potential calibration issues and technical error).

 

I couldn't figure out how this could have happened?  I lost weight, I was stronger, and eating really clean.  It wasn't fair! How could the numbers at worse be up 3% body fat and at best only down 1.8% with a loss in muscle mass?  I felt like my body betrayed me.

 

A gamut of wild emotions coursed through me.  I was devastated and frustrated, and honestly, super bummed out!  I wanted to win that challenge and well, those results were'nt going to do it for me.

 

I Gave Away My Power and Lost Focus 

It didn't matter that all the other numbers were positive and in my favor.  I mean come on, all you have to do is look at my photos and gains in the gym.  But, no.  I took the bait, and let the body fat calibration and muscle mass numbers rule my emotions.  

 

I'd be lying if I was okay at the time.  Nope.  I went to "boo-hoo-poor-me-ville".  I could not understand how my body fat can was still so high and that I had actually lost muscle mass.  I ate clean, put in the time at the box, and got lots of rest.  I was so proud of myself.  In that 98 days I did not blow a single day. Not once.  I just couldn't believe my body fat was still as high as I was a year ago. 

 

I allowed those numbers get the best of me emotionally went to a dark familiar place that used to let my self-worth be determined by a scale.

Is There Power in the Numbers?

It didn't matter that I looked different and performed different.  I focused on what I had no control over.  The numbers.  I got engrossed in things over I had no control over, and allowed it to adversely affect the things I did.  My emotional health and well-being.  

 

I couldn't argue with the BodPod result but at the same time I couldn't find my inner voice and personal strength to say "screw that" and enjoy how much different my appearance and performance changed.

It turned into a test of my character. Would I throw in the towel if I didn't get what I wanted. I wanted to be normal and have a lean body fat percentage around 20-25% not 32%. Unfortunately, I failed the test for the first few days.

 

There had to be a purpose in all of this.  So I had to ask myself the bigger question.  Why did I care?  

 

My family and circle of grace didn't care about the numbers.  Only I cared.  I know that numbers are just numbers and I get to choose if they define me.  I know that my self-worth cannot be based on a scale or what a machine says is my body fat is or isn't. The truly sad part is that as a health and wellness professional, I

  • know all this
  • believe all this, and
  • coach all this for my clients and group fitness students

 

But I faltered for a bit in my ability to delivering on it for myself. After praying and healing I decided to just let it go.  So why was I truly upset?

 

After some soul searching, it was simple.  I wanted to win the challenge.  And because I wanted to win so badly, I totally lost sight that actually I had already had won.  I just couldn't see it at the time, because I gave away my power.

 

Numbers Are Just Numbers - They Don't Define Me

Out of 24 original participants, I was one of only 10 that made it to the end. I gave this challenge my 100% and I wouldn't change a thing about it!  

 

In 98 Days, I learned that:

  • I can do anything I decide I want to do.  I did not stay from my nutrition plan at all.  Not once, not one slip. I made it though Thanksgiving, birthdays, work trips, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years day,traveling to out of state competitions, and out of country.   I ate clean, ate what I believe in, I did my best to educate others, and I'm very proud of that accomplishment.  
  • I did not suffer.  I never went without food or felt like I was being denied.  I learned how to eat with intent and to nourish instead of fuel emotions and sugar-cravings.  
  • Even though I felt good before, I feel better following a Whole9 paleo based nutrition plan (sounds weird, but I can't explain it different than that). 
  • My performance has improved tremendously.  Most noticeably is my speed and endurance.  My strength has gone up as well and I have more endurance for more repetitions at higher weight.  
  • My shoulder injury healed completely.  
  • I have not been sick or fallen prey to all the crud going around . 
  • My body looks different and I like how I look.  In fact, I feel good in my skin!
  • I found a teaching voice to share this powerful nutrition information with my clients and family.  As a result, I am helping to change more lives for the better!  
  • I was always a good sleeper, but I can feel the need to sleep more and have given myself permission and learned how to sleep more (it's GREAT!)
  • The BodPod is what it is.... just a bunch of numbers.  I wish my body fat wasn't so high, but there's nothing I can do about the results.  They are what they are.  
  • My bone density is 2.5x higher than what is considered normal for my age group (I'm almost 44 years old)
 

So yes, what I really wanted was to win the 90 Day Challenge.  I thought my work and commitment would give me a chance, but the BodPod (which I had no control over) said otherwise.  I was disappointed because I felt like the body fat and muscle mass numbers did not reflect my work and dedication, so I let it defeat me.  What a baby!  All I had to do is look at the other numbers and my photos, but sadly I didn't.  In hindsight, it was most likely a gift.  I did put in the work and I am pleased.  I've made my peace with the experience now.  I just had to work and grow though it.

 

So, I guess I actually won my 90 Day Challenge after-all.  I won because I was able to get my act together and focus on the real results in mind-body-and-spirit.  And really that's what the whole point was in the first place.  Screw the BodPod numbers, they are just numbers.  

 

My life has changed for the better because of CrossFit and Whole9.    

  

And I'm never going back....