Nikki was one of the winners of our recent Performance Nutrition Challenge. I hope you all can learn from her experiences!
First, I think it should be known that I had no intentions of participating in the Nutrition Challenge, and that I was talked into it by my other half (John G). I can say that I was just plain scared and didn’t know if I had the willpower and discipline to do such a thing. Plus, I would be competing against the best! Girls that knew how to eat healthy and had been doing it for years! No way did I stand a chance!
Prior to the challenge I would have said to anyone who asked that I ate semi-healthy, and I mean ‘semi’ in the terms of I didn’t eat fast food everyday nor loaves of bread or whole cakes and pies. However, I did and do have a sweet tooth and would grab a snack of potato chips or a candy bar when I was feeling that 3:00pm crash. However, all around, I would have said I still probably ate a little bit healthier than the normal American. What did I know? I mean in all honesty, I started Crossfit in June 2009 and never lost a single pound prior to the Nutrition Challenge.
So to my dismay, I signed up for the challenge. I was a bit intimidated having my fat poked and prodded for a an actual body fat percentage, however I figured if anything, this may give me the motivation I will need. And oh boy did it! Turns out I was much ‘fatter’ than I thought. And as far as the actual fitness aspect of the challenge, I believe I was one of the last to finish….I felt it too. It took everything I had to get that workout done within the 40 minutes it took me. I realized, after almost vomiting on the floor, that after 9 months of Crossfit I was still way behind the curve.
So, diving in head first, I started my challenge! The first day, and first week dragged on forever. It was hell! I felt like just plain dog doo-doo. No energy, moody, and hating life. During this week, I ate a strict non-cheating Paleo. I started educating myself on such things as sweeteners, high glycemic index versus low, high sugar fruits versus not-so-high sugar fruits, high carb foods and low carb foods, and the evils of high-fructose corn syrup. I learned new recipes, bought almond meal, blue agave, tried and disliked almond butter, gagged on non-salted pecans, and ate lots of non-salted, non buttered vegetables, and choked down non-salted meat, and worst of all, I gave up my sweets! The first week was all about reading, learning, and getting rid of salt and processed sugar in the diet. Hating every minute of it, at the end of the first week, I stepped onto the scale and I realized I lost 4 lbs…Motivation!
Onto the second week, which began much like the first, however I explored new recipes, many of them courtesy of my fellow Crossfiters. I started to adjust and experiment with my carb intake, still choked down nuts, and fell in love with Paleo pancakes. The cravings were the toughest during this week. My body would go into a non-sweet shock meltdown. I can recall that I never wanted a candy bar more than ever during the second week. And oh, besides the non-stop cravings, the still less than stellar energy, now I also had severe digestion issues, no fair!! Two weeks ended almost the same as the first, stepping on the scale and another 2 lbs…Sweet!
The third week is really when things started coming together, the cravings diminished, my angry stomach started getting back on track, and my energy levels not only returned to normal but started to increase. Overall I noticed my performance in my workouts began getting better, I was faster and stronger! Then there came a real awesome twist…now, as most of you know I am asthmatic, an ailment I have been dealing with my whole life, I have never known what it is to live without it. My asthma is allergy and exercised induced, so if I run or pet a cat, I can almost guarantee I will have breathing issues. However, when I started eating strict Paleo, I started to notice that my actual asthma improved! I read about such things before, however I would have never guessed it could be actually true. More motivation!
By the fourth week and out, I was feeling fabulous. This is when I really started getting my act together. I had high energy, my performance at the gym was getting better, I no longer had 3:00pm crashes, my asthma had improved, and I was losing about an average of 2 to 3 lbs per week.
Half way through the Challenge, I was reading a lot about Paleo, trying new recipes, but yet overall kept my main diet simple: eggs in the morning, fruit for a snack, salad with grilled chicken at lunch, meat and veggies for dinner, lots of water, and hot tea! I started adding dairy into the diet at the 6th week in the form of greek yogurt, and I ate on average around 1500 to 1800 calories a day. If I was going to drink alcohol, I didn’t drink ‘much’ and made sure I gave up some other form of sugar-carbs for the day. Sure I had a few cheat days, but only 3 of them within the whole 2 months. Most of all I kept a routine and a journal of what I ate. I also started taking a real liking to organic produce and meats. I started taking notice of not only what I was eating but where it came from.
To conclude and say this challenge wasn’t without sacrifice would be a lie. It was tough! However, it was worth it, and probably the best thing I have ever done for myself (Thanks Jake, John and Brian).
I can now say I know what the Paleo diet truly is and what it represents. I can also say that eating ‘clean’ is the only way that you will see any improvements in your health, your body and your overall well being. I also learned that there is no magic pill! Exercise alone isn’t going to just do it alone, and that high-fructose corn syrup is in EVERYTHING. I can also say that if I didn’t have my support group of other Crossfitters, commenting about their experiences and offering their encouragement, this challenge would have been a lot harder.
After the 8 weeks were over, I lost an overall 16 lbs, dropped 4 dress sizes, saw a 17% change in body fat, and improved over 9 minutes on my workout challenge. I know for a fact, that eating basically a Paleo diet is a way of life now, and I am continuing to improve. My workouts are getting better, and I have continued to lose weight (25 lbs in total to this day), and I feel better than I have probably since pre-college years. I hope and encourage anyone to step up to a Nutrition Challenge, because it may change your life too.