There are a few things that have made a radical impact on my life. The first is when I became a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Second to that, parenthood. But after that?
Crossfit has changed my life like nothing else.
This is the story of who I was and how training hard (specifically, Crossfit) and eating right (namely, “Paleo”) transformed my life.
Read the whole shebang, or skip down to the Before & After photos.
The “Before” Me
Growing up, I was a healthy, active child of the eighties. I was stick skinny when I was little, but as I hit puberty, I gained weight and was always a little on the heavy side. I did gymnastics through high school but was only an average athlete at best. I ate decent foods, but plenty of junk too.
When I went to college, I gained the typical “freshman 15” and then some. I was chunky. I started playing ultimate frisbee my sophomore year and toned down some, but I’ve always been on the heavy side of fit. At my best, I was around a size 12, and at my worst, up to a size 16.
I got married in 1998, enjoyed life as a DINK for a several years before settling down to have kids. Fast forward to 2011: I had 3 kids (8, 6, and 4) and had “let myself go”. My lifestyle was sedentary and I wasn’t doing any real form of exercise. I was wearing my stretched out size 14s and honestly, was probably a 16, but refused to shop in that size. I pretty much avoided the camera, but here’s a picture of me from that spring:
My husband, Mike, has always been in great shape (he’s one of those tall, lean guys who has to work to put on weight) and he had been doing Crossfit for several years at this point. Frankly, I was sick of hearing him talk about it. I called him a Crossfit evangelist, because he was always talking it up to people everywhere we went.
For me, Crossfit held little appeal. For one, it sounded hard, and two, it involved heavy lifting — something I had no experience with and no interest in. I knew there were lots of ways to get in shape, and since he was already in shape, I didn’t see Crossfit as being any better than any other program out there.
But, I was getting sick and tired of how I looked and how I felt. I began to feel like if I didn’t do something to take charge of my health, I would lose all hope of ever feeling good about myself.
I had a long list of reasons why Crossfit wasn’t right for me: the box was too far from the house, it was expensive, the class times were too limited, I had kids that needed childcare, yada yada yada. But, since doing nothing wasn’t working, I decided to give Crossfit a try.
November 2011 — Crossfit Begins
With much trepidation, I showed up for my first WOD on November 2, 2011. It was “The Kracken“, four rounds of farmer’s carries, jumping squats, and kettlebell swings. It was hard, I had to seriously scale it back and I thought I might throw up. But the feeling I got from completing the workout was addictive.
I attended Foundations classes and started working out 4-5 times a week. It wasn’t convenient and it definitely wasn’t easy. Many times I wondered if I would puke (I didn’t). Occasionally I fought the urge to cry because I was struggling even with the scaled version of the workout. But every WOD I finished gave me a sense of accomplishment and an endorphin rush that kept me coming back for more.
Even though I started out having to scale (or modify) everything — push-ups on knees, pull-ups using a band for assistance, etc. — I could tell I was getting stronger and getting better at the movements.
After one month, I lost around 10lbs and was back in a size 12. After two months, I was down ~15lbs and could fit into a size 10. I was thrilled! The last time I remembered wearing a size 10 was my wedding dress, 13 years earlier.
January 2012 — The Paleo Challenge
In January, my gym kicked off a “Performance Nutrition Challenge”. I paid money to participate, and then committed to eat clean for 60 days. That meant no grains, legumes, dairy, or sugar. This style of eating is commonly called the “Paleo Diet”.
I love bread and sugar and ice cream, so I was pretty sure I would NOT be able to do this diet, but I was willing to try. I figured I’d give it a month and see how it went.
It was a challenging adjustment at first, but after a week or two it got easier. And lo and behold … the pounds starting to fall off. I couldn’t believe how fast I was dropping weight AND I was getting stronger, fitter and more toned. All while eating A LOT of food.
One of the things I love about the Paleo diet is that you don’t have to count calories or limit how much you eat — you simply exclude foods that are bad for you and eat more of the things that make you feel better. I ate a TON of (grassfed) beef, lots of (healthy) fat and lots of veggies. And the weight kept falling off.
The “reward clothes” I had bought myself when I hit size 10 were starting to get too loose. I had no idea where I would end up, but at the end of nutrition challenge, I had lost another 14 lbs and was now wearing a size 8.
At the end of the challenge, I found out I was one of three winners. I tied with another guy for both the “body transformation” and “improvement in performance” categories.
After the strict challenge ended, my new challenge was to figure out how to eat when I wasn’t living by someone else’s rules. It took a few weeks to develop a rhythm, but after so much success, I was determined to not reverse my course.
Now, Mike & I try and eat by the 80/20 rule. This means we strive to eat clean nearly all the time, but designate Fridays as our “cheat day”. That way, if we are craving a sweet treat or other indulgence, we save it for a Friday so we practice delayed gratification and limit the amount of junk we put in our bodies. We’ll still indulge in a birthday cake or tortilla chip here and there, but we both feel better when we eat right. And after seeing how dramatic a role diet plays in my health, I am unwilling to throw away all that progress.
In May, our gym started another 60 day challenge and I signed up again. This time, I was less committed. I was strict for about 30 days, then allowed myself a few cheats here and there. While I wasn’t living as strictly as the challenge required, I was still mostly Paleo (with a few more dark chocolates treats sprinkled in there) and I was still working out 5xs a week.
That challenge is now over, and even though I wasn’t super strict, I still managed to lose 9lbs and now I am down to a size 6! For the first time in my adult life, I’m not embarrassed to be in a bathing suit.
The “Now” Me
I look at myself now and can’t even believe I am the same person I was a year ago. I’m proud of how I look and I feel great. I also LOVE how strong I am. There is something incredibly empowering about being able to lift heavy stuff. Remember back in the beginning when I said I wasn’t interested in lifting heavy weights? It’s now my favorite aspect of Crossfit.
Photos Courtesy of David “Chef” Wallach / Crossfit Rubicon
Before & After Summary / Photos
Here are a couple of side-by-side pictures that compare the “then me” to the “now me.”.
I took the first photo the first week I started Crossfit, and the second photo last week:
I didn’t take a back shot in November, but did in January for my first challenge:
Before Crossfit & Paleo:
188 lbs, size 14+
After 8 months of Crossfit and 6 months of Paleo:
150lbs, size 6, at least 8.5 inches off my waist
(I didn’t take measurements until two months into Crossfit)
Not to mention strong and fit!
At age 38, I am, by far, in the best shape of my life. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. But I also believe it’s never too late!
As dramatic as the change has been in my life, I know I am nothing special. The secret to my success is simple:
Find good coaches, and follow their advice. Show up and do the work.
I share all this not to brag about myself (although I am super proud of the work I’ve put in and the results I’ve achieved), but to show others that anyone can change if they are willing to take it one day at a time and do the work.
I was so skeptical of the Paleo diet when Mike first started it. I mean, how could eating all that red meat and FAT be good for you? But after trying it for 30 days, I became a believer and I bet you will too.
If you are interested in learning more about The Paleo Diet/eating clean, check out Whole 9 Life‘s 30 day challenge or Robb Wolf‘s book, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet, which also has a 30 day plan and is another great resource.
I was skeptical for years of Crossfit — I mean it just sounds crazy and who wants to work that hard? But again, I can’t argue with the results and now I can’t imagine doing anything different.
I love Crossfit for its community aspect, the creativity of the workouts (you’ll never be bored. Sore? Yes, but bored, never) and the results it achieves.
If you are interested, come check out where I train, Crossfit Rubicon in Tysons Corner, VA. The owner, David “Chef” Wallach, knows his stuff and is an expert in both training the right way and in nutrition. And if you’re not near us, look for a Crossfit affiliate near you!
Lastly, if you *really* want to see the power of Crossfit, check out the Crossfit Games — watch the videos and see the amazing things these top tier athletes can do!