“I’m pretty sure I’ve got the ‘fat kid’ genome in my DNA,” she says as longs for a donut between lifts. Then, she crushes some heavy snatch drills before returning home to make a clean meal of almond-flour crusted chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes. Donut craving resisted.
It’s practically a rite of passage in a CrossFitter’s fitness journey… you realize nutrition is far more impactful on your WODs than how much time you spend on a roller, how much money you spend on protein shakes, or how many classes you attend per week. It’s a brutal realization because we think we have “earned” our right to eat whatever we want. We can pay for it, so we can eat it, right? I worked out today, so I’m in better nutritional shape than anyone else, right? We’ve got news for you, even the head honchos of CrossFit know what’s up in their pyramid of fitness:
The daily decision between convenient, processed foods and wholesome, simpler foods sadly doesn’t ever go away; it’s foundational to our health. As owner of CrossFit New England (oh, and by the way, coach to CrossFit Games champions Mat Fraser and Katrin Davidsdottir), Ben Bergeron puts it this way--if you ask ANYONE how their normal nutrition is, everyone, to a person, says, “pretty good.” You may think about your kids, a roommate, or your high-school-age self as the comparison, but no one truly knows that they eat “pretty good” unless they can define how different foods affect their bodies.
Let me say that again, no one truly knows that they eat well unless they can define how different foods affect their bodies. You need a true comparison. How does your current body respond to small, measurable changes? No one can compare for you.
Athletes at CFI occasionally ask for nutritional pointers. As a coach, it’s so difficult to help an athlete when the athlete does not reflect on what he or she is eating. “Tell me about your typical day’s food and drink” yields a murky soup of “um” and “mostly good” responses. Why? People don’t enjoy looking in the mirror when it’s donuts versus broccoli. In fact, try writing all you eat in a journal for one week. It’s hard looking at your true habits when you write down all the crap peddled to you at the supermarket, so best to ignore the question, yeah?
Anecdotally, I want to share my programmed experience with nutrition these past 50 days. The Whole30 Challenge is tough, but the benefits are impactful--they bring awareness to me, myself, and I.
Whole30: A Simple Reset
The Whole30 Challenge is a month-long, “hard reset” of your body. By giving up grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, and...wait for it...sugars and sweeteners, you are removing cravings and dependencies that are endemic to our American diets. The Whole30 Challenge has a HUGE following. I mean super huge. Like, brands even print “Whole30 approved” on certain items. Not sure about what you can eat? There are numerous bloggers ready to answer you immediately.
Perhaps the most curious rule of Whole30 is no measuring. No body weight scales. No food weight scales. No measurements of your body. Eat compliant foods, and eat however much you want. See the results in the mirror, but don’t put numbers to them. Having measured food for macros before, this was a strange change for me.
So why did I do this? The “hard reset” of your body brings massive benefits not on day 29 or day 30, but the days thereafter. The program instructs you to reintroduce food types to your diet and observe how they affect you over three days. Don’t go out on day 31 and consumer alcohol AND dairy AND sugar AND bread at the same time. Reintroduce the one thing you missed most, and pay attention to how it affects you.
I, for example, LOVE cheese. But, dairy tore me up in the reintroduction stage even more than sugar. A scale didn’t have to show me that cheese was a bad choice. My digestive system and energy overtly responded with, “Yeah… stop eating that.” I now have a very good understanding of my choice to eat dairy from now on. Apply to all foods, and you’ll be well versed about your unique metabolism--converting foods to energy.
So where did I go from those first 30 days? The creators of the Whole30 Challenge have an answer for that, too. Coined “Food Freedom,” the reintroduction days help you decide your new food rules for yourself. Based on reintroduction, weigh how important it is to you to keep being Whole30 compliant with enjoying non-compliant foods occasionally. These are guidelines to feel less constricted yet reap the benefits of that hard reset. For example, here are some of my food freedom guidelines:
Because I saw awesome results from strict Whole30, these adjustments give me more wiggle room while maintaining the Whole30 effects.
Whole30 Challenge may not be appealing to everyone, but it certainly brings focused awareness to your body’s reaction to different foods. Whether you choose Whole30 challenge or a simple food journal, how will you answer the question, “Tell me about your daily food and drink choice?”
Coach Josh Womack