I thought I'd take a moment to introduce myself.
My name is Mel, and I'm an engineer. I work with airplane engines during the day. Well, not with the actual engines, I just poke around on their computerized models and get them to do my bidding. After work, I head to Crossfit most every day, and then I come home. I plan to talk briefly about Crossfit and why I love it so much in later posts.
In the meantime? I eat. I love eating! I always have. A pleasant day off for me includes a few hours spent foraging at a farmer's market, local "hippie" co-op, or a high-quality grocery store, like Whole Foods or Nugget or Town & Country here in Seattle.
In the last several years, I stopped eating certain things. I discovered that any type of dark soda or milk chocolate contributed to a horrible acne problem. I also figured out that I was lactose intolerant. I tried to get around these issues by using stronger and stronger acne medication, and taking supplements like Lactaid so I could enjoy my ice cream.
What was worse, I was fat. I am 5'5", and in college I got pretty close to pushing 180 lb. I would not have considered myself attractive, and although I had nice legs, that was about all I liked about myself. I had chronic knee pain, due to weak muscles around my knee joints, and running or doing many physical things were out of the question for me. Ugh! What a horrible way to live!
After college, I moved to Maryland from California for a job, and lost about 20 lb, probably by just eating better quality food. I was no longer completely, overwhelmingly tempted by the Dairy Queen that was a half block from my apartment, nor the countless vending machines and fast food areas in and around campus. It also helped that my new friends in Maryland weren't overweight, either. It is my estimation that misery loves company (or else there wouldn't be an aphorism for it!), and the fact that I was friends with a lot of fat people in college wasn't helping me get anywhere with my body.
Still, I was stuck at around 160 lb. Still, UGH! I ate out a lot in Maryland, and we tended to eat out at places like Subway, or Panera Bread. I could, and would, eat a loaf of artisanal bread with some cheese and salami for my day's food. Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts made regular appearances.
Then, I moved to Seattle. And I became a food snob. I really think this is what saved me.
No more fast food, period. By now, sodas had become a distant memory. No more processed foods. Gradually, foods began to drop off my "Acceptable Eating" list:
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Partially hydrogenated, or fully hydrogenated, oils (usually soybean or corn)
- Foods billed as "low" or "non" fat (when companies make low or no-fat substitutes, they often increase the amount of sugar and / or salt in a food to make up for "mouth feel" and the lack of taste associated with the loss of fat).
Okay... I was doing better. I was building up my physical fitness slowly. I started with two pilates classes a week (they were free in my apartment building in a Seattle neighborhood called Belltown), then I amped that up, then discovered spinning (biking) classes and kickboxing at a local gym chain (and made my friend go with me).
Still, things were not right. The acne had subsided a lot, but was still not completely eradicated. I was still using ProActiv twice a day (a product that I can actually highly recommend, though it isn't "natural").
I had substituted a lot of things to comfort me. Soy and rice - milk ice creams marched in. Dark chocolate didn't cause acne.
Then, at the suggestion of my parents, I tried eliminating all grains. WHAT?, you may ask?? How do people LIVE without grains???
Very Well, actually.
Let's get one thing clear. No Grains means NO GRAINS. No corn, rice, wheat, barley, oats, quinoa, etcetera. And you know what? My knees felt better! And what's more, I could eat dairy! I literally could eat a bowl of ice cream and not suffer in the bathroom a couple of hours later!
Then I discovered something called Crossfit. It had been at the urging of my old gymnastics coach, actually. He thought I would like it. I needed something because the gym I had been going to was moving and would no longer be anywhere convenient for me to attend.
I tried Crossfit. IT WAS HARD. OH MY GOD, IT WAS HARD. Squats? Deadlifts? Seriously!!!??? I had trouble getting out of bed the following days.
After I started Crossfit for a few months, I started hearing talk of the "Paleo" diet (Google it for more information).
Basically, the Paleo diet consists of eating as would a Paleolithic person. Essentially, the diet restricts you to the following foods: meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts. That's it. Sound crappy? It's not.
I feel great eating on this diet! And believe me, there is PLENTY to eat. I can hear people murmuring, saying that they are vegetarian or vegan because they do not want to harm animals. OK, but hear me out.
The best meat for you is grass-finished meat. This means the animal has grown up eating grass, a food that is natural for it. It eats grass until the day it is slaughtered. When cows in corporate feedlots grow up, they eat corn their entire lives. Cows are not meant to eat corn, and this creates a whole host of other problems like needing prophylactic antibiotics because their stomachs are now at an acidic pH when they are naturally supposed to be at a neutral pH (reference Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma". He does a great job citing sources for this information).
For those of you that eat "fake meat", as I call it (soy burgers or Tofu Pups or Sei-tan, or Chik'un, etcetera), I wonder if you really know what is going into those foods. Probably lots of salt, for one thing (to add flavor). Possibly corn syrup or some type of sugar. Preservatives. Chemicals to make them look, feel, and taste like the meats which you so righteously turn your noses up at. Check out what's in a Tofu Pup. (While you're there, read what's in the Hebrew National hot dog! EW on both counts!). I am always curious about vegetarians and vegans... Are you eating meat because a) you don't like the taste, b) your religion calls for you to not eat animals, c) you don't want animals to die for you, d) you think you're eating "cleaner" by not eating meat? I can understand all those reasons, though I may not agree with all of them. In fact, I always wonder why these meat-replacement products were created in the first place. If you choose to not eat the real meats, why would you choose to eat a chemical-ridden facsimile? (the same query I put to those who choose to eat low quality foods of any type, actually!)
So here's the deal. I buy my meat from a local farmer, north of Seattle. He farms cattle, pigs, sheep, and he might have chickens now. If he doesn't, I know two other farms who do. It ain't cheap. I buy my (organic) vegetables and fruits mostly from a CSA (community supported agriculture), or the farmer's market, or, if I really can't get them anywhere else, the local high-quality grocery store. That ain't cheap, either. But I look at it as Preventive Maintenance on my body. There is a computer saying: Crap In, Crap Out. That's how I look at my body and food now.
Oh, I still eat out. But I try to go to high quality restaurants that aren't serving weird amalgamations of pre-processed items.
Anyway, the whole point about Crossfit. I lost a little more weight. I am still intent on losing a little more weight. These days I hover around 150 lb. But you know what? I can deadlift 75 kg (165 lb) for 3 reps. I can do 45 kg (99 lb) backsquats for 15 reps. I can run! I can squat! My knees don't hurt! I can ski (though I ski badly)! It is AMAZING the changes I have seen in myself. And I have found a whole new community of friends, people who are committed to living and eating well, enjoying life and getting outdoors.
My physical ideal used to be Latin female actresses and singers - rounded, beautiful, not too thin, and sassy. These days, my female physical ideal circles around women who can do 10 dead-hang pullups, who have muscular shoulders, women who can snatch a 24 kg kettlebell, with hands with callouses from gripping various barbells or pullup bars, six-pack abs, thighs that barely jiggle and calves like hamhocks, and still manage to look like a woman. A very strong, confidant woman... who could kick your ass if she wanted to. And they are right next to me, sweating and grunting just as furiously, as we both strive to improve ourselves one harrowing class after another!
Stand by, the dietribe will continue...