Do You Know Gluten?

Have you met gluten?
Staff of Life? Really? 

One thing I really miss now that I am “Paleo For Life” (PFL) is beer. I love beer. I could not care less about bread or pasta, but I love beer. I am thankful that there are ways to make paleo cookies and muffins because they are better (all around taste and nutritionally) than traditional bake goods and they are a good treat here and there. But there is no way to substitute beer. Sad face…well, I guess there are gluten-free beers, but they are just not Harpoon IPA.

Do you know why I don’t drink beer any more? GLUTEN! Gluten is the reason I no longer drink the beaaahhhs. Gluten is the toxic, inflammatory devil protein found in certain grains – wheat, rye, barley, etc. So, yes, anything that contain wheat contains gluten. Check out just about any packaged food at the grocery store and you’ll probably find wheat in the ingredients. It’s hard to escape. Even things you wouldn’t think contain gluten actually do…chicken broth, soy sauce, marinades, seasonings, deli meat, and imitation seafood meat (ewww)…just to name a few.

I grew up eating gluten. I always had eczema. It was a pain in the ass, especially when I became a teenager and I was actually concerned with how I appeared to others. I remember sleeping with an ice pack between my knees to numb the itch on the skin of my inner thighs. Horrible experience. Went to the doctor, got cortisone creams and ointments, took Benadryl, and all that fun stuff. “It’s probably because of the weather”…”Did you change your laundry detergent?”…never once did anyone suggest it could be diet-related.

When I moved to Oregon I was in heaven because there was a microbrewery on just about every corner; walking distance from my apartment. There was also a place with amazing pizza, American Dream, they even used beer in their dough recipe. Double-whammy! I wondered why I broke out in a full body rash, despite the fact that I was drinking beer and eating pizza about three days a week.

When I “went Paleo” in January of 2010 I stopped having regular breakouts of eczema and psoriasis. Now, after completely transforming the way I eat and adapting to “a new normal” I rarely have skin issues. Unless of course I choose to eat the gluten and see what happens. This is what I did about a month ago. I enjoyed an IPA or two and a fairly large hamburger bun and voila…

 Angry, angry skin.
 Inflammation City!
Do not do this to yourself!
It took about two weeks for my elbow to completely heal up. It got red, hot, sore, then it became itchy flaky and peel. I also broke out in an itchy, bumpy rash all over my legs. I know, this might be TMI, but I want to share this because I know there are many people with similar experiences. I wish someone had clued me in earlier. I also experience other symptoms related to gluten consumption. I get really achy and feel like I am 80 years old. I feel fatigued, have no energy, and experience moodiness. So it’s not good for the people around me either. 
If you suspect you might be sensitive to gluten my suggestion is to eliminate it completely for at least 30 days. I mean completely. Scour ingredient lists, prepare you own food, don’t go to restaurants. After complete elimination add it back in. Take one day and eat cereal or a big bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and then pasta for dinner. Note how you feel on that day and the days and weeks following. If you have no symptoms then you make the call as to whether you’ll allow gluten back into your life permanently or not. But before you do, do me a favor and Google and read about “leaky gut”. If you do have some sort of reaction you probably are sensitive to gluten.
As for me, I will not be enjoying pints of beer or slices of pizza any time soon. I am happy with my meat and vegetables and occasional margarita.
Cheers, friends! Please post comments here or on Facebook. Let me know how your body reacts to gluten.
GLUTEN READS

Keeping it Paleo on the Road

So this is pretty exciting. Tim Archer, a long-time member at The Fort CrossFit, messaged me a while back with a great idea for a blog post. He’d gone into a lot of detail in his message, so I asked him to beef it up and told him I would post his write-up. Tim’s a great guy; husband, dad, athlete, and Paleo-enthusiast. With that, I would like to introduce guest author Tim Archer… 
Anyone that has chosen the paleo lifestyle will tell you that it’s challenging at times but a little pre-planning goes a long way. That being said, over the past few months I have run into a few people that have said “I can’t eat paleo when I’m driving for work. You can’t really eat a salad and drive.” I am one of those people that have to drive more than my fair share for work and I realize that not everyone has a conventional job where they sit at a desk and can hit the break room for lunch everyday. Having to drive during lunch times usually results in the not-so-safe practice of eating and driving. Here is what I have found helpful when trying to keep it paleo while not slowing you down:
Let’s start easy and simple…fruits and veggies. Most of them are ready to eat (once you wash it and maybe peel it). Not a whole lotta prep there.
A staple for anyone on the go should be a good trail mix. None of that store bought crap with the chocolate chips, but a good homemade one. Before you leave you should make sure you have wallet, keys, cell phone and trail mix. Easy to make, easy to eat and easy to take especially if you portion it out into zip lock bags while you make it.
If you’re not into making your own trail mix but want something quick then check out Steve’s Original Paleo Kits. They are awesome. The jerky tastes great and there is enough protein there to help fill you up. No need to heat or refrigerate. Sounds easy and it is.
If you want to get creative then sandwiches are always a good idea. No, not with bread, but with Boston lettuce. A couple cold cuts and veggies with some guac inside, then wrap it up in the lettuce…mmmm good times.
One of the things that I make every week is mini quiches. I know I just handed in my man card by using the term quiche. What if I called them egg muffins? Not any better huh…oh well, I tried. Cut up some ham and veggies put them in a muffin tray then fill the remainder with scrambled eggs with a little splash of coconut milk to keep them fluffy. Man, using terms like “fluffy” aren’t really helping the man card situation, but you get the idea, instant to-go breakfast that you can eat cold. And speaking of eggs the always trusted hard boiled egg works too. Just peel them the night before so there is one less step.
Taking left-overs from the night before is a good way to save time and money but the problem is trying to get them warm. I like to call this the Macgyver. The most effective way to get your left-overs warm-ish is while you are driving leave the container on the dash out of the way but over a vent. Crank the defroster which will get it to a tolerable level. If the sun is out then it will help out. Not pretty, but it works. Then when you stop to take a break you can eat decent food.
Lastly, a few paleo treats or a Larabar can work too. Yes, a paleo treat is still a treat, but it is way better than a Big Mac or anything else from the dollar menu. The treats will also result in fewer pit stops on the way home too.
With these options, and I’m sure there are a bunch more, anyone on the go should be able to eat paleo with just a little bit of pre-planning.
Thanks for writing this, Tim. There are some awesome ideas here. The Macyver is definitely my favorite – very creative. I agree 100% that you must be prepared in order to remain successful when eating whole, clean foods. Most do not come in a package and they are certainly not convenient. With some planning and prep-time, you will be on the road to success, paleo meals and snacks in tow. 

It’s Not About That Silly Number!

In the fitness industry there are so many misconceptions. There’s the “women will get bulky if they lift weights”, the “I need to get rid of this little patch of fat”, and the “fat will make you fat” – just to name a few. These misconceptions somehow evolve throughout time and make their way into our conventional wisdom. Anyone who actually knows something about human physiology, anatomy  and the science of exercise and nutrition can easily disprove these beliefs and support their reasoning with sound science, but it takes someone with an open mind to actually listen and heed advice. As a fitness professional it’s frustrating to constantly see this misinformation permeate society; we see it on the covers of magazines, in the news, and, unfortunately, coming out of fitness institutions and from the mouths of so-called “experts”.
These myths confuse the hell out of us; the ones trying to fight the good fight; exercising and eating all the right things. But are we really eating the right things? Are we really getting the most out of our time at the gym?
This post is intended for everyone; guys and ladies. Most of the time when I hear “I’m afraid I will look like a freak if I lift heavy weights” it’s coming from the mouth of a female. If I ever hear a guy say that he thinks women should not lift or that they look “manly” if they are well-muscled, then he is just not worth my time and I will stop listening. I’m not kidding. Being muscular and strong is how we keep our bodies functioning like they should; preventing injury and decrepitude. 
I’ve now been on my CrossFit/Paleo journey for over three years. It’s been an amazing and rewarding journey and a huge learning process. I want to share a little bit about the journey, in order to help change your minds about some of these misconceptions and distorted ideas that float around in the fitness business. I hope you enjoy the photos as well.
             
Scale weight: About 150lbs
This picture was taken at the beginning of a 30-day Paleo Challenge in 2011. Before the challenge I was eating about 75-80% Paleo; I couldn’t commit 100%. I was still drinking alcohol on a consistent basis and eating Paleo baked goods often. Partying on the weekends takes a huge toll on the body composition and training schedule. That November challenge set me up for totally committing to this way of eating; the absence of grains, dairy, legumes, and added sugar became my “normal”. I’ve never looked back.
These photos were taken at the beginning of a Spring 2012 Paleo Challenge. The differences in my body composition after a winter of CrossFit and clean eating are apparent. During this challenge I leaned out a lot. I don’t have an after photo unfortunately. There was a problem, though. I wasn’t eating enough carbohydrate to support my activity level. I was getting all of my carbs from vegetables like kale, broccoli and asparagus, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just wasn’t enough for the amount of work I was doing in the gym and for my active job as a trainer. I found myself becoming annoyed really easily and I felt fatigued a lot of the time. In the mirror I saw the results I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable because I was miserable. You can read about my food intake back then HERE.
I thought it might just be sugar withdrawal that was making me feel so shitty, but when I began reading more about carb intake and read Sweet Potato Power, I saw the light. I tracked my daily carb intake and it was not nearly enough. I added a sweet potato to my daily food intake and it was amazing. I was hesitant because I though the dense, starchy carb source wouldn’t allow me to stay as lean as I wanted, but then the opposite happened. I actually leaned out more! The best part was that I was also a lot happier. Sweet potatoes and squash are now essential to my life, haha. Sweet potato is definitely the food that I could never live without.
 Scale Weight: 155lbs

The above photo was taken at the beginning of my January Whole30. Since September 17th, 2012 when I embarked on a 60-day challenge I have eaten very strict Paleo; the cleanest I’ve ever been, with the exception of Christmas. I ate a lot of Paleo cookies over the holidays and enjoyed a few adult beverages. It tasted good but I felt like crap and felt bloated and swollen from the sugar and booze. I felt slow in the gym. It took me about a week and a half to completely recover from this mini-bender. 
I included my weight in each of these photos to show that the number on the scale is kind of a silly thing to pay a lot of attention to. I weigh more now than I did two years ago, but I look much different; better, in my humble opinion. I am smaller now than I was back then, when I weighed less. Isn’t that strange?! I think it’s awesome. But how does this happen? Muscle is denser than body fat. So if you look at a five-pound piece of muscle it will take up less space than a five-pound piece of fat. As a result of training and clean eating, I have built muscle and reduced the amount of fat on my body. So my scale weight has increased because of the muscle, but I am smaller because I lost fat. Don’t fret if the number on the scale isn’t moving like you thought it would. In fact, put the scale in the basement or dark closet and use it sparingly, if at all. A much better way to track progress is to take measurements with a tape measure (hips, waist, chest, legs, arms) and to take before and after photos like I’ve done here. Also, gauge changes in your body by how your clothes feel. Tight jeans don’t lie!

Same weight, fat vs. muscle. Ever notice how sweet potatoes kind of look like muscles?

The next series of photos are a few of my lady CrossFit friends. They all train hard and eat clean. To me they are beautiful, fit, strong women. They are nowhere near “bulky” or “manly”.

 Dana drags the 135# sled. She works part-time and is a full-time wife and the mom of two little cuties.

Brittany does shoulder taps. She works full-time and is also a part-time fashionista.
             

Ilda with a gorgeous clean and beautiful smile. She is a full-time student, studying medicine at Dartmouth.

My hope is that post is enlightening for my readers. If you already knew all of this, then it serves as reinforcement. If you’re still skeptical I would be happy to have a chat with you. Experiment with the food you are putting into your body; change it up if it’s not working for you. Ask a good coach for some advice if you’re not performing, looking, or feeling as good as you know you could. Most of all, give your body the time it needs to change. Change does not happen overnight. We must be patient and remain focused on our goals in the gym and outside of the gym. 
Special thanks to Dana, Brittany, and Ilda for graciously agreeing to let me use their photos for this post. Thank you to my amazing chiropractors, Drs. Matt and Whitney Swiesz for repairing my posture over the past year and half. It’s very noticeable in those photos! Finally, thank you to my coaches and mentors who have helped me along this path – the entire way: My little(BIG) bro, Ky-Guy, Mike Molloy, and Rob Austin.

Please let me know what you’re thinking about this. Go forth and lift big!

Whole30 Week 1

Day 1. Felt really good to be back on the clean eating wagon. I began to crave sugar late morning so I ate an orange and it was delicious. After a tough workout I ate some ground turkey with apple sauce. I skipped my usual afternoon coffee. For dinner it was meatballs and sauce and then I called it a day for the eating. I was in bed by 8:30. It took me a little while to fall asleep, but once I did I slept like a baby.

Day 2. I didn’t have my regular baked sweet potatoes prepared for my breakfast, so I ate an apple with my two eggs. The apple tasted super sweet so early in the morning. Almost to the point where I didn’t want to eat it. I needed the carbs though. When I came home from the morning at the gym I ate 2 meatballs and some chicken with tomato sauce and a medium sized sweet potato. Yum. I definitely feel myself craving sugar since I am wondering, “What’s next?” My body is looking for a sweet treat. Sorry. Trying to load up on the water. Wanted coffee around 3 o’clock, badly. Didn’t do it. Had some herbal tea instead. Had a headache all night.

Day 3. Got out of bed fairly easily this morning. Had a bigger breakfast then usual (3 eggs, 1/2 sweet potato) since it’s a rest day. I’m finding it helpful to think about what and when I am going to be eating throughout the day. I am anticipating not feeling well later in the afternoon.

The Weekend. I made plans to visit some of my best friends who live down in Connecticut. Typically we all enjoy a few adult beverages when we’re together, especially since we don’t see each other too often. I informed them of my Whole30 endeavors and they were totally cool with it. They are CrossFitters too, so they understand the lifestyle. I was not tempted by the alcohol whatsoever. They food was more of a challenge because we were eating out. For lunch I had a plain burger. Yep, a big ol’ slab of beef atop lettuce, avocado, tomato, and jalepeno peppers. It was actually very delicious. For dinner we went to a tapas reaturant so I had pretty good control over what would go into my mouth. I had lamb chops, brussels sprouts, and butternut squash. To drink I had soda water with raspberry puree and lime.

So now it’s on to Week 2 and I am feeling really good. I hopped out of bed this morning (literally) and made my eggs and sweet potatoes. A funny thing happened…I forgot about my coffee. Normally I would bee-line to the coffee pot and pour my first cup. But today it was an afterthought. I definitely have less craving for caffeine which is nice. Before starting the Whole30 my coffee consumption was getting a little out of control. I’m really looking forward to this week at The Fort. Lots of new members and some great WODs coming up. Hard training, clean eating, lots of sleep and big smiles.

Cheers!

Played Dominos for the first time in years. Reminded me of how much I LOVE THIS GAME! 
Dominos is going on the list of things to do on Saturday nights.

T.R.E.A.T.S.

My “Power Cookies”

A few weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends to chime in and list topics they’d like me to write about. I got some really great ideas and I plan to cover all of them at some point. One that seemed relevant for this time of year was the concept that “Paleo treats are still treats and should not be consumed every day”. As a Paleo-lifestlye advocate, I remind people of this all the time, especially if they have goals to lose weight/bodyfat. I also know from personal experience that if Paleo goodies are around, I will eat them. For me, it’s better to have them as a once-in-a-while treat than an every day staple. Although there are some people who have the self-discipline to ration their treats over the course of days or weeks, I still do not believe that these things should be included in the daily diet. Here’s why:

1. Even if they do not have any added sugar or sweetener, they simulate items that usually have sugar, like cookies and muffins. They are usually high-carb and high-fat and they can stall body composition changes. Your body reacts in a similar fashion, regardless of whether the treat is Paleo or not.

2. They reinforce behavior that we’re trying to get away from. If you’ve adopted the Paleo lifestyle you know to avoid traditional gluten and sugar-laden baked goods. Creating Paleo goodies is a more nutritious alternative, but it’s really just subbing one treat for another. Better to stay away from any kind of treat if we’re trying to get away from eating them altogether, am I wrong?

3. Paleo treats keep us dependent on sweets and don’t allow us to see what our bodies can do when we eliminate them. This became evident to me during the 9-week Paleo Challenge I recently completed. Before the challenge I was baking some type of muffin or cookie or bread every two or three weeks. I was craving the sugar and feeding the addiction. But I wasn’t eating a ton of this stuff, so I didn’t really think there would be so much change when I eliminated it. During the challenge, when I was forced to alter this behavior, I stopped wanting the treats and I saw unbelievable changes in my body composition. Not only did my body change, but I actually felt better; more energy, better performance in WODs, and felt less foggy in the brain.

Quitting this stuff is a really hard thing to do. It takes a few days or weeks to rid yourself of the cravings for these kinds of treats, especially if you’re a sweet-tooth kind of person (like me). I am always jealous of people who don’t really care about sweets. Since Thanksgiving I have eaten my fair share of Paleo goodies and I am paying for it. I’ve been having cravings for sugar, I don’t feel as clear-minded, and my belly has not been happy. I’m working on telling myself “no” when I consider making Paleo goodies. For the most part it works. I also avoid wanting to eat these things by filling up on meat and vegetables. Eating a lot of protein keeps me really full and carbs tend to satisfy the need for treats, particularly dense carbs like sweet potatoes, squash, or yucca. Another strategy is to drink a lot of water throughout the day which keeps your hydrated and full and can help dissipate cravings.

There are thousands of recipes floating around out there for Paleo goodies. Anything can be Paleo-fied. Don’t let these recipes and blogs trick you into thinking that this stuff is good for you. Avoid looking at it all together if you have to. It’s easy to fall prey to the mouth-watering photos and descriptions of melt-in-your-mouth brownies and chewy gooey cookies. Those cookies are good for making you gooey, that’s for sure.

Believe me, I am a realist. I am fully supportive of enjoying your favorite indulgences a few times a year – not every day, not every week. My prescription for treat-eating is once a month maximum! Less than that if you have weight/fat-loss goals. Save them for special occasions, like the Holiday Party at The Fort :-). For now, for me, the answer is NO when it comes to eating Paleo treats. When Christmas arrives I will choose wisely…

Please post comments here or on Facebook. I’m looking forward to hearing some more strategies about how to avoid eating too many treats.

Ways to Not Fall Off the Wagon During the Holidays

Straying too far from your normal healthy routine will land you in a major rut. It will make you feel terrible. During the holidays no one wants to feel terrible. The holidays are meant for being happy, being with family and friends, and honoring traditions. From Thanksgiving through the New Year we are subjected to parties, open houses, and gifts of food and treats from holiday bakers and candle-stick makers. Who’s the other person in that list? Oh, the butcher, that’s right! Too bad all of us Paleo people can’t receive gifts from the butcher instead of the baker! So since that’s not reality what the heck should we do to make it through the holidays?

It looks good. Probably won’t make you feel very good. 
Remember your goals, make a plan, go easy. 
  1. Remember Your Goals. You started your healthy lifestyle journey for a reason. Maybe it was to lose some inches and pounds, maybe it was to become a better athlete, or to be more physically active in general. Getting too far away from your normal routine is tough, especially when it comes to food, sleep, and working out. Deviations from a routine will cause a reaction and when you are used to a very healthy, structured routine the reaction tends to be negative. I try to remember why I live the way that I do and that usually helps me to stay the course. My goal is performance; I want to be the best CrossFitter I can be. I know that if I miss a few hours of sleep one night, my training for the next day (or couple of days) will be affected, and the recovering that my body would have done during that missed sleep is lost forever. I know that eating too much sugar or drinking booze also disagrees with me and disrupts my sleep so I choose my poison carefully. One drink or glass of wine is usually good for me and then I switch to water or seltzer. Stick with Paleo-friendly treats and limit your intake. Think one or two cookies, not 10. Always remember that you have the control, not the food. You are a strong person inside the gym, be strong and hold your ground outside of it.
  2. Make a Plan and Stick to It. When you know that there is a party or event coming up it’s a good idea to plan ahead and stick to that plan once you’re at the party. For example, make a plan to have one glass of wine or allow yourself two Paleo-treats but then be done with it. When you are indulging really try to enjoy what you are eating. Eat it slowly and enjoy each bite. If your issue is that you’re finding it difficult to make it to the gym with all the holiday obligations, make a pact with yourself or a gym-friend. Agree that you WILL make it to the gym three days each week come hell or high water. Have that person hold you accountable. It simply must be a priority or you will let other things get in the way. You’ve got to be prepared and plan ahead. Tell yourself that you must fill up on meat and veggies before you can have dessert; or only have a glass of wine with dinner; maybe you could avoid the appetizers all together. Try some different things and figure out what works for you.
  3. Enjoy the People You’re With. It’s easy to become caught up in all the yummy food. The next thing you know you’re like a horse with a feed back on it’s mouth and you don’t know what happened. Instead of ending up in this unfortunate situation, think about socializing more instead of eating. Make a goal to visit with each person at the gathering and really listen to what they have to say; engage in the conversation, ask questions, and remember what your family and friends say. We can’t (or shouldn’t) be stuffing our faces when we’re in conversation. This will give you a feeling of satisfaction and will allow you to leave the party feeling closer to people instead of sick or guilty because you ate too much. 
  4. If you slip, don’t fall! If you end up getting off track, don’t let yourself plummet deep down the ravine. Have you ever had the thought process of, “Oh well, I already messed it up, so I might as well just eat whatever the heck I want from the rest of the day”? Please try to rid yourself of this mindset. In the big picture, a few treats isn’t going to make much impact. If you throw the whole day away because of those few treats, you run the risk of the slippery-slope effect. So maybe you had a perfect plan, but you strayed from that plan. It’s OKAY! Forgive yourself and move on. Don’t let it influence your decision-making longer than it should. If you miss a few sessions at the gym get back in AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. You will feel better once you walk through the door, but you have to walk through the door.
  5. If you can, avoid having treats at your home. Whatever your weakness is; whatever tempts you, avoid having it in your home where it will, without a doubt, stare you down and haunt your brain as long as it’s there. Learn how to politely turn down the plate of goodies from “food-pushers”. If you’re the host, be a food-pusher and send bags home with guests. If you end up with extra goodies, bring things to your workplace and share. Why do co-workers love junk so much? Mmmmm cake? Don’t mind if I do! You know you’ll receive a bag of Lindt truffles at some point. Don’t open the bag. Re-gift them immediately! 
Post comments here or on Facebook. Let’s keep this conversation going. How will you avoid sabotaging your healthy lifestyle during the holidays? Looking forward to hearing some creative strategies!

The Challenge is Ending!

It’s been about nine weeks. Nine freakin’ weeks of NO grains, dairy, legumes, or sugar. Minimal alcohol; a glass of red wine here or there, if any. Lots of vegetables, meat, and tiny bit fruit. WOW, nine weeks! There were days that were more challenging than others. Most days flew by and I didn’t have time to think about what I wasn’t eating. To be truthful, the challenge didn’t really require me to change a whole lot, just to reign it in. I definitely changed up my carb sources, I drank much less alcohol, and I didn’t eat any Paleo treats, nuts, or dark chocolate. Believe it or not, removing those things from my weekly food intake made a HUGE difference. I feel frikken amazing.

Here are my measurements: September 17th to November 15th:

Waist 29 “ 28 “
Hips 39 1/2 “ 38 1/2 “
Chest 30 1/2 “ 29 1/2 “
Thigh 24 1/2 “ 23 3/4 “
Arm 12 1/2 “ 12 “
Total 136 “ 131 3/4 “

Here are my before and after pictures from the 9-Week LuRong Paleo Challenge:

Here’s what I looked like 2.5 years ago and 7 months ago:

The best part about all of this is that I weigh around the same now (if not more) than I did back in July of 2010. THIS JUST FURTHER SUPPORTS MY SENTIMENTS THAT THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE IS NOT A GOOD WAY TO EVALUATE YOURSELF. Please take pictures and measurements, and pay attention to how your clothes fit and feel on your body!!! Not only had my body changed, but my performance has improved dramatically. In the three performance WODs I went from a total time of 32:25 down to 28:45. I feel lighter, stronger, more agile, and I have way more energy than I did at the beginning of September. 
So what am I going to do on Monday, November 19th, when the challenge is over? I’m going to get up, eat my eggs and sweet potato or squash, go to the gym, crush sh*t, coach, and get on with my day. I’m not going to go crazy eating pizza or chocolate. Do you know how long it takes to get gluten out of your system after one exposure?! It can take up to 6 MONTHS. It takes about 12 seconds to become re-addicted to sugar. That’s not scientific fact, but it’s about how long it takes me. Now, after I just spent 9 weeks ridding my body of inflammation and toxicity and un-addicted myself to sugar, why in the hell would I take 20 steps backwards by going on a binge? I’d rather go HAM on my WOD than pizza and ice cream. If you don’t know what going HAM means, look it up.
I know that there are some of you out there who are all like “I just need my fix and then I will be done and get back on the Paleo Train”. Okay, I get it…kind of. My question is: Why do you need to do this? Think about it. You WILL feel like crap after you eat junk food. Your performance WILL be affected. Your body WILL become bloated. You will probably wake up and your eyes will be swollen shut. I know from personal experience. Two summers ago Kyle and I had the brilliant idea to order a  meat-lovers pizza and make brownie sundaes. I woke up looking like I’d been attacked by a swarm of bees. NO ONE wants to wake up to that in the morning! I don’t know, I guess I’ve been through it enough times to know that it’s not worth it. But I beg you to learn from MY mistakes, instead of making them yourself. 
Treat yourself to something Paleo (i.e. cookie, muffin) if you want a “reward” for your diligence in the challenge. Don’t reward yourself with a food hangover. I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s actually right HERE! Better yet, go out and buy yourself some new WOD clothes, or gear, or a massage. Learn to reward yourself with non-food items. It’s a valuable and helpful for disconnecting food from emotions. 
I am unbelievably proud of everyone who participated in this challenge. It took legitimate commitment and determination to get through it successfully. I am amazed by the changes you have all made. Many of you look different, but I can see in the way you carry yourselves that you truly are different people! The performance improvements prove this as well. 

We embarked on this journey together, I want to move into the future strong and driven, with all of you by my side. So, let’s do it!

Post comments here or on Facebook. What are you going to do on November 19th?

Disclaimer: I will not stop being your friend if you go on a bender. I just won’t ask you to be my partner for the WOD the next day. Sorry…

"Breaded" Chicken Cutlets

I can vividly remember huge pasta dinners. My Mom would make her famous sauce and let it simmer on the stove all day. We’d have pasta and meatballs and sometimes breaded chicken cutlets. I loved the chicken with the pasta and sauce and cheese all over it. “Loved” is the key word here. Since going Paleo I don’t eat most of the above-listed items, but have worked to recreate this home-cooked comfort food to align with the way I eat now. I must admit, I really don’t miss the old way.

“Breaded” Chicken Cutlets
 
What you’ll need:
  • About 1 cup of almond meal, depending upon how much chicken you’re planning to cook up
  • 1 cup plain, unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk 
  • Chicken breast pounded into thin cutlets, or bought as thin cutlets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp Garlic powder
  • Coconut oil and olive oil

What to do:

  1. Put coconut milk or almond milk into a shallow bowl
  2. Mix almond meal, garlic powder, S&P on a plate to make “breading”
  3. Heat up your frying pan and cooking fat on medium heat. I like to use a mixture of coconut oil and olive oil.
  4. Dip the cutlets in the liquid and then lightly coat both sides with almond meal mixture
  5. Place in hot pan
  6. Cook for about 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of chicken. They should have a golden-brown crust.

I like to eat these plain with veggies on the side, but you could also enjoy them with sauce and spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. Another fun variation is to cover them with Frank’s Original Buffalo Sauce. Wrap them up with a little homemade Paleo mayo in some lettuce wraps. YUM!

Let me know how it goes. Post comments/questions here or on Facebook!

My Favorite Carbs

Carbohydrates (carbs) are always a great subject to talk about. They have been a hot-button word in the diet/health/fitness industry for quite a while now. No carb? Low carb? Tons-O-Carb? What to do, what to do? As human being we need them for energy. Especially those of us who are very active. Paleo lifestyle proponents agree that we all need carbs, just in different doses. For instance, because of my high activity level and my performance goals in the gym, 40-60% of what I eat daily is carbohydrate. I have learned that I am not a happy camper when I eat too few carbs. Conversely  a person who has a seated desk job and is physically inactive needs way less carbs than I do. In this post I would like to introduce you to my favorite carb sources and how I prepare them. And no, I will not be discussing bread and pasta (barf). Paleo peeps get their carbs from vegetables and fruit, and we feel damn good about it!

Carb Source #1 | Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is super cheap. I bought three today at Hannaford for 2.48 or $0.79/lb. I eat one medium sized SP every day, so that roughly $0.83 per day. These little babies are packed with nutrition: vitamins A, C, E, and B6, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and iron. For one cup of mashed sweet potato I get 58 grams or dense starchy carbs to fill my muscles after a tough WOD, keep my belly feeling good, and to keep my energy humming throughout the day. Sometimes I eat the whole sweet potato after my WOD, or I eat most of it then and save the rest for the next morning to eat with my two eggs before my WOD.

My favorite way to prepare SP is:
1. Peel them (always peel potatoes)
2. Slice them up with a mandolin food slicer
3. Place them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet
4. Coat them with olive oil
5. Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt
6. Bake for around 20 minutes at 400 degrees

Sweet Potato “Chips”. I always eat carbs with protein.

Carb Source #2 | Acorn Squash
I never ate a lot of squash before I went Paleo. I never ate any acorn squash (that I can remember) before last month. It is now my new favorite. Squash are also relatively cheap, especially this time of year. If you can find them at a roadside farm stand I’m sure you can get a better deal, but I bought one at the market today for $1.49. For one cup of cubed squash, I get 15 grams of dense carbs. So if you have a small acorn squash, that’s probably about half of the squash.

My favorite way to prepare Acorn Squash:
1. Chop the ends off (use a sharp chef’s knife, be careful)
2. Cut in half length-wise
3. Drizzle with olive oil
4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder
5. Bake cut-side down (skin-up) on lined baking sheet for ~45 min at 400 degrees

Baked Acorn Squash

Carb Source #3 | Cauliflower
It’s no wonder that cauliflower is a dieter’s dream food. You could eat an entire large head of the stuff for 210 calories, 45 grams of carbs, and 17 grams of protein. I am in no way saying that I am on a diet, but clearly I am conscious of what I use to fuel my body. Maybe I should have said “a paleo-lifestlye enthusiast’s dream food”. When cauliflower is cooked and becomes slightly caramelized it is sweet and delicious. I can easily eat the whole head all at once, but usually I portion it out so I don’t feel like a bloated stuffed turkey. For instance, if I prepare a head of cauliflower using the method below and I eat 1/4 of the dish, I can assume that I’ve eaten around 12 grams of carbs. Not a lot. But, for someone watching their carb intake, it’s a great food because it’s filling, nutritious, and tastes awesome.

My favorite way to prepare Cauliflower:
1. Chop if up in a food processor so it is the consistency of rice. I use the entire head.
2. Put in a large mixing bowl. Mix in 1/4 cup canned coconut milk, 1 egg, minced garlic, salt and pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil.
3. At this point you could bake it like this. Add to 9×9 inch greased baking dish.
4. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees until golden on top.
5. For more fun and flavor add 1) Sun-dried tomatoes, basil, parsley or 2) Lime juice, cilantro, cayenne pepper. Be creative – think up your own variations depending on what you’re serving and what you like!

Baked Cauliflower Mash with sun-dried tomatoes
Please ask questions and/or post comments here or on Facebook 🙂

Challenge Thoughts

This post is going to be a little bit rant-ish. I have a few things I want to address:

1) A challenge is called a challenge for good reason…
All 45 of us probably questioned our ability to successfully complete a 9-week Paleo challenge. I don’t know all of the reasons for why folks chose to sign up, but I know why I signed up. I signed up because I had a summer full of booze and foods that do not help performance or body composition. All summer I felt guilty about food choices I was making. I chose to ignore the voices in my head because summer is precious to me and I wanted to have fun. I don’t regret any of the choices I made food-wise. But now that fall is upon us it’s time to detox. Nine weeks is a great amount of time to make some serious changes. At this point I know that I have a long winter of CrossFitting ahead of me. I want to be the best coach I can be; I need to practice what I preach and be the example for the awesome people I work with everyday. It’s simple: do or do not. I am choosing do.

Yes, there are going to be hard days. Believe me, if I could eat 4 paleo muffins every day I would. Just because it’s made with Paleo ingredients does not make it okay to eat all the fracking time. A muffin is still a muffin. Our bodies gravitate to fatty and sweet foods. So when we mix a shit load of ground nuts (fat) with a “natural” sweetener (sugar!) we have created the perfect storm for fueling our evolutionary instinct. When I eat a muffin I want another muffin. Soon I am in a muffin-coma and I wonder why I can’t lose body fat! Hmmmmm. I am not a detective, but I can probably make an educated guess.

2) Don’t stess, just do.
Stress is terrible for our bodies. A Paleo challenge takes us away from foods that put stress on our insides. When we are less stressed by our food, we are less stressed in general. We are even better off if we can fight to alleviate other stressors in our lives. Easier said than done, I know. Some of you have expressed to me that you are nervous (stress) about the challenge. I know that when others were signing themselves up there was a lot of peer pressure flying around. Please know that if there wasn’t something inside of you the KNEW YOU COULD DO THIS you would not have signed up! YOU CAN DO THIS! Stop shitting your pants about how hard this is going to be and eat your meat and vegetables. Try your absolute hardest in WODs and leave it all on the rubber mats. Call me if you need a pep-talk.

3) You are stronger than shitty food.
You mind if more powerful than you know. You have the power to to say, “No, thank you” when someone offers your some cheese and crackers or a Big and Toasted from Dunks. You can silently (or loudly depending upon where you are) tell grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar to f*ck off whenever you see them or they happen to temp you. As you walk around the grocery store you have permission to completely avoid the inner aisles. You shouldn’t need much down there, anyway. If you avoid looking at it you won’t be likely to buy it. If you need to be a bitch because you are withdrawing from sugar, then be a bitch, but don’t eat the sugar! Believe me, after 2-3 weeks without non-Paleo foods you won’t really care about them anymore. Stay committed to the reasons you signed up for the challenge. Even if you clicked the button because “everyone else was doing it” you need to stay with it. You paid the $50 bucks. Follow through and be stronger than the shitty food.

I love you all.