My Whole Life Challenge Experience

I’ve been debating whether or not I wanted to write something about my experience with the Whole Life Challenge, and whether or not I wanted to share my “before & after” pictures. However, I came to the conclusion that, as a coach, detailing my experience may help inspire others to make changes to improve their health and well being. Although coaches can be described as “health professionals” and can often be viewed as “having it together,” we have our own issues as well. I may or may not be slightly obsessed with Cheez-It. Just sayin’…

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I would like to say that I understand that some of you may look at me and feel that I don’t have any weight to lose, or may think “What is she thinking? She’s not fat,” or that I can eat whatever I want because I’m already “skinny”. I know that I’m not fat, but I do have some weight to lose and when I gain 5-7 pounds, I definitely feel it and it shows because of my small frame. Also, at my age, I can no longer eat whatever (e.g., junk food) because my metabolism doesn’t work the way it used to like in my teens and 20s.

A couple years ago, my husband and I tried to follow the paleo diet. If you’re not familiar, with the paleo diet, you basically cut out all grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, white potatoes and other “nightshades,” artificial sweeteners, and anything processed. You’re probably thinking, “well, what the heck do you eat then?” Meat, poultry, seafood, veggies, berries, nuts, and healthy fats and oils, such as avocados and coconut oil. There’s plenty left to eat! However, at the time I wasn’t quite ready to make the switch. I was addicted to crap food and towards the end of getting my college degree. Without Diet Coke, Cheez-It and chips, I don’t think I would have made it through those days where I was writing papers into the wee hours of the morning. I think I made it one or two weeks before I was so “hangry” (hungry + angry) that I, nor my husband, could take it any longer. Food is very emotional for a lot of us, and I was not emotionally ready for the change.

This past year has been quite stressful for me as work got super busy with four people in my department retiring and my supervisor going on maternity leave early and then being out for four months. My health deteriorated because I ate whatever was within my reach (i.e., lots of sandwiches and cookies) and working through lunch, which caused me to not sleep very much. I was also coaching in the evenings after work, and getting home around 8:30-9:00pm. I also reinjured my knee, and I just let myself go. My hormones were out of whack and I felt terrible all the time. Once things at work slowed down, I decided that it was finally time to get my shit together.

Enter the Whole Life Challenge (WLC). The WLC is an eight-week lifestyle challenge where you focus on clean eating, exercising and stretching regularly, taking a daily supplement, drinking 1/3 of your body weight in ounces of water daily, and participating in weekly lifestyle challenges (e.g., getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night or not using technology during meals). I have a few friends that have done the challenge in the past and have heard and seen the benefits from it. I felt I was mentally in a better place to take on the challenge, so I committed to it. I was a bit nervous because eight weeks seemed like a long time. Was I really ready for it?

There are three nutrition levels to choose from: Performance (strict paleo), Lifestyle (allowed to have some grains, starches, and corn), and Beginner (can pretty much eat anything but bread and sugar). I chose the Lifestyle level because I wanted to work on maintaining a reasonable diet and not drastically changing it, as I felt that I would be setting myself up for failure and disappointment had I gone the Performance route. I’m glad I chose this level because I was able to do just that – I found a way to maintain a reasonable diet.

The first week was difficult because my body went through withdrawals. I did get hangry, but not like before. But after that week, I started feeling and seeing the benefits and it felt so good. I found that in the first 2.5 weeks, I lost 1.5 inches around my waist, and my workouts felt easier! I also found that I wasn’t craving the bad food and not eating my feelings. It was pretty exciting.

I was on a roll and doing so well until October 10. It was that day that I found out that a friend had passed away earlier that morning. He was a very close friend of my brother’s, and he was also like a brother to me. I was shocked and upset. My husband asked me what he could do for me and I told him that I wanted Cheez-It and a glass of wine. He was so sweet and went to the store to buy both. Although I was eating and drinking my feelings, it felt different. I’m not sure how to describe it. I guess it wasn’t so much the addiction driving me to eat and drink; it was more of a conscious decision to do so. I felt in control of that decision. The next week was difficult as I was emotionally spent and I didn’t have the energy to focus on the challenge very much. I ate crappy food and drank a lot of wine and cider. Additionally, the following weekend was a close friend’s wedding and the weekend after that my birthday! So from October 10-26, I ate crappy and drank a lot of alcohol. Thankfully, I was able to get back on track for the final few weeks of the challenge. It was difficult, but I overcame the minor setback.

My goal for the challenge was to learn how to manage my diet better and to learn how to take better care of my body through nutrition. I refuse to be a slave to medication! Through this challenge, I now understand how my body reacts to certain foods, such as dairy, grains, and starches, which has led me to not crave them as much as before. Score! And since I don’t eat much of those types of food anymore, when I do eat them, they don’t taste as good as I remember them to be.

To give a bit of history, the verbal abuse and harassment that I received from my gymnastics coach from the ages of 10-16 still affect me to this day, which is why I have had such a bad relationship with food. His negative words also still affect my self-esteem. He often called me and my teammates “fat whores” and other names that I will not repeat. Mind you, we were still in elementary school/pre-teens when he said these nasty things. That shit does not go away. Because of this, I have not worn my bathing suit in public in the past two years. One, because I have a crazy tan line due to our gym being outside, and two, because of my self-esteem issues. However, after this challenge, I am feeling a little better about myself, which is why I now feel somewhat comfortable showing my before and after pictures (enjoy my tan line!)…

 IMG_4558 IMG_4559 IMG_4560

My results from the challenge are as follows:

Weight:
Pre-challenge: 131.4lbs
Post-challenge: 126.8lbs

Body fat %:
Pre-challenge: 20.1%
Post-challenge: 18.4%

Challenge workout:
11min time cap:
800m run
75 air squats
50 sit-ups
25 push-ups
For the remainder of the time, do as many burpees as possible.
Your score is the total number of squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and burpees.

Score:
Pre-challenge: 173 (23 burpees)
Post-challenge: 183 (33 burpees)
I was able to bust out 10 more burpees!

I am pleased with my results, as my goal was to get around 126lbs, 18% body fat, and get a higher score during the workout. Woot!

Now, you’re probably wondering what my meals consisted of. Well, here ya go!

Breakfast: usually 3 eggs (scrambled-sometimes with spinach, or hard boiled) and 3-4 pieces of bacon or sausage, and coffee with stevia.

Lunch: spinach & kale mix salad with chicken and avocado or leftovers from dinner, and sometimes a vegan soup I bought from the café on campus.

Dinner: pork or beef cooked in the slow cooker with sweet potatoes and onions, tacos made with leftover pork, or steak with broccoli and/or sweet potatoes.

Snacks: Cashew cookie Larabar, apples, bananas, brown rice cakes with cashew butter, carrots, strawberries, cantaloupe

I’m glad the challenge is over because having to log points and do the weekly lifestyle challenges were a bit cumbersome, but I am happy that I am learning better nutrition and eating habits. I’m looking forward to being released into the wild and doing it on my own.

Here’s to cleaner eating and better health!

Advertisements

Stress and Depression Are Dumb. So Are Injuries.

photo (1)

(My limited ROM in my knee doesn’t allow it to bend like I want it to causing me to squat incorrectly. Oh, and that whole only having 4 lumbar vertebrae – as opposed to 5 – also doesn’t help the situation.)

[TL;DR since I didn’t expect to write this much: overwhelming stress from work and my knee injury caused me to get chubby and depressed creating a vicious cycle.  Didn’t realize how chubby I got until I saw a picture of myself taken yesterday.  Knee surgery on Friday, June 20 to fix torn meniscus.]

So, tomorrow is the big day – surgery day!  This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, but wasn’t sure if it was something that I should do.  I’ve had pain in my right knee since my ACL reconstructive surgery back in 1998, but I just learned to deal with the pain.  I would say about 5 years ago, prior to my starting CrossFit the pain started getting worse, which is why I decided to start exercising again.  I figured my being inactive for about 10 years was causing all of my knee and back pain.

I started CrossFit in January of 2010, and at first I couldn’t run.  It hurt and my endurance sucked balls.  After a few months of CrossFit and getting my body moving again, my knee pain slowly went away and I actually didn’t mind running.  I’ve had a couple of injuries (strained right Achilles, Bankart tear in my left shoulder) during my time with CrossFit, but they were caused by me doing stupid things while playing adult co-ed softball (I have since retired in case you were wondering).  As with any injury or life-changing situation, I felt a bit depressed due to the immediate change in what I was and wasn’t able to do.  The depression slowly went away as I found ways to workout around my injuries – I got really good at pull-ups during my Achilles injury and my legs got really strong during my shoulder injury.  So, you’d think that this current injury would be no prob.  Nope, completely the opposite.

Rewind to late 2013/early 2014 – I was finally starting to feel good again, normal even, and not feeling any pain.  I also felt like I was finally getting my eating habits under control.  As such, I started to increase my training and pushing myself that much harder.  No excuses.  My first full week of training after my shoulder injury was the first week of the 2013 CrossFit Open, so when the 2014 Open came around, I wanted to be ready and injury free. I started deadlifting more, my front and back squat weights were increasing.  I was stoked.  I did well in the Open – I ended up in the top 27% in the world and 29% in the region – and was proud of what I accomplished (I also placed 36th in the SoCal region for 36 year old women! Haha, if only CrossFit were categorized by age…).

Unfortunately, due to the increase in my training and my limited abilities and range of motion in my right knee due to my previous ACL injury and surgery, my knee started acting up again.  I hit a point with my squats where I couldn’t increase the weight anymore.  I was cautious with my training and slowed down when it hurt and forged on when it felt good.  As a precaution, I decided to get an MRI to make sure that I didn’t re-injure my ACL.

My friend Black Widow (BW) and I are pretty similar in abilities and height, and well, when I had long hair people would get us confused, so, we’re a pretty good match for partner competitions.  We signed up for the Dynamic Duel partner competition this past April 26, the weekend after my MRI.  That was my last full-on workout. Sad face.

The Dynamic Duel consisted of lots of heavy squats and my knee did not enjoy them.  I had practiced the 95lb squat cleans the Monday prior to the competition and felt pretty good about them, and felt ready for the comp.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming stress at work didn’t do my body good.

My supervisor went on maternity leave a couple weeks early leaving me with the added stress to figure out some of the tasks that I was to take over while she was out.  The week prior to the competition was her program’s HUGE annual review week-long meeting that I had to take over with the planning and organizing on top of my regular job.  I didn’t sleep much, my meal schedule was off, and I was working tons of overtime.  I was T.I.R.E.D.  Regardless, I was looking forward to competing with BW.

The first WOD of the competition was difficult but we managed to get through most of it.  My body was tired, but nothing felt off.  The last WOD of the day was squat heavy and it messed me up.

The WOD was:
Every minute on the minute for 10 min:
1st partner starts with 7 goblet squats with a 35lb kettlebell, then does 5 kettlebell swings.
2nd partner then does 95lb squat cleans for the remaining time in the minute.
At the top of the minute, the partners switch.

10169191_10152330702245700_648059738262056476_n(This was me waiting for my turn at squat cleans looking at BW while she was doing her goblet squats like, “I don’t want to do this anymore”.)

photo (4)(At home after the comp. I felt super old and broken.)

After the end of that WOD, my knee did not feel right.  I could barely walk and it hurt so bad.  I took a week off from working out to give my body a rest.  After two weeks, I still felt off.  This is when I received the results of the MRI.  Verdict: a small medial, posterior horn meniscal tear.  So this is the pain that I’ve been feeling for YEARS!  After receiving the results, I decided to give my body a break.  I’ve been definitely feeling physically older, and I attribute a lot of that to the stress that I’ve been feeling at work.  I had planned on doing upper body workouts and still exercising regularly.  Nope, that didn’t happen.  Stress got the best of me.

I stopped working out.  I started eating horribly.  I still wasn’t sleeping well.  I started to become depressed, which led to not wanting to workout, eating crap, and no sleep.  It’s such an effing vicious cycle.  Oh, and guess what?  Work got even MORE stressful.  So not only was I doing two positions, my student assistant quit and I, therefore, had to take on her work.  Oh, I was also voluntold to assist with planning four retirement parties all in the month of June.  Sure, I’ll do three positions and plan huge parties at the university on top of my coaching and operations duties at the gym.  Sure, no problem at all.  So you can imagine how vicious the above-mentioned cycle got recently.  I need to learn to not be so nice and to say no.

Yesterday, I had BW take pictures of me doing various squats from all different angles, so I could compare the differences in my body mechanics before and after surgery.  I knew I was getting a bit soft in the middle but I was not expecting to see what I saw in my squat pictures – my big ol’ gut chillin’ right in front of the camera (see below – enjoy!).  It’s gross and embarrassing and I’m upset that I’ve let myself get to this point.  This is what stress and depression has done to me.  Ugh.

photo (3)(Chubby little Ninja with giant spider bite on her leg that you can see bulging out!)

I am very much looking forward to having surgery and getting back in the gym and using my entire body.  My doctor said that I will pretty much be ready to start working out again after two weeks.  I sure hope so!  I also recently (as of yesterday!) hired a new student assistant to work for me over the summer and can start June 30, and I also found out that my supervisor will be coming back part-time July 1.  So, things are looking up!  As much as stress and depression are dumb, I do learn a lot from what I experience during those rough times.  Although there were days where I wanted to crawl into the fetal position and cry for days, or stab a beeotch in the ear, I forced myself to keep my head up no matter how difficult it was.

No matter how exhausted or pissed off I was from work, I found solace at the gym and from my members.  It’s amazing how much better I felt once I got there and saw my CrossFit family even after working 8-10 hours and being at the gym for another 3, and getting home around 9pm. So big THANKS and giant internet hug to my CFSB family. Y’all are pretty neat, and I look forward to working out with you again soon!  I’ll get through this, I always do.

photo (2)

If at first you don’t succeed…

… keep trying until you don’t suck anymore. Ha!

 

13.3. Oh, 13.3. I had such high hopes and you just crushed them to smithereens. THANKS.

I’ve been debating whether or not I wanted to write about the atrocity that was my performance of 13.3. It was embarrassing. The video of Hercules above expresses how I felt during and after the WOD. I surprisingly had a lot of people ask me about how the workout went and what my final score was (in person, via text, via FB messages). It’s such a nice feeling knowing that so many people cared and had such high hopes for me. However, it bummed me out to see their sad faces when I told them my score. It felt like I let them down. I wanted to keep this to myself, but if you know me, I can’t keep anything to myself (hence my blog. Duh).

If you read my most recent blog post, you will know that I’ve been on a downer as of late, which contributed to my “wonderful” performance of 13.3. What also contributed to my performance was lack of sleep. My neighbors decided to have the most annoying girls in the world over for two nights this past weekend. So, let’s think about this for a moment. Think about the most annoying person/voice you have ever heard and times it by 1000, then add a horrendous valley girl accent on top. YEP. That is what I got to deal with for two nights straight. “OH MY GAAAAAWWWWWWWIDDDDDDDDD!!! LIKE, YEEEEEEAHHHH.” Then some high-pitched squeals, then more OH MY GAAAAAAAAAWWWWWIDDDDDs came. Oy. Someone shoot me now. They were so loud that I slept in the living room. Tall Guy and I were so exhausted that we couldn’t even put clothes on to go next door to tell them to shut the eff up. However, no doubt about it, I will go next time and they will get an earful. Oh, yes they will. Moving on because them beeotches already consumed enough of my energy…

What I believe to be the main factor of my lackluster performance is the fact that this is only week 3 after coming back from shoulder rehab. Ninja, read that: WEEK 3. You ain’t Annie Thorisdottir. Slow yer roll. I had done better than I ever thought I would on 13.1 and 13.2 that it gave me hope that I could make it through the 150 walls balls, 90 double unders and have a few attempts at some muscle ups. Um yeah, maybe last year when you didn’t have a bum shoulder. I lost track of where I was because I was just so excited to be working out again. In addition to my body reminding me, I had a couple of friends remind me that this was indeed, only my 3rd week back. Sigh. Thanks guys. I really mean that. Thank you for reminding me that I need to continue to be patient with myself and that I will get there again.

I got very upset because I failed at my first attempt at 13.3 last Saturday. Yes, you read that correctly, I attempted this workout TWICE. I actually quit in the middle of a workout after about 50 reps. My head was in the worst place imaginable. I should’ve just waited until Sunday. I have never quit a workout before (except for an injury). There was one time I was doing “Fran” (21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups) and I got so frustrated during my set of 15 that I walked out of the gym, down to the stop sign and was ready to walk home. By the time I got to the stop sign I said to myself, “What the f*ck are you doing? Get back in there and finish already!” I didn’t quit and finished that damn workout. I really tried to push through 13.3, I really did, but my body and mind just stopped and said, “NOPE!” I couldn’t go on and that frustrated the crap out of me.

What was happening? How could I have been doing so well and now this? I understand now that it was my body telling me to slow down and be patient and to not get too far ahead of myself. Sigh. Okay, FINE. I will listen, but I won’t like it! Just kidding.

So, in the end, I performed the workout on Sunday and finished with 162 reps (150 wall balls + 12 double unders). I, along with everyone else, expected at least 240 out of me. Quite the difference, eh? The wall balls were more difficult than I have ever experienced, other than my first CrossFit workout ever when I cried and practically hyperventilated after doing them for the first time. It got to the point where I could only do sets of 3, which is uncharacteristic of me. I used to be able to do “Karen” (150 wall balls) in sets of 25 with no problem. Again, I need to remember patience.

13.3. I guess I should say thank you for reminding me to be patient, so thank you. I will visit you again in 3 months, though, and I will OWN you. I made a pact with a friend that we will tackle you again in 3 months and we are going to do it. Oh yes we will!

Thank you, Universe, for reminding me about patience.

patience-everything-happens-for-a-reason

Day 11 = Sleep-deprived Ninja

Not a whole lot went on yesterday; nothing too exciting to report. Went to school, then straight to work, then to the softball fields to do field research for a project for my sociology class. All on 4.5 hours of sleep. Surprisingly, I was in good spirits all day. Of course I got a bit sleepy, but I was okay.

I was hoping to eat better today but that didn’t happen. We had our usual breakfast, lunch wasn’t horrible, but dinner was bad, but oh so delicious. Per Mr. Ninja, I am not allowed to say what we had for dinner because it was definitely not Paleo, so you’ll never know what we ate. Muwahahahaha!

I think that’s all about yesterday. Boooooring. (Except our dinner.)

WOD:
Rest Day!

Grub for the day:
Breakfast: eggs w/salsa, turkey bacon, sliced bananas (thanks for cutting them Mr. Ninja!)
Lunch: Sakura Sushi – California roll + salmon, yellowtail, albacore sushi nigiri, soda
Snack: beef jerky
Dinner: It’s a secret. Shhhhh.