Strength : Power clean 5×3
WOD: AMRAP 12 Minutes
10 CTB pull up
I was putting away groceries last night when I came upon my Tofu Press collecting dust in the kitchen cabinet above the sink. I received it as a gift last Christmas from my parents along with multiple vegetarian cookbooks and a subscription to Vegetarian Times Magazine. I feel guilty still having that subscription as a meat eater, but I flip through it anyways. For the past six years I have followed a strict vegetarian diet, besides that one time too much gin made me eat a slice of bacon cheeseburger pizza- but let’s be real, it was worth it. A lot can change in six years, and after getting hundreds of uses out of that Tofu Press I couldn’t be eating in a more opposite manner. I am eating Paleo.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, the Paleo diet is a based off the diet of those who lived during the Paleolithic Era. The somewhat controversial diet mimics the eating habits of hunters and gatherers, eating only meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts and seeds. Since dairy, refined sugars, and processed foods were not available then, they are not allowed on the Paleo diet. Other foods that are not consumed on the diet include all soy products, legumes, and grains. As if this way of eating doesn’t seem difficult enough, before going fully Paleo I tried to avoid compromising my beliefs by eating Paleo as a vegetarian. The restriction of so many foods resulted in being constantly tired, hungry, and miserable- everything you shouldn’t feel while following Paleo.
As a vegetarian, I never felt the need to back up or explain myself. I always said that when I woke up one day and wanted to eat meat again I would, and that’s what I did. I still feel that way now that I am Paleo, but I am much more passionate about the benefits of the lifestyle. When I refrained from meat I became what I will call a “sloppy eater”. In college I ate pizza and macaroni and cheese so much that I gained the “freshman fifteen” simply from lacking healthy non-meat options on my campus. From there I learned to cook for myself, things like vegetable stir fry and tofu scramble, but I never fully adapted to a truly healthy way of eating. I felt sluggish from gravitating towards an overload of processed soy and sodium filled fake meats. The cookbooks and magazine subscription my parents bought me helped, and my mother’s willingness to cook me separate vegetarian meals was saintly, but my continuous struggle to adapt left me overeating, losing sleep, and ultimately living an unhealthy lifestyle. Many people experience this feeling as meat eaters as well if they are eating manly non-organic processed or pre-prepared meats. Making that change can be expensive, but it is possible to figure out on a budget. That being said, just like vegetarianism, the Paleo diet is not for everyone.
As a person who admits to having “drank the Kool-Aid” of the CrossFit world, I was willingly persuaded to make the change. Everyone at my gym was doing it and those who were doing it were losing weight, gaining muscle, and performing better. This diet was turning people into lean, mean, fitness machines and I wanted to be one of them. I started slowly with my first meal as an ex-vegetarian being tilapia and vegetables. It was never about missing meat, and to this day I still can’t buy ground beef to cook for myself. This shift in nutrition was about my desire to look, feel, and perform better- to some that’s seen as a selfish choice. I am okay with that, because I am thriving.
Surprisingly, I never felt sick after reintroducing animal protein into my diet. I actually felt healthy. The desire to constantly eat slowly faded away and I began to lift heavier and finish my timed workouts faster. As a person who has always struggled with the concept of moderation and has never been seen as naturally athletic, this diet was turning out to be good for both my physical body and my mental health. After doing more research, like investing in Diane SanFilippo’s book Practical Paleo, I learned that the Paleo diet can help with other health problems like digestive issues, autoimmune conditions, thyroid problems, blood-sugar regulation, and major fat loss.
I still make recipes out of Vegetarian Times Magazine and I still dine out at some of my favorite Vegan restaurants like Strong Hearts in my hometown of Syracuse, NY. I do not need to label my eating habits for the rest of the world to know and neither do you. Eat to nourish yourself, eat to heal yourself and eat to grow stronger. Just because I made the switch to another “restrictive” diet doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy all different types of food- a slice of bacon cheeseburger pizza included.