Dear People That Paleo,
I have always been an athlete, trying a multitude of sports as a child and eventually settling into gymnastics and later track and field in high school. Outside of these organized sports, I also enjoy being active with my family from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to water sports in the summer. With this high level of activity, I enjoyed the ability to eat "whatever I wanted" as a kid, and that I did- an adventurous eater, there was hardly anything I wouldn't try. I distinctly remember the day, however, when I realized that my metabolism wouldn't allow me to eat "whatever I wanted" forever, and I became more conscious and knowledgeable of the food choices I made.
Like nearly all teenage girls, I had my moments with food: spending far too long thinking about what or how much I had eaten, feeling guilty for a moment of weakness at the ice cream store, or allowing my eating habits to compromise a healthy perception of myself and my body. This continued well into college at the University of Michigan where, in absence of high school sports, I struggled to maintain my motivation for fitness with workouts at the campus globo gym and a brief stint with sprint triathlons. It wasn't until one very fortunate encounter with a dorm-mate who told me about CrossFit that my relationship with my body and with food would take a dramatic turn for the better.
I joined HyperFitUSA (CrossFit Ann Arbor) in the summer of 2009, and shortly after began training for competition. I surprised myself at each qualifier that year, eventually earning a spot in the 2010 CrossFit Games and finishing in 5th place. As I learned more about CrossFit during this first year and became immersed in its culture and community, I evolved to a Paleo-Zone-like diet. Never measuring my food, I always made sure to find sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fat at each meal, and I attempted to use real-food sources for these macronutrients as often as possible. I would continue with this generally "clean" diet during my first 2.5 years of CrossFit, being especially conscientious in the height of competition season. Though I had thought about experimenting with a strict Paleo or Zone diet, I always seemed to find an excuse: being a college student, graduating, or not wanting to make changes to my diet too close to a big competition. It wasn't until speaking with a couple of friends about their experience with Paleo in January of 2011 that I finally decided to take the plunge. Despite the "clean" diet I thought I had practiced, I removed bread, peanut butter, dairy, and MANY hidden sources of sugar from my apartment and committed to 30 days of Paleo.
While I certainly wouldn't call it easy, I enjoyed this month of preparing new and interesting Paleo dishes and experiencing the changes this way of eating initiated in my body. I felt more rested, happier, and I could think more clearly. Most importantly, I noticed a change in the way I felt during CrossFit workouts. As I attacked metcon after metcon of my training, I felt as if I could push myself farther than ever before.
While I was excited about the impact of the Paleo diet on my physical performance, I was equally excited about its psychological effects and the way it changed my relationship with food. Instead of a vicious and consuming thought circle of decisions including what to eat and how much, eating suddenly became very simple. Little decisions ("Can I afford to eat this pizza?" or "Maybe if I make sure to eat really healthy tomorrow, I can have this cupcake today?") became very straightforward: "Am I hungry?" If yes, eat meat, vegetables, nuts & seeds. End of story.
As I neared the end of my 30 days of strict Paleo, I knew that with the changes I had experienced in my body and mind this way of eating would become a lifestyle. I continue to follow a Paleo diet most of the time, also recognizing the psychological importance of occasionally enjoying some of life's little pleasures (chocolate, cream, wine, or heaven forbid - bread!) Each time I enjoy a "non-Paleo" indulgence I am reminded again why I choose to eat this way, and I begin to crave the satisfaction of a meal of meat and vegetables and the way I know my body will thank me.
Though I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen myself, my schedule as an athlete and medical student often pressures me to opt for those easy and familiar favorites, and I find myself eating grilled chicken, asparagus, and sweet potatoes meal after meal. In addition to saving me hours each week of grocery shopping and food preparation, Premade Paleo has been a real lifesaver in re-introducing variety to my Paleo diet. The adventurous eating habits I've enjoyed since childhood are re-awakened each day as I try a new Premade Paleo meal from chicken to chili to one of the best burgers I've ever tasted. I also love pairing a variety of sides such as kale, butternut squash, and mashed cauliflower. By delivering only the highest quality, flavorful meals to my doorstep, Premade Paleo has removed what little decision-making remained for me when it came to food, allowing me to continue to live a Paleo lifestyle and focus more time and energy toward my pursuits in medical school and as a CrossFit athlete.
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