From Veggie to PaleoChick – A CrossFit Transformation.
Eileen Schreiber's Blog
Iwas never a meat eater.
From a very early age I preferred all things carb and sugar to any kind of meat. My diet? Breads, Cereals, Crackers, Pasta, Cheese, OH! Macaroni and Cheese, Pop Tarts, Ho Hos, Jelly, Cookies, Chocolate – I ate those things constantly, with urgency and wild abandon. Meat? Only if it was forced down my throat by my parents.
Yes, I was a fat kid who miraculously thinned out in her teens.
As a college student in the 80s, I was full on, wild-eyed neurotic about food and my weight. Surprise! Not a meat eater by wiring, it was very easy to be “a vegetarian”. I put that in quotes because the quality and type of my veggie-ness changed often. Sometimes I ate chicken, I always ate fish. The constants of my vegetarian diet were soy and tons of carbs, sugar and starches. These I inhaled. Often, honestly, without chewing.
Fact. I was a food addict. A binge eater without the purging. Fact. It was a horrible, torturous way to live. And I lived that way for many, many years.
An Athlete or a Chick who Exercised?
However, I was also a jock from birth. I was one of the first girls in my neighborhood to make little league in 6th grade. In High School I played tennis. In College, I jogged obsessively and of course hit the gym. In my late teens I discovered the Stairmaster and conquered it, believing for the next 25 years that I was getting the most bang for my buck with a combo of daily, or almost daily Stairmaster workouts (also great for the ass!), and some kind of weight circuit that was very heavy on vanity muscles.
I was all about those vanity muscles.
Vegetarian for Ethics Sake!
In the late 90s, a friend of mine asked me to see a movie. I knew it was about poor treatment of animals, but I had no idea what I was about to see. The film made me so sick I almost projectile puked in the theatre. I followed up by reading a lot of material about the horrendous ways our food was treated.
That was my turning point.
There was NO way, NONE, I would EVER put any animal in my body that was tortured from the moment it was born. There was NO way EVER, I would ingest an animal that had been brutally confined, injected with bullshit, cut, harmed, branded, bled, and killed in the most horrifically painful ways imaginable. NO way. EVER.
So that meant I could not eat meat. Because most of our meat was tortured. I was an ethical vegetarian, almost a vegan. The thought of supporting that kind of treatment of animals, no less the thought of putting something like that in my mouth, was truly unimaginable.
And so it went for almost 10 years. I was a carb- o-holic extraordinaire, a bonafide sugar addict, a consumer of so much soy and soy gluten that the beans should have been growing out of my ears. My “healthy” diet was offset by jogging, stairmaster, tennis and weights. I was always in motion, but my weight constantly fluctuated by 5-15 pounds, my moods were governed by my blood sugar levels, I was an hourly slave to my sugar and carb cravings, I felt fat and bloated no matter how thin I was, and I could never seem to lose my FLAB.
With all the working out I did, what was up with that FLAB?
Crossfit. September 2008. Age 45. Most people reading this need no explanation. Constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity. I Drank the Kool Aid and was happily addicted from minute one.
One short month after I began to CrossFit, Lisa Ray, owner of CrossFit Flagstaff, posted “The Sugar Challenge”.
Can you get off of sugar for a month?
Can you get off sugar for a month? CAN I GET OFF SUGAR FOR A MONTH?
Something clicked. At age 45, it was finally time to either do it, or shut up FOREVER. Now surrounded by women who were not only in shape but ATHLETES, molded and cut, I knew I had an unprecedented chance to change something radical and fundamental about who I was. Not just what I ate, but who I was. For the first time in my entire life, as a part of the CrossFit “ cult”, I felt that I could kick my sugar addiction and become what I had always wanted to be – an athlete.
Getting off the Crack.
Totally giving up sugar was a two step journey. Step One: Give up all refined sugar. ALL of it. I did it. This was the eighth wonder of the world. It was emotionally difficult at first. I was a mess on a good day. I still ate rice with my soy proteins and veggies, and I ingested rice crackers, sometimes by the boxful (hello?). But everything else? Bread, bagels, cereals, cookies, candies, jellies, honey, chocolate etc? Done.
In a very short time I felt phenomenal. I felt unstoppable. Having been a slave to that sugar addiction forever, getting off the crack even to this extent was both grounding and balancing, but most important, a heady, lofty, indescribably positive bodymindspirit wave of energy, attitude and yes, badass dose of self esteem.
My moods stabilized. I didn’t chase the sugar high with a deep crash. I felt amazing. All of the time.
Still, the noise filling my ears at every turn was MEAT. PALEO. EAT MEAT. LOTS OF IT.
No matter how many Robb Wolf articles were quoted verbatim, no matter how much proof I saw that eating meat would make me into the total CrossFit Babe, I still could not physically or emotionally stomach the idea of putting tortured animals into my body. This was a problem.
Getting on the Paleo Bandwagon
CrossFit became a way of life. My primary addiction. My identity. The more I trained, the better I felt and yes, the better I looked. Let’s not pretend. As a woman, that matters. As a woman in her forties who started to feel and look better than EVER, that matters a LOT.
A little over a year after I started CrossFitting, I felt unfinished. Why these things click when they do.. we don’t know. Surrounding oneself with people who love to push the limits of performance and who are so committed to results certainly has it’s effects! So one day, one random day like all the others, after staring again at my belly flab and realizing that I hadn’t given IT my all, I knew deep in my heart that it was time.
On that day, I gave up ALL bad carbs – no more rice. No more crackers. That was ginormous. (Well, I gave up all bad carbs except beer.)
And meat? How to reconcile my physical inability to eat tortured animals with the recognition that giving it MY ALL, could only happen as a carnivore?
Humanely Treated Food
The good news for all of us is that the movement toward humane treatment of our food is alive and growing. No longer the zany creation of those wacky hippy communist unshaven smelly vegans (LOL), carnivores the world over, and people who care about QUALITY food, are clamoring for animals that are not tortured.
In my CrossFit community, I heard grass fed. I heard free range and organic. Of course I had known about these kinds of meats. I was one a them tree-huggers for goodness sake. Now, to my surprise, I heard these words proclaimed with conviction by military people, politically conservative people, people who shaved, bathed, saluted the flag and in all honesty, scorned the vegans! Surrounded by healthy, muscled, badass CrossFitters convinced of the nutritional value of grass fed, free range and organic, (and who are now watching films like Food, Inc. in droves) I slowly became comfortable with the idea of biting into that pound of flesh.
The Angels Did Not Sing
One day at the end of 2009, sitting at Lisa Ray’s home for a CrossFit barbeque, I did it. I ate meat. I cut a piece of that steak, opened my mouth, chewed, and swallowed. And then I did it again. And again. And again. Lightning did not strike, the angels did not sing, I did not puke that night.
I still prefer salmon to steak, and I have yet to absolutely crave a burger. But since giving up (almost) all sugar, all soy and milk, and since including meat in at least two meals each day, I have truly leaned out, developed a lot more muscle, gotten a hell of a lot better, stronger faster at my WODs, and most important, feel like I can keep improving.
At 46, this is a very big deal. I was supposed to be battling arm flab and running to my plastic surgeon right about now.
In reality, people stop me on the street constantly to compliment my arms and shoulders. My muscle tone and definition have never been better. I am told I look ten years younger than my biological age. I feel unstoppable. I feel very young. I can kill the WOD times of many people in their 20s and 30s. I can do things I never did before, like 5 rounds of almost anything for time. I have a new confidence. I have a lightness of being that comes from feeling so healthy.
And I swear to you, I have stopped aging.