Thursday, March 15, 2012

The difference is in the diet

Maybe I'm just like you.  Then again, maybe I'm not.  If you don't really know me, here's the quick bio:

I just turned 31, I'm 6'2" and I'll get to the weight a little later. I've been playing sports for as long as I can remember and I've always been on the bigger side physically.  I played offensive and defensive line in football and was never a base stealing threat on any of the baseball teams I ever played on. I played football at a small college in Iowa (Division 3 Grinnell College) and I've always enjoyed lifting weights, even doing so competitively in high school.  I'm generally active, don't watch much television (except live sports and a sitcom or HBO drama every once in a while) and love to be outside whenever I can.  I graduated from high school in 1998, I was 18 years old and weighed 235 pounds.  To be fair, I wasn't 235 for my entire senior year.  In fact, when I started school that fall I was closer to 260 because I believed that in order to play college football I needed to gain weight.  About three minutes into our first fall practice I realized how wrong I was; so I lost weight pretty much the entire year and by the time the state weightlifting meet came around in May of '98 I weighed in at 232 pounds.

My weight fluctuated a bit in college, typically I would start each football season in August at about 250 pounds, by the end of the season I would be about 242 and by the time we left school in May I was usually about 258.  When graduation rolled around in May of 2003 I was weighing about 255.  I had stopped working out consistently because for the first time in almost 10 years I wasn't training for anything.  I didn't have another football season to prepare for and I took full advantage of the fact that there were no more early morning workouts or afternoon running sessions in the spring.  Once I graduated from college I immediately got into coaching.  For anyone not aware, football coaching isn't exactly the healthiest profession in the world.  Long hours, lots of stress, horrible eating habits and lots of beer.  Anyway, I worked out sparingly, mostly getting 30 minutes on an eliptical machine or lifting some weights periodically (mostly bench press and curls).  I tried to stay active but my athleticism was slipping away and my weight was ticking up consistently.  At my highest point, I was probably within an M&M of 300 pounds and I felt terrible.  I ate whatever I wanted and didn't work out with any regularity.  That trend lasted about 6 years and while my weight came down a bit, I still didn't feel very good.  My operating weight through my mid and late 20's was about 275lbs and I was pretty well resigned to the fact that this was where my body wanted to be.  I couldn't run very fast, couldn't jump anymore (although I was big, I could always dunk a basketball on a regulation goal through college) and felt much older than I actually was.  In July of 2010 I moved to Kansas City, took a new job outside of the coaching profession and found a new gym.

I'd heard of Crossfit prior to joining the gym and had even done a few workouts.  I found BootCamp Fitness and sent the owner, Coach Rut, an e-mail.  I don't remember the exact e-mail but it was something about feeling like I was too young to have lost the feeling of being athletic.  I started my workouts in September of 2010.  I started on the BootCamp side of the gym, which is mainly body weight, dumb bells, med balls, and rowers for the first four months.  I was going to gym at 5am, and on my first day I weighed 286 (I think) and had a body fat percentage in the low 30's.

After a few months of working out, I started feeling better.  Functional movement can do wonders!  Just doing basic things like air squats, lunges, squat jumps, shuffling, hell, even running felt good.  When the new year rolled around I was "admitted" into the advanced side of the gym which incorporated a lot more Olympic weightlifting.  I was thrilled to get over there because I really wanted to lift weights again. By early March I cleaned 300 pounds for the first time since college (easily 7 years) and was starting to get pretty strong.  I was even doing pull ups, which is remarkable since I had never actually done a real pull up before joining the gym.  Everything was going great, I was feeling better physically, I felt strong and mostly healthy.  My weight still fluctuated some, but I was solidly 270-275 on most days.  I definitely started to look a little different, my weight was shifting slightly, but I still looked pretty swollen in general and puffy in the face.  When the fall of 2011 came around, I found a part time coaching job at a local high school and stopped going to the gym for a few months.  In all honesty, I wasn't planning to go back.  I thought I could replicate the workouts on my own, save a little money and take 100% control of my fitness.  By week 9 of the season I was miserable.  I was 285 again, had pulled my hamstring, wasn't sleeping well and was eating terribly.  Three weeks before the season ended I re-upped with the gym.  I realized how much I missed the workouts, the community and mostly the structure of it all.  By the time the new year came in 2012 I was back into it full swing.  I was still heavy, almost 290 by this point, but I was getting strong and just figured that I was adding a bunch of muscle and that a bi-product of that was getting heavier.

To backtrack a bit, when I first joined the gym in 2010, I was given a packet of information describing a Paleo Resolution.  A 30 day eating challenge designed to change your relationship with food.  The long and short of it is, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar.  Eat natural meats and veggies.  Lots of them.  The premise is to get the body back to what it was designed to be, a fat burning machine evolved from our hunter/gatherer roots.  I dismissed the diet immediately and put it off for well over a year.  I had never dieted before, I wasn't into the whole deprivation thing, I wanted to be able to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  But I was miserable really.  I wasn't fully happy, I was depressed at times and I felt sorry for myself a lot.  I hated being big.  I envied the guys at the gym, my brother in-law, or other friends of mine who seemed to have a naturally "fit" physique.  I was certain that it was all due to genetics and that I was just unlucky.  I was destined to be a little bit fat, no matter how strong I was I was always just going to be big.  I told myself, "Hey, at least I carry my weight well!"  But that was all BS.  I didn't really care how "well" I carried the weight, I was tired of the weight.  I was tired of being 290lbs.

On January 14, 2012 I had agreed to lift in an Olympic weightlifting competition with a few guys and gals from the gym.  I drove up to the meet with Coach Rut and on the way to Leavenworth, KS I told him how much I appreciated the gym.  I told how much better I felt physically, that I felt strong and that I was gaining back some of my athleticism.  I told him the only issue I had with it was that I wasn't losing any weight.  In fact, I told him, I had gained a few pounds since coming back to the gym after the football season.  He asked me if I had started the Paleo resolution yet.  I told him no, that I didn't really pay much attention to my diet.  He said, "try it for 30 days, if you do it right, you'll lose 20 pounds, I guarantee it."  I figured, what the hell, I'm going to do it.  I thought it was BS, but when I weighed the potential outcomes I realized I would either lose 20 pounds or have the undeniable satisfaction of proving Coach Rut wrong, what's the downside?!?!   At the meet weigh-in that day I weight 289 pounds.

That next day I ate my face off.  I had sweets, pizza, probably a beer.  Pretty much whatever I wanted.  On Monday, January 16, 2012 I started my Paleo journey.  It was pretty hard for about a week.  It was hard to figure out what I could eat, how I would prepare my meals, how I would quit eating sweets cold turkey!  Luckily, my wife was on board from the beginning.  She did a little research, asked me a ton of questions and promised that we'd cook A LOT more.  On Rut's recommendation, I bought this guy's book (  as a guide.  During the first 7-10 days, whenever I felt the tug of the refrigerator or pantry, I picked up the book and read.  I researched on the internet and asked everyone with any experience or knowledge as many questions as I could.  I bought in 100%.  By day 17 I had lost 20 pounds.  While I was a little pissed to have to admit he was right, I was far more excited to share my accomplishment with Rut and his crew.  By the end of day 30 I was down 22 pounds.  Today is the end of day 60, and I'm under 260 for the first time since college.  This morning I weighed 257.3 pounds.  I've lost 31.7 pounds since that weight meet.  The other day Rut checked my body fat and it was below 18%, almost cut in half from when I had tested it when I first started at the gym.

Now that you know some of the story, I want to get to the best part.  The past 60 days have been arguably the best 60 days of my adult life.  I've finally started to see the results I've always wanted physically.  My outlook on life has been incredible.  My mood has been much more consistent, I haven't felt sorry for myself (despite have knee surgery that has kept me from training for the better part of 6 weeks!) and I've done it all while getting healthy.  I love what I eat.  I bought a 1/4 cow.  Grass fed, natural, local beef.  I eat vegetables at least twice a day and everything I eat is natural.  Most of what I eat has one ingredient.  I'm totally off the processed foods.  I eat protein and fat, I get my carbs from veggies.  I keep a food diary ( on my iphone and even bought a Withings scale to track my weight.  I also bought a fitbit device to track my steps and sleep every day.  I've seen the light.  I am totally convinced that happiness and health are found in our diets.  If you feed your body right, it will operate right.  I had never truly fed my body right, and now that I am I find myself wondering how I ever functioned while eating a "normal," modern diet.

Let me make this clear, I have cheated.  I've eaten a slice or two of pizza at 2 in the morning (it was my birthday after all!) and I've had a few drinks.  I've even had ice cream twice.  I'm still not into the deprivation thing, but I've found that after the initial 30 days, I don't crave sweets anymore.  I don't crave "junk" food at all.  I don't eat the cookies that vendors bring to work, I don't eat pasta or bread.  I don't snack on chips or pretzels.  I don't eat an oreo after my daughter goes to sleep.  I eat meat and vegetables and I love it.  Everything I eat tastes good, but more importantly it makes me feel good, really good.  I can say, unequivocally, this experience has changed my life and I can't thank the crew at bootcamp fitness and especially coach Rut enough.  I'm well aware of how I sound right now, I know I sound like a cheesy infomercial, but if you know me you'll know that this is 100% sincere.  I've included a few photos below, after all, pictures are worth 1,000 words, right?

2007 - Before the Broncos beat the Chiefs!

From the lake of the Ozarks, 2008

Chillin with Avery, February 2010

In the Backyard with Avery - Summer 2011

This was Day 1 of the Paleo Resolution.  January 16, 2012

Day 30 of the Paleo Resolution, 2/14/12

30 days side by side

Day 45 2/29/12

I bought these jeans in December, can't wear them now...

Day 60 - March 15, 2012
Day 1, Day 30 and Day 60