I was reading some responses from the reader survey I linked to on Friday and a couple people asked for a Paleo update and for some thoughts on my fitness routine. It's been some time since I shared anything like that, so I thought it was a great idea for a post! (I'm also going to be sharing a new episode of Hello, Butter that touches on a lot of the same issues I want to write about today.)
I changed my diet in late 2011 and haven't really looked back until this year. For several years I was very strict--no rice, absolutely no sugar, really low carbs, and a lot of meat and vegetables. I felt really amazing. I lost like 25 pounds and almost felt like I didn't even need to work out. But then in the summer of 2012 I started CrossFit and became temporarily addicted. I went regularly for about two months, which I think is confusing to a lot of people who were reading my blog at that time and are still here--it was definitely just a phase for me. I still go with my mom sometimes when I'm in town (my friend Emma and I always do the Black Friday WOD together when we're both home for Thanksgiving), but I haven't gone regularly since 2012.
I started working a full-time job in Roanoke and couldn't really find the time to work out regularly--instead of CrossFit, I would go running or take a walk on my lunch break and then do some push-ups or pull-ups, but it was never super formal or even very routine. I was living at my parents' house and Rob and I were at the beginning of a long-distance relationship, so I had a lot of anxiety and found that controlling my food (i.e being very strict about not eating things that weren't Paleo) was oddly comforting. I wouldn't say I was disordered, because I ate plenty and was never hungry, but I definitely clung to the tenets of Paleo in a way that could only be described as extreme.
I was super thin and found myself feeling really anxious all the time. My doctor ran some tests and actually found that my cortisol levels were way too high because I didn't weigh enough to regulate them. She recommended that I gain five or ten pounds, which I did, and I started feeling better.
When I moved to Minneapolis I lightened up a bit with my diet, but I also started working out regularly at the gym in our apartment building. We were planning our wedding and Rob and I were really great about eating well and exercising every day. I started eating Paleo-friendly-but-not-necessarily-Paleo things like French fries and realizing that sushi didn't bother my stomach, but I was still staying away from gluten and dairy, which was easy because Minneapolis is so friendly to every single diet you could possibly imagine. I look back on that time as the best for my food/body image/exercise--I was never out of control in any way and I was super happy with my body. Looking back, now I know that I felt so good because I was living in a really successful middle ground of cardio, strength training, Paleo, and the occasional coconut milk soft serve.
Once our wedding was over I started eating a lot more foods that I used to completely ignore, for example I'll sometimes eat breaded chicken nuggets, which actually make me feel pretty sick. I've been experimenting with my gluten-sensitivity, which has led to a lot of migraines. A few years ago I never would have even tried, but now I know more about what works and doesn't work for my body. I can live without bread, but now I know that I really like craft beer, and it doesn't bother me the way a full bowl of pasta would. I've definitely gained a few pounds in the process, but that's just par for the course, I suppose. Honestly, I'd rather carry around those five vanity pounds and be less anxious than be at my "goal weight" and feel like I was about to panic every single day.
And finally, a few words about barre! Someone in the survey asked if I felt that barre was enough of a workout and if it was helping me reach my fitness goals, and the truth is that on its own it's not enough for me right now. It's a full-body workout for sure and I really, really love it; but I want to find a way to incorporate cardio as well--I miss running. The problem, though, is that when I spend an hour every day in the studio working out, I feel like I should be done with exercise for the day, so I don't do anything else.
I currently have an unlimited membership that expires at the end of the year, and I think I may take a few months off and see if I can go back to what I was doing in Minneapolis--just working out on my own and switching it up every day. That was much more manageable then because I was trying to get in great shape for our wedding, but now that I've been doing barre for over six months, I've made time in my schedule to exercise every day, no matter what. We'll see how it goes!
So there you have it! I still love Paleo and eat that way at least 85% of the time. I definitely feel better when I'm closer to 100%, but Pad Thai and ramen and beer and gluten-free salted caramel brownies are pretty awesome, too. If anyone has any questions for me, I'd love to hear them. As always, thanks so much for your interest and to those of you who have responded to the reader survey so far!
Photo by Sarah Gatrell for Freckled Italian.