Crashing: A retrospective.

Looking back over the last 10 years of diet and exercise disasters, I couldn’t help but laugh. Hard.

I have crashed and burned more times than I can count. Picture my gigantic lumbering lug of a dog hurling himself straight into a gleaming glass door in a well-intentioned, excited attempt to reach the backyard. Now picture me doing that same thing, but in the direction of some perfect body mirage. Yup. Ouch.

This nose + Patio Glass = need more Windex.

So, in an attempt to give myself a failed-fad enema, I’m going to dump (sorry, bad joke) this retrospective on you, dear reader.

Phase One – High School

The low-fat calorie pack – While participating in intense sports negated the need for a brain when it came to intelligent exercise, at some point an evil dye-job blondie planted the seed of self-loathing in my mind and I went for anything and everything with a low calorie-count. En masse. Fifty-six 150-calorie mini Froot Loop boxes? Check! And skim milk doesn’t have calories. (Or inflammatory properties). The take-home here is never eating ANYTHING with so much as an ounce of fat. This means EVERYTHING must come in a package – how else would you affix a nutrition label?


Phase Two – College

Pre-Freshman 15:
The first and most important thing to remember when entering University is that the three blocks you walk every day to class and then to the bar is precisely equivalent to the hours of field hockey practice and the metabolism of your pre-teen heyday.

My Pre-Teen Heyday.

Post-Freshman 15:
The Atkins Diet –  I was generally successful at peeling the cheese off six slices of pizza; scooping the salty innards from a Goodcents sandwich; ordering three chicken Caesar salads and drenching them in three cups of dressing; and basically eating anything with less than 3 grams of “Net Carbs.” This included Atkins bars, drinks, and the myriad of supplements one “needs” when eating grain-fed mystery meat from the Tyson Compressed Chicken Parts Factory. Now that I think about it, they should make a new diet called “The Omega-6 Diet” and just serve up some O-6’s with a side of Bleu Cheese. Side note: Beer is not a carb.

Beer is not a carb. Especially when it comes in a Big Boy.

The Elliptical Machine Regimen – This regimen lasted 2 weeks in the fall semester of freshman year, and then I lost my gym pass.

The I Hate Myself Collage – Simple and artistic! Cut out photos from the Victoria’s Secret Catalogue and paste to your food journal.

The 45 Minute OK! Regmen – This sophomore-year regimen consisted of spending 45 minutes on a recumbent bike with an OK! Magazine filled with photos of skinny celebrities. Preferably followed by some Adductor work. If you can figure out how to set the calorie goal on the bike, BONUS! Deduct 30 minutes of bike time. First, however, you must put a $600 Globo Gym membership on your credit card.

The Bean Soup and Toast with Cheese + Sleep Diet – In short, keep some chicken broth in the mini-fridge at your sorority, prepare one serving of freeze-dried vegan bean soup and one slice of low-carb wheat toast with one slice of American Cheese. Consume, then go back to sleep. (Not only do you avoid eating, but you avoid that pesky day of classes!)

Party! (Then 3AM Pizza)

Weight Watchers – OK, I never really tried WW; but I did borrow the “Points” book from a friend. Looking back, any program that assigns someone a daily calorie value based on weight alone, then gives them a book that assigns point values to Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is…FINE BY ME! Really, I just found out how many McDonald’s soft-serve ice cream cones fit within my skinny friend’s WW designation; then proceeded to add precisely that many cones to my diet. (Update: Sounds like WW has finally started recognizing Quality Foods! Extra WW points for them.)

Shakes, Bars, and Cardio – pretty self-explanatory. I ate the protein bars like candy and the shakes like pop, so that way when I DID eat candy and pop I could make up for it by spending an hour on the treadmill. This is logical. Note – this requires putting a $500 membership to an all-female gym on your credit card.


Phase Three – Post-College (Professional)

This is where things start moving pretty fast.

Year one, months 1-6  – The Perfect Body Diet Book. I never read it.

Year one, months 7-12  – The Blood Type Diet Book. I never read it.

Year two, months 1-3 – The Mediterranean Diet Book. I never read it. But I did learn to like Olive Oil. Which, I also learned, is not good for frying chicken fingers.

Year two, months 4-6 – Intermittently reading magazines about Jennifer Aniston and thinking about starting the Zone diet. Paraphrasing Robb Wolf, once this book is read, food starts falling from the sky in perfect 40-30-30 ratios.

Year two, months 7-10 – The Two Spin Classes Per Day regimen + Buying Dax Moy’s “Cleanse” PDF online. I read it. Never did it.

Year two, months 11-12 – Tom Venuto’s E-Book. 40 bucks and hours of blog-style testimonials later, I began believing that vanity lifting plus two HIIT/Cardio sessions per day would do it for me. Anything less than 5-6 meals per day would turn disastrous (This is straight from the perfectly symmetrical, oiled-up horse’s mouth). While I was semi-successful with calorie restriction as I graze-ate and spent 2 hours in the gym daily, my intuition that bodybuilding and general vanity did not equal health led me to conclude that Tommy V. wasn’t the guy for me. Somewhere in there was another e-book from some Joey guy that guaranteed a cellulite-free booty if you did a bunch of body-weight exercises and ate cans of green beans with olive oil. I think I requested a refund on that one.

Year three – After a full four years of English Major courses in college and a slew of purchases in the years following, I finally read a book: The New Rules of Lifting For Women by Cassandra Forsythe. For the first time, I saw a woman encouraging chicks to LIFT. (Gwyneth Paltrow can SUCK IT.) I decided Cassandra’s strength was something to emulate. I needed something different…but it still wasn’t quite right. The strength ideals were great, but the solo free-weight trek to fitness wasn’t right for me. I needed community. After all, I’d stuck with spin class for years because my dear friend Layna and I slaved through it together. (See my tribute to Layna at Strong Is Beautiful.)

Phase four (years four & five) – My future husband, Bootcamp Fitness KC, Intro to Paleo, and Crossfit Tribe.

My proud graduation from my first session at 0500, BCF.

After much encouragement from then-CaveFeyonce, I decided to drop the dough for a membership to Coach Rut’s Bootcamp-style, Crossfit-driven program. Feyonce was into CrossFit, and our long-distance relationship afforded plenty of time for me to work on getting myself healthy, both for myself and the health of my relationship. (Awww, swoon!) Through Rut’s program I was introduced to smart programming and met-con fundamentals; functional strength; HARD WORK and MENTAL TOUGHNESS; and intelligent nutrition (and the associated performance gains, body and skin health, and resolution of some gnarly self-worth issues). Now-CaveHusband and I relocated to South Jersey and I found Tribe, where I strengthened my foundation in the Olympic lifts and “moving heavy things” with an equally amazing sense of support, community, and smart programming. In short –  In the span of two years, I’ve accomplished more and better things than I ever thought possible in the  aimlessness of the above-described years one through eight.

Pure joy.

So, my three readers (Hi Mom! Hi Gramma! Hi Justin Bieber!), I conclude with this: The moment when things finally fell into place was when I articulated to myself what was truly important to me – being strong and healthy, emotionally and physically. The process has been a pure joy ever since. Everything else – the years of crashing and disappointment – didn’t yield results because the foundation was shaky from the get-go.


17 Responses to “Crashing: A retrospective.”

  1. I see myself in nearly everything you write. Except add post grad…read Skinny Bitch. Decide that tofu and seitan are way more healthy than beef. Also….whole wheat rotini noodles with Earth Balance butter and nutritional yeast as a comfort food. Also, marathon training. Also, wondering why my foot kept stress fracturing.

    You are the bomb.

  2. Sad, but I related to about 98% of the diets you listed (never got into the vegan bean soup and wheat bread diet, must have been a KU thing). What a good read… you’re my inspiration! You too Justin Bieber!

    PS – Tom is a turd face!

    Love you!
    S-Dub (aka, your new sister)

  3. You are the bomb. And you are going to make one seriously good (but hilariously funny on the side) Olympic Lifter. 🙂


  4. Nobody is a turd. (This for your mental balance.)Otherwise, go girl!

  5. Tom Venuto is a TURD! Thank you very much, Robb Wolf. I love this blog post and I have been reading Whole9 all day and love it too. Not as much, because no one there calls me Justin Beiber (I mean, who else could you possibly have been talking about when you said that??). How FUN does this “Man Training” workout posted by Melissa sound:

    Did I mention I love your blog?

  6. I totally see myself in this post. Though my journey had to go into a bad place before I knew what it is I actually wanted to achieve and then found out what it was that was going to get me there.

    Crossfit, My Box, The people in it, My Trainers and My Boy have all changed my life. After working at a globo gym and seeing everyone so miserable I wish I could have just given out business cards to them to show them what this could do for them too.

  7. @meghan…YOU are the bomb. I thought the same thing when I read your blog – I truly see myself in there! Here’s to many more WODs and a bright Paleo future for us both.
    @sjw…Your “Paleo Path” is awesomely bright. You’re an inspiration.
    @erin…any success I have is because you have a particular talent at harnessing people’s inner drive and pushing it farther than they thought possible.
    @gam…You’re right.
    @lwolfe2…not only are you more special than JB, your voice is lower too. Awesome post by Whole9. You’re the Whole 10!
    @Lani…I feel you 100%. There are times when I overhear conversations where I KNOW I could interject and possibly make a difference, but it’s hard to know how. This path is universally beneficial and life-changing in more ways than one, it hurts to think that some people never find their way out of the dark.

  8. dude!!! i did that horrible front squat workout a couple weeks ago. took me freaking 12 minutes and change and i wasn’t even lifting that much. it was the damn jumprope! 😉

    and i am fixing my mentality with food, and have come full circle in believing it’s the FOOD and QUALITY you put in, and WHOLE foods that fuel your body correctly.

    • From CaveGirlAdmin (Jerselizabeth):

      @traynharder23: Somehow I missed approving this comment initially – thanks for reading! Isn’t it hard to believe, what with how simple and intuitive the “Paleo” approach is, that it eluded us for so long? How was the “quality” thing so hard to see? How could I possibly have thought I could function on a Special K bar as well as I could function on a breakfast of scrambled eggs and spinach?

  9. LOL I recognise soooo many things. We are on the same spot right now. See how it goes :))

  10. Where did you go to college? I am from KC and went to k-state. I have been reading you and AndreAnna and really getting into paleo and what we eat. Thank you for all of the good info!

    • Rock Chalk! I know lots of State folks though, from high school (SME) through my days working in KC MO. Abby Dugan is hands down my favorite K-Stater, if I may drop a name 🙂 I’m glad you like the blog! Paleo/Primal has been the most rewarding thing for me and my little fam (husband + dog).


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