I wrote the post below exactly two years ago and I’m happy to report that science still wins. I still follow a flexible diet under the watchful eye of my qualified nutrition coach (SD Evolution), not because I don’t know how to count and track my macros (I’m now over two years in), but for the sake of accountability (weighing in, measuring myself, progress photos) and to not driving myself crazy tweaking my own macros. Believe me, I will always recommend for anyone with specific goals (specially for fat loss, coming out of a big caloric deficit or a bulk done the right way) to hire a coach. I’ll do a separate post on how someone can easily drive themselves crazy tweaking and calculating their own macros. Before you begin reading below, I’d like to add that I have seen more gainz since then thankyouverymuch. See below for my nutritional journey.
Brace yourselves folks, you’re in for a long one. Let me first begin by saying that this is NOT intended to bash or talk Paleo down. I’m just going over MY experience with it over some years. I know a lot of people that it has worked for and do great on it. We’re all different ya’ll.
Some of you have been following me since the infancy of my blog which is now about five years old…
…effin old. It began with calorie counting and circuit training on my own that yielded some weight loss. Soon after I moved onto Primal, then Paleo and CrossFit. I thought it was the way to go for sure. Why wouldn’t I? Clean, non-processed eating must equal the healthiest way to go. Seeing everywhere that with Paleo you don’t have to count calories as long as you’re eating Paleo. That it’s “hard to gain weight” if you follow Paleo.
Mind you, when I began Paleo eating, it was at its infancy – almost five years ago. There were only a handful of Paleo bloggers out there and research from a few sources. Over the years I slowly put on some of the fluff that I had lost when ironically, my goal had been (and still is) to get leaner and stronger. And let’s be honest…
But that wasn’t happening. I was dumbfounded. In CrossFit, I made some progress, but not really at the pace I would have expected. Gains here and there, bodyweight work became easier but there are things I feel I should have achieved in the last four years of CrossFitting that I wasn’t accomplishing. I mean, come on, I was doing CrossFit 4-5 times a week, eating all non-processed foods, low carb at below 100g – which according to a lot of “research”, is the sweet spot for weight loss on Paleo eating. I was determined to make it my “lifestyle”. I engulfed myself in it. But, little to no changes were happening with my body. I was convinced something was medically wrong with me and effecting my metabolism. Frustrating.
After being strict Paleo for a solid nearly four years, I finally took a look into my eating habits. Clearly, I might be a little insane.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Yes, I was eating non-processed foods and keeping it lower carb (that sweet spot ya’ll), but maybe my portions weren’t quite right which is when I looked more into Paleo Zone. In case you don’t know, the Zone diet is comprised of “blocks” all based off of macros: carbs/protein/fat. Each meal should be a balance of all three macros. Each food you select will fall into the category of either one of the macros. So the macro that it is highest in, is what block it would be. For example, if a protein bar is 28g carb, 9g fat and 10g protein – you would consider this a carb block, since it is highest in carb. And going the Paleo Zone way, is obvious – the foods you choose are all Paleo options to fall into these blocks. This was touted as the “athlete” way to eat throughout CrossFit. Me, being desperate for a solution, went all in.
My body was ready. For accuracy, most things needed to be measured or weighed in some way, which was new to me at the time. It took me about two weeks to adjust and get used to it. Fast forward to three full months of strict Paleo Zone and my results? A measly 3lbs or so. I didn’t feel or look leaner. And I felt like I was eating SO MUCH. The formula had me at three 3-block meals with two 1-block snacks per day. To put it into perspective, 4 cups of raw spinach equals ONE block of carb. FOUR CUPS WEIGHED. Just ONE carb block, meaning, per meal, I still needed to have two more carb blocks (and the remaining blocks).
Errday. Feeling discouraged, I went back to eating Paleo and just minded my portions more and loosely tracked zone blocks. Felt discouraged for quite a while after that. Thankfully, I generally did not resort to this:
For fear of weight gain, no real “cheat days” (aka full binges), just the occasional “cheat meal”. For a while there, I waved my white flag in defeat and decided this is my life for now until I get my medical situation figured out. Until I saw a few photos of myself and was honestly pretty mortified.
Puffy galore. Just so….soft. Fluffy. Squishy. Anyone who didn’t know me would never assume that I train five times a week. No one would think I’m an athlete. I had to do something. Enter: the nazi diet. I won’t go into that again, if you want to know, go to my post about it here. And then how I found about flexible dieting. And haven’t looked back since. It is also known as IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). All of these have a very similar base: calculated macros for your goals.
- Done strict ring dips in a WOD for the first time
- 6 Unbroken HSPU (kipping) PR
- PR’d my Open WOD 14.2 score by 23 reps
- PR’d my Back Squat by 10lbs at 210lbs
- PR’d my Split Jerk 20lbs at 155lbs
- First strict HSPU at a DEFICIT this morning
- Strict pull-up max reps increased
And I’m excited for what’s to come. Who knew that eating a lot more following the right macros was the key for me? Wanna know the best part about flexible dieting? Regaining my love for food and not seeing any food as “off-limits” or “dirty”. Yes, there are foods that I don’t think are worth my macros, and that is totally fine. This way of eating gives you that choice. Gives you that flexibility. If I want a fully stuffed Chipotle burrito, I will have one, but will plan for it and make it fit my macros.
So, even though sometimes I feel like this tracking my macros on MFP:
And it sure does take some practice, planning, calculating, thinking, meeting your macros. The end results so far have been worth it. Because I can do this:
And zero fucks are given.
In case you’re curious, I was down a measly 3lbs after 4 weeks of nazi plan, and down an additional 7lbs after 4 weeks of flexible dieting AND making gainz. No gainz were had on nazi plan.
The only downsides I’m dealing with right now are some bloating (yes, I’m having more than enough fiber, sodium is low and drinking lots of water), but I’m working on getting that figured out. Other than that, things are pretty great in that department. The only remaining underlying issue is my post nasal drip that I still have every single day, which blows. I was hoping flexible dieting in some way would heal that along with the other things it healed, but that hasn’t been the case.
Don’t get me wrong. I know plenty of people that have had success on Paleo. It just didn’t work for me over the course of over four years.
Having said all that…this is just the beginning. I’m not done. There is much more to come. More results to come. More gainz to be had.