Things I Learned By Taking a Break

Continuing my weekly installment in the Strong is the New Skinny Body Transformation Challenge.  Click here to see all posts on this topic.

I’m a couple days late with this week’s post, I was distracted first by my birthday, and then yesterday afternoon I was having trouble concentrating because a scratch on my eye was preventing me from wearing my contacts, and I just can’t see well in glasses.  It seems to be healing today, and I have my contacts back in and can see the world properly again, so here we go.

First off, I hit one of my goals for this challenge: To run the Santa Cruz 10k in under an hour! It was Sunday morning, and my official chip time came in at 55:57.

I’m thrilled and I give CrossFit all the credit for taking about 1:30 off my per mile pace in less than three months. Six years ago I got my previous PR on this same course at about 59 minutes, which was about the fastest I had ever been.  Hurrah for functional fitness!

To get back to the title subject, I decided to take a diet break for the two weeks around my birthday (which was yesterday).  Not like the kind of break I’d have taken in the past, no going crazy. I’m much more aware of how crappy I’d feel if I went back to the old way I used to eat. More like having a glass of wine if I feel like it and eating as much fruit and dark chocolate as I want, things like that.

The best thing I realized this last week is how much happier I am since I’ve been eating Paleo, just by virtue of not being in minor pain and physical discomfort.  I ate some Easter candy at work on Friday, including some stuff that was just sugar, and also a small peanut butter egg and a mini kit kat (gluten and peanuts!), and lo and behold, I felt bloated and cranky that evening.  Nothing horrendous, but it reminded me that I used to feel like that all the time.  Almost every day I would wake up feeling good, and then progressively get worse throughout the day. I can’t believe how much easier it is to stay positive without my lower gut complaining at me all the time.

So mostly this break has consisted of plenty of very dark chocolate, some Lara bars, a couple treats here and there (the Easter candy on Friday for example), and a couple glasses of wine.  Hardly any gluten, not much processed food, not even any grains to speak of really.  But overall more sugar than I think is wise over the long haul.

What I think breaks are also great for is teaching you more about which foods are worth eating and which aren’t.  I thought I’d list some of these categories out, just because I find it interesting.

Just a warning, there’s a lot of categories.  And this list is by no means exhaustive, it just includes items I feel like mentioning.

Foods that make me feel great and I feel great about eating.  I have no or almost no GI issues when I only eat these foods:

  • Clean meat. (I mean meat from what I think are healthy animals, that starts out raw in my kitchen.)
  • Vegetables. (Pretty much everything except white potatoes.)
  • Eggs. (Only pastured and organic at home.)
  • Organic coconut products.
  • Fresh fruits with lower sugar. (I count berries, apples, citrus, and kiwis in this category.)
  • Butter. (Also organic and grass-fed only.)

Foods that I think are good for me in small amounts, but which I have difficulty consuming in moderation and hence should avoid if I am actively trying to lose weight:

  • Nuts. (Raw and organic are best. I love macadamia nuts and some other nuts are good every now and then, but all nuts are far too easy to overeat. There’s a dirty joke in there somewhere.)
  • Dark chocolate.  (I think a little dark chocolate is totally great for me, but I rarely eat just a little of anything this good.)

Foods that I think are decent, but the jury is out on whether they are optimal, so probably best in moderation:

  • Good quality charcuterie. (This includes salami, bacon and ham that I didn’t cure myself, things like that.)
  • Organic cheese from grass-fed cows.
  • Organic cream from grass-fed cows.

Foods that I’m pretty clear are sub-optimal, but don’t do much damage so I’ll include them now and again:

  • A single glass of wine.  (See below for where I categorize multiple glasses of wine.)
  • High sugar fruits like bananas, and dried fruits like dates.

Foods that are decidedly bad for me, but I like them too much to say I’ll never have them again:

  • Quality buttery and sugary treats. (Things in this group for me are pastries with butter and caramelized sugar, caramels and toffees with 3 or 4 ingredients, desserts at fancy restaurants, high quality ice cream.  These types of things I’m clear have a negative impact on my health and feeling of well-being, but every now and then I’m willing to suffer the consequences.)
  • Two or more glasses of wine or other alcohol.  (These days I seem to regret it every time I have more than one glass and I think that’s probably a good thing.  I digest my food better, and I’m not grumpy the next day when I only have one glass. However, it’s unlikely that I’ll never have more than one glass of wine again.)

Foods that I will happily eat if I am eating out, as long as I’m not eating out very often: (In general, I’m not that interested in eating out any more, but sometimes its just convenient, or facilitates socializing with people I want to spend time with.)

  • Meat and eggs without worrying too much about their source.
  • Cheese. (For now, I may try cutting out dairy next week.)
  • Pretty much any vegetables and fruits. (Except potatoes again.)

Foods I used to eat that I now think are bad enough that I may never eat again if I can help it:

  • Any fast food like McDonalds and Taco Bell.
  • Industrial oils like canola and soy oil.
  • Soda and sugary beverages.
  • Soy products. (Like soy milk and tofu, and stuff made with soy protein. I don’t include soy sauce since it’s fermented.)

Foods that I used to crave for which cravings have (almost) completely disappeared:

  • Doritos
  • Starbucks Matcha Green Tea Frappuccinos
  • Donuts (see above about desserts at fancy restaurants for a possible exception)

I think starting next week I’m going to go more strictly Paleo again for at least a month. This includes cutting out most nuts and most dairy. My goals haven’t changed, I’d still like to lose 20 pounds, and I think this along with practicing eating only when I’m hungry are the way to make it happen. I also think I’ll feel really great eating cleaner again.

Regarding dairy, I’ve read a few accounts of people’s acne clearing up when they cut it out, and I’d like to see if the bad skin on my back will respond to eliminating it.

I’ll keep you posted.


Monday, April 4

CrossFit – Back Squat 3-3-3-3-3 (add weight each set)
105-115-115-125-135(fail)-130(PR) (I added wrong in my head and so didn’t increase on the third set.)
Then: 21-15-9
– KB swing (25 lb)
– Ring dip/push up (Knee push-ups)
Completed in 3:58

Tuesday, April 5

Running – Ran a hilly 3.6 mile loop near Stanford know as “The Dish” in 38:30.

Wednesday, April 6

CrossFit – Deadlift 5-3-3-1-1-1 (add weight each set)
153-163-173-183-193-208 (PR, yeah!)
Then, AMRAP in 12 minutes:
– 20 yard  Bear Crawl
– 10 1-arm  KB/DB Push Press* (used 15 lb DB)
– 10 KB cross-chops* (used 25 lb KB)
– 30 double unders or 120 single jumps (did singles with an annoying jumprope that I had to keep stopping to untwist)
Completed 3 rounds (plus almost all of a 4th, got to 69 single jumps)

Thursday, April 7

Running – Ran 5 miles at an easy pace with a friend.

Friday, April 8

CrossFit – Clean & Jerk (work up to 1 rep max)
AMRAP in 5 minutes of 1 squat clean and one jerk at 90% of 1RM
1RM Clean & Jerk: 88 lbs.
AMRAP: 13 rounds at 73 lbs.
Note: This was a gnarly workout, every time I leaned down to get ready to clean the bar, my lats, shoulders and upper back were violently quivering.  Working on the 1RM I failed many times, forgetting how to clean properly or stalling halfway up in the jerk and having to throw the weight down.  I failed at 93 lbs once and then we ran out of time.  Maybe I could have gotten it, but most likely not.

Saturday, April 9 – REST DAY

Sunday, April 10

Santa Cruz 10k – 55:57!!!


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