I have struggled with nutrition for a long time. Maybe “struggled” is not the right term – I have blatantly disregarded nutrition for a long time. Even before I started CrossFit, I used the fact that I worked out as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. Once I started CrossFit – forget it! Working out multiple times a week doing the insane WODs that we do, I officially lived by the mantra “eat anything you want, you deserve it.” If I did something great at work, reward it with a cupcake. If I was feeling sad, a bag of Doritos made me feel better. At CrossFit gatherings, I was the person bringing non-paleo bacon maple cupcakes and not apologizing for it one bit.
In the summer of 2013, there was a gluten intervention. I was lured to a wonderful long weekend in Maine with David and the Vaughns under the premise of a good time with a beach view. During our first meal in Maine, I was met with judging eyes as I dove in to bread basket and was informed of the evil and certain-death that would befall me if a morsel of that glorious leavened bread touched my lips. I may be slightly exaggerating but it felt like my world was ending. The problem was, it made sense! I was tired all the time, I did feel like I had hit a plateau in my fitness and (graphic information ahead!) my time spent in the bathroom could have be better.
So Dave and I started right then and there a gluten-free way of life and it has been wonderful. My energy levels are higher than ever, my quality of sleep at night is much better and my body has responded by shedding 10+ pounds and consistently keeping it off. Dave and I have seen such great improvements since going gluten-free that we are now participating in the Whole 30, which consists of, among other things, ridding your diet of gluten, dairy and sugar. The results have been equally as amazing.
But here is the lesson and what I really want to talk about – you don’t have to be perfect! Many people start a diet or way of eating that is very different from how they are currently eating and think that they have to go all in. Obviously, the goal is to be as strict as possible, but there is no way you are not going to slip – it’s just not happening. While I in no way encourage people to half-ass their diet, you have to understand and accept that you will cheat and you have to be ok with that. Too often I hear people beat themselves up over having a cookie or a piece of cake or even an entire bag of Doritos. #1: It happened, you did it, get over it. Don’t waste time beating yourself up. Decide that from that moment forward, you are back on the wagon and mean it. #2: Cheat smart. Choose your cheats selectively. If you want something sweet, go for a small piece of dark chocolate. Don’t deny yourself for so long that you end up cheating by eating an entire platter of 6-week old butter cookies from Christmas that you found in the breakroom that you didn’t even want.
The fact that you are reading this means that you are a CrossFitter and take fitness seriously. I don’t need to overstate how important it is to regulate the things that you put into your body. What I do want to drive home is that you shouldn’t let an obsession with fitness rule every day of your life. My Italian grandmother knows that I “do that CrossFit thing” and am not eating gluten. Does she really know what that means? Not at all. This is evidenced by the fact that she made me a “healthy” cake this past Sunday. This “healthy” cake consisted of egg, apples, sugar and whatever else came in the pre-mixed box. Was it healthy? Absolutely not. Was my Nana proud? You bet your ass she was. And so, despite the fact that I was twelve days deep into the Whole 30, I had a piece. Because you don’t have to be perfect and it’s ok to cheat but it’s never ok to offend Nana.