My Paleo Challenge Experience

Last year I participated in a 6 week Paleo Challenge when I was at Crossfit SoBay. Despite my typical stress and nervousness, I came out on top and won one of the “Miss Congeniality” titles. Here is what I wrote for their blog (which can also be found here: 

I never felt like I ate “unhealthy” in terms of too many calories or super greasy foods (or any of the other stereotypical bad foods) but I realized I was eating way too many carbs and foods that weren’t giving me energy. I’d come home from working my butt off at CrossFit in the morning to counteract it by eating cereal with soy milk. It left me feeling weighed down and just gross for the rest of the day. I rarely cooked any meals outside of stir fry or pasta, and I felt like the Paleo Challenge would give me the discipline and routine to change my habits. I also told myself that committing to the challenge was only 6 weeks out of my life and in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not a big deal. I had concerns about being a pescatarian (I don’t eat meat, just seafood) going into a diet that is heavily reliant on meat. I also was worried I’d be hungry all the time or just not enjoy any meals. I was worried my social life would become nonexistent as I’d be the Paleo black sheep that couldn’t do anything but workout and cook. I viewed the challenge as a needed push to get into a better routine of cooking (as well as trying to lose some lb’s/fat and gain more muscle). Obviously cooking was a big change for me but holy moly, the planning/prepping that goes into it blew me away the first few weeks. I started buying non-perishable foods and kitchen items I didn’t have (like a food processor) weeks before the challenge started to break up the hit to my wallet. During the first week, I literally made at least 8 trips to food stores. (My daily routine was Crossfit, work, email Ashley Merrell for encouragement, food shop, cook, sleep). I found tons of recipes (thanks to suggestions of books and websites from my paleo peers). I’d plan out what I wanted to make in the coming week and would spend a few hours on Sundays cooking so I’d have enough to get me through at least a few days. 

The first few weeks I was ridiculously tired but that slowly subsided. I didn’t really see changes in my body, I just felt less… bloated (sorry if that’s TMI but I can’t find a more pleasant way to say that). I was amazed that I started feeling less hungry (and less frequently). I would feel full eating smaller portions. I never would have thought a hodge podge of veggies for lunch would be so delicious and satisfying. My clothes started fitting a little differently (I did lose a few inches). I am probably my own worst critic so I can’t see a drastic change physically but it is enough of a difference to keep me believing in Paleo. I managed to make most social invites I had during the challenge. I would try to plan my meals around them so I wouldn’t be caught hungry, staring at food I couldn’t eat. I even went to a friend’s birthday blind wine tasting in which I resorted to sniffing wine instead of tasting (mildly depressing and pathetic but hey, I got 2 out of 6 right!). 

I had plenty of opportunities to cheat where I could have easily justified them… like a trip to Urgent Care for a crazy allergic reaction or visiting my family or frosting cupcakes for my niece’s 1st birthday party. I didn’t cheat though other than grabbing food at BWI airport so that I wouldn’t be stuck on a plane for 6 hours, hungry and grumpy.

Now that the challenge is over, I feel great! Paleo is so routine for me, it’s almost scary. I’m much more aware of what I’m putting into my body and feel less desire to indulge in things I would have pre-Paleo. 

Not only did I learn to cook to my liking but I even cooked for friends and family. I got my 3 year old nephew, who is uber picky with food, to try roasted cinnamon carrots I made (and he told me they were “super good!”) 

Spending so much time in the kitchen has sent shock waves across the country to my family who says better late than never, at least I joined the rest of normal functioning society. 

Blueberry brussel sprouts (Recipe ) is delicious despite that they come out looking purple. I also love apple pie slices for a snack (recipe here ) 

Just a big thanks to Ashley Merrell for being my Paleo sponsor. I really had moments of doubt that first week if I’d survive it. I may have given up had it not been for her. She always responded quickly to my MANY emails and never made me feel like a pest even though I really was! Also, Sarah Hinrichs gave me the encouragement I needed before starting the challenge. Without meat, I didn’t know if it was realistic to go into it. She was a huge resource for me and also gave me a really simple but amazing tip. I was so hung on up foods/drinks I couldn’t have, I was making myself nuts. She reminded me to focus on everything I could have instead and that helped me in remembering all the options I wasn’t giving up.

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