January 15

Give Yourself Some Grace

There are so many “rules” to remember when eating clean, that I think a lot of us tend to overlook two of the most important rules: HAVE FUN and BE HUMAN.

Many people think that to eat clean, they have to do an exorcism of their kitchen, create a goodbye séance to bread and ice cream, wake up the next morning and BAM – be on the 100% strict train to awesomeville.

For some, this is the only way to go. I know when some people turn strict last year, they quit non-processed foods cold turkey. Power to those people. For us that are less extreme, this simply is not the road to success. The carb/sugar cravings send you spinning out of control, energy levels are all over the place, your willpower breaks, and before you know it you’re hunched over the garbage can at 3AM looking for the Doritos you threw out.

Worse than the actual cheat is feeling like you failed at the diet. The thoughts start to trickle in…I suck at this…this would never work for me…this is good for gnarly people like the coaches and top athletes but not something I could ever stick with…it’s just too extreme…it sounds cool but I like drinking. You wind up feeling like a failure and giving up before you even really got started.

I began my CrossFit journey in August of 2010. I was so weak that I couldn’t even do one thruster with the 15 lb. training bar. “Running” up the hill sounded disturbingly similar to an elephant with asthma. I had never heard of kale or almond butter. If you told me after one of my excruciating On-Ramp sessions that a year from then I would be coaching at CFSB, have completed my Level 1 and CrossFit football certifications, be writing my own paleo cooking blog, and doing CrossFit “firebreather” workouts, I would’ve punched you square in the mouth without hesitation. Pending I could lift my arms of course.

We all start somewhere. You wouldn’t go from On-Ramp to loading up the bar with 165 for clean and jerks for a WOD. You wouldn’t go from just learning how to swim to doing an ocean triathlon. You wouldn’t go from receiving a compliment that you’re good looking to calling Ford Models and asking for a modeling deal.

So WHY do we put pressure on ourselves to go from the diet we have most likely been eating for years, to having a 100% clean diet the next day? Eating clean is not a “diet.” It’s a lifestyle and quite honestly a skill. It’s something that is developed, adjusted, developed again and re-adjusted again. It’s consistently evolving to keep up with increased workouts, new jobs, decreased sleep, new babies, whatever life tends to throw at us.

There is no doubt in my mind that it works. It helps your body fight against inflammation, it protects you from many sicknesses and diseases, it improves your performance and drastically increases your energy level, and of course makes you sexified.

If eating clean interests you, but you’re leery of all of the changes or maybe just overwhelmed at all of the information, I would suggest the following piece of advice: take it step by step. 

It all starts at the grocery store. Next time you go to the grocery store, take a look at your cart at the end. Take out 3 things you typically buy that are processed. For example, the old me would’ve removed Goldfish, wheat double fiber bread, and granola bars. Now, add three non-processed staples. Old Ashley would’ve added some chicken breasts, ground beef, and asparagus.

To me, that first step should be celebrated. You’ve just begun the shift in your lifestyle from processed food to real food. As you hit the grocery store more and more, make a greater and greater percentage of your ingredients paleo. Inevitably, as you start to make paleo dinners, you will begin to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. All of the sudden, you realize one day that you’re eating about 50% clean.

Once you begin to eat “real food,” you can instantly tell the difference in your body and performance when you eat a clean meal and a cheat meal. That will be all the motivation you need to start tipping your diet more and more towards a pure lifestyle.

My point is that when I see people that had never heard of eating clean, just start eating one more serving of veggies a day, I want them to know that is success. You don’t NEED to go from zero to 60 in one day to start to change your lifestyle. People get so hung up on the “rules”, and oh no, I have a birthday dinner tonight and can’t order anything off the menu, or I miss my morning latte so much I shed an actual tear, or I don’t know if this muffin is completely clean, do I eat it or not – that people forget that cooking and lifestyle is supposed to be FUN!

As you advance and evolve, instead of beating yourselves over the head on that last 10%, 20% of your diet that isn’t clean, why not focus and be proud of on the 70, 80, 90 percent that is! All of your little steps – cutting out diet soda, not buying pasta, packing your lunch for work instead of buying – are stepping stones that should be celebrated just like a deadlift PR! So often in CrossFit and life, we forget how far we’ve come and all of the positive changes we’ve made. Diet is no different.

Give yourself some grace. If you want that latte once a week, go for it. If it’s your best friend’s birthday and you’re at a great restaurant, get those garlic bacon mashed potatoes with butter. Drink beers during the football games with your buddies on the weekend. Go for it and don’t sit there and sweat over it – be proud of yourself that you’ve changed your lifestyle to the point where you know this is just a little cheat, and you’re going to be right back to that weirdo in the break room eating steak and kale for breakfast.