‘Clean Up, Power Up’ – My experiences cleaning up my eating.

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Jen Wirth | November 27, 2017 | 1 comment |

‘Clean Up, Power Up’
Recent experiences with cleaning up my eating.

by, Coach Jen Wirth

I’d been on a sugar roller coaster for months. I knew I needed to get off, but man I was dreading the process. Right around the time I started getting realistic about stopping the insanity and tamping down on my daily sucrose overdose, Jenny Providence, of City Acupuncture (and wife of Wildcat Owner Noah Providence) started running one of the most comprehensive and informative nutrition classes (in my opinion) available (to lay people) anywhere, right here at Wildcat CrossFit. I knew I needed help, so I jumped in to check it out.

Eight weeks later, I’ve all but stopped consuming soda, candy bars, ‘freshly baked’ pies, and even alcohol. The whole while I’ve never felt deprived or stressed out because I wasn’t sure what I could eat. I’ve never felt ‘hangry.’ And I’ve rarely felt hungry at all. It’s been by far the most effective, gentle and gradual way I have ever shifted my eating habits…and because of this I think the changes I’ve made will be sustainable without external support for quite some time.

I used to eat most of the Cheese-its
out of the Wildcat vending machine.
Not for the last month though,
and that’s quite something.

I’ve been a very healthy eater before, maintaining a low carb diet that was heavy on vegetables periodically for years at a time. This year my diet got way out of wack. Several months ago I sustained a major injury and, as a result, I experienced a serious amount of chronic pain and discomfort during the months-long healing process.

Here’s that story in a nutshell: While I was making coffee one morning, the kettle slipped out of my hand and hot water splashed across my tummy. A nice swath of my stomach felt like it was on fire for a good two or three weeks. And then there was the itching that accompanies the healing of a burn. I’d wake up at night, scratching my healing skin back open. I had to sleep sitting up for months, and usually just for a couple hours at a time.

“I was on a sugar rush roller coaster to the point where it was a normal thing for me. I was dreading, absolutely dreading, weaning myself off sugar.”

The fog of pain, sleep loss, and continuous discomfort I was living through for those couple of months made me focus most of my waking hours on bare survival. When that’s your reality, it’s hard to make sure you’re eating your vegetables, at least it is for me. As it was the only comfort available, comfort food became a big part of my life. And after my burn healed … nothing changed in that department.

A couple months ago, I was still really struggling with these same bad eating habits I’d picked back up after my injury. I was eating sugary foods, ice cream, pie, candy bars, and drinking soda, with reckless abandon. I knew the way I was eating was unsustainable long term. High blood sugar levels on a regular basis lead to the formation of blood clots and increase your chances of heart attacks and strokes. Not to mention Type 2 Diabetes and just generally feeling like crapola. I knew that I had to make a change, but I was dreading, absolutely dreading, the symptoms of sugar withdrawal.

I’d detoxed myself off sugar before, and I wasn’t looking forward to doing it again. My sugar detox symptoms typically include headaches, crabbiness, moodiness, tiredness, and I can get pretty grumpy and blue. Usually it has taken a week or two before the cravings go away and I start feeling like a happy human being on the inside again.

To complicate matters, I’m also a survivor of 30 years of obsessive dieting that included both food and caloric restriction. I finally stopped this behavior several years ago (thanks in large part to CrossFit:). Because of my history with food and eating, it is difficult for me to radically change my eating patterns quickly without stress.

I highly recommend you let Jenny
tell you a story or two about the comparative
digestive pathways of sugars and fats.
It will change the way you look at your plate.

Even though it’s very healthy for most people to do eating programs like ‘The Whole 30.’ For me, limiting the number of foods I am ‘allowed’ to eat for a certain ‘time period’ really pushes my buttons and stresses me out. I don’t like doing it, and I know from experience that don’t usually stick with ‘eating clean’ for long after those 30 days are over. This time, if I was going to go to the trouble of starting to eat right, I wanted to be able to keep eating right.

I needed to get my diet back in check, and I wasn’t sure I could do it alone. Jenny’s class provided alternative healthy recipes and support. And thank goodness for that, it turns out I needed it.

Jenny’s nutrition class, which was framed as the ‘Clean Up – Power Up 6 Week Challenge’ helped me shift my eating off of sugars and grain-based carbs in the most gradual and gently way I’d ever experienced. Shifting my eating gradually, the way our small group of participants did during the 6 Week Challenge, was very effective for me.

Week 1: We increased our ‘good’ fat intake and eliminated ‘bad’ fats, such as vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and cottonseed oil. Instead of these, we focused on eating more butter, avocados, coconut oil, and animal fats. We also focused on getting more sleep and eliminating alcohol for the duration of the challenge.

It turns out that when you understand how a certain food will impact your body, it’s easier to turn down most of the bad choices.

Week 2: We eliminated processed sugars and carbohydrates. Guess what? You can still eat sweet things if you do this! You just eat sweet things that also contain fiber…like fresh fruit and berries…or sweet potatoes (soooooo sweet!) and you can add butter too … and salt … and it’s got that salty, sweet, creamy delicious texture as it warmly rolls across your tongue and down your throat.. mmm mmm mmm! Highly recommend.

I really appreciated Jenny’s encouragement and her comprehensive, yet understandable, explanations of what roles different organs and hormones play in the digestive process. It turns out that when you understand how a certain food will impact your body, it’s easier to turn down most of the bad choices. Also, Jenny explained why choosing low sugar/grain foods is one of the the most important factors in determining whether or not your body will be able to easily burn body fat as an energy source. If you’re wondering why you have trouble losing weight no matter how few calories you eat, I highly recommend you let Jenny tell you a story or two about the comparative digestive pathways of sugars and fats. It will change the way you look at your plate.

Lasting effects, trending towards a healthier plate.

Because most of us have built up a tolerance to junky modern foods high in carbs (sugars) and sugars, it takes time to get your body used to performing the way it’s designed to perform. In order to make it do so, you kind of have to lay off of the junky modern food (and beverages) for awhile…for me three weeks was just long enough for me to start really feeling a difference, and that was about 4 weeks ago.

I’ve made a few non-ideal food choices since the Clean Up Power Up challenge ended: sips of soda, a donut hole or two; but I am in no way as dependent on a regular sugar fix as I had been prior to the challenge. I was able to minimize wheat and other grains in my diet, as well as sugar, soda, and most processed foods. I used to eat most of the Cheese-its out of the Wildcat vending machine. Not for the last month though, and that’s quite something.

I haven’t been able to start incorporating
[intermittent fasting] yet, but as far
as I’ve been able to take this challenge,
it has really changed the way I feel for the better.

As the class progressed (a total of 6 Saturdays), the challenges got a little harder for me to do. It turns out, part of eating well is spending a decent amount of time each day not eating.

Intermittent fasting, or limiting the number of hours per day you eat to 8 or 10 and increasing the amount of time between dinner and breakfast up to 16 hours was one of Jenny’s final challenges to us. I haven’t been able to start incorporating this practice yet, but as far as I’ve been able to take this challenge, it has really changed the way I feel for the better.

My general stress level is lower than it was before. My life is pretty much rolling along the same as it was, yet I feel much less stressed out than I did before starting this challenge.

Even though I wasn’t able to complete all of the nutrition challenges, during the ‘Clean Up, Power Up – 6 Week Challenge,’ I’m happy with what I accomplished. Also, I know Jenny will be offering another nutrition challenge at Wildcat CrossFit starting in early 2018, so I can get a tune-up then and see if I can take my nutrition to an even higher level.  I also know that (for me) the best way to have great nutrition for life is to ease into new behaviors. Continuously striving to do a little bit better, and keeping with the general trend of making healthier eating choices more often, that’s what works for me.

It feels good to feel good. If you’re interested in changing your eating habits for the better, and you don’t want to make a whole bunch of changes all at once, I definitely recommend taking advantage of Jenny Providence’s nutrition expertise the next time she offers a nutrition class at Wildcat CrossFit. The information she shares is powerful, and experiencing gradual, noticeable change in the way your body feels as you start to feed it differently. I can tell you, from experience, that experience is very cool.

1 comment

  • Meghan Challis-Jones says:

    Great article! Really makes me want to clean up my own eating practices. The food looks super yummy and I am so glad to hear your sugar dependency is in check. That is a tough thing to challenge. Good for you Jen!!

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