The results are in. It’s easier to clean up your diet when you employ a partner. . . and easiest if that partner is the love of your life! Congratulations to Ted and Berta, who won the March diet challenge at CrossFit Rochester and solidified their status as one of the coolest CrossFitting couples around. Consistency, dedication, and teamwork– the latter born of 34 years of marriage– helped Ted and Berta crush this challenge.
Ted and Roberta decided to take on the challenge primarily to lose weight. Ted has lost 30 pounds in the past year through a combination of CrossFit, walking, and tracking total calorie intake with an iphone app. When he hit his desired weight, he relaxed the tracking. . . and noticed his weight plateauing– or even creeping up. The couple knew that a diet challenge would be a good opportunity to be more organized and mindful about eating.
The rules of this challenge differed slightly from those we’ve done at the gym in the past. First, it was a partner challenge, with each pair competing as a team; second, each pair got to decide whether they wanted to commit to paleo or Zone. Relatively unfamiliar with both styles of eating, Ted and Berta decided to try the Zone diet because it would allow them to learn to balance macronutrient ratios and portions without a major overhaul of the types of foods they already ate. Furthermore, having never attempted a diet challenge before, they felt Zone would be easier to learn than paleo.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t smooth sailing from the beginning. The couple was miserable for the first 5 days until they realized they’d made a mistake.
“We had no clue about the Zone diet before we started. . . and honestly no clue for a week after we began. Despite Julie’s patience–and in hindsight her perfectly clear explanations–we got the math totally wrong in the beginning.”
The misunderstanding was in regards to the calculated Zone “blocks” per meal. In short, for the first 5 days of the diet, Berta ate only 4 blocks a day [instead of 13] and Ted only 6 [instead of 17]. If you’ve ever tried the Zone diet, the idea of eating so little –especially while still working out– should blow your mind and send your stomach growling.
Luckily, Joe uncovered their error at the end of the first week week. When he casually asked how it was going, and they replied with a mildly desperate “constantly hungry and struggling”, he immediately knew that something was wrong. Imagine Ted and Berta’s surprise when Joe told them that they were supposed to eat three times as much as they’d been eating: all the sudden, they thought Zone sounded pretty darn easy! Ted said Roberta looked like she’d won the lottery. They realized that due to the perspective gained from the mistake, they could really be competitive in the challenge.
[Note: we do not recommend this. Feeling famished all the time is not conducive to performance--or happiness. If you are struggling that much with your diet, you're probably doing something wrong!]
After the first week of the challenge (dubbed “Hell Week” by Ted), the going got smoother and the plan was easy to follow. Ted and Roberta agree that having a spouse as a partner for this challenge was immensely helpful. “We eat most meals together. . . enabling encouragement, discussion, and sometimes re-planning on the fly. . . all relatively easy because we spend most of our day together.”
At the beginning of the month, they sat down with the list of food and learned about block sizes. They crossed out what they weren’t willing to eat (no tofu for Ted, no swiss cheese for Berta. . . no okra for either of them) and began to shape a meal plan. “We agreed on what we thought would be the easiest way to buy and prepare everything. We made a simple weekly chart for each of us to track everything we are and when.” Although tedious, Ted and Berta strongly recommend this methodical approach for the first few weeks as you learn the ins and outs of the diet.
Cooking was kept simple for the entire month; even though Ted says Roberta is wonderful and creative in the kitchen, the challenge was more conducive to Ted’s kitchen talents: slicing cold cuts, cheese, and olives. Ted also did the shopping with the help of the Wegmans app. The couple’s consistent menu made it easy to cut-and-paste their shopping list from week to week. (Berta says the Wegmans app is also a great way to keep Ted out of the ice cream and bakery isles.)
Over the course of the month, Ted and Berta lost about 5lbs each as well as at least 1 inch in every measurement used. Their buy-out WOD scores improved, and they feel much better about how they are eating. Roberta says the awareness gained from this challenge is invaluable. They saw no reason not to sign up for the 30-day extension; in fact, they plan to stick with the zone parameters for the forsesable future. The couple agrees, “With the new awareness, we’re never going to revert back to avidly imbalanced sugar junkies. Well, not completely. We hope!”