I know everyone isn't interested in my hormone experiments, so if you're less than enthralled by tales of T3 and TSH, skip this one. For...Read More
A Healing Experiment
Last January, I bared my soul and my body in what I hoped would be “before” photos. My plan was to live as the best version of myself to evolve to my ideal body composition without making myself nuts. I banished the idea of “goals” and “rules” and decided to just live my life.
That didn’t mean I tossed my good habits out the window. In fact, the no-pressure approach made me more committed than ever to smart nutrition and training. I stuck close to my 95% clean paleo diet. I got at least 8 hours of sleep per night. I did CrossFit workouts three times a week and lifted heavy things at least once a week. I even cut back a little bit on fruit and did a pretty good job of minimizing my nut intake.
I did everything “right.”
And my body comp hasn’t changed. And my energy levels are about the same as they were before I started that approach.
So now I’m trying another habit set, based on some solid advice from people I trust. Let’s call this one The Healing Experiment.
Here’s the thing. Like it or not (and for the record, I don’t), we are ruled by our hormones. I like to think I’m in charge, but the truth is that leptin, cortisol, thyroid hormones, and insulin make all the decisions. I influence them with my behavior – but they drive my behavior. See how tricky they are?!
Based on my Frankenneck experience, my history of big weight gains and losses, and the fact that I tend to live in a stressful pressure cooker most of the time, my hormone feedback loops might be kinda screwed up. So I’m adopting new habits for the next eight weeks or so to try to patch the potholes in my hormones highways.
Because I’m creating new habits, I’m once again following some “rules.” I can live with that in the name of science. Science! (Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto! You’re beautiful.)
The Rules of My Healing Experiment*
*NOTE: I’m sharing these details so you guys know what’s up with me, but this plan is personalized to my specific situation. I’m not advising you to follow suit. Frankly, I just want you to share my misery and hopes that this will work.
1. No workout stress.
The stress-release cycle that happens naturally in our body works really well – when it works. For people like me – chronically stressed, history of weight yo-yoing – high-intensity workouts may do more harm than good. For eight weeks, I’m taking a complete break from CrossFit and heavy lifting. This is the worst rule of all. I’m pouting as I type these words. But it’s temporary, and I will survive. I think. Update 11/14/11: Just got the green light to do some weight lifting if I don’t go too heavy, and I don’t mentally stress about how much weight is on the bar. My instructions are “think activity, not exercise” and “have fun.” YAY!
2. Vitamin D and morning light.
First thing in the a.m., I’m taking a Vitamin D supplement, putting on some squishy clothes, and going for a 30-minute walk in the natural light of the morning to help re-set my cortisol feedback loop. I know that sounds lovely, and eventually, I will agree. But for now, it feels totally weird to be walking when I should be WODing. But my internal clock needs a re-set, so I’m charging it up with natural light just after waking up.
There’s plenty of evidence to support the idea that meditation makes us happier and healthier. I’ve said far too many times, I should really start meditating. It’s time to apply my natural relentlessness – usually reserved for being hardcore – to being blissful. I am now a person who meditates every day. It takes 10-20 minutes and seriously you guys, it does make me feel more centered. I can’t really express how much that bugs me.
Ditto for yoga. I flirted with yoga a few months ago, but the commitment didn’t stick. I can no longer screw around with this idea because it’s hitting me where it really hurts: my vanity. The key to my dream body composition may very well be slowing down, and I don’t want to get flabby during this experiment. Yoga is a low-intensity activity that will also prevent mushiness. Done. First class tomorrow morning at 9:00.
5. A 12-hour eating window.
Oh, leptin and cortisol… f*ck you! To manage those bossy hormones, I’m not snacking, particularly after dinner. I’m eating breakfast around 7:30 a.m. and eating dinner, like a snowbird in a Florida retirement community, before 7:00 p.m. so I have at least three hours between my last meal and bedtime. I feel sorrow when I realize I’m eating my last bite of dinner because the kitchen is officially closed, but I’m trying to get over it.
6. More vegetables.
For someone like me, a low carbohydrate diet might not be the right approach. To make sure I’m getting enough quality carbs, I’m eating more vegetables. This is the one piece of happy news because I happen to love vegetables. I do have to admit, however, that I’m slightly intimidated by the giant piles of spaghetti squash, broccoli, cabbage, and kale on my plate.
Prior to 2011, I’d never tried a combination of paleo eating, heavy lifting, CrossFit, and appropriate thyroid meds. Eleven months of that combo has left me in practically the same situation.
Now I’m trying a new approach: paleo eating, gentle exercise, meditation, and appropriate thyroid meds. Will I see body comp changes? I don’t know. But I can’t argue with the value of managing stress, doing meditation, giving my body a healing break, and eating clean.
I’m a few days into this new plan, and honestly, some of it is hard. Not snacking after dinner is annoying the hell out of me. And I got tears in my eyes when I saw the CrossFit Austin WOD I was missing yesterday: renegade rows and step ups with a weight overhead. Oh, how I wanted to do that workout!
But meditation is nice, as is starting the day with a walk while the sun comes up.
“Nice” is not really the way I like things, and I complained bitterly during our first morning walk: WALKING! I can’t believe I’m walking. I’m not even going to get sweaty! I like excitement, challenge, triumph. I want a workout that gives me a reason to brag.
But for a few weeks, I will clean food in quantities that are just enough to support my new chilled-out activity level, and I will walk, and I will meditate, and I will heal. And that is very nice.
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It is wild that you are covering this topic, because I have been thinking so much about hormones in relation to energy and weight lately! My biggest problem is that I am hooked on coffee, and that messes up my hormones…I think. But I have done this Kundalini yoga dvd that is specifically for your glands. The one I have used is “Fat Free Yoga” by Ana Brett and Ravi Singh. They have 4 short (20 minute) workouts to help balance your endocrine system. I usually only do one or two. Anywho–I had been thinking that I would try that again because I’m feeling a bit off lately.
Hope that helps! I Crossfit, too, so I can’t imagine how tough it would be to take 8 weeks off. Experimentation is the only way you’ll know what works best.
Thanks for the tip on the yoga DVDs. I’m trying a class tomorrow, but having DVDs is an awesome backup to do at home. Love that idea!
I’ve been caffeine free for a year now, and I can really feel the difference in my daily mood and my menstrual experience. Have you read Whole9’s blog posts on coffee? http://whole9life.com/2011/01/the-coffee-manifesto/
Good luck to you, too!
These are such fantastic recommendations – thank you so much for sharing!
Hey Mel! Hope this works for you. Nutrition is a pretty personal topic as one nutrition hat does not fit all! I know you’ll give it your best effort. I look forward to seeing your results. All the best,
Thanks, Funke! I enjoyed my walk this morning… sort of 😉
I mean, it’s fine. But there’s no buzz associated with a walk, ya know? But probably, that’s the whole point.
Love you, Mel. I feel calmer just reading about your approach these coming weeks, and may have to incorporate some of your goals into my plan. Healing will bring good things, regardless of what happens on a scale or with a measuring tape. We could all probably use a little bit more of that in our lives!
This is me, knowing your words are true and trying to stop thinking about the end goal.
I do like meditation, I have to admit. DAMN IT!
Love you, Blake!
I miss you so much! I really do. You keep me going (and keep me upping my weights!). I really push on Tuesdays in your honor!
But your new direction also inspires me to do better for myself. I’m sleeping more. Trying to find a few minutes of peace everyday to not think. Diet is always a challange for me, but I want to do better.
I simultaneously want this to work for you and selfishly want you back. I do think this new direction is going to inspire your readers to look at what is or isn’t working for them, and make the changes they need to feel their best. And that is awesome.
You are a sweet pea to say that because I’ve been wondering… if I’m not trying to be hardcore, and I just lame? Is my blog going to be boring?
I’m going to do my damnedest to make being chill interesting. We’ll see how it goes.
Miss you, too!
Thank you for sharing your journey, Mel! I battle often between my performance goals and my body’s signals that I may thrive more with a more relaxed healing approach. It’s a perpetual balancing act for me, but then again I haven’t even gotten a real hold on diet/nutrition yet. baby steps 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement and support. I really appreciate it!
Just wanted to share that when I was forced to quit kicking my *ss at the gym and traded that in for walking and yoga, my body comp definitely changed for the better. At first I felt lazy, but now I think it feels great!
Another thing I found is that, as hypothyroid, I definitely do better with more carbs. I eat sweet potatoes and starchy squash almost daily now, and I really think that has contributed to my body comp as well.
Best of luck with your experiment. I know I’ll be reading daily. I guess I better get with it on the meditation!
It’s weird to think of bumping up my carbs, but I’m going to try it and see what happens. It will also use up the huge mountain of butternut squash I have from my CSA 🙂
I don’t have thyroid issues, but I’ve found that I have trouble sleeping if I am complex carb free. Some of my favs are unsweetened banana chips (downtown Whole Foods bulk) and sweet potato fee-fies. Sometimes I’ll eat a couple slices of apple with dinner or before bed as a night night help.
What is the motivation behind not eating between 7 and bedtime? I didn’t really understand that.
I watched his Malaga interview recently and I think Robb would tell you not to be in the gym doing hard WODs more than a few times a week. It’s really smart that you’re giving yourself a break. Over training just isn’t worth it. You’re body is sending you signals and you’re setting a great example to your readers by listening.
I really enjoy your blog and have added your new cookbook to my Xmas wishlist. Somebody better get it for me or there’re gunna be trouble. 😉
oh Mel, this sounds absolutely excruciating. Probably mostly because I maybe might need to do some of those same things.
………ugh. Well, I applaud you. And I will read your blog even if it gets boring 😉 (which I’m sure it won’t)
YOU CAN DO IT!
Ha! You guys should let me know if I get boring. Complain in the comments!
Best wishes in your pursuit of healing. I don’t know you well enough (or at all personally to be honest) to try to talk you into a compromise of what you’ve been doing and what you are proposing. I will encourage you to do the Robb W check and determine whether you “look, feel and perform” better now than you did 11 months ago. I bet you aren’t giving yourself enough credit on at least 2 of those components. I hope the next 8 weeks brings you what you seek.
As much stress as CF and my WOD buddies create for me, I couldn’t live without it or them. Best, Tom
Thanks for chiming in, Tom. I can tell you honestly that it’s not just about vanity. I’ve been dealing with thyroid hormones, lethargy, puffiness, and no progress at the gym for more than a year now. I don’t look, feel, or perform better. Big bummer! But thanks for looking out for me!
I cant believe that this is your recent post….I felt like I was reading my thoughts and emotions. I just postponed my CrossFit membership for 3 months for some of the same reasons. I live in a stress bubble 75% of the time with my job, my circadian rhythm is completely out of whack, and ups and downs with my weight. CF became a stressor for me due to guilt of it not always fitting into my schedule so I’m working out at home or outside whenever I feel like it, I’m also taking walks in the morning because of a suggestion by Mark Sisson, and I’m supplementing magnesium. I’m excited that you’ll be taking a similar journey at the same time as myself. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and just how you’re doing in general!
YAY! We can be walkers together. Keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing.
Will do 🙂
Sounds like we have similar problems with our bodies and how resistant they are to building muscle and shedding fat (similar issues = similar problems, alas). I hope it gives you a little comfort to know that moving my eating times to accommodate an early dinner has helped me with my energy and hunger levels. I quit lifting heavy, too, and am now doing only body-weight stuff.
I hope you see some good results with your new habit set and reap wonderful rewards!
Good to know that eating earlier may eventually help. I’m working up my new non-stressful routine: walking + body weight, meditation, and yoga. Thanks for the encouragement! I’m feeling a little grim just now.
Mel–best of luck to you! There is absolutely no way you’ll get boring; remember you’re the lady who makes mayo thrilling! There is a huge contigent of us out in the interweb who will be watching your results closely, as we all know that chilling out, even a little, would be really really good for us. So I’m sure you’ll see some great results (and some that give you your own permission to go back to Crossfit!)
Thanks so much for the support, Lisa. I’m keeping a journal of my experiences and I’ll definitely be sharing along the way in my blog. I’m also trying really hard to let go of what the income might be and focus on healing. THAT is hard! 🙂
I think that you are incredibly courageous to 1 – set these limits and goals for yourself (I gasped out loud when I read that you were going to forego Crossfit for 30 days!) and 2 – to go public with your commitment to do them. Brava! I can see that some of these would possibly, maybe benefit me as well…. but I’m not ready to go there, yet. Perhaps hearing how it works for you will give me more inspiration. 🙂 Or courage.
Thanks for sharing your life with us through your blog!
Hey, Misty! It was a rough few days last week thinking about how much of my identity seemed contingent on being a CrossFitter, but maybe this will be my transition to CrossFit Yogi 🙂 Thanks for your support and reading along with my new (un)adventure.
Your rules are great! I just started doing an eight-hour eating window, and I love the way it makes me feel. I might have to borrow your morning walk idea next. 🙂
Wow! An 8-hour window is a small window 🙂 Thanks for commenting – now I will stop whining about my 12 hours of eating. The morning walk is pretty nice, I have to admit. Great way to start the day.
Long time reader, very occasional commenter. Just wanted to say I think you’re totally on the right track with this. I loves me some Crossfit, but it was a very one-sided relationship. CF chewed my hormonal system up and spit it out. And for certain driven personality types (ahem) it’s tough to give up. Between CF, low-carb dieting and occasional intermittent fasting, it’s a wonder I’m not ovulating (I’m a guy…generally not a good thing).
I do a couple of days of strength training, 3 yoga classes a week, meditate every day (generally 30 minutes), and I can’t tell you the difference it’s made in my quality of life.
I’m curious about leptin and cortisol affected by late night eating. Never heard that before.
Best of luck to you! And eat some more starchy carbs!! They’re delicious and good for you.
Thank you SO much for commenting, Martin! I’m excited to hear that you made the switch and survived 🙂
I just got the green light to do some strength training and body weight work as along as I don’t go too heavy and I have “fun” instead of being all intense about it. I’m SUPER happy about that.
Leptin should be high at night (sending the signal to the brain that I’m not hungry) and low in the morning (telling my brain I should feed). Something about eating just before bed can mess that up. (I’m not a scientist nor do I play one on TV. I just follow the sound advice I get from people smarter than I.) The ideal, for me, is to stop eating at least 3 hours before bed, which means I have to eat my last bite before 7:00 p.m. I’m like an old person eating the early bird dinner at a diner!
I’ve been eating butternut squash with my breakfast this week… with spinach, chicken breast, and a sprinkling of ras el hanout. YUMMY. Working hard to not think of starchy carbs as villains.
OMG this sounds exactly like me! I feel the more I keep going with my training the more weight I seem to be gaining and it doesn’t seem to matter how well I eat. I’ve been trying to give myself a break from the hard workouts but havent had much success. I was thinking of doing pilates 3x week instead of my weight lifting and walking and seeing what happens with the less inensity of it. I’m am going to keep an eye on this blog now to see how you go!
Sarah, isn’t it the most frustrating thing ever?! To feel like you’re doing everything “right” and feel your jeans getting snugger?! GRRRRR!
I’ll definitely keep you all posted on how my experiment is going. We can all learn together. Learning is fun. [pout]
Best of luck to you! I know you will come to love your morning walks. May I suggest a furry companion to accompany you? Through the stress of my grad program, crossfit, and keeping up with blogging, I totally get the whole pressure cooker life. My morning walks with my pup not only wake me up, but are a great time to reflect and get centered before I start my day. I just wish I could get as excited as she does to see the squirrels! 😉
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE a furry companion, but Smudge will absolutely not submit to a leash 😉 and we want to move to Europe in a few years, so no doggie in our plans right now. Maybe I can borrow one from a neighbor!
You might consider chasing a squirrel… just saying… might be fun.
We got a dog thinking he would make a great walking companion – but he hates the rain (we live in beautiful, green Portland, Oregon). Also, we had to train him to walk nicely which took a while, so until recently, it was too easy to say I don’t want to go, the dog doesn’t want to go…
Wow, Melissa. This post could not have come at a better time for me. I am so appreciative of you sharing your story – one that is not always full of rainbows and unicorns! I switched our entire family to a Paleo lifestyle a year ago this month (survived my Whole30 during the holidays!!!), and I have never looked back. However, I, too, am disappointed with my body comp not really having changed much. Can you say belly fat? Ugh! My regular thought – “Why don’t I look as good as I feel?” This month I started a new Whole30 of sorts – seriously tackling the chronic stress in my life, and working with my functional medicine practitioner to get some hormonal balance back to my body. The meditation and “breathing breaks” during the day really are helping (who knew?), and I am confident I am on the right path. I started this way of living to feel better (cured lifelong chornic insomnia), and to do right by my kids, so regardless of how I look on the exterior, I know my family and I are much better on the interior and I will keep trudging forward one Paleo day at a time! Thank you again for your help in the process. I don’t post a lot of comments, but I have been following you from day one!
I was definitely not feeling the rainbows and unicorns earlier this week, but I think I see a little pixie dust floating in the air today.
Congratulations to you on your new habits. It’s amazing what some good, deep breathing will do, isn’t it?!
Thank you so much for reading and commenting; I feel so supported and awesome having all of you with me on this (un)adventure.
How did you cure your chronic insomnia. I am on medication for sleep, I have some anxiety as I have a very stressful job with no way out of it. I do kettlebell woutouts which I love and have switched to a Whole30 way of eating. I am a women in menopause. Any suggestions. By the way I am new to this site and really love it,it is one of my favorites.
I do a bunch of little things that seem to add up to improving my sleep…
– I got to bed at about the same time every night and wake up at about the same time every morning
– our windows are blacked out, and I wear an eye mask
– I always set the thermostat at 68 degrees or cooler
– I take Natural Calm half an hour before bed
– I take a big dose of Vitamin D in the morning and try to get outside in natural light first thing in the a.m. to manage cortisol
– I literally tell myself when I’m drinking my Natural Calm, “It’s time to get sleepy now” and tell my body to unwind
– I do relaxing yoga breathing and try to clear my mind when I hit the pillow
I did a series of posts on sleep that you might be interested in…
Glad you found me and like what you’ve read so far. Welcome!
Good luck with your plan — I’ll be very interested to see how it turns out. I’m struggling with those issues as well, but I’m giving my tracking-food-low-carb plan a little more time, and then my gym is doing a nutrition challenge after Thanksgiving which is very proscribed. I’m actually heavier now than I’ve ever been (non-preganant), and 3 months of paleo and crossfit have not changed the scale or body comp one bit. I’ll give it until the new year with these tweaks, but if things don’t improve I’ll have to try something different.
On the up side, I kicked up into a handstand for the first time on Thursday!!! Now I want to do it all the time – it’s so fun!
De23! Congratulations on kicking up into a handstand! Doesn’t it make you feel like you can ANYTHING?! Right on.
Sounds like you have a good plan in place. Good luck to you! I hope you see the results you want and feel really good in the process. Stay in touch!
I’m thrilled with your change in program. As someone who’s just trying to not be so sedentary your crossfit workout postings made me feel horrible but I never wanted to miss your other ones. Body weight exercises and meditation sound more like me which I find VERY encouraging. Thanks for being willing to shake it up. I may actually be able to travel this road with you now. Details as you proceed, please.
Hey, Linda! Thanks for commenting. And man! please don’t let my and anyone’s workout make you feel bad. Every body is different and we all have different goals and needs (and quirks).
And I will absolutely share details along the way.
Good luck to you Mel! I’ve been contemplating doing the same thing, but fortunately for me I LOVE walking. Sometimes it’s nice to just wander for a bit.
Also, I’ve found that the two times in the last ten years when I had a dramatic change in body comp was when I honestly did not care about it. Both times I walked or ran every day or every other day. And by “run” I mean some short sprints on the trail when I felt like it or chasing a cow in the corral.
And another also, be glad you’re in Texas and not South Dakota. It’s about to get frickin’ cold here. My walks are going to be chilly walks!
I’m not sure I can give up deadlifting, though. I may need to find a sponsor and attend some meetings or something.
I like a good wander, too… just after I’ve kicked my butt first 🙂
I love this: “I’ve found that the two times in the last ten years when I had a dramatic change in body comp was when I honestly did not care about it.” Thanks for sharing that!
I would love to walk in the cold with you. My favorite weather! And I’m happy to report that today I was given the greenlight to do barbell work if I do it for “fun” and not in a stressball way. I’m super happy to deadlift and squat and press. YAY!
Hey Mel well done on making some tough choices. I had a chronic illness for a few years and actually had to quit teaching yoga I was that sick. It was hard letting go but it was the best thing for my body, my sanity and my health. Good for you girlfriend x
It’s a cruel truth that letting go of one set of things can actually bring us another, maybe better, set of things. GRRRRR! Life is awesome and annoying. Thanks for chiming in and sharing your experience!
Good for you for experimenting with your routine and keeping a fresh perspective on it. I’m just recently back into Crossfit. I feel I’m at the stage where I need to up my intensity and not automatically scale back to stay in my comfort zone. But I also realize there isn’t any end destination I’m trying to achieve. I work out for my health and wellness. It feels good.
I’m trying to find that balance of pushing myself further and harder than I’m used to, while also being patient and relaxed about the journey. Good luck to you! P.S. I LOVE yoga, meditation, and sunrises/sunsets. I have a feeling you’re in for some healing. 😀
Thank you for the well wishes… and for being a great example of how we all need to look at our individual situations and map out our plans. (As Melissa and Dallas of Whole9 say a lot “context matters.”
I’m excited for you that you’re in a ramp-up time. Go get it!!! Have fun getting your badass on.
Thank you for sharing… Im in the midst of 35+ days of crossfit/paleo eating and my body comp is not changing. Im frustrated. Always tired. Always sore. I get it. Keep posting girlfriend!
I love your blog… thank you for sharing!!
Caroline, sounds like you’re working hard… are you working on active recovery? Whole9 has some really good suggestions to help the body bounce back after tough workouts:
Keep us posted on how you’re doing. Sorry you’re frustrated! (I can totally relate.)
Oh Mel, bless your heart! (as we say here in the South) I too was shocked to see you decided to forgo CF for 8 weeks. But, interestingly enough, I have kind of made the same decision recently. I love the intensity of CF, but I have found myself with more injuries since starting in 2007. So I have recently adapted more of a Primal Blueprint approach to fitness a la Mark Sisson. Aiming for 3-5 hrs of low intensity cardio/week, doing something I enjoy. Still doing some strength training, but mostly body weight stuff and pilates/yoga. But it’s tough because it doesn’t seem to fit me. I get ancy. Hour long walks aren’t nearly as punk rock as 30 clean and jerks with 95#. But my shoulder injury is loving me more little by little. It’s just a challenge to find that balance of a place where we are happy being ourselves and doing what is best for ourselves. Best of luck to you!
Thanks for the empathy, Heather. Sounds like we’re in sorta similar situations. I like the idea that this will be the primary way I get activity for a while… then if/when my leptin cycle is corrected, I can do a hard workout once in a while to get my punk rock training on. Thanks for the well wishes!
Mel, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I have dropped 50 pounds over the past five months and mostly adhere to a Paleo diet, but the whole hardcore CrossFit lifestyle doesn’t jive with me, especially having adrenal fatigue. I love this idea of taking a step back to heal, try something new and be gentle to your body and mind. You’ve inspired me not to eat after 7pm and try gentle exercise and meditation – three things I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t yet tried. Just knowing you’re trying that approach helps me want to get on board.
Hi, Kimberly! Man! That is such a cute profile picture. I’m glad you’re trying the “kitchen’s closed” cutoff and meditation. Even though I’m publicly whining about it, I really do love meditating and think it’s super valuable. Keep us posted on how you’re doing! And congrats on your weight loss. You should feel like a million bucks!
hi mel – i wonder if you can talk about the ways in which “heavy lifting” and crossfit seem to fall into the same bucket for you – the bucket i will call Hormone Fucker-Uppers.
i ask because i *thought* they were not in the same ballpark, with crossfit being (and this appears generally accepted- not controversial at all) more taxing hormonally + adrenally by a huge magnitude.
i can think of half a dozen crossfitters who gave themselves adrenal fatigue, for example. i don’t know of any lifters who have. tons of crossfitters who crossfit themselves into chronic injury and inflammation; no lifters. crossfitters who mainline cortisol are a dime a dozen; lifters, not so much.
i don’t know a lot about your Frankenneck (other than what you’ve generously shared with us) so I assume there is something specific about the condition which is driving this approach…. i understand if you don’t want to elaborate, but i am curious.
best of luck to you in this experiment.
Hey, JD! Just got the word today that I can do strength training if I don’t go too heavy and get all intense IN MY HEAD. As I said, this program is for me and my particular quirks, so my advisors were trying to make sure I didn’t fall into stressful MENTAL patterns during this healing time. But YAY! As long as I focus on “activity” not “exercise” and don’t get all crazy in my noggin, I can do strength training. I’m delighted!
me too 🙂 barbells rock.
Mel, I know you are gritting your teeth thinking about this experiment but I hope reading all these wonderful comments helps cheer you up and reassure you that you’ll have company and well-wishers on your journey! I haven’t done it lately, but I find that starting the morning with a walk to be a calming, centering way to start the day. I love seeing things around my neighborhood I haven’t noticed before or saying hi to other walkers. Recently my husband and I have done a little yoga before bed (30 minutes power yoga on DVD) and man, did I feel good. I practically flowed into bed and curled up like a happy baby to go to sleep. 🙂 I hope your plan makes you feel great. You have inspired me to read up about adrenal fatigue and considering putting more mindful peace back into my routine!
Thanks, other Melissa! I’m feeling much better emotionally with each day. And yes, the amazing, supportive, insightful comments on this post are helping more than you sweet people can know. I feel so fortunate to have you all in my corner.
One of the things I’m really enjoying about my walks is noticing the subtle differences in the weather and light. Today was gray and humid — yesterday was clear, sunny, dry, and mild. It’s amazing how different the same flower bed looks depending on the light and the weather. Neat!
P.S. I think it is so funny how many Melissas there are reading and commenting on this blog! For extra spooky points, I will also throw in that my husband’s name is Dave!! (Cue Twilight Zone music.)
That is TOTALLY fun. I love magical little coincidences like that.
Kudos for taking a step back, reassessing and making some major changes that are sure to get you feeling way better!!! I look forward to seeing the results of your Healing Experiment!! xo
Thanks, Mellie! (People call me Mellie Mel sometimes. Do you get that?!)
I’ll be sure to share all of the fun, painful, embarrassing, and enlightening moments of my Experiment.
I actually just re-read your post on being the best versions of ourselves recently and it made me really want an update from you! I’m sorry that you haven’t had the results you hoped for in the past 11 months, but I (along with your other readers, clearly!) am so impressed with you having the courage to break from your routine and “risk” trying something different. And, most importantly, never giving up. I think this experiment shows your relentlessness every bit as much as your previous running, CF, and eating challenges have! You can picture us cheering you on during your morning walks 🙂
On another note, this is also interesting to me because we just had a Crossfit gym open in my town a few months ago (yes, small town, we are behind) and have been contemplating signing up for a six month membership. I’ll admit that your post and some of the comments gave me pause, even though we aren’t in the same situation. I guess I get nervous thinking of starting something so taxing to my system.
I’d also love to hear more about your meditation practice, as that’s something I keep telling myself I should do, but don’t know exactly where to start. Good luck Mel and can’t wait to follow your progress on this journey – I can always count on you giving us the truth, good or bad.
Oh,no! I hope my experience isn’t coloring how you see CrossFit. I think CF training is awesome and empowering — but I have neglected for far too long the OTHER side of training: recovery and relaxation.
My Experiment is 100% geared to my particular situation. Big time stress addict. No thyroid (removed a few years ago). Age 43. Stingy of sleep for YEARS until I fixed that about a year ago.
CrossFit is a wonderful way to train, as long as you also take good care of yourself outside the gym with solid sleep, an active recovery plan, and great nutrition. Don’t let my experience scare you off!
As for meditation, it makes it easier for beginners to use guided meditation, so I’m using Jack Kornfield recordings.
Don’t worry, I’m still going to try CF! I’ve followed your blog long enough to see your great accomplishments through CF, too 🙂
Thanks to all for the meditation advice, too – a guided tape sounds perfect for a newbie such as myself.
Yes. yes. Yes. this all sounds familiar and I have similar theories on what is happening with me. I will be watching your blog with great interest to see you do. brave of you to share this all with us. keep your chin up.
Thanks, Donkey! One of the really nice things that’s come out of this new approach is that after I pouted for a while, I realized I really wanted to write about it to share it with all of you. That was a really great feeling… to know I could process it through writing about it and that you all would kind of come along on the Experiment with me. So… thank you!
I’m in a similar place as well. My recovery at crossfit just got worse and worse all the time until I had to quit.
I also have thyroid issues and recently was urged to increase my carbs.
And I start my yoga as meditation class tonight. I can’t say I’m excited – I’m not very good at being calm and I’m about as flexible as a 2×4 but I think a little mindfulness could help.
After over four years of clean eating and a year of crossfit and feeling like I’ve tried everything: I can’t say I’ve seen no improvement – I sleep better, my moods are more stable, and I have many fewer stomach aches, but for how much effort I’ve put in I’d like to have enough energy to have a life after all the cooking and maybe fit into a pair of pants once in a while.
Man! The more carbs thing is proving to be challenging. It’s really difficult to get a high enough percentage of carbs with vegetables. I see a lot of butternut squash mixed with greens in my future. Thank goodness for cumin and cinnamon!
And I totally relate to this, my friend: “After over four years of clean eating and a year of crossfit and feeling like I’ve tried everything: I can’t say I’ve seen no improvement – I sleep better, my moods are more stable, and I have many fewer stomach aches, but for how much effort I’ve put in I’d like to have enough energy to have a life after all the cooking and maybe fit into a pair of pants once in a while.”
That is EXACTLY where I am, emotionally.
I’m having a sad time right now because I’ve got the post-vacation chubby thing happening, and I feel blech about it. But there’s only one way out of it… which is The Experiment.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and being here.
You are on the right track for you, at this moment. Believe that. When you get the hormones and thyroid symptoms under control, you may feel happy to return to a balance of what you were doing and what you are doing right now. I find that every time I think I know “exactly what to do to manage my thyroid disease” everything changes and I’m back to trying to figure out what to do next! That’s the problem with the thyroid, it’s not a static health condition, it changes constantly and so we need to adapt in real time. Just trust that you are doing what you need to do in this moment, and you will know what to do next. You are not alone!
Ann! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I was feeling really sad and maybe a little angry this morning about my thyroid. But that is such a waste of energy. It is what it is. Now it’s a thing I have to deal with… just a fact of life, like being 5’4″ or one dimple when I smile. Thanks for the reminder that the best way to manage the thyroid stuff is to roll with it.
We’ve all been there. I can’t wait to follow how it goes! It’s funny how it takes so much more strength to try something like this than to kick ass at the gym!
Roberta, you totally hit the nail on the head. It’s SO much easier to summon the energy and determination to try to annihilate a workout than it is to walk to the park and do some leisurely lunges. But I’m working on it 🙂
Thanks so much for posting this Mel. I share so many of these thoughts and feelings.
I’ve spent the past 3 years on various Paleo based diets and various workout regimes but have made little progress. I still need to drop some fat and my times and weights haven’t improved much.
I have a history of eating disorders and weight yo yoing. I think I’m broken on some level and need to stop throwing “more” at the problem and try a little less.
Paleo and crossfit is a magic bullet for some. For the rest of us it’s just icing on a metabolically broken cake.
Worst cake ever, right?!
Good luck to you — and to all of us. Together, we will figure it out.
I got a new set of meditations today… I’m really looking forward to trying them out.
I’m so glad you included the link here and above. I listened to the sample and liked the guy’s style/voice and I was able to find these through my library.
Crossing my fingers I can commit to a meditation practice this time. I think my problem last time was that I was trying to do 45 minute sessions. 15-20 minutes will be easier to squeeze in.
I recently started a personal challenge of forming healthy habits ahead of the new year, and have added mediation to my life. I do a mediation as the last thing I do before falling asleep and one as soon as I wake up.
I found a delightful podcast called “The Meditation podcast” which is all guided meditations. I have found since implementing this meditative state, I have been feeling less stressed and I am getting much more sleep. Not just in quantity, but in quality.
We seem to be a lot alike, with similar struggles. I too started 2011 on a particular journey, but as of this past week decided that the journey has to change. I went vegetarian in an effort to clean up my eating, but that just led to processed foods.
I need to get this head, this heart and this body right for my 2012 year – marriage and an Ironman Triathlon are on my plate! And now… fresh veggies and wholesome, clean lean meats, lots in part to reading your FB posts and your blog.
All the best to you!
Twice a day meditation! That’s pretty awesome. Good for you. And thanks for the tip on the Meditation Podcast; that’s great to know for people who are looking to get started.
Ironman Triathlon?! Fantastic. I did the Wildflower Half in 2000 — tough stuff. But I loved doing triathons. Best wishes for happy training AND getting married!
After wondering if high-intensity workouts are the way to go for a variety of reasons, I started researching and came across some interesting info regarding chronic oxidative stress versus acute oxidative stress. Thought you might find it interesting:
Thanks for the link, Colleen!
This is a fantastic post! My yoga teacher (who is an amazing age-defying woman) calls yoga “working in” whenever students tell her the class was a good “work out.” I understood this intellectually when she first said it, but I understand it even more now that I’ve given up needing the adrenaline of a hard core workout 3 or 4 times a week. It was hard for me as well to start taking a step back, but now I’m so grateful that life circumstances forced me to do it. I wish you luck on your new journey!
( p.s. your hatha star class sounds perfect – love chanting! – and i would suggest looking for a yin class in your neighborhood. a well taught yin class leads me to tears every time=))
Love the idea of “working in”! In class this morning, the instructor reminded us that “everything we need is inside” of us. Really nice idea that we can look inward to discover things. Thanks for your well wishes on my new (un)adventure!
Long time reader/lover of your blog. I’ve been dealing with weight issues almost all my life. I’ve started dieting at 14!! For years I was convinced I lacked the will power to lose weight and maintain weight loss but now I realize that hormones play a major role. With this knowledge, I am now undergoing a physical and emotional healing. Physical –eating foods that nourish my body and that are delicious and not because it’s there. Emotional – stop beating myself up for the years of yo-yo dieting and move forward.
My approach to the new me:
I know many in the paleo community eschew the low fat/moderate carb approach but I feel that there is not only one formula to change body composition. I’ve tried low carb/higher fat on and off and it just never worked for me. I think when my body fat goes down a little more I can afford to eat more fat but not now.
I stopped menstruating a few months after crossfit and I think it’s the stress from the workouts that caused it. Now I’m trying to figure out what workout plan can work for me. I will miss crossfit style workouts but I need my friend to come back, regardless of how big of a pain she is sometimes.
This may sound a little wacky to some but I’ve been dry skin brushing to stimulate my lymphatic system and my skin looks better, my mood is a lot better and I have more energy.
While I have not yet tried yoga, I’ve been reading about the nutrition aspect of it and have been trying to follow some of the principles.
This blog is great in that it discusses the hormonal connection to losing weight and maintaining it.
You’re probably already reading it.
Wish you all the best.
Hi, Serena! I recognize your name… thanks so much for commenting and sharing your story with all of us. And thanks for the links — that’s lots of good stuff to explore. Best wishes to you on re-aligning your health… we’re all in this together, right?
I just wanted to thank you for your bravery in sharing your life, the good and bad, with us. I have been on my own journey toward discovering what is best for my body and this posting comes at the ideal time. (I totally believe each individual has their own unique formula as much as my perfectionistic personality would like a prescription to follow.) I struggle with the same issues as you: thyroid, hormones, no body comp change even with strict paleo and lifting. I’m also a runner and this has been the biggest blow for me because my mileage and time has suffered. I am at a healthy weight but I still struggle with being content. So for now I’m on a quest to discover what makes me feel good and what doesn’t; making changes based on my findings. I’m excited to follow along with your journey as well. Good luck and know you’re not the only one in the boat!
Oh, boy! Can I related to this:
“I totally believe each individual has their own unique formula as much as my perfectionistic personality would like a prescription to follow.”
Best wishes to you as you learn about yourself. It’s really all we can do — keep trying stuff and then adapting it when it stops working. This is all such a valuable lesson to me to remember that the journey is the thing and while it’s lovely to think about the destination, in a lifetime, I’ll spend more time on the path, so I better love every step of that path 😉
Today, I went to a yoga class with an extensive use of gong. Will be blogging about that later. It was weird and also kind of awesome.
Stay in touch and let us know how you’re doing!
It looks like I’ve been missing out on some VERY powerful posts, Mel. As a victim of thyroid-wonkyness I understand what you are spelling out. In fact..I should apply some of this in my daily goings on.
I started meditation which is AMAZING. I fight it tooth and nail but once I’m there…ahhhhh bliss.
The 12 hour wondow seems like a keen idea based on everything I’ve read..and I’m feeling sadness just at the thought of no after dinner snacks.
Giving up my hardcore workouts would be the toughest thing. I look forward to seeing how you fair and hope this works for you.
Love and support…
Good on you for meditating! I agree: resistance before I start meditating is strong, but then I’m always so glad when I’ve done it.
The ‘no snacking’ thing took about 10 days to adapt to, but now I feel good. I eat a pretty large breakfast, medium lunch, and smallish dinner. It’s the same amount of calories as before, just contained at meal times. And I read advice that said if you’re hungry in the afternoon to eat more in the morning — it’s worked. I haven’t been hungry between lunch and dinner or after dinner. It’s just been a mental adjustment, really.
Love back to you!
Mel – I am so happy to catch up on your blog and read this post – i am at the same place as far as leptin, hormones outta whack, stress too high, perimenopausal hot flashes totally wrecking my sleep etc – after nearly two years on primal/paleo lifestyle I just lately started implementing similar tweaks to my life – no snacking, nothing after dinner, more carbs from veggies, trying qigong etc. For meditation I’ve found Shamanic Journeying to be amazingly effective for me.
Love the post on Kundalini and look forward to hearing more from the healing experiment – particularly what your meals are looking like these days quantity wise.
Now that I’m used to no snacking, it’s not so bad. I’m eating a pretty large breakfast, medium lunch and dinner… more carbs in the form of veggies and some butternut squash to help bump up the number of grams ’cause that is a LOT of veggies. You’ve inspired me to write a post about how my meals have changed — thanks for the idea!
Thanks for the encouragement and support; I really appreciate it!
I read this post for the first time last night, and I cannot get it out of my mind. In fact, there’s so much there (that would probably not be of interest to you!) that I may have to just sit and write later today.
Can I be the one who says “Huh?” I do think I need down, breathing, yoga (or yoga like?) time, and I totally see in myself the super stress that I can put in my body. (I’m an ER nurse who, after 22 years realizes that this job is NOT what healthy is….and is trying to figure out what THAT means.)
On the other hand…I do think I’ve seen a lot of changes in my body/mind w/ CF, really good ones. The competion keeps me engaged and laughing,and I was just getting my mind around to recommitting to CF this coming year, seeing if (after 4 years)I could really make more changes. (I’m 46 and feeling weary lately.)
I realize that over and over you’ve talked about what’s good for the individual, what the individual path is for all of us, and totally know you love CF, and are not prescribing anything, just posting your own discoveries.
It seems that your questions have led me to my own, and even when I’m buying the Whole9 “I can kick your ass in yoga. Namaste.” t-shirt I’ll be questioning and questing for myself.
I kinda hate that things are going so well for you in the meditation dept! I’m trying to love these changes for you, but it’s like having a CF buddy beat me by a few seconds!! It’s good but so frustrating!
Dana! I love this comment so much… I think it’s great that you’re questioning. Even if you decide to stick with your routine, CONSIDERING options is really valuable and important. Good for you!
The more yoga and meditation I practice, the more I realize that I’m deeply weary. I tend to go non-stop, and I’ve been pushing really hard for the last three years, plus my thyroid debacle. Emotionally, I just really didn’t want to slow down, but now that I’ve done it, I am TOTALLY embracing the idea of healing, and it’s a massive relief.
Having said that, however, I’m happily anticipating the day that I feel strong and eager to go back to CrossFit 1-2 times per week, because I got a lot of value from that, too. It’s just not right for me right now.
I love that you’re pondering what’s best for you and the really great thing that you can always change your mind. How great is that?! Any decision you make: you can always change your mind.
Keep me posted on how you’re doing!
I just discovered your website (through Whole30) and I’ve spent the evening reading all of these posts about your Healing Experiment. I’m envious of your ability to listen to your body and it’s needs, and I’m intrigued by your insights. However, I felt myself becoming defensive of paleo/crossfit because they have had such a profound and positive impact on me and my family. (I totally related to Dana g’s comment above!!)
In reading about your journey, I realized that in life we can consider ourselves extraordinarily, unexplicably blessed to find out what makes us feel most healthy, most strong, and most at peace,, because so few people bother to even ask the question or listen to the answer. Thanks for sharing your journey. I’m looking forward to reading your blog, trying your recipes, and gaining support in my attempt to find the best version of myself.
I’m so glad you found me… welcome to our clubhouse! You wrote: “I’m envious of your ability to listen to your body and it’s needs…” It’s taken me a very long time to learn to do that, and it’s definitely a work in progress. It’s HARD to let go of my CrossFit and low-carb habits, but so far, the experiment seems to be working. I’m sleeping great and feeling pretty good. I’m excited to see how it progresses.
I hope you’ll keep us up to date on what’s happening with you, too! Are you doing a Whole30?
Mel, you are brave and courageous and addressing topics a lot fo women avoid, thyroid and cortisol. Thank you for bringing yet another “problem area” to light. I think the best thing women can do is get their thyroid checked, my broke down at age 40 and now medicated, feel heaps better.
As a new CrossFitter (July this year) and new Paleo junkie (August this year), you have inspired me so much and I read your blogs and web site like it’s the Torah (can I get a what what shout to the JAP’s reading Melly Mel?). Thank you for your ideas, thank you for your recipes and for your wise wise words….. when most of us want to be beasts, we have to know how to slow down too. And that’s not easy for we girls with jobs, friends, gym friends, families, husbands with jobs, house work and generally trying to cram in stuff into an already over packed calendar. Keep us updated on your progress. In the mean time, deepest grattitude from one of your fans!
This is such a lovely comment — it’s restorative to me… so thank you!
I feel like now that I’ve committed to this experiment, one of the challenging parts is letting myself relax into it… quieting the little voice that wants to say, “You’re getting squishy from not working out.” or “You look older; your thyroid is aging you.”
CrossFit really helped me with my internal monologue — easy to feel like a superhero when conquering seemingly impossible workouts. But this experiment is forcing me to find other ways to value myself. Tricky business.
Thank you for joining the conversation. It helps immensely to have like-minded people like you in my corner.
Your new approach WILL help smooth out hormones, while re-calibrating your body to it’s natural “norm”. Calm is good, while you keep moving throughout your day. I also have been eating clean, on a 12 hour cycle, and it takes getting used to, but the body gets a chance to settle and self-correct, it seems! I feel so much better, more energy, sound sleep, and faster metabolism. Keep it up~Gretchen
Thank you, Gretchen! I’m committed to the plan, but some days, I’m not having fun with it 😉 My attitude is a work in progress. Love the yoga and meditation — not super crazy about my new eating plan. Miss feeling new lines in my muscles… and I’m sad to watch the little bit of definition I had melt away. But it’s temporary! Soon, I’ll be back at lifting heavy weights and doing more strenuous yoga. And for now, I’m just chillin’ and healin’. AAAaaaaaaaah.
It’s exciting that you are committed to “finding” what your body needs. There is so much external “noise” with regard to what is the best or healthiest approach. It makes sense to learn to listen with kind intent, to what your body is telling you. I am 50 years old, a retired personal trainer and athlete, with a body building past. I have thyroid issues, and an artificial titanium disc in my neck, from a ruptured disc, and menopause knocking on my door. I accept all these things, and have chosen to immerse myself in Hot Yoga and meditation, along with eating lean protein, and lots of raw green vegetables 95% of the time. I have lost 27 pounds and have been able to maintain muscle definition, without my past “hard driven” weight lifting and running. I still go to the gym and do light cardio, stretching, and body resistance, just to get my “fix”. This new mindset works for me at this time in my life, and I am elated that I can still push myself mentally and physically, without driving my body into distress! It feels like I have cooperation from my body now, and my figure has been restored to what it was when I was in my 20’s! Keep in touch, and I know you will find your own body’s balance! Best, Gretchen
Thanks for sharing Mel. I can understand that you’re going through in my own way. Just over two years ago, I was forced into a healing overhaul after chronic illness with candida in my gastrointestinal tract, & after a year of doing my own experiments through exercise & reading numerous sources of nutritional advice, I’ve come to form my own version of what works for me. & I think that’s the best way to go about it. No one knows your body better than yourself, & to trust in it, listen to its signals & signs is probably the best thing you can do. Good luck with your healing experiment & finding your own path through exercise & food. I wish you all the best!
It can be hard to tune into what our bodies have to say, but you’re so right: if we do that, we have the answers we need. It’s very yoga-esque. Thank you for the well wishes. It’s an interesting time for me, and I’m trying to be open to what I’m learning. It’s much easier for me to force myself to work hard: I feel validated and, let’s be honest, smug when I get up early, eat super clean, and push myself hard. And I think there’s a time for that… but that time, for me, isn’t now. So I’m embracing the idea of “recharging” during this winter solstice. It’s so new for me… interested to see where it goes.
That it can be. Especially when taking in a plethora of information & thinking ‘well, I should do this, I should do that’. I found I needed to step back from all the advice I was getting & listen to myself for a while. It can be hard. I’m a detail-orientated person, so I like to research & analyse & ‘do things right’. But sometimes what works for the majority or average doesn’t work for everyone. Makes me think of the bell curve; there’s always someone there in that 10%.
Plus, as you bring up, the seasonal changes. I think our bodies are more in tune with that than we sometimes realise Living paleo I find can be a good reminder of getting back to nature, not just with our diet. I know I’m guilty of neglecting that at times! Hence this is the perfect time of year to calm down a little & heal, as you are. I’m interested to see where it takes you 🙂
I have just hit the same situation, recently dx with adrenal fatigue. After a year of intensive roller derby practice and six months of CF, I had actually gained fat. I just learned I have adrenal fatigue, which explains a lot. I went into CF today and told my coach and he had me scale back my WOD, but I crashed after. It was my first workout after being sick for two weeks. I have been getting sick more since all the exercise, another clue.
Interestingly the only times I would lose weight were when I stopped exercising for a short period, despite eating a weight-loss diet all along. So anyway, I’m sitting here wondering what’s next. My ND said replace CF with walks. I cant even deal with that. I’m on a much lighter derby schedule since switching leagues. I’m thinking I will skip WODs but go in for open gyms and do light lifting, some interval rowing, ab workouts, etc. Just keep it light and fun.
By the way, here’s a recent story on hypothyroid athletes and why it’s so important not to overtrain: http://thyroidbook.com/blog/
Good luck to you! And thanks for sharing that link… I’m going to read the story right now.
It’s tricky stuff, managing our hormones and trying to fulfill our desires to be superheroes. Keep me posted on now you’re doing! I’m committed to my yoga and meditation practice, and I’m slowly adding body weight and strength training work back in. Fingers crossed!
Best luck on your healing experiment. I got a diagnosis of hep c about three years ago. I may have had it for forty years. My liver’s in good shape, but still…my body’s always dealing with it. I’ve been on three years of dietary / herbal experiments the good news is I listen to my own body more and more. Something so basic can be hard what with all the conflicting advice out there. Good on you for going there.
I don’t know where you live, but check out shadow yoga if you can find a good teacher in your area.
hi mel! i love your website! i have graves and am trying to weave my way through the maze. i am on MMI and seem to gain weight if i simple smell something, let alone eat it. i’d really like to go into remission and am doing the whole 30 now. my question is… in your post, you mention a 12-hr (non)eating period to help hormones. could you tell me a bit more about that? thanks very much!
Congratulations on Whole30-ing! I’m glad you’re finding some useful info on my site. Re: the 12-hour eating window, I’m not an expert on all the specifics but super-duper, over-simplified, the idea is that all of the hormonal stuff — insulin, leptin, cortisol, etc. — can be re-trained to work properly by “giving your body a break” by not (1) grazing throughout the day and (2) sort of intermittent fasting. Having said that, I to not recommend true intermittent fasting for anyone with any kind of hormonal stuff because it causes too much stress in the body. It’s also important to eat when you’re hungry. The “no snacking” thing really just means not munching on coconut chips all day, as opposed to a snack between meals because of true hunger. Hope this helps!