I Quit The Thing That Defined Me



My pal Molly thinks she’s a scaredy-cat, but she’s actually bold and daring. On her delightful blog Hey Eleanor, she writes — honestly, eloquently— about her adventures trying things that scare her. It’s pretty brilliant. So far, she’s chopped off her hair, completed a Whole30, gone sky diving, performed a stand-up comedy routine, and shared she has misophonia. (Note that she’s clever, too. Her blog is named for Eleanor Roosevelt, to honor E’s advice to “Do one thing every day that scares you.”)

One of the regular features on her blog is interviews with people who’ve quit things. It’s my great honor to have been interviewed about my experience quitting CrossFit, a.k.a., the thing that defined me.

Here’s a snippet of my interview:


Read the whole interview here — and be sure to spend some time meandering through Molly’s other wonderful posts.

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  • Lynn says:

    Melissa, I too had to quit cross fit about a year ago. I have back issues and my bod will simply not tolerate that kind of workouts. I also have 6 kids and a husband to look after, so I need to be mobile and functional for a long time. I am finally coming out of the black hole that pushed me into. I miss the release of pushing myself to my limits, I miss my friends I saw every day, I miss feeling strong, and I miss being in the best shape of been in since college. For me, it has been a journey of trust that God has bigger plans for my life than I could see, and that in some way my loss would be for the best. I still miss it. I still cry. But I cannot change my back, so I am learning to accept a new life. I so enjoy your blog, cook from both of your cookbooks weekly, and have always appreciated how your wit and joy in life can make me laugh out loud. Knowing we have shared this loss makes me love you more. I’m glad you have found peace in a new way of life. It makes me hopeful as I take steps to be healthy without cross fit

    • Six children! You’re made of tough stuff, no doubt about it!

      I’m sorry you went through the quitting thing, too. It’s not fun, but it is a really valuable learning experience, no? I hope your back is feeling better now that there’s less stress on it.

      I still cry about CrossFit/thyroid/etc. sometimes, too, and when I do, I remember a thing a friend said to me at the gym once, when I was upset: “It’s OK to cry. It’s just your cells letting go of bad memories.”

      Keep taking care of yourself and eventually, your body and spirit will be healed and resilient again.

  • SallyBR says:

    Really enjoyed the interview. I had no idea you had to quit CrossFit, and to some extent, when I had to quit long distance running I had similar feelings – on a much smaller scale, of course. Not comparing my journey with yours, not at all.

    Glad you found balance. Ultimately, I think that is THE toughest thing to find in life, and I am not yet there, although in a month I’ll turn 55! 😉

  • Lydia says:

    Sometimes it’s a little shocking how similar our life paths turned out. I admit to still being a bit resentful about having to quit CrossFit, so I’m a bit behind you on this path. Thank you for helping to blaze the trail. You are, as always, an inspiration.

    • Well, I’m not saint. I’m resentful some days, too, but it keeps lessening with time. It’s VERY frustrating when your body won’t do what your mind wants it to — but this shell is the only one have, so I’ve got to love it, annoying as it is 😉

  • Lacie says:

    Like you, I gave up a pretty intense and much loved sport for thyroid reasons. I rowed on and was captain of a crew when my adrenals decided to poop out. About a month later I found out I had Hashimoto’s. I knew quitting was what my body needed, but I was so resentful and scared of losing friends and gaining weight. All of that did happen, and I am still a little resentful. That was two years ago. Thank you for sharing this. It’s just want I needed to read.

    • You know, I’m pretty sure my adrenals conked out BEFORE my thyroid had to be removed. I’ve read some stuff online that suggests the nodule on my thyroid might have been the result of adrenal fatigue. Our poor bodies! The things we put them through.

      I’m 5 years out from my surgery and finally starting to feel pretty damn good. Hang in there! Our bodies are resilient, but healing takes time (more time than we want, I’m sure).

  • I am excited to read your internet! Changing our movement patterns/workouts to what our body needs is scary but oh so rewarding!

  • Tricia says:

    Fascinating. As someone who just had to quit derby for unwanted reasons, it was an interesting read. And also really interesting to me that crossfit rather than derby was that thing you describe as defining you!

    • Christina K. says:

      Another skater checking in, I had the same thought – I wonder how leaving derby compared to leaving CrossFit. I’m thinking this might be my last derby season, but you know how that goes….

    • I definitely took a lot of my identity in real life from Melicious, my roller derby persona. By the time I retired from Roller Derby, I was ready to stop being a rollergirl and more interested in taking a Melicious approach to the rest of my life. I skated for almost 5 years, so I was really ready for a change when I stopped. I was one of the founders of the Texas Rollergirls, and I was the Marketing Director for a few years, so Derby was like a full-time job for a while. Then I wrote my book Rollergirl, and it was really cathartic… so I was just ready to move on.

      Then I found CrossFit and that made me feel like a Rollergirl on steroids… I feel like CrossFit expanded and evolved what Roller Derby started.

      I think the hardest part right now is trying to feel badass when my life revolves around meditating, cooking, walking, writing, with 4 trips to the gym each week. I want the WORKOUT EVERY DAY RAAAAAH life. Instead, I’m a nerdy cookbook author who plays at being a badass 4X a week 😉

  • Thanks for sharing, Melissa! And thanks for being do open with your struggles with your personal wellness.

    I think a lot of us believe if we aren’t busting our asses– at the gym, at work, at home, basically everywhere in our lives– we’re doing life wrong. And that is simply not true! We so often fight the “softer” things in life, like relaxing or meditation or yoga or whatever because ‘indulging’ in those things means we’re not driven or working hard enough. I think the big lessons here are to A) listen to your body B) cut yourself some slack and C) there’s a lot to be gained embracing life’s more quiet moments.

    *** The More You Know…. *** [cue shooting star]

    • Thank YOU for giving me the outlet to process a lot of feels about the whole CrossFit/thyroid thing. I’m glad to see the stories that our readers are sharing, too — always helps to know we’re not alone in our struggles.

  • Karen says:

    I needed this today! I have recently quit triathlon after 5 years of basically nothing but swim. bike, run in my free time. I did 5 ironmans in the process but after this season was just over it. I have so many of the same feelings as you and still trying to work through it. My friend group is from the triathlon world so I feel very much adrift right now. Thanks for this!

    • Triathlon, like CrossFit, is really addictive! I did a few when I was in my 20s/30s, and I loved it. But man! That is a tough training schedule. Good luck to you working through all the feels. You’ll find your way. Anyone who can plan and execute the training for 5 Ironmans can also figure out what to do next — just give your mind and body a break while you sort it out.

      Best to you!

  • Seraphina Chew says:

    Hi, I just wanted to say that your post resonated with me. I was a runner for a long time (started when I was 13, did my first half marathon in 1:49 without too much training), and a triathlete, so being told I can’t run anymore after my second bone tumour was quite a blow to put it mildly.. I know I should be thankful I can still walk/cycle/swim, and I jump in blatant disregard of my doctor’s advice, but there are days when I still think about running. Heck, I dreamt about running for months!

    But all things work out: part of the reason I started becoming more interested in nutrition and switching from a mostly vegan diet -> paleo was precisely because of my bone tumours and family history of diabetes. I’ve also taken to kettlebells in place of my old, long cardio sessions, and my next goal is to Lift Heavy Things!

    Sorry for the long comment, but I love your chocolate chili and always have an emergency stash in the freezer + looking forward to receiving your second cookbook soon! (: Keep rocking on!

    • Another triathlete! It’s hard to give up the warrior mentality of that training, right?!

      I’m sorry your body is being uncooperative with the bone tumors. It’s SO frustrating when the body won’t do what the mind commands, but it sounds like you’re tackling new challenges, which is really fun. Lifting Heavy Things feels great!

      Thanks for the sweet words about the Chocolate Chili — that’s really nice to know. Take care of yourself!

  • Nika says:

    Hi Melissa,

    omg i just read the entire interview and i am shocked!

    1) you don’t look like you are getting close to 40! You look stunning, hands down, wish I am going to have such lovely skin, when I am in your age.

    2) I am currently also going in and out of doctors offices, because I have Hashimoto disease and they found some knots on my thyroid as well. I am so freakin scared ! My lab results will come in in the beginning of March and I am dreading the day… .

    3) currently, I work out 4 times a week in my local gym. I do weight training for about 40min. I always wanted to try out Crossfit, but i am kinda scared to do so (especially afer reading your post and my current medical condition).

    I have a question: how much stress is considered too much for a sick thyroid? Especially if you have Hashimoto like me?
    There is no conclusive evidence on the web and my doctors are not really helpful..

    Many thanks and keep it up, girl!

    Cheers from Germany 🙂

    • Hello, Germany!

      1) Thank you so much! I’m going to 47 on May 1. I’m not quite sure how that’s possible since I still feel 17.

      2) I’m sorry you’re having thyroid issues. I know it’s scary, but try to be calm and patient. When you have the results, you’ll make a plan and it will all work out. Don’t freak out 😉 And feel free to email me when you know what’s going on. I will offer encouragement.

      3) Your body will tell you if you’re doing too much. I never listed when I was tired because my fear made me drown out the signals by body was sending me. If you want something measurable, I recommend getting an HRV monitor. I wrote about it in this post: http://meljoulwan.com/2014/05/06/whats-going-on-around-here/ It helps you track when you’re cleared to workout and when you should rest. I also use a heart rate monitor when I’m training so i can track my recovery and don’t overdo it. I highly recommend that, too.

      Hope this helps!

  • Nika says:

    Thanks for the quick response, Melissa, you are always so kind and helpful.

    I don’t want to freak you out,but you are just 2,5 years younger than my mom. Ok, I am turning 29 this Friday and she was real young when she had me (people in Slovakia didn’t have television to keep them occoupied 😉 ).Anyway, you can be really proud of your looks and your high energy spirit. It carries in your cookbooks and posts :-)… .

    Ok, I will try to chillax, I actually took you as an inspiration and started looking up Yoga classes in my neighborhood as well. I am too high energy as well and i need to learn how to quiet my mind.

    Will check out your post!

    Many, many thanks again! 🙂


  • Tina says:

    I had to stop working out for a few months due to back problems and went through a lot of the negative emotions you describe. (Stomping while walking? Yup, did that. Crying jags? Check. Jumping up and down on the scale in anger. Yurp.) I bought a pricey but comprehensive chiropractic package that included physical therapy, and it thankfully did the trick. The process made me realize that my ultimate goal is to have a healthy, fit body for as long as possible and that a lot of hard training is really not the way to go. Mark Sisson preaches this and when I look at his fit 60-something self, I know he’s right. I’m a home workout person who doesn’t have room for barbells but I’ve backed off on the HIIT and other super-gritty stuff that hurt, and anytime my 44 year-old body gripes, I listen. I’m buying more 30 minute workouts and more low-impact workouts. And, I discovered you can still look pretty damn good not killing yourself exercising. Mark didn’t lie! Even if I can’t exactly BE a badass, maybe I can look like one. As I observed above, at least YOU look like one, too! Of course, I have been toying with taking up Krav Maga. I think I might be able to hack it since it would prolly only be a couple days a week. And, then I REALLY would be a badass. (insert throat punch to the air here) 🙂

  • Lindsay says:

    You and I have a lot in common. I was an overweight kid, who fumbled at sports through school, found VHS exercise tapes, did 2 CA AIDS Rides, a 1/2 Ironman and quit CrossFit with a lot of reluctance. I was having recurring health issues. I miss it about once a week, or if I see someone from my box.
    So happy I found whole30 last night and your website. Inspiring recipes and stories. Thank you