by Russ Dukett
- When did you start CrossFit? Why did you start?
I started CrossFit in the beginning of 2014. Just a few years prior, I had lived in Boston’s North End and made the most of my time there. I had been on a 2+ year carb-load, trying just about every restaurant, bakery, and gelato stand in the neighborhood. After graduating from college, I moved home with my parents to save money and began running 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons to shed the weight I had gained in college. The results of my running endeavors were discouraging – I lost about 10-15lbs in 2 years. Eventually, a few friends that I grew up playing hockey with introduced me to CrossFit and the rest is history.
- Did you change your intake right away when you started CrossFit? And when you did change it, why did you?
I didn’t drink the CrossFit Kool-Aid immediately, especially the Paleo diet. The thought of giving up pizza, pasta, and beer was disconcerting. However, a few months into CrossFit, I hadn’t attained my desired results, so I caved and tried Paleo for 30 days. In that month, I dropped about 10-15lbs. In other words, I obtained the same results from eating healthy for 30 days and completing 2-3 WODs per week as I did from running five days a week for two years. It took me a few more months but I eventually lost 50 pounds, and I have been incorporating Paleo into my diet ever since.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Paleo isn’t for everybody. It has worked for me because the diet values quality over quantity. Said differently, I can eat any quantity of food throughout the day as long as it meets the diet’s criteria: meat, vegetables, some nuts, seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.
- How would you describe your typical food intake? What types of foods do you eat?
I categorize my diet as a loose version of Paleo. While I continue to follow Paleo, I still indulge in a cheese burger at summer cookouts, alcoholic beverages on weekends, a small piece of cake at birthday parties, and an Italian meal every once in a while. Balance is key for me; there is no way I could sustain eating Paleo 24×7 365. By periodically treating myself, I have been able to maintain the diet – and my body weight – for nearly 4 years.
More recently, I have dealt with a shoulder injury that limited the frequency and intensity of my workouts. My diet helped aid in limiting weight gain during this period; however, I gradually watched my body composition change over time. As a result, I began working with Donna to alter my intake to support a lower body fat percentage while maintaining my existing body weight. Since then, I have reintroduced grains and dairy back into my diet and have been more aware of the quantity of each macronutrient that I consume throughout the day.
- How do you feel now compared to how you felt before you changed your intake?
Since changing my intake, I generally feel more whole. When I was on Paleo, there were times I felt hungry throughout the day and during WODs. Adjusting my diet has eliminated that hungry feeling and has kept me energized throughout WODs.
- Can you eat out and what tips do you have for others who like to eat out, but want to eat healthier?
Eating out is inevitable – we all travel, go out with friends, and/or are pressed for time. When eating out, I tend to stick with light salads that include grilled protein and balsamic vinegar dressing. I also order protein-based dishes as long as they are grilled and don’t come covered in crazy sauces. In these instances, I ask for double vegetables instead of starches. My new favorite takeout spot is Sweetgreen. I get the Harvest Bowl with no cheese, light sauce, and quinoa instead of wild rice.
I will admit that getting to this point while eating out wasn’t easy. Historically, I had considered eating out an indulgence, thus I would consume half a basket of bread while I waited for a meal, or I would order a salad containing fried chicken, croutons, bacon, cheese, ranch dressing, and any other fat- and/or carb-heavy item that I could add. Although I had good intentions, I always seemed to sabotage my diet in one way or another while dining out.
- There are times when it is hard to find time to cook or prep food. What advice do you have for others about how to work this into your life?
Be realistic and plan ahead. It is extremely difficult to cook and prep food for every meal. Start by making a healthy breakfast every morning and taking advantage of the nearest salad bar for lunch. Eventually, this will become second nature and taking time on Sundays to prep your lunches and/or dinners for the week won’t seem so daunting. If you are constantly on the run, consider pre-maid meals like Kettlebell Kitchen. Regardless of your approach, have a plan for the week and think through healthy alternatives that you can employ if your week doesn’t pan out as expected.
A note from Donna–
A Paleo diet isn’t the type of diet recommended for everyone because it can omit some key nutrients without careful planning. However, in Russ’ case, it was a positive change over pizza and pasta. Looking to make lasting changes and improve your intake? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN