Nutrition Challenges

2017 Spring Challenge 2nd Place – Rich Fedeli Jr

I joined CrossFit Stamford back in the Fall, right after the 2016 Fall Challenge. As I was reading the essays of the three winners and seeing the amazing results of others, I thought to myself, ‟I can’t wait to sign up for the next Challenge!”

By the time March came around, and the announcement was made that the Spring Challenge would begin in April, I was already excited to start. The initial meeting with Kristie and Dr. Kurt was very informative. Not only were the rules discussed in detail, but I also gained some nutritional information I was not aware of. After the meeting, I felt pretty good about the dietary aspect of the Challenge, though I knew I was going to have to eliminate some of the foods I was currently eating. The bigger challenge was going to be giving up my supplements.

For the last decade, I have been what they call a “supplement junkie.” I have tried nearly every new product on the market. Over the course of the last two years, I had been using a brand that I thought was pretty clean, but learned that I would not be able to take it during the Challenge because it contains SUCRALOSE. This became the “dirty word” ingredient in all the supplements I had to give up for 30 days, including my go-to pre-workout drink.

The first few days were pretty tough. I don’t drink coffee, so omitting my pre-workout drink that contains caffeine was the most difficult part of the Challenge. In the second week, I started eating a small meal before working out – which I have never done before – and it actually helped a great deal. I introduced a plant-based protein instead of whey, and eventually got to a Challenge-friendly, all-natural pre-workout routine (Thanks Woo!!).

My food consumption was on point for the first two weeks, with just one slip-up (eating a protein bar that was not Challenge-friendly). My workouts and energy were definitely increasing, and the trusty mirror showed me I was doing a great job. During the third week, we were allowed one “cheat” meal, and I decided to have two slices of pizza on a Friday night. Wow, was that a mistake! Within an hour, I was sick to my stomach. It was a real eye-opener and absolutely not worth the cheat. My advice to future Challenge participants – if you want a cheat, make it something satisfying but on the lighter side.

By the start of the fourth week I was on autopilot. It was clearly the easiest week of the Challenge for me. I felt like I had made changes that I will stick to even after the Challenge is over. My measurements were all lower, body fat dropped, my WOD and Front Squat increased, and most importantly, the guy in the mirror looked significantly better than he did 30 days earlier.

For me, this 30-day Challenge was more of a permanent lifestyle change than a month-long competition. I can’t say for sure if I will go back to my pre-workout drink or not, but I can say there are many changes I have made in the last 30 days that I will continue doing every day. Thank you so much again to all the coaches and to CF Stamford for your daily support!!!

2017 Spring Challenge First Place – Danielle Salters

This was my third challenge, but the first time I truly committed to full compliance. I focused on getting through the first week, knowing from experience that the sugar cravings would fade from there. It wasn’t easy given the two events with open bars that I faced during that time, but I took It one day at a time. I made it through and, surprisingly, by the end of the week, the sugar cravings had faded and I’d settled into a routine.

I attempted another event during week 2 and was forced with the decision to get my 8 hours of sleep and miss my 6am WOD, or keep my perfect score. Because this year’s workout points maxed out at 3 rather than 5x per week, I opted for the sleep to keep the points, but I didn’t feel good about it. At that point, I decided [or accepted] that I had no time for anything during the week other than work, sleep, gym, stretching and foodprep. And decided I’d just have to make the most of the [sober] weekends. And, I settled into a routine surprisingly easily. Midway through week day, I couldn’t stop yawning once 9:15pm hit.

A key to my success was setting my goals and installing a support system. On the diet front, I basically kept a bag of compliant snacks with me wherever I went – almonds, larabars, bananas, and sweet potato chips were my go-tos. I also found surprising support in places like my café at work. I brought them ghee and they cooked with it! Two eggs and either chicken breast, turkey or bacon every morning was done. I also started a water challenge with my coworkers and took Kristie’s advice about keeping a glass of water next to bed. I found that first glass greatly impacted my desire for water and intake throughout the day.

It was important to me to not lose muscle during the challenge, so I added a protein supplement and committed to working out 5x/week. I had the support of veteran Fernanda , commuting to the 6am WOD together ~3xweek. When I needed the extra motivation to get up before the sun, knowing I’d be letting her down was it. I also started the hatch squat program with former challenge winner Lauren Spatz. This meant a gym arrival of 5:30am twice per week (which is really 5:50 to Lauren). That wakeup call meant that I was in bed at 9pm most nights. And it was refreshing! Other resources that I came to depend on were a certified stretcher who I met with twice a week (who knew that was a thing?!), and I treated myself to a massage every three workouts, which helped with the recovery points.

I didn’t get the easy recipe points, largely because I kept meals very boring. I ate a ton of fish, steak and burgers, with variations on sweet potatoes, asparagus and green beans. And that was basically it doe lunch and dinner throughout the entire challenge. I ended the challenge feeling healthier, stronger and energized. My weight loss really faded after week 2, but I replaced that with new PRs. I PRed my clean and jerk and squat clean and am confident that I will PR my back squat when I retest.

Thanks to the combo of the challenge and hatch squat, I added 20 pounds to my 5-rep max front squat and did them at my 1-rep max! I was disappointed that I couldn’t pick up cals in the retest, but I was able to hit the same wall-ball and KTE number across all three sets – 4 more than my highest set pre-challenge. With the massive gains seen during these four weeks, how can I not commit to having my ideal body? I’m going to add a drink allowance, but planning to stick to the rest of the challenge protocol through the fourth of July. It was really miraculous.

Meg Hildebrand 2016 Fall Challenge 1st Place Winner!

Challenge Essay – Meg Hildebrand

As a serial Challenger, I continue to sign myself up for these things in hopes of a shot at prize money worthy results! I’m pretty sure I’ve done AT least 3 of these, all with minimal results. However, I learn a little more about myself with each challenge and think this time around I did finally make some progress.

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This Challenge I tried to pay more attention to portions and macros (which is a gigantic pain). I was not always on track and am still trying to figure out what works for me, but I’ve learned that mindless “Paleo” does NOT work. Just because it fits the paleo guidelines, doesn’t mean I need to eat it. Just because I’m not eating crackers and cheese, doesn’t mean I need seconds on paleo dinner. While medjool dates stuffed with almond butter are delicious AND within the guidelines – eating them like candy won’t help me reach any sugar reduction or fat loss goals. I’ve also learned that I have to make a conscious effort to eat a lot of vegetables, which I don’t love all the time.

Eating an adequate amount of vegetables seems to require more planning and prep work. Speaking of planning, my biggest fail happened in the first week when I failed to plan. We had a b-day party for my 4yr old and spent all morning setting up without eating anything. I managed to avoid the donuts, cake, pizza and other non-compliant snacks during the party- but once 2pm rolled around, guests had left, and I still hadn’t eaten anything all day – the leftover pizza didn’t stand a chance. I basically used myself as a garbage disposal to clean up. Gross.

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Other challenges I’ve faced over the past 4 years as a CFS Challenger are similar each time, but seem easier to overcome each round. Wine and leftover kids meals are two difficult areas that stand out from the past. They really didn’t seem as much of an issue this time. Old habits die hard, but it’s possible! Overall, the more practice I have being mindful of what I eat, the easier it gets.

While I don’t have drastic physical results to use as persuasion, I would absolutely recommend this type of challenge to anyone. I love (and seem to need) the accountability factor of these Challenges. It definitely helps me stay on track vs telling myself I’m going to do it on my own for 30 days. It seems to be a slow learning curve for me, but I did find a “before” pic from one of the first Challenges I entered and am happy to see I’ve come a long way. A lot of trial and error for me (ex. birthday party binge), but I feel like I’m in a better place after each Challenge and I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last CFS Challenge 🙂

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Stats:
Lost 3.5lbs – gained .5lbs of muscle and frame mass decreased by 1lb (and my muscle to frame ratio is within 1lb, so I think that’s good?)
lost 1.5inches on waist and .5 inches in hips
I’ve also birthed two nearly 10lb babies and never thought I’d be able to get through the extra skin and stretch marks to find muscles – but I can see a couple now!

22 seconds faster on WOD test – which was a real struggle. Within the last week of the Challenge I PR’d Grace, which I didn’t think possible because I’ve not been lifting heavy during class. AND I Pr’d Fran by over 1 minute while just sticking to my usual ladies class a few times a week. I started Crossfit over 7yrs ago (in my 20s) and the fact that I’m still able to improve makes me feel less like a middle-aged mom and gives me hope that it doesn’t have to be all downhill from here! Thanks CFS!

Laura Spelling 2016 Fall Challenge 2nd Place Winner!

At the end of 30 days Laura had lost 11 pounds / 3.5% body fat / 3.5 inches on hips / 1.25 on waist!

Challenge Essay – Laura Spelling

Throughout the challenge I learned a lot about temptation and willpower which I never knew was in me. I also learned how to cook something other than pasta – Joe and the dogs were thrilled to wake up to the smell of fresh bacon. I tried so many new things and ventured into wholefoods on an almost daily basis because I found some new recipe I wanted to try that I didn’t have an ingredient for (download the wholefoods app, its life changing). I have never eaten or cooked butternut squash, zucchini noodles, coconut aminos, RX Bars, and making curry from scratch – I’m never ordering Indian again!

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I learned to appreciate and look forward to going out to eat, focused on it for days, and imagined what it would be like to leave the house! I must admit, by the third week of not leaving the house, turning down invitations, and being downright bored, I was ready to get out! I only consumed one cheat meal and it was absolutely worth it. I methodically planned one drink with dinner, one drink after so I can be semi social– this is technically one meal. We did get out in other ways; we went hiking and walked the dogs more just to have a small resemblance of fun.

The most important takeaway from the past 30 days for me has been that preparation is key; if you prepare for the day then everything else falls into place. The first week was rough – I mean rough! But then when you get into a groove, go food shopping, plan what you need, stretch during lunch break (although I don’t think my manager was a fan), get to CFS by 6pm to ensure I’m home to cook dinner and lunch for the next day and get enough sleep, only to wake up and do this again. There was really no room for variation in my schedule, kind of felt like Groundhog Day…

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Although I expected coworkers to judge me HARD, they were actually very supportive and as I brought in my lunches they’d ask for recipes and now even they’re more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies. I did have an awkward encounter when I was invited to the Executive Dining Room (which is filled with the most delicious and FREE lunch options) and had to get a pathetic little salad and ask for olive oil and vinegar in front of 8 members of senior management. Not the highlight of the challenge. I converted people over to this crazy meal plan and even cooked a challenge compliant meal for my friend before a 7pm MBA class. Even she was surprised by my cooking skills and how something that tasted this good was approved per the challenge.

Getting the 8 hours’ sleep was rather easy and quick amazing. I vividly remember my friend asking if I wanted to go to her apartment for a show that starts at 10pm- I had to say no…what a shame ☺

Overall, people were very supportive and complimented me on my willpower; however, I will be thoroughly enjoying the Halloween Treats Party at work (which I planned) with real sugar and flour, without shame. I lost weight, lost inches, and have more energy – what more can you ask for?

MIKE PEARSON – 2ND PLACE WINNER DETOX CHALLENGE

The last challenge was poorly timed for me. I got married and had a honeymoon. Needless to say I didn’t stick too strictly to the diet. This time around I wanted things to be different…

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After having Hess calculate my numbers and my BMR I was pretty stunned. This go around I wanted to gain weight. I wanted to have a physique that would not only look good, but help make me a better athlete. Prior to the challenge/detox I had been eating ‘almost paleo’ or at least healthy so I felt I had a good foundation. When Hess and I did the math on how much I’d have to eat to gain weight I thought she was joking. 4140 Calories…..4140 CLEAN Calories. Thankfully Rachel and I (Well mostly Rachel) began the most insane Sunday meal prep regimen imaginable.

My daily food intake consisted(s) of 3.5 protein shakes, roughly 6-7 eggs, 4-5 chicken breasts, a cup to cup and a half of ground turkey, almost 2 cups of roasted potatoes, a cup of chopped carrots, a full bag of Jasmin rice, a cup of broccoli and other mixed veggies, a half cup of walnuts and I’m sure there are a few others I just can’t recall from memory. You get the idea though. I dialed in my eating so that my macros were almost exactly 33-33-33.

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So what was the hardest part?? The first week of eating. It hurt. I wanted to vomit and the idea of ever snacking made me feel nauseous. I’m not even being dramatic. The crazy part though is almost immediately my lifts started to improve. Squats, cleans, jerks every one of them went up this past month. Once I started noticing progress I was able to keep my head down and start pushing through my eating. I knew for sure there was no way I’d lose body fat. I was ok with that. I wanted this to be an experiment on what it would take to get better in the gym.

Now a month later I look back and couldn’t be happier. Now I definitely got stronger and I shaved 30 sec from my workout time (or 6.2%). Even better was that I was able to change my physique rating from Standard to Standard Muscular. I added roughly 4 pounds of lean muscle to my frame and somehow I DID DROP my body fat % from 9.9% to 9.2%!!!! Somehow I managed to take .5” from my waist and shift it to my chest. The only downside being I raised by BMR from 2422 to 2475. I guess if I want to keep gaining I’ll need to add a few additional chicken breasts to my diet.

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The experience has made me realize that no matter where you are in your fitness journey there is always room to improve. You never have to feel stuck at a plateau if you put your mind to it. Much like everyone else at the gym there was some strong motivation that made me start CrossFit. I had to find a new motivation and attach it with the same passion and I did. I can say 100% that my eating will remain the same now post detox. I may have the occasional beer or glass of bourbon but overall this diet/nutrition plan works super well for me.

BLAIR HAGERMAN – 3RD PLACE TIE DETOX CHALLENGE

The Detox Challenge has represented the greatest challenge and accomplishment of my fitness journey thus far as I approach my one year anniversary in the CrossFit community.

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To be perfectly clear, until now I have fully subscribed to the “you can exercise your way out of a
bad diet” theory. To say that my diet had made any significant leaps from when I was ten years old was laughable. In fact, you could almost call it the Anti-Paleo diet. Frozen pizza, creamy pastas, processed foods and heavy dairy were my staples. Salad? HAHAHAHA…

But I decided that if there was ever a time to try this whole “healthy eating” thing, the Detox was my shot. Just as the competition factor of CrossFit got me hooked on the actual workouts, I figured perhaps a competition could motivate me to make sweeping changes to my diet. Above anything else, I hate to lose. Rather than ignoring my diet, I would be forced to hold myself accountable. Oh, and did I mention I hate losing?

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So how did I do it? First and foremost getting organized to set myself up for success was key. I ordered a foam roller and a lacrosse ball off Amazon to allow me to do recovery at home before bed. I put a large drinking glass on my bathroom counter with a post-it note on the mirror saying “DON’T FORGET TO DRINK THIS”. I started an account with Kettlebell Kitchen to ensure I had plenty of on-the-go food options at both home and work.

I set an annoying number of alarms to remind me it was time to hit the sack if I wanted to get my full 8 hours of sleep. I probably spent more time at Fairway and Whole Foods reading labels and planning meals than a mom shopping for a family of ten. Just taking simple steps like these allowed me maximize my Detox Challenge experience.

In terms of my diet, I generally stuck to a consistent routine. For breakfast, I usually ate 3-4 eggs in the morning, often scrambled with some onions and peppers. Given my distaste for salad, lunches relied heavily on leftovers from the night before or Kettlebell Kitchen. I snacked on almond butter, nuts and fruit. Dinners were usually a basic protein (steak, chicken, pork, etc.) with some sort of veggies on the side, however, I did try a few off-the-beaten-path recipes such as a Primal Pizza Casserole and some paleo desserts to mix things up.

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One of the most difficult parts of the challenge for me was overcoming the social aspect. Keeping
my discipline throughout a company ski trip (thank you RX bars), an anniversary date, friends’ birthdays, the Super Bowl and other events was challenging but always a great conversation starter!

Overall, the Detox experience taught me quite a few new things about my body. Despite my previous love for dairy, through the re-introduction phase I quickly learned that lactose is not something
I tolerate all that well. Meanwhile, eliminating a bulk of the processed sugars has markedly cleared up
my skin. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m capable of pushing myself to the extremes to
accomplish things I never would have thought possible.

I would highly recommend the Challenge to anyone looking to learn more about themselves and/or experiment with how making healthy lifestyle choices can accelerate fitness performance.

Looking back it’s very clear that I was holding myself back from reaching my full potential by making unhealthy choices outside of the gym. 30 days later and I cut my bodyfat by over 50%, lost 2
inches off my waist, and added over 2lbs of muscle! I’ve now lost over 20lbs since I first signed up for
On-Ramp last year. I guess I can finally admit the diet side of the equation is important after all!

Big shout out to Kristie, Andy and all the coaches for making this possible!

MATT STOTLER – 3RD PLACE TIE DETOX CHALLENGE

I never thought I’d be a basic white girl. A lifetime spent aspiring to the classic tenets of virility and machismo crumbled around me as I stood with my kale salad in hand—a $15 plastic box barely larger than my fist—waiting for David Fishman to get his chicken parmigiana so that I could recede from the public eye to wallow in my shame and confusion. It was at this moment in mid-January, trying to get a meal during a hockey game at Chelsea Piers, that I developed a true appreciation for how pervasive The Holiday Detox would prove to be in everyday life.

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It was also at this time that I learned of the horrible consequences that came with being unprepared to meet the challenge. Entering The Detox, I underestimated the changes that I would have to make. I had elected not to participate in the October 2015 challenge because, at that point in time, I was already down 20 lbs on the year due to a very similar regiment of diet and increased exercise. However, after a couple months of gluttonous vacations, lavish meals, and hazy holiday gatherings, the general feeling of doughiness was becoming uncomfortable. I decided to give The Detox a go, reasoning that it would only take a reversion to previous habits to be competitive. This initial assessment was a massive oversimplification, which became clear as I started the process.

First and foremost, I weighed in at the bottom of my personally desired bodyweight range and with a much lower body fat percentage than I had expected. My goal for the next 30 days immediately changed from “lose that holiday weight and as a result get leaner” to “gain weight and lean out simultaneously, somehow.” To put it in layman’s terms, I had to eat more to try to win this competition—a lot more. I had to accomplish this on a new meal plan as well, as I quickly discovered that even my normalized “paleo-ish” diet was far too lenient with banned foods and ingredients.

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This speedbump would be the first of many food-related issues. Given a busy work schedule and uncertain access to compatible foods, weekly meal prep became a necessity. I decided to keep my meals relatively standardized due to time constraints and the resulting dearth of motivation to be creative with each individual culinary endeavor.

Breakfasts consisted of 8 eggs, 2-4 strips of bacon, and a whole avocado. Lunches were baked sweet potatoes or yams along with about a pound of baked chicken breast, and another 2-4 strips of bacon. These meals were packed into Tupperware containers and brought to work daily. Dinners were an epic affair, entailing about two pounds of pre-cooked chicken breast sautéed with tomatoes and other veggies and served over three cups of cooked white rice. This final meal took about 45 minutes of concerted effort to consume each night, and often sent me to bed feeling crippled and with heavy breathing.

I supplemented my meal plan with two protein shakes per day using pure whey protein isolate mixed with coconut water and pure organic cacao powder. These mixers were largely intended to dilute the whey and prevent taste-induced vomiting. All of this consumption was done in pursuit of a 5,000 calorie diet; a goal of which I usually fell short.

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Aside from the sheer volume of food, I knew that my other key issue would be sleep. Between work, the gym, and chores around the house, my typical night barely got me 1.5 points. Given the volatility in financial markets and the onset of another busy earnings season at work, I knew that this was unlikely to improve any time soon. The only way to compensate was diligence with the diet, the WODs, and the ancillary point categories.

As the challenge progressed and the days went by I picked up quite a few interesting pieces of knowledge, such as olive oil isn’t for cooking, you shouldn’t eat fat after workouts, and that cash really piles up when you’re not spending it on booze and Chinese food. I noticed an increase in my base-line energy levels over the course of the day which I attributed to the strict diet. Also, in my workouts, I found more of an ability to push myself during cardio WODs, even as a lack of sleep sapped a measure of my strength. However, above all the tidbits I learned and all of the physical changes that I observed, the experiences that I found most fascinating were the organic social experiments that popped up every time I tried to interact with non-Detoxers.

The levels of respect, ridicule, and outright confusion that I encountered from my friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and outright strangers were something I wasn’t quite prepared for. One particularly confrontational case took place during a group dinner celebrating Chinese New Year when I was vehemently and profanely berated by a drunken Ukrainian—a man whom I had never met—over a crowded dining table as he took issue with my sobriety. However, this was an extreme.

The most common reaction that I received from people when I explained the reason I couldn’t partake in a particular food or drink was a kind of mild perplexity, followed by an affirmation that seemed to translate to, “more power to you, but why would you ever want to do that?” I also found a generally positive correlation between time and emotional support, as people tended to approach such an odd goal (my diet & sobriety) first with ridicule (“that’s stupid”), followed by bargaining (“just have one beer, you p***y”), and ended up being astonished that I proved able to withstand peer pressure (“I’m impressed”). At the end of the day, after some initially surprising levels of friction, the social impact was relatively minimal.

When all was said and done, I gained just under 2 pounds over the course of the 30 day Detox and lost 1.5 inches off of my waist. I’m happy with the improvement in my WOD score and I’m happy with the change in my before and after photos. If I were to do it all over again, I would tweak the diet to include more carbs and more varied sources of animal protein; I’m pretty sick and tired of chicken at this point. I also plan to focus more of my time in the gym on strength work going forward, as I think that doing intense metcons five days a week has limited my ability to truly add muscle and strength.

I feel like this challenge has provided me with a good rebasing which I can build off of, both in terms of fitness and general health. I’ve learned a lot, had some interesting experiences, and I’m looking forward to applying these lessons in my perpetual pursuit to be better.

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