Note from Sarah: For more of Jason, check out his AMAZING new book, now available at book stores near you and right here on Amazon; The Paleo Coach!
I love sharing paleo lifestyle success stories because each one is another opportunity to help more people understand how easy it is to get a healthy and attractive body once you have the right perspective. Today, I would like to tell you about Christina. I believe many of you will be able to relate with the struggles she went through to get where she is today, and I hope that her example might lead some of you to change directions and stop fighting a losing battle.
This was Christina when we first met. This is also her at her fittest before paleo and responsible exercise:
When Christina was in college, around 2000, she began to become dissatisfied with her body. “Sitting in class, I noticed that my thighs were huge,” she said. “There was a girl in my class who was a runner, and she was really skinny, so I thought if I ran I would look more like her.” Let’s pause for just a second to examine Christina’s perspective at this point. As we have tried to establish many times on this blog, in our seminars, on our podcast, and in our books, sustainable improvements to aesthetics happen only though improvements in health. Once we understand this fact, goals like “I want to be skinny,” or “I want to lose weight,” turn into goals like “I want to lose fat” and “I want to be really healthy so I can be hot by accident.” Moving on.
“I started by running two miles per day, maybe three, and it would wipe me out,” Christina told me. “But I eventually decided that to actually be skinny I just needed to run more, so I decided to train for a marathon. One day, on a 6 mile run, my knee completely gave out and ended my marathon training. I went to the doctor and got orthotics and anti-pronation running shoes because I still really wanted to run, but my body wasn’t agreeing with me.” It makes me sad, but this is often how these stories go. The mainstream fat loss prescription is wrong and our bodies usually try really hard to tell us as much, but we tend to take things in an even more unnatural direction by adding more contrived pieces to the equation, like gear, supplements, drugs, and/or medical procedures.
Christina believed that if she exercised enough she could eat whatever she wanted, so diet was never really a big consideration for her, but there was plenty more cardio in her regular routine. “I spent a lot of time on the elliptical and rowing machines,” she said. “I also took one of those classes where you lift 2 lb weights and do lots of sit-ups. I did kick boxing classes, step aerobics classes, dance aerobics classes, trail running, rollerblading, and mountain biking, all supplemented on top of my running. At one point I was exercising a total of three to four hours per day, every day.”
Of course I had to ask the magic question, “Were you ever happy with your body during that time?”
“No,” she replied. “I just kept gaining fat around my thighs.” Over a six year period of intense cardio Christina gained 10 lbs of fat. What?? How can this be??
In 2006 Christina joined the military and, after their rigorous physical testing, she quit working out for two years. “I just kind of gave up,” she said, “but nothing ever changed. I didn’t get any bigger and I didn’t get any skinnier.” This speaks volumes to me. So many people have the mindset that tons of cardio is necessary to reach their goals, and when they never get to those goals, they assume that they must continue toiling away in order to keep whatever modest gains they may have achieved. Unfortunately, more damage is often inevitable (especially concerning the thyroid, as covered nicely in this very well referenced article by Kiefer).
After her two year sabbatical, Christina decided to return to all that cardio. Even though this decision seems crazy after all those years of no results with these same methods, I can understand her decision. When everyone believes the same useless information, what other conclusions can you possibly come to?
Let’s jump ahead past more years of the same stuff, another break driven by hopelessness, and adding lots of mainstream dietary madness into the mix (caloric restriction, low fat, and nearly vegetarian). Naturally, Christina walked into my gym frustrated. I actually think the frustration is what saved her because she was ready to try anything I threw at her. When I told her she was going to have to quit doing cardio to get the results she wanted, she was certainly surprised, but she didn’t have anything to lose. And while she had begun to understand that nutrition played a bigger role than she had given it credit for, I also explained that her diet would probably be responsible for at least 80% of the results she wanted. She agreed to give the paleo lifestyle a go, and we got to work.
Here is Christina today:
How did she do it? By giving her body what it expects to be healthy. She ate a solid paleo diet with minimal deviations from the natural plan, she lifted heavy things, she walked often, and she incorporated some short duration high intensity interval training. Aside from walking, Christina only works out 3 days per week for an hour or less. No magic. No tricks. No gimmicks. She just stopped trying to cheat the system in pursuit of purely aesthetic goals, instead opting to get really healthy. And the good news is that she is really just getting started. I will update you on her progress in the future, and there will be a lot more progress because Christina’s new lifestyle is sustainable and free of the stress that comes with crazy hours of cardio, weighing and measuring food, counting points, gobbling up piles of supplements, and all the other nonsense that never leads to any real change. The take away message here is that more of the same is probably not what you need if you find yourself stuck in a rut, or even a downward spiral, from mainstream fitness and nutrition business as usual. If your story sounds like Christina’s, I challenge you to change your perspective, even if it’s just to try something new for a while. What have you got to lose except fat, misery, and desperation?
If you are ready for change and would like all the small details, check out The Paleo Coach.
Go forth and be awesome.