A little about Anisha:
“Outside of CrossFit, I am a resident physician. I started out as a surgery resident and realized I didn’t love it – so I think I’m going to do pediatric critical care! My favorite movement is probably the Turkish get up. Least favorite: wall balls. Always. My favorite CFCC moment so far was in the car on the way back from the beach WOD when my entire car was full of people karaoke-ing to Disney and Wicked. Usually, my fun fact is that I am a CrossFitter, but y’all already know that. So I guess my fun fact can be that in medical school, my best friend and I made cupcakes for all of our classmates’ birthdays.”
Anisha’s Recharge Experience:
I first heard about Paleo when I was CrossFitting in Miami. It sounded kind of crazy – I was in medical school and indoctrinated in the “food pyramid” way of thinking. But I started reading studies about how the levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in your blood were actually more closely related to the carbs you ate than the cholesterol in your diet. How carbohydrate intake decreased longevity. How saturated fat wasn’t actually bad for you.
So I tried it, and with great results! I would cut out carbs entirely for weeks (or sometimes months) at a time. It felt good, and I was the skinniest I’d been since high school. Sure, I had trouble getting in enough calories, but what did that matter?
It worked reasonably well until I moved to Philadelphia for general surgery residency. My day looked something like this:
0430 alarm goes off. I fly out of bed, brush my teeth, throw on scrubs, and run to the hospital.
0500 the work begins. I see patients, talk about them with my senior residents, go to the OR, and basically run around like a chicken with my head cut off. This continues until..
1400, when I realize that I haven’t eaten anything, and I am starving. The cafeteria has anemic offerings on a good day, so I just grab a slice of cold pizza and get back to work
1800 I can see the end in sight so I try to get everything done as quickly as possible so that I can go to the gym
1830 whew, barely made it from the hospital in time for CrossFit. I tell Chris that I haven’t really eaten. Or slept. He asks me if this is a good idea. So I run across to grocery, stuff my face, and try to nap before trying again at…
1930 Class (take 2) starts. I’m glad I came, but I start wondering — to what end?
2100 I’ve taken a shower and am trying to decide whether I should eat anything else, but really what I need to do is study for the next day. I down 2 heaping spoons of nutella and read until I fall asleep.
This was six or seven days a week.
I’m sure this is no surprise, but I backslid in all domains of fitness last year. My strength, flexibility, agility, endurance — all of them. It was hugely disappointing. I would remember what I could lift before — which wasn’t particularly helpful. After one year of residency, I decided that enough was enough.
Meghan and Erin were both kind to me in that they knew I meant it when I said I knew things needed to change. Coming off that terrible year, I wanted to fix all the things at once, but figured that starting with nutrition wasn’t a bad idea. I knew that when I was back in the medical world, I wanted healthy eating to be a sustainable lifestyle choice.
Before the Fall 2014 Recharge, I’d had about a month to settle into a new routine. I was cooking for myself within the Paleo framework, but my body was obstinate with the weight I had gained last year. My gut threw daily tantrums, and I craved sweets constantly.
The nutrition seminar we did prior to the start of Recharge was life-changing. Most of the information wasn’t new, but wait: I could eat carbs again? Sounded too good to be true. Rice and potatoes were real food and sources of nutrition? No. It took two weeks of prodding from Meghan, who assured me that my gut would like it and I would be happier, before I ate potatoes for the first time in years!
Taking out excessive sources of fat (that I had relied on for years, hence the nutella!) and adding in healthy carbs was a game-changer for me! My gut liked me better, I could fuel my workouts properly, and I definitely saw changes in the way my clothes fit! My lifts stopped backsliding as they had for a year and a half, and I had my first PRs in almost two years!
I had gone into this thinking I might lose weight. I actually didn’t lose weight on the scale, but everything looked and felt different. My favorite go-to recipe ended up being some kind of stuffed baked sweet potatoes – I would top them with any kind of protein + greens + spices for endless combinations. The hardest part (I hate to admit this) for me was to only have one alcoholic beverage a week. I was used to having a glass of wine with dinner almost every day, and I definitely felt better when I wasn’t having as much alcohol. Another challenge was to not be too hard on myself, controlling to the point of obsession. 85% correct eating, all the time, beats out being crazy controlling [for monthlong challenges, then backsliding]. I discovered that, for me, planning is crazy important, especially when my schedule gets crazy. If I know that there’s healthy food waiting in the fridge, I don’t feel compelled to eat bad things. If there isn’t…well, let’s just say that’s bad.
I also met my goal of making cooking (and eating) healthy food a sustainable process. Instead of finding myself needing to cook every day, I now had a couple things ready to go in the fridge whenever I needed them — which will make the next time I’m back in the hospital a much better experience. For me, sustainability was the key that made it all worth it – and I can’t wait for the next Recharge!
If you’re new to CFCC – definitely try the January Recharge! You’ll be surprised at how much what you eat contributes to how you train, and how true the adage is that “you can’t out-train a bad diet.” If you’re an old pro – do the January Recharge! Especially after the holidays, it’s easy to fall off the bandwagon, and it’s so much more fun to eat well with the camaraderie of CFCC behind you!
A note from Meg:
Anisha’s experience in Recharge is such a great example of not only the importance of remaining open-minded, but the necessity of recognizing that your nutritional journey is YOUR OWN. I’ve worked with hundreds of CFCC members over the past few years, and the only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I’ve yet to see two people who can eat the exact same diet and enjoy the same exact experience.
Anisha’s situation was tough, but absolutely not unique to her. I think most of us are guilty of carrying a higher-than-healthy level of stress for longer than we should (step one is to admit that you have a problem!) So many of us work crazy hours, go home to kids or second jobs or myriad other things to deal with, and on top that we pile a fairly intense training program that leaves us on the floor gasping for breath 5-7 times each week.
The first thing Anisha and I talked about was understanding that her symptoms (less-than-stellar performance in the gym along with TONS of gut issues) were being exacerbated by her stress levels, which were in turn causing her body to rebel and do the opposite of what she wanted – a self-fulfilling prophecy! The first step was for her to focus on her Recharge month being a HEALING experience. We made a few simple changes to her diet for the month – namely, making her macronutrient intake a little more balanced so she was getting a little less added fat (remember, there’s nothing wrong with dietary fat, but the intake levels weren’t working for HER). To help mitigate her physiological stresses – that is, support her performance, recovery from training, and overall gut health, we added in a pretty substantial increase in healthy carbs from mostly soluble fiber sources, namely, potatoes and sweet potatoes!
I know this was a scary undertaking and I’m SO proud that Anisha trusted the process and was consistent with this shift for the entirety of Recharge. I was hoping that she’d come in at the end feeling better – I did not expect to see the dramatic results that we saw (this is the part where I note that her comment above that “everything looked and felt different” was an understatement of epic proportions: Anisha lost 5 (FIVE) INCHES from her waist at the navel while simultaneously improving her 7 minute burpee test from 83 to 92. Best of all, she finished Recharge with a sustainable path to feeling really good for the long haul, even in times of stress (and the path includes carbohydrates). Congratulations, Anisha!