I had an emotional moment the other day and was wondering if anyone else has had the same thoughts. As a bit of background, I'm 19 years old, I started Primal/Paleo back in May, and I am hoping to compete in Crossfit competitions. I am VERY hard on myself, and have very bad body image...I can't stand not being "the best." Because of my goals with Crossfit and my own personal goals for appearance I would like to get my BF to 12%-15%. I am around 20% right now. I still look as if I have about 30% BF...which I had back in March because of birth control.
During my meltdown the other day I began to wonder if anyone else feels like Paleo is not working for them...I don't feel very different because I've always been super "healthy" and highly active and it frustrates me because I skip out on a lot in order to stay on my Paleo path while in College but I am not able to drop my body fat, which stops me from going out at all because I continue to get more muscular during Crossfit, but Im no dropping BF so I just look, and feel, big...and this stops me from fitting into all of my clothes.
I've tried no carb, VLC, LC, and just "eating Paleo" to no avail....does anyone else feel that Paleo really isnt doing as much as one would hope.
Let me clarify that I am not looking to achieve a "Waiflike" appearance. I am currently 155 at appx 20% BF and I would like to lower BF while continuing to gain muscle and improve performance(I realize this is a difficult and contradictory task when it comes to calories in/calories out)...while I am aware I do have obsessive tendencies, I am in no way trying to lower BF for unhealthy aesthetic purposes (however the lean, muscular look is one i would like to eventually achieve). I would be fine putting on 10 pounds of muscle if that meant less BF. Paleo has helped in other areas, such as immunity and performance and I am not ever looking to stop it...I am just at a point of mega frustration
Your body doesn't want you to go to 12-15% bodyfat because your body has been honed by millions of years of evolution to reproduce. The fat% your body was at when you reached puberty is considered by many scientists to be a "set point" that your body uses to determine whether or not you are in a situation where you can afford to be fertile. For most Western women that's around 20% body fat. Below that and your fertility will be impaired, so your body will fight to stay there. I know women who still chased the 12% body fat and now that they are older, they regret it.
If your clothes don't fit, why not buy some new ones?
20% is a perfectly healthy body fat level.
Michelle, it sounds like you have issues that no diet can solve. Loving and accepting yourself and improving your body image are huge challenges for many women, myself included. You need to fix your HEAD, not your body. Holding yourself up to an impossible standard and then beating up both yourself and Paleo for not meeting that standard is not going to get you anywhere. First, 12-15% is very hard, if not impossible, for most women to achieve. And if you want to have kids one day it may not be a healthy % for you to be at. Women's bodies naturally have fat on them.
Here's a nice post from Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo on this. http://everydaypaleo.com/2011/08/05/you-cant-fix-a-body-you-hate/
It sounds like you are very frustrated and have clearly invested a lot in the hope that going Paleo would give you what you want. I can absolutely relate, so the following statement is simply my personal experience and perception of your situation.
Paleo isn't a magic bullet or a cure-all for weight, body-image, body-composition, performance etc.
It really just represents what we, a particular group of enthusiasts, "experts"/gurus, intellectuals, etc. believe is the "best" way for a human being to eat.
"Paleo" isn't even a set diet and there are numerous iterations that it can take. I think that it is hard to argue for the inclusion of industrial foods in ones diet, but the exact macronutrients and proportions of a whole food diet is far from conclusive and probably never will be.
There are nearly infinite ways one can choose to eat, overeat, not eat, etc. and if you feel like Paleo (in whatever form) isn't working for you, you can try something else. I would suggest, however, that searching for the "perfect" diet is less productive than finding acceptance and peace with who you are and what you can and cannot do.
Stress is not working for you. Be at peace. Drop some of these goals. You may even want to drop Crossfit, if they are of the overly competitive genre.
Oh, and I see Melissa just pointed out the whole reproduction/body fat issue. Oh look, a goal more in line with your humanity...
Paleo is a good diet and lifestyle if you want to be strong, feel great, and be healthy. It's not very useful for 'cutting' down to unnaturally low body fat percentages. 20% is ideally healthy for fertile, fit, athletic-looking women. It's also very aesthetically pleasing.
If you really want to get to 12% bodyfat, forget whole foods paleo and start eating low-calorie, low-fat, high-protein (easiest way to do this is with tons of powders, bars, and supplements) and pushing your body to the limit in high-intensity workouts. Of course, this is very unhealthy for your short and long-term health and I would not recommend it.
I highly doubt you look the same now as you did at 30% body fat. I feel you may have some body dysmorphia issues.
It has to start with how you define paleo and what you expect from it. If you assume that eating paleo should automatically cause you to lose body fat, or pounds on the scale, I think that's a risky assumption. You have to customize any general approach--no matter how excellent--for specific results.
For example, I want to lose weight but I don't think paleo is a weight loss program per se. So, I need to make specific adaptions within the paleo framework to customize it for my goals.
You probably need to customize both CrossFit and paleo to optimize your results within both frameworks. For you, that may mean looking at when you eat, what you eat, when you work out, your optimal recovery time from workouts, etc.
If you feel healthy, then Paleo is working for you. Please realize I'm not belittling your goal of a lower body fat, but please consider that even elite female athletes often have body fat of 18-22%. When I was at the height of my athletic career as a national competitor in taekwondo, I still had a body fat of 19% and damn, I looked good! Part of learning not to be too hard on yourself or your body is to accept what you can change by behavior and what is genetics (or just being a woman whose body wants to have a little fat . . .). I'm not saying to give up your goal of having a lower body fat, but learning to dress yourself in a flattering way no matter what your body fat is will do wonders for you. Find friends who tell you how fabulous you look. Find pictures of physically fit women with curves and learn to love what they look like. You probably look just like them -- young, healthy, physically fit and just a few curves at 20% body fat. In fact, I bet you look damn good.
Yes, have goals, but for emotional and spiritual health, please make your physical health not your appearance your number one goal. If you can do this, then look at Paleo through that lens and re-evaluate if it is working for you.
Its hard to imagine that you've been keeping strict with Paleo for almost 6 months now without any positive benefits. If something was that difficult to keep up with and didn't help me look, feel, and perform better, I just wouldn't stick with it that long.
My best guess is Paleo has provided benefits that you are overlooking or downplaying for the purposes of focusing solely on body fat %.
Also, it sounds like your attempt to try everything is probably small variations of the same thing. Have you tried intermittent fasting/carb cycling/lower fat/higher protein/eating less?
Stress could also be a huge factor that you are overlooking. You have to find a way to value other things about your health and performance besides body fat %. Even if you were to have some success losing weight and get down to 12-15%, your going to be even more stressed trying to maintain it. Don't ever let a goal that may or may not be feasible determine your emotional state.
I don't think Paleo has the power to change your genetics... some of just can't reach our "ideal" body types as easily as others. It takes me forever to put muscle on, and right now with college and grad school on the horizon I simply can't exert the effort to make noticeable gains. But I've come to accept this and I'm comfortable with myself. I'm sure you don't look as bad as you think (trust me, I've had those days).
Nobody has asked how often and how intensely are you doing crossfit? Overdoing it there could be stressing you out, and that's definitely counterproductive for fat loss and health in general. Why not back down a bit on the intensity and give youself a break? You said you are "VERY" hard on yourself, so I suspect you already have an inkling that this may be a wee bit of a problem...
20% is normal for a woman of child-bearing age. I agree it's hard to be a big, tall, fit woman in world that idolizes teeny waif-like models with pencil arms who are made up to look like drug addicts. Why not save your energy and be grateful that you're lucky enough to be healthy and fit and in college?
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