It all began when I decided to make a positive change in my health and fitness lifestyle. First challenge: raw for 30 days. Second challenge: run a half marathon in 6 months. Interim challenge: Bikram yoga to keep my body limber. At first, the challenge was fun. I lost a significant amount of weight, but also clumps of hair, every single time I brushed it. The challenge also made me very hungry. I was casually seeing someone at the time who partook in my challenge, as he deemed it necessary for us to maintain our “relationship.” When we would get in arguments, he would threaten me by saying “Fine. I am going to eat this fish then. Watch me eat this fish.” It was the most ridiculous thing. After looking like I had been yoga tackled a few times from the massive depletion of calories during yoga and running, in addition to my highly raw lifestyle, I needed to search for a lifestyle that fit my body type better. And while I was at it, drop the guy I was dating and make more room for myself.
When I started to eat more cooked foods again, I also decided that standing in an extremely hot room with high humidity, where I could only breathe through my nose for 90 minutes, while holding poses (twice), had to change. (Though, I have to admit that if you want to lose weight quickly, Bikram yoga consistently for a week will do the trick).
I was in Austin, TX, another vegan heaven, when some of my friends dragged me to my first crossfit box while on vacation. It was inevitable I was bound to get addicted. I had done competitive weight lifting in high school. After one kipping pull-up (which caused the skin from my palm to rip off and bleed), I was hooked. In the midst of my new-found addiction, I have to admit the shirtless, muscular men circulating through the gym were somewhat of a distraction, and also an attraction. So of course, my first priority when I returned to DC was to find a box right for me.
“If you’re a vegan who does crossfit, what do you talk about first?” Though this meme has seen better days through social media outlets, I have actually found myself avoiding conversations with my peers that have to do with two things I am very passionate about: being vegan and doing crossfit (and hidden option C: having a pit bull dog, which is a totally different story), as they are all, in ways, “controversial.” You inevitably end up in arguments with those who have never actually experienced any part of my aforementioned lifestyle.
I adhere to a strict vegan diet every day of my life; I also practice crossfit at least 4-5 times a week. There is a sense of empowerment I have found in both. Since I started weightlifting in 1998, I had always been on a yo-yo type diet, mostly to competitively get into a certain weight class. It started with fat-burning soup diets, trying to burn any extra pounds I might have put on. But the only “diet” that had ever stuck, was going meatless. And crossfit brought another permanent change, especially once I started competing with myself, and indirectly, with others in class. Every class, there is a “prescribed” weight you should abide by: your benchmark. But once you find the “WOD” standard becomes less challenging in your day-to-day workouts, there is some sort of gratification that comes with your more recent accomplishments. Pushing you to strive for more. To do more. To be more!
Society has already placed me in some sort of cult, thinking that the only communication I have are purely with those who follow a plant-based diet or strictly work out in a box doing WODs. Put the two together, and all of a sudden you’ve been pigeonholed into this unfathomable unicorn nonexistent in this universe (yes, that unimaginable). Think about it this way: most crossfitters I work out with are on a paleo diet, chewing on bacon strips during their clean and jerk skill work. Slightly kidding, this is how we think of people who do crossfit. Lean, mean machines who eat nothing but bacon while talking about their latest gains.
Of course, the obligatory “Where do you get your protein?” question comes up more often than not. But I find myself in the higher percentile of the stronger women at the gym. Not tooting my own horn here, but if they say vegans don’t get enough protein, then how am I progressively moving up in the pre-scripted weight, swinging a 53-lb kettlebell above my head, just as the regular carnivores are? A wholesome vegan lifestyle must actually attribute more to a crossfitter than the naysayers have thought.
Becoming a full-fledged vegan, where I am now even compassionate enough to own numerous vegan items, and taking crossfit to the next level, I have discovered it has made me stronger mentally. I have always been stubborn (I am a Leo female), but I have finally found this internal determination that I didn’t have before. To continue challenging myself to defeat the things that I am unable to do. I had never knew how strong willed I was, until I realized I’ve been doing this (vegan crossfitter thing) for almost two years now. And they say all it takes is 21 days…
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Photo: Amber Karnes via Flickr