Happy New Year! Let the challenge begin!

Please note that the gym is closed today for the New Year’s Day holiday. Tomorrow we will be on a regular Sunday schedule and will offer today’s mainsite WOD as the workout since Sunday is a scheduled Rest Day.

Starting TODAY, any and all readers of this blog (whether members of the gym or not) are strongly encouraged to join us in the 2nd Annual Black Box 30-Day Paleo Challenge.

The idea is behind this challenge is to encourage everyone to go strict paleo for 30 days straight, no cheats (planned or unplanned). What a “strict paleo” diet does or does not include can be debated on its subtler points (and we’re happy to answer those questions), but the basics you need to know are the following:

ENCOURAGED FOODS: meats (preferably grass-fed), poultry (preferably pastured), fresh fish & seafood (preferably wild), eggs (preferably pastured or at least omega-3 fortified), vegetables, fresh fruit (& limited dried fruit), nuts & seeds (preferably raw and unsalted). (The organic versions of these foods will allow you to avoid pesticide residue.)

FOODS TO EAT IN MODERATION: minimally processed oils & animal fats (e.g., olive, avocado, walnut, coconut, lard, beef tallow–be aware that some of these are not meant for high-heat cooking but should be used raw) black coffee, tea, wine, beer, spirits, dried fruits (no more than 2 oz./day), nuts mixed with dried & fresh fruits (no more than 4 oz. nuts & 2 oz. dried fruit), starchy vegetables (e.g., starchy tubers, potatoes, sweet potatoes).

FOODS TO AVOID: dairy (e.g., milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, whey protein powder), legumes (i.e., beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy & soy products, peanuts, green beans, peas), cereal grains & cereal grainlike seeds (e.g., corn, wheat, wheat germ, barley, oats, rye, rice, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth), salt-containing foods (e.g., commercial salad dressings & condiments), fatty meats, soft drinks & fruit juices, sweets (i.e., candy, honey, sugars [sucrose, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, agave nectar]), diet sodas, refined vegetable oils (especially corn, soy, & canola), foods containing artificial sweeteners, chemical food additives.

For more info on what paleo-style eating is all about, check the following articles:
Great intro to the paleo lifestyle
Detailed shopping list of foods (includes do’s, don’ts, and in moderation)
Paleodiet.com (tremendous number of web resources linked here)

OK, so the next question is, what are the rules of this challenge? Well, that’s kind of up to you. While I think you’ll get the most benefit from going strict for 30 days (you need at least that much time to notice the changes in how you look, feel, and perform), we’re not trying to exclude anyone from partaking in the challenge. So if you want to do “moo-paleo” (i.e., paleo plus dairy), we still want to hear from you. If you’re just cutting out grains, we want to know how it’s going. If you’re giving up dairy but still eating dessert, don’t be afraid to chime in. Some people thrive on a black-or-white approach, others need to baby-step their way into better eating strategies.

If you’re already paleo, what’s in this challenge for you? Plenty. When was the last time you tried a new type of meat or a new way of preparing a vegetable? Can you dial in your diet even further by shifting towards more grass-fed beef while cutting out the occasional lunch meat? Perhaps experiment with a low-carb or very-low-carb paleo approach to see if your energy levels change? Or play with your macronutrient ratios, a la the Zone and see what happens (whether weighing and measuring or simply eyeballing)? We want to hear from high-level paleo people such as yourself–you’ll serve as great inspiration to the paleo noobs, believe it or not.
Wherever you are, if you find yourself making an unplanned cheat, do your best to shake off the mistake and get back on track. Don’t let black-or-white thinking let you jump completely off the rails. Use the support of our virtual (and real-life) communities to get you through the rough spots. However you proceed with this challenge, if you choose to accept it, just be honest with yourself and track what you eat.

I highly encourage food journaling, where you either photograph or write down everything you eat. Do it on a blog. Do it in a composition notebook. Do it in a word doc on your computer. Private or public is up to you. But take the time to journal your food intake and reflect on how you feel physically, mentally, crossfit-performance-wise, and just generally.
Not only that, try cooking (more often, or for the first time). Try new types of foods, herbs,and spices. Try new restaurants (although beware of hidden ingredients–ask your server when unsure). The more you share these discoveries on the blog with others partaking of the challenge, the more we can help one another find the joy in this endeavor, rather than focus on the deprivation.

Check in with the blog every day. I’ll be posting paleo-related links Monday through Friday (don’t worry, I’ll still have exercise/fitness links, too) that you should consider required reading. I’ll try my best each day to have a range of links for newbie, intermediate, and advanced paleo people.
Whether you’re looking for body composition changes or not, I’d strongly suggest a before-and-after photo session where you’re shirtless (guys) or in a sports bra (ladies). No one has to see these photos but you. The power of said photos is that you see yourself every day, and it’s near impossible for you to notice body comp changes because of that. So take some photos with back, side, and front views. Shoot both before and after shots in the same clothing and under the same lighting and in the same location so that you can best see the differences.
So if you’re in, please declare your intentions in the comments on this post. Let us know if you’re going strict or partial, but decide what you’re going to do and stick to your guns!

Lastly, I’d like to encourage some real-world group activities during the month (and perhaps at the end of the 30 days to celebrate). I’ll leave that up to you guys to discuss in comments here and throughout the month via blog comments since so much of this challenge has been reader-driven. Thanks for being such an intelligent, curious, thoughtful community of folks.


2010: Closing cycles


  • happy new year all!
    using the challange to get back on the wagon, too many skip meals lately
    looking forward to it!

  • sam.gaberal

    Somehow in my extremely intoxicated state I woke up and made some type of man made Gatorade with sea salt and mineral water, it was mighty crappy. day one working out good so far.
    meal list as planned which i posted yesterday tmrw is as followed
    -Leftover fish from tonight’s dinner
    Lunch: huge salad with the rainbow as color, and two grass feed beef patties, (beef from trader Joes)
    -Jerky, macadamia nuts(might switch it with berries)
    -Rotisserie chicken, steamed broccoli, side salad.
    Happy New Year guys and girls
    I’m thankful this year for the gym, and the people in it, Hope everyone has a good first day of 2011.

  • Steve Slo

    OK, I’m in – 30 days of STRICT paleo.
    My first question: Does anyone have a good idea for a (paleo-friendly) hangover meal?

  • rion

    i’m getting in on this paleo business.
    day 1, here we go.

  • @Steve Slo: fat is your friend. Also, probably something easy, given how you feel… : )
    @Everybody: I’ll be posting pics of my paleo meals on my Tumblr, which you can get by simply clicking on my name or by going to allisonbojarski.tumblr.com.
    Tumblr is an AWESOME way to photograph and post your food because it’s such an easy blogging platform. Lots of people use it for just that purpose. With a cameraphone, you can upload directly to your Tumblr, don’t even need to log on to a computer.
    Also, you can keep your Tumblr as anonymous as you want, if that matters to you. I put my full name on mine because this whole paleo/training thing is what I do for a living anyway.
    Happy 2011!

  • Billy

    Looking back to last year’s “paleo challenge”, I can honestly say it reinvigorated my crossfit experience. Like adequate rest and plenty of sleep, what we eat is very important.
    The first 30 days is indeed a challenge – after a lifetime of starches, sugars and easy carbs – eating only the “good stuff” is quite a shock to the system..
    Hang in there, it is well worth it.

  • Carlos

    Totally agree with Billy. Last year’s Paleo Challenge was the perfect kick-start for me, so I encourage anyone on the fence to go for it. I know it’s tough to believe, but after those 30 days you’ll be repulsed by many foods you crave now.

  • Lisa

    Day 1 going well so far. Weighed in at 145#. I fell off the wagon on day 22 last year due to some personal life turmoil. I would have been better off staying with the program so lessons learned!

  • Ray Levitt

    Why are legumes and cereals no good?

  • Ray, check the links on the new blog post for answers to your questions.

  • Carol

    Hi Allison. If one is to cut out dairy and things processed, like Calcium supplements, what is the recommendation to get the appropriate amount of Calcium on the Paleo diet- say 1,000mg/day? As a woman at risk for osteoporosis, this is one thing that concerns me about strict Paleo..