We asked Aviv for a testimonial and he wrote us a short story. Enjoy!
The first cut is the deepest: reflections on my 4 month 25 lb weight-loss journey with Croga Nutrition (powered by WAG)
My recollection from the initial few weeks of the cut was an overwhelming sense of relief. I was stuck in this cycle of “oh I’m so hungry, oh shoot I ate too much I’m such a slob let me eat less, oh man I’m so hungry…”. My hunger was compounded by the fact that I was training at Croga almost every day. In fact, I gained a bunch of weight during my first year of CrossFit. And I wasn’t trying to. I was trying to lose weight! I kept inexorably gaining weight no matter what I ate or did. It was like a train wreck that kept going on. In retrospect, after having quantified my intake very meticulously, I realize I was eating way too much fat and not enough protein (even though I thought I was). It was the least-clean bulk in the history of weightlifting. Sure, I gained a bunch of muscle. But what good is a bunch of muscle if it’s covered by even more fat? CrossFit was making me stronger but it sure as heck wasn’t making me any leaner. That’s where WAG nutrition came to the rescue. I was inspired to join after seeing some of the gains that other members who were on WAG were making. Losing fat, getting leaner and stronger.
Once I started the nutrition coaching, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. The responsibility of losing weight was now on someone else. All I had to do was hit my macros. I figured either it worked, and I’d get lean, or it didn’t in which case I’d complain to my coach. The beginning was a little rough. Not going to lie. I quickly learned that all those tips that you read about for losing weight (eat lots of small meals, don’t drink your macros), well, I needed to employ all of them to stay satiated. And even then, there were rough days here and there when I miscalculated how hungry I’d be after a workout and ended up shaky and starved. My coach put it plainly: you’re not going to lose weight without ever being hungry. It’s unavoidable, but it can be minimized. Somehow that made me feel better.
I learned never to leave the house without a snack. I started eating six times a day. I started planning my meals the night before. I had actually tried tracking my macros prior to WAG and I found it time-consuming and tedious. This time around I was proactively planning rather than retroactively logging, and it made all the difference. Planning my meals became like a game or an optimization problem: how can I eat the most on a fixed budget? Advance planning became a must for me. And, since I do most of the cooking in the house it also meant that I had to take everyone else’s needs into consideration. I started a weekly menu so that I could plan in advance what to prepare each day and have the ingredients ready rather than trying to frantically pull something together at 6 pm. My five-year-old saw me trying to put together a menu for the first week, looked at me, and then asked why don’t we just have the same thing for each day of the week and then you won’t have to make a new plan each week (duh)? We agreed that Mon would be Pizza, Tue Tacos, Wed Burgers and Broccoli, Thu Asian, and Fri Frittata. It’s held ever since. Obviously, sometimes we move things around but I love having that weekly plan. That way when I shop, I just have to worry about having the ingredients for those meals plus veggies and protein for myself.
Oh yeah, and I had another kid right about in the middle of my cut. To make things more interesting, my wife was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes in her second trimester and she was put on a special diet. This was initially pretty stressful for us, trying to manage two special diets until we realized that the low carb diet that was recommended to her wasn’t that different from what I was already eating. So I started making double portions of veggies and protein and she’d add some fat to it (avocado, sour cream). She was happy because she could keep her blood sugars down and she even lost a bit of weight in her last trimester which made her happy.
Now I’m eating much more protein than I ever thought was possible for a vegetarian. I think it makes a huge difference for my recoveries. I bounce back from workouts so much more quickly now, whereas before I was pretty much in a constant state of DOMS. Overall, nutrition coaching has transformed my relationship with food. From some kind of weird dependence to one of complete control: I eat what I want when I want, and I don’t let anything get in the way. I’ve become notorious for ignoring free food and not joining team lunches. I’m shameless in my obstinance. They can keep that greasy Chinese food. I’ll keep my abs.
What was it about the nutrition coaching that made it work so well for me? I don’t think that there was one single magic ingredient. Rather it was a combination of factors that increased my chances of success. A supportive community was one. Seeing people further down the same road that I had started on was encouraging. The other thing was my coach, Preston. He was crucial in providing encouragement and guidance as well as a sense of accountability. His answers to my questions at the weekly check-ins were always so well thought out and showed careful consideration. It made me feel good to know that there was someone tracking my progress carefully and making adjustments as needed. It was also someone I could share my progress with and who was wholeheartedly dedicated to my success.
I lost a bunch of fat but I’m not done yet. I’ve decided to keep going with WAG and continue on to a longer-term coaching relationship with Preston. I want to drop the last vestiges of my former fat self. And then I’m going to try to bulk again. Hopefully, do it right this time. Get back to moving more weight again. It’ll be fun. I’m confident I can do it.
I do my best not to play favorites at the gym, but it’s pretty hard not to put a guy as kind and clever as John toward the top of the list of people you enjoy having as a member. He’s one of those people whose brain just always seems to be working faster than most and he’s always ready with some kind of quip or pun to interject into the conversation if you look his way, even when he’s close to death mid-WOD.
One of the first things I remember John telling me when he joined is that he’s never been much of an athlete, but over the last 5 years, it has been a pleasure to watch him grow as an athlete and improve month over month due to his dedication and consistency. It’s also a ton of fun for me every fall to talk to him every Sunday about how many push-ups he did the day before based on how many points Notre Dame put up against one of their weak ass scheduled opponents. I think in season 1 he struggled to make it out of the first quarter doing all the reps and now he crushes 100s each Saturday with ease.
Congrats on another great year, John! Keep up the good work and keep the laughs coming.
When did you join Cróga?
I joined in 2015 after seeing Coach Dave at Rookies & thinking, “Damn, that dude is built!” (I was having drinks with Kevin Sakai at the time, and he convinced me I wouldn’t literally die at CF.)
What were you doing before for fitness?
Mostly drinking Bailey’s, feeling bad, and running laps in my head. Well, that plus elliptical.
What was your first workout? First reaction to your first workout?
It was a 6 am class, and watching guys like Doug, Ben, and Kevin manhandle weights, I thought, “My God, what have I gotten myself into?” I still feel that way roughly half the time. 🙂 But Dave pointed out that “Cróga” means “Brave,” so I suck it up and do the work.
What improvements have you seen in the way you look, feel and perform?
Great question. I don’t do much to quantify my progress, but as long as my feeling around the pool remains “Not Actively Terrible,” I’m doing okay!
What days and times do you come to Cróga?
I’ve really gotten into Ignite classes, which are no joke despite their modest origins! I try to catch 2 or 3 per week, plus I really enjoy Saturday partner WODs. The community is what keeps me engaged & motivated, so I like sharing suffering + humor with friends.
What’s your favorite WOD?
Pretty much any partner stuff works for me, especially if I don’t have to watch comparatively humongous dudes throw around intimidating weight.
“The John” WOD! What would it be?
Let’s say 10 rounds of pistols, double unders, muscle ups, and handstand push-ups. Every time it would be programmed, I would simply walk into the ocean instead of trying any of it.
What’s your favorite post-workout routine?
To quote Eddie Murphy as James Brown, “HOT TUB!!”
What’s your biggest fitness goal for this year?
I’d most like to inspire my sons, helping them overcome their fear & lethargy. I want them to see that if I can get my uncoordinated carcass moving, anyone can!
What do you love about CrossFit?
Making people laugh (ideally more “with” than “at”), including via ironic posters & vids for the Open, etc.
What words of advice do you have for new members or people considering joining Cróga?
As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and you’re only competing with yourself—especially the version of you that’s still on the couch.
The 2019 Croga Member of the Year was an absolute no brainer, it HAD to be Meghan Pierce. Her decision to take a leap of faith and trust the process, her commitment to going all in, her enthusiasm along the way and the progress she’s made not only physically, but mentally, are nothing short of incredible and have inspired not only other members to follow in her footsteps, but even the coaching staff to break down barriers and do things we all never thought possible.
As you read through Meghan’s answers to our year-end questions below you’ll get some pretty good insight into how awesome her journey has been to be a participant in, but some of the things she doesn’t mention that made choosing her such an easy decision are below:
She lost over 40 lbs in 7 months and when you see her now she looks strong, confident, and happy – ALL THE TIME.
She reached countless physical milestones including getting her first pull-up, toes-to-bar, pistols, handstand push-ups and made it through The Open with multiple workouts completed RX’d, all things that weren’t even on her radar at The Open in February/March.
She raised $1,060 for Barbells for Boobs in the month of November and did 1,060 burpees along the way as a thank you for every dollar donated. All because Cody and I peer pressured her to set up a page on our weekly Fast Times at Croga CrossFit podcast.
With all that said, thank you, Meghan, for such an amazing year. It has been a ton of fun being your coach, cheerleader and mentor and we’re all looking forward to watching all that you’re able to accomplish in 2020.
What are some new things that you have learned about yourself since starting CrossFit?
There are two things that immediately come to mind – that might seem contradictory, but I think actually make sense together.
- I’m capable of more than I ever thought – Even though I played some sports growing up, I was never very good. So while I secretly harbored dreams of being super fit, I had convinced myself I just wasn’t very athletic and couldn’t do certain things. CrossFit has decimated those mental limitations for me. I’ve done things that I never thought I could and I’ve become so much less fearful of trying (even if it means risking failing)!
- I can’t do it all on my own – To be honest, I dragged my feet on really going all in on the gym and joining a nutrition program because I just kept telling myself I should be able to do it on my own. I kept saying “you know what you should eat” or “you know what to do at the Big Box gym down the street” – and kept trying to white-knuckle through it with sheer willpower. It wasn’t until I admitted to myself, “You need others to help you do this – both for the accountability factor, but also for their experience,” that I finally was able to get things to click.
So in short – I can do hard things, but not without others! 🙂
You made an enormous amount of progress in 2019, what fueled you to keep going when the going got tough?
There’ve been two phases that have been the toughest.
The first was the first three months when I really committed to the gym and started nutrition-coaching – Aprilish to June. During that beginning time, I think it helped a ton that I only focused on process goals. I didn’t set any expectations for myself regarding outcomes (times or weights to hit, numbers to see on the scale, etc); I just said “Show up to class at least 5 times a week, work hard, eat to your numbers and trust Cody & Dave. Keep your head down, do what you’re told, trust the process, and it will work.” That was hard because I am a big numbers person, but it kept me going because it guaranteed I could see “wins” no matter what the short-term outcomes were.
Lately, the last two months of this year, post-open, when, from my perspective at least, it’s starting to feel like visible wins and growth are coming much more slowly (probably because from July to October, basically everything I did was a PR lol). So in addition to reminding myself to continue to trust the process, I’ve been reminding myself to enjoy the process. A quote I saw recently said “Before you dream about the view from the summit, ask yourself if you’re willing to keep your head down and spend your life walking up a very big hill. It can take years of walking to earn a minute at the top.” I figure I’ve got a lot of walking ahead of me, so I better enjoy it.
You signed up for Croga Nutrition in May and lost 40 lbs by December. With your travel for work, this took a lot of discipline. Did you have a mantra you used to keep you on course throughout this journey?
Yes! “We fail to the level of our systems.” (from the book Atomic Habits which I highly recommend!) For a long time with my eating, I convinced myself it was all about willpower and discipline. However, my discipline never lasted and I’d fall off the wagon – hard! This time, I really, really worked to put myself in a position where I didn’t need to exercise as much discipline at first. Catered work event – I’m bringing my own lunch! Work travel – I’m purposefully booking a hotel next to a Whole Foods and going shopping for meals the first night. For the first three months, I rarely put myself in a position where there were any surprises eating-wise. My colleagues started joking that they never saw me eating something I didn’t pull out of my ubiquitous “food bag” I’d bring every day. I knew it wasn’t long term sustainable, but it was what I needed to get started. Then I started adding in more opportunities to estimate, make decisions on-the-fly, etc, but the systems and habits I built are still there as a foundation.
Who was your biggest cheerleader this past year? Care to give them a shoutout?
I’m deeply aware that I never could have done anything I did this year without the epic Croga community there to support me! I feel eternally grateful! As for shoutouts:
- At the top of the list has got to be Cody. A couple of months ago, when I started doing RX workouts more regularly I was feeling really discouraged because I felt so slow (again!). When I was complaining to Cody about it, he shared with me about that time in his CF journey and how he would be the last person finishing in the class for months. He told me I needed to just keep doing what I was doing and also helped me remember how far I had come. From post-open “proud of you” texts, “F-yea!” notes after hitting big weight loss goals, or filming my first pull-ups – it’s been his support, encouragement and coaching that have helped me get here, and I can’t thank him enough!
- I can’t get enough of Dave’s wisdom and enthusiasm. One day I showed up to Oly class and I was the only one – I basically got an hour individual coaching from Dave on my snatch and it was the best!! Also, his occasional enthusiastic “Atta Girl” from across the gym when he noticed me doing something hard always kept me pushing myself for more!
- All the members of the gym, and specifically the regular 3:30 weekday and 8 AM Sunday crews: y’all gave me a safe space to try, fail and grow!
- Outside the gym, my family, and specifically my sister & brother-in-law, continually inspired and encouraged me throughout this whole year!
What’s your biggest fitness goal for this upcoming year?
I have so many – a whole Google Doc’s worth in fact 🙂 I feel like I want to get better at everything! Really, it’s what at the top of the doc: “Get Stronger, Faster & More Agile: Get More Fit!!” Specifically though, I’m focusing on improving technique and increasing strength on my Oly lifts – I’m coming for you snatches! – and continuing to string together bigger and bigger sets of various gymnastic movements. You’ll likely see me being best friends with bars on the rig after class. Also Double Unders because #fudoubleunders. And last, but definitely not least, is beat Steven in a WOD! That is definitely happening and I will engrave it on the PR board permanently when it finally does 🙂
What’s your favorite way to “use your fitness” outside the gym?
Going on hikes throughout the Bay Area and exploring new cities and places on foot!
If you could have one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Well if I could have one meal forever without any nutritional considerations, it would probably be my family’s homemade Christmas Eve dinner – green chile pork, posole, fresh tortillas, guacamole, tamales, homemade tiramisu for dessert. However, if I actually had to only eat one meal for the rest of my life it would probably be what I eat 90% of the time anyway – a veggie/meat/grain bowl. Throw some roasted veggies, grains and meat in a bowl, mix it up with a greek yogurt-based sauce. Boom!
If you could have a conversation with anyone that ever existed, dead or alive, who would it be?
Hmmm…. well I think a good option could be Amelia Earhart. Not only would I bet she’d have some great thoughts on perseverance, dedication, and how to be a trailblazer – but she could also tell me definitively where she disappeared to! 🙂
If you could give your former self any piece of advice about your current journey, what would it be?
The beginning is the hardest part! There’s a reason they say “objects in motion stay in motion” – overcoming the inertia to start is often much harder than sustaining it! Keep going!
Anything else you would like to add?
Just once again THANK YOU to the amazing community that is Croga! So excited for 2020!
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