Fall 2012 Nutrition Challenge Results, Before and After Photos, and Winners

I lost around 21 lbs over the course of this challenge.

I am wearing pants that stopped fitting me years ago.

I lost 17 pounds, and I noticed more definition.

When eating Paleo I sleep better, less restless nights.

I feel a greater sense of focus and confidence.

This has been a life-changing experience.

I am off prescription medicine for acid reflux.

I got my first strict chin-up!

Over the course of this diet I became faster and stronger.

I feel better throughout the day.

Even my face and neck look thinner.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the Fall 2012 Nutrition Challenge! This was our sixth Nutrition Challenge, and you can find past results here:

Below you will find before and after photos and testimonials from those who completed all eight weeks of our Nutrition Challenge this fall. It was truly inspiring working with these people over the past two months: seeing their progress week-to-week, hearing their stories, and playing a small role in their improvement. An extra congratulations goes out to Clay, Kristen, and Mike for winning the Fall 2012 Nutrition Challenge! They not only achieved the best body composition changes, but also have created new sustainable lifestyle habits now that the challenge is over.

Thinking about waiting until the New Year to set some resolutions and lose fat, gain muscle, or get in shape? Why wait? Take a look at what these people have achieved below through a Paleo / Zone diet and CrossFit strength training. Rather than giving in to cravings for sweets, they stuck to meats, veggies, fish, nuts, and seeds. Instead of binging on gluten and alcohol, they monitored their carb intake, made sure to get enough protein, and ate healthy fats in abundance. Once again, join me in congratulating those who participated in the Fall 2012 Nutrition Challenge, and check out their results below!


ClayFrontFinalI lost around 21 lbs over the course of this challenge. The fastest loss was definitely in the first few weeks, but even toward the end I was consistently pushing the scale reading down. Over the past few months my diet had been evolving to a more healthy set of habits—even before starting this challenge, but I definitely remember the attack of the mid-afternoon sleepies that used to come after a big junk-laden lunch with coworkers. Contrast that with effects of the Paleo/Zone diet: as promised, I felt very consistent levels of energy throughout the day. No downs, no unnatural highs…except after a tough WOD. Speaking of which, losing weight (20+ lbs!) has obvious effect on bodyweight exercises, especially pull-ups. During a few recent WODs I was tempted to grab a band for assistance just in case, but quickly found that I didn’t need it and could do the exercise Rx’ed.

ClaySideFinalThe other benefit has been better fitting clothes. I am wearing pants that stopped fitting me years ago (but I still hung onto them), and I moved two belt buckle positions in the 8 weeks. Along with sense of consistent physical energy, mentioned above, I wasn’t suffering from afternoon fogginess, which was a great help staying focused through some of my graduate classes and homework sessions.

ClayBackFinalI mentioned having been gradually trending toward a healthier diet even in the months before the start of the challenge (in total I’ve lost almost 40lbs from my highest weight, around 30 since mid summer), but even with the general awareness I’d had at the start, the rigorous attention to measurement and balancing macronutrients was impressive in its effectiveness to make rapid changes. We stopped measuring every last gram of food, but doing that for 4 weeks definitely established a framework for gauging how much is enough. I definitely plan to keep up the effort, since I can’t deny the results.



I lost 17 pounds, I noticed more definition, I assume less fat and more muscle, in the upper arms and hips/upper thighs.

KristenSideFinalI have been waking up earlier and have more steady energy throughout the day. When eating better and Paleo I sleep better, less restless nights. Also I never felt like I had over eaten or have the post meal urge to nap. After work outs or runs my recovery was faster, so my energy levels were great. I have increased my strength, especially looking back at the summer.


I went down a full pant size and in some clothes two sizes.


MikeFrontFinalDepending on the scale, time of day, etc…, I think it’s fair to say I lost about 20 lbs, give or take. I’m not sure how to quantify ‘leaning out,’ but I definitely feel very different, like I’m ‘wearing’ a new body. I’ve actually started to see my hip bones, which I don’t think I knew were under there. In terms of energy, I feel great all day. Before doing the challenge, I had a bit of frantic-ness when I got hungry, like if I felt hungry and didn’t eat within 15 minutes that I would start crashing. That is definitely no longer the case. I’ve even started fasting occasionally (did a 24 hour and 36 hour fast, both with a workout at the end) with NO change in energy level. I haven’t noticed a huge change in my workouts- although I feel like I’m rowing a lot faster with ease, and am feeling my ribs on the burpees instead of the giant pillow that was my stomach!

MikeSideFinalI started the challenge between a 34-36 pants size, and finished with size 32 feeling loose. My 16 1/2 dress shirts all look absurd on me now, and I have for the first time that I can remember started buying adult size small. I already commented on my energy level, but I would say I feel a greater sense of focus and confidence throughout the day. I also feel (although my wife may disagree with me) that I am forgetting things less.


In summary, I would recommend this challenge to EVERYONE. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but this has been a life-changing experience for me and my family. I had been doing about 75% Paleo before the challenge (no grains, but sweets a couple of times a week, way too many nuts and fruits, and a fair amount of highly processed peripherals like creamy salad dressing, barbecue sauce, etc…) and not really losing any weight. Within 10 days of starting the challenge, the weight just started flying off of me. I felt different (and better) fast.

My attitude towards food has changed, and I think the way the challenge was shaped (in terms of changes in amounts of protein, carbs, and fat as well as the length of the challenge, 8 weeks) had a profound impact on my mind. I don’t feel like I’m a slave to my cravings as much. I feel like I can say ‘no’ to sweets a lot easier, and can pass on the ice cream in favor of a few pieces of dark chocolate. I also read “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson, and highly recommend that book as it has impacted more than just my diet but other life habits.

Finally, I am happy to say that for the first time in over 5 years, I am off prescription medicine for acid reflux. I have had severe acid reflux for years, and was even in the emergency room last May for stomach-related problems. During the 5th or 6th week of the challenge, I wanted to try going off of the medicine I was on. I had about a week of slight discomfort at night, and now that discomfort has COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED. (I also now eat a tomato, bell pepper, and 5 cloves of garlic a day, which I used to think were my triggers for acid–who would have thought that the thing on the pizza that was giving me so many problems was THE BREAD?!?!) I have truly appreciated this experience, am so grateful that it was offered, and am glad to be a part of this community.



I think I lost about 3 pounds over the course of the nutrition challenge. I weighed myself about once a week though, and the changes over the course of eight weeks tell an even more interesting story: about 4 weeks in, I had lost about eight pounds, the lowest weight I had been in around 3 years. I know we shouldn’t focus too much on pounds as an indicator of health, but I believe that I lost fat and then gained some muscle. My strength and lifts improved dramatically, and I’m almost at my goal of a bodyweight back squat. For a good portion of the challenge, I was stuck in a walking boot, so the types of movement and activities I could perform were limited. So I’m thrilled that I actually made substantial gains during that time. I got my first strict chin-up!

Even though my weight hasn’t changed much, the way my clothes fit definitely has. Shorts that haven’t fit me in four years fit again and my current pants and belts are too loose. And some of my shirts are a little tighter which means my shoulder muscles are growing! Hooray!


My energy levels throughout the day were fairly level. I’ve found that strict Paleo eating helps to limit hunger levels throughout the day. It also made me very aware of which foods and meals didn’t agree with me very well. It makes you feel more in-tune with your body. Since the end of the challenge, I will admit to having had some desserts and treats that were delicious but certainly not Paleo, and the resulting food–and sugar–hangovers it has made me miss the way I felt during the strict challenge. I definitely intend to return to strict Paleo and to keep it up for life. When I took the time to cook, I loved the basic template of eating a whole bunch of meat with some good veggies thrown in and with sweet potatoes post-workout. And once your palate adjusts, naturally sweet foods have all the sweetness you could want, and sweetened foods become almost sickeningly sweet. My new favorite is baked sweet potatoes or pumpkin topped with cinnamon for dessert.


Some lessons I’ve learned: I found that it’s all about planning ahead, keeping nutritious food in the fridge, carrying a cooler around during the day, learning to eat chicken drumsticks while driving, and even buying a share of cow to make sure you always have plenty of protein. That has also taught me that hamburgers actually make delicious breakfasts, especially when topped with a fried egg!



I lost about 5 pounds, which is not as exciting as finding veins in my arms and shoulders. I pretty much felt hungry and tired for the first two weeks then I
added lots of nuts and felt better.


Over the course of this diet I became faster (400m run is easier) and stronger (I have set a new PR for every lift). So at least the diet did not greatly incumber my training. Although my pant size has not changed, my energy level has evened out.


The nice thing about thinking about food all the time is learning to be creative. I have learned how to get meat to the office and find food at more places around town. I am also more aware of what, when, and how much I need to eat as a function of the food that is available and what I am planning to do.



I lost 13 pounds and leaned out all over. I notice more definition and muscle tone in my arms and legs, and my stomach is definitely flatter. Even my face and neck look thinner. I’m down at least one pants size–size 12’s were snug before this challenge, and now size 10’s are comfortably loose. Shirts that fit before now look baggy on me and I’m wearing clothes that I haven’t fit into since college.


I didn’t notice much change in terms of overall energy levels, but I do feel like my energy is more consistent throughout the day. No more 3:00 slump! My body composition seemed more consistent during the day too; I felt less bloated and full at night. The most beneficial piece of this for me was the focus on macronutrient balance. I plan to continue with a higher protein/higher fat/lower carb diet, but probably won’t worry as much about which particular foods I can and cannot eat.


This challenge was also really helpful in breaking some bad food habits. It turns out I don’t need to buy chocolate and ice cream every time I go to the grocery store–who knew? I’ve cut way back on my sugar consumption, which was definitely something that needed to happen. It takes a lot more planning and work to eat this way, but it was worth it.



I went from 210 to 196 and lost 14lbs. My pant size was 36 at the start of the challenge and then after 8 weeks my pants went down to a comfortable 32.


The first week of the Paleo challenge I would get strong hunger spikes and get hungry at the most random times (like 4 in the morning). After my metabolism and body adjusted, I felt a more consistent with my energy throughout the day and slower to get hungry. I hope to continue to make progress and seek new challenges.


I would like to tip my hat to all of the other competitors that took part in this competition. It’s not always easy to take on a challenge that causes a person to change their day-to-day eating habits. I think the real reward is the benefit of incorporating a healthier lifestyle that can affect a person’s health over time.


I didn’t really feel the need to lose any weight, I wanted to gain more muscle and change my diet. I had lost about 5 lbs. the first couple of weeks. I really hate to get on the scale because I think I should weigh a certain weight. What I have noticed in a positive light is that my abs are more defined which is amazing and this is where I see the most change. My backside is also getting more toned.

Paleo has made my energy levels about the same. What is different though is how my body feels: more healthy and less bloated. I do see my workouts getting stronger and a couple of people have also said that to me at CrossFit. Clothing size is the same, but my stomach doesn’t protrude over my pants like is used to. My waist seems smaller too.

Energy levels are pretty good. Mental benefits: a bit stressful when I thought about Paleo being too restricted. However, as soon as I went off of it I didn’t feel like I was going to start binging on carbs. I had a few here and there and to be honest I am suffering from stomach aches after eating things I had given up. It is nice to have a glass of wine again though. Paleo has changed the way I eat. Now I have eggs/veggies for breakfast instead of toast. I don’t eat pasta, instead I have meat sauce over broccoli etc. I thought I would go back to the way I was eating before which I thought was pretty healthy, but Paleo has changed that. Overall I would say it was a positive experience.


I lost 11 lbs, even though that wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to pay more attention to my nutrition and to improve workout recovery times. I’m down from a 36 waist to a 34, and even that feels loose. I’m having no trouble maintaining the weight loss, and it’s becoming clear that I need new pants. I feel better throughout the day. It’s amazing how quickly one can adjust to the new nutrition program. I think it all clicked for me after week three. Portion sizes, marco-nutrient content of each meal, became second nature. I’m still experimenting with carb intake, but I feel like I have the tools to manage my nutrition properly.

Workout performance has improved. I’m doing more strict pull-ups, which is awesome. I couldn’t do a single pullup in college, when I was even lighter! While I’ve lost some pounds, I’m lifting the same amount of weight I did before and gradually improving here and there. Weighing and measuring works. Buy a scale. It’s worth it. Even though the challenge is over, I still weigh and measure a couple of times a week and find it really helpful.

24 thoughts on “Fall 2012 Nutrition Challenge Results, Before and After Photos, and Winners

  1. Awesome work, all of you!! Congratulations on the amazing results!

  2. impressive work !!!

  3. Congrats to the coaches and participants of this nutrition challenge! You all have amazing stories and have made great progress.

  4. Awesome work, everyone!!! Your comments about the lifestyle change and improved energy are fantastic.

  5. It’s absolutely incredible to me what we’re achieving here. . Congratulations to not only the winners but all who participated. The testimonials are very inspiring. And also a big Thank You to CrossFit Charlottesville for hosting these Challenges and providing the Guidance and Encouragement that has resulted in these successes.

  6. Amazing job y’all 🙂 So motivating!!

  7. Great job ya’ll, this is just the beginning, get ready for an awesome ride!

  8. So happy to hear the progress you all have made. The results (physical and otherwise) are amazing! Keep up the great work!

  9. First off, these are some fantastic results! Very nicely done and I’m happy to see that everyone was able to take something positive from this experience. It seems like only yesterday that we had that paleo pot luck kick-off 🙂

    Also, I believe that this provide scientific proof that the Paleo diet was able to completely fix Erin’s leg. Do you see those before and after pictures people?! Before Paleo: leg broken, After Paleo: leg fixed. That’s science. Facts.

  10. amazing work all, my resolution for 2013 is to maintain more level and well rounded eating habit, mostly because my race schedule has been doubled if not tripled in the first three months of this year, so I’ll need to pay extra close attention to my body.

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