BIG Nutrition: Athlete Profile–Mary Twombley


BIG Nutrition: Athlete Profile–Mary Twombley

This week BIG member, Mary Twombley, shares her decision to limit sweets intake since last fall’s nutrition challenge and the impact that it has had on her life over the past 6 months:

  • How long have you been doing CrossFit?

I started doing CrossFit approximately 6 years ago in Washington DC. I may have joined early but a negative experience with one box stopped me. The intro was 15 people in their receptionist area doing some moves, then they told us how out of shape we were, and asked who wanted to join! My chance to experience CrossFit was through a 2 week trial period (Second Wind), and I was hooked. Key to that box was a mixed age group, small classes, a family atmosphere, and great instructors. That experience raised my expectations when I came to Boston. After trying out a couple of other Boston area CrossFit gyms, I came to BIG (14 months ago). I love the workouts, the instructors, and people here! It is an encouraging and supportive atmosphere.

  • How would you describe your eating goal and when did you start it?

My eating goal has always been to try to eat healthy, which for me is vegetables, fruits, protein.  I was at good weight when I started grad school in 2000. Since that time, I started to gain weight and could not take it off. This had a lot to do with job related stress. Although, I intended to do well, I would sabotage my efforts with a lot of cheese, sugars, and desserts, especially, ice cream, and gelato!  After experiencing a significant concussion, which was a pivotal point, I decided to make some life changing decisions. In 2017, I accepted a job at the VA, and we moved to Boston in 2018.  My stress is so much more manageable. Last October, when the nutrition challenge began, I signed up. In the beginning, giving up sugar was hard due to the initial symptoms of irritability, tiredness, headaches, dullness, and cravings. I really missed that pick me up!

  • Have you noticed any changes in how do you feel compared to your previous intake?

I have more energy, do more work outs, walk further with my dogs, and sleep better.  All this makes me feel nicer, more optimistic, and less frustrated when problems present.

  • Why have you changed what you are eating?

Part health and lot of image! I want to feel good, look good, and continue to be healthy as I age. I am older than most people at the gym but I do not want that to be what defines me. I work hard to stay young, and strong.  I want to do well, not just in my age group, but in any group.  I like that my clothes fit better today than what they have been in the past few years. I do not need to be thin, as I have always thought being strong is more important.  

  • What types of foods do you eat?

Since the nutrition challenge, I to continue eat vegetables, fruits, protein, yogurt (plain mixed with maple), and limit cheese. I do not eat a lot of grains, avoid rice, noodles, and regular bread. I substitute thin Wasa crackers for bread. I have had two desserts since October, at Thanksgiving, and Christmas!  I do not eat beef, but consume poultry and fish. Work provides lunch (eg, pizza, burritos, BBQ with mac and cheese and cornbread), but I no longer eat the food provided. I plan (Sunday) and make my lunches. Some week’s lunch is leftovers, like a shrimp stir fry, or a small can of tuna with lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, and colored peppers. When we eat out or order out I focus on the veggies and fish.

  • Isn’t it hard to avoid eating sugar? What do you do at work or celebrations when everyone is having sweets?

Avoiding sugar now is not as hard as it was in the beginning when I felt irritable, short tempered, and sarcastic. As time went on, the symptoms improved and the cravings lessened. In the past my pattern would be arguing with myself to have just “one bite,” but was always drawn back to take two, then three bites, then eat the whole thing. This was followed by a sense of guilt and failure. So, for me avoiding the first bite has helped. In social situations I will usually just avoid having any sweets. If people are persistent I will say it’s for health reasons, or because I want to lose weight. Most people seem to respect that. If someone really insists that I take some, then throw it away. 

Notes on Mary’s accomplishments and experience! Completely avoiding sweets may be a strategy that works for some people. For others, a small sweet each day is an effective strategy to combat the feeling of deprivation. Either of these approaches are perfectly acceptable. For Mary, not only has she learned new skills of navigating her food and social environment, she sleeps better, has more energy, and has seen impressive physical changes (lost 4” from her waist and 2” from her hips). Six (6) months ago, after the fall nutrition challenge, Mary did the thing I blogged recently about, she decided to quit tomorrow! Where do you want to be in 6 months?

Happy and healthful eating,

Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN

Have questions about balancing sweets in your life? Contact me at [email protected]. Private Nutrition Services are available for BIG Members (@ 30% discount) and the Community. They are listed here.