Paleo Diet vs. Zone vs. IIFYM: Eating for Performance...and Abs

Abs aren’t just made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen!About 10 months ago, I started on a food journey. No, not a restaurant crawl, but a food journey.

I already had the exercise part down since since I'd been doing CrossFit for 2+ years (5-7 times/week), but I wanted to experiment with what I ate to see how it made me feel. I also wanted abs… but who doesn’t.

Paleo Diet

I started by trying the Paleo diet for about a month. This way of eating eliminates all refined sugar, grains, trans fats, high glycemic carbs, processed foods, dairy and legumes. Everything that tastes good huh? 

However, this was a great place to start because it made me learn how to cook from scratch using more nutritious foods. The problem was that it felt restrictive, and I had less energy. My performance at the gym also stayed stagnant during this time so I wasn't seeing any gains. This just wouldn’t work…

Zone Diet

My next thought was to tryThe Zone Diet. I was able to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, each consisting of 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbs. Since no food was off limits, I thought I could definitely do this one!

But once I laid out all of my containers and portioned everything into them, I realized this was way too difficult to maintain. I knew the Zone Diet was bound to make me implode, so I spared myself the stress and moved on.

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)

Then everyone at my gym was talking about this new “flexible dieting” plan, IIFYM, where you track macronutrients, protein, fats, and carbs. Targets for each day are calculated according to age/gender, body composition, activity level and goals. The plan focuses on balance and no foods are off limits. The objective is to preserve muscle and encourage fat loss without decreasing energy. Even better, there was an app I could use to help track everything!

When I first started, the numbers I calculated made me drop a lot of weight, but in turn I was very tired and unable to hit my usual lifts. Some of the bodyweight movements got better (i.e., pull-ups) since I was lighter, but my strength had dropped. At that point, my coach adjusted my target macronutrients, and I was able to maintain weight while lifting heavier. 

I used what I'd learned from earlier in my voyage and started to track track track those macronutrients. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t tired, and I was ready for what life brought me. Do I always hit those numbers each day? Of course not! If I want ice cream sometimes I’m going for it! I do find that if I stray too much from the plan, I feel stuffed, starving or sluggish. But IIFYM taught me how to utilize food for fuel, muscle, training and enjoyment. You put good in, you get good out.

Here is a sample menu of what I eat each day:

  • Breakfast: hardboiled eggs (2-3), banana

  • Snack: all natural applesauce

  • Lunch: oven roasted turkey breast, fruit (whatever I have at home), some trail mix

  • Snack: protein bar (Quest bar) before the gym

  • Dinner: chicken with vegetables, and if I have enough calories left, toasted coconut chips (my favorite new snack)


So what have I learned from the Wortman food revolution?

Before, I ate for convenience disregarding ingredients and often eating something prepackaged or sweet. I now love to make my own food since I can control ingredients and adjust flavors and seasonings to my taste. I've also learned how to cook wholesome, nutritious, easy to make food in 30 minutes or less.

It's been fascinating to experiment with food to see how it affects the way I look, feel and perform. Finding the right plan is very personal and can take some time, but it's worth it. 

Marnie Wortman

Marnie Wortman

By Dr. Marnie Wortman, PT, DPT, ART, CF-L1

Losing Weight and Getting Healthy with the Paleo Diet

By Melissa Jenkins As It Turns Out, You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks!

As my sister Meri revealed in an earlier post, dieting, food restrictions, or anything of the like have not been part of my lifestyle. Much to the dismay of my particularly healthy surroundings (husband, sisters, friends) I have been known to nosh on candy stashed in my glove compartment or grab fast food for a lunch on the run.

Back in October, when my sister initially coerced me into trying the Paleo diet for 30 days, I fully intended for it to be just that -- 30 days. I just wanted to prove to myself and others that I do have some self-control when it comes to food choices. In this case, “if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em” has turned out to have had a good outcome.

To my surprise, I have maintained quite a bit of the Paleo diet for over three months now.  This is still me, so of course I haven't permanently omitted any foods from my daily diet; but my intake of whites, sugar, and dairy is limited these days and I have now incorporated lots more protein, fruits, veggies, and water.



So why have I continued??

1. More Energy

For me, a driving force has been the energy I felt during the month of strict Paleo. I pride myself on being “well-rested” (sleeping at least 8 hours a night and taking a nap whenever possible). However, I often still found myself feeling drowsy throughout the day.  My idea of a snack was a small bag of candy and a diet soda. Not surprising, this would result in a burst of energy soon followed by a wave of drowsiness. These days, my favorite snack is pistachios and seltzer water, which keeps me going and feeling good.

2. Clear Skin

Another huge motivator to keep this Paleo thing going is the clarity of my skin.  I live a relatively busy life and often use a facial wipe cleanser before falling into bed at night. This lazy approach does not exactly lead to flawless skin.  However, with limited intake of gluten and diary, I can slack off doing a total face washing and still have skin that makes me smile.

3. Weight Loss

Although I did not start the diet to lose weight, I'm certainly not going to turn it down. During the first month, I lost almost five pounds and since then I've taken off another three. Good to be back in my skinny jeans!

Moving forward, my goal is to roll into my 40s gracefully.  I just celebrated yet another birthday, and I am hoping that as time goes on I will continue to feel more energized, eat healthier, and look good doing it!

Especially now that I work at IronPT where I continually see individuals striving to improve their quality of life through physical exercise, I am inspired to keep this good thing going with my Paleo (modified) diet!

Has anybody else had success on Paleo?

Do you have any good recipes for breakfast...that seems to be the hardest meal?

Top 5 Blog Posts and Things You May Have Missed in 2012!

Happy New Year and

Happy 1st Anniversary to our Blog!

It's been an exciting year at IronPT and we feel incredibly blessed to have connected with so many people in our clinic and online.

The goal for our blog was simple -- we wanted to help people manage (and avoid) injuries so they could feel better than they ever thought possible.

We fumbled and bumbled through some of the technology, but 5,000+ views later, I think we've finally found our stride.

It's also been an exciting year at our clinic! We've watched our practice double in size, and we've brought three new people onto our team. We've run marathons (literally and figuratively), and we've been recognized by national media.

We attribute this success  to our wonderful community of Caldwell, NJ and to our rare healthcare model where we spend EXTRA TIME to assess and connect with patients as a whole person. Nothing could be better than doing what you love!!

In case you missed it, here were the most popular blog posts from 2012!

Top 5 Blog Posts of 2012

There are so many exciting things coming in 2013 and you'll be the first to know....

Paleo Diet Review and Gluten Sensitivity



By Meri Mayes

We had the NYC "Marathon" Recap, so now it's time for the Paleo Diet Review. It wasn't 26.2, but it was 30 days of no sugar, grains, cereals, legumes, or dairy. Almost as hard if you ask me.

Again, my sister Melissa and BFF Kerry joined me on the journey, but I'll just share my personal experience. Because I only committed to the plan for a month, I didn't cheat at all (except a little cream in coffee).

At the end of 30 days, I still hate diets! They make you bingy, irritable, and simply aren't effective when they are too strict. But sometimes the best lessons come when you face the things you dislike most.

Gluten-Free Changed My Life___

As I mentioned in my first post introducing the diet challenge, I have suffered from stomach problems for 20+ years. Then in my 20's, I developed additional autoimmune problems that have only seemed to multiply.

Very shorty after starting Paleo, I noticed that my digestive problems (no need to recite an Activia commercial) started to diminish. About two weeks into the plan, I saw a Dr. Oz show talking about Gluten. I already knew I didn't have Celiac Disease (tested a year ago), but I teared up as I listened to the guest discussing her symptoms and how gluten-free cured them.

Dr. Oz said as many as 20 million Americans could be affected by a gluten sensitivity and not know it. Could I be one of those people? I took the sensitivity test below and sure enough my score indicated an issue.

Dr. Oz Gluten Sensitivity Test

So What's Next____________________

No one wants to have an intolerance for yummy foods with gluten, but I feel so hopeful that this could be the answer I have been looking for.

Immediately after the 30 days ended (Oct. 31st), I reintroduced dairy and legumes back into my diet. Giving up dairy was actually the hardest part of the plan for me, so I was really scared that along with gluten it might be a problem. After a week, my stomach is still great so I am thrilled. I just can't be convinced that greek yogurt and hummus are not super good for me.

Instead of a "diet", I plan to continue my lifestyle of eating mostly unprocessed foods that provide nutrition and energy. Of course I will be watching my gluten very carefully and only indulging on occasion when I am willing to accept the consequences.

Overall Review_____________________

Overall, I love Paleo's focus on food from nature rather than machines, and I would recommend it for the following reasons:

  1. Health - To learn more about the way your body interacts with food. You really are what you eat. Eliminating dairy and gluten alone can give you some great insight. My hair has never been better!

  2. Weight Loss - Seems to work very well. I lost 3 pounds even though I was not trying to. Girl likes her curves : ) The other girls also had significant weight loss

  3. Maintenance - I would like to do strict Paleo for at least two weeks per year. I think it's a great way to reset your taste buds so you really savor food. We all agreed that sugary things seemed way too sweet after 30 days without any.

Paleo Diet vs. Weight Watchers

By Kerry Nordling (BFF of the Mayes and 30-something trying get healthy) HELLO!! I am proud to be a guest blogger this week at Iron PT and happy to share my story of trying to lose weight and gain a healthy lifestyle. 

Meri and I have been friends for over 30 years, and she has always been a constant support and resource in my quest to be healthy. I’ve not been terribly successful to this point, but we are back on the horse people and trying to make a HUGE change!

My Diet Black Book________________

Unfortunately, I’ve been overweight much of my adult life. I have lost 30 or more pounds three times before:

  • once using Weight Watchers when I was about 24;

  • once using the South Beach Diet when I was about 28;

  • and last summer (2011), I lost 30lbs with calorie counting

All of the weight has come back, either after a matter of months or after a year or two.  I’ve never been able to take it off, and KEEP it off -- the goal for all of us with weight loss in mind!!

The Mountain______________________

So I began my quest for permanent weight loss and health AGAIN in May 2012. I went back to keeping a food journal ( is a great resource) and eating approximately 1,200 calories a day (I'm 5'9").

A month later, after virtually no results, I added in a personal trainer (2x a week) and a brand new shiny gym membership! Even though my whole life weight loss has been all about what I eat, not how much I exercise, I know a healthy lifestyle includes both diet AND exercise. 

For four months, I was extremely diligent in my food tracking, eating and exercise.  And NOTHING happened. Literally, nothing. I was hugely discouraged, and I was tired. Tired of eating so little, tired of working out with no results on the scale, tired of feeling like a failure and tired of being HUNGRY. Not a good combination for someone trying to stay positive and make a big lifestyle change!

The Aha!___________________________

I knew what I was doing wasn't working, so I needed to make some changes. I needed it both mentally and physically. So here's what I did:

  1. Diet Change - I had been hearing a lot about Paleo and decided I would give it a try. The philosophy made sense for weight loss (i.e., cutting out triggers like sugar and carbs), and I also wanted to see if it improved my chronic IBS and migraines.

  2. A trip to the doctor! After eating 1200 calories/day and not losing weight, I had to find out if there was a medical problem. All the blood work from my annual physical was normal, but my friends encouraged me to go to an Endocrinologist to determine if I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects 5-10% of women and is believed to be fundamentally caused by insensitivity to the hormone insulin. As it turns out, I do have PCOS, so this was one of my fundamental problems! Not a diagnosis I wanted, but definitely the explanation I was seeking. I will be starting on medication which should help to correct this, but the Paleo diet helped me lose 8.5 lbs. before any prescription.


D-day was September 24th...a VERY LONG trip to the grocery store the day before to pack the fridge and pantry with Paleo friendly foods and staples like nuts and oils and fresh fruit and veggies.

Scared out of my gourd, but ready. I was scared as I wasn’t sure I could actually cut dairy, gluten, grains, and sugar out of my diet completely. It seems like an impossible task when first thinking about it, but I can promise you it does get easier once you are into it.

I felt pretty good the first two days, and then the withdrawal from sugar hit me on day 3. I’d felt like I had a really nasty hangover - sluggish and grumpy with a terrible headache, but I knew it would pass.

The good news is that I had ZERO stomach issues the first 2 weeks and no additional headaches. I slept much better than I have in a long time, and I felt like I had more energy.

My weigh-in day is on Friday each week, and I lost 5lbs those first five days, and 3.5lbs the next week. I was in Germany last week for work, and unfortunately could not closely follow the diet plan, but I am back at Paleo as of Sunday10/14.

Moving Forward____________________

So I'm starting the 3rd week of Paleo and although I am not hungry (a VERY good thing!!), the prep is starting to wear me down.  I’d like not to wash what feels like 100 dishes a night and cut 80 fruits and vegetables for the next day, but no dice folks.  It’s the way it has to be with this way of life, and if I continue to lose weight like I have and continue to feel as good as I do, then the prep is just a small thing in this quest. 

The hardest thing for me has been giving up my sugary, delicious, Carmel Macchiato each morning. When calorie counting, I used to account for this in daily calories, but it was a big calorie suck, not allowing me to eat as much breakfast as I should have. I now have a regular coffee with a bit of cream and one stevia (natural sweetener from a plant) in my morning coffee.  This is my only caveat to the diet-my only “cheat” if you will with dairy.

I do plan to keep many aspects of Paleo in my diet for the rest of my life. I think I could be nearly gluten free about 90% of the time --  less holidays and special birthdays - let’s not get crazy and say I’ll never eat cake again in my life!  I think I can also limit most sugar as well. After 30 days, dairy will likely be added back in very small doses.

So onwards and upwards…or downwards for those of us trying to lose the pounds for good-ha! The moral of the story is that one size does not fit all. I still think Weight Watchers is an amazing program, but the body changes over time and what works at one time, for one person, won't work all the time.

Good luck with your quest for health!