How I Got This Body: Quitting Paleo, Eating Carbs, and Shedding Fat Like Crazy

How I Got This Body: Quitting Paleo, Eating Carbs, and Shedding Fat Like Crazy
Photographs courtesy Jen Kranjec.

Welcome to How I Got This Body, our look at some of the amazing things the human body is capable of and the Washingtonians who put their bodies to the test. Want to share your transformation story? Email ccunningham@washingtonian.com.

Who I am: Jen Kranjec, 23, a nutrition and CrossFit coach from Columbia Heights

What inspired me: “I have been interested in sports/fitness since as long as I can remember, and I’ve always wanted to maximize my fitness. I studied Exercise Science in undergrad and was fortunate to work with some awesome faculty. I learned a lot about training and eating for fat loss. Once I applied what I was learning to my own life, I saw some real results, and that inspires me to keep pursuing more in the gym and with my nutrition.”

What my workout looks like: “For the last year or so I have been following a personalized workout program, which largely focuses on resistance training. I workout about four to five times per week and my workouts last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Sometimes I’ll throw in some sprint intervals or CrossFit workouts for some extra work, but the primary focus is always on lifting weights. Heavy weights. I’ve found this approach to be extremely effective for achieving a leaner look because lifting weights increases lean mass while simultaneously supporting fat loss through an increased metabolism.”

How I used to eat: “Diet was arguably the most important part of my transformation. For a long time I have been interested in nutrition, but there is so much information out there that I got kind of lost on nutrition. I found that I was mostly focused on food quality and had been ignoring the idea that quantity (i.e. calories) also mattered. My food philosophy had been heavily influenced by the Paleo approach, so I was eating a lot of ‘healthy fats’ and steering away from carbs. I did not find this sustainable, so I would often ‘mess up’ and feel bad about the things I’d eaten.”

How I changed my diet: “I realized that the quality of your diet is important, yes, but dialing in how much of what you’re eating is essential and the most important factor when it comes to fat loss (especially the leaner you get). I started tracking my macronutrients, aiming to keep the protein high. I actually ate more carbs and started losing fat! And for the record, they weren’t just ‘clean’ carbs, either.  I ate cereal and pancakes and even cheeseburgers and fries from time to time. I’ve learned that the best diet approach is one that you can maintain pretty much forever. I can stick to a diet that is 80 to 90 percent wholesome foods, with the other 10 to 20 percent being more of those fun foods, like, doughnuts.”

I can stick to a diet that is 80 to 90 percent wholesome foods, with the other 10 to 20 percent being more of those fun foods, like, doughnuts.

How my body changed: “The picture on the left was in April 2015. I weighed about 175 lbs at 25.5 percent body fat. The picture on the right is me now. I weigh about 167 and am down to 17.5 percent body fat. You can see my scale weight hasn’t changed much, just about eight pounds. But my body composition changed so drastically (25.5 to 17.5 percent BF) as a result of gaining seven pounds of muscle while losing 15 pounds of fat. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that the scale does not tell the whole story.”

How I feel now: “The coolest part of my transformation, which you can’t see from the pictures, is that I am MUCH stronger now. That’s been my favorite part of this whole process, and that keeps me coming back for more in the gym.”

One piece of advice: “Start small—like really small—and be realistic with yourself. If you’re not working out at all right now, don’t shoot for five days per week. Start will literally one gym session per week, then go up from there. Same thing with your diet. A complete kitchen overhaul isn’t necessary to start seeing progress.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Want to share your transformation story? Email ccunningham@washingtonian.com with details. 

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.