Foundations of CrossFit Health

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ByCrossFitJanuary 11, 2019

Welcome to CrossFit Health!

CrossFit Health (CFH) isn’t about your health.

CrossFit Health is an investigation into the ills of modern medicine and the willful abuse of the public’s trust in science. What would motivate such an inquiry? And what are our qualifications to put forth on the subject?

Nearly 20 years ago, in an article titled “What Is Fitness?” CrossFit articulated the physiological reality that what we eat and how we exercise—fundamentally lifestyle choices—are the independent variables in control of the dependent variables measured by medicine as manifestation, predictor or cause of chronic disease. These dependent variables include triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, A1C, blood pressure, body fat, bone density and muscle mass.

A business was seeded and a global fitness and health revolution sprouted from a prescription of constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement leveraged by meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.

The certainty and fidelity with which that prescription increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains while improving all health metrics have been the driving force for the success of CrossFit and CrossFitters. That revolution comprises 14,500 CrossFit Affiliate gyms around the world, 132,000 credentialed CrossFit trainers and millions of CrossFit devotees. Within that group are the CrossFit physicians, numbering over 20,000 in the U.S. alone.

The inexorable rise of chronic disease, which is taking 70 percent of lives needlessly and prematurely, has two root causes: excess carbohydrate consumption and sedentarism. From the onset of this epidemic, official response from our universities, our government institutes of health and our very own doctors was to promote a high-carb, low-fat, margarine-greased descent into ever-worsening disease and death. Little has changed in decades beyond worsening global health and CrossFit’s ascendancy.

The CrossFit physicians are by virtue of medical training and CrossFit participation uniquely poised to offer meaningful public discourse on what has gone so tragically wrong. They sit in possession of a view of health, metabolism and exercise that is neither mainstream nor traditional yet entirely correct and vitally important—perhaps essential. CrossFit has been right for a long time, and they know it.

That we were correct and stood in direct opposition to a powerful coalition of authority, credentials and money was tough for many to accept and profoundly uncomfortable for them to explain. But harder to believe and more difficult to accept was the decade-long crusade against CrossFit by organized and academic fitness “science” with legislation, litigation, lies, scientific misconduct in the form of falsification and fabrication of data, and, finally, felonies in the form of perjury and likely spoliation of evidence. These claims can be found in the words of jurists’ published rulings.

The lessons learned from the legal dismantling of fake science, a crooked journal and perjuring scientists have given us a forensic view as to how everything might have gone so wrong. We’re calling the combination of runaway medical costs and disease rates—which many profit from but none combat effectively—“The Mess.”

CrossFit Health is an ongoing exploration of The Mess.


As a project of CrossFit Health, the CrossFit Medical Doctor Level 1 Seminar format (CFMDL1) was conceived as a means to network medical doctors within the CrossFit community who share an essential, non-trivial view regarding the role of lifestyle choices in chronic disease. The clarity with which these doctors see cause and effect places them at odds with the dominant paradigm in medicine of symptomatic treatment of chronic disease via pharma and procedures. To learn more about the CFMDL1, please email info@crossfithealth.com.

Comments on Foundations of CrossFit Health

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Katina ThorntonJanuary 12th, 2019 at 1:50 am

I LOVE THIS

Jessica WhiteJanuary 12th, 2019 at 2:01 am

Excellently stated and surely we are getting closer!

Jason DavisJanuary 12th, 2019 at 2:10 am

Please consider adding a search/locate function for CrossFit Physicians. Many of us would prefer to use them but do not know who or where they are.

Jesse DelanderJanuary 12th, 2019 at 2:11 am

Excellent idea Jason

Greg GlassmanJanuary 12th, 2019 at 2:23 am

Jason, we are working on it. Thank you. Together we are making an important difference.

Ryan MakJanuary 12th, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Yes! Been looking for this as well.

Keri MuchaJanuary 14th, 2019 at 7:47 pm

Very much looking forward to this feature.

Mary Dan EadesJanuary 12th, 2019 at 2:24 am

As someone who has fought both in the clinical trenches and in print against the establishment nutritional dogma for much of the last 30 years, it's positively heartwarming to feel that there is finally a real groundswell of physician eyes being opened to the truth of what's behind the global epidemic of metabolic syndrome derived illnesses. CrossFit Health is poised to make an historic contribution toward changing the wrong-headed dogma that got us in this mess to the betterment of the health and fitness of anyone brave enough to listen with an open mind.

Shakha GillinJanuary 12th, 2019 at 3:07 am

I didn’t come to CrossFit because it’s fun, or I love the community (which I do), or everyone is so good looking (strong is beautiful). I came to CrossFit because I was beyond frustrated with my current medical practice. My patients are getting sicker and sicker. And the medical system is off track. It’s ludicrous. Our diabetic patients (including gestational diabetics) are being told to eat...sugar. Most recommendations are compromises at best, and clearly not helping. Check out the WIC foods: carbs and sugar. Diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, constipation, arthritis, psoriasis, IBD, other autoimmune disorders and the list continues, are now something common for me to address as a pediatrician. I can’t. I expect better for my patients. When I actively prescribe patients things to better their health (such as eliminating cereal), I feel that colleagues and patients think I’m going against the “standard of care.” CrossFit Health is addressing the problem at its core, including the medical mess. They are systematically evaluating how the medical community went so wrong, so we can make it better. CrossFit Health is exposing the truth. This journey has opened my eyes to the corruptions, flaws, and system errors, as well as introduced me to amazing physicians and non physicians who are paving way for a better medical community. The goal for me is to improve my patients health. I’m finding that at CrossFit.

Ryan MakJanuary 12th, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Thanks for sharing Dr. Gillin!

Ryan MakJanuary 12th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

I’ve been following this movement for a while now, and I can say I’m excited to see this post on CrossFit.com. As an MD student and CFL2, I know that myself along with a handful of other medical students are undergoing training as a physicians with a mindset informed and formed by CrossFit/CrossFit Health!! We’re a generation of future doctors who think these principles are “no brainers” and hat will inform the way we hope to practice.

Shari ZinggJanuary 14th, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Ryan, that is SO good to hear!!

Jacques RobertJanuary 12th, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Please stay the course. I love your journey and being a part of it.

Steve TenhouseJanuary 12th, 2019 at 3:11 pm

Please consider updating the graphic for CrossFit Health. There are plenty of practicing physicians that are open to change, including several physicians and advanced practice providers at our hospital and in our CrossFit box, that believe in the benefits of functional movement and better nutrition. My concern is depicting the industry OVERALL as limb-cutting, pill-pushing profiteers will turn off the group of professionals we need to engage in the journey.

Joshua NewtonJanuary 12th, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Well put, Steve. There are a lot of good physicians who are either doing CrossFit or would approach CrossFit’s life changing health benefits with an open mind. While the system may be broken and imagery like this is meant to shock, it’s got enormous potential to turn off very good, hardworking physicians who truly care about their patients health and are doing great things for people in their community every single day.

Shakha GillinJanuary 12th, 2019 at 4:28 pm

I respect your opinion, and understand where you are coming from. On the other hand, I’m not offended by the graffic. I’m offended by the fact that it’s a part of our medical culture that sales reps with zero expertise try and sell me their products in my office. And that medical organizations take money from big business. That major national organizations that guide how we practice medicine take money. The truth may not be pretty. Exposing the truth may not be pretty. But it’s real.

Scott GillinJanuary 12th, 2019 at 6:45 pm

Thank you Coach Glassman and CrossFit for all the time and energy you are putting into addressing the chronic disease epidemic that continuing to grow and spread around the world. The genetic code of a species, including humans, is very slow to change. Science and medicine have been pouring massive resources into looking for underlying biological causes for obesity and type 2 daibetes. The truth is that our DNA has not changed in any significant way over the past 30 years. What has changed is the amount of refined carbohydrates and sugar in our diet. As a physician one wants to believe that every part of the medical system has the heath of patients and society as the number one priority. It is a hard pill to swallow when one realizes the corruption and monetary gains that are now an integral part of the system. For me personally, learning about “The Mess” was like having the foundation of my training turn into quicksand. Unfortunately a lot of the literature that we make our decisions on is based on bad science or even fradulent studies. Most phamaceutical companies are only interested in selling a product that relieve symptoms of a disease. Fortunately the solution to most chronic diseases is very simple. Proper diet combined with physical exertion. This is what we did 50 years ago before the goverment got the wrong idea about what was heathy and the food industry began pushing sugar laden refined carbohydrates.

Clarke ReadJanuary 12th, 2019 at 8:09 pm

There are quite a few organizations trying to (or that have tried to) tackle the same problem Crossfit is aiming its efforts at. I’ve worked in and with some of them. Crossfit stands out for a few reasons: 1. Crossfit is focused first and foremost on what works. Sounds like a trivial point, but it’s not. Medical questions often get “academized” - when there isn’t a clear answer, they dissolve into discussions over risk ratios, primary causes and theoretical models. In theory there’s good reason for this; in practice, this may be why valueless, but abstractly satisfying recommendations have been carried forward while demonstrably successful tools have remained on the sidelines. Crossfit has made it clear, here and elsewhere, it will focus on the “what” and let the “why” get colored in over time. Are there risks? Yes. But this also means ivory tower consternation won’t hold back real-world benefits. 2. Crossfit holds a different view on generalizability. I forget where I saw it, but I once saw Crossfit described as “not for everybody, but for anybody.” When authority figures (gov’t, media, academic) try to recommend a path forward for these conditions affecting millions of Americans, they give recommendations that meet millions of Americans where they are right now. This leads to the worst sort of lowest-common-denominator thinking - guidelines, diets and prescriptions designed to offend as few as possible and require as little effort as possible. Maybe, in our attempts to maximize “feasibility”, we have taken too much off the table. Maybe what we need is a lighthouse, not a tugboat. 3. Crossfit makes its bias clear. The science and politics surrounding all of these conditions is contentious. I’d argue it’s impossible to learn enough to develop an informed opinion and NOT form a bias, particularly given how many of these different belief systems are fundamentally irreconcilable. Crossfit is out in front proclaiming the nature and origin of its bias, and trusting us to view its everything it says with that in mind. I’d much prefer this sort of open bias to the cognitive dissonance and cynical thinking pushed elsewhere by entities trying to hide their biases from the rest of us and often from themselves. 4. Crossfit looks at the problem from multiple fronts. There are intellectual issues with our modern medical ecosystem. There are political issues. Financial issues. Structural issues. Each of these domains is big enough to support an entire mini-ecosystem of advocacy groups and other stakeholders in itself. Crossfit argues these issues are inseparable, and aims to highlight and undermine the issues in each of them simultaneously. On one hand, it’s a lot for one org. On the other hand, it might be the only way to actually make progress. 5. Crossfit has a community that shares its core beliefs. Crossfit has developed a league of highly-pragmatic followers with an attitude of “show me what works, I’ll do it, we’ll figure out why later” with a breadth and ambition few can match. There are few better groups to drive a step-change in thinking and practice in a matter of years not decades. We’ve seen a lot of concerted effort by individuals and organizations who, despite their best efforts, lack the capacity to make a dent in the metabolic disease issue (and the many broader scientific issues that lead to it and follow from it). We’ve also seen a lot of hand-wringing by individuals and organizations who have the capacity to drive meaningful change, but lack the willingness to do so. Crossfit may be the first organization with the conviction of the former and the capacity of the latter. And that’s reason for excitement.

Gary TaubesJanuary 12th, 2019 at 9:27 pm

I’m proud to be a part of this.

Sean RockettJanuary 12th, 2019 at 11:54 pm

It has to start somewhere and the time is now.

Chris BoyJanuary 13th, 2019 at 4:05 am

I believe you are on the right track with this and I like the idea of medical providers partnering with a fitness organization to improve health. Also a few thoughts come to mind while reading this. 1. As a medical provider, it is hard not to take offense when we, as a whole, are treated as if we are uninformed pill-pushers who are on a first name basis with big pharma execs. When the reality is the overwhelming majority of us make decisions on evidence based medicine, care deeply about our patients, and do not profit more or less depending on our recommendations. 2. Any medical training program worth it's salt will teach that the first-line and most effective treatment for most chronic diseases is a healthy diet and exercise. And while nutritional knowledge and understanding continues to evolve, that does not mean past recommendations (low-fat diets) were made flippantly. Recommending a diet of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables is nothing new. The unfortunate problem is, most people would rather take a pill than put down the doughnuts and get off the couch. A doc can encourage a person to change their diet and exercise until they are blue in the face, but at the end of the day, it's up to the patient. I can't begin to imagine how many people I have seen who had high blood pressure/ cholesterol/ blood sugar that I told had to lose weight and exercise, and when they return in 3-6 months, are heavier than before and have changed nothing. So at that point, I can either prescribe them a medication, or throw my hands up and do nothing (which would be unethical). 3. Crossfitters are a self-selecting group of health-conscious individuals. They come into a box because they want to live a healthier lifestyle, and do not resign themselves to just taking a pill for everything. It is inappropriate to take this group of people and say "look how healthy they are!" and conclude that "traditional" medicine is therefore failing the rest of society. Again, I am on board with you 100%! But please stop treating the medical community as if we are your enemy.

Robert OhJanuary 13th, 2019 at 7:24 am

Great article. Excited to see CrossFit Health and where this goes. CrossFit has changed my life for the good and opened my eyes to the mess. Looking forward to being part of this!

Pat SherwoodJanuary 13th, 2019 at 2:43 pm

What we are doing at CrossFit Health makes me so proud I have trouble expressing it. Couple that with how enthusiastic the CF community has been about it just makes me smile. Great things are happening.

Stephen DullJanuary 15th, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Great Work! Love this concept.

Mette RamesJanuary 16th, 2019 at 10:41 am

Interesting article, especially for someone outside the US! I agree 100% that this is a problem, but demonizing the entire medical community in this way seems a bit one-sided. If patients with diabetes are indeed told to eat sugar (as someone else stated in comments) this is definitely a problem. But I have never (ever!) heard of that happening, at least not in Denmark where I am from. I think the picture is much more nuanced that laid out in this article, with many medical professionals helping people in the right direction, not the wrong. And even more so when considering that CrossFit has become a GLOBAL "fitness and health revolution" as stated in the article. The majority of the (global) medical community is to my knowledge much more competent than described in this article. Still agree completely with the mission, but it is a shame that it seems to belittle all the good work that is done by good processionals!