Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Sep

A Primal Woman Looks at 50+

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Some things take a half a century to get right. . .

Background info:

We’ll start with 1976: 16 years old and a very happy childhood. Mom stayed at home and cooked everything from scratch but is Italian and pasta found its way to our table at least 3 days a week. I was definitely born a Type A – anxious, shy and fretful in my childhood and teens. College through the mid thirties was out of control—spent partying, always looking to alleviate some type of an edge. Nutrition was mainly home cooked and minimally processed foods but not Primal.

In my mid thirties I began making healthy lifestyle changes. Fitness and competitive obstacle course competitions replaced the wild lifestyle. Nutrition transpired to low fat, moderate protein and moderate carb (bodybuilding type diet). I felt better, more in control, body composition changed radically and confidence developed. The edge was still there but not as bad. Exercise had become a lifestyle; in my early 40’s in a quest for continued health & fitness it led to an even more functional training style. Nutrition on the other hand took a nosedive with a 3 ½ year vegan/vegetarian stint. Health slowly but steadily declined and anxiousness increased along with aggressiveness and anger to an all time high despite high level of fitness training.

At 44 after much reading and researching I decided to pull a 180; I had read Metabolic Typing and every “test” I took indicated I was a “protein type” that I did better on lots of meat/fat and very little carbs. I doubted it but desperate to feel better I decided to give it an 8 week try. Within 1 week of taking out excessive carbs (both whole grain and refined) and replacing with red meat and butter I felt like a completely different person. Within 1 month most of the edge was gone, for the very first time in my life. 3 months later I discovered CrossFit, after 2 weeks w/this combination there was no more edge. I was not anxious, I was not angry, no matter what life chose to put in my path, over, under around or through I would go. I could speak in public now, I could compete under pressure. Those things did not bother me anymore. Bring it on world.

I continued on this path, I experimented and gradually made more changes adopting my own personal interpretations as I discovered Paleo and WAPF principles. I found Robb Wolf then I found Mark’s Daily Apple. I spent months pouring over back posts and articles. About 9 months later I took out grains completely. Like anything else I had ever done is my life it was 110% effort, moderation and mediocrity were not in my nature. I embraced this new way of life and eating wholeheartedly; I bought primarily local, organic, seasonal produce, procured my meats from pastured farms, located a raw dairy source and rendered my own lard and tallow. If fat is good for you, more is better and no need to count calories. I love to cook and I love to eat. Life was good. I was happy, completely.

Well, at 51 years of age and post menopausal I woke up one morning this past spring and decided to try on my bathing suit. I don’t know why I just did. Most likely because it had been cold, spring was around the corner and I had been hiding out in my sweats enjoying mass quantities of comfort foods – I didn’t gain much weight – the scale could not be right. If I had gained it had to be muscle. Well, I put on that swimsuit, grabbed a mirror and checked my rear. I almost threw up. Dear God; the junk in the trunk was appalling. That could not possibly be my body looking back at me, what the hell had happened?

I am a CSCS and owner of a CrossFit facility that eats “right” and exercises year round. I am passionate in my efforts as well as my nature. I practically get on a pulpit and shout it from afar. I workout an average of 3-4 days a week consisting of 2 to 3 high intensity weight lifting and 1 day of some type of sprinting with mobility work interspersed throughout the week. How in the world could I have gained 12 pounds? And 10 ½ of it was in my rear – that’s pure genetics there. Could it be my age, I am 51? Could it be because I am post menopausal?

In my “youth” I often laughed and rolled my eyes at my older female friends who complained of life disrupting hot flashes and “inevitable” weight gain around the middle once they hit menopause. It seemed to be the scapegoat for whatever ailed them. My answer was always the same – “stay away from the donuts and do some wind sprints – it’s what you eat and whether or not you move your arse. You can look nearly as fit at 50 as you can at 30”. They did not appreciate it and most of them responded with “wait till you’re my age – you’ll see”. Well, life rolls along and here I am 51 and post menopausal. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my entire life at 126 lbs, 19% body fat and I had a roll around the middle. How could that happen; I follow all the rules laid out in the Primal Blueprint. Could I possibly have been wrong? Does the body change? Well of course it changes as we age but was it really out of my control?

First off I don’t even like the sound of the word “menopause”. It seems to be looked upon as a disease of some sort. For many I will admit there is definitely some dis-ease. But what exactly is the cause of that dis-ease and is it preventable through proper nutrition and exercise? I don’t believe it is something that necessitates a “pill” or a “replacement” for. It is a natural transition in a woman’s life, not something to be afraid of or looked upon as the end of life as once known. I have firmly believed if one eats right and exercises throughout their life – while there are definitely changes related to aging – one can do so gracefully, embracing this chapter of  life and avoiding the inevitable weight gain and other common issues. A few years prior I did experience a few “warm moments” in the spring and fall but nothing that disrupted my life or lasted very long. Until this spring and the roll in the middle I have felt basically the same as I have for much of my adult life. I decided to test my hypothesis: was this weight gain inevitable or reversible through lifestyle modification? I said reversible.

I love to read; after perusing MDA and loving all the articles I figured Mark definitely seemed to be on the top of things. I am very opinionated but I couldn’t find one thing I didn’t agree with. So, I ordered the Primal Blueprint. No coach knows it all. Those that aren’t willing to learn will stop improving.

I established a goal: 115 lbs and approximately 12% body fat. I chose a start and end date: 3/15-6/1. I kept a detailed food log for 3 weeks in; changing not a thing for an honest assessment of what I had been consuming. If I did not know what I was consuming and in what amounts I would not know what I needed to change. Here’s what I found. . .

The macronutrient ratios were near ideal. The foods were all from quality sources and home cooked. But my average daily caloric intake was 2400-3200 calories a day and my “indulgences” were averaging 2-3x a week coming from homemade ice cream, 70% organic cacao bars and grits; my largest meal eaten late at night. So maybe that’s why all that junk was in my trunk?

I knew what to change and now had a plan. I adjusted Mark’s advice for Kelly Korg based on my stats/circumstances and cut the calories and fat. Calories ranged from about 1700 to 2000 a day with an occasional high or low day. Never a chronic cardio girl and always a sprinter I was already exercising Primally. I just changed my portions, took out the “indulgences” and the fat began melting off my arse.

I lost about 1 ½ lbs per week the first 3 weeks, then about 1 lb per week thereafter. After about 3 weeks on 50 g a day of carbs I added back in sweet/white potatoes every 3rd or 4th day, cycling both calories/carbs. It seemed to help with energy in my heavy weight days and sprinting. Last 2 weeks, I did drop the calories to about 1300-1700 to get the final body fat off; ending up at 112 lbs and 12.1%.

That was fine for about 10 days but it’s not to be maintained; I like to eat too much. I settled in at 115 lbs and 14-15% bf. I eat moderate portions all week and enjoy a splurge meal on the weekend. Splurge meal is usually a nice piece of fatty meat, a potato of some sort, maybe grits (yes I know that’s corn and corn is a grain but this is the south and I am not perfect) and some homemade ice cream from raw cream, maple syrup and egg yolks. Seasonal adaptations are more fruit in the summer, less in the winter and more fatty meats in the winter, less in the summer. Life is still good and I am even happier now that I fit into my size 3 short shorts.

So thank you Mark, for the knowledge, for your blog – for the time and efforts you put into the research and writing. I linked my site to yours, I send my friends and clients here and your book is a must read for all new clients embarking on the Primal Lifestyle. Best to you and yours in health & fitness!


Visit CrossFit Jaguar and their Facebook page.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I am 3 years from 50, in the midst of perimenopause with all the hormone ups and downs, former Chronic Cardio Girl…..I have always been athltetic, very muscular, lean. I am not going to change my body type. I am a classic mesomaorph, as is Paula. When I put on a few lbs, I feel like I look like a Russian Shotputter. That said, Paula, you are my hero. I am so impressed with how you look, am so glad there is hope for me, that I don’t have to fall into that “I’m in menopause” fat-trap. I don’t want to look like a Russian Shotputter. I want to look like a lean, mean body pumping Grok Girl…..just like Paula. :)

    Michelle wrote on September 26th, 2011
  2. Paula, anyone with a negative attitude is ridiculous and jealous.. just sayin.. Paula you have been a true inspiration to me and my whole family! Even my children.. we all workout at Crossfit Jaguar and you are such a great example! I am so glad you were chosen as the transformation story! I love learning from you and coaching with you at crossfit! Maybe I will post some pics and a story of me when I shave my head for tough mudder and really stir up some fun opinions. Everyone needs to lighten up and be supporitve! She not only looks amazing, but is amazing inside and out!

    Amy wrote on September 27th, 2011
  3. Thanks for the tip on! I switched to Paleo and have had lots of benefits, but no weightloss. After a couple of days of fitday I can see that I am not eating enough fat yet, and a bit too much carbs. Now I can change it!

    Cat Alberts wrote on September 27th, 2011
  4. You look amazing and make 50 look better than most people’s 30. If you feel strong maintaining 14-15% body fat that really is great for a woman. AND you look amazing! (did I already say that?)

    Zane wrote on September 28th, 2011
  5. Paula is my trainer, my friend and my fitness/health mentor. She prides herself on nurturing her body and feeding it the proper fuel it needs. Paula’s philosophies are pure and fundamental. Being a mother of two young impressionable girls, I feel completely comfortable letting them learn from Paula. There are far to many websites out there promoting “skinny” to young girls. Paula focuses on health, strength and mental power. 3 traits I wish for in my girls.

    Stephanie wrote on September 28th, 2011
  6. Totally inspirational and awesome! No need to go over grounds already covered so just one more question: what’s your website, please?

    Olivia Nascimento wrote on September 29th, 2011
  7. It’s awesome to hear a success story from someone who wasn’t a diabetic/hypertensive/ADHD-ridden disaster before going Primal. While I love reading those stories, I don’t relate. I’m more like Paula. If I woke up one day and took those middle photos of myself, I would cry. Seeing her final “after” pictures is completely inspiring, because regardless of whether or not that’s the look I want to go for, it shows me the huge spectrum of possibilities. I think what she was able to accomplish is amazing and just keeps me interested in staying Primal. I also appreciate that she kind of outlined what she did to get her results.


    Deanna wrote on September 29th, 2011
  8. To put things in perspective it her after pictures look very dieted down to a low bodyfat%, and from the suit she is wearing, I would assume for a Figure Comp. I don’t think that is ideal health wise for most women nor sustainable for long periods of time.

    And to be honest her before picture aren’t bad at all if that would make someone cry, actually I find that sad that someone thinks she looks THAT BAD it would warrant tears for them. But I am black so maybe its a cultural aesthetic but she looks actually pretty normal and okay there even with the so called “junk in her trunk”.

    Kia wrote on September 29th, 2011
    • gyday;

      i can see what you mean…but its what she wanted to achieve and she did it…

      im an aussie bloke and it gave me great encouragement and motivation to read her story and despite the language she chooses to use she is probably a really lovely person …why not give her a break..


      zephaniah wrote on September 30th, 2011
      • I was really commenting on the fact that another poster said she would “cry” if she had pictures of herself like Paula’s middle “before” pictures.I think she looks really good and healthy there!

        And I wouldn’t want people to think that her “after” pictures are normal for everyday life as to feel bad about how they look themselves.

        People assume ripped and lean means healthy. Just as too much body fat can wreck havoc on people and their health so don’t low bodyfat%, especially in women. But it looks good!

        Kia wrote on September 30th, 2011
  9. …..’strewth’…..thats a bonza set of abs you found…..power to you!

    good stuff for sharing those photos….gutsy and humble…your results are amazing mate.

    zephaniah wrote on September 30th, 2011
  10. ..come on now you amazing women….stop bringing each other down and being sooooooooo hard on someone who is most likely an amzing person and just a joy to know…..

    get off her case…..she looks great…in all those photos…

    women rock!

    am im a bloke from australia who is not a feminist but wants to see all people empowered to live a great life…

    zephaniah wrote on September 30th, 2011
  11. I just read this story and I have to say … wow!

    I would love to look like Paula in her “after” photos; her story gives me hope that such a physique is achievable.

    I have always wanted to be strong and muscular. I think your body is the primary mechanism by which your mind interfaces with reality, and when I have been at my strongest physically, I have also been at my strongest mentally.

    I have a feeling that if I work towards the kind of musculature Paula has, then few things in my life would be able to sneak in and psychologically floor me as much as they do at present.

    Alex Grace wrote on September 30th, 2011
  12. UHHH what? this is NOT a success story. u looked better (despite being slightly overweight) in the swimsuit pictures! no one should be so lean esp as an older woman…. and clearly Paleo failed you as you kept overeating.

    I don’t get this story. You should consult the leptin 5 rules too, those rules on WHEN to eat and how much relatively throughout the day is just as important as WHAT to eat.

    Dan wrote on October 1st, 2011
    • Your either joking, are a troll or a dumbass.

      Primal Toad wrote on October 1st, 2011
      • I thought this comment was for the most recent success story.

        To be honest, I actually had a similar thought. The look in the first photo and second to last photo looks the most attractive to me. Muscle is great but I am personally not a fan of way too much.

        Mark looks great but the Lean Gains guy has a bit too much. I personally would not want to look like Martin Berkhan.

        What he is doing is great and if someone wants to look like that then go for it! Really!

        I don’t so I won’t. But, to say that this is not a success story is wrong. How is it not success? She has the body SHE WANTS not the body that you want her to have.

        That’s what matters.

        Primal Toad wrote on October 1st, 2011
  13. I got bored of reading these squabbling comments, so forgive me if it has been said, but I think it’s obvious that the picture Paula looked best in was the one from 1976.

    And, to be honest, the “before” pictures look most like that Paula.

    What Paula has done is absolutely an achievement, and a personal choice, but it speaks of the very “edge” she kept referring to in her story- it’s just all so much.

    I would also like to point out that it isn’t necessarily hypocritical to expect different things from the ways in which men and women develop their bodies. We’re shaped differently, and thus ought to be muscled differently. That being said, it seems reasonable to assume that many people out there might not prefer that much muscle definition on a person of either gender. Just so, there are always going to be some who do, so I wish you well Paula.

    stephen lindholm wrote on October 1st, 2011
  14. Congrats, Paula! My parents just began the Primal 30-Day challenge. Your story will be inspiring to them!

    Chuck Grimmett wrote on October 2nd, 2011
  15. Yeah Paula! I workout at Paula’s gym and she works hard to look the way she does! She also helped my husband lose 80 lbs. this year and I lost 15 lbs. She is a real, genuine, super sweet person who is really great at helping others achieve their fitness/health/weight loss goals!

    Stephanie wrote on October 3rd, 2011
  16. Hi again, I messaged about a week ago thanking you, Paula, for the inspiration, and Mark for the fabbo website…

    Just over a week later I can see and feel such a difference. I hadn’t realised how the calories and treats were adding up – I was using low carb as a free ticket to eat what I wanted…

    I am 53 years old, 5′ 6″ tall, with a small frame. A week ago I weighed 134 pounds, this week I weigh 130 pounds, and I think most of it has gone from my tummy! The combination of primal and calorie control is dynamic…I have been eating between 1200 and 1400 calories a day…

    I’ll stop and maintain when I look and feel ‘just right’ for me. We all have our personal happy weight and look.

    Thanks again Paula, it was the pics that did it!

    Janet wrote on October 4th, 2011
  17. Inspiring! You look amazing. I’m nowhere near 50(I’m 35) but I am realizing that caloric intake does matter, even if the food is clean and primal. I can have my steak but I better not have 5.I also started keeping track of my calories and was shocked to learn I was downing 2000-2400 a day as well!

    AT first doing low/carb + paleo I was losing but as my body became more efficient with my workout routine, I just got stuck. I decided to still stick with low carb and paleo but reduce the calories.

    It worked!

    I am not 21 years old anymore. I gotta watch what I eat. I’ll still keep it paleo but the amount still matters.

    Btw..u look GREAT!!

    april wrote on December 11th, 2011
  18. your before photos don’t look bad to me at all.

    the after is a little too thin (in my book), sorry, i prefer a slightly softer look for women.


    PHK wrote on January 2nd, 2012
  19. Paula, I have to agree with those that say you did actually look great before. But… You look fantastic now! Aside from that, how you feel and perform is the most important thing though, and if that’s improved too, ignore the haters on here.

    Did I mention that you look great?

    Michael wrote on January 6th, 2012
  20. Hi Paula,
    Want to thank you for sharing . I am just 10 lbs or so overweight and intentionally SCROLL through success stories to find someone just like you, that “I” can relate to…

    It is hard to find …most stories are of the morbibly obese and I want someone the same height and weight as myself so I can get inspiried . I think most people do better when tney can relate.
    I was surprised then to find ridiculous negative comments when all you were doing was sharing the truth of your experience.

    Why don’t the people who are offended by your story just scroll past and find someone whos weight struggle is similiar to their own ? Someone they can relate to instead of taking the time to write a dumb comment that serves no one ?

    Linda wrote on January 13th, 2012
  21. Wow! That’s about all I can say is WOW! I am so impressed. I am 47 and still have not found the right balance for me. I attempted Primal but fell off…your story has inspired me to re-read the book and get back to it and just maybe by 48 I can look as good as you Paula!

    Cheryl wrote on January 14th, 2012
  22. Hi,

    I’m not offended by Paula’s success story. I’m also not belittling her achievement.

    her before (19% BF, for a woman, hardly fat, in my opinion. the before soft look is due to lack of muscle tone, NOT due to excessive body fat. & her initial goal 12% is way too low for a woman. (ok. these all in my opinion)

    mine BF is 20%’ i feel very comfortable
    here cause this is what i can maintain _effortlessly_.


    PHK wrote on January 14th, 2012
  23. Very inspirational transformation, you look fantastic.

    Glacier wrote on January 14th, 2012
  24. You look great! Can you tell me what your nutrient ratio (Protein, Carb, Fat) was when you were eating between 1700 to 2000 calories a day? Also when you dropped to 1300 to 1700 per day? I’m eating around 1600 calories per day right now. While keeping my carbs in the 50 – 100 gram range per day, I’m still wondering about the protein and fat. Did you eat 1 gram of protein per lean body mass per day?

    Jo wrote on January 19th, 2012
  25. When you added white/sweet potatoes to help with your heavy lifting days and rotated carbs/cals, did you still stay within your nutrient ratios? Or was your carb ratio slightly higher for those days?

    Jo wrote on January 20th, 2012
  26. My kids saw your after pics and they were so shocked you were 51 yrs old. They said you looked super great. They are 8 & 11 yrs old and we’re about to embark on our Primal Blueprint journey.

    You are inspiring.

    Doris wrote on January 31st, 2012
  27. Paula, you are truly amazing. I’m so inspired by your before and after pictures. I’m new to the MDA site but loving it already. I was already sugar and caffeine free and a regular jogger but didn’t realise that my carb heavy diet was setting me up to fail. So I’m loving this site and everything it has to offer.

    I am only tiny – 155cm – and my first weigh in 3 weeks ago had me at 53kg and 20% body fat. which doesn’t sound so bad (especially at 40), but I’m what’s known as ‘skinny-fat’. I fit into small clothes but still have a biggish butt, belly fat and have biggish arms and chunky thighs. I’m now down to 52kg and 15.5% body fat and following the MDA diet/training advice.

    My goal is to hit 12% body fat just for the experience (and Facebook photo’s LOL) and then find a happy, sustainable medium to stick with.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. You are truly an inspiration.

    VandaB wrote on February 5th, 2012
  28. Hi Paula,

    I am totally inspired by your story!! You look absolutely awesome and pretty much what I aspire to. I am new to this site and like several others have said, I was looking for a success story from someone who was more like me–50 something and just a little out of shape with about 10-15lbs to loose and I was so glad to read your story. I feel like I’ve been in exactly the same spot–doing the primal/paleo thing and not losing a pound! I was glad to see that as far as food, all you did was figure out what you were eating and adjust your calories because I feel like I’m probably just eating way too much. Just because it’s primal doesn’t mean I can eat 4000 calories a day!! I don’t know why that obvious little thing seems to get lost around here–it seems like many people say to just eat and not worry about it or eat tons of fat and not worry about it. It may work for some, but it seems that women may have a harder time with it.

    Anyway, you should be really proud girl!! You’ve got a fantastic physique and you’re healthy to boot, which is even more impressive!

    Susan wrote on March 19th, 2012
  29. you are a true inspiration ! Really! Grok on and crossfit :)

    Aleksandrina wrote on March 30th, 2012
  30. Paula, thank you so much for your contribution to the success stories. I am 49, having the many “warm moments”, was carrying around about 20 more pounds than in my 20’s, reading the same messages about “just having to accept” the additional weight/inches that are wont to come with menopause and thinking that it just didn’t have to be true (for me, anyway). What it really amounted to was a wake-up call that I was not doing what I KNEW I could be to be fitter. When I found MDA and the success stories, I went searching specifically for a female, 50-ish, who had achieved the lower numbers I felt could be mine again (or at least in the neighborhood), found you and thought, “YES!!!!! If she can do that, I can achieve my personal goals”. My body weight is now down about 10% and my body fat is down 7 percentage points from my ATH (“All-Time High” :) My goal numbers are not as low as yours were and I’m not specifying them here in order to maintain my point that it is your determination and willingness that provide me with great inspiration.

    Mary wrote on April 7th, 2012
  31. Sorry, the main mistake in the whole story is that Paula isn´t around 19% body fat in the before pictures – I would guess it is around 24%. I am around 19% body fat when I am lazy (usually around 17%) but, ladies, believe me, 19% look fit and fine and Paula is definitely “fatter” (sorry!) than 19% before. I think that flaw in the story is what demotivates a grate deal of the female readers!

    Ina wrote on April 7th, 2012
    • I agree. I look similar now and my body fat is about 24%. At 22 % I look way leaner than her first photo

      julianne wrote on June 4th, 2012
  32. I think we over complicate this issue to much. Here are some points to keep in mind.

    1) Before weight loss can happen you have to be in a calorie deficit. (Period)

    2) 75% of all people can not process the amount of sugar they consume. (reduce carbs)

    3) Fat loss/body recomp takes time. it’s not a 6 week program.

    4) Being fit is a mindset, you have to make it your top priority forever. That doesn’t mean it has to consume 100% of your life but it has to be the number 1 priority.

    I’m 50, I don’t compare myself with folks my age because that would not yield the results I’m after. My goal is perfection. Will I achieve it? No, but it’s my goal. Raise the bar folks. It’s over when the fat lady sings and until then I go after perfection.

    My 3 year story,

    watch this over and over again,

    Robert C. Morreale wrote on June 1st, 2012

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