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 www.fitday.com; 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!

Paula

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. O_O

    I wanna be like you when I grow up!

    NSWM wrote on July 21st, 2012
  2. I just want to say that I’m inspired by Paula and the rest of the readers but I don’t think it matters a lick what anyone but Paula thinks of how Paula looks. As a 55 year old woman, new to PB and taking my fitness efforts up quite few notches, I’d love to hear more stories of females over 50. Am I the only one making progress but not buying a new pair of jeans every month like the 20 and 30 somethings?

    Donna R. wrote on August 7th, 2012
  3. Hi Paula, I just wantd to say thanks! I’ve been trawling through success stories and I really appreciate how you have shown to tinker with your already primal diet to drop some extra fat! I’ve taken up your advice and am now using fit day to track my food, I already realized I’ve been doing a similar thing to you and wondering why the fat wasn’t coming off!! So now have a much better control of my daily calories and carbs! I was having nuts and more nuts and then a few dates, this pesky little things have 18g of carbs each!! Who would have thought!! so now just some blueberries for me, and I’ve ditched the dairy and will use that as a treat once every few weeks!! Fingers crossed this tinkering works, already after a few days I can notice the difference!
    I hope you’re still following this thread.

    Di wrote on August 15th, 2012
  4. Paula

    I first read your story here a few years ago and it is the most inspiring that I’ve seen here at MDA. Do you do “remote” coaching (i.e., via email etc.?). I’d love to have a butt like yours!

    Thanks!

    Liz wrote on April 13th, 2013
  5. Paula,

    I am new to MDA and have spent several days reading through the success stories. You look great in all of your photos, and I think that what matters most is that you are happy with the way you look and feel.

    Way to be classy in ignoring the rude comments some people have made. I love that you didn’t even bother to address them, and that you only responded to legitimate questions people had for you. Not only are you fit and beautiful, but you are wise and confident as well. :)

    Pascale wrote on July 28th, 2013
  6. Hi
    Paula..Fantastic..
    How do I get in touch with you about training??
    Thanks

    caroline wrote on October 6th, 2013
  7. Wow! This is very inspiring. I have done a couple of body building shows and really found the diet to be unsustainable. I want to be able to compete, but I want to be primal rather than the standard low fat bb diet. I was primal before I trained for the shows. Now, it’s my goal to get back on the stage with a full on MDA primal diet. This post has reignited my excitement. Thank you!

    Babs wrote on December 11th, 2013
  8. Very inspirational.

    Sherri

    sherri wrote on May 10th, 2014
  9. This lady looked a lot better as a woman before she worked to become a man with muscles…

    rodney62 wrote on January 3rd, 2015
  10. Proof that it isn’t inevitable that one has to gain the “menopausal middle.” I’ve been researching this and trying to discover how hard one has to work to avoid it. I”m 45 and seeing the signs that the fat is gravitating to my butt and middle. I’ve always been able to easily lose weight but that ability is slipping away. I’ve leaned toward Primal eating for two years, and I think the key is to become stricter. Less sugar, more sprinting and heavy weights. I just wonder how hard I’ll have to work–I have a threshold and it is before Paula’s! She’s driven!

    I know I can commit to grain free, very low sugar and low carbs (except veggies.) Time will tell! Just started my mission January 10th. Need (want) to lose a size to fit into all my clothes again.

    Jodi wrote on January 27th, 2016

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!