A Primal Take on Body Image

Even with the close of the Primal Challenge and its final week of reader content, I still have all those great successes on my mind. Whether in photos, videos, or description, it’s incredible to see people enjoying health and feeling great in their own skin. This got me thinking about body image. It’s a loaded subject in our society. Occasionally, it’s a loaded subject even on MDA’s comment boards or forum. As much as we’d like to edit out the less complimentary, even judgmental threads of discussion, to tuck away the uncomfortable conversations, I’m not sure that’s entirely right. This blog encompasses everything about pursuing vitality and living healthily in this world. That includes the sometimes thorny topic of body image – both as personal experience and cultural backdrop.

Like anything in our world, no issue is immune from controversy, tension, or just plain difference of opinion. My one hope of course – and I know many of you share this – is that we speak with respect to one another, owning our opinions as solely our own, recognizing that we all come to our Primal pursuits with varying experiences and interests. We start from different places. We meet our own challenges along the way. We work toward individually determined goals that – while commonly embracing ideals of good health and vitality – may diverge from there.

These goals of course reflect what we want for our lives but also for our bodies. We may begin the journey wanting to lose weight. We want to get strong. We want to be able to spend a full afternoon hiking with our dog or run our community 10K. We want to be able to chop this winter’s firewood and still have enough energy for a bike ride later. We want to gain entry into the world of competitive body building or other sports. (Maybe we’re part of it already.) We want to kick a lifestyle disease to the curb. We want to show off a six-pack or rock a new bikini.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on vanity – a response to a cheering reader onslaught (who knew?) after I casually listed LGN (“looking good naked”) as one more reason to go Primal. Since then the phrase has kind of taken on a life of its own. I stand by that rationale. Nonetheless, I want to go on the record saying that this isn’t some interest in promoting artistry- and computer-enhanced magazine type representations. (Guess what – we all look better backlit. Keep that in mind next time you’re redecorating the bedroom.) Besides, has anyone looked at a J.Crew catalog lately? (No, I don’t shop there.) Someone please give these young men and women a t-bone steak.

A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times ran a feature about Gym Jones called “The Cult of Physicality.”

Some of you may have heard of the club. As the article reveals, Gym Jones has been the makeover mecca to many a Hollywood star, including Gerard Butler, Henry Cavill, Jude Law, and an undisclosed number of Navy Seals. The manager, Robert MacDonald (a.k.a. Maximus) runs a tight ship and makes no bones about the awesome demands of the program. Any of us who have even seen his clients in a passing commercial or magazine ad can believe the results. The fact is, with massively rigorous training, people can do pretty astounding things with their physiques. (Of course it helps when they’re getting paid millions of dollars to do it.)

While a lucky few of us can achieve looks like those without entirely super human efforts, most of us would find ourselves giving up unreasonable amounts of time, energy, and focus to achieve and continually maintain them. The result would be too costly without serious passion for the form itself – whether it be for athletic or aesthetic interest.

The beauty of going Primal for most people is the great return on time investment – the incredible results they get with relatively modest effort but also the extra energy they gain, the better sleep they get – all of which makes their lives easier and in some ways more efficient. They have more time and energy for what they enjoy doing and the people they enjoy doing it with. Flipping the logic on that proposition isn’t a deal most people are interested in. And they don’t need to be. But if they are, that’s cool too.

For me, a Primal take on body image naturally revolves less around appearances and more around utility. From an ancestral point of view, utility was the originally intended source for selection interests. Certain appearances, yes, suggested a level of health or “fitness,” but they weren’t the final arbiter: function itself was. There’s nothing more real than picking up a tree stump, hunting down your meal, hurling a rock, carrying a child, building a home. Want body love? How about loving what your body has accomplished and what you can do today?

I think people who have been through serious illnesses or other life changing physical events may get this in a exceptionally poignant way. I know, for example, plenty of women who have had children and said it entirely changed their thinking. It makes you stand in awe of your body in a new way, I believe. You recognize your body as a force of its own rather than just a canvas for your own inclinations. Whether it’s licking diabetes, bearing and caring for children, recovering from severe injury, or working off major weight, these accomplishments should absolutely help define one’s body image.

Body image isn’t some static declaration about what you see in the mirror any more than a body is a two-dimensional still representation. Bodies move and do. They work. They lift, run, build, have sex, nurture, toil, and create. Body image, then, should encompass our full relationship with our bodies. Everything we do and accomplish with our bodies should enrich our image of them. Some of us add steps to pursue demanding sports or fitness standards because – well, we love it. No further justification needed.

That’s what I love about the ancestral framework of the Primal Blueprint. It’s all about a rich, vigorous, and genuine life. It’s about respect for action – for true, useful, and pleasurable utility. Here’s my endpoint. Primal takes back body image from the modern precipice of insubstantiality and unapologetically re-roots it in the world of authentic vitality and dynamic living. I say work it.

What’s your Primal take on body image? Let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading, everybody.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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115 thoughts on “A Primal Take on Body Image”

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  1. This, I like …
    “That’s what I love about the ancestral framework of the Primal Blueprint. It’s all about a rich, vigorous, and genuine life. It’s about respect for action – for true, useful, and pleasurable utility. Here’s my endpoint. Primal takes back body image from the modern precipice of insubstantiality and unapologetically re-roots it in the world of authentic vitality and dynamic living. I say work it.”

  2. I think about this stuff a lot… and worry (probably more than is really healthy) about how I look. My wife often kids me that between us, I am the one who got stuck with the stereotypical “female” body image issues.

    Taking a primal approach for a few years now has been a nice balance for me on this point. It has definitely helped me “LGN,” but has also made me more aware of the importance of the *utility* you describe.

    My ongoing goal is to look really good and function really well (i.e. be strong and mobile). Another piece – also connected! – is including play and joy/happiness in the mix.

    Luckily, although there is work to be done, I feel very much like primal living has put me on the right track to meet all of these ambitious goals.

  3. Hey Mark,

    Regardless of what I look like today, it is really hard to overcome the image of myself as that 129lb (at 6’1″ tall) 18 year old high school kid. Even when I weighed 180 a few years ago, I felt skinny (probably because I wasn’t strong).

    Slowly but surely with Weston A. Price/Primal/Paleo plus CrossFit mixed in with CrossFit and some PB for fitness, I am replacing some fat with muscle. But at 44 some of those changes sure seem slow.


  4. I think its great to try and look good naked but it seems as if most of us are a little obsessed over this. We care so much about the details of nutrition even when we already look incredibly good naked. It stresses us out which stalls any additional progress.

    You don’t have to look perfect in order to look good naked.

    I just think we all need to have a little patience. It took YEARS to destroy our health, so we should expect it to take YEARS to get it back. Our bodies are amazing and thus in most cases it will take less than a year but I say we learn to have that patience.

    One should focus on being strict for 30 days or so and be grateful that they have found this incredible movement so early on. I’m 23 and am blessed at this every single day.

    1. The phrase “don’t let good be the enemy of perfect” comes to mind

      or whatever it is

      1. It’s the other way around 🙂 but you make an excellent point.

    2. Isn’t it great that while it took years to get as sick as some of us were, we get well at a faster rate – remarkable bodies!!

      And we should keep in mind that no one is looking at us, they are too busy wondering what we think about them. Kinda freeing when you really think about it. And it’s true. As much as we wonder about how our bodies are perceived, the truth is, whoever we’re naked with (or not) is so busy wondering about what we think about their body that they don’t even notice ours.

      1. Agreed. Most of us are so freaking concerned with ourselves that it does not really matter what the other person looks like which is us every time!

        Great way to look at it…

        And, being overweight is now normal. I remember in grade school when people would get bullied if they ere overweight. Today that is probably not the case nearly as much.

        1. Primal Toad, sad to say there still is a LOT of bullying based on weight. Despite the fact that there are many more overweight people, it is NOT accepted nor forgiven in the general public/media. I am pretty big and have found that in my exercise community I am treated with respect for my age and my commitment but I still can’t wear the same brand of pants that my girlfriends all like to wear. just saying it hasn’t changed that much.

    3. “You don’t have to look perfect in order to look good naked.”
      well said!

      love this article! I have 2 kids and my mommy body is nothing like it used to be but I wouldn’t change that! Working on my body image, which is a daily struggle but loving Paleo lifestyle and I need to not stress. I have been stressing which is why I think I am stalling!

    4. You really are lucky. I am twice your age and still consider myself lucky having stumbled upon MDA (thanks for the link Lew Rockwell!). Nobody I know looks as good as me in my environment in my age group and that is quite something to say after just 9 months of strict primal lifestyle and considering how miserably I felt and looked before. Although the looks is just a nice bonus to the change of mental and physical health regained – quite motivating at times nonetheless to be honest.

      1. +1 Lew Rockwell…I found this site through his site and am forever grateful.

  5. I haven’t mentioned this before in my very few comments here, but thank you for all you do, Mark. This article in particular reminds me of your efforts and intentions.

    Much appreciated.

  6. Great post Mark, especially after a month long challenge. People often set extraordinary goals for themselves; goals that might not be attainable in the short term. However, in doing our best to get there, we always discover new and amazing things about ourselves, our bodies, and what we are capable of.

    Sure, the six pack would be nice, but getting up every day feeling healthy, well rested and self confident is pretty cool too 🙂

  7. Having struggled for a good many years with body image, it’s been nice to see how quickly my body has responded to the PB lifestyle. I easily lifted a 15 kg pail of honey this morning up a flight of stairs, with one arm! Last year, I struggled just lifting it and moving it one meter with 2 arms!

    That surely helps my body image even though in terms of body fat I still have a way to go.

    It really is a matter of perception, isn’t it?

  8. After gaining serious weight with both of my pregnancies (60lbs with the first and 50 with the second), my body still shows evidence of that abuse more than 6 years later. I’ve been self-conscious about the front of me (which took the worst beating of all) for years, and have always done my best to “hide” the post-preggers belly that I’ve been sporting since I was 19. Although I’m still not happy with the way I look naked, I’ve accepted that I can change it, and I am, slowly but surely, one day at a time. Every man who’s seen me naked since my kids were born has had the kindness and good taste not to be disgusted by it (or at least, not to make a big deal out of it), and now that I’m with a man who accepts me for who I am in every way, I’m no longer preoccupied with getting that “bikini” body. I am a beautiful woman who has been blessed with a fully functioning body, and I am grateful for that every day. Thank you Mark, for such a wonderful post, and for everything you do for us Grokkers. =)

    1. I saw a show series on TV about islanders from Tana (spelling?) who came to the united states to look for a long lost person they once had visiting them on their primitive island.
      The men who were grandfathers looked in their 30’s…but they weren’t. The women all looked very young, too, but were also grandmothers. I could not see the difference between 20 year olds and 40 year olds at all.
      The women all had a plump, healthy figure and you could see who was pregant before and who wasn’t (stretched belly skin).
      Ya know what, NOBODY cared. They all ran around in their loin clothes, happy, singing and dancing. NObody was embarassed about some belly flab they still sport around since 5 years prior. This is all just Hollywood bullshit with PC program editing and a ton of plastic surgeries…it isn’t reality.
      Everywhere else in the world stick thin women are outcasts. Since going primal I don’t even think they look healthy anymore. What primal, healthy man would want some fragile skinny twit tagging along through the woods trying to hunt elk? It’s too much work. I like a woman who can lift a hog leg and throw it over the fire 🙂
      And eat it, too.

      1. “I like a woman who can lift a hog leg and throw it over the fire
        And eat it, too.”

        You’re turning me on.

      2. My husband always says he can’t understand why women think a man would be interested in a women whose figure resembles a young boy! Luckily I will never have that figure 🙂

    2. Siren, these are words I hope many women read, especially “I am a beautiful woman who has been blessed with a fully functioning body, and I am grateful for that every day.” I gained a good bit of weight with both of my pregnancies as well, though I did so in my late 30s, which might’ve made it worse. Good for you for realizing what’s important. I can tell just how beautiful you are!!

  9. I was thinking about body image this morning as I was sorting some clothes into the Goodwill pile. “Do I really feel a heck of a lot better about myself now that I wear this size?”

    Honestly, the answer is no. I wish I hadn’t spent years and years worrying about size 2 jeans. It isn’t worth it, and I’m the same person who wore size 8 jeans. I just wish I could tell the high school version of myself to relax.

  10. “Whether it’s licking diabetes, bearing and caring for children, recovering from severe injury, or working off major weight, these accomplishments should absolutely help define one’s body image.”

    Amen to that! You managed to hit 3 of my top 4 accomplishments.

    Let me add a couple more: bending over from my waist without getting light headed, no more back pain, the elimination of a couple of chins and at least 1 spare tire, and the unshakeable feeling that THERE IS NOTHING I CAN’T DO.

    You’re the best!

  11. Great Post.

    There is indeed much neuroticism flying around in the Paleosphere about body composition. Eat Primal/Paleo, find activities that you love doing, and for the most part, body image will take care of itself!

    But work up a reasonable strength foundation for whatever activity you pursue. Easy.

  12. I just took a look at the J. crew catalog. No kidding! It’s the anorexia catalog. Those women do not look healthy, and I could tell that from just looking at the coat section.

    1. Yea, I looked at J. Crew too. They are so skinny – I noticed in a lot of shots, they can’t even stand up straight on their own steam.

    2. I looked, too and had the reverse reaction intended by that company. I want nothing they have because the models make everything offered look so unattractive.

  13. Great post, Mark! I ate that one up. I still mourn all those delicious steaks I could have been eating in my vain pursuit to look good. What a waste! Thinking healthy, doing healthy, feeling healthy, looking healthy-that is the new tune I live by. 🙂

  14. … “a Primal take on body image naturally revolves less around appearances and more around utility”.

    Yes, from an evolutionary perspective, form follows function. The traits we find attractive are ones that helped solve some recurrent adaptive problem, like winning a fight, or growing a child. See:

    Symons, D. (1995). Beauty is in the adaptations of the beholder: The evolutionary psychology of human female sexual attractiveness. In P. R. Abramson & S. D. Pinkerton (Eds.), Sexual Nature, Sexual Culture (pp. 80-118). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Ellis, B. J. (1992). The Evolution of Sexual Attraction: Evaluative mechanisms in women. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides & J. Tooby (Eds.), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 267-288). New York: Oxford University Press.

    As well as some fun stuff:

    Miller, G. F. (2000). The Mating Mind. London: William Heinemann.

  15. Great post! My body shows the wear and tear of 5 pregnancies but being primal has changed me. I can find beauty in parts of my body that I hated before and I know that I can work on the areas I still don’t like.

  16. Forget looking good naked! At 55 and the aging of skin, not sure that is possible regardless of effort. But due to the PB way of life, I feel fabulous and look pretty good for any age! I may not look good naked, but I can rock a pair of skinny jeans!

    1. Me too with the skinny jeans – at 49, for the first time in my life. And love the look on the faces when I tell people how old I am. I sure don’t keep it a secret. My skin looks so much better than when I was (unsuccessfully) trying to do it all (be fit, be thin) on low-fat, high-carb. My five year old passport photo, when I had just lost weight that way, looks like I have just come off drugs! Today I am as thin but stronger, my hair is thicker, my skin clearer and less flushed looking …. I could go on and on. And I love to eat what I eat – I look forward to meals as a treat not something to be endured for the sake of the size of my butt!

  17. Well, I might still not really look GOOD naked but I certainly look BETTER (than I did . . .) naked. One step at a time i guess.

  18. In thinking about body image, one of they key thoughts I have is for people to set reasonable and achievable goals and to frequently revisit those goals and make adjustments along the way. Having big audacious long term goals is fine, but you also need short term goals and accomplishments to keep you motivated and moving in the right direction. A goal to lose 50 pounds is huge, and for many, it is just a dream. A goal of losing 5 pounds a month for the next 12 months is very realistic and achievable. You still get to 50, but the small victories along the way are very motivating (Just imaging how pumped you will be if lose 6 or 8 lbs. in that first month?). Commit to 30 days, measure your progress, reassess, then commit to the next 30 days. The LNG part will take care of itself.

  19. I loved reading this, and it really resonates with me. Since living and eating more primally my body has filled out (with muscle, and in better proportions than ever before). I think prior to discovering your website I would have freaked out if my body had reacted this way to a lifestyle change. But I’ve noticed how much easier my commute up a 10 minute steep hill each day on my bike has gotten, and how I can push myself harder in the gym and increase weights, and I’m truly confident of the muscles I’ve gained… those are all reasons to be proud of my changing body not be ashamed at all.

  20. I’ve said several times over the past month and a half that I’ve been eating the Primal/Paleo lifestyle: “I wish I had known about this sooner.”

    I went through my teenage years over weight before somehow shedding a good part of the weight in college. Through my twenties, I improved with better exercise programs.

    Now 34, I’ve adopted this lifestyle and seen definitive results quickly – visually and in what I am capable of.

    Thursday last week I pulled a shrub from my front yard that when I started was about six feet wide and 15 feet tall, using only a hand saw and a pick ax. After being diagnosed with a sinus infection Friday, I came back Sunday to run a Personal best in the 5k and take an outright win of the race. And then followed that with playing 70 minutes of soccer with my adult league and then finishing the afternoon playing with my kids.

    In many ways, Primal has brought a re-prioritization of life and what I want.

  21. I’ve only been on PB for about 3 months now…and while looking good naked is definitely something I aspire to, I feel like, while eating this way, I can at least look forward to looking the way I was meant to look…whether others would consider that ‘good’ or not. I can feel that eating this way is getting my body to where it is very comfortable, and that’s more important ( to me anyway) that looking great naked. My husband might have a different opinion though…. 🙂

  22. Love this post, Mark — it resonates so well with the rest of the Primal approach. Going primal has definitely improved my overall looks–even naked–but better than that, I FEEL good naked. And that’s the most fun 🙂

  23. Great post Mark, and a gentle reminder to many of us. I’ve been mulling this over this week, I would love to have a flat belly, but I don’t think I want to spend the energy and commit to the diet it would probably take to get me there. Maybe I am happy sticking to the PB, being strong and energetic, and looking pretty good (much better than pre-PB) with my clothes ON!

  24. I think part of the body image issue, especially for women, is the idea that your body is a thing to be looked at, rather than a tool for accomplishing things. After I started lifting weights so many years ago, I started to feel much better about my body even though it hadn’t changed much at all, because my foundational notion of what my body was for had changed.

    1. Well stated!! I see so many girls on TV and in magazines who have absolutely no muscle and it makes me sad that that is what young girls are aspiring to! Since when did being weak and unhealthy become and aspiration?!

  25. While my 50+ y/o body is still showing wrinkles from the substantial weight loss, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather have those than an ugly open-heart surgery scar across my chest. That certainly was the direction I was heading before I went Primal.

    1. … “a Primal take on body image naturally revolves less around appearances and more around utility”.
      I think that resonates for me because some of us do have “great big scars across our chest” or elsewhere. If scars mean I can’t LGN that’s the way it is. But I can feel good naked and enjoy a healthy vibrant body that takes me where I want to go. That vibrant feeling helps me feel good about my body, love my body.
      Kudos to everyone who gets PB before CW leads them to the need of drastic invasive measures inflicted on their bodies.

  26. I think I really needed this today. Got on the scale to a 3 lb weight gain in a week and started freaking out. Funny thing was, I woke up feeling pretty good–have been lifting and sprinting and eating really well, but somehow the scale undid all of that.

    As a woman, it’s hard to balance the competing influences of “be as thin as you can” with “be as healthy as you can” sometimes. It’s good to remind myself that it’s not “survival of the thinnest.” 🙂

    1. With lifting and sprinting and eating well you probably gained some muscle there. I hardly ever weigh any more. The numbers that really tell the story are on my tape measure. I found that I can go long periods and the number on the scale remains relatively stable and then I measure my waist and find another 1/2 inch GONE!

  27. While I have a few more pounds to go before I can really LGN, I can honestly say that my confidence in my body has increased greatly. I used to hide behind big, baggy clothes. Now, it doesn’t bother me to wear more form-fitting clothes. I feel good about myself for the first time in what seems to be my whole life, and that is a prize beyond price. Of course, besides having a greater self-esteem, having all of this energy and vitality is awesome!

    “You don’t have to look perfect to look good naked.” – Thanks, Primal Toad. That put a smile on my face. Well said.

  28. I do agree with the functionality part – but I suppose the great thing about PB also is you have most control, aesthetically. You could go for a really sporty look, like Paula from one of the success stories; or you could go for a more subtle look.

    one of the reasons I went Primal was because I wanted to be able to defend myself and, even, save my own life if needed; to be fit and strong. However, as a model, the aesthetic consideration was also a main factor – I am quite skinny naturally – you could say, an ectomorph? – and I wanted to add more definition.

    I think the important thing is that a healthy, fit body is beautiful! You don’t need to think about both – one comes of the other!

    Grok On!!

  29. Love this! And I agree it was perfectly timed.

    After just finishing your book & the 30-day challenge, I am new the the PB/Paleo lifestyle, but loving it so far. I’ve struggled with a few health issues since having my son 2 years ago & I’m already seeing changes in that respect (positive ones).

    One thing that has struck me about some of the forum posts is that some people seem (to me) a bit obsessed with appearance. I guess that is America in general, though. And I guess it makes sense that eating this way can help body-builder types achieve their goals… which would attract those types of folks to this way of eating. Just not something I’m used to.

    Yes of course we all want to look good naked, but clearly that’s not the most important thing in life… nothing worth obsessing over.

  30. I have a history of *really* crappy body image and disordered eating (bulimia). Thank you so much for this post.

    I now have two small children and have a little extra pudge on my belly as a result, but am so much happier with my body now than I was when I wore a size 2. I can deadlift 225 lbs now and wear a size 6-8 at ~20% body fat. I’m not “skinny,” but I am happy. And I’m HEALTHY, which is far more than I can say of days past. And that makes for great body image. I don’t need to be 15% BF. It would stress me out far more to aim for that than to aim to be stronger.

    And for the record, I *feel* a lot better naked now than I did at a size 2, even if I have a c-section scar and a little extra skin.

  31. Oh, I dunno. Yes, all the physical benefits are great, but many people start on the PB perfectly capable of movement. I like it because I have tons of energy and it makes my gains easier and YES, because I look better – not because I’m marveling at the fact I can walk up stairs. I get that those things are taken for granted by those who can easily do them, and might be appreciated a lot more by people who come to this having weighed 300 lbs their entire life, but all this kind of reads as is more “don’t be so vain” proselytizing. I was shocked and awed at the negative reaction Paula’s amaaaaazing body got in the comments section of success story. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being concerned with your appearance as long as you are healthy, and not everybody has to overcome cancers or regenerate an arm through PB to be considered a “success.” It’s the only thing that has ever gotten me below 8% bodyfat, and I still consider that a great accomplishment, even if my body worked perfectly fine before.

    1. Bailey, I don’t think Mark is talking about celebrating every flight of stairs. It’s about the physical “doing” kind of goals we each have – lifting a certain amount, running a certain distance, but also being able to as he says chop the season’s firewood, or carry a child while taking care of other children (not always easy in those later months). Utility is meaningful for everyone – from the newbie to the body builder.

  32. I’m just ready for the outside to look as good as the inside feels!!

  33. There are cultural differences to be considered. There is a certain Southern California vanity that suffuses much of this world (primal/paleo/P90X etc…etc) which is fine. If I lived there enjoying the fine year round weather I’d probably buy into it.

    As it is I only wish to be healthy, I frankly couldn’t care less about how I look. (A&F ain’t gonna be calling me to pose in the spring catalog no matter what) If I thought I could be fat and healthy I’d be fine w/ that but that’s not possible.

    Looking better naked is a side effect for me, not a primary goal.

  34. Great article and good message. I will say though, it’s much easier to say that feeling good is not all about how you look, when you look good.

    Due to health issues (lyme, co-infections, more) I have gone from being an active person, working full time, flat stomach, 16% body fat, and muscle definition, to sitting around most of the time due to lack of energy, working part time from home when I can, about 24% body fat, very little muscle definition, and a constantly distended stomach. I am finding it difficult to feel good about myself right now although I am doing the best I can – in everything.

    1. Hang in there. At age 61 I just found out two months ago that I have been battling a mold/fungus/yeast infection in my sinus and probably my whole body for many years.

      The minute I started addressing this issue, the flabby tire around my middle disappeared in less than two weeks. 10+ pounds lost. My clothes fit sooo much better, no overhang and LGN, while not like someone in their 20,30,40s, is pretty amazing now.

      I have been living the LowCarb lifestyle for over 15 years and PB lifestyle for over 2 years, and while feeling great and performing well, I couldn’t get rid of that flab around my abdomen. Shock when just cleaning my sinuses with Nasosympatico let me be rid of my flab. Thank goodness!

      Now pray I can gain control over the Menieres symptoms that caused me to address my sinus issues.

  35. LGN is a bit like the peacock’s tail. We call it “vanity” because it seems to serve no purpose. But really, it does.

    To grow a proper peacock tail, the peacock has to be healthy, fit, nutritionally complete, and free of parasites and disease. That is why peahens are attracted to a fine tail. It’s not because the peahens are shallow or because the peacocks are vain, though it might seem that way at first.

    Same with human body aesthetics. Having lots of muscle mass and low body fat (but not too low) is a good thing because it correlates with health, fertility, strength, survivability, and all those factors that determine reproductive fitness. When we achieve LGN status, it’s because we’re very healthy indeed, even if it was only “vanity” that motivated us to get there.

    A little vanity can be a good thing, and perhaps that’s why it’s almost universal. Embrace it as part of your genetic legacy and make it work for you, rather than trying to stamp it out or letting it control you.

    1. Jeez, what a great response! While I appreciate Mark’s post for the Kumbaya, it’s all-good aspect of it, I feel a little patronized by it as well. The pursuit of a nice body is the pursuit of a healthier body. Some of us are closer to it than others that’s all.

    2. Wow, yes! I’ll admit, while I love reading the success stories here, I feel a little sub-par because I didn’t come to the Primal Blueprint to overcome disease. I was already really freaking healthy. I wanted to look good — I came across a fitness website that mentioned this kind of diet as a good way to lose fat. Turns out this is a great way for me to maintain my weight over the long-term without feeling deprived. The fact that I feel great was a secondary perk, but honestly, I came to this 2 1/2 years ago out of vanity, pure and simple. I feel less like a heathen now knowing I’m not alone.

  36. This article hits home Mark!
    I’ve ridden the the CW rollercoaster in the past, dropping 125lbs only to gain half of it back. While I have changed my lifestyle to primal, many of those CW idioms stick in my head. I’ve been increasing upset on dating sites as of late. As a bigger girl with much to loose (and actually working on it) I constantly feel out numbered by the skinny college girls that have been that way there whole life and the boys that chase them.
    It’s dawned on me that I really have to get back to loving myself and body, no matter what my size.

  37. I think with age comes wisdom and as we age the goal becomes more health oriented than looks; not that LGN isn’t a good thing it just becomes less important.

    The PB lifestyle change has been the best thing that has happened to me and my health. Finally, I can eat the food I love to eat without guilt (I was starving on WW)and my body is changing, the fat around the middle is slowly going away and the scale is showing weight loss. I am stronger and for the first time in my adult life (age 55, female) I can do 10 men’s pushups. For me the change is for my health, I am not going to be another overweight American taking prescription medications because I’m too lazy to make the changes that need to be made. I love PB and am happy looking ok in a one piece.

  38. After being an undiagnosed celiac for 38 years, and having a long hard recovery, I cannot say that my body is svelte…or even lean – autoimmune diseases are the devil, and tend to run together – thyroid issues have prevented me from losing as much weight as I would like, however, I am pretty sure that the primal blueprint diet is responsible for me still being alive and able to type this comment – I am still very much a work in progress and hopefully will continue to get better 🙂

  39. Being 51 I can definitely say that LGN is achievable, possible, inevitable…just take the time to retrain the body and the mind will appreciate the change, incidentally LGN is all in your own mind. For that I think you need to take the time to notice how this Primal lifestyle affects a lot more than how you look. How does it feel to be able to do 100 push ups, pull ups, cycle that 100ks…awesome….look yourself in the eye and appreciate what you see..not focus on the wrinkle or grey…

  40. “That’s what I love about the ancestral framework of the Primal Blueprint. It’s all about a rich, vigorous, and genuine life. It’s about respect for action – for true, useful, and pleasurable utility.”

  41. Right up my alley. If it weren’t for vanity, I can’t imagine how unhealthy I’d be! hahahahahah!!
    Thank you vanity.

  42. Love this post today. I was just noticing some changes in my body (abdominal area specifically) today. I’ve a long way to go to LGN, but it will eventually come!

  43. I am not so obsessed with body image anymore at all.
    I am obsessed with Nutrition!
    Everything I buy I inspect with a microscope before making the final purchase.
    I don’t waste good money on crap anymore, things I don’t need and foods that literally kill.
    I rather carry around 5-10 extra pounds that I know is pure nutrition storage, because of what I ate, than weighing in 5lbs under with 5% body fat knowing that if I do intermittent fasting I will lose bone because there is nothing to fall back on.
    Screw this ideal image obsession, I’ve said good-bye to it the day I discovered the Primal Blueprint.

    (p.s. lost 20 lbs though not even trying 🙂 )

  44. God didn’t create us to be skinny – He created us to be healthy.

    Most women lose their period at too low of a weight – points to the fact that our bodies know what’s healthy.

  45. Mark, This isn’t really about body image, but the images you post of yourself have a common feature that bothers me.

    I’m a physical therapist, an expert in human movement and posture. Each of your photos shows well developed and contracted abs. This has the effect of depressing your rib cage and pulling your shoulders forward.

    I don’t know if the camera just catches you this way, or if you walk around like this. If the latter, it’s not optimal and could potentially lead the various chronic pain conditions.

    Just wanted to let you know,
    Chris Johnson DPT

  46. Looking Good Naked is much more about feeling confident and healthy in one’s own skin than the cultural definition of “sexy” or “healthy”. Maybe you should modify it to be FEELING Good Naked. A lot of your readers are young, but those of us marking a half century can feel great about being naked even if we don’t have Sisson abs! 😉

    Frankly, I believe age is far more attractive than youth only because youth is all about young, taut, tight skin (all looking so much the same to me) where maturity brings wrinkles, ridges, and unique character of looks, expressions and ,more importantly, personality and humor. I always think of Ernest Borgnine – not a true beauty, but MAN – what character! Beauty IS skin deep.

    How discriminatory is the world? How discriminatory can the “paleo” world be? If you see an overweight person, do you pre-judge them? Are they eating the wrong food? Are they lazy and morally inferior? How do you know if they aren’t on the down side of their peak and have lost the kind of weight you couldn’t even imagine! They fight tooth and nail DAILY to lose weight that those of us more genetically dispositioned for find so much easier?

    Some of us are endowed with a thin gene – some are not. Women are naturally supposed to have more fat. Knock out a few babies and see how that affects your body.

    I happen to like curves on a woman. I am so proud of my wife because she FEELS better since we changed our lifestyle. She has lost a ton of weight, but more importantly she FEELS better naked if for no more of a reason than she has the energy to be naked (and enjoy it). But still – we walk down the road (on a healthy walk) and idiots stick their heads out of the window of passing cars to heckler her for being fat. They don’t know how far she has come to be out having a long walk to be 40 pounds less than she was 15 months ago.

    But really, is our paleo community more or less accepting of those that are overweight? Are we asking the right questions or jumping to conclusions like everyone else.

    Good post!

  47. Function. Today I accompanied someone in house hunting. One house had very low beds in the bedrooms and the conversation turned to how hard it is to get into or out of bed. I sat on the side of one of the beds and showed the others that I used to “have to use my arms to push myself up high enough for my knees to be able to pick me the rest of the way up.” The realtor watched and asked if I could get up easier now. I kneeled down on the floor and sat back on my feet then raised my hands over my head and stood up effortlessly. She was amazed that I could do that and started asking questions about how I’d accomplished the change. I was happy to tell her.

  48. “How about loving what your body has accomplished and what you can do today?”

    Inspiring words right there. Makes me remember swimming in the deep end as a little kid and being amazed at what my body could do, just by asking it. So maybe we should all revel in the little things more often to really appreciate what our bodies do on a daily basis. They truly are amazing.

  49. Great post!

    Just a thought: maybe our general community motivation to LGN as a prime motivator for many is not just our cultural stress on the value of appearance. Maybe it is in part that it is one of the only real remaining vestiges of our evolutionary selves to be sexually attractive. It is great to be able to run, jump, lift and climb in our modern lives, but it isn’t really necessary for survival anymore. What’s left? Look as sexy as somebody who could hunt a boar, carry it home, save your family from attack and carry children across the mountainside.

  50. Thank You Mark!!

    All to often we get wrapped up in what we think we should look like, and stop focusing on who were are, how we feel and what we do!

    Personally I love my body, its amazing what it does, pregnant for the third time it never ceases to amaze me! I kicked gestational diabetes out the door and feel great!!

    I look forward to getting my “body” back later and being able to keep up with my soon to be three kids! And really my major goal being Primal is about being the best I can be for them. I want to set a good example for them!

    So whether we look thin and trim, big and muscular or whatever in between, if we are happy and healthy and loving life!!! I say Grok On!

  51. Good article!! Alot of people dont understand that the “fit” images of today are airbrushed photoshop magazine photos. Its good to be a healthy weight and not rail skinny. I have been fighting and parkouring in combination for a while now and utility is all I focus on. Faster, stronger, longer, and the good looking mirror image follows. I keep this in mind every day when I look in the mirror: I can defend myself, I can get away, and I enjoy it.

  52. Amen to this one, too! A REAL life, never mind an image. Sure, I want to look better, but more importantly I want to be able to DO more! And enjoy it…

  53. I love this site because it gets your thinking adjusted. In this case I was just thinking this morning that I want that skinny high school volleyball player body. You know, the guys that are as skinny as greyhounds. Well I’m down from 190 to 165 lbs since getting serious with PB and thinking, “yeah it can be done”. But this article gave me the right outlook. Let your body define it’s ideal. Why should I cram it into a 150 lb body if that’s not it’s ideal? So along with eating right, I am trying to also eat the right amounts for my level of activity each day.

    As the PB motto goes, let you genes express themselves. It’ll be exciting to see what the body will finally morph into 🙂

  54. One of the sexiest men I know is my partner. He’s not a sculpted model; he’s a man who works hard in his own business every day, lifting and carrying and moving things, who also takes joy in playing, running with his dog, and hitting the gym because it’s fun to see how much iron you can haul off the floor. Has eating primal helped his body composition? Absolutely. But what it’s really allowed him to do is function better and get rid of the aches and fatigue that he was chalking up to getting older. He’s in better shape now and has more energy than a lot of guys 20 years younger. That energy, far more than his muscles, is what makes him so attractive.

    As for growing back limbs, not quite, but he did cut off the end of his finger with a saw a while ago. His doctor says that the post-reattachment healing went amazingly quickly and attributes that to a high level of overall health and the nutritional quality of the foods we eat. Primal might not regrow body parts, but it definitely helps when you mess them up really badly and need to recover from a serious injury.

  55. OMG, this article couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m 5’3″, 129lbs and a steady 20% bf…it will not drop. I’ve been Primal/Paleo for over 3 months now (no slips ups at all – swear!!) and it is not budging ;/ It’s very frustrating when I see blogs all day long about “I’ve been Paleo for 1 WEEK and I’ve lost 10 lbs already!” I’m like, Geez, that didn;t happen to me – I went from 23% or so to 19-20%. I do Crossfit 6 times a week (I <3 it!) and I'm getting stronger every WOD! But i would think that being Full Primal would have dropped my BF to around 15% or am I missing something? It's a bit frustrating…

    1. Don’t worry about numbers and focus on how you FEEL! Anything below 14%BF is unhealthy for women because that is considered essential fat. That is why women will not menstruate properly when they are below this. And as for others seeing more results, it is most likely because they had more bad habits to change. I know this is the case for many of my personal training clients and Boot Campers I’ve trained. Best of luck with your fitness goals and your happy and fit ever after!

  56. A tremendous message to send. You really sum it up: Authentic Vitality. That is what is important in life, not societies’ perception of who we should be.


  57. I’ve been primal for over 2 years. I am in the best shape of my life and think I look about as good as any 34-year-old woman who has had a child possibly could. I also feel great and am overall happy with myself. But…I’m getting breast implants in two months. It’s the one area of my body I just can’t do much about, and I figure silicone is about as primal as the Miraculous Bra from Victoria’s Secret. Only when I’m naked, there’s no bra to fix what having a baby and 18% body fat has done to my girls. 😉

  58. Thank you for all your great words and your positive outlook, Mark!

  59. Has anyone’s view of what’s attractive towards the opposite sex changed after going primal? Mine sure has. It used to be the standard hourglass (“BON-kyuu-BON” as they call it here in Japan) shape. Now, strangely enough, its exactly what Mark said here, and I find myself more attracted to women who look like they can DO things and have a good amount of strength and energy. Okay, if they have the “BON-kyuu-BON”, too, I certainly don’t complain, but the girls who don’t eat much to keep that figure are less attractive to me these days.

  60. I always thought I looked good naked, alone in front of the mirror in that special pose that flatters all women, with soft lighting from behind. But I was a big apple. Now I am turning back into a pear, with strong legs, butt, arms and back. I think it doesn’t matter what size clothes you wear, it is the shape you have. And a smile ofcourse!

  61. Sure, the Gym Jones guys look great and I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend that much time working on my body, but you know who I would rather be like? Mark, the unconquerable Dave and the badasses in the flickr photo stream (really though, it doesn’t get more badass than the GROK seal hanging off that truck in Iraq wearing his vibrams). Here’s what I know: I feel better eating this way, I’m leaner, I’m happier and I’m not as focused on aesthetics. That’s worth a lot to me. It has given me my life again.

  62. Funny thing is, I’ve always felt that I looked better naked than in clothes. I have a petite, fleshy figure where most clothing tends to create lumps and bumps that aren’t really there. So I work out to look good dressed. 😀

    (If anything, it’s an even better motivator, because I can’t walk around naked most of the time.)

  63. There was this foraging Native tribe long ago that were super duper “metrosexual”, if you will. European settlers noted that they smelled and looked better than civilized folks. The men would also spend a majority of their time grooming and cleaning, plucking out every single body hair with clam shells.

  64. All I can say is: YAY! MARK! for covering this topic! I noticed all kinds of comments…some still obsessed with finding something wrong with their body…THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT EMBRACING YOUR body, LET GO of the tirade of “disappointed how you look naked”…We have these beautiful bodies- they are such a gift! LOVE IT, cherish it, take care of it, have fun it in! Woo hoo! LGN is in the mind- “proud of how I care for me!” attitude!

  65. I am 42 and think I look as good as I ever have, and am one of those people who has always been pretty fit.

    However – I started a primal diet mostly the past year and xfit a couple months ago and am going from a pretty good looking twit to a stronger, healthier and full-of-energy twit :>)

    I find typically folks are motivated to change their body appearance via diet and exercise. If they notice results externally, they believe they are successful. Look at those J Crew models…success???

    I’ve observed some people following this lifestyle (granted, reasonably newer to it) that appear somewhat overweight BUT I bet they are much healthier than me (stronger, better endurance, better immunity to sickness and disease).

    Quality of life is my motivation. I think that naturally, the human body will form to the activities it’s exposed to and if it doesn’t look like a model in a catalog – good. I also like surrounding myself with those that can kill a hog, run it up a mountain and eat it over a fire :>)

  66. The point of this article is better summed up by discussing the opposite case.

    What is the body image of the growing number of obese people in this country and world.

    In a word: Denial

    And that single word has caused so much damage (and collateral damage) in so many lives for so long, it really invalidates any argument for the contrary.

    Body image is intimately tied to self image, just as our body carries our ‘self’. Self image is what drives us to be healthy, good, caring, loving, selfless, honest, and ultimately happy in our bodies. These concepts are unassailable.

    Great article!

  67. To the people who can’t manage to reassure the overweight without insulting thin people, be assured that your snarks aren’t holy things, above the snarks aimed at fat. They’re just as rude and obnoxious, just as small-minded.

    I’m one of those “sticks.” I’m very thin, but I dare anyone to be around when I eat and call me anorectic. I have a very enthusiastic appetite. And does being able to do up to eighteen pull-ups in a set sound “fragile” to you?

  68. Word to the idea that the point of our bodies is to provide function, fulfillment, and enjoyment. I am new to this whole Primal Blueprint thing (my boyfriend is a fanatic) but the one thing I’ve latched on to and that has inspired me to begin changing my lifestyle and mentality is that I can feel and look good (great even…) by using my body according to its nature. I am now empowered not to succumb to the ridiculous, mind-warping lies propogated by magazines and ads which are invested in making me believe that I’m not good enough and never will be without their pills or fad diets. I am strong and vibrant and capable. And, my body reflects that every time I add more weight to that squat rack, or carry my computer bag, textbooks, and load of grading up the hill to my classroom, or see the look in my man’s eyes when I walk into the room scantily clad…!!! Thanks for the inspiration Mark and all!