The Pain and Stiffness Disappeared and Has Never Returned

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!

Dear Mark,

Although you are totally unaware of it, you and I just celebrated our second anniversary. It was two years ago, February of 2011, that I was introduced to you. At the time, you were nothing but an experiment, a fling if you will, but now you are among the most important men in my life. No, I’m not really flirting with you. I’m a 54 year old teacher from the Midwest, married, mother of four and grandmother of two. But now that I have your attention, here’s the rather unremarkable story of my two-year Primal journey.

I’ve always had an interest in healthy eating and fitness. I have read most of the books, tried a lot of diets, and done a variety of fitness activities, and every one of them ran its course to be followed by something new. Two years ago my older son, Adam, started telling me about this blog he was reading where this guy had ten basic rules for living like the cavemen lived. He was intrigued and was set to try the eating plan as an experiment for Lent. I thought I might just give it a try as well. Adam is a high school science teacher, so all the science information he’d been reading on this blog really clicked with him. I’m an English teacher, so I skimmed the science and paid close attention to the summarizing paragraph and asked my son a lot of questions. I downloaded The Primal Blueprint and read it immediately as well as spending a lot of time on Mark’s Daily Apple. Since I was in the Lenten mode of self-sacrifice, the new eating style really came pretty easily. Then came Easter. My time of “sacrifice” was ended, but I no longer felt like I was sacrificing anything. By then it was my new lifestyle.

Bear in mind, that the Primal lifestyle was basically an experiment for me; I had no real goals for weight loss or improved health. I just wanted to see what it was like and what might happen. I was not particularly overweight – 5’5 ½” tall, about 145 pounds, size 8. But after a few weeks, pounds started dropping off, and the little aches and pains I had been noticing disappeared. I never realized how bloated I felt until the feeling was gone. The most notable difference was in the pain and stiffness I had been experiencing in my fingers. The pain would wake me up in the night, and in the morning I could barely wrap my fingers around my toothbrush. As the day progressed, the pain subsided, and I just attributed it to being in my 50s. At some point during that six-week experiment, that pain and stiffness disappeared and has never returned. Knees don’t hurt like they used to. Mid-afternoon energy crashes are non-existent.

Kathy - Deadlifting 130 lbs

I say that I had adopted the Primal lifestyle, but in reality during the first several months it was mostly the Primal eating style that I embraced. I used to be a twenty-mile-a-week runner, but I had given that up because of back pain, so at this point my exercise consisted of walking. I had the “moving frequently at a slow pace” part down pat, but it took some time to get myself on the rest of the program. That’s where my younger son comes into the picture. Aaron had become a CrossFitter and was often telling me how much I would like it if I tried it. My response was always that I was too old… until October of 2011 when I finally joined in the boot camp program at the gym. In January 2012 my husband and I both jumped into the CrossFit classes, and we’ve been doing 3-4 CrossFit workouts per week ever since. Mark, you are so right about lifting heavy things! It not only has changed my body, but it feels so empowering to be able to back squat my own body weight, lift barbells over my head, climb up a rope or do a bunch of handstand pushups. I consider the short, highly intense workouts that last only a few minutes to be my sprint. While I love the gym atmosphere and the progress I’ve made over my past year in CrossFit, I don’t do CrossFit just so I can do more CrossFit. I do it so I can do whatever I want to do with confidence that my body has the strength and flexibility to handle it. Last summer I went whitewater rafting on the Chatooga River with my two daughters (exactly the section where the movie Deliverance was filmed), and I won my age group in a 5-K race with no real running training. Earlier this month my husband and I went stand-up paddleboarding when we were on a trip to St. Thomas. Who knows what else I’ll try!

Kathy and Husband - Summer 2012 in Destin

Speaking of that trip to St. Thomas, we traveled with people we have known for over 25 years but see infrequently. It was so gratifying to hear their comments about how I look better than ever. My current weight is 128, I wear a size 4 or sometimes a 2, and I do not hesitate to hit the beach wearing a bikini.

My Primal journey hasn’t been about a dramatic weight loss. It has been about some easy-to-do lifestyle changes that I expect to make the next few decades an entirely different life story than they might have otherwise been. That’s why you are on the list of “most important men in my life,” Mark. I’m really glad you came into my life – figuratively speaking, of course.



I wrote to you recently telling you about my two years as a Primal, and I have a quick update.

I allowed my son/trainer to talk me into registering for the CrossFit Open although I felt kind of silly doing it. It was my hope that I could make it through the first workout because I figured it would start with something all body weight and would soon advance beyond my abilities. Well, I did 13.1 on Friday and scored 142. Because I will turn 55 before the Open ends, I was put into the 55-59 Masters Women category, so I got to use lighter weights on the snatches. But here’s the really crazy part. As of right now I am in 17th place in the North Central Region. I still know that I won’t be able to do everything they throw at us in the Open, but I’m having fun with it right now!

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102 thoughts on “The Pain and Stiffness Disappeared and Has Never Returned”

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  1. Kathy, you rock! Absolutely love your story. You look so healthy and happy. Your story really resonated with me – it doesn’t always take a life-changing event to want to have a better life. A regular life can be improved, too, and you’ve certainly improved yours. Congratulations!!

      1. That arthritis improvement is a biggie, that was actually really good to hear.

        For me, the aches, pains and chronic injuries in are probably the worst part of modern sedentary life… and they often take a lot more fixing than eating healthy and working out :/

  2. I’m in the contemplation stage of the “stages of change” model, however the friday success stories are inching me towards making the leap to go “Primal”!

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Jump, Jason! Jump! Do the 21 day challenge then reassess your life. I loved the Mind App post from yesterday to help push the change along too. At the end of 21 days you’ll know. But the longer you wait to start, the longer you wait to achieve the healthy life you want. Jump!

    2. Go for it Jason, Give it 2-3 months, you’ll be thrilled with the results.

    3. Primal feels awesome. 21 days out of your life isn’t that long, either 😉

    4. What on earth are you waiting for? You like feeling weak, heavy, and sluggish? Quit being afraid and just do it.

  3. So awesome! You look great, but the important part is that you FEEL great and you have muscles that will protect you and take you to many more places in life. Congrats!

  4. Wow! What an inspiring story, and you look so strong and fantastic! I’m in my upper 40s and was thinking I was too old for CrossFit, too, but now you’re giving me second thoughts about that. Hmm.

  5. Great story Kathy! Thanks for the little motivating boost this morning. Nothing like a 55 year old woman competing in crossfit to get ya going for your own workout!

    Good luck as you continue with the open!

    1. Thanks! I just finished my 13.5 workout this morning with a score of 45. I’m considering redoing it because I think I can go faster on the thrusters. I never expected to make it through all 5 workouts! There is no such thing as too old for CrossFit. The older we get, the more we need it to keep the strength and mobility we want.

  6. Fantastic story! The understated tone makes it all the more compelling. Kinda like Keanu Reaves acting a scene versus Robert Duvall. I love how you demonstrate the straightforward, very tangible results. And best of all, in your update, the phrase: “I’m having fun!”. I think that says it all.

  7. My girlfirend has been looking for someone to look up to, I think if I show her this it might do the trick, great story!

  8. From having a hard time with a toothbrush to Crossfit – awesome!

  9. Wow Kathy – you look amazing in that bikini – jealous much, me?! Well done!

  10. That’s awesome! I’m 33 and I wish I was as fit as you are – gotta go lift more heavy things 🙂

    1. +1, 45 and just starting to work on the exercise, weights part of primal living — GREAT STORY!!

  11. Good gracious, woman!! You look fabulous!!! I would not call your story unremarkable at all. Where most people see hitting their mid-fifties as a time to embrace the aches and the weariness and the medications as just a “natural” part of aging, you have turned back the clock big-time! I’m working on my first year anniversary with Mark myself and have learned so much about my body through this blog and these Friday stories. Your story just makes me more ready to turn 50 than ever. If I can hit 50 doing half of what you’re doing, I will be in better shape than I have ever been by far. I am so glad to know it is never too late to rock those abs! Kathy, you are my new hero!

  12. Great job Kathy. This shows how us boomers are not ready for the couch just yet! You look strong, feminine, joyful, energetic and happy. Rock on!

  13. Oh, and I forgot to add, thanks for the info about Crossfit. I’m your age and have been hesitating about joining Crossfit in my town. I’m in okay shape, especially now that the aches are gone with my new eating habits. Crossfit is appealing but intimidating all at once. I think I’ll grab the next Groupon and try it out. Again, thanks for sharing your inspirational life!

  14. This is so inspirational! Great story and thanks for sharing.

  15. Rockin’! I’m 54, too, with a somewhat similar story. Never woulda been caught dead in a bikini til a year ago, thanks to all this. I became an “avid cyclist” with the newfound energy and fitness it engenders. Now I climb mountains in the Rockies on my beautiful bicycle and chase my racer buddies around. ;0) Speaking of which, it’s a nice day, and the road is calling….

  16. Kathy, you look great! This is so inspiring, I hope I look half as good as you when I’m your age, and enjoy life just as much. No limits!

  17. Wow, you do look great, I guess you are never too old. The part where you said my knees don’t hurt like they used to, is what really caught my attention, I am unfamiliar with The Primal Blueprint so thanks for the tip, i will be checking it out.

  18. I hate how people think at a size 8 they aren’t fat or overweight. It’s like men with a size 32 waist, just plain fat! Great job. This is what 60 year olds should look like, not listening to dr oz. as for your husband Kathy, clearly his picture shows the effect of doing crossfit without dieting. Better start inspiring that guy before he has a heart attack. By the way I had my success story posted here a while back and people commented how fat I looked when I thought I looked great. Now looking back my after pictures on the inspiration story show me a work in progress. I thought I looked good back then, but now those pictures disgust me. Grok on Patty, and good luck in your continued crossfit open contest.

    1. wow, 32 inch waist is Fat? I will never have a 32 inch waist. Last time I was in great shape, I was 34-36. not saying I had a 6-pack but close, certainly not fat.

      1. If you didn’t have a 6-pack you were fat. Fat is defined in many ways. Some people think they have to look like they have a pregnancy belly to be fat. Anything however on your abs that doesn’t give you a skin tight 6 pack, not the fat 6 pack I had in my success story, is fat. That fat will cause harm to your body and makes you susceptible to illness (the common cold to cancer).

  19. I lost the aches and pains in my fingers, too! I wish I could convince my boyfriend that his arthritis is not normal. Oh well, we just gotta do the right thing without them sometimes.

  20. AWESOME! Great job Kathy!
    Keep up the good work!!
    I love Friday stories..
    Have a safe weekend everyone.


  21. “I never realized how bloated I felt until the feeling was gone.”
    “Mid-afternoon energy crashes are non-existent.”
    yep & Yep!!! that was me too & we’re the same age 🙂
    Well, i definately need to lift more…

    1. +1 I think this often happens when people eliminate wheat. They say they had no idea what feeling awesome felt like… until they started feeling awesome 😀

  22. What a good writer! I can tell you are an English teacher, and a very good one I am sure. The writing style is excellent, like soft rain against the window while the sun is shining, and you know that when you go out you will see a rainbow.

  23. Do it, Jason! Do it!

    Kathy, thank you for sharing your great story. We are almost the same age, so I am especially excited to read about your journey. And I feel the same way about Mark. 🙂

  24. Not only was this another great encouraging story but also very entertaining. Thanks Kathy for taking the time to make us laugh and tell us about your journey!

  25. What a great story! I just wish my own mother, who was also a teacher, had been able to learn about this way of eating. Sadly, after years of pain and frustration spent ping-ponging between the Standard American Diet and the “dieting industry” of cutting fat, she succumbed to cancer at 51.

    If only she had known.

    I’m just a month into my own primal journey, and I keep finding so much more to inspire me. Including your story! Thank you for sharing, and way to rock that bikini!

  26. Great story, Kathy! You are a great example that we boomers have a choice — embrace the “normal” aches, pains and deterioration of aging or give ourselves license to discover what our bodies can do and get more enjoyment out of life. Grok on!!

  27. Kathy, you look wonderful. I am just over 60 and have recently started going paleo. I have the food sorted out all except my yogurt which I have just got some kefir grains so I will be experimenting with coconut milk later today. Fingers crossed. I want to ask a silly question. Has anybody regained their hair colour after going paleo?

    1. My mom (age 79) went from completely white hair to quite a bit of dark hair around her face and on her neck after going primal. She didn’t get all the color back but it’s definitely enough to be noticed.

  28. Just sent it to my mom. She is starting to get arthritis, and I am trying to get her to commit to Paleo/Primal lifestyle full on. I am hoping she can get a lot of improvement like you did!

  29. wow, you look fabulous! i’m in the midst of raising 3 young children, and this gives me hope and inspiration for the next decades! it sounds like you have a great relationship with your children in that you’re open to their ideas and let them influence you in positive ways. how neat–i don’t have that kind of relationship with my parents, so it’s great to hear about.

  30. What does your husband think about Paleo/Primal and your transformation?

    1. I started it first, but my husband has joined me in both the primal lifestyle and CrossFit. He’s looking and feeling pretty good, too!

  31. Thanks, Kathy, so much for your great story! I’m a 60-something retired teacher and most of the stories I see here are from young people. I’m delighted for them, but so glad to see this works for someone who started in their mid-fifties. Gives me hope! You and I are the same height and nearly the same weight but I wear a size 12!! I hate to admit it, but the belly fat won’t budge even though I’ve been grain free over six months. I walk, bike and swim but need to do the “lift heavy things” but with several herniated discs and some nerve damage, have been hesitant. There are just some things with the aging body that we have to approach more carefully and, Mark, I hope you might take that up in a blog post, or hey, even a book! I need to learn how to strengthen core muscles without injuring myself. Thanks, Kathy! I want to know that we are never too old to start working to get the strong body we want, and need, for our 70’s and beyond.

    1. Laurie,
      I’m only 32 but I have degenerative disk disease in my neck and lower back and possibly a disk that is prone to herniate. I struggled with my back pain for over a decade and finally went and had it diagnosed last year, lost of money and the only answer was medication (if I wanted) and the suggestion to do aerobic exercise. I decided to try crossfit because all the people that do it look as good as Kathy and the exercises are short, lol. Crossfit has strengthened my core and drastically reduced my spinal discomfort. Don’t be afraid to go try it, the coaches will tailor it to you and make sure that you are doing the exercises correctly, just tell them about your condition and your concerns. every crossfit movement is a core builder so its excellent for overall fitness, you will discover muscles you never knew you had.

      1. Thanks, Phil. I’ll look into it. My impression was that everyone in CrossFit was less than half my age and maybe it just was not for an “older” body! But I’m game to try!

    2. Kathy your story is well written and inspiring! I love Fridays.

      Laurie, I happened to find a great core program for people with low back pain, after looking for a long time. Like you, I had pretty bad back pain. I have been doing the program for 2 months and so far so good – maybe Crossfit is in my future. Kathy has inspired me. I think the site is

      1. Thanks, Gaby and Awestra. I have done some Pilates mat work and that is very helpful but I have to go at it slowly or end up in pain. Not to make excuses! I love to swim, bike and walk with a few sprints now and then, but need to find something for toning that doesn’t cause a lot of pain (a little I can handle!). And most importantly I need someone to tailor a program for me and help me until I can really do it on my own… Without money for a trainer, I’m afraid.

    3. You could also try barre method classes. True barre classes are designed with ergonomic movements, and they used to be physical therapy for injured dancers. Since the exercises are designed for people with injuries, they tend to be very low impact.

      I can tell you though, it changes your body. My core, butt, legs, arms…they are all longer, leaner, and more toned – just from a couple months of classes.
      On top of that, it’s fun and can help build your balance and flexibility.

  32. Way to go! Looking great is just a nice side effect to feeling great. Muscle-building is so important, especially as age, to help protect our joints and bones. You are an inspiration, indeed.

  33. You look marvelous! At 53, my husband and I have been Primal for two and a half years and everyone tells us we are aging backwards. No, hair color has not come back. But we feel great and feel that aging is no excuse for deterioration!

  34. Who says when you’re “over the hill” that downhill is the only option? Just go find another hill, right!? You are amazing.

  35. sweet, that’s awesome, congratulations! still trying to do the cross fit thing, or at least be motivated to go after work. I have the eating and walking down so thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  36. Wow! I just logged on here to see if there were any comments, and I am blown away by the wonderful things people have been saying. Thank you so much!

    1. Let’s see your husbands success story next instead of that obese man in your after pictures. Way to go!

      1. My husband’s before pictures would show that he has made and continues to make big improvements. We’re all works in progress.

        1. He is a troll, don’t bother with him. Thieves on negativity.

  37. Fantastic story – I love Fridays’ Success stories they are so motivating. I have just found a cross-fit gym in my corner of England & your story has enthused me to give it a try, not just peek at their website. Thank tou.

  38. You look wonderful!!! I’ve been afraid to try Crossfit for the same reasons as some of the others who commented here. Now I’m going to look for one near me. Thanks for the inspiration and keep up the good work!

  39. I love reading success stories, but Oh. My. Gawd. You’re 54? I know 30-somethings who look older than you. Heck, I just turned 30 and I’m a little jealous of how amazing you look! You’re my hero!

    BTW, nice hair!

  40. So well done, Kathy!

    I admire your courage to set foot in a CrossFit gym. Even though it’s said that CrossFit is scalable and everyone’s welcome, it still can be an intimidating scenario!

    How good that the PB relieved your aches and pains. It did the same for me. So great, you know, to heal with food rather than medicine. And so great to get beyond the belief that “this is just how it is.”

    Really great work. You look beautiful.


  41. My right hand and arm used to feel swollen/stiff and now it is gone for me too. I am probably only about 60% paleo, I have dropped the wheat (Lent helped) but not the sugar and I am not fond of vegtables at all (but I love eggs). It is interesting to see someone my age and compare notes, so thanks for sharing.

  42. Great story! I’ve been trying to get my mom to lift weights too! anyway I can get your son to talk to her too?

  43. I love Fridays. It is remarkable how undramatic success stories can be so, … well.. dramatic. It goes to show that people who think they are fine can still improve with Primal living.

    Kathy, you look awesome and your success proves that this lifestyle can benefit people of all ages and conditions even if they think they are ok, there is room to improve.

    Thanks for sharing.

  44. Great story and no less inspirational just because Kathy did not suffer from compulsions or disorders (frankly sometimes such details I could do without), just a relatively normal and healthy person who made a commitment to go to new levels of health and vitality. She looks great!

  45. Wow Kathy, congratulations. You look fabulous! You must feel very very proud of yourself. I bet when people ask your age you don’t mind telling them either! Keep up the excellent work and good luck with the rest of the Crossfit comp. I am the same age as you and altough I am making great progress I think you will be my role model from here on!

    Love Saturday mornings (in Oz) !!!!!

  46. I am also your age and super inspired by your story. I had great success early on but now have stalled and this is just what I needed to get back to it.

  47. Good to see you here and you have done a great job, really looking ripped! My wife and I are 58 and 56 and primal for the last 6 months. We were only moderately overweight but we had smoked for 40 years and were starting to feel old and decrepit. It was surprisingly easy to turn that around with the clean diet and moderate exercise program and we haven’t felt or looked this good in years. Also a huge improvement in our outlook about aging, we are proud to tell folks how old we are!
    I was looking at Crossfit recently myself, I think I will take your recommendation and get down there soon, thanks.

    My most basic fitness activity is walking my dogs daily but my passions are doing stand up paddle and dog-towed skateboarding, kiteboarding season is coming up soon and I will hook up again with all my sixty something friends who are into that. Life’s a gas when you keep moving and keep grooving…

  48. Totally awesome! you are an inspiration to everyone you meet, i am sure!

  49. I agree with you. Lifestyle has so much to do with our health. If you want to stay healthy be responsible with the right choice of food and activities in your life

  50. good job! if you are interested in paleo diet book just click this- now 70% off. I highly recommend it

  51. Hi Kathy. Because of you, I went to my first CrossFit session today. Thanks for the inspiration! Pen

    1. That is awesome! Thanks for sharing that and good luck! Just remember you won’t always be as sore as you are at first and don’t give up.

      1. Three sessions in and loving it! Was always scared of free weights before, but it’s all about the technique, right? Maybe I’ll enter the Open next year too…

        Oh, and I sent your story to my mum, who I have managed to convince to eat pretty Primal, but who has a mental block over any exercise beyond walking. Hopefully you can inspire her too!

  52. I totally relate to this. My husband and I decided to try a primal diet this lent. Well, lent ended last weekend, but we’re sticking with it. After 40 days, we love how we feel and it doesnt feel difficult anymore.

  53. Hey Kathy, that’s very inspiring! I have been paleo for 2 years also, but I have about 9 years on you, at 64. My arthritis also is much improved, stamina, no exhaustion or sleepy-times, no asthma, not much in the way of allergies. My gardening projects (lift heavy things, stretch, hack and throw) do not wipe me out anymore. I am so used to it now, I have forgotten how far my body has healed! It breaks my heart that my sister will not look into paleo, as she sits eating her bran muffin and drinking her fresh squeezed orange juice, reading her favorite Guru, Jane Brody, in the New York Times about “healthy eating.” She has arthritis, a new hip, high blood pressure, blood sugar swings, is overweight and melanomas are appearing now. But I am the one who is ruining her health!!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  54. What a great story I’ll be 63 in September and this gives me the motivation to get back in shape .

    Thanks John

  55. Kathy, that is great what you’ve done! I do Crossfit, too, I’m 50, and started at 49, but have been doing sports, weights, and working out forever…and I have tons of issues, degenerative disk problems in neck and lower back, nerve damage, asthma, and more which I won’t bore you with. However, I’ve really let my eating and drinking go and have put on a lot of weight, so I finally got on the scale today and am going to get back into my clothes in the next couple of months!

    But I wanted to encourage those scared or reluctant to try Crossfit. I would recommend doing a lot of stretching before class and also not worrying about or let the coaches push you into doing heavy weights right away. Best to ease into it and get the form and let your muscles get warmed up to it, so you don’t hurt yourself or be too sore (and quit!). Believe me, you’ll still be getting exercise.

    I also wanted to mention that I recently found out that there is a Crossfit gym near my parents that is just for people aged 50+. I want to get my parents, whom are 72 and 73 to go there, and also to get them to cut out the grains and go (somewhat) primal/paleo. They are verry stubborn to do anything that I suggest…and would rather suffer their arthritis, headaches, stomach problems, skin problems, high bp, high cholesterol, and overweight…and blame it on age, gender, runs in the family, etc.

    If you want to take a look at what this Crossfit is doing, here is the website and a video of what this place is about. Maybe there is a place offering masters/50+ classes in your area…

  56. Going “primal” is fairly new to me, but so far (2 weeks) I feel great. Thanks for sharing all of this. I’m digging up all the inspiration I can right now.

  57. Thanks for sharing your amazing story with us, Kathy.

    I turned 70 last month and hope I look as young as you do when I grow up. I started PB (in October) to lose weight and LGN but I find I’m feeling so much better, sleeping better, and wake up alert and raring to go now. I just did not want to settle for the “that’s just how old age is mentality.” I also refuse to take medications for issues that can be treated/eliminated through nutrition and exercise.

    The excess weight will come off I know as I get into the exercise portion of the PB lifestyle. Already lost 10 lbs. with a gazillion left to my goal weight.

    Thank you for inspiring us all.

    Grok On! 🙂

    1. Just want to add that I don’t think your husband looks obese in that picture either. Looks pretty good to me in fact.

      At lease he’s not opposing your PB efforts. Carry on… 🙂