Paleo Women are Phat

Disclaimer:  this is not a post meant to be saying that lean women aren’t healthy or fertile. I just don’t like the fact that intelligent women who aren’t lean, but are also quite healthy, are afraid to educate others about nutrition because they don’t ‘look Paleo enough’. If you choose to pursue your ideal body type, then right on! Just please don’t judge other women for not having the same goals, genetics, or life circumstances for achieving the same physical appearance. Thanks for reading! 🙂

This post has been a long time coming, so excuse the rant. 

I think the Paleo community needs to take a step back and reevaluate our priorities as far as health and fitness go – specifically for women. I was horrified to see this comment posted by an anonymous internet user on Nom Nom Paleo’s blog post  during our trip to Austin for PaleoFX:

“One question, and I know this will likely come out wrong and I may even regret going there, but I have to put it out there: I can’t help but notice that, while the men all are lean and mean, most of the female Paleo figureheads aren’t, well, quite so lean.What do you think? Am I way off the mark? If not, why do you think this is?”

So me being the excessively opinionated, doesn’t-take-sh*t-from-anyone type of person I am, I decided I had to respond:

“Maybe because women aren’t designed to be lean. Otherwise why would they lose the ability to ovulate when they drop below a certain body fat percentage? I’m pretty sure fertility is a pretty significant measure of health in a woman. Your comment is extremely ignorant.”

Ok, so maybe I got a little too sassy with that response. But seriously, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and that post just put me over the edge.

I don’t consider myself to be ‘lean’ whatsoever. Sure, I work out a fair amount and eat extremely nutrient -dense food, but I’m currently a size 8 and probably about 10-15 pounds heavier than my (completely superficial) ‘ideal body weight’. For a long time, it really bothered me that I was constantly struggling with that last 10+ pounds. I’d lose it, maintain for a bit, and then something stressful would happen and I’d just gain it all right back. Totally frustrating, and very disheartening. It really made me very self-conscious about the way I look, considering I purport to have a high level of nutrition knowledge.

These kind of “why aren’t Paleo women lean” comments are extremely hurtful to people like me who work really hard to not only be adequately nourished, but also spend more time reading and writing about nutrition than we spend working out or weighing and measuring our food. Not everyone has the time it takes to dedicate oneself to achieving a ridiculous level of fitness. And yes, for most women, getting a six pack generally takes an extreme level of dedication to restrictive eating and consistent intense exercise.

Is that a 14 pack? Can't say I've ever seen a woman in real life who looks like this...

The sad part, though, is that this extreme level of criticism about women’s bodies has been enough to stress me out about attending events like PaleoFX or becoming more prominent in the Paleo community, because I’m concerned people are going to judge me for how I look. As much as I was excited to attend PaleoFX, I was also really nervous that people would see that I wasn’t in perfect physical shape and therefore discredit the knowledge I have regarding nutrition and health. It was something that made me extremely self-conscious as I was preparing for my trip. And I’m not the only one who feels this way either; Diane and Liz discussed this issue on their most recent Balanced Bites podcast. Despite the fact that Liz is one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever met, she still feels like she doesn’t fit people’s expectations for the way a ‘Paleo’ woman is supposed to look.

So, does it bother anyone else that women like me and Liz have anxiety attending events like PaleoFX because we’re worried about people judging us for our body size?

Is this what we want, for intelligent women to be afraid of getting involved in leadership roles because they don’t feel like they’re lean enough to fit the part? I think it’s really ridiculous that people would espouse a diet based on evolutionary biology, and yet not understand why the women who follow the diet would have a visible level of body fat. Considering how many female athletes and body builders don’t menstruate and are therefore unable to bear children, we’ve got to realize that the notion of a woman having a six pack is probably not biologically appropriate. And isn’t the whole point of this Ancestral diet to support optimum levels of health, vitality, and ultimately fertility?

Ancient fertility art. No six-pack here!

I don’t care if a woman has a certain body fat percentage goal that she’s working towards, as long as she realizes the sacrifice in fertility she may be making. And I’m aware that certain women have the genetic propensity to be very lean and muscular. That said, I think people in the Paleo community need to start acknowledging the fact that a woman who is healthy and fit for pregnancy is ultimately going to have a decent amount of body fat, which ideally should be around 26-28%. That’s a decent amount of junk in the trunk.

I’m not usually one to show pictures to demonstrate ‘what a woman should look like’, but I know we all like throwing around Marilyn Monroe as a prototype for the ideal. Well, judging from these pictures, would any of you say that Marilyn is ‘lean and mean’?

Back squat perhaps? Get it, girl!

Fortunately, I’ve noticed that when I bring this topic up to the more intellectually evolved men in the Ancestral health movement, they seem to agree that women are generally most attractive when they’re ‘festively plump’. At PaleoFX I had a pretty long conversation about this with George from Civilized Caveman, and I was shocked (and impressed) that he was adamant about women looking better when they have a decent level of body fat to speak of. Truthfully, from my own experience, I always had the feeling most men have this idea that a woman is only sexy when she has flat abs and thin, toned thighs, but it’s great that there are reasonable men out there that understand and appreciate what a woman is biologically designed to look like.

My final point in all of this is that regardless of what a woman looks like, I think we all need to take a step back and think about what is worth pursuing in our lives. I think its really easy to get distracted by chasing a certain level of attractiveness, but at some point we need to realize that there is so much more to life than looking amazing. And I personally am trying my best to move past being self conscious about the way I look, and realizing that I have more to offer the world than a ‘perfect’ body.

 To emphasize that point, here is a list of all the things I would give up having a perfect body to have in my life, inspired by my favorite ‘Ancestralized’ women:

  • Having the ability to understand complicated nutritional biochemistry (while still looking 20 years younger than she actually is) like my mom, Pamela Schoenfeld.
  • Being courageous enough to be bold about demonstrating an awe-inspiring level of passion for public health and nutrition, like Adele Hite.
  • Having a wonderful husband who not only is a good man, but absolutely adores me, like Liz Wolfe.
  • Being strong enough to crank out a muscle-up, like Diane Sanfilippo.
  • Being able to make anyone laugh with an infectious sense of humor, like Nom Nom Paleo.
  • Having the knowledge and ability required to run my own sustainable, organic farm, like Diana Rodgers.
  • Being able to raise beautiful children, in spite of former life set-backs, like Stacy Toth.
  • Having cooking skills worth writing a cookbook about, like Hayley Mason.
  • Being able to take down any know-it-all scientist (or vegan) using science based epidemiological logic, like Denise Minger.

All I’m trying to say, ladies, is that there is so much more we have to offer the world than our looks, or our bodies. I’m still struggling to get past my own self-consciousness regarding my less-than-perfect appearance, but I hope all the women out there reading this post will join me in working towards valuing our brains, our strength, and our loving friends and family much more than we value our physique.

And for the general Paleo community, let’s take our intellectual capabilities up a notch when deciding what we think women are supposed to look like. If you respect nature and evolutionary biology, you should respect the fact that women are designed to have a certain level of body fat, and it’s 100% acceptable for the female Paleo figureheads to not look like Sports Illustrated bikini models.

I look forward to hearing comments from you all regarding this serious issue in the Paleo community!

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  1. Laura, THIS is what blogging is all about! FANTASTIC post and I’m SO honored to be on your list and call you a friend! <3

      1. What an ugly, fat b-tch you are, Laura…Just look at your fat face–it looks like a jellyfish drying on a beach (and you can pass for a man if you cut hair), I mean (it can’t be just aging alone). I bet your arse looks like your face–jiggly crapload of cottage cheese haha. You look weak, fat and pathetic. No wonder you have to wear the dress to cover thunder thighs. You’re fat. Stop posting excuses. It might fly in your local bumpkinsville, but generally it just doesn’t fly. And posting that bunny M. Monroe as an example…no wonder you’re a poor brainwashed amerikan fattie.

    1. This was an extremely well written and much needed post on paleo/women. Since I’ve started eating a Paleo diet and stopped exercising obsessively (a little over a month), even though I haven’t gained weight per se, I’ve noticed my body redistributing weight in a more womanly fashion…And you know what? I kinda dig it. thanks for saying what needs to be SCREAMED in the face of the prepubescent ideal. really, thank you.

    2. I know I am a very late comer, but just saw this post on PaleoCupboard today.
      Love this post! It speaks to all of the insecurities that women have that are caused by other’s perception of what the perfect female body should be! We need to NOT listen to anything but our own body, mind and heart. Not everyone will ever achieve the look of the ridiculously toned six pack, ultra-lean pictures posted by Crossfit and Paleo Miracle and many others that make us feel as if we have failed because we don’t look like that! Why should we need to?! Eat clean, eat healthy, don’t overindulge in anything, exercise some and your healthy body will find its natural weight and form based on what you’ve done to change and your basic genetic make up!
      At 57 years old, after 3 kids, c-section, old up and down kind not bikini cut, I’m never getting a look anything like I’ve seen. I began my journey to healthy eating with the help of many of these women (and a couple of men) I’m eating healthy, feeling good, have lost 20 lbs without trying and I have no health problems and would like to keep it that way! I take no medications, have optimal BP and a BMI of 18 according to whatever tests my MD used for measuring! I am not thin, 5’9″ 155# and wear a 10, 12, or 14 depending on who makes the clothes! Who is making these judgements on beautiful women who help other beautiful women to achieve health through clean Paleo and Primal eating tips, recipes, exercise tips etc! Rock on all of them!

  2. Great article! I thought all of the women I saw in pics at PFX12 looked great! Everyone has different body types and that’s ok! You all looked beautiful, happy and healthy (and always glowing!). I struggle myself with body image as well as many health issues. I’ve been pretty heavy for my height as well as double digit lows which I’m sure wreaked more havoc on my health that I’d have otherwise……I believe paleo will allow me to get healthier, achieve a maintainable, healthy yet realistic weight/bodyfat and be more fit both physically and mental/emotionally, to finally learn to like myself and maybe one day love myself! Thanks for putting this out there! The world has such a poor ideal of how people should look and rarely do people think of health or they falsely see thin/health as the same. I hope to rise above all of that and one day pay it forward to other young girls before too much damage is done!

  3. This is an AMAZING article and totally echos everything I’ve felt recently regarding my own body image. I’ve been smaller both on and off the paleo diet and initially that was a lot of what it was about for me: achieving the “ideal” body, “look better naked”. There is still nothing wrong with wanting to work to look good but it shouldn’t be the bottom line and it should never be at the cost of your mental or physical health. In recent weeks the more I have given up on trying to fit into my skinny jeans and the more I have focused on getting stronger (yay! my squats and dead lifts have nearly doubled in a month!) The better I have felt. Yes I still have days where I pinch the little bits of fat on my body and frown but then I look at the bigger picture and shrug it of. Hey, I look pretty good and I FEEL great. Every other beautiful, brilliant, hardworking paleo women should too. Looking at the pictures of you all at PaleoFX I too was surprised to see the differences in the body compositions between the men and the women but the surprise was a pleasant one- “these women look like me!” some bigger some smaller but all real and healthy and radiant. So thank you for all being such wonderful role models, it’s a good reminder that most of the work I need to do is in my head. As long as I keep lifting and playing, and eating as I am my body will take care of itself.

  4. Thanks so much for writing this post! It’s SO important for us women to understand we have so much to offer the world BEYOND what we look like. Good stuff, I look forward to your future posts. : )

  5. THANK YOU! I was just crying as I was writing an email to my nutrition coach about how I am not lean. About 28% body fat. I simply cannot thank you enough for this!!!!!

    1. Whoever posted the original comment here…must have a tiny little dick. Sorry for being so blunt…no,forget it.,I am not sorry.

  6. Great article, but I think you were pretty harsh to Nom Nom’s post, she saw something (something I also noted) and asked a question, she even asked if her observation was correct…and yes the question is, how lean is healthy? I think with a healthy diet and some exercise, or active lifestyle you body will reveal it’s best form, including your weight…

  7. wow that needed to be said! thanks for being brave enough to put it out there and acknowledge what is truly awesome about these women. they are true role models!

  8. As part of the official “fattest people in paleo” that Stacy and I are, I really relate to this. I was working on a post of my own on this subject about MY fear of being judged and how much I admire Stacy’s bravery. I don’t look like George and I’m pretty paranoid. Thanks.

    1. Pretty sure I’m the fattest people in Paleo! I just started and have a significant amount of weight to lose. You and your wife give me strength and hope. And…I LOVE ELaD. 🙂

  9. THANK YOU! I have been Paleo for several years, and while I did get down to my “ideal weight” pregnancy, miscarriage, boundless stress and upset in my life: I gained. I moved home after separation from my husband and fell off the Paleo wagon…I ate grain occasionally, and my system ballooned. Add in food allergies, which are beyond stressful, and then the way my body reacts to allergy attacks, and well, I got overweight. Hugely so. In a matter of a few weeks. It was like everything I ate my body stored.

    Now people tend to only see what they want to see. I’m on a “diet” and I am not losing weight as fast as I would on another, like their “weight watchers”, and because I eat what is healthy for me in MY eyes and not the rest of the world, aka, no grains in my diet (thanks new allergies, no cheating for me! ;p ) and I eat fat, and coconut oil, and lots of nuts, many BLAME my diet for this.

    Many times I have heard comments about “This other diet would have you slim fast!” and “If you exercised more you could be a size 2…” Well, with my body shape, I can’t physically be a 2…best I can ever hope for is a 7, and that’s pushing it. I even look anorexic as a 7! :p But I hear it.

    Then reading blog posts (and yes, I also was a bit offended by the same one you mention, as well as quite a few others over the years) and I want to cry sometimes. I have been to only 1 paleo event, and the remarks about “Must be a newbie…” or “Ohh, look honey, another hippy trying to eat healthy who can’t commit…” I AM committed, but life happens. Stress happens. Being stuck with limited diet due to allergies, and limiting it further due to choice is stressful and hard too. Being over 30, being busy, not always having time to run 10 miles a day like some people, well, it all adds up. Sure, I’m overweight, I have no problem admitting that. But I am offended when I see girls and women who don’t eat because they worry about their looks, and disgusted by the idea of having to count my carbs and deny myself that handful of almonds if I am over my limit for the day. I am human, I am healthier than everyone I know, and I not only eat Paleo, but I am living it as much as I can. That has to count for something, right?

    Thank you for saying something. It’s comforting to know I am not the only one out there who sees women with a bit of cushion and no bony bits poking out and thinks to herself “She looks healthy”. Skeletons with skin stretched over themselves with no meat makes me wonder if the Apocalypse is near. ;p

    1. Just wanted to note: Running 10 miles a day may equate to bigger hips. I know, I just did a big experiment with that. Gained 1″ in my hips. Went back to weight training 15-30 min/3-5x/week… lost one inch in hips… and 1/2″ at smallest point in waist.

      Just didn’t want to cardio fallacy to continue on without exposing the inaccuracy.

    2. Never feel bad or let anyone make you feel bad for eating well and feeling well. I went from weighing 250 pounds to 140, just because I got a little more active and started changing how I eat (it took 7 years, but I did it and it wasn’t all paleo). I’ve only been paleo for about a year now but I can’t imagine going back. Like you, Mer, life happens to me sometimes and I fall off the wagon. I’m not perfect, I still have the odd muffin top day/spare tire moments. Welcome to the world of normal!

      I love this post and I appreciated your response!

  10. What a great post! I was floored. I have been making the mistake of looking at the outward person, instead of what they have to share. I was watching a video showing Sally Fallon and thought at the time Why is she so sick looking and heavy. i don’t know why that was the first thing i thought. I’ve never been a thin person. before baby, when i dropped to under 200 for the time in my adult life, i didn’t recognize myself. Talk about body image problems.

  11. This is such an awesome post! LOVED reading it. I have been gaining more weight then I had hoped to during my pregnancy, but I keep telling myself that I am eating exactly what I am supposed to be eating, therefore this is what my body needs right now. Your post helped me to feel even better about it. Some things are just obviously much more important.

  12. Thank you thank you thank you! I’m following paleo because 1) its the most obvious and natural thing I’ve ever done 2) I’m completely at ease with it to the point that I can’t remember eating otherwise 3) since starting it, I have dispatched asthma, GERD, skin ailments, joint pain, chronic exhaustion, and a host of other life long problems 4) I have energy to be active, air to sing with, and more reasons than ever to dance and 5) I feel utterly fabulous,strong and unstoppable when I eat this way. Its actually kind of crazy considering my past as a sad, obese, bookworm of a little girl who couldn’t breathe enough to climb the stairs to get home. But all that said – every now and then I DO get this impression that I should be getting lean and thin somewhere along this process. And while my body is certainly responding in many ways, I’m still a curvy female – albeit with strong biceps and thighs that could probably strangle a bison. LOL. So – should I care? I can’t say I do. I just feel too good to care. Your post made me night/week/month/year.

  13. What an awesome AWESOME post. THANK YOU for writing this. I have the same struggles as well — as I’m sure most women (and to some extent, men) do too. I haven’t met you in person, but you look fabulous in your pictures, and I think you should feel fabulous! Don’t let ANYONE make you feel that you don’t measure up to some artificial ideal. There is no perfect anyway. And I love that you point out that women are NOT biologically built to be skin and bones. A good amount of body fat is protective and promotes fertility. Actually, I’ve had this book in my Amazon cart for a few months now, I think I’m placing an order soon: Thanks again for the post – I’m sharing on my networks!

  14. I liked this, too! 🙂 I’ve been paleo for about 8 months, the first month was at the end of my latest pregnancy. My only goal was to eat well and nourish my body. I have undergone some unexpected and amazing changes since then, but it has never been about weight, size, or looks. Only about nourishing myself and the baby (who is a healthy 7 month old).

  15. Great writing Laura! My girlfriend is Paleo, beautiful, and can lift heavy shit off the ground in a pinch. Props for helping revolutionize what it means to be healthy!

  16. Two of my paleo mentors are ironman competitors, you’d consider women who routinely train for and compete in 2.4 mile swim/ 112 mile cycle race/ 26.2 mile marathons without a break to be in great physical and mental condition right?. Neither of them has a 6 pack or is “thin”. I bet, if you used BMI scales they’d be technically overweight too when that simply is not true. They are in their 40’s and 50’s and in top form. We have to stop thinking there is one mould for all women! It shouldn’t feed into our youth obsessed culture either. .

  17. For what it’s worth, I think you look really healthy. 😛

    But anyway, I really appreciate this post and the sentiments behind it. I live in the DC area where there seems to be a rather large amount of paleo people and I’ve been too shy to go to a meetup partly because I’m a LOT younger than most who go to those but mostly because my PCOS makes my weight fluctuate, often to as much as 30 lbs over my “ideal weight”. I completely agree that the ideal weight thing is very superficial, but I am undoubtedly overweight despite my best efforts and it’s nerve-wracking to think about being around fit, healthy-looking people when sometimes I look like I still eat SADly.

    1. Mo,
      Please come to the DC Meat Up events! I just met a bunch of these folks last weekend, and I had the best time. Everyone is warm, funny, very interesting, intelligent. I have an almost 14 yo daughter that will be doing some things with us!

  18. As a man, I’d like to say that most of the ladies posting here who think that they need to lose 10-20 pounds to have the ‘ideal body’ probably have a skewed notion of what is attractive to men. Fertile women are attractive to men. We can’t help ourselves. It’s all evolutionary. Junk in the trunk trumps abs all day long.

    1. John, totally agree w/you, I was much thinner when I was younger, before my 2 boys, but I always had curves where it mattered, and my husband always said the first thing he saw was my smile, the second thing he noticed was my booty! lol at my personal ideal weight, lean, but athletic, I would not have been ideal on any chart, being 5’3″ my weight is never what the charts say, because i have broad shoulders, muscular/athletic build. (and i never had any trouble attracting men) we need to find ourselves attractive first, the old saying you always have to love yourself first.

  19. I LOVE YOU! I also loved Civilized Caveman even more for his comment! Being new to the paleo life and being overweight, this had crossed my mind. I’ve noticed a lot of paleo women aren’t teeny tiny. I think it’s great. They still look healthy. Being as I want to lose a few pounds, I’ve found this discouraging, being afraid of getting bigger or staying the same. Thanks for the insight! I don’t want to be teeny but I definitely can afford to lower my BMI & get healthier.

  20. Great post. It is sad these physically healthy woman worry about about what other people think. And it is disturbing that the basis of these thoughts concern what men think of women. Some mental evolution does need to happen with both sexes! So glad you wrote about this and I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  21. Honestly, I’ve been thinking the same thing a lot lately, not in regards to the paleo community, but the things I see posted on pinterest with “fitness” tags. A lot of those pictures are of women so lean that I find myself thinking “It’s not actually fit to have such low bodyfat, your hormones won’t work right.” Fundamentally being overly lean is as unhealthy as having overmuch fat, it’s just less prevalent in our society.

    1. Amen to that! I have been horrified at some of the “fitness” images posted on Pinterest. I would never go for the skin and bones look myself. I know that some people have a hard time NOT being skinny, but why we idealize it for everyone is beyond me. The Victoria’s Secret models?! No, thank you!

      Thank you for this great post, btw. I am a size 8 myself, down from a size 10 and 12 at one point (and 20 pounds heavier than I was in my 20s,pre-motherhood), so I’m feeling great at this size. Still, I realize I’m curvier than the cultural ideal and it bugs me that I even notice. I really like being a bit round, and my husband appreciates it too!

    2. Amen to that! I’ve been horrified at some of the “fitness” images I see on Pinterest. I know some people have a hard time NOT being skinny like that, but why anyone would idealize bones sticking out I can’t figure out. Victoria’s Secret models?! No, thank you!

      I love this blog post, by the way! I’m 41 and a size 8 myself (a happy medium for me between being 20 pounds lighter in my 20s, pre-motherhood, and being sizes 10 ans 12 at one point. I’m really happy at this size, and yet I realize I’m not the cultural “ideal” and feel quite a bit larger than that. Silly, at a size 8!!! I like being a bit rounder, however, and my husband appreciates it too. It’s all about being healthy, and eating a higher fat diet has improved my moods so much it’s miraculous.

    1. You are WRONG about her. The sizing was different then and most of her clothes were custom fitted. Trust me any size “8” today would not get their shoulders nor hips into her clothes. A size “8” of today is more like a 12 of her day….And to say she was a 122-14 is absolutely wrong. Her size did go up and down like any normal woman – but she’s petite.

    2. You are wrong. Just plain wrong about Marilyn Monroe. She was small and petite. Most size 8 women of today couldn’t get into her clothes at all – many were custom tailored. Maybe size 8 Australian’s could wear them…please stop using her as the “perfect plus” so so so not correct.

  22. Honestly, I’ve been thinking the same thing a lot lately, not in regards to the paleo community, but the things I see posted on pinterest with “fitness” tags. A lot of those pictures are of women so lean that I find myself thinking “It’s not actually fit to have such low bodyfat, your hormones won’t work right.” Fundamentally being overly lean is as unhealthy as having overmuch fat, it’s just less prevalent in our society.

    Although I will say, I think I was around 20-22% bodyfat when I got pregnant with my son… at least according to my bodyfat scale. I think the 26-28% isn’t necessary for fertility in all women.

  23. I truly believe that what matters most is that you are fit and healthy, not what body shape or size you are. Eating paleo is a good healthy way to eat, but exercise is important too. I am a size 14 and proud of it. I like my curves, and so does hubby. I am fit and healthy – I do boxing boot camp, and body pump, and body attack, and PT, and run and long walks etc., I have no intention of ever geting stick thin (my natural body shape wouldn’t allow that anyway – at a size 10 all my bones stick out) and I detest bones sticking out and women who look like their legs are about to snap off. I know people heavier than me who eat healthy and exercise and can run rings around me at various different exercise. My PE teacher at school was a size 16 and she was toned and curvy and healthy and gorgeous. Everyone has different body shapes and you can’t try to be otherwise. That is why I say fit and healthy is the key (and by healthy I am taking into account your eating habits as well), no matter what shape or size (within reason) you are.

  24. Oh my – I felt exactly like this when I went to AHS11 last year. I’m not overweight, but constantly think I should have that lean, see your abs look. I’ve managed to get close to it only once in my life with deprivation and a lot of exercise. About 20% bodyfat, which is what I prefer to be – but can never maintain.
    I can eat well on paleo, manage my immune issues, stay sane through menopause, maintain 25% body fat with little effort, and be strong and healthy.

    Your mother who I think is about my age – is an inspiration!

    1. My mom would be glad to hear that. Would you believe that someone commented on one of her videos that she didn’t know what she was talking about because she ‘had a belly’?

      She’s 54 and has had 3 children, one by cesarean! SHE’S ALLOWED TO HAVE A “BELLY”!

      1. This comment totally made me cry. I will work hard to try to convince myself that it’s true that I’m allowed to have a belly. I have 3 kids, tons of stretch marks, and a fluffy belly that’s never going away. I still want to be wicked strong, but I have to remember that strong =/= six pack abs leanness.

      2. I’m 40, have had 2 c-sections…AND HAVE A BELLY!!! I love my soft squishy bits—all the better to snuggle my babies!!

  25. As they say, you go, girl! Curves are good if that’s your body type. We’ve been eating into Paleo for two months now and my husband has dropped weight like crazy but not I! Then I remembered, even at my youthful fittest, I had something like 26% body fat and a little belly. Everyone is different.

  26. This is beyond awesome, and right on the money! I had all the same thoughts about going to PaleoFx. I actually let it keep me from going. I won’t make that mistake, again. Thank you! Oh, and personally…I wanna look like Marilyn. 🙂

  27. I am not Paleo but I enjoy your blog and have been following you on Facebook.

    The first time I met a bunch of Paleo folks was at the Weston A. Price Foundation conference the year before last. I thought everyone was really nice and we had some good times in the bar. When it was over, there was a bunch of talk on the internet about how the WAPF ladies were “not lean” (a euphemism for fat).

    Thanks for saying so eloquently what has been on my mind ever since.

    1. I have also seen some people posting pictures of Sally Fallon and how they would never want to look like her! Of course comparing her to other people her age.

  28. Wow! I struggle with same issue…I am a yoga teacher (going on 2 years) and I have put on a pretty significant amount of weight in this time period…just slipped back into old habits. I know what you mean about feeling that others may judge you for not looking the part. I love your post and NOW really want to follow your blog. It is nice to know that some still care about things other than “looking hot”. Awesome response…keep it coming.

  29. “…a decent amount of body fat, which ideally should be around 26-28%”

    First, a disclaimer: Though it often is, BMI should not to be applied to individuals, and tends to lead to significant distortions when done so. It was developed as a statistical tool for measuring large populations. It appears that the only reason it’s used is that it’s cheap and easy to measure.

    Now that that I’ve said BMI is basically worthless in this context… I’m not sure the 1987 paper cited for the 26-28% ideal is a great source. The author engages in quite a bit of speculation.

    Another perspective: “A BMI in the range of 20 to 25 is associated with normal fertility… The “minimum”… is equivalent to a BMI of 18… A BMI of 25-27 is associated with a slight reduction in fertility; over 27 with a significantly reduced fertility.” – Female Fertility and the Body Fat Connection (2001)

    There is probably better/more recent literature, but the 26-28% number does seem high if we’re talking fertility ideals.

    I’d suggest the squat/weightlifting obsession among the paleosphere has much more to do with the prevalence of Crossfitters than anything that accurately reflects evolutionary fitness or sexual attractiveness.

    1. As a total N=1 observation, I’ve been measured at 27-28% body fat and my BMI is 22.8.

      Obviously that doesn’t discount your observation, and I know that being overweight is a risk for infertility as well. I guess my point was more to say that women who are healthy (and fertile) shouldn’t be ashamed to be ‘figureheads’ in the Paleo community because they aren’t super lean.

      Thanks for providing another resource though!

      1. To the contrary, the source I referenced used BMI so I thought it was important to highlight the difference. BMI had also been mentioned in previous comments.

        Side note: Body fat measures are notoriously flawed as well.

        My main point was simply this: If there’s a discussion about “ideals” based on reducing individuals to numbers — as Laura mentioned in the original post — it’s important to not get the numbers wrong. I’m skeptical of the numbers in the 1987 study.

        1. I agree, body fat % and BMI are both just ‘guidelines’ that don’t necessarily translate to an individual’s fertility or health, and there are a lot of other factors at play.

          Though I’m curious, do you know of any credible research that might pinpoint an ideal body fat range? I do think there’s something to be said for a healthy amount of fat.

  30. Wow. This post is awesome. I follow a lot of Paleo blogs and listen regularly to the podcasts as well…this is so refreshing!! Thank you.

  31. I think the fashion industry has more to do with for women’s’ focus on being super skinny with a six-pack than anything to do with what men find attractive. I’m a healthy paleo guy with a six-pack and I prefer a healthy woman with fairly high body fat compared to the fitness model standard. But I am not alone in this opinion. The biology behind attraction seems to show that most men also prefer more curvy women. Women, not men, ogle over pictures of emaciated models in vogue magazine. Millions of years of evolution has made us attracted to women with higher body fat. It has little to do with being intellectually enlightened.

    Staying healthy is a much better focus than vanity, but it also leads to a body that is actually the true physical ideal that most men find attractive.

    “In the United States, women overestimate men’s preferences for thinness in a mate. In one study, American women were asked to choose what their ideal build was and what they thought the build most attractive to men was. Women chose slimmer than average figures for both choices. When American men were independently asked to choose the female build most attractive to them, the men chose figures of average build. This indicates that women may be misled as to how thin men prefer women to be.”
    – Buss, David [1994] (2003). The Evolution of Desire (hardcover), second (in English), New York: Basic Books, 55,56.

    1. I concur. This isn’t the first time I’ve read something written by a woman where she comments on what she thinks men find attractive — and as a man, I can definitely say that she’s mistaken. I know for myself, I find fit, healthy, strong women attractive. Nowhere in those adjectives is there a descriptor of bodyweight. I’ve never been drawn to skinny women, and most certainly not those who are skinny and unfit. We are physical beings, and if someone is unable to pull their weight physically (pun mostly intended), they kind of fail as a human being, in my opinion. I read somewhere on another woman’s blog that a good chunk of her concerns with body centered around the fact that her thighs touch one another. I had to go back and read the line again, because my personal opinion is that if a woman’s thighs DON’T touch one another… it’s not attractive to me. And she needs to do some heavy squats, stat.

      My wife is strong, healthy, and fit. Does she look like a (photoshopped) movie star on the cover of some stupid magazine? Nope, thankfully not. Does she weigh 115 pounds? Uh… nope, not a chance. But she can lift that much weight over her head with ease.

      1. Wow…I know this is an old post but I have to say it brought back memories for me.

        After being an obese child, I lost weight in my teen years on a low carb diet. This was during the early to mid aughts before paleo was widely known.
        It broke my teenage heart, though, that even after all the effort and losing a great deal of weight there were two things I could not achieve:

        1. A flat stomach. Clothed it looked like I had one, but uncovered you could see that my ‘rolls’ were still there they were just much smaller. My friends, however, had perfect, untextured, unmarred (save for maybe a cheap Hot Topic navel ring) planes of skin on their stomachs. They, as well as boys, would talk in horrible terms about other girls who had a little flab on their stomachs and dared to show it by wearing a bikini…so I never did. Even at my smallest I was always the only girl my age wearing a one-piece at the pool.

        2. Thighs that didn’t touch. Even as a kid knew that, with my bodytype, I’d need to be starving and underweight for this one to happen. That didn’t stop me from feeling the sting of it though. I once, I kid you not, heard someone say “I’d kill myself if my thighs touched!” Yes, she was, of course, just being an over-dramatic teenager. Still though…you can see how we grow into women with ideas like this deeply ingrained in our minds.

    2. Sorry Erik, I’m sure you mean well, but it is INCREDIBLY unproductive when men respond to women’s insecurities about their size by assuring them that men like, to paraphrase you a bit, women with some meat on their bones. This is the angry lesbian in me coming out, but what if we don’t give a damn what you find attractive? The point should be that there are so many different people in the world attracted to so many different standards of beauty, not just swapping one standard for the other. And yes, my girlfriend thinks my tiny, paleo-eating self is gorgeous.

      1. I’m happy to hear Erik’s comments about what he finds attractive in a woman. I find that I’m just finally (at age 34) beginning to have a healthy body image fixed in my mind of what’s best for me.

        And it’s refreshing to have that new body image reinforced by a man, since I’m afraid that by not being uber skinny, that men won’t find me attractive…

  32. I’m really glad you addressed this topic! I’ve lost weight since starting to follow a more Paleo lifestyle, but would not describe myself as lean. I have noticed, however, that my body composition seemed to change in a way that I liked. My waist area did shrink, but I retained the curvier body parts (like thick legs and a bubble butt) that I love. It always saddens me to hear that awesome, healthy women are made to feel bad about their bodies (whatever diet/lifestyle they practice) but I’m glad that you’re speaking out for a more positive and realistic approach to Paleo women’s bodies.

    1. I too started Paleo and I dropped weight in my belly, but still have the curves that I adore (as do most red blooded men :P). I was scared to death that I lost a cup size even, but just lost inches on that one. *whew* Being 5’2″ I have been a size 2, but find that I prefer to be a 6 or somewhere in that area because it allows for my muscular legs and “bubble butt” to shine through. Any smaller then that and my hip bones could cut glass. I think it’s great to see women really embracing their curves, and after years of abusive men telling me that I’m too fat (I’ve never been in the “overweight” realm at all) it feels great to find women who can help me embrace and acknowledge that I am healthy, and I am beautiful inside and out. 😀

  33. Wow, that was an amazing response. The more I read the more I believe in Paleo.
    I started on Paleo about 6 -7 months ago. I was on low carb before this. I have a autoimmune disease called psoriatic arthritis along with plaque psoriasis. I’ve been on severely harsh medicines for years. Most recently Humira two shots a week. For the first time in years I was able to stop all my meds due to the paleo diet. Recently I loosened up my diet and started eating some dairy, gluten free grains, sugar, ect. And sure enough my skin erupted and my pain started in my joints . I’m now back on Paleo and I’m doing great again.
    My husband and I raise our own chickens for meat and eggs, our own pork, and buy only grass fed beef from friends we know , We grow all our own vegetables, only buying organic veges when absolutely needed. That still wasn’t enough. The Paleo diet has been the only thing that has helped me. I’m a born again Cave Woman..
    I so appreciate your dedication to healthy living. Thank you!

    1. Hurray!!! I am so glad you are finding a food style that fits your body for comfort and well being. I also have had times in life where avoiding dairy and grains was very necessary just to be able to function. You may also find that oily fish helps reduce psoriasis, its an issue that runs in our family and that has helped. I was also guided to using an enzyme called serrapeptase that breaks down fibrous proteins associated with inflammation. It is available from Serragold through the online service Newegg, and the generic product has been used in Germany for over 30 years. Good luck to you!

  34. Best. Paleo. Post. EVER!!!!!!! Thank you so much for having the courage & tenacity to speak up about this. I think we cheapen the Paleo movement by focusing on leanness or big ripping muscles. We should keep the focus on feeling healthy & a vital part of that is a healthy self image. I happened to be reading Stacey’s, from Paleo Parents, story today. The thing that stuck out to me most is that she said her goal with Paleo was to feel healthy again, to have the energy to take care of her kids. She knew the weight loss would come with that but it wasnt the sole focus. And now she’s lost over 100 pounds, which is so amazing, but yet sad to think that some people would try to cheapen that achievement because she’s not waif thin.

  35. I can’t speak for all men, but anorexic women are not sexy. “Super cut” women are not sexy. Fit women are sexy (and fit for a women is not the same as fit for a man). And overweight women? It depends, but they can still be sexy. Women that are strong and smart? I say hella sexy.

    What guys think shouldn’t really matter. You want to see your abs in the mirror or become a female bodybuilder? By all means, do it! But I don’t think men, or even most women, would think that’s ideal.

    1. What is with the body shaming, and why do we need to put down some women while we’re saying that we find others sexy? To each his own…

  36. I’ve been paleo for well over a year and partake in intense exercise I still maintain between 24%-27% body fat.

    I am typically about 90/10 Paleo but when I go strict paleo my body fat percentage will dip a bit but it’s mostly in my waist, arms, shoulders. I still maintain my big legs and bubble butt.

    I am a size 12/14 (L) and I am 5’10”, I typically weigh between 195-203 lbs.

    I like my body’s shape and size. I wouldn’t mind being a size 10 and weigh in at around 175 but I’m certainly not going to hate myself for it.

    Loved this post!

    1. I generally feel like the only one with lead bones – I’m so glad to hear that someone else is the same! I’m 33, 5’9″, broad shoulders, big feet, oak trees for legs, and after 18 months on paleo leaner than I’d been since shortly after puberty – at 154 pounds and still not able to buy most jeans because I couldn’t get them past my knees. Looking in the mirror I felt great (except for a precipitous cup-size loss, down to DD), but the second I’m forced to compare myself to a dressmaker’s dummy I’m indistinguishable from a SADsack. Now I’m pregnant and fattening up and instantly back to ill-fitting plus-sizes. So demoralising!
      Perhaps that’s the key: comparing ourselves to ourselves, rather than fantasy or photoshopped irreality. Damned near impossible though; Jenn, you should give lessons! 🙂

  37. I appreciate the post – I really do. But can’t we embrace the curvy (healthy) woman in ADDITION to the lean woman? If it’s all about the heath, and I believe it is, then someone who’s healthy and thin ought to be celebrated too. I get tired of commenters especially who go on about the how they identify with the curvier woman, but have negative things to say about the thin one.

    I’m a size 2, thin, flat butt & no hips. I think it has more to do with heredity than anything else. I was thin pre-paleo, and I’ve been thin since (2 1/2 years). But I’m healthier this way, and I know it. And I like how I take care of my body today. I’m not voluptuous or even a little curvy, but I’m alright.

    1. I didn’t mean the post to come across as bashing naturally thin women. Or even women who work really hard at being lean. Women can look however they want to, and as long as you feel healthy, then rock on. If you have the time, motivation, and resources to put towards making your body look awesome, then that’s great.

      That said, it’s important to remember that for many women, their ‘healthy’ weight does not match up with society’s image of a ‘perfect’ body. And for those of us who want to make a difference for other people in their health and nutrition, I don’t want to worry about being judged for being a size 8, and being told I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m not in perfect physical shape.

    2. I agree with Kim, let’s remember that there are plenty of women who are naturally lean. I am a size 8 (Australian size, so 4 US) and have very low body fat. I train a lot and eat a lot, but even before getting in to Crossfit or adventure tracing had always been slim, it’s the way I’m built. My ‘lean’ is just as real and natural as your ‘curvy’. And yes, you can see my hip bones, and for me this is paleo. Let’s concentrate on healthiness for each individual not a global dress size.

    3. I agree :/ just because im genetically lower in bf doesnt mean im infertile. But i get the points you’re trying to make Laura.

    1. Yes, a 22″ waist means she was curvy, but her photos clearly show she wasnt thin. She was only 5’5″! My 12 yr old daughter has a 25″ waist and she is 5’7″ and she is NOT THIN. She wears sizes 6-8, in jeans with an occasional size TEN top, which is likely the range of sizes that Marilyn wore. On a 5’5″ woman that is not skinny, which is the point here. No one says Marilyn was fat, just curvy and not lean.

  38. Very well said! A good reminder for those of us raising children too. I will teach my daughter to be healthy and will teach her to find her inspiration from real women. I will teach my son what true beauty is!

  39. Love this post and I loved the podcast that Liz and Diane did with Jimmy where they touched on the same topic. I have tickets for AHS12 but have to say that I was feeling anxious about attending because I thought I wouldn’t fit in. Not all paleo people are 20-30 year old crossfitters! Im 45 and my BMI is 23 and my bodyfat is 26%. I am not lean and ripped but I feel great and I’m healthy and strong. I was thrilled to see that paleo women come in all shapes and sizes because it eased my anxiety about being around them —they look like real women! We are all so much more and have so much to offer that has nothing to do with the package we come in.

  40. While I agree with much of the sentiment in this post, I also was a bit taken aback by all this talk of what women are “supposed” to look like. That right there is the problem – and maybe the point you were trying to make in the first place?

    I’m skinny. I’ve always been thin. I gained some weight after having 2 kids, but when I cut out grains and did the GAPS diet I lost 20 lbs pretty much immediately and stabilized at the weight I had before any of my digestive troubles started. I’m 36 years old, 5’6″ and a size 4. My thighs don’t touch, I don’t have much in the way of body fat or breasts. Yet I birthed two babies and breastfed them for years.

    I truly hate the concept that the success of a diet is based on size and appearance, I hate the idea that the goal of a diet should be weight loss, and I hate the backlash that says thin is unnatural or bad. Yes, we usually look healthier when we heal. But that isn’t necessarily something that our size reflects. I choose to eat a certain way and live a certain lifestyle because I believe it makes me a more healthy person overall, and it makes me feel good… not because it keeps me skinny.

    As a real foodie, I’m also a proponent of the Healthy At Every Size ideas put forth by Linda Bacon, and I actively promote these ideas and act as an ally for people of every size, at every opportunity. I think you might appreciate Linda’s writings!

    1. Thanks for pointing this out! I would be intimidated to go to any kind of paleo event because I’m SO tiny right now. (Actually, I have GAINED a few needed pounds by eating paleo the last 3 months because more calories are going to nourish my body, not my out of whack bacteria.)

      Still, when I am all the way healed, it’s highly unlikely I’m going to weigh more than 110 lb (I’m 5’4”). I signed up for this ancestral eating to stop being sick all the time and to have the strength to make it through a yoga class, not because I want to have a certain amount of lean muscle or even join cross-fit 🙂

  41. Thank you. I was also at PaleoFX and I did notice (in a non-judgemental way) that we Paleo women are not all lean and skinny. It was comforting for me to be around so many women who shared the same views as me and were also about my size because I often struggle with the same issues. I am an owner and coach at my family’s gym and about a size 6, 140 lbs. I want to be an expert and example on great health via nutrition and exercise for our clients, but I often worry that they will be skeptical about my knowledge because of my size. After 3 years of paleo eating and exercising regularly, I still don’t have the bikini body most women desire. After hearing several presentations at PaleoFX, I finally came to the realization that the desirable bikini body may not be the healthiest ideal to attain. Thank you for your post on this issue. I’m going to share it with everyone I know!

  42. This is such a fantastic reminder to all of us, and it has honestly come to me at a VERY good time. I was beginning to question myself in this community because while i feel healthier and stronger i haven’t maintained the “leanness” that is so often associated…and it’s funny because i thought i was the only one…I appreciate your honesty Laura!

    Thank you!


  43. Bravo, Laura. Health is so much more than a number on a scale, an image in a mirror, or society’s perception. You should know that many of the men in the Paleo community suffer from the same body dysmorphia (it’s hard not to when you look at specimens like Erwan and Robb) that many of the women do. So the smart thing for all of us to do is move beyond image as a measure of success and instead look to biomarkers and other measures of good health. And that’s what I love about showing up to these conferences: everyone is so damn radiant; they exude health and positivity regardless of what they look like.

  44. MAN, do I love you more than just a little! I’ve been Paleo for two years now, and lost about 30 pounds in the first 6 months. I’ve been steady since then, with almost no effort, and happily carry some extra junk in the trunk. While I still have probably 20 more lbs I would love to peel off at some point, for now I am healthier, stronger, more active, have more energy and, most importantly, a better sense of comfort in my own skin than I have ever had in my life. I’ve been disconcerted by the idea floating around that we Paleo women should be rocking a six-pack, and while I’m certain there could be a bit more sleep and a bit less wine in my life, I’m going to stop giving myself such a hard time about what I must be ‘doing wrong.’ I think I look great, my partner says I look great, but most importantly I FUNCTION well. I AM happy. My body is in shape to have fun, do well at my job, bear healthy kids and to vibrantly live long enough to see them grow up. That’s a pretty awesome thing, don’t you think?

    1. I feel the exact same as you! I lost somewhere around 25-30lbs in the first 5 months, and while I’m the smallest size I’ve ever been as an adult (size 10 versus size 14), I weigh the same as I did a couple years ago. On top of that, my body has kind of maintained this same weight for the past 3 months. I’m still losing inches here and there, but it’s hard not to find that frustrating and start looking for where I’m going wrong, even though I feel fitter and stronger than ever.

      Questions like, “Should I go from 80/20 (even if that 20% is mostly paleo-friendly cheats) to 90/10?”
      “Am I intermittent fasting correctly?”
      “Am I getting a little too liberal with my occasional dairy?”
      “Should I go back to counting my calories every day?”
      and a dozen more constantly go through my head, especially since I have a wedding and honeymoon coming in just a few months. This blog entry, and its subsequent comments, have been refreshing and make me feel a little better about myself in comparison with what I think the rest of the paleosphere is supposed to look like.

      1. Oh! And! When I started it was never solely about losing weight. It was about achieving WHOLE BODY HEALTH. That’s the overarching message of living paleo that I think needs to be emphasized a little more often, no matter your body’s natural composition.

  45. ive been paleo for 11 years, conquered my MS on it. im also a powerlifter at less than 15% bf. so that makes me what? firstly ofcourse unattractive as all real paleo males prefer women to be “festively plump”. thats fine by me – im not paleo to please men. just one man. he is pleased. secondly that must make me amennorhegic – nope. im not. amennorhea does NOT depend on bf %, but nutrient deficiencies… i understand where this post is coming from. i just feel it is extremely onesided and just a lil wee bit narrowminded.

  46. Love, love, love this post. Thanks to NNP for linking to it.

    I was once a World Medalist in rowing and let me tell you, I still had cellulite. Even with 18 workouts a week my body was not ripped and I didn’t have a six pack. The rowers that were ripped and did have six packs were lightweight women (under 130 lbs). Most of them were naturally at the 140-150 range so all the dieting and restricted eating took its toll. They were cold, unhappy and yes, a lot of them did not menstruate.

    They had awesome pipes but is that really worth being miserable and unhealthy?

    1. Nice, I rowed varsity! As a lightweight rower, I never ever had a six pack, and I do naturally fall in the 150 range, so it was an unhealthy struggle to make weight constantly! Lost my period for every regatta season, my hands were always freezing! That being said, I think the lowest body fat I hit was 18%, which was still much higher than a lot of the girls, but for me it was enough for everything to just crash. I slept 10-11 hrs every night, we had 14 workouts a week, 7 of them water-work, it was just crazy. I am SO much happier at the size I am now, even if the BMI chart has me as overweight.

  47. Hi Laura,
    Thanks for this article. I often peruse Paleo-blogs to get a sense of what this community thinks about nutrition. Admittedly, I have difficulty agreeing with what is said based on nutritional evidence from other arenas. But I am always eager to read what is out there. However, your post today is timely and very much appreciated. I struggle, mostly with myself, over my body. My husband is one of the more evolved men you mentioned and likes my body “festively plump” or as I like to describe it, “famine resistant”. I especially liked your comment about six-pack abs to be biologically inappropriate.

    I just wanted to comment on your quote shown below
    “I’m still struggling to get past my own self-consciousness regarding my
    less-than-perfect appearance,”

    I think the use of the phrase “less than perfect” suggests there is an ideal you are striving for (consciously, or not). It is slightly confusing. Perfect in what sense? Some might say the stick and bones body is the ideal. My husband and others believe that “festively plump” is the ideal. Did you mean the current socially defined ideal of stick and bones? Or the more biologically sound ideal of more lean muscle with an appropriate amount of fat? It sounds like your body is closer to the ideal that YOU desire, so good on you!

    I look forward to reading future posts.

  48. I didn’t read all the replies but the article is great. I have worked in the fitness industry for over 13 years. I can’t count the number of people that have told me I have hips. I really want to reply, “Well, duh, do you not think I look in the mirror in the morning or try clothes on”. Instead I tell them my hips help me run a marathon. But on the other hand, I have also gotten many clients because I have a real body and not a super fit, unachievable one. One of the best things I have read lately is that training helps you enjoy life it should not take over your life. It is a lesson that we all learn in the fitness industry after a few years.

  49. My sister is the Paleo person in my family. I follow her links on Facebook to read just out of general interest. Let me start by saying that the author IS beautiful. Truly. When I looked at her profile pictures, what I saw was a very attractive woman. When you read her bio and the article, it is obvious that she is passionate about the subject, quite articulate, and eager to both learn more about and share her own knowledge of the subject. Yet here she is, worried about pursuing that passion, even with others who share it, because she is concerned that she will be perceived as overweight. We could talk all day about how warped the societal standard of what the ideal woman looks like can be( see Barbie Dolls), but the real problem is not what the standard is, but why people (women especially) are so afraid of not meeting the standard. In my opinion, it is because it is way too acceptable in our culture to belittle and ridicule those who do not fit the mold. If you don’t dress the way others do, or wear your hair “properly”, the pack will target you. This is even more true when it comes to being perceived as overweight. All manner of associations are made. Lazy, stupid,careless, etc. There are exceptions, I know, but in general in our culture, overweight people are considered lesser people and treated as such. This is why people are afraid of being seen as “fat”. The comment which inspired this post carries that implication in it. It is wondering if something is wrong with the women, since they are not so lean. Note that there is no question at all about whether there might be something wrong with the lean mean men. I read somewhere that if you look long enough for something wrong with a person, you will find it. If you look for something wonderful about a person, you will find that too. The choice is up to each of us which thing to look for. If we each choose the latter, maybe someday our culture will change, and these fears will be unnecessary. Laura, it takes some courage to put yourself out there, with so many ready to cut you down. Do it anyway. The rewards of doing what you love will far outweigh any negative potshots someone may take at you.

  50. I’ve been waiting to see a post like this for some time. I don’t feel the question that was asked was inappropriate, but in a weird way, you answered it. This is a question I eventually had when I got to know more about the paleo community and I follow the paleo diet as well. The curiosity was not questioning your health, but your leanness and why that was the case. Maybe already lean women were looking to paleo as a way maintain their leanness while going off a diet that required measuring all of the time. I can’t blame the woman for asking because many blogs and groups advocate ‘Paleo/Primal makes you look good naked’. To most of the world, we assume very ‘lean and mean’ and when those results are not matching up to our expectations, we want an explanation. My husband got very lean and when I started to learn that I can’t just eat paleo foods with disregard, I started to become more lean as well. I don’t like the assumption that because I’m leaner than someone else, that I am not healthy because I feed my body fantastic whole foods! I’m glad you took the opportunity to delve into the topic further, but I don’t think her question was uncalled for. Someone finally needed to step in an explain why the women were not getting results we were expecting.

  51. Wow, love your post. You’re right on. It’s a breath of fresh air to read this! I especially like your pictures in the post. Too bad we don’t see more fertlity images out there with their boobs down to their bellys! It makes me feel better after breastfeeding! 🙂

  52. I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment of this post. At 48, I started Paleo and CrossFitting and have shown success toward my goals with both…weight loss and strength gains. Will I ever be very lean? No. 6-pack? No. Am I okay with that? ABSOLUTELY.

    I accept who I am at this moment. Not because I have lost weight, but because I am partipating in my life and because I am making positive choices regarding my own health. When we start to improve our health and bodies, we must include our emotional and mental health as well. That starts with being kind to ourselves. At our house, we call it “Triple A”. Accept, Assess, take Action.

    While that original post that sparked this blog may have been a man, there are, sadly, many women who are just as ignorant and judgemental when it comes to women’s bodies. I understand the anger, but let’s educate, too! This blog does a great job of that and I will share with everyone.

    If we, as women, start accepting ourselves instead of judging ourselves, maybe the rest of the world will catch on. 🙂

  53. SO THANKFUL I stumbled upon your Blog. Women like Yourself and your Mom are going to help change this world! From a Mom on a Mission for her Paleo Family, I applaud you!
    And I will save this for my daughter when the self esteem issues arise!

  54. I have the same struggle you do. However, I don’t think men who like thin or well-muscled women are unreasonable, as opposed to the “reasonable” men who like more fat on women. I was a little disappointed to see that your post was all about disliking judgement/criticism based on your shape, and then going on to be quite critical of others who work (needless to say) VERY hard to get the look they want.

    I don’t have abs that show. I would love to. My hat’s off to those with the dedication to get them. That said, I’m certainly glad for someone who like a softer figure too. I did lose a lot of weight going paleo. I felt better. My energy level was better. Way better cycle! (not so heavy, steady schedule finally at age 35). My joints stopped aching. No more headaches, etc.

    But now that I’m finished my child-bearing (45 years), I’d love to get a pack and forget about the cycle. 🙂

    So it all depends on where you are in life as to what your individual goals are. I don’t think it’s fair to judge the other end either. It’s like you’re maybe a little jealous? ;D

    1. Please see the “disclaimer” I just added to the post. I have no problem with women who are willing and genetically capable to get to the level of leanness they desire. I just don’t want the women who haven’t achieved that perfect ideal to be afraid to participate in the Paleo community, or be seen as a ‘Paleo figurehead’ due to criticism about their bodies.

  55. Absolutely love this post. It’s nice to have STRONG and POSITIVE women in the paleo community speak up about this. I plan to revisit this post once a week because I believe the message is so important and something that should always be remembered. Thank you!!

  56. And in like form, I’ve always wanted bigger boobs. I think they’re tremendously attractive (naturally). But I do not care for the artificial kind. Though I understand why some people might choose that route too.

    I loved being pregnant and nursing for the (somewhat) bigger and nicely plump breasts I was blessed with. But after a while, eventually those deflated and left me with middle aged body issues that I have no intention of artificially correcting. And so I’ve had to come to terms and learn to love what I’ve got… and though they are not the nice plump breasts I’ve always admired, they’re not too bad either. ;D

  57. It’s funny the things we are self conscious about. I have been eating a WAP diet for almost a year, and I wish I could GAIN some weight. I don’t know what my body fat percentage is, but my hip bones sure do show. I also have terrible adult acne.

    I’m in the process of trying to determine whether my acne is hormone related or a food sensitivity. My hope is that when I figure it out my skin will clear up, and I will be able to put on some weight. maybe the same issue is causing both problems?

    I worry that when people see me they think, “There’s no way she eats a nourishing diet. Look at her skinny ass and her red spots!”.

    1. From one skinny, broken-out girl to another–I recently found out part of my difficulty gaining weight is caused by my small intestinal bacteria overgrowth… I don’t know if you have the digestive symptoms I do, but it might be worth investigating? (I’m hoping fixing my digestion will also cure my acne, but who knows. The only things that have helped so far have been oil-cleansing, neem oil, and manuka honey.)

    2. I discovered that my adult acne was being caused by nuts. Once I removed them from my diet, it cleared up and hasn’t returned.

  58. This article comes at an interesting time, especially for me. I recently had an appointment with my gynecologist because of some serious issues with my cycle.

    I am currently training for a certification for Russian Kettlebells. I absolutely love them to death and do plan on being certified within the next few years. However, during my Drs appointment, I brought up the issue that my cycle had been erratic and then just ceased. Drs solution was then to prescribe a low dose birth control to help regulate me. What I found perplexing though was having my physician tell me outright that because my body fat percentage is so low, the birth control may not even work. In fact she even stated “this happen to female athletes all the time. You may not see your cycle for months if you keep up your training. It may not even come back at all.”

    Then I thought “what if I want kids later in life?” I’m 24 years old right now and have achieve the level of fitness I have dreamed about. Yet, I’m in a serious dilemma about my future. Is my certification worth the risk of never having my own family? Do I continue to train or do I stop now to save my reproductive health? And if I do continue to train, will someone be willing to marry me knowing I may could possibly never bear children?

    I am at a loss now of what to do. I realize I can easily correct what’s happening to my body naturally, but either way it’s a sacrifice. Which path I take is going to be a difficult decision one way or another. I wonder if any other female athletes ever feel the same way I do.

    To train hard or not to train hard? That’s the question. And I have no answer.

    1. I appreciate the difficulty of your situation.

      I would support you with either decision but want to tell you this from my older perspective.

      You need to decide which is more important. Kids, pregnancy or career. This is a dilemma for many women.

      I decided that children were my priority but was a person who always wanted kids. My sister decided the other way but was a person who never wanted kids. I know another woman who had kids, kept her career and has left the kids all different kinds of places while she works. Now, while I have issues with the third scenario, her kids seem fine. So, you could choose both and adopt if unable to become pregnant.

      On the other hand, I gave up a career that was equal in income to my husband. My body definitely made some big changes. Some I liked, some not so much. Fitness got set aside… especially when one child was chronically ill for a few years.

      Now, at 45, since my youngest is 6 and fairly independent, I am thoroughly enjoying the process of rediscovering myself. Took a fitness trainer course when I was 43, am in better shape (stronger/healthier) than I was in my 20s (pre-baby). So since I get to have this time in my life now, I thank God that I did not pass by my experiences being pregnant and a very soft Mom. And of course, I can’t imagine life without my kids, who I adore enough to homeschool. 🙂

      1. Excellent advice, Kim! I feel very similarly, having given up dance at 18 in part because I knew I wanted to be a young mom, and then repeatedly given up great jobs to devote more time and energy to my kids (who I also homeschool)! They are 11 and nearly 13 now and I’m starting to get to pursue other aspects of my life more fully now.

  59. Thank you for your post. I know several women at my gym that have a ripped 6-pack. As a matter of fact, the gym owner posted a picture on our main page of two of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both but I don’t necessarily find it sexy or sensible. My biggest take away from your post, and the Paleo movement in general, and what I try to tell the masses that I encounter, is that we need to be HEALTHY. Thanks again!

  60. I love this. Although I haven’t met any of you in person, I’ve seen enough photos and you all are beautiful on the outside…and even more beautiful on the inside! I’d like to see the a-hole who posted the comment doing what you ladies do to “change the world” for better health. I’m in the fitness industry and…women need to learn to love themselves more! Every day I hear the questions “How many calories am I burning? How do I get a six-pack?” Never “How do I be healthy?” I want to tell women to get their priorities straight – do you want to spend your time obsessing over a six-pack or be a good daughter, mother and/or wife? It’s liberating to be free of this kind of mental trap. It’s far more beautiful than a six-pack.

    1. She hit it right on the nail with this post and I can completely relate to your comment! I mostly work with women and for them, it’s all about burning calories and getting a flat stomach. Very rarely will anyone ask how to be healthier. But it should be the opposite way around. Once you clean up what you are fueling and nourishing your body with, it becomes easier to work towards fitness goals.

  61. I’m new to reading your blog, so hopefully I do not cross the line into creeper when I say that you are gorgeous and I cannot fathom a reason why you or anyone else would think otherwise. I absolutely agree with your point that it is all about being healthy and not some rarely obtainable image that is portrayed by the people that get health all wrong. I would also add that it is also about being happy. So in my opinion an attractive woman is healthy and happy. Not faking being happy, not obsessing about what the scale says or if they have a 6 pack. Now that is an attractive woman!

  62. Nom Nom’s site led me here…

    Laura, your article, and your comment were both unabashedly correct. While no one wants an obese lady, skin and bones has never been desirable for anyone but the modeling industry and pederasts.

    You hit it right on the head, fertility is one of the best measures on one’s health. If you’re a pre-menopausal woman with no major physical disorders, maintaining a regular cycle without the “pill” is a symptom of optimal health. When this “optimum” level of fertility is reached, body fat is deposited.

    It wasn’t that long ago that physical features marking reproductive viability were thought to be ideal. If Mark Sisson’s ‘Grok’ were here, I’m confident he would pick the lady with wide hips and meaty thighs. The girl resembling a clothes hanger wouldn’t be worth his time.

  63. I confess I’m more of a real food girl than Paleo (although I have some family members who are Paleo), but I really appreciated this post. Growing up I was super thin, but I was NOT healthy. I ate tons of junk and played lots of sports. I put on a few lbs. but stayed thin through college even though I was eating gross cafeteria food and Little Ceasar’s once a week (EW!) When I got pregnant and started seeing a midwife I finally started figuring out what it meant to eat healthy, wholesome, nutrient dense food. I think many people would be surprised that I lost any baby weight if they saw my dinner plate. Like you, I am probably 10-15 lbs. away from my “ideal weight,” but I feel healthy, I’m fertile enough to conceive, deliver (naturally!), and breastfeed 2 healthy children. I feel healthy, beautiful, and strong! Giving birth to two babies naturally will make anyone feel like superwoman. And I’m back to the weight and size I was before my first child with out diet or excessive exercise. Thank you for daring to say that a healthy woman is a fertile woman, and that healthy is more important than thin. And on the subject of Marilyn, if she was thin, imagine how thin the models are today! Or imagine how many hours someone spends photoshopping them. To all of those women who want to look like the pics in magazines, just realize that no one looks like that, not even the people in the pictures. They probably look a lot more like those funny fat pics in the tabloids. 🙂

  64. Like Nom Nom, I also noticed how so many of the big names in paleo women were of all shapes and sizes–and truth be told, I was relieved to see it! I am naturally slim, was pre-paleo, still am now. At 5’6″ I tend to hover between 125-130 lbs and have 21-23% body fat. I have boyish hips and a small butt, but I’ve had 2 kids by c-section and am in my 40’s now. No matter how hard I try, I cannot achieve a 6-pack. I have what I call a 4-pack, and that’s as good as it gets. I have berated myself time and again, thinking I’m not trying hard enough. I don’t do crossfit and am not motivated enough to spend time sweating in a box. I have insecurities, thinking I’m to blame for not being “perfect” enough, and seeing that even people who must be far better at this paleo thing than I am are shaped like me, or curvier than me, it makes me sigh with releif. With paleo, we are how we are meant to be, whether our natural shape is thin or curvy. Mine is meant to be thin. When I put on weight, I don’t get curvy. I get fat pockets on my hip flexors, on the top of my butt, below the navel and my inner thighs. There is nothing curvy or sexy, just lumpy. Even Juli over at PaleOMG, who looks AWEOME and deadlifts like none other, complains in her blogs about having cottage-cheese butt and thighs. I love that Nom Nom brought this topic up, so that we all noticed it, and discussed it, and we can all heave a collective sigh of releif that none of us is perfect, and that is how we are supposed to be.

    1. Just to clarify, I don’t think the above cited comment from Nom Nom’s blog was written by Nom Nom herself. It was written by a reader of her blog.

      1. Becky is correct: NomNom did not make those comments, a commenter on her post did.
        Laura – I do think you should edit your post to be clearer on this as people are thinking NNP said things she did not.

  65. Totally, totally, totally, TOTALLY AGREED. Thank you for having the courage to step up & SAY THIS OUT LOUD. You hit the nail on the head, & I am grateful to you for that.

  66. Wow! I actually cried reading this! This has been my struggle my whole life…being just 10-15 pounds heavier than what I (and society) told myself would be the magic weight to be “happy.” Since beginning my Paleo lifestyle about a year ago, I have maintained the same weight, but I have lost the guilt I used to experience after eating something I knew I shouldn’t have. Now I truly enjoy food and it feels so amazing to know that what I put in my mouth is truly nourishing my body, unlike those rice cakes and 100 Calorie Packs. I look at my body differently, too. I used to hate my “bubble butt”, but now I love that c-curve and how it can fill out a pair of jeans. I am so lucky to have a husband who loves my body and tells me so all the time. For me, the best part of Paleo is getting rid of sick, guily, pathetic mindset that I was a failure because I didn’t have the willpower to lose those last 10 pounds. For someone with serious body image problems and an eating disorder as a young adult, that is truly priceless!

  67. Hi Laura: I had the same case of the nerves before heading to Austin. I loved seeing so many different body types!! This post is spot on. Your list of what you would give up was great–many of the same things on my list (although I’m blessed in the fact I have an amazing husband who adores me–and did not bat an eye when I told him “We aren’t eating pasta anymore….ever….even though you come from a VERY LARGE ITALIAN FAMILY”). Thank you for writing this. I will definitely include you in my list of regular blogs from now on….and will repost this on Facebook. You rock!

  68. Why is fertility a sign of health rather than just a sign of, well, fertility? Personally, and this is something I’ve been pondering for a long time, I view the current human fertility levels as UNhealthy. Most other large mammals in the wild are fertile only a few times per year. Why is that humans are the exception? It is my understanding that women in hunter-gatherer tribes have one-third the number of cycles as first-world women. Are they unhealthy? I’m not saying that lean is healthier, I just don’t agree with the idea that lean is unhealthier because it interferes with fertility. Also, consider that in paleo times, our diets would’ve been highly cyclical with more carbs and sugars coming over the summer, fattening us up to levels that support fertility. Our constant state of constant fertility isn’t natural.

    1. Do you have some research to support your theory? Not saying you’re right or wrong, but would love some evidence that shows that a monthly cycle in an adequately nourished woman (who is not lactating or pregnant) is unnatural.

    2. That is very interesting! Everything I have researched appears to be in the direction of how cycling is the preferred state of the body. Exercise rotation, diet rotation, location rotation seem to be fairly well proven re: detoxing. So the idea that menstrual cycle having peaks and valleys would be more normal may have some validity.

      I know with chickens, if they lay eggs all year due to artificial lighting/heating and a grain diet, they are only used for two years because their systems are ‘done’ after that. Their bodies are not even good for eating. I believe they are turned into pet food but would be happy to be corrected on that.

      I raise free range chickens who are not artificially lit or fed copious amounts of grain (vegetables, fruit and meat with corn and sunflower seed on the side in our frozen winter). They get the winter off from laying and I have had them as old as 10 years, still laying every day during the lighter parts of the year when they free range and get our table scraps only. (She may have even done so at an older age but a predator got her).

      I’ll be watching for more information on this. Very, very interesting.

    3. HG women have fewer cycles because they reach menarche later, they’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding longer, and probably never resume menstruating after their last baby as they slide into menopause. See Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives for a conveniently summarised source on that.
      Your question about the evolutionary appropriateness of our hundreds of cycles is fair, but perhaps misphrased.

      1. Oh I think I have to get that book. I did not reach menarche until I was 18/19 years old. And then breastfed each child until the age of five, (more than 10 years breastfeeding with one year break between the first two children and the third). Very interesting.

    4. There is a study that shows women in a hunter gatherer tribe having much fewer cycles but this is because they were either pregnant or nursing. Natural selection selects for fertile people.

    5. Perhaps cycles of being very lean are healthier. Think about the fasting experiments done and how the fasted subjects live longer than the non-fasted ones. It’s an incredibly interesting idea.

      I do believe we have lost an incredible health tool in our culture that no longer promotes fasting. (for too many reasons to list here).

  69. I’m so happy to read this today. We just recently started on the paleo/primal journey looking for help with my daughter’s tics. Through research we decided this is a fit for our entire family. I want my daughter to grow up knowing what a healthy body image really is.

    1. A healthy body image, I think, is changeable. VERY changeable, especially for women. In my view they are ALL gorgeous and valuable in their own way. I have gone from the very thin girl, to the pregnant Mama with too much fat to be healthy (did not like that body much honestly but had to be patient with myself as there was no one to guide me). Then later in life when I learned more about how toxic grains were for me, I became a pregnant Mama who was healthy, MUCH less fat and therefore more active parent.

      Now, in my mid-forties, I have more muscle and less fat than I have ever had. And I like this body too, for different reasons. 😉

    2. I also meant to say “Good Luck!” with your search for answers for your daughter. I had a son who was very ill (in and out of hospital for years). We finally figured out grains were toxic for him. I hope this is your daughter’s answer too. We honestly have SO much control over what we put into our bodies. I feel it’s a blessing that it wasn’t something he would have to be on meds for. I hope the same for you. 🙂

  70. Thank you for bringing up this topic. I appreciate your post and the message that health should be prioritized over image. As someone who’s never not had my fair share of junk in the trunk, but with friends who are as different from me as one can imagine, I relate to the idea that women’s bodies (and mens’) are unique and can be healthy across the spectrum. We all struggle with body image and don’t need additional reasons to question ourselves or retreat from doing something because we don’t fit an unrealistic ideal. I think another issue to bring up is: Why does a person choose to eat a Paleo diet to begin with? If someone is actively pursuing fitness goals, that’s one thing; being lean may be a goal or byproduct of those efforts. But, many people choose to eat this way to manage autoimmune disorders, food allergies/sensitivities, and chronic illnesses. Their goals are probably completely different, and the measure of health is likely different as well. Food can be simple, but we seem to make it – and the expectations around how we eat and what results from it – so darned complicated.

  71. Although i liked your article, and understand your point about body image, i think there is more to it, and more research needs to be done as to why women are not as lean as men on this diet. What is the science, as for me, i am way past menopause so fertility is not the answer.

  72. Well, you have certainly opened up a whole new can of worms for me–in a good way! I’m completely new to the Paleo concept and intrigued by it, and the abundance of links you included should keep me busy for quite a while. Great post. I love the part about how we need to consider what’s worth pursuing and how hard we want to work to look a certain way.

  73. No I don’t think you should be judged by the way you look….just like I don’t think those extra lean women that you posted should.

  74. Great blog article! I, too, have felt the same way. It’s time to stop judging women on their looks. The issue should be health. Based on epidemiological studies, thin women are just behind obese in shortest life spans. “Slightly overweight” live the longest. Why would that be? As someone who personally experienced this with my mother, it’s quite simple. If you are thin (as my mom was) and you become very ill or injured, the body has little reserves to burn for fuel. The same holds trueevolutionarily speaking. Natural selection would favor extra fat as well to aid in survival during times of famine.

  75. I’m glad my friend sent me this post b/c I have been trying to make my life around the Primal Blueprint approach, which Mark Sisson talks about lifting heavy things 2 times a week, relax, do some sprints once a week, relax, play outside, and relax some more. And I am friends on Facebook with many Paleo “Pep rally supporters” who post great stuff to help motivate you and help you stay eating clean but also constantly put pictures of extremely lean and ripped women, and quotes that would make you think paleo is about hitting the gym everyday for hours. And maybe that is why they are there to help get you up that one day you want to sit around and do nothing… It just reminds me that people like Mark Sisson, Robb Wolfe, Nom Nom, and the people you talked with at the PaleoFX know the true meaning of being Primal/Paleo. To be lean and ripped you need to be Paleo, but to be Paleo you don’t need to be lean and ripped. If ya get what I’m sayin!

  76. Thank you for sharing this! I am a Registered Dietitian and a crossfitter and I follow a paleo diet. I also struggle with this issue. In my 9 years as an RD I have accomplished a lot, including being part of over a dozen published research studies in the areas of fish oil, cardiology, and childhood obesity. I love nutrition and feed myself and my children and extremely healthy diet. BUT in the crossfit and paleo community I feel like I am judged because I am not thin enough and my body fat is not low enough. When I give nutrition advice it is not taken that seriously but when other women at the gym who are leaner and have the “look” you are talking about give advice (that is not backed by sound science) people are eager to listen and follow their guidance. It is really frustrating!! I have worked so hard to know what I know and am so easily judged because I don’t “look the part” enough. I have undergone years of fertility treatments and struggled with an autoimmune disease but I still eat healthy and workout. I am so blessed to now have two sons but I don’t have a size 4/6 body anymore. Guess what – they were worth it!!! Anytime I have expressed frustration that my body is not going back to that smaller size my paleo friends are quick to say “you must be eating too many treats!” but I don’t eat paleo treats hardly at all because too much almond flour makes me ill. They just assume I must be cheating if I’m not below 20% body fat. Another paleo / crossfit friend of mine whose husband is a also a chiropractor like mine recently discussed this issue with me and vented the same concerns – if you don’t look the part people discount you and listen to people who do even if what they suggest might not be healthiest. This post was awesome! Thank you for bringing attention to this topic, and good luck in your studies. I hope you love being an RD as much as I have!!

  77. Very good points, and I like that in the same time you call for respect between both ‘types’ of women! I would like to add that also female ideals in Ancient Greece implied women to have some body fat that would probably be in the range that you mention (a little less than 30%). Yes, Ancient Greek statues show numerous athletes and heroes with ‘perfect’ – still by today’s standards – proportions, and they had visible abs, but I am not aware of any female statue with abs, even if those were Amazons, goddesses of war or hunting. So in a way, modern trend for ‘ideal’ female body leans towards masculinized type. Maybe it’s an echo of gender equality ideology (perhaps subconscious), but I think women can be happy in their own body.

  78. Thanks for this post! This topic really needs to be discussed! I am a Registered Dietitian as well as a crossfitter and I follow a paleo diet. I have been an RD for 9 years now and in my professional career have had the opportunity to be part of over a dozen research studies in the areas of fish oil, cardiology, and childhood obesity. I have worked in nutrition in areas from the NICU to adult weight loss. It has taken a lot of hard work to know what I know and be where I am professionally. BUT in the crossfit / paleo community I feel judged because I am not lean enough. I feel embarrassed and humiliated by comments some of the other women have made to me at the box I workout at. Throughout my life I was a size 6 but then underwent 5 years of fertility treatments before having 2 amazing little boys. Since then I have battled autoimmune disease and am no longer the smaller version of myself. (I am a size 10 – not obese.) But my kids are worth every bit of struggle!!! I work hard to eat a very healthy diet and exercise but I don’t drop weight like there’s no tomorrow on a paleo diet and crossfitting like my friends do. When topics of nutrition are brought up my information is often discounted and the people who have the body types you are talking about are heeded even though some of the advice they give is not backed by sound science and on one occasion has been dangerous! Another crossfit / paleo friend of mine (whose husband is also a chiropractor like mine) and I were discussing this point recently and she said “you know if you don’t look the part they won’t listen to you” and she is right! It is really frustrating!! We need to stop judging each other so much on body size and looks and start celebrating each other for the hard work and dedication it takes to make the difficult changes in lifestyle that most people aren’t willing to do. AND we should cut everyone some slack – you never know their story. This post was awesome!! Good luck in your studies. I hope you enjoy being an RD as much as I have!!!

  79. All I can say is “LOVE.”

    You voiced a lot of my fears about being a health counselor who specializes in Paleo/Primal/Ancestral nutrition– Wanting to spread the good word, but feeling like no one will listen to you because you have a butt is hard and stupid. I’ve had anxiety about giving workshops at Crossfit gyms because, as a nutrition counselor I’m “supposed” to have my sh*t together, which unfortunately translates into “I should look like a Crossfit Games athlete.” There are WAY more important things in life, which you have beautifully pointed out.

  80. Laura, first off fantastic rant! It’s time someone posted about it. Much like yourself, I strived (at one point) for the “glamorous” six-pack, flat tummy and slim, cut thighs. I realized a few things: a) it’s so not in my genes (I’m of Mexican decent with curves 🙂 ); b) to get that I’d probably have to be on a fat-restrictive diet which would lead to c) I’d be one mean, grumpy B*&$h…i love good, healthy food. That being said, I went from a tight 10 to a size 4 in one year…and I still don’t have the sixpack, the flat tummy, or the cut thighs…I’m gettin’ smaller and smaller in size, but the physique that I wanted jut never got there (I’ve got a two-pack!) I’ve gotten more compliments, though, from both genders saying that I have the “ideal” attractive body: toned WITH curves. I think living the paleo lifestyle isn’t just about what we look like on the outside, rather, how we feel on the inside. I still struggle with seeing that bit of pudgy tummy and self-conscious, but quickly tell myself, “girl, you’re a size FOUR! Love it like the guy across the room is loving it!” 😉 (paleo 85/15 and crossfit)

  81. Not sure how to take this post. Sounds like every excuse you’ve ever heard for been fat and doing what you please with an squadron of reasons to justify whatever behaviour you like. People shouldn’t be judged on appearance but they are. That’s a fact of life so take it on board and, if it bothers you, make the appropriate changes instead of expecting western society to change. The world does not revolve around you. I wouldn’t take ‘quit smoking’ tips off a chain smoker even if they had a PHD in nicotine addiction and I certainly would have a hard time taking diet tips off someone who is obese. The original comment was valid and the subject needs to be discussed not brushed aside like it’s outrageous.

    1. Let me take a stab at this, Luke. What most of us found outrageous about the original commenter’s post was that it implied the fallacious logical leap that not lean = not healthy. What Laura is trying to say here is that as long as you are healthy or on the path to optimizing your health, your weight on a scale or your outward appearance are of minimal importance unless that excess body fat is causing you health problems. This is not a “accept your body even if you’re morbidly obese post”, it’s a “if everything is working right, then a few extra pounds are not only ok, they may present a biological advantage” post.

      I agree with you that I wouldn’t take advice off someone who didn’t at least a little bit “walk the talk”, but you also have to understand, that even the experts are human too. Not all of us are blessed with brilliant genetics, and many of us are undoing years worth of damage, just like you. But the point is that we are moving in the right direction, know what we are talking about, and are willing to help you move that way too.

      1. The original comment was a simple observation. There’s an obvious credibility gap when some of the top proponents of ancestral eating are clearly carrying some excess baggage. Body image is everything in the diet and fitness industry and there’s no getting away from that fact. Pretending like this is a non problem doesn’t get us anywhere. For example. Mark Sisson has enormous credibility (abs etc.) in this field despite having no academic credentials people hang on his every word it seems. If he looked overweight there is no chance his ‘Primal’ brand would of been a success. Is anyone here eating this way to put on body fat – no – undesirable. Let’s find out why. It’s a cruel world but the only one we’ve got.

        1. So if one of my good friends looks amazing and super fit, yet 90% of her meals include Lean Cuisine, Special K, and granola bars, is she more credible in her nutrition knowledge than someone like me who is perhaps less outwardly attractive yet has been educated in nutrition?

          Personally, I got down to my ideal body weight by eating a ton of GG Brancrisps in college. (100% wheat bran) Does that mean I was healthier then? I’m just curious what your opinion is.

          1. I was thinking exactly the same thing about Luke’s comment. I know where he is coming from (for example, I would not enlist an overweight personal trainer to help me get fit), but outward appearance and health are not the same. In my twenties, I was very thin and looked fit and people told me I had a body like a model. (Not that I did!) But I was semi-eating disordered and absolutely starving for nutrients. Everything I ate was processed and came in tiny single serving packets — instant oatmeal, low-fat nutrasweet flavored yogurts, etc. I drank diet soda like it was going out of style. If I’d kept that lifestyle up for a decade or two, I’m sure I would have hurt my health in the long run, so my outwardly healthy appearance was not the whole story.

      2. @Luke.
        Wrong. I’d like to gain a few pounds.

        It’s not about the number on the scale, certain percentages or numbers. It’s about overall health.

    2. Luke, def agree with you on taking advice from a smoker or an obese person. Curious, though as to what standards would you use to categorize someone as obese? (i.e I’m 4’10.5″ tall, size 4, BMI Omron is 29%, ad 137#). By U.S. “standards” I’m considered obese, though a size 4 may make me “thin” to others. Laura is a size 8, which is below the average size 14. It’s a great discussion and lookin’ to continue to discuss the matter.

      1. just for the record Laura looks perfect in any incarnation. BMI seems a little over rated as a measure of body composition – doesn’t know the difference between fat and muscle and consequently lumps elite athletes in with very fat people. I was using the term ‘obese’ instead of ‘fat’ as I thought it was a more sensitive term. Looks like I crashed and burned there sorry. A recent post by Melissa at theclothesmakethegirl suggests the whole thing has been bothering her too and it’s about time we came together and figured something out for those who want a leaner look (and I suspect that’s most of us).

  82. I have to admit I found this article judgmental – although I don’t that is how it was intended. I don’t think NomNom’s observation/comment was out of line. I have to admit when I saw the pictures from PaleoFX the same thought crossed my mind. Not in a judgmental way but in a “That’s interesting” way. I think it does have something to do with the fact that men a predisposed genetically to be leaner and so all things being equal a man who does the same exercise and eats the same foods as a woman is likely to be leaner. That doesn’t mean it is wrong to want to be leaner or wrong to be happy the way you are. While I agree society wrongly equates extreme thinness with beauty I also thing its funny that it’s the chubby people who seem to be the most upset about that. There are always going to be people to are naturally heavier and people who are naturally thinner. There are also people who are healthy inside who look chubby and people who are thin who are very unhealthy inside. I think if you have doubt about whether you are a good paleo role model because of the way you look then you need to look inside yourself and deal with those feelings. I am not thin but I can appreciate the beauty of a thin muscular looking woman just the same as I can appreciate the beauty of a healthy but well-rounded woman. The only desire I have to be different comes from wanting to be the best me I can be not from feeling that either is better. Only you can know how healthy you are on the inside and that is mental as well a physical.

    1. Sorry you feel that way. This is coming from a person studying the science of nutrition and feeling frustrated that people may not take me seriously because I’m not in ‘perfect’ shape. I can have my diet 100% dialed in and yet stress and illness are factors I don’t have quite as much control over. There is more to body weight than food and activity levels.

      That said, the article was meant to point out that maybe eating a perfect Paleo diet won’t bring most women to the ‘lean and mean’ state because perhaps it’s not biologically appropriate for most women. I just want those women who are struggling to stop agonizing about the way they look as if its the only marker of health and happiness.

      1. I understand (I think) where you were going with this post. I think it started a valuable discussion. I can also understand your frustration with people who don’t take you seriously. You must remember that most people most easily take advice from people who they perceive to be the kind of person they want to become. In a lot cases that represent looks, which while somewhat superficial is understandable given the huge emphasis our society places on it. I think (hope) this is slowly changing.

        I think a lot of people get confused by the fact that the Paleo and Crossfit communities are so closely involved with each other and assume you will get a Crossfit type physique from eating Paleo. In addition, a lot of people don’t understand the effects behind their food choices, Paleo or not, and how their food choice will affect their body comp.

        Lastly, I also would like women to stop agonizing about the way they look. It is definitely not the only marker of health and happiness but I would also like both men and women to be able to psychologically overcome the food drama that has us making such poor choices to begin with. It causes a lot of self anger to find that you have eaten the chocolate bar again without knowing why. I know a lot of women who claim to be fine with their weight but who are really uncomfortably heavy but defensive because they don’t know how to correct their dysfunctional relationship with food and they don’t want to feel like a failure.

  83. Laura, you are spot on!! Excellent post. The image of skinny over fit women is all overrated!! Sure for those who wish to achieve that look, more power to you ladies!! I am one of those guys who also likes some meat on the bones!! 😉 A powerful mind, attitude and personality is what is attractive to me regardless of shape and size!! If a woman says she is Paleo/Primal or eats Ancestrally that tells me that she is smart enough to know she is healthy on the inside as well as the outside! Sure you may not have a “14 pack” but I could care less about that because I know to get that 14 pack you are not eating optimally and are killing yourself in other ways that is not attractive to me.

    Eat well, move smart, sleep good, get some sun, and don’t stress ladies, that is the key to a beautiful mind and body!!

    Keep on ranting!! Keep on LIVING! 🙂


  84. Wow! Thank you for a great post. I am currently reading the book “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It” By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman.

    Your post is such a powerful example of how deeply rooted the problem of weight obsession is in our society.

    Our food and exercise programs should be about being healthy and honoring our bodies, not about trying to reach some “ideal weight” that society sets for us.

    Thanks again for the post. I think every time we get a chance to read something like this it helps us remember what’s really important.

  85. This post makes little distinction between (1) having little fat, and (2) have little muscle.

    Either can make you “thin.” Either will give you a lot BMI. The appearance, and “paleoness” of each is very different.

  86. I’ve been thinking about this post since I saw it this morning, Laura, and I’ve had a couple of thoughts.

    I’ll be honest, when I saw the pictures in question here, I had some of the same thoughts. I’m not proud of it, but I did. I think that what’s happening here is that the reality of human health is hitting cultural expectations head on, and it’s a weird clash.

    Let’s be honest, the cultural norm is that thinner ALWAYS = healthier, and that’s just flat not true, however, it’s a mindset that we’ve all internalized, and many of us implicitly believe without thinking it.

    As paleo continues to position itself as the pinnacle of human health, people are going to expect paleo folks to look like the prevailing cultural norms or health–supper-skinny, or Gillian Michaels, or the picture you posted above.

    I also think that paleo communities fall into this trap too, as we continue to hold up weight loss as the gold standard of paleo’s effectiveness. I know that lots of people fight that, but just go read the board’s on Mark Sission’s site. People still think that this thing “working” means that they’re losing weight. The paleo community has to find a way to shift their mindset toward health–whatever that looks like, and that it might not look skinny, or lean, or cut, or ripped, or whatever. (Incidentally, I also think paleo needs quantitative markers to MEASURE health, so people do know for certain it’s working).

    Just my thoughts.

  87. What I found most interesting about your article is the idea that you would feel “not lean” (fat) at a size 8. I think an 8 is a fairly small size. For me, and 8 is a size I passed through pretty rapidly on my way through puberty.
    Coming not only to terms with my body, but learning to love it for what it is, even when it was, or is, unhealthfully overweight, has been a task that took quite some time, and involved me examining what I was using for a barometer. The government BMI? A women’s magazine? Other women? None of these were acceptable. The government seems to want EVERYONE to fit into the same mold, which is exceedingly unnatural. Women’s magazines have a vested interest in keeping me unhappy about my body, my looks, my personality, even my true nature, because unhappy people buy things to make themselves happy. Other women, are simply people who are not me, and it’s been interesting to find that women who have bodies I *wish* I had, were just as unhappy with them as I was.
    I reached a point where I realized that I was always wishing for what had been, and never happy with what was now, and that, in the future, this current “had been” might be something I would wish for in the future, so there was no point in not being happy with it for now. So, I bought some clothes that fit and that I loved and started making choices about my future. I exercise today because regardless of whether it has the desired affect (weight loss), it can’t help but help me be healthier than I would have been in my future had I spent the morning on the sofa. Essentially, I started to care more for the women who would inhabit my body in the future, than whatever the government thought, or a women’s magazine thought, or what I thought another woman was thinking.
    This led to a series of better health choices, and major changes, and though the path has been long, I eventually had a tonsillectomy, which radically improved my health. To the point where after an 18 year break, my fertility returned, which IS a sign of good health, in spite of what dandavis thinks. The reason we cycle monthly, is because we are HUMAN women, not animals.
    Though I am 43, and pregnant, my body and health have continued to improve radically since the surgery nearly 7 months ago. I have had to adjust my diet away from a protein and fat centered diet and add more carbohydrate because I have insulin dependent gestational diabetes. I consider this a residual issue leftover from before the surgery. I think it might have been a good idea to have a year or so to physically recover from the damage my tonsils were doing to my body before I got pregnant, but my body had other ideas.

  88. Laura, I thought you looked beautiful at PaleoFX. It was very nice meeting you there. I have to confess that I had similar concerns before attending the conference as well though. Are my hips too big, will all the women there look like Camille Leblanc-Bizinett and I’ll end up being the “big girl”, I hope my face doesn’t break out, will everyone notice my leg imbalance thanks to a fractured knee cap in September….and on and on. What I really took away from the conference is that while fitness and maintaining a healthy body weight are crucial to longevity, advanced performance and physique come as a sacrifice to your longevity, and sometimes even to your immediate health. That’s a decision people have to make for themselves. Between my temporary handicap and the chronic illnes and avoidable declines in health that I see daily in my job in the world of elder law, as well as my own father’s battles with diabetis and watching him spend 2 months in a coma on a ventilator, I can tell you that I 100% choose longevity and good health. If that means I’m 10lbs heavier than what is considered “hot” or than what some ignorant person thinks my outsides should look like to indicate I’m “fit”, I’m perfectly content with that. If my vitamin panel and hs-CRP come back stellar this year, I’ll be thrilled. To me, that’s sexy 🙂 And to the person who commented that it seems that “chubby” people are the ones that are always complaining, I’m 5’10, size 6. I couldn’t tell you what I weigh, because I haven’t been on the scale in a few months (so very little meaning in that number). I can tell you that my vitamin D level is 46, which just about knocked my doctor off his feet. Apparently I’m the only person he’s currently treating who is not deficient. I’m not concerned about redfining beauty so that I don’t feel fat. I’m concerned with people focusing on health rather than an ill-defined notions of what “beauty” is, notions that may come at the cost of their health and longevity. “Beauty” will fade for everyone. I’d much rather end up like Jeanne Calment at 122, eating some chocolate and having a good laugh at how silly the contrived notion of “beauty” really is. To your health Laura! Let’s have this conversation again in 100 years and see who is around to counter then! 🙂

    1. Nicely said Susie. My mom suffered from many health problems throughout most of her adult until (obesity being at the top of the list) she died (at the age of 57!!) of CANCER (38 days from diagnosis until she died). That experience was a defining moment in my life–I knew I would have to take control of my health…and did.

      My question to you…tell me how you are getting your Vit. D???

      1. I work damn hard to get my D up! FYI last year before I went Paleo I believe it was at around 25. Can’t find my bloodwork records to confirm that at the moment. I TRY to get outside and get a little sun but most days that just doesn’t happen. I take 5000 IU/day (per Robb Wolf’s reco), I eat wild salmon and liver (mixed in with ground beef so I can’t taste it!) at least once a week, as well as grass-fed butter and ghee.

  89. Certainly a message that needs to be heard however I would not be so quick to assert that men don’t find six packs and visible ASIS attractive. In the ancient times, the venus figurines were most likely images of what was not present in society. We all agree that Paleo women (in this case, literally Paleo women) are far leaner than a neolithic woman. True women need a little more body fat than men but this doesn’t mean they need to have a muffin top and back rolls. It’s possible for a woman to have the optimal amount of body fat (~15%) and still have some abs showing. It seems women can get carried away with the, “thick is beautiful” mantra just as men dellude themselves in to thinking it’s not the size that matters…it’s but the motion in the ocean.

  90. While I whole heartedly agree, I think that if a Paleo woman wants a leaner physique and has the time and energy, willingness and drive to achieve it, MORE POWER TO HER! I am on the verge of starting a physique overhaul because while I agree that women look beautiful with a soft physique, I prefer a leaner one and I’m going for it!

    1. I’m with you friend. I’m 120 lbs (yesterday) and have more muscle than I ever did before (90 lbs of it, in fact)… and I LOVE it! I feel stronger, I feel more secure and I feel better grounded than ever before. I’d love to have a six pack to show off and every time I see one of those photos, I’m inspired to work harder. THANK YOU to all those women who post photos of theirs. 🙂

  91. Thank you SO much for this post. As a fellow Paleo girl who doesn’t fit the “lean and mean” mold either (I’m also in the size-8 range) no matter how clean I eat or how much I work out, this post really spoke to me, and I thank you for having the guts to publish it! I’m planning on attending the AHS in August, and ever since I bought my ticket, I keep telling myself “Okay, you REALLY need to get in shape if you want to be around all of those people” but you just made me feel a lot better about myself. So thank you again!

    1. Thanks Leigh, I wrote this post for people like you. I too had the same thought go through my mind before PaleoFX – that I better ‘get in shape’ before I let myself be seen around the Paleo ‘elite’. It’s a ridiculous feeling to have but one that is pretty common amongst us gals that have not had the same fat loss ‘success’ as some other members of the community. I don’t want to be judged for my nutrition knowledge because I don’t look perfect and therefore must not know what I’m doing.

  92. Laura, I’m very new to blogging. Your’s was “shared” on FB and is the second blog I’ve ever cared to respond to. Your subject caught my eye as it is very impressive. It’s rare that you hear anything like this from the youth of today who are consumed with their body image. I too was young at one time and was caught up in keeping my body so thin my husband commented once I looked like walking death. This was after I had taken off 50-60 lbs and refused to taste an appetizer at a party because I told them I was “on a diet” (my husband fights the battle of the bulge too and is never cruel in his statements regarding my body – it was so unlike him). I am now in my sixties and as you grow older it become increasing difficult to take it off and keep it off. While I’m overweight and probably should do more to reduce, I’m comfortable with me; and have been for a long time. It disturbs me how some shallow individuals can look at overweight people and just write them off as lazy, etc. I work very hard and am quite active. So…I’m happy….and I’m in relatively good health for someone over sixty. I have a niece who, at one time, could only talk about weight when she was around me. I was allowing her to give me a complex, which is something I thought I had conquered. So one day when she was standing next to me and said she was so frustrated because she had gain 10 lbs, I told her I could tell. She was astonished and asked me “You can tell!?”. When I told her no I didn’t see a difference, but she offends me because weight seemed to be all she could ever talk about when she was around me. I told her not to talk to me if she didn’t have anything more intelligent to converse about. You know what?…it’s amazing how many wonderful conversations we’ve had since then. Keep up your studies, and your opinions; perhaps you can make a difference in many lives. Now…..I have to google what Paleo is all about. Incidentally,the picture you’ve posted of the 14 pack above…to me looks looks like a male who has transgender ed to female… look at s/he’s hands and arms. Doesn’t look female to me. Just saying….

  93. This post could not of come at a better time. Some women and I were just talking about weight gain/loss with paleo and our body types. Why some women lean out and some tend to bulk up a little more. We really all have different body types and respond differently. It’s so important to just be the healthiest versions of ourselves. Hard to really grasp that and hold onto it when we are constantly be bombarded with “examples” of what a women will look like after going paleo and crossfiting. I even had someonein tell me, after I started crossfitting, that I’ll look like Jullian Michaels after awhile. Wow, no pressure or anything. I dont need that bar. How about I work towards just being the best possible, healthy, strong me?? Yes.

  94. What a lot of nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with putting a question out there and asking why many of the paleo female figureheads aren’t as lean as say Sisson. The initial comment was fair, made in nice and non argumentative way and the response I think says more about the woman that felt the need to go way overboard than about the point made in the first place.

    Indeed I think the entire article highlights a certain insecurity and possibly some mental health issues that need addressing.

    Oh and finally, I find it hilariously contradictory that you;re unhappy with others that who might want to tell others how they ought to look and then you do the very sae thing yourself. And who are you to say that 26% BF% or anything else is an ideal % for pregnancy? It completely depends on the person. I would never dream of telling you or moreover assuming to know what is best for you in a given situation. Everyone is different.

    Here you are taking umbrage that others should dictate to you how you ought to look and make you feel insecure about yourself and yet you’re essentially doing the same, if not worse to women who do have low BF% levels. Even worse you’re making an argument based on how feminine someone is.

    Awful awful article. I’m sure you’re very nice and I will be looking through your site as at first glance there’s some lovely tidbits on here but really, there are ways and means to make a point and you totally missed it. Worse still you potentially made others feel bad about how they look or what they’re trying to achieve.

    1. I agree. I also thought it was too bad that the person wasn’t responded to in a nice way. It was both a valid and honest question. And if that person is a female looking at going paleo because they like ‘that look’, they have certainly been put off trying it now. A little bit of an ‘unwelcome to the club’ message hmm.

  95. isn’t being paleo/primal more about health and well-being rather than how one looks? to dwell so much on how ‘lean and mean’ or skinny one could become on paleo really isn’t any different than succumbing to any ‘fad’ diet, striving to be more ‘beautiful’ and acceptable to a ridiculous misconception of what ‘normal’ should be. your response was fabulous, direct and right on the money. thank you so much for it!

  96. Wow. Great article! My husband and I talk about this sometimes, because I am about 25% BF and think I would look “better” with leaner thighs. He thinks I am ridiculously vain, and says he is so much more attracted to me with a little curves, and does not want me to look like someone on the cover of fitness magazine. (not likely, I will be 44 soon) I am blessed to be able to be very disciplined in my eating for the past few years, and do not see the swings of weight like I did in my 30’s. I am healthier than I have been. And yet I still have dreams of an ideal body (like when I was 16) and it really isn’t my reality. I have much more responsibility in my life than to just “take care of me” and workout like a fiend to get that body image. Plus I don’t honestly have that drive, just the dream. And I admit I do judge other women’s bodies but I do try to turn that into compassion for all of the stresses we women in the modern women struggle against. Some people have heavier burdens, it seems.

  97. I’m definitely not lean, but I am tall, and get away with carrying more bodyweight than most women, due to a large skeletal frame as well.
    That being said, I’m not fat. I’d say i’ve average; I do have a fair bit of tone now.
    Thanks to Paleo, I am also perfectly, ridiculously healthy. This makes me happier than anything else; i’d been sickly all my life. And now, i’m enjoying the feel of not being that person lagging behind everyone! I’m no longer scared my fertility is at risk either, or fear having endo or PCOS.
    I also did a post on body image, not from a Paleo perspective but from one of someone who works in fashion photography. I feel it’s related because there’s the same pressure to look a certain way, and I think it’s a load of..well, you know.

  98. Great article. Thank you for writing this. It is my firm belief that we, as a society, must create an environment where women can feel good about themselves instead of ever self conscious. This one of the many reasons why I am critical of Curves fitness studios – I rail against the notion of a male-owned organization which profits from hiding women in all female studios with the blinds closed instead of empowering women to feel confident and comfortable out in public. At the same time, it is vitally important to understand that the same social/media messages that tell women how they ought to look also tell men how women ought to look. I believe it is counter-productive to blame men for this type of ignorance as (believe it or not) male social privilege is as bad for men as it is for women (mountains of research support this idea). We must, instead educate people (men and women alike) about how they are unconsciously influenced by social scripts and empower them to decide for themselves that they want to transcend these social messages. I would LOVE to see gender issue become a central and important discussion point in the Paleo community. For what it’s worth, I am a former personal trainer with an interest in nutrition who is now finishing his Ph.D. in psychology, specializing in gender studies. Keep up the great work, Laura.

  99. Excellent post, wish more women were happy about their bodies and less obsessed with losing fat. In my opinion women are sexiest when curvy.

  100. I feel like people take the numbers on the scale too seriously. I lost 65 pounds on paleo (well 50 paleo and 15 after I started crossfitting). I’m a size 2 now…I was 205 pounds at 5’4 before starting paleo over 2 years ago. I now hover between 140-145 pounds and am a solid size 2/P in brands that don’t vanity size (Betsey Johnson, etc). Weight means nothing. I can give you measurements as well (since I have to have them taken all the time for work)….people think I’m nuts when I tell them my weight…muscle weighs more…I’d rather be a solid 2 @ 140 than one who would blow away in the wind. Also, I didn’t lose my shape. I was a true hourglass (a real one…not one of the American women who think they are when they’re just overweight with a tire around the middle)….and I am still an hourglass now. You can be smaller and still have a shape. I think my opinion is that you do what you need to do (diet and exercise wise) to achieve what ever makes you feel the sexiest, happiest and most comfortable throughout your life. I have a little bit of a belly (no washboard abs), but I am happy with myself and don’t intend on driving myself crazy to get rid of it.

  101. This article is bang on Laura! Media’s idealized image of stick-thin women is unreal. Personally, I thought the vast majority of the women at Paleo Fx looked great. I was happy to see so many vibrant smart women generally ranging from their 30’s-60’s. There were also many women who’d lost a LOT of weight doing this AND also baby boomers like me with clear skin and energy.

    Personally… I DON’T WANT to look RAIL thin or cut. I strive to be healthy, curvy and to age really well with none of the chronic degenerative health conditions that many women get eating the SAD. And yes… women are hyper-critical about appearances due to the influence of our media saturated culture. Hope this continues to change and shift to health and happiness. I spoke with Dr. Jack Kruse and he was very concerned with people OVER-EXERCISING and shortening their telomeres and lifespan… this was echoed in the sentiments of many other speakers. Life is meant to be savored and enjoyed in a healthy way.

    On the way out of the conference I had the pleasure of chatting with Mrs USA – a paleo girl for sure… and chatting with us was Jimmy Moore, who’d lost 180 lbs and has a blog called “livin’ la vida low-carb”… it was awesome! And yes, the other beauty contestants are clamoring for Mrs USA’s diet secrets. 😀

  102. @Laura on March 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm (no reply button?)
    She wouldn’t be more credible in her nutrition knowledge but she would appear to be. In that instance, you would have a hard time convincing your friend or anyone else (if you looked like the Surgeon General for instance which you don’t obviously) to eat paleo without appealing to authority which as we know from My Plate is the biggest fallacy of all.
    You might be onto something with the 100% wheat diet being the key to leanness. Is that where you think the paleo-sisterhood is going wrong?

  103. Great post – good points. Women have forever been put down for our bodies regardless of what size they are. As women who live the paleo lifestyle or simply a healthier lifestyle period AND exercise (specifically crossfit), we are naturally going to have curves even if they are smaller. And that’s a great thing! We need to appreciate what we SHOULD have and forget about what the world thinks we should have because of tv and media. Personally I am ecstatic with the body crossfit gives me. I love that my rear is rounder, my thighs a little larger but leaner. All other women should be too! No more of this self-consciousness. Because if we can help change one women at a time around the world with the ideas of paleo and crossfit then we’ve done our duty to help change what we think an ideal body is.

  104. I love this post! I just started Paleo at the beginning of this year, mainly to see if it would improve my fiance’s psoriasis. It has a little, but that’s not the focus of this comment. I also had about 30 lbs. to lose according to BMI, etc. I had lost a total of 17, but have been hovering around the 15 lb mark since the first month. But more than the number on the scale is that I have seen improvement of my physical strength, the clothes I wear fit better. In fact, I wear clothes better now than I did at my ideal weight (yeah, I kept my clothes from then), but I’m 15 lbs heavier than my ideal. I look in a mirror and I feel good, but I look at my stomach and want that flat “ideal” stomach that has been ingrained by media madness to want. I have to remind myself how MUCH different those 15 lbs. I DID lose has changed my outlook and inlook! And maybe I need to lose the perfect BMI idea too. I, in fact, have stopped stepping on a scale.

    On a similar note, but slightly veer: My fiance and I never go shopping, but we had to go to the Apple store in the mall, while walking past a Lane Bryant, he stated, “Wow, now those mannequins have a body!” He had no idea what Lane Bryant is or was, he didn’t know there was a REASON the mannequins were bigger; he just NOTICED & LIKED them. He never notices the others. I am not a Lane Bryant size, but I’m not a normal mannequin size either. It made me really happy to be with him.

  105. This is…one of the most rediculous things that has ever made me angry.

    I was enthusiastic about this entry because I thought it would be an insightful and balanced contrast between the pursuit of balanced nutritional health via Paleo ONLY vs. those who follow Paleo AND a structured fitness plan with the aim of becoming a competitive athlete.

    Instead, what I read was an emotional rant drafted in response to a naГЇve poster’s admittedly ill-concieved observation that he would assuredly be sandblasted for. Mission accomplished.

    What really grinds my gears about this is the bleeding-heart, downright insulting tone of the entire piece. You feel victimized because you’ve allowed your own personal insecuriites, which have NOTHING to do with Paleo, prevent you from participating in activities in which you are interested, for fear of being judged. Do you realize how that reads to those viewing your article? You completely destroy your own credibility by commiting to an emotional rant AGAINST the very people who follow your blog.

    Lest you think I’m one of those “lean” people you so despise, here are my stats:

    33 y.o. Female. 5′ 6″. 150#. Measurements 34-29-42. Size 8 pants. Size XS top. I carry all my fat on my hips, thighs, and rear. I am a Fencer, Tribal Fusion belly dancer, a CrossFit practitioner (just for fun). I lunge, and my butt is big. But I do NOT look like a “lean” athlete.

    All I want is to perform at my best. To compete at my best. To be a fit and LEAN athlete.

    But guess what? LEAN DOES NOT MEAN SKINNY. How do people keep forgetting this fact? You have simultaneously insulted all the small-framed, athletic, lean people as well as the large-framed, muscular, lean women.

    Further, the notion that those who follow an ancestral diet should be physically “normal” because that’s what we were “designed” to do–to be able to have increased fertility–is simply ignorant. First, because of the notion of bodies being “designed” to do anything. This is an ancestral, evoloutionary diet. When you imply design, you insult your audience’s intelligence.

    Second–and I realize this is probably hard to accept–but believe it or not, there are many women in the Paleo community who DO NOT WANT CHILDREN. We resent the pressure that is generated, suprisingly, by *other women* who seem to believe that being extremely fertile is preferable to the alternative. We have a choice. Some of us have had to exercise that choice. We do not appreciate totems of fertility goddesses thrown in our faces as symbols of what eating Paleo means. It’s a dietary choice, not a political statement on what it is to be “womanly”.

    To mix those issues betrays the very audience you’re hoping to reach. You’re not winning readers to the Paleo diet/lifestyle by initiating an emotional diatribe in defense of your own insecurities OR the state of your own personal fitness–or lack therof, or whatever you view yourself personally to be. If anything, it does a disservice to the science, and makes it sound no more preferable to the bystander than someone espousing a low-fat Vegan way of eating. There are lean people in that movement, too. And not-so-lean people. Choose which one you want to be, but don’t belittle others’ choices to be active and fit. Be fine with what you are, but don’t pick fights with those who are something you are not.

  106. Paleo or not, thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. I grew up thin. I am now nourishing my body in hopes of having more children if I get that opportunity. I am sis feet tall, and according to the ideal weight charts, I need to lose 70 pounds. Besides the fact that when I WAS that thin, people were worried about me & wondering if I had an eating disorder, I am not nearly as concerned about the ideal weight charts as I am about being healthy. Society can fly a kite with the ideal weight charts and anorexic models…my future children need me to eat. 🙂

  107. Fascinating points you make! The thing that struck my husband when I showed him this post is that your show a picture of fertility god which is nicely counterpointed by the image of the female body builder, who back in the day would have been what a slave looked like. Nobody thinks the slaves were the epitome of nourished and healthy even if physically active.

  108. Here here! Good article. As one of the ‘not’ chissled men, I appreciate what is said in this article. I am but one man who likes a little something on a woman. When I hug a woman, I like to know she is there, not having fear of breaking her. Don’t get me wrong, beauty comes in many packages as God has designed. Be healthy in mind, body and spirit. However, thank you for bringing this point forward. Many of us ‘chro-magna’ men like curves, hills, and valleys. Ladies, be who you are designed to be. You are truly beautiful in any form!

  109. As a post-menopausal woman of 58 years, I find the women of the paleo community to be bright, shining stars. Most are much younger than I, so I want to put my 2 cents worth in about “health”. I lift weights for strength and bone health. The only part of the health equation that I haven’t seen anyone talk about is waist to hip ratio. I don’t care so much about weight or body fat %, per se. As a young woman, I had no problem achieving the desired .7-.8, but as I’ve gotten older, my waist has spread and my hips have not. I have slender hips anyway, but it is very hard to get rid of the middle body fat. The Drs. Eades, in their book “The 6-Week Cure for the Middle Aged Middle”, strongly stress that the waist to hip ratio is important to keep metabolic problems at bay. In my family, there is heart disease and stroke. I have eliminated all other factors that could put me at risk, this is the remaining problem. So, do any of you track that piece of your health? Forget BMI and all that. Is this what really matters? Your opinions are encouraged. Btw, love the pics of Marilyn. Now, SHE was a babe.

  110. Thank you for this amazing article!! Last year I had gotten sick and one of the things I discovered was that I had a wheat allergy. So after giving up wheat I had lost 50 lbs, once I went mostly paleo I gained back about 8 lbs and was really worried I was on the slippery slope of weight gain. After your article I am ok with the weight gain and realize it is just my body finding its healthy point. I am happy with the body I have achieved. we are women and are meant to be curvy and not stick thin. So ladies rock those awesome bodies we work so hard to achieve!! Thank you again for bringing things into perspective for me 🙂

  111. This article really resonated with me, and I want to sincerely thank you for writing it. I originally went Paleo because I am a single mom and once it was time for my daughter to start eating solids, it became my goal to research angles of nutrition until I figured out the best plan to raise with her so that although her health and safety is my responsibility and mine alone and our support system is limited, she would still have the best start possible.

    Anyway, that’s how I found Paleo and I knew instantly that it was the answer for both of us; the rest is history. Over the last year, my daughter has thrived and I have become stronger, healthier and leaner as well. Losing weight, though nice, wasn’t my goal, but it has become rather addictive. I am active and eat plenty, but slowly I have become more and more obsessed with ‘chasing those last 5 lbs’ and figuring out just how lean I can get (without starving myself.) I habitually weigh, measure and track every single that goes into my body and weigh myself twice a day, even though I know how ridiculous it is. I keep my daily macronutrient EXACTLY to what I somehow decided was ideal and I have sacrificed many fun social outings in order to not interrupt my IF schedule, even if only by an hour or two.

    All of these habits I have formed based on recommendations via Paleo websites, forums and blogs. It is hard to miss the pages upon pages dedicated to leaning out just a tiny bit more, and on one hand I am extremely hrateful that I discovered a lot of these techniques as some have helped me to reach new levels of both physical and mental health. However, you never really see reminders to women that despite socializations in modern culture, extreme leanness is in fact not biologically ideal.

    I am a perfectly healthy weight for my build, decently fit but definitely no six pack. 5’3, 116 lbs, strong but a bit soft. I carry my extra weight in my thighs and hips, and a little bit of extra chub in my belly where I carried my baby girl for nine months.

    So much emphasis is put onto the extremes in female bodies in our culture: the obesity epidemic and the tiny waif-women littering magazines and pop culture. What about the healthy, strong women? What about me?

    I guess what i am saying is, reading your article was just exactly what i needed to hear. I realized that if I spend my time stressing out about exercising enough, macro ratios, etc., i have no chance to enjoy food or enjoy the healthy body I have earned. Maybe that last five pounds really isn’t so important after all, or maybe there is no last pounds and it’s all in my head.

    Thanks again for the thought and time you put into this. I know I am not the only cavewoman you touched with it.

  112. you know how they say that everything is given to you when you need it? well the universe gave me this blog post as i’ve been trying to decide if i should do paleo or not for my PCOS and Ednometriosis i suffer from. i’m on all kinds of hormones, working out like a mad woman to help it, and eat healthy, but after reading this have decided paleo is the way to go! i felt like you were speaking right to ME! 🙂 i just cleaned out my pantry and after a cleanse my doctor is having me do, i’ll start paleo! i am super excited. i just ordered robb wolf’s book, the paleo solution, as well! i am totally fine with being a marilyn monroe type and if this diet makes me healthy and i stay looking like a WOMAN, i’m happy. who wants to look like a twig anyways? SO not healthy. you are a life saver, and a revolutionary and i am so happy you have this blog! 🙂

    1. I have personally overcome 18 years of infertility that was PCOS related, not by eating Paleo, but by eating real food, and making serious dietary and other health changes.
      My first advice to you is to never, ever own your disease, or otherwise make it a part of you. You are afflicted with it, it does not define you, and you definitely don’t want to keep it, like a pet. The more you mentally own an ailment, the harder it is to release.
      Paleo may very well be your answer – I hadn’t heard of it when I was trying to shake this stuff loose, or I might have tried it. Try to get some advice about what changes would be best for YOU to make – if you can pinpoint this, it will go faster.
      Listen to your body, and to your instincts about which changes to make first, and which to make next. Only act on advice that comes with a thorough explanation that makes sense about how it will benefit your health.
      Your path may include making emotional changes. Be open to them. This was part of my healing.
      Your path may include using some allopathic care. Follow your instincts, and find good practitioners who will treat you like a human being. Be open about what you actually do, what you are willing to do, and what you are not willing to do. My doctor always tells me that “in a few years, I may need to be put on a cholesterol-lowering medication”, to which I respond, “which I will not take.”
      The PCOS and Endo are probably at least in part the result of toxins in your diet and/or your body’s inability or unwillingness to release them. When you find out the whys and wherefores of this problem, you’ll be on your road to recovery. The reasons for this are probably as varied as the women who experience them. For me, it was having my tonsils out. I had already made dozens of changes, some significant, some small, when I had the surgery, so that when I finally had the tonsils removed, my health improvements were sudden, and radical.
      Never, ever give up.

  113. LOVE THIS!
    definite confidence game changer for sure!

    i have been paleo for about 5 months now, shedding fat like crazy until about a month ago. It has slowed down alot. and has almost came to a hault. I kept thinking, ” if i could just lose those last 7 lbs”… I feel healthy and great and like how I am fitting into all of my clothes… however, my body changes almost constantly throughout my entire cycle. my boyfriend is paleo also ( quickly shed tons of fat and gained a 6 pack), only we havnt had the same results. honestly, the only times that i was feeling self-conscious were my more “curvy” days around him. he was never rude about it, but it was obvious that he noticed. i felt almost helpless when it came to this, bc I knew that (a) I didnt really have any control over this, and (b) from a biological stand point, it was very relevant. I’m glad to see this writing 🙂

    Thank you so much for posting this… I feel like those little gaps in confidence are now filled in.

    1. You are still very new to it. You will lose that yet. It took me about a year. Usually, when people start to lag re: wanting to lose weight, they move to the next step which is IF (intermittent fasting).

      If you don’t want to lose it, that’s fine. But if you do want to, more quickly than waiting another year or working out harder, IF is the next phase.

      1. I think it’s a good discussion on Reddit.

        Passions are stirred so you know there’s an underlying issues that’s important to many people. People are getting mixed signals from one so there seems to be much opportunity to further parse, analyze and (hopefully) educate.

        (a/k/a CobyDog)

        PS – Your pictures look good!

        1. Well I’m glad I got the conversation started. Though this is obviously a touchy subject for many people that will likely never be resolved, simply due to the way our society has been programmed to function. I know as much as I fly the “girl-power” flag, I will still have a long way to go before I’m ever 100% comfortable in my own skin.

          But it’s good that people feel comfortable talking about it, especially because it was such an underlying emotion for many of the people that attended PaleoFX. (or those who chose not to go for reasons related to this topic)

      2. After reading these comments, I cannot help but make a few observations/points:

        -Comments reflect LOTS of anger with popular ideals of female beauty.

        -Beauty does not equal fitness; fitness does not equal health; health does not equal beauty….yet, a lot of comments mixing these up.

        -Most people I know what more than one thing; they want fitness, and health, and an aesthetically pleasing body; when someone says they don’t need one because they have another…well, I don’t believe them.

        -Fashions change, even with body image. What is healthy does not change. Studies show what BF% preferences do vary, at least to an extent. While facial symmetry and approximate hip-to-waist ratios are seemingly universal, the ideal BF% varies from culture to culture, and shifted even within late-20th century America. No doubt is will change again. Yet what’s health is what’s healthy. That’s eternal.

        -Few comments distinguish between low BMI and low body fat percentage. Flip side, “losing weight” and “losing fat” are, unfortunately, used interchangeably by some. If men idolized women with minimal fat and minimal muscle, posters of swimsuit models would be replaced with pics of concentration camp victims. That is the ultimate conclusions of ‘less is more,’ no?

        -Studies of 20th century hunter-gatherers societies showed average female BMI of 18-20. They reproduced, so I presume this was sufficient for fertility.

        -In otherwise healthy women, oligomenorrhea/amenorrhoea is usually a function of high levels of physical activity. This contrasts with low body fat percentage which can be entirely a function of diet.

        -While hunter-gatherer females definitely were slim, I’ve never seen a picture of a hunter-gatherer female with a six-pack. What’s a modern invention.

        -I know of no health benefits of a six-pack. Everyone has a rectus abdominis muscle and they’re all about the same size. A six-pack basically means someone has a sufficiently low level of fat such that the contours of the rectus abdominis are visible above the skin. This happens around 8% BF for men. While too much fat is bad from a health standpoint, I know of no health benefit of 7% BF versus 9% BF.

        -On a personal note, my last two relationships were with one girl who had a six pack and another who had a small belly. If abs were the sole measure of a relationship’s success, the six-pack would be the more desirable. However, it’s not the only relationship measure. Far from it. It’s one of many, many factors. A nice body cannot make up for a totally incompatible personality. A mere preference is not a prerequisite.

  114. I just wanted to chime in and thank you for this post. I thought all you ladies at PaleoFX looked great. You all look young and vibrant and healthy! I think all you ladies look trim; none of you look fat by any means! The average american is overweight and way too many are obese or morbidly obese. None of you have that problem and you don’t have to worry about what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat. I find eating paleo is very freeing. And I definitely agree that most men (real men!) love a curvy woman. That doesn’t mean fat, but my husband would much rather me have a little extra cushion than look like an emaciated boy (even if I did have a 6 pack…) But in the end, there will always been some people who just don’t get it and only want to be hateful. You have to choose to love yourself, have confidence, and ignore the minority who will try to bring you down.

  115. Laura, fantastic post! I could not agree more with everything you said. In my opinion, women are much more attractive with a little meat on those bones! And I must say, you’re beautiful, you have nothing to be self conscious about! Keep up the great work!

  116. Thanks so much for this great post! It drives me nuts when I hear women say they want to take on a biologically appropriate diet/exercise regimen like Paleo in order to loose weight. It’s not about loosing weight, it’s about achieving excellent health, whatever that looks like for you. Unfortunately, our sociological “ideal” of what is attractive in a women has nothing to do with health. I find this very, very strange. What *should* be attractive in women and what has been attractive biologically for aeons is fertility, exactly as you say. Fat is indicative of femininity and fertility. This begs the question, why is it that we now seem to find infertility and androgyny so attractive?

    1. “Why is it that we now seem to find infertility and androgyny so attractive?

      Because most fashion designers are gay men who want models to look like adolescent boys.

      I’m not gay, and “we” doesn’t apply to me!

  117. Laura; thank you for a fantastic post. Can you imagine what women might accomplish if they take back the the time we waste on this crap? Can you imagine telling a man it’s not ok simply to feel good? That even though he’s fit and toned, he has to be …. THINNER! Yeah, right. Double standard .. bring it. And bring on the men who support healthy, gorgeous, women.

  118. Women in Hunter-gatherer societies had an average BMI of around 18 to 20.

    Some here seem to be suggestion we should say (i) move like a hunter-gatherer, (ii) eat like a hunter-gatherer, but (iii) don’t expect a hunter gatherer’s BMI.

    If diet and activity are the same, what might be the biological explanation for the expected difference in BMI?

    1. Epigenetics, chronic stress, environmental toxins, maternal malnutrition, maternal mitochondria, inadequate gut flora, chronic infection, inadequate sleep… Lots of reasons that have nothing to do with diet or activity level.

      1. Maybe. I certainly cannot say you are wrong. We can only speculate what science will discover over our lifetimes.

        But I fear some people will use your list as a crutch. I noticed after more than one angry comment, the commenter added that she had not been 100% paleo, or she had only been paleo for a short time. Too often I hear people with four skinny grandparents blame their obesity on their genes, allowing themselves (in their minds) to escape accountability before even attempting to address their junk food addictions or inactivity. I wouldn’t want epigenetics, stress, or unnamed environmental toxins to be another crutch cited by people unwilling to address what is within their power to change.

      2. Let me share a different perspective. Hunter-gatherer guys averaged around 20-21 BMI. Last summer, I unexpectedly dropped 20 lbs, getting down to a 19.8 BMI (6’0”, 146 lbs, 29″ waist). This was through a combination of (i) unusually high work stress, (ii) not knowing how/what to eat on my new paleo diet, and a (iii) couple hours/day of triathlon training. While female models are thin, those models date football quarterbacks who weight 200+, 25-29 BMIs with low BF%. They are the mass media ideals for men and that body type of as easily obtainable as the female model’s. While I didn’t get too many snide remarks about my low weight, I did feel as self conscious in the weight room as I believe you felt at PaleoFX. I never obsessed over it, though I am relieved that my weight has rebounded. But I still have a smidge of conflict between wanting to add muscle mass and wanting to be consistent with the hunter-gatherer bodytype. In the end, I mostly have accepting trying to focus the things I can control: diet and physical activity. But it just goes to show that body image works both ways for both men and women.

  119. Awesome article. Reading it felt like you were writing what I feel and hear myself saying in my own head about not being good enough because I don’t have a 6 pack or more and I’m a trainer.

    Thank you!

  120. So it’s not natural for women to have six packs but it’s natural for men to have them? lol. Doesn’t this article absolve women from looking a certain way, whilst inadvertently reinforcing a necessary ‘body perfect’ image for men? :/

  121. I’m not paleo, so I can’t speak from that angle, but I can speak as a regular person trying to live healthy! This post hits on something I think about a lot. I’m naturally pear shaped, and no level of working out, eating right or praying to the fitness gods will change that, and I think that’s just fine! It’s how I’m designed to be, and when it comes time to have the babies, I’m going to be ready for it 🙂 I wish more young women (and all women, really) would start accepting their shapes for what they are, female bodies, and stop trying to fit them into an impossible mold.

  122. “All I’m trying to say, ladies, is that there is so much more we have to offer the world than our looks, or our bodies.”

    Quote of the day.

    Thanks for writing this!

  123. I absolutely agree that women should have a good amount of body fat. The notion that we should not comes from a false sense of what is perfect. The thought that the perfect body exists is ridiculous, and yes its a product of media and social pressure. Really, though, I think some of the anxiety around what we look like comes from a lack of self-love that has been replaced by a desire to be accepted by others. I think it comes down to what you feel like inside. If what you are is not enough for you, then look at that wound, and don’t waste your time getting upset with others for putting ‘pressure’ on you to look different than you do. In the end, it does not matter what others think of you. If you are confident and love yourself, you will brighten any room you walk into and inspire others just by being there, fat or no fat, six pack or buddha belly. I am an avid paleolithic eater, and an avid weight-lifter/ Crossfiter, and I can tell you, I look up to ANYONE who is joyful, intelligent, kind, trusting, compassionate, dedicated or honest. I have seen plenty of women with almost no body fat who are miserable. Do I look up to them? Not for one damned second. Thank you for sharing your honesty. This is a helpful topic to cover.

  124. Your article does have some good points about how women should feel about their bodies, but there are several points I disagree with:
    I feel that most people living the paleo lifestyle are so convinced that their dietary choices are superior to all others that their is absolutely no margin for error, even when results say otherwise. Many women on paleo do in fact still struggle with their weight, but instead of admitting that the diet is inefficient (too high in fat and calories), you just change the whole schema to fit your beliefs:Paleo women are a little bigger, so it must be that thin women must be unhealthy. No no, not true.

    Another point about thin women and mensturation: most of us “thin” women who happen to not eat alot of meat do in fact mensturate and have other multiple factors that remphasize our health: low blood pressure, high energy levels, high vo2 max, low heart rates, low cholesterol levels..I can go on.

    Despite your disclaimer, it still seems you are talking down to thin women. Yes my hip bones are prominent not because I’m emaciated but because I have wide hips! It doesn’t make me less attractive or less fertile. Ps I love Marilyn, but she was a drug addict, so not always the best example of health.
    Pss stop saying you are less than perfect. That is not a way to think. We are all perfect in our own ways.

    Ok last thing: for as many studies that say a diet high in animal fat is good for you, there are four times as many studies that say it isn’t. Just a reality check, a little food for thought 🙂

  125. I hate the pettiness among women, who judge each other for every little thing. That may explain why I don’t have a lot of female friends. Okay seriously, I have like ONE. Also? My body is closest in comparison to the ancient fertility art photo. I feel like the only fat kid on the paleo blog playground, so I don’t say much, but I read and apply to my life. I have had some good results and am closer to “my healthy happy place” than ever before.

    A million times, thank you, for this rant.

  126. I read this post yesterday, and had to come back to leave a reply!

    Because I passionately love outdoor workouts, and believe that they are better for us than almost anything we can do for our health and well-being, I started an outdoor fitness company called Free Range Fitness. Even though I’m strong, I eat Paleo, and enjoy great health, I worry about being lean enough to be part of the “fitness” world. I tell myself that people need to see real bodies. That fitness is something we all deserve. But still, that monster of self-doubt creeps in there, and I tend to forget that we’re all on a journey. Even the teachers!

    Thanks for the reminder, Laura. Your blog rocks!

  127. This is lovely–and timely. Defining “healthy” is tough; much the same way I think “feminist or feminism” has become loaded and difficult to pin down. It’s often seemed to me that we humans overwhelming want to find absolutes and apply them across the board.

    But you and your post has really come at such a perfect time for me! I’ve been feeling like the conversation around this subject has been not very layered. Finding your thoughtful and inclusive article (I love how you actively give credit to like-minded people!) is really inspiring. I can’t wait to learn more–

  128. Thanks for posting this. I read it the other day, and it really hit home at a moment when I really needed to hear this message. Thank you! I’m only now getting the chance to come back and comment.

    For a group that likes to hark back to ancestral wisdom and ancestral health, it seems like we may have forgotten to actually LOOK at those still living that kind of lifestyle. It is striking to look at pictures of people living traditional lifestyles (though arguably that aren’t that many) and realize that yes, the men are often lean, but the women are often not. We either seem to not notice this, or allow our modern cultural beliefs to suppress this realization.

    But all fat is not created equal… I think Melissa McEwan has written some interesting stuff on this. Fat is important for fertility, but visceral fat is a sign of inflammation and disease. I’m leery about how useful a body fat % or BMI measurement (the first is hard to measure accurately, the second can be rather useless on the individual level as Andrew mentioned above), but I do think that waist:hip ratio is something that is worth looking at. There is a cross-cultural male preference for women to have a WHR ratio of ~0.7. Evolution being what it is, it’s not surprising that it turns out that this ratio correlates well with fertility (Andrew wrote an excellent post about this here: ). This seems like a relatively easy thing to measure, and I’d argue it’s potentially a useful indicator to understanding and appreciating our phat paleo selves.

  129. If you want to get angry at someone for Mjjhcb’s question, you need look further than your very own Paleo community. I’ve never, ever, ever been told or even gotten an impression that the Paleo community shared philosophical tenets with Fat Acceptance and Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size, which is basically what you’re advocating. This lifestyle- usually Crossfit + Paleo- is often marketed as *getting you lean*, and there is much emphasis on “strong is the new skinny” and the Crossfit games feature lean, fit girls sporting six packs. I don’t think it is terribly off the mark for Mjjhcb to ask why the figureheads of Paleo are not actually living up to the “Paleo ideal” that is, I promise you, very aggressively marketed/presented to the outside world. We can agree that this is unfortunate/exclusionary, we can bemoan that is the message being sent to others, but to get aghast at Mjjhcb and give him/her a dressing down for asking a legitimate question based on the presented face of Paleo is missing the mark.

    You have a right to be angry, but don’t shoot the messenger who is simply bouncing back his/her received message from Paleo Central. If you want to get angry, get angry with the way the message has been spread, hook up with Fat Acceptance groups and Health at Every Size Groups- start with Kate Harding and Linda Bacon- work to make Paleo less out about “hot Crossfit girls with abs” and more about “eat to nourish your body, whatever it looks like” etc.

    The comments I’ve read (and I’ve read them all on this post) all reference the basic principles of Health at Every Size/Fat Acceptance. Why is this not in the current Paleo conversation already? You need to ask yourself that before you get in a huff about why someone would dare ask why a Paleo woman isn’t “lean and mean.” Your anger is misdirected.

    1. I think that’s a really good point, and unfortunately the comment was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m just exhausted from all the ‘here’s what a Paleo woman looks like” messages that are being circulated around the community, and it’s aggravating to think that there are women who are shying away from Paleo ‘leadership’ roles because they don’t want to be judged for not looking perfect and up to the community’s standards.

      Though I must ask, who exactly should I send my complaint to at “Paleo Central”? 😛

      I think one of the main problems is that those who are really doing the brunt work to provide information to people regarding diet and fitness, such as the people who I spent the week with at PaleoFX (and the women in particular), aren’t the ones spreading this “the leaner the better” ideal through the community. In fact, one of the major themes at PaleoFX was those experts like Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson actually telling people to reevaluate their health goals and figure out if physical perfection and performance was really worth sacrificing health for.

      So I’m not really sure how to address this issue. It’s not people like Mark, Robb, my friends Liz and Diane, Chris Kresser, or any of the other figureheads in the community that people look to for leadership, that are spreading this message about women needing to be super lean to be healthy. That said, I do wish some of the men who are in these leadership positions would make it more clear to the community that low body fat isn’t a direct correlate to health, particularly for women. And I do wish that people would stop circulating photographs of unrealistically fit women as being the standard for what women should look like if they’re doing Paleo ‘the right way’.

      Therefore, since I don’t really know how to address any of those issues, I’m hoping this post will start the dialogue in the community about what a healthy woman looks like, and whether or not we should be so narrowly focused on weight loss as the ultimate goal in eating Paleo.

      But thanks for your observation, I do agree with you that I took my frustration out a little excessively on the anonymous commenter.

  130. I absolutely love this article of useful information. I often struggle with my body imagine. Being 5’7″ and a size 8 according to my BMI chart I am overweight. I eat right and workout 5 even 6 days a week. Thank you for reminding me again my mother of two German hips make me healthy and sexy!!

  131. I totally agree w/everything you said…except for the way you dealt with the woman who posted the original question. From what I could tell, she was honestly unsure of how to reconcile what she was seeing (non-toothpick women in Paleo) with what she was being told by “society”, and she was seeking advice. Somehow you interpreted that as her telling you that you should be skinny. Get a hold of yourself, man! Sure, the woman’s question may have been an “ignorant” one, given she might not understand that looking like toothpick isn’t ideal. But it’s *not her fault*. Don’t be so quick to anger! I know it’s something you’ve dealt with emotionally, but calling someone basically an idiot b/c they’ve grown up in a world where main-stream media has shoved this “starve yourself or make yourself vomit and be malnourished in order to be attractive” crap down all of our throats, isn’t very productive, and can be seen as a bit harsh. Your passion is good, but please don’t direct it at people who just don’t know any better, and who are seeking education, for that matter. Thank you for being passionate about these things and informing all of us, but please direct your anger in the right place.

  132. It’s always very sad when I explain to people that I crossfit 5-6 times a week and eat a very clean diet… they look at me and think “well, it must not be working for you…” because of how I look. I would definitely consider myself overweight, and I’m certainly the fat girl at crossfit, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not living a healthy lifestyle. I’ve just got some meat on me 😉

    Thanks for the reassurance 🙂

  133. Awesome post! I loved reading it because I’ve been paleo for 2 years, extremely healthy fit and strong, and not skinny or even very lean but lean enough for my skin!
    I also used to have PCOS pre paleo days but conceived at the very first attempt when we were ready to start a family and I really do believe that for a woman to be healthy that should be a definite marker. just getting your hormones all working in the right direction is progress today when messy eating habits and lifestyle skews everything.

    great post. really enjoyed the sentiment!

  134. Thank you. I’m teary as I read this.

    The other day I went to globo-gym after crossfit to run sprints. (Long story, I’m no fanatic.) One of globo-gyms trainer saw me after I finished, sweat pouring off me, and began trying to up-sell me on a training program. He asked if I were “satisfied” with my workout and I said, truthfully, “Yes.” He asked, and I told him I crossfit. (Said proudly.)

    He looked at me and said “Yeah, you look like you Crossfit.” I beamed. Then he said “Crossfit women tend to build more power and be less lean.”

    I’ve suffered A LOT with poor body image and I immediately took this to mean I looked like a freakish morbidly obese freakshow fooling herself that she was an athlete. I pushed back and lied to him about how proud I was of my physique (because he doesn’t have to know I think I’m overweight, he just needed to be told that all women don’t long to be a size 2.)

    I can’t believe that after 4 years of crossfit and at least a year of eating mostly paleo I still feel so bad about myself. (I look totally normal, even though I want to look like that size 2 myth girl.) Your post is a step in the direction of my sanity. Thanks.

  135. Thank you so much for your post. This past month has been full of amazing discoveries for me in the form of your post, discovering The Naked Face Project, reading The Clothes Make the Girl, and generally reading, reading, reading to help get my 48-year old self out of a funk. I don’t label myself as Paleo, but I’m definitely a reader/follower of Nom Nom Paleo, The Primal Blueprint, Robb Wolf, etc. After realizing that I’d burned out: Instead of loving my Crossfit workouts, I was leaving the gym feeling like a failure. Instead of feeling good about how I was, well, feeling, I was struggling to find anything I wanted to eat…I felt like a failure. Not good enough. Not strong enough. Not paleo enough. Not pretty enough. Not worthy.

    I’m going to be 49. I’m 5’10” and probably 190-195 lbs. I wear a size 12…I’ve had three children. I’m not lean…and, for a while, I felt like “lean” was what I was supposed to be and it was tantalizingly out of reach. Which brings me to your post (and all the other reading I’ve been doing). It is all wrong. We’re so busy listening to other people tell us who and what we’re supposed to be that we’re not listening to the voice that cheers our successes. I wanted to cry when The Clothes Make the Girl admitted to trying on four dresses until she settled on the one that made her feel the “least” unattractive. Why should she feel unattractive because she’s gained weight? Why have we women done this to each other? Seriously…we did it to ourselves. Why? Why are we so willing to make snap judgments based on such narrowly defined impressions?

    I don’t want “looking good” to be my full time job, I want “living well” to be my legacy. If my husband, children, friends, and family feel cared for and improved for having shared their lives with me, then I am living well. If perfect strangers don’t think I fit in the slot they’ve assigned me to, why should I care?

    I think we all need to relax and I think we need to stop measuring our success, our failure, our own worth, on what we think we know about other people. Enough commenters here have illustrated it. Naturally skinny, naturally not, young, old, we’re all so tired of “measuring” up. So let’s just stop measuring and start being. Thanks for helping me reinforce the conclusions I’ve already come to. Oh, and thanks for writing a post powerful enough that the comments were so worth reading…I loved sitting here and thinking about all the ideas presented here.

  136. “I’m still struggling to get past my own self-consciousness regarding my less-than-perfect appearance, but I hope all the women out there reading this post will join me in working towards valuing our brains, our strength, and our loving friends and family much more than we value our physique.”

    I’ll agree with you – you should clearly value your brains, strength (both emotionally and physically), and family and friends more than you value your physique. I can agree with that. but…

    are you joking? YOU struggle and are self-conscious about your “less-than-perfect appearance”? I just now looked at your pics – particularly the one of you in front of the water, wearing black which shows more than just your beautiful smiling face… okay, I don’t want to sound like a pervy guy but… you’re so hot it’s crazy.

    As you said, that’s not the most important thing in the world and not nearly the most important thing about a woman. You are clearly intelligent, well-informed, caring, and I imagine a wonderful friend and family member, but… seriously, you are beautiful and have nothing to be concerned about.

  137. My boyfriend has been saying this all along to me while I still try to achieve that loss of the last ten pounds that don’t want to leave and that impossible six pack. we both live a paleo life in the crossfit community and just want to spend the time and effort now to be healthy and not in hospitals later . very well written and a topic that was far overdue for discussion!! thank u!

  138. Would you agree that much of this pressure to look a certain way is derived from women? My gf struggles with some of these same issues but admittedly, some of her motivation stems from female to female pressures. Don’t get me wrong, I know a few misguided men who seek skinny women with unhealthy levels of body fat but let’s not forget to address the other side of the coin; women need to stop being so hard on themselves and others. Thoughts?

  139. Wow interesting post. The concept that a six pack on a woman is possibly unhealthy is very true. Extremely low bodyfat stopping a woman period is clearly a bad thing. I think women look ideal at around 18-20% bodyfat. Six pack abs usually start well below 15%. If a woman get close to 10% she might look ripped but she wont be healthy.

    But as for the authors apperance i think i would have to see her to judge her. It is possible to look athletic and fit without having a six pack or being unhealthy. Are you carrying 15 extra pounds? Some times its not the number of pounds but the bodyfat ratio. Maybe you need to add a little muscle and drop fat at the same time. But how does that happen? With a proper exercise routine and diet.

    Exercise. I have NO idea how you workout.(she wants to muscle up so i am assuming Crossfit like me) But its my humble opinion that if you arent looking the way you want to look then you might be doing the wrong thing. I have been a personal trainer for 13 years and i have seen this first hand. People exercising regularly but not achieving the goal they want. the exercise is healthy but when you get close goal weight and you want a specific result….you programing for you exercise has to get specific. i have no idea what the authors education on exercise is but this might be something to look at.

    Diet: I love Paleo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But again its possible to eat paleo food and not eat it in the right proportions to create the look you want. And that, in my book, means being healthy too. Dropping that 10-15 pound might come from changing the ration of Carbs/protein/fat in your diet. It might also come from the timing of you meals. Bodybuilders have mastered the art of changing their body with dietary changes. There might be alot you can do to drop the bodyfat. And it would still be Paleo, healthy and produce results.

    Dont have time for this? No sense. Changing you eating pattern takes no more time than it does now. Just a different ratio of food on your plate. A good exercise program can be followed on as little as 3 times a week. Total hours in the gym of 5 hours a week can produce bodyfat levels low enough to be unhealthy. So getting the look you want doesnt take much time but it does take effort. And that effort has to be in the right direction for you specific goal. Crossfit is broad goal to increase fitness. Dropping that last bit of fat on your thighs or stomach might be more specfic.

    1. @Scott Spencer,
      I’m sorry but I think responses like yours are part of the problem. Putting a % on what health is part of the problem. Saying that a woman is ideal at 18-20% fat is part of the problem. Why would I want to go to a conference when I know someone like you is judging me like that. Exercising more or in a different way isn’t going to change her feelings. Learning to love ourselves and stop judging each other is going to change our world. I’m sorry to have such a visceral response to your post, but I think you are missing the point.

    2. I know exactly the kind of effort and diet control it would take me to lose the last bit of weight, because I’ve done it before. The point of this post was to explain that there might be more important things in life than battling down those last 5-10 pounds.

      Like, my sanity.

  140. Judging ourselves and others is part of selective breeding. It is ingrained in us and it is only the fact that we have placed technology as a barrier from evolution that some diseases and conditions continue. I personally have a neurological disease that would make having a family in the past exceedingly difficult if not impossible. Hunting and killing my food would be extremely difficult when I have a relapse so the prospect of my survival would drop. Our bodies have not evolved to keep pace with our change in diets so while we continue to barrier with the tech our bodies stay the same.

  141. I’m very surprised that you would think the typical man desires flat abs and thin legs. One of the most stunning CrossFit women out there is surely Iceland Annie. Yes, she has abs, but she is most definitely a shapely woman. I really believe the paleo diet in correct proportions makes for a beautifully healthy woman, I mean it is the diet we were born to eat. And the caveman’s (as well as modern man) end all goal is to procreate, something that will not occur with an emaciated 14 pack. This idea that men want thinner is put on them by women and more importantly the media who define beauty in double zeros.

  142. I’m a CrossFit coach and we have plenty of women in our program and others in the area, and across the country and world, that are in amazing shape both externally and internally. I completely understand what you’re trying to say and the point you’re trying to get across, but our girls are in incredible shape and amazing athletes; they don’t just look good they can perform too. Maybe just cause you disagree with it doesn’t make it wrong. I disagree with being a vegetarian but I would never lecture people about it unless asked. Just consider it.

    1. What I think she is trying to say is to not worry about the “extra” weight. I am a Crossfit athlete who does Paleo about 80% of the time. I’m 16, 5′ 4″ and 130lbs and by the “official” standards that doctors have, I should be five to ten pounds lighter. What I took her trying to say was to not worry if you weren’t at the optimum weight because you are fine just the way you are. Without those five to ten extra pounds of muscle… there is no way that I would be able to compete in the competition I compete at, I just wouldn’t have the muscle to be competitive.

  143. Hi, I’m sure my opinions have been covered in the couple hundred above but I didn’t want to waste my energy reading all of them. But this is so important to me I need to write.

    First off, thank you so much for writing this. I needed someone to tell me this info when I was 16 (I just turned 30 yesterday), when I started to develop body image problems because I didn’t have a 6 pack and I was gaining a few pounds during puberty (literally, only 5#) despite the fact that I wasn’t menstruating regularly and was very likely less than 15% body fat. I was not trying to be really lean, I just was, but I didn’t think I was lean enough because I didn’t have that 6 pack, and my male coaches and the magazines indicated that the 6 pack was what REALLY qualified you as lean. Even though I was an amazing athlete, and my abs were the only place I did have a little fat.

    I agree with the criticism others offer that you can be really lean (i.e. visible 6 pack or some ab definition) and really healthy and fertile without an insane amount of work to maintain this leanness. Some people are here pretty effortlessly. BUT I would agree with you that if it takes a lot of work, such as weighing and measuring all of your food and/or a whole lot of exercise that leaves you feeling exhausted, then being really lean is not where your body wants you to be.

    I have no idea what your figure looks like Laura, but I can comment on mine. When I was 16 I weighed about 135# and was very lean and fit and maybe a size 4. Like I said up above, I was developing body image problems. When I was bike racing at the national level successfully in college, I was around 140# and a size 6. I learned to hate myself, cried when my boyfriend looked me straight in the eye and told me I was beautiful because I didn’t believe him, was too anxious and self-concsious to wear a bikini, and nearly developed bulimia trying to lose 3# and get a 6 pack despite likely being less than 15% body fat and being extremely muscular and fit. But I thought I needed to be just a little bit leaner- likely because I didn’t have that coveted 6 pack. After I stopped racing around 6 years ago, I have been around 148-150# since then, anywhere from size 8-10. I am still very muscular, but have had constant body image problems due to not having a flat belly. The body fat scales say I am around 22% body fat but a multi site skin caliper test has ranged me from 15-17% over the past year. Hardly overweight, if anything some would say too lean for fertility purposes. My BMI is just under 25, however, due to being muscular.

    Despite being pretty damn lean and muscular- most women at my crossfit would likely LOVE to have the leanness and muscular definition of my body- I have had persistent body image problems and struggle with accepting myself with where I am because I don’t have a flat tummy- and flat tummy seems to be the accepted standard.

    Laura, I disagree with you on you saying that the “ideal body physique” is a flat belly and 6 pack, and I believe you are conceding to the mainstream ideal. And while I think one can be healthy while being lean enough to have some ab def, I agree with you that for most women, their bodies would likely prefer to have a little extra fat.

    I agree with a comment already posted in that what we are trying to do is re-align what healthy is- and women being 6 pack lean is likely not healthy for most women, and this is why it is so unattainable- for anyone who listens to their body, their body simply does not want to go there. The new norm needs to be strong and toned- like those Marilyn Monroe pictures.

    For readers who have said that this blog post was about “chubby” women defending their weight, I don’t see how you can say that a woman who is less than 20% bodyfat, or even in the healthy and normal range of 20-25% body fat, yet wears a size 8 or 10 pants is chubby. We are HEALTHY. We are trying to defend our health- not just physical in the sense of fertility- but MENTAL. Because most of us think there is something wrong with us because we don’t look like the finalists at the crossfit games despite eating a clean paleo diet and exercising intensely and otherwise doing everything “right.” We are doing everything right and our bodies are healthy. What needs to change is the ideal.

  144. wow, a great post indeed! I am a 51 yr old overweight, recently paleo (1 yr) woman. Even though I lost significant weight and don’t look terrible, the whole lean out, CrossFit set was intimidating enough to keep me from attending really cool paleo events like PrimalCon, FX, etc. As much as I love all the support I am reading here, I think that many fellow paleo-ers still think lean is IT. I just have to be strong enough to know that the ideas expressed on this one blogpost are truly, really IT.
    Though looking super lean is cool, and maybe healthy for some, its obviously not healthy for many, as has been pointed out.

  145. This is a fantastic post – thank you so much for being so honest.

    I’ve been wanting to start a new blog for a while now – promoting an “unconventional lifestyle” – encompassing paleo/primal eating, not vaccinating, homeschooling etc & I’ve been too scared to start because looking at me you wouldn’t think I bothered at all about my diet. Despite my husband encouraging me and telling me I had plenty to share, I’ve resisted starting in the hope that I could lose some more weight. Your post has convinced me otherwise – thank you 🙂

  146. Laura, good sassy article! Since I remember you asking a question at the mic at the WAPF last November, I would say you should keep the extra 10 pounds and embrace a different body image. If your not the ideal weight then the majority of women in America are in serious trouble. I hope your going by body fat %, fat to lean ratio, and not total weight on a weight scale? Heck, throw out the scale! I got a little confused on the % parts on your articles and the 10 lbs. Your saying your 10+ lbs over the ideal (assuming gov’t listing of %s which would be too low anyway?), yet then advocate 26-28% as a better ideal. So from my reading, are you not saying that your extra 10 lbs actually makes you just right/ideal and then you only need to change your thinking and concept and not lose the 10 lbs? If so, then I agee.

    Have you read anything about the body fat %s for the Kitavans or other WAPrice tribal women? Since those groups are held up as the ideal health by paleo/WAPF groups, then it looks like their fat %s would be very enlightening to this discussion.

    Lastly, my speculation is that American paleo/WAPF diets are still very high in food reward because I’ve read that the tribal people even thought their food was boring to eat most of the time. In America even paleo/WAPF diets, we rotate types of food every meal and spice it up unlike natives which have little variety. Without consciously counting calories and working at weight loss, a high food reward diet even nutrient dense would lead to unconscious overeating. Since I stopped counting calories, my weight has crept up since losing alot on the same diet as the weight loss: Perfect Health Diet.

  147. I’ve been doing paleo for a couple of months, and I’ve never equated women following paleo and being healthy with having 6 packs abs…I don’t know where I’ve been! But, I must admit that I have noticed weight gain with some of the well-known (visible) paleo women, and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder why they’re gaining weight?” Not in a critical way, but in a “I wonder why that’s happening.” kind of way. My assumption is that they are still eating good, so why would this be happening? At the same time that I was beginning to notice this “trend”, Mel, over at theclothesmakethegirl, shared her struggle with this issue. I helped to confirm that this does seem to be an issue, and now your post. Something is going on, but what? It got me wondering if these women are doing TOO much exercise??? So, I’m wondering if they are burning out their endocrine system. This doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue with the men, especially if they don’t have endocrine issues to begin with. I’m wondering, and I may be totally wrong here because I don’t know a ton about this issue, but is it possible that women are not genetically/design by evolution to do intense workouts like the men? Historically speaking, men were traditionally the ones who did the hunting and dragging/carrying back the animals, right? If so, the women would not have been involved in this level of intensity on a regular basis, and instead been doing less intense, although fully engaged, I’m sure, physical movement/workout. Yes, the women would have been living a physical existence, but not in the same way as the men. This makes me think that this is why we are noticing the men’s bodies in the paleo community respond by leaning out more than the women. Maybe women are not genetically made to endure those kind of workout, and by pushing themselves to do so, maybe they are creating endocrine burnout, resulting in inflammation and fat storage, and this is what we are seeing??? I don’t know, I’m just throwing that out as an observation from someone who has been at this only a short time and did not know about this “controversy” until now. I’m hoping my point is viewed as being non-biased because of that fact, and that nobody takes offense in any way because I definitely have no intent to be offensive, either overtly or covertly. I’m just trying to make sense of this like everyone else. I’m looking forward to Mel’s discoveries as she digs to figure this out for herself.

  148. I don’t know if you’re reading all of these responses (’cause holy moly there are so many!!), but I just wanted to chime in to say THANK YOU. I have forwarded this to everyone I know. I have always tried exercise mixed with a clean diet and when I’m thinner, I have to say that I don’t feel my best. I feel my best right now… at about 10 – 15 lbs over where I usually “like” to be. However, I have T&A happening right now and my fiance LOVES it. He’s always saying, “please don’t lose weight!”. I feel sexier than ever. My hormones feel regulated. I’m not having as many heart palpitations. I feel GOOD. Thank you.

  149. Fantastic article. I was going to do a vlog on something quite similar in regards to the natural body shape of women and never forgetting that it’s part of who we are. I don’t follow paleo strictly in the sense of what it’s been taken up as in Western culture. I’m Kenyan and what I was brought up on has done me fine…I just have a problem giving up brownies 🙂

    But really, knowing what *you* want out of your own body (that includes shape) has been forgotten and it’s kinda sad that the ability to make a move/direction from one’s own initiative is something only grasped by a minority.


  150. I’m doing paleo to start to ovulate and recover from the years of processed foods that have only worsened the already awful symptoms of PCOS. I believe healthy and confident is beautiful and unless you’re getting paid to have a six pack, I don’t think most women would fault any other woman for some “junk in the trunk.” check me out at on my blog at

  151. Thank you for addressing this subject with wisdom, compassion, honesty and common sense. Women will destroy themselves to have the perfect bod without taking a moment to assess how they feel, mentally or physically. Just about any woman can cough up at least 5 self percieved flaws without one even asking. Can she not simply make choices to live a more sane, healthy lifestyle? At the end of the day its confidence that wins the sexy award. And confidence can be had through the achievements of life.

  152. Awesome post! More people (women especially) need to remind ourselves of this, myself included. Start realizing the “best” YOUR body can look like even if it’s different than someone else’s.

  153. Amazing post! Seriously!
    I really wish I could move past the whole caring thing as well but I used to be really big when I was in high school, and then dropped a lot of weight. I started to get a lot more attention and boys began to “like” me … and it’s really hard to dissociate and think that you can still be liked at any body shape (so long as you are healthy and looking after yourself).
    I put on a bit of weight last year, when I gave up caring after a break up (dumb idea, I know) and am currently trying to get back to where I was. I realised a lot that my happiness depends on how I feel about my physical appearance and I wish it didn’t so much. Like I am not truly happy unless I am confident with who I am inside and out and I feel the “out” will be a life long struggle 🙁

    1. Get out of my head!! 😛

      But seriously, you basically just described my personal situation to a T. I too lost a lot of weight after high school and suddenly had a lot of attention from guys, when I had been a total wallflower in high school. So I also struggle to dissociate my attractiveness with my weight. Logically, I know I look fine (even good!) but whenever I gain weight, my self confidence and happiness with myself plummets. It’s not good to live that way, but at least know that there are other people struggling with the same situation.

      By the way, I see your email says “UNSW” – I lived in Australia for 18 months, mostly in the Sydney (Bondi) and Wollongong area. I freaking LOVE it down there, and I’m jealous that you go to UNSW!!

      Hope we can both work on separating our self worth and attractiveness from our weight. In some ways, I think its holding me back from getting into the shape I want, because I get a lot of that “what’s the point” mentality that derails my motivations. Not good.

      1. Oh man. It is such a struggle. People tell me that as I get older you worry less and become more confident with who you are, but being conditioned like that at such a young age during high school being “friend zoned” all the time because you didn’t look “hot” really makes me worry I might have this mental battle for life. Unless of course I marry Adam Richman, cause I figure he’d love me however. Hahah!!

        It completely sucks about not feeling amazing if you don’t look (what you consider) amazing. I got down to 62kg last year from 120kg when I graduated high school and even at 62kg, while I could see I looked awesome, there was still so much I wanted to change. Then I let go. And here I am now roughly 75-80 (not sure, too scared to jump on the scales). I took up crossfit and Paleo and it’s been a month and I have had so much physical change, but I am still not weighing. It’s too disheartening! But I love what you do. Health/nutrition saved and changed my life after high school and I really want to be able to provide the same for other people. Who knows, maybe even get to PaleoFX one day?!

        Yeah I love Australia! I lived in Bondi when I was little then moved to Coogee/Randwick later. But last year I moved to London actually and I’m hanging out here for a while 🙂 then it’s onto the States…and then maybe back home haha

  154. I may be the only female to say this but I really didn’t like this post. It was all over the place. I really don’t think you covered your initial argument well. You started off with “we’re not as lean because of fertility”. This blanket statement was made and then the post went on a self-conscious rant. I really think you could have researched this topic more to make a smarter argument rather than just making emotional statements about how you feel based on your reaction to a comment somebody made on somebody else’s blog.

  155. I really appreciated this post. I’m 20 and started paleo in November after trying multiple ways to heal Celiac disease and endometriosis that just weren’t working. My immune system was terrible and I was sick constantly, I was at my heaviest, but I’m petite so that was still a size 6. Since starting paleo, my health is slowly getting better, more importantly, after a few months my entire family was telling me that I looked good, healthy for the first time in a long time. That is what is important to me, health, not weight loss. BUT, it’s so hard not to worry about weight. I’m down to a size 2 now, which I think is a little too skinny, but my boyfriend keeps telling me how amazing I look and he keeps commenting specifically on how skinny I have gotten, and it drives me nuts. I have this underlying fear that if I gain weight now, I won’t look as good, and it won’t be okay.

    I suffered from an eating disorder at age 14, until my mom realized what was going on, and now is the first time in my life I haven’t hated my body. I actually have a good relationship with food now, I’m not on a “diet,” I’m just eating food that makes me feel good and I’m eating as much of it as I want and not feeling guilty, not meticulously counting calories. I really don’t even feel guilty when I cheat, Paleo has opened a whole new world for me.

    I hate the obsession with weight, with being skinny, and hating food. If we could focus on being healthy I think we’d all be a lot better off. Seriously, I’ve been a size 4 probably since I hit puberty, and I’ve hated my body because I can’t be a size 0. That’s not okay! I have a lot more than my figure to offer the world, and as long as my body is healthy, I’m happy!

  156. I love this. THANK YOU so much for your courage in posting it. I had the opportunity to attend PaleoFX this year and didn’t because I was so embarrased by my size. Even though I’ve been doing Paleo for a while (and have lost 50 lbs) I still have a long way to go. Eating Paleo has increased my strength (my main goal) it has helped my mood, my throid disorder, my enegery level, my eating disorder and my overall quality of life. Even if I’m not skinny, I am 100 times happier and wish I could spread the word to everyone. Thanks again for this post.

  157. Just a question: If we’re supposed to sustain higher levels of body fat in the Paleo community as women (I’m talking the 26% mentioned in the post)why does the Crossfit community talk so much about eating Meat Vegetables, Nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Eat enough to fuel your body but not enough to sustain body fat (paraphrased)”? There’s a lot of focus on not sustaining body fat…

    As an aside, I know a lot of crossfit ladies who are in the 15-20% BF range who have regular menstrual cycles etc…Actually, when my body fat decreased from 26% down to 16% as a result of eating Paleo and Crossfit I went from infertile to fertile! thus my current (VERY unexpected) pregnant state!

    1. Well every woman is different, and for some women that excess body fat may be causing problems. Especially if it’s belly fat, as opposed to hip and thigh fat. Adipose tissue secretes its own hormones that can greatly affect a woman’s fertility.

      Also, I can’t really speak for the CrossFit community but I don’t think that this specific version of “Paleo” is the same thing as eating an ancestral diet. I think that way of consolidating the nutrition information is just a starting point for most people.

  158. Your example of worthwhile women is excellent and inspiring. However, just about every Paleo female should be able to (without difficulty) achieve a 15% body fat which is above where you stop menstruating. This percentage is normal in hunter gatherers and athletes. Why would women be exempt from perfect results? I think women should suck it up and either accept being fatter (and looking it)and not worry about what others think or understand that if they’re not lean they’re not doing something right. I know lots of females with prominent abs. It’s no more difficult to do than what men are willing to commit to.

    1. HI Emily:

      I don’t mean to sound rude when I say this but your ideal of “perfect” does not fit everyone’s body type, lifestyle, or genetics. It is because of that social pressure that I struggled with borderline anorexia for most of my teens and early 20s. Women do not have to be “lean and mean” in order to be beautiful, and, while it is true that you can achieve 15% body fat and still be considered “healthy” as we grow older, have kids, etc. that standard becomes harder and harder to achieve.

      I personally love the fact that I am loosing weight and not starving myself, my goal is not to be perfect, it is to be healthy and happy, and that should be ok too.

  159. The thing with Maralyn is that she looks good any way you put it. Her skeletal structure supports any extra hips etc. When someone is not even 5ft tall, then it looks bad, quickly.

    I would say I am prone to being ‘muscular’ all my life, but I can definitely build a junk in the trunk like it’s nobody’s business. I really don’t like it…and I think maybe it’s possible to be lean AND fertile without a huge behind. 😛

    One thing that I’m not so strict about is getting a six pack. I sometimes think it would look cool to have one…but meh I can’t be bothered. lol

  160. I love your post! I agree 100% and feel people should be less harsh with their judgement. Some people prefer looking muscular, while others prefer a more natural look. You can choose who you go home with, so what is up with all the judgement? Mad props for your post!

  161. I agree that it s unfair to impose standards of looks on women. No one should be required to be super lean to be seen as an authority on anything or to be respected.

    At the same time, isn’t it hypocritical to appeal to an ideal body fat for women, whether based on biology or otherwise? How do you reject body image ideals on one hand, and then say that women need to tend their Paleo eating habits to include fertility?

    Fertility is something child-free women would not care about, and something that women who can’t get pregnant would want to hear about, because then they’re women that are less than. That just seems like a new ideal.

    Also, 28-30% bodyfat is not natural for everyone. Are ectomorphic or endomorphic women now supposed to feel anxious because their bodies are biologically not ideal? “Maybe because women aren’t designed to be lean”= another ideal to feel inadequate about.

    Also, you’re clearly judging the woman in the photo, which is hypocritical. That’s a whole lotta caring about someone’s looks for someone who says that people need to care less about women’s looks. It doesn’t come from a place of worry about her health, and menstruating/ovulating/pregnant-getting abilities, it’s pointing a finger and cringing at her. Same old song. Some people use things meant to be uplifting like Paleo and Strong is the New Skinny to perpetuate more derision about some women’s looks and impose new, pointless standards.

  162. Fantastic post. Oh, that I could have read something like this in my teens or 20s! Would have saved me a lot of angst. But then, cultural/media programming is hard to overcome.

    On the thread about what men find attractive in women, I have a couple of thoughts:
    1. It sure gets tiresome to be reminded we’re supposed to look in a way that men find attractive, whether it’s fat or thin. I’m not even a lesbian, but I just get tired of being reminded I should worry about this. Not a complaint against this post, just my response to reading some of the comments. This is probably not the result anyone intended, but it’s how it hits me.
    2. Though it’s nice that some men say they prefer women with meat on their bones, in my past years of experience with online dating, I found so many ISO posts by men very clearly specifying that their woman MUST be slender (some even specifying they must be Asian). I know individual men are going to have different preferences, but it starts to seem a bit disingenuous when I hear “I like a woman with meat on her bones”!

    Mostly, I appreciate the author’s great post and sharing such personal struggles. I totally relate.

  163. Great article and I agree completely. I believe the reason there is this attitude out there about women and paleo is all due to Crossfit and it being linked so tightly to paleo.

    I have been a Crossfitter for over 3 years and have been eating healthy for longer than that. Long before “paleo” become the cool word for it. Over the course of the 3 years I have lost 35 lbs. Went from a size 14 to a size 6. I can lift heavy weights if I want to and call hold my own in the box. However, i still do not have a flat stomach and my thighs still have a little bit of cellulite on them.

    In a Crossfit gym the attitude is the stronger and faster you are the better you are. It is the norm that girls should wear small shorts and tight shirts or workout bras to show off their bodies. The guys all have come to expect this and if one does not dress this way, jokes are made.

    The Crossfit games are a big deal and fun to watch, but look at the women competing. Yes, the smart person knows that this is their life and hours spent on looking this way and getting this strong but again the mentality is this is the way a Crossfit women should look and if one sticks to a 100% Paleo diet without cheating, they can attain this as well.

    As a nutritionist, what I see most is women trying their hardest to attain a body that is not meant to be instead of focusing on just being healthy. Getting healthy through a whole foods diet (Paleo) and focusing on that will naturally lead to weight loss in time.

    Your blog is great in reminding all women of this and I look forward to sharing it with my clients.

  164. I love your article. Good looks/body image issues have always been a struggle for me. For most of my life I handled it by condescendingly dismissing the whole issue as destructive vanity. It seemed to substitute mere appearance(which can be damaged with age, illness, or accidents) for a deep, lasting spiritual sense of self & other. Yet, Ive now come to accept that beauty is very important in life. Nature proves this is so! And nature also shows us that there are sooo many very different types of beauty! Beaches, deserts, horses, birds…. I hope we soon learn to love and enjoy the different types of beauty among healthy men and women. The lean, the curvy, the muscular, the large full figured, the petite, the stocky, etc. each have their super wow beauty, if we just open our eyes to see the unique beauty presented by each “type”. Fit and healthy people come in all these shapes and sizes. Lets create and promote affirming language (and fashions)that play up and celebrate the diversity of our beauty and fitness.

  165. This is the best post I have read. Ever. Ever.
    Thank you for putting this out there. Its needs to be heard.
    Thank you.

  166. hahah, your post is exactly how I feel about the whole “women must be stick thin” thing. And as for the photo of the “14-pack”, I am not attracted to women who look like Arnold Schwarzenegger either! I like a woman with some hips and a healthy amount of body fat on her. This whole fashion magazine thin woman thing needs to die off in a hurry! 😉 Anyway, I wish more women knew this because their lives would be way easier if they were not under the constant stress of trying to be unrealistically thin.

  167. I needed this…so ridiculously badly. I won’t lie, it actually came up as I was googling “paleo weight loss retreats.” No shit. I know. I can’t even believe I thought to search that, but I’ve been feeling so down on myself the last few months. I started eating a paleo a year ago, and while I feel good when I’m being strict paleo, I also have gained some weight. I’m still healthy, size 8, and 27% bodyfat, but WOW do I know how to make myself feel bad about it. After spending a solid 30 minutes looking at images of women I *think* I need to look like, I did the UNTHINKABLE and googled my insane query. I’m so grateful this is what I came upon. Thank you….thank you. THANK YOU. and, thank you.

  168. Women can be lean and healthy. This excuse that women are supposed to have junk in the trunk is sillyness, yes ripped abs are not healthy but there is no reason women can’t be healthy with a flat stomach. I’ve had plenty of Girlfriends that had flat stomachs and most definitely ovulated as well.

    1. “Should paleo women be as lean as paleo men?”

      Let me point out that using the word “should” is a sign of irrational thinking.

      Having said that, no, paleo women should not be as lean as paleo men. A lean muscularity is a masculine trait, not a feminine one. Perhaps even hypermasculine since most men can’t get there. I like a woman to look feminine. The kind of lean muscularity that goes with a six pack does not look womanly or attractive to me at all; I’m not gay. It is not “cool” to me for a woman to look like a man.

      I haven’t actually been around crossfit, but I suspect that the promotion of that “ideal” is a tactic to sell Crossfit. Folks are much too easily gulled by underhanded “hardsells”

      And BTW, a rounded belly looks very feminine; it suggests fertility in action!

    2. a flat stomach is just an anatomical type like a flat nose or a flat bottom. The fact that you are talking about women’s bodies while appearing to be a younger straight man and you are using the word “excuse” you just are outing yourself s more ignorant that the OP that inspired Laura’s post. The female body is so much more complicated than your “my girlfriends ovulate with flat stomachs”. I suggest you educate yourself before those girlfriends turn into middle aged perimenopausal women with a stress problem.

  169. Very well written and gives me something to think about. I can’t say I’m 100% paleo in my diet but I’m pretty close and eating the most nutritionally dense food has been my top priority for years – although my education of what is most healthy has been evolving from clean to extreme clean. I was (am?) chasing that hard body look but your post made me realize that maybe right where I am is ideal for fertility – which is very very important to me – we have not started to TTC yet but we will be soon. Searching for paleo fertility is how I found your blog. Thanks for helping put things into perspective. 🙂

  170. I only know the basics of “paleo” but from the perspective of an outsider, looking within the paleo community for norms is a mistake. Any health movement that picks up significant money streams like blogs, books, special foods, and coaches, ends up with a skewed, narrow-minded view on health even if it was a step forward to begin with.

    Look at psych and sex studies from a representative sample of males, and you’ll find that they generally don’t go for the ripped, skinny girls. Outside of the US, they tend to like them a bit thicker. (You could make similar parallels for female views on male bodies.)

    The only person afraid of your normal weight is you, and if your community doesn’t like it, why do you like them?

  171. I am shocked at the misinformed ladies responding defensively that their paleo size 4 is natural and shouldn’t be persecuted by Laura. Speaking as a professional director in Hollywood, I seriously doubt anyone else considers you “lean”.

    In L.A. where the world’s tastes are created and dictated, if you are more than a size 0 or your weight has 3 digits to it, you are fat. PERIOD. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard from professional actresses in their 40s who kill themselves four hours a day in the gym, take adderall and/or cocaine and are on the tic tac diet to keep below a size 4 because the wardrobe department had nothing for them to wear in your precious size 4. Forcing actresses to wear two pairs of spanks to squeeze them into a marginally acceptable size 2 is NORMAL.

    Today’s size 4 is a zaftig 8 from twenty years ago. There is no way you can convince me you don’t have your period, which was Laura’s point and a reality for most of the models and actresses creating the beauty image you buy. Do you look like an 18 year old Sports Illustrated supermodel to anyone outside of your mommy carpool clique? Then stop taking false offense to this article and get on board with it being natural and healthy that you possess body fat. Being fat with the rest of us is better than being a delusional fat narcissist.

  172. Hello, I’m not all that knowledgeable about the Paleo diet as of yet. I had heard of it, but never really investigated until the past couple of weeks. I bought a Kindle book on the Paleo diet and have been doing Google searches to find out more, hence, how I fount this site. In my quest for more knowledge I came upon a few posts in some forums where I saw comments from a few women, that they had either gained weight, or not been able to loose on the Paleo program for some reason, however, most of the posts I’ve seen are in support of it and say it’s been a life changer. I do know that I tried going Vegan a few times and did not fare so well. I don’t know if it boils down to blood type or genetics, but I just cannot function with Vegetarian/Vegan way of eating. I tried Atkins, but also found that too restrictive because I like my veggies and fruits. Paleo seems to offer less restriction, but I’m confused as to why whole grains and beans are not allowed because I thought they were suppose to be good for you in moderation. Bear with me because I’m very new at this, but I’m worried about giving this a try. I don’t want to gain weight, in fact I need to loose allot of weight and I worry that the extra meat and fat portions will raise my cholesterol. I’m on Cholesterol medications, take meds for diabetes and high blood pressure, so I don’t want to exacerbate those conditions any more. I agree that society has unfairly judged women who are full figured. There is too much pressure to try and look a certain way. But by the same token, I would be happy to loose about 50 pounds and reverse out some of conditions (high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes). Is there any research or information out there that someone could direct me to? Before I embark on this path, I’d like to know more. To all who are reading this post, how has going Paleo helped you? Good article!

    1. Hi dear, I think that if you follow the paleo guidelines of eating only wild, natural, grass/vegetarian fed meats and high quality whole foods (organic vegetables, and fruits, nuts) and making the most nutrient dense choice on foods (i.e. limited processed foods including processed gmo-grains) you would see changes both physically and internally. My husband has high cholesterol and we’re trying to get in under control before he needs to go on meds…when we did more of a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle keeping grains in and limiting ‘fats’ his cholesterol went even higher. Now we’ve evolved more into a paleo lifestyle not being afraid of our local beef and with limited grains, dairy, sugar, beans and I am looking forward to his results.

      I don’t want to step on Laura’s toes, but the book “It Starts With Food” covers why grains and beans (among other things) go against the paleo lifestyle. It’s very interesting.

      I am not a perfect Paleo’er but I try to just keep it simple and keep my foods real! Good luck on your journey!!

    2. If you are interested in Paleo, leave the stuff you found on the internet aside and read everything Laura points to also Chris Kresser and others. There are many versions of “paleo” out there and many of them faddish and un-healthy. There is also alot of good evidence based info if you go to the right sources.

  173. Wow! Thank you so much! I was sent this article by someone on a Real Food Forum because I posted how disappointed I was that I can’t lose the last 20 pounds of my baby weight from 2 years ago. I’ve already lost 20 but have 20 more pounds to go. I eat clean, organic, pastured, whole foods with limited fruit and don’t cheat because I have celiacs so I can’t cheat. And anyway, this very nice lady forwarded your article to me and I just want to say thank you! I didn’t know I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. My own mother always asks me why am I so fat since I’m the one who eats so healthy. As a mom of 4 boys, I hope to share this info with them so they don’t think women need to be skinny to be attractive. Thanks again. I just subscribed to your blog.

  174. Laura-
    I just stumbled on your blog. I googled up over forty and paleo! I’m 41 and BOY did I need to hear this today. I am constantly pressuring myself to be better, look better. I am a health coach and a crossfit coach and I fear that if I don’t look a certain way somehow my message will not be heard! I feel so silly. It’s because we are bombarded with images, and comments like the one you shared much more so then the words in this post. Thank you so much for your thoughts on this!

  175. I am suprised that you are so hard on yourself, if you wear a size 8 you are a size 38 in germany, in germany a size 38 is perfect! if your are very skinny or a teenager you wear a 36 or 34, but who wans to be very skinny or look like a teenager!? i read a lot of paleo blogs and the women all look happy and shiny and good! no woman looks phat at all! but i’ve seen one blog form a really really thin woman and everyone keeps writing how good she looks and all i think is “uuuh, if one looks 10 pounds heavier on photos how thin must she be in real life, that doesn’t look healthy, that looks more like she has a problem” so i think, mayby some people just have a wrong idea whats looking healthy and good means. if you have arms like a stick that can’t be good! i know there are people who are really thin because it’s in their nature and they’ve looked like that ever since, but i think you can see the difference, if somebody just is like that or if somebody starves oneself! that does’nt look good! so i think everything is alright if you wear a 8 or a 10. thats a good thing, not something to be sorry about! sorry for my english i hope you understand what i mean 😉

    1. I don’t know where this idea came from that “paleo” women are supposed to have a low body fat percentage. It seems to me that in primitive times, it would be ideal to for women have maximum fertility. I believe that is around 25%-28% bodyfat. That is also what looks sexiest to me, assuming that there is a reasonable amount of muscle underneath it.

    2. Hi Katrin. I agree with you. But just wanted to point out that phat is American slang for super cool. Laura is playing with “fat” and “phat”.

  176. I agree and disagree with some things here.
    Firstly, I agree and understand the frustration of the completely inaccurate definition of “healthy” I know skinny people that are very unhealthy, and I know “fat” people who are super healthy in their food choices and regular exercise. I know some people who are naturally skinny, some people who are naturally muscular, and some people who have to work to just be toned. So how one’s body looks is not an indication of physical health at all. And yes, biologically speaking a woman’s body is designed much differently from a man’s–we’re not really meant to have 6 pack abs.
    I do disagree with your response. Aside from being physically healthy, to maintain a healthy weight we need to be healthy in our thoughts and in our beliefs. Judgement, reactions to what others say…are all indicators of beliefs we have about ourselves. I know when I have a negative response to what someone says, that’s my sh!t coming up, not that’s person’s fault, so that’s when I know it’s time I do my inner work too.
    Hey, I’m a “fat” yoga teacher. In the yoga world teachers are expected to be thin and flexible, so I could say I’m “not a good teacher because of how I look”, but I don’t and the reality is my students love that I have a fiercely real figure because I’m more approachable, real, and not as intimidating as other teachers in their minds.
    I think the lesson is, we can’t change what others think about us, we can only change what we think and believe about ourselves. So remember the inner work is JUST as important and the outer work.

  177. Just came across this article! Great read! I have been doing Paleo for about a year AFTER BEING VEGAN SINCE THE 1990’s and then RAW VEGAN for a few years!!….I have never been so healthy in my life and will NEVER GO BACK TO VEGAN! Long story short I got sick on a vacation last year and it destroyed my gut because my gut was being fed the wrong stuff to keep it healthy for so many years and it did not recoup from what happened like it should have. Paleo is healing it (GAPS too)I looked healthy as a vegan and had energy but now that I do Paleo i have POWER! and people tell me I look robustly healthy – big difference! I am so glad to read this article and another one put up my Mark Sisson on the same subject because I am now menopausal and metabolism is really screwy! I have been searching for information about menopause women and Paleo and its slim information. I personally think the game changes at this time. When I started Paleo it was a natural leanness that happened but a healthy one. Then the hormones kicked in and I gained in spite of even getting drastic with carb cut back. I did have to do a slight calorie restriction (working with my integrative dr) because like I said , metabolism is just screwy at this time. And being small at 4’11” a little extra makes me into a meatball I swear! But that was because I was used to that thin malnourished look. So now, having gotten used to the Paleo look, I started to notice how curvy I had become in the right way! My body redistributed itself and I look athletic (I do enjoy exercise and am a fitness instructor) but exercise much less than I used to. I have never been feminine in shape until now but its a good look not a FAT one. Yes I could lose 6 lbs but am not worrying as my body is taking care of itself in that respect. I know one thing, Paleo kept my fat accumulation with menopause from getting out of hand so that rapid weight gain that happened was soon dropped as my body got more nourished with Paleo and more even in its natural proportions. But you know what? I think this feminine curve is such a COOL LOOK! And thanks for the statement here that fit and/or athletic women are not supposed to look like muscular fit/athletic men. Give me a fork! I see a grass fed steak on the table!!! YUM!

  178. I get the feeling that not only does that commenter not understand what a healthy, fertile woman is meant to look like, but he also hasn’t been reading his paleo/primal books too well. One of the biggest things I’ve picked up on is that how you look is irrelevant to how healthy you are, hence the problem with ‘skinny fat’. That commenter seems to have the whole point back to front. It doesn’t matter what you look like, its so much more important that you eat (primarily) for health, that you move in a way that is helpful and safe for you, that you keep stress levels down, that you sleep well and regularly, that you’re fertile etc. The big pull for so many people to eating paleo/primally/ancestrally is to improve health outcomes, and a 6 pack is not an indicator if health outcomes.

  179. Thanks so much for this. I have a womanly figure that my husband finds irresistible, which has only improved with eating paleo. But when I tell someone I eat paleo, I always feel like I have to put in a disclaimer about ways I “cheat” (wine, for example) so they know that I would “look better” if I were 100% paleo. Never mind that eating this way has helped my digestion and stomach problems tremendously, I feel I have to immediately say something about my weight (and I’m only 5 lbs from my “ideal” weight). Men come in all shapes and sizes too, and are accepted by society. It’s more of a societal problem than anything.

  180. Loved this post. I’m starting to realise that the elusive bikini body is only reachable when I starve myself or eat only oats, protein shakes, white meat & veggies. Either option is not sustainable nor enjoyable or healthy. Those last few kilos just don’t budge without a real fight and i’m sick of fighting. This article helps me try and convince my mind that it’s okay to not be ‘skinny’ because being healthier is more beautiful. Plus I’m an Aus size 10-12 and I could never physically be a size 6-8 so how does that make me a ‘plus size model’ when i’m below the average size 14? The media’s brainwashing makes me sick. More power to being healthier and loving yourself for the way you are <3

    1. Oz size 10-12 = US 4-6. Or at least it used to before Australian sizing started going “vanity sizing” and they created a 6 which isn’t, unfortunately, for tiny women who previously had to but children’s clothes, but it’s just what a size 8 (or even 10) used to be.

  181. Fantastic Post!!!! Thank you!!!! As a paleo Nutrition Therapist, Clinical Herbalist and Healing Foods Chef I too have been struggling with body image. I sometimes am concerned that why would anyone want to listen to me when I’m not all svelte-like. It doesn’t impact me all the time because I don’t specialize in weight loss, but in digestive health but it still works its way into my thought process. And I definitely do also spend too much time on my computer and not enough time in the gym to be svelte. All of that said, I gained a fair amount of weight when I switched to a paleo diet from merely a gluten free diet and I’m okay with that because my blood sugar is more stable and I know that my diet is much more anti-inflammatory than before. So I’m good with eating a diet that plumps me up more as long as the health benefits are there, which they are. Thanks for writing this post–it makes me much more confident and comfortable in that choice.

  182. Ok, first off – I LOVE this & applaud you for your honesty & courage to put this out there. I also have to admit that I feel like you do in so many ways & can relate to being afraid to be noticed too much & being judged for my less-than-ripped physique. I’m like you – I’m about a size 6/8 & am very healthy, but ideally 10-15 pounds more than I’d ideally like. I was once an avid calorie counter & lost 50+ pounds, but realistically, I would be miserable trying to keep counting & maintain that “ideal” weight. I am SO much healthier now that I eat REAL food & don’t count calories. I also wanted to add that I feel the pressure of being judged in the nutrition community because I am in school to become a Dietitian (unconventional – REAL food)… & you know how no one will take a chunky Dietitian seriously. Lots of pressure. Anyway… just wanted to say that you’re not alone in how you feel & it sucks that we would have to feel this way. Smart nutrition girls rock & are sexy!! Hope you can get past your concerns & realize that you are gorgeous, smart, & rock that healthy body! 🙂

  183. Well written!

    Fertility issues are on the rise – alongside many other health concerns – and one of the key facets lies amongst the consumption of healthy fats, or the lack of. Especially regarding the “fitness” crowd!

    For instance, eating egg whites and throwing away the yolks because of fear of fat gain. I’ve known guys to do this but it is extra disheartening to see women do it. As you mentioned, a woman must have a healthy amount of body fat to achieve fertility. And amongst men and women combined, healthy fats are required for hormone production and countless other biological functions.

    Not to mention, curves are sexy on women! It triggers internal biological mechanisms that make the man want to pounce! It suggests ample health and fertility.

    In stark contrast, girls who deliberately starve themselves are not attractive. Nor are the hardcore fitness chicks who take specific supplements to give them a terribly unnatural increase in testosterone, producing a masculine body that should not be.

  184. Pingback: Girls Matter
  185. Personally, I think it’s just sad that you’re so concerned about what others think. I’ve spent my entire life having giant muscular legs and arms even though I am a smaller woman. Now it’s vogue in some circles. Big deal. I’m 51 years old and in good shape. I work in a man’s world doing extremely physical work that most 20 something, “in shape”, 6 pack type women probably couldn’t do. And I am in no way lean. I feel good and I don’t care if people think I’m not what the standard says I should look like. Be healthy and happy. Forget the rest.