What Does Paleo Look Like?

It’s that time again. The Ancestral Health Symposium is taking over Atlanta, GA next week (August 15-17), and I’ll be on the ground Tweeting up a storm and having the time of my life amongst some of the coolest people on the planet.


Danger! Troll crossing!

This will be the third Paleo gathering for me. And while I always have an amazing time and meet incredibly interesting and fun folks, I’ve noticed a bit of negativity around these events. Three things tend to happen:

  1. Negative trolls come out of the woodwork to talk smack about people and their appearances.
  2. Well-meaning folks nervous about their appearance make apologies for themselves and try to explain it away by discussing their health issues.
  3. Other people attending the conference put blinders on and all they can see are the ripped, lean guys walking around barefoot, blinding us all with their pecs. They then assume they don’t belong. I promise you, these Adonises are in the minority, though I deeply, deeply appreciate their presence.

This is the first of a handful of posts I’ve solicited from some friends in the ancestral health community whose voices I admire. I’ll be posting these in the days leading up to AHS13, and I’ll add my own story just as soon as I can carve out a few minutes to myself. It’s my hope that these dispatches will resonate with others out there and help dispel the notion that everyone in ancestral health have hunter-gatherer physiques and zero health struggles. I’m tired of the apologies and I’m tired of people not feeling welcome. We all come to ancestral health for our own reasons, and this is too important of a movement to let divisions arise over perfectly normal, human experiences.

As for the trolls? Well, nothing to do but drown them out with the cacophony of our collective voice of reason.

First up, Tara Grant, whom you may know from PrimalGirl.com. (Part 2 by Kendall Kendrick here, Part 3 by Anastasia Boulais here, Part 4 by James Murphy here, Part 5 by Ben Morgan here, Part 6 by Jamie Scott here)


“The sexiest thing about a woman is confidence.”
– James Deen, International Porn Star

Tara 2008.

Tara 2008.

Am I afraid? Hell, yes. Every upcoming event is another chance for me to feel judged.  Sometimes I even schedule them as a way to keep myself “honest.” All the women I’ve talked to in the Paleo movement feel something similar.

Strangers don’t know – or care – that you’ve been sitting on your ass for six months writing a book. They can’t see the autoimmune condition you’re trying to heal from. They don’t know you in your real life: toddlers screaming for bread, sleep as elusive as hell, eating way more carbs than you should because your body just can’t keep up.

Strangers expect you to be perfect. At least, that’s what my Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) tells me. I’ve been living with BDD since I was about eight years old – about the same time I gained a little weight and the boys at school started calling me a cow.

Ever since, I’ve been dramatically concerned with how I look. When I look in the mirror, I see someone big and lumpy. I notice every imperfection. I have no idea what I really look like to others, just this negative image of everything that’s wrong. I didn’t ask for people to look up to me, or try to emulate me or my lifestyle – I was just doing something for my health. The constant pressure to keep it up for reasons other than my health can be overwhelming.

So meeting a bunch of strangers who are going to judge me for looking the way I do is terrifying. Even if I know that by the end of the conference, most of those strangers will be friends.

In reality, we’re all kind of feeling the same way – self-conscious, worried about what everyone else thinks, worried that we don’t look good enough. Not good enough to be representing a movement, anyway.

Wait – who made us the spokesmodels for the Paleo movement? And why does the Paleo movement feel the need to promote the slender, big-boobed, 24-Hour Fitness look? Better yet, why do we feel that’s what we should look like in order to be worthy enough? Ancestral health isn’t concerned with looking picture-perfect.

Tara, post-Primal.

Tara, post-Primal.

A lot of us don’t have fitness goals, other than being able to move freely, without pain. Our hobbies are cooking, sewing, reading, or shopping – not slacklining or extreme cave diving. How do you train for shopping? You don’t. So, we work out by lifting our children up in the air, carrying groceries, dancing in the kitchen, taking stairs two at a time and sprinting for band-aids. At least once every 7-10 days.

And yet, every single woman I’ve met through the Ancestral Health Movement looks perfect to me – whether they’re rail thin, bulging with muscles or not. We’re real women. We all have different goals and are at different points on our journey. We have families to take care of, stress from work, blogs and emails – plus the added pressure of not being able to order fast food for fear of being ostracized, upsetting our delicate Omega 3:6 ratio, or – God forbid – getting glutened. We don’t look like models, thank God. Models are boring. We look like women.

So, if we’re living naturally, making the best choices most of the time, and moving around a lot, then doesn’t it make sense that we’re what a woman is actually supposed to look like?

And if we’re all insecure about how we look, but we think everyone else is beautiful, then isn’t it possible that they think we’re beautiful, too?

Because, honestly, all the women I’ve met through the Ancestral Health Movement just have this glow about them. This beautiful light inside, the glow of health. And if everyone else around you is beautiful, chances are that you are too.

If you’re still feeling a little anxious, remember that confidence goes a long, long way to improving how others see you. If you’re not feeling confident, fake it baby. Fake it ‘til you make it.  (Something I’ve noticed is that it’s only confident people who tend to give compliments to others. Keep that in mind.)

Tara GrantThat’s enough of a pep talk. I’m going to ROCK that new bathing suit in Atlanta. I hope you do, too.


Tara Grant blogs irregularly at primalgirl.com when her screaming toddlers aren’t clamoring for her attention and time. She’s been sitting on her butt for over a year, writing a book for Primal Blueprint and developing recipes for the carbiest foods she can find. You’ll find her at AHS, either yelling at volunteers or lying by the pool, wondering how her legs look.


23 Responses to “What Does Paleo Look Like?”

  1. Thanks for this post. I have wanted to attend this symposium since the first year, but have skipped it every year or been so afraid that I waited to register until it was closed. I’m quite overweight myself and have struggled to remain 100% on plan, and have always felt i would not belong or that others would not talk to the overweight girl in the corner.

  2. what a great post and series! I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

  3. What a fantastic post! Totally agree we are all doing this for our own reasons and that should be enough to make us happy. I totally understand the horrible feelings that go hand in hand with weight fluctuations, have done all my life. I have finally gone #paleo and am loving it, have lost weight but still some part of me is so hard on myself and I think it’s time I let go and just get on with living the amazing adventure that is my life. Thanks Tara mwah xxx

  4. Reblogged this on My Journey to Health & Happiness and commented:
    I love Tara Grant. You can tell a primal girl by her energy and her glow :)

  5. Thank You Tara, this was a wonderful post. I hope all the gals at AHS13 (hell, all the gals everywhere) feel as righteously empowered as you.

  6. Great article! I have to disagree that looking like a model is boring though :)

  7. “Negative trolls come out of the woodwork to talk smack about people and their appearances.”

    –> you mean like Nikoley and Geoffrey Miller?

    • I don’t think it’s trolling if they’re out about it. I’m referring to the bullying types of comments I see on blogs and Twitter asking why everyone doesn’t look like a hunter-gatherer, and why are there so many unhealthy people at these Paleo conferences.

      I’ll take the upfront jackassery any day over the insidious, anonymous garbage doled out by trolls.

    • Antonio, Miller publicly apologized and feels very, very badly. How long is it okay to rake someone over the coals for an isolated error? Have you ever done something you’ve later regretted? Kindness, conscientiousness and charity are two way streets.

      • PaleoPeriodical, so being open about fat shaming is OK if you’re not anonymous? Got it.

      • “Antonio”, you and I both know that whatever I say, you will twist it and take it out of context to serve your purposes. In your pursuit, you fail to recognize people who are actually on the same side. I don’t appreciate you attempting to turn this series into something it’s not. It was begun with pure intentions and I’ve received tons of emails and support for the stories told here. It’s impossible to have a rational discussion with anyone hellbent on pushing their own agenda.

      • PaleoPeriodical (sorry, I don’t know your name)

        ‘…you will twist it and take it out of context to serve your purposes.’

        I don’t do this.

        ‘I don’t appreciate you attempting to turn this series into something it’s not.’

        What I am attempting to do is clarify an important topic, precisely related to this statement that I agree with:

        ‘It’s my hope that these dispatches will resonate with others out there and help dispel the notion that everyone in ancestral health have hunter-gatherer physiques and zero health struggles. I’m tired of the apologies and I’m tired of people not feeling welcome.’

        I think is a fantastic sentiment, I fully support your intentions, otherwise I wouldn’t be concerned enough to comment. However, supporting G Miller seems incongruent with this theme, kwim?

        …not sure why you put my name in quotes.
        It is a rather spectacular name, I’ll admit. Maybe too strong in diversity for you? ;-)

  8. Great post! I’m glad I’m not the only one whose hobbies are cooking, reading and shopping!

  9. I would love to go to a conference like this. However I live on the other side of the world with a limited income so it isn’t a possiblity at the moment. I especially love the idea that so many of us, perhaps all of us are a work in progress. Some of us do really struggle with health and weight issues. It really annoys me that people think that because they can be 80% primal, be healthy, fit and slim that others aren’t even trying because they are still 50 lbs overweight and still not well. I’m 99% primal/paleo with the added issue of not being able to have dairy, nightshades or eggs most of the time as I have autoimmune disease. I put on 3 lbs overnight after our 45th wedding anniversary and one night eating cheese and dried fruits and with 3 small drinks and that weight isn’t coming off now I’m back to the wagon. However I’m no longer grossly obese, no longer have hypertension, no longer diabetic and my autoimmune disease is reduced by 95%. So I have made a lot of progress.
    Thanks for your support.

  10. Tara what a great article. You ARE beautiful. I am so happy I had the good fortune to meet you at your Kombucha workshop before you left Cali. Rock that Symposium and speak for all us “average” women out there. Be well!

  11. Love, love your post. I am still struggling with sugar cravings. I have a large body..but swimming laps has helped a great deal. I love the fact that you are NOT a model and a regular woman-who is awesome! Models do not speak to me and never have. They are cookie cutters of the “ideal” of advertisers. We are nothing like that as you stated…so happy to have found your blog. Each journey is different and that is also why life is interesting!

  12. If you’re coming to Atlanta next weekend bring an umbrella! We’ve had the craziest, wettest summer ever.

  13. I have been trying the paleo diet now for 8 months. I have lost a stone in weight I am now 9 stone. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last year through stress having looked after my Mum for 33 years. The last 4 years have been really hard as she now has dementia and lung cancer. I tried so hard to look after her myself but found it very tiring hence the diabetes. She is now in a nursing home. I would love to get my glucose level even lower than 6.6. Advice would be greatly appreciated?


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