My Transformation

June 16, 2012 in Categories: by

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When I started by blog, I intended to keep it anonymous.  Yes, my name was attached, but there is more than one Sarah Ballantyne out there.  I blogged for months before I even let my general location be known.  My stick figure drawings were as much about avoiding posting photos as they were about creating a distinctive style for my blog posts.  But as time has gone on, I have started to realize that, if I want my readership to continue to expand so that I can inspire and inform more people, then I cannot remain anonymous.  My “credentials” lie in three areas.  First, I have a Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics and performed medical research in the area of innate immunity and inflammation (not with a link to nutrition, but the background is ridiculously useful in understanding how the foods we eat impact our bodies).  Second, I am a mother and face the typical challenges that paleo motherhood presents.  Third, I have had a longstanding personal battle with weight and disease.  I have shared some of my history (see My 120-Pound Journey to Paleo) and many of my current struggles (see Why I Want To Lower My Bodyweight Set-Point) and successes (see My Experiences With the AIP) with you.  And now, it is time to share photos:  “before”, “during”, and “after”. 

I was an overweight teenager.  This photo was taken of me in the summer of 1997 (I was 20 years old).  I weighed about 265 pounds.  I suffered migraines and was not drinking coffee at the time due to suspected gall bladder issues.  I got frequent colds, especially during exam week.  I did walk a fair bit, but was starting to feel uncomfortable in my skin.  I had to hold my breath to tie my shoes.  I remember feeling so left out when my friends would go for group runs together (and not even bother to ask me).  I remember getting an enormous bruise on my behind just by trying to maneuver out of the backseat of a jeep when someone was nice enough to give me a ride.  I started a low-carb diet in the summer of 1999, started working out excessively, and lost 100 pounds.


This picture was taken at the end of a 30km (18.5 mild) race in Hamilton, Ontario in spring 2001.  I weighed about 170 pounds.  I was running 14-15 hours per week, lifting weights twice per week, doing 3 hours of karate each week, walking as my main form of transportation, and playing the occasional game of squash.  I enjoyed being so active (somehow overcompensating for feeling left out in my late teens and early twenties).  My low-carb diet habits were slipping because the amount of exercise I was doing seemed to be enough to keep the weight off (even though I wasn’t losing any more weight and still wanted to).  I had migraines, IBS with chronic constipation, frequent colds, anxiety and some mild depression (I was in graduate school).

Then, I got sick in the summer of 2002.  Adult onset asthma robbed me of my active lifestyle.  Between being apartment-bound for months, being on high-dose steroids, and spiraling into depression, I gained back 100 pounds over the course of a year.  When I got married in summer of 2003, I weighed 235 pounds.  I was in so much denial about my weight that I put off shopping for a wedding dress until 2 weeks before the wedding.  My wedding dress was a size 26 (to be fair, I think I was only wearing plus-size 18-20 at the time).  I think this photo is far more interesting than photos from my actual wedding because of my facial expression.  That is the dress I ended up buying–it was very flattering.  But, on my face you can see the conflict, how heart-breaking it was to have been so much thinner only months before and to be looking in the mirror at an obese woman.  Our wedding was beautiful; but, I have kept my dress in the hopes of someday having it completely remade for a smaller me to renew our vows.  I was cycling between low-carb and out-of-control binges, occasionally going on whey protein + flax oil fasts.  I had migraines, IBS, acid reflux, chronic colds, asthma, allergies, lichen planus, eczema, anxiety and depression.

I continued to gain weight after that.  I was now a postdoctoral fellow in a very high-profile research lab in Toronto, Ontario, doing ground-breaking medical research and working 80-100 hour weeks.  I stopped weighing myself after 260 pounds and always assumed that I gained 10-15 more pounds after that based on the fact that I went up an entire clothing size (or was it two?).  However, when I look at this picture, taken the summer of 2004, I think I may have been underestimating how heavy I was at my biggest. Until now, I’ve always said that I was 265-270 pounds at my biggest.  But now, I think I was pushing 300 pounds.  I was wearing plus-size 26 clothes.  I was miserable.  I dyed my hair crazy colors to compensate for low self-esteem.  I started being behind the camera and there are very few photos of me from this point on (even now, it has become habit that I am the one who holds the camera).  I had migraines, IBS, acid reflux, chronic colds, asthma, allergies, lichen planus, eczema, anxiety, depression, borderline high blood pressure, borderline high triglycerides, and borderline high insulin levels.  I was eating whatever I wanted and would get ridiculously defensive if anyone (even my husband) even sounded remotely critical of my food choices.

I lost some weight when we first moved to Arizona.  The slower pace of my second postdoctoral fellowship and the sun were very restorative.  I stopped dying my hair because I became so violently allergic to the dyes.  I was down to 255 pounds when I got pregnant with our first daughter.  I had gestational diabetes during the pregnancy.  Between the diet limitations forced upon me and the pregnancy-induced changes to my appetite, I lost 2 pounds overall during my pregnancy.  Even still, it wasn’t until I was about 7.5 months pregnant that you could really tell without a doubt that I was actually pregnant and not just fat (the picture on the right is me at 6.5 months pregnant, trying to show off my belly).  My daughter’s birth was long (labor was 97-hours) and complicated.  We avoided an emergency C-section by minutes (and only because we had an amazing midwife).  After our daughter was born, I was too exhausted to do much other than survive (oh the colic!), but I did keep my weight steady around 230 pounds.

When my first daughter was 1 year old, I realized that I had prediabetes.  I became very strict about eating low-carb, fueled by fear of a lifetime with diabetes combined with a desire to be a good role model for my daughter.  Over the next year, I got back down to 165 pounds.  The picture on the left is me shortly before I found the strength to get control over my diet.  The picture on the right was the birthday I had a year later, shortly before getting pregnant with our second daughter (around 170 pounds in that picture).  I was lighter, but I was still plagued with IBS, acid reflux, migraines, lichen planus, eczema, mild anxiety and depression, very frequent colds, asthma and allergies.  My blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors were normal and the prediabetes was gone. 

I gained 60 pounds with my second pregnancy but didn’t have diabetes and had a much easier labor and delivery (yes, I do call 20 hours with pitocin and no drugs easier).  And it was obvious that I was pregnant and not just fat by 5 months (in the picture on the left, I was 7.5 months pregnant)!  Neither of my daughters are sleepers (for different physiological reasons, and not a reflection of my parenting style).  I struggled to lose weight after my second daughter was born, but did manage to get back to 165 pounds eventually (around the 1 year mark; I weighed about 190 pounds in the picture on the right and struggled for months before I could successfully lose the pregnancy weight). 

This picture was taken of me only a few weeks before I started paleo.  I had plateaued at 165 pounds for nearly a year.  I was much more active, doing yoga three times per week and playing actively with my kids.  My moods were better, probably owing to spending more time outside with my kids.  But I still wasn’t healthy and my lichen planus was starting to flare worse than any previous flare. 


And here are the after photos. Nine months after starting paleo.  My weight has plateaued at 148 pounds.  I am strong and flexible from regular yoga practice.  My migraines, IBS, acid reflux, asthma, allergies, eczema, anxiety, depression, and frequent colds are gone.  My lichen planus is healing without any treatment other than following the Autoimmune Protocol.  When you look at me doing yoga poses (especially in the middle photo where I’m doing triangle pose), you can clearly see the extra skin and stubborn fat that I still have.  I may not be where I want to be ultimately, but I think you can also see that I am healthy and that I am happy. 


 This is me:  Sarah Ballantyne, a.k.a. The Paleo Mom!  I have always claimed to losing 120-pounds.  But I wonder now if it was really more than that, now that I have unearthed these long-buried photos of me at my biggest.  If you knew me back then, would you recognize me now?  I carried so much weight in my face that the difference is very dramatic (I once had to talk a border guard into believing my passport photo was actually me).  So, now you have seen my before, during and after photos.  You have seen my journey.  And it’s nice to meet you!


You look absolutely amazing! Congrats for your results, you are an inspiration!
I love your blog btw, it’s very informative with lots of good content.
Thank you very much!

I agree with Eliza, you look soooo healthy and great! Your story is one that NEEDS to be told, as so many others have the same problems. I’m so glad you’re telling it.

Amazing, Sarah! I admire your perseverance! A lot! I’m a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer and trying to gain weight from all the muscles and fats I’ve lost during this disease. It’s inspiring to read of your journey. Thank you for sharing!

Also, I think it’s funny that you see the extra skin and fat in your triangle pose picture. I didn’t notice that at all! (I looked closely at all the photos before I read the blog entry because I was so excited to see your picture!) Funny how we are so critical of ourselves. You look incredible to me: fit and healthy.

Thank you! It is wonderful to put a face with your persona – and what a face! You look joyous, and that is an incredible validation for Paleo.

Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s very inspiring to see how you have healed from so many challenges.

I’m struggling with the weight and eczema. The rest of my health is good. I’m on day 26 of the autoimmune protocol. I’m following Chris Kresser’s Personal Paleo recommendations. I haven’t noticed much change.
Isn’t it crazy how we tie our self acceptance to our weight or size?

So inspiring! I’ve enjoyed your blog and I always love to know the person behind the blog! Thank you for sharing! Here’s to your health (and the bonus of looking simply fabulous!)

It’s very nice to meet you, Sarah. You are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story, your knowledge and your creations with us.

I LOVE your blog. It has such a strong science slant and is so smartly written that I am constantly bookmarking your posts to re-read later and share with others. I know it wasn’t easy to share these photos, but WOW! The thing that strikes me most about the after photos is that you are radiant, your skin is glowing. You can tell that more than just being thin, you are feeling good and are happy.
My kids were not sleepers either, and it is amazing how it is attributed to poor parenting. I found out later that their issue was heavily GLUTEN related. It would have been nice to know that before my oldest was three and my baby was 5 months instead of being told that they just needed tough love or being made to feel like I was incompetent as a mom.
You are really helping so many people with your blog. It is great to put a face to the cute little drawing. For the profile, I think B does not do you justice because there is no smile in the photo but the other three are great.

Oh lord… I can tell the difference when my daughter’s had gluten or too much sugar. I’m convinced now that most behavior problems in kids come from poor nutrition or, at the very least, eating things their bodies don’t know how to handle. People don’t want to believe it’s that simple and they won’t even try. They just assume the kids are willingly being brats (not a word I like but that’s what they’re thinking). It’s so sad.

Sarah–You are beautiful! What I’m going to say, maybe you already know this. We all walk a fine line between loving ourselves and wanting to be better.

You are perfect TODAY. Things may be different tomorrow, or they may not, but focusing on that future means you’re not really experiencing the present. It’s good and important to have goals, but don’t let that keep you from being fully satisfied and happy as you are!

What extra skin???? Seriously!!! You look amazing!!! You do not look like a woman who was once seriously obese. Be proud woman!

Thank you so much for the pictures and for sharing your journey! I’m going to share with my sister who is at her top weight right now (over 200) and is really wanting to get healthy.

Sidenote – you, my favorite Paleo blogger is right here in Arizona?! Oh I’m so star struck – I’m in Tucson! We should go hiking together – I have some of those “baby asleep in the backpack carrier” too, lol.

Sounds great! Bummed to know you’re not in town anymore – it would have been fun to have an actual in-flesh paleo friend to share meals with. I’ll just have to work on making some converts!

You are beautiful,and look very healthy!! You honestly look like a totally different person in your before and after photos.

I too have to eat a very strict diet due to issues with acne. My skin looks so much better now!

Thanks for being an inspiration to me!!

Wow! You look absolutely wonderful—healthy and beautiful. Thanks for sharing and for taking the time to write your blog. I am always so grateful for people like you who write blogs because without them I would be lost! Your blog motivates me to stay on track.

I love paleo… what an incredible gift for us to realize that we have the opportunity to nourish and heal our bodies and minds… very inspiring Sarah. Thanks for sharing!

Sarah, It is so cool to finally see the amazingly brillant, beautiful and awesome Paleo mom. Thank you so much for sharing these photos and the story to go with them. Congratulations on your amazing journey. There is so much in your story I can relate to. I hope someday soon I will have similar after pictures to you. Thank you so much for helping me with my new found Paleo lifestyle and sharing your pictures and story to help keep me motivated and hopeful that I can manage all my health issues with a Paleo diet.

Last fall I started a liver detox/elimination diet. I’ve lost about 40lbs, seen my liver go from a stage 2 to stage 0 and had a reduction in liver enzymes. The diet is very much like a Paleo/Primal diet in a lot of ways. I’ve been able to use a number of paleo recipes on the plan including a some of yours. In fact, today I am going to a picnic and made your nut free hamburger bun recipe. I still have about 15 lbs to get to where I should be. But I’m feeling so much better and have been able to get back into clothes I haven’t worn in years.

Basically I’ve been trying to make sure I’m eating nutrient rich, organic, unprocessed foods and grass/pasture raised meats and eggs while eliminating hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and factory farmed meats, and eggs. It may be more expensive up front, but it saves money down the road by making me healthier and less prone to health problems (so fewer doctors visits and medications). Both my mother and one of my brothers have Type 2 diabetes (both have had weight issues). My mother has a whole hose of other health problems including heart and cholesterol issues. I’m trying to avoid ending up like either of them.

Your after photos are fantastic. You should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished. Nice yoga poses! I’ve been taking classes for the last couple of months (though this isn’t my first experience with it). I’m pretty flexible and can do most poses pretty well but still have difficulty with camel pose. back bending is not my forté. 😉

In a word, wow. You are amazing and inspiring! Thank you so much for putting it all out there and in doing so, enable others to not give up. You give us hope.

Just from reading your previous post, I know how hard this was to put pictures up for everyone to view. How proud and set free you must feel that you have finally done something that has haunted you for so long!!
Your story will inspire so many people, and that is really what we have to accept in our journey’s. Not everything we deal with has got to stay about us. We need to look past ourselves and realize our past is someone’s present. Being real and encouraging others that are a little behind us on the journey is the best gift that we can give others!!
You are beautiful on the inside, and the outside. The joy on your face in the after photo’s says it all!!
Proud of you and keep on keepin’ on!!

Wow! What a great story! Thank you so much for sharing. I do want to say that I could not see the fat you were talking about- you look fantastic!

AMAZING! You look tall are you by the way? I’m about the same weight at 5’7″ (I’ve had two boys so I have the lower belly paunch which plagues mothers..ha ha) I feel I need to lose more weight but if you’re around the same height, you look incredible!! You should be really proud of yourself. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It really is inspiring. I’ve been eating mostly Paleo for the past 6 months (but not strictly as I still include Dairy every so often as there’s nothing as good as whipped cream ha ha…unsweetened of course) I love reading your blog and your recipes are great. Keep it up! (And I too can’t see this extra skin/fat you’re talking about????)

What an amazing story!!! thanks for sharing!!! I look forward to following your blog. My husband and two young daughters are 2 months into our paleo journey and loving it so far! =)

WOW!!!! amazing!!!!! you are such an inspiration! I have loved your blog since i started following about 4 months ago but i hated that stick figure! so impersonal but i understand why you did it! thank you so much for sharing!

Thank u for being such an inspiration! Been gluten free for the last year + and definitely feel better, but still sick…Ibs, prediabetes, high Bp, headaches, chronic sinus infections and currently weighing in at 220….the anxiety and depression are bad. It is time for another change 😉 I have been following your blog for awhile now and reading about paleo everywhere I can….but am scared to start…..we are going to Disney world in august…..have no idea what to eat, but can’t be sick the whole time either…..

Disneyworld actually has a really good reputation for accommodating gluten-free eating. Go Google “gluten-free Disney” and see what you come up with. It seems to go better if you can make reservations rather than just walking in, but when we went to Disney about 6 years ago, I was able to eat pretty well GF, without reservations. They routinely send out the chef to talk to you if you have dietary restrictions.

WOW, Just WOW!! I had to call my husband to the computer to show him your pics. You look absolutely amazing!!! You are such an inspiration to me. I am 2 weeks in to Paleo (just beginning), I have about 70 lbs to lose.

Wow, you look amazing. Like others have said glowing and healthy. I have to say I don’t see tons of excess skin. You’re yoga pictures you look awesome. I was expecting from your post yesterday to see big hangy flaps of skin hanging down from your arms, and they don’t look that way at all. You should be proud of what you have accomplished!! I have lost 15 lbs on Paleo and have another 53 to go. I am taking it slow this time, eating well and making sure I am satisfied vs. crashing it really strict and then falling off the wagon. Now that I have been off of grains for about 1 1/2 months, I am no longer looking at bread and donuts etc with longing any more. Feeling great. I love your blog, and your recipes!! Good for you!! You give me hope that I can accomplish much. I forgot to say that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am hoping to one day get off of the toxic medications I am on.

You are such a lovely person, inside and out! I am so thankful for the wisdom you provide here, the practicality, and the reality you offer. You’ve been an inspiration and a help to me in getting healthier, starting to get the pregnancy weight OFF (20 lbs. down, 50 to go…). Thank you for being so real! And it is so nice to see your face: BEAUTIFUL!

Wow, you look amazing!!! Thank you for sharing your journey! Your journey keeps me inspired on my own paleo journey for me and my family!

You are beautiful! thanks for sharing…I relate to soooooo much of your story!! I would just like to know what helped you stop binge eating? Any tips? Thanks!

I am delighted to read your advise and to see your photos!
I am inspired to start the paleo autoinmune diet for lichen scleroderma that is very painful, thank you for sharing your knowledge and your life, you look beautiful and healthy!

Thank-you so much for sharing! You look amazing and healthy, congratulations to you for your accomplishments … I know I often look at areas that I still ‘lack’, but you’ve overcome some huge hurdles. This post is an inspiration to me that I very much needed.

Sarah, your post today made me cry. I am in the 9th month of a serious health battle w/ Celiac Disease (which I now realize started approx. 11 yrs ago). I have gone through hell in the medical system trying to get a diagnosis, since until very recently most of my symptoms were not digestive ones. I am seriously underweight, along w/ many other vexing “auto-immunish” troubles & SIBO. I started AIP about 6 wks ago & am trying to ramp it up more every day. Although my goal is to gain & not lose weight & rebuild my lost muscle mass, your documentation of your journey is deeply inspiring to me. I have not cheated even one time, but it is hard. Knowing I may be able to achieve results as breath-taking as your own gives me new resolve! Thank you so much.

Congrats on a major transformation and especially on getting your health in order. Thank you so much for sharing this! When I first started my page I was very anonymous too and you’ve inspired me to share my story (and the pictures that go with it). I have a six month blogaversary coming up and I think that would be a perfect time to share.

Omg you look like a different person!! What an amazing accomplishment!!! Not only do you look fabulous but you can have confidence that you are healthy. Congratulations!!

Holy shit, you’re gorgeous! You look amazing! I would kill to have your current figure. I don’t see loose skin at all. You’re lovely.

this is so great i to have lost 105 lbs and 16 pants sizes from doing crossfit 5x week and doing paleo i am currently paleo and i luv it. i feel great and i am training for my first half marathon June 30th my story was edited and published in the crossfit journal just last Thursday.

Wow Sarah, what a journey!! Mine is very similar to yours so far, I still have 80 lbs. to go to reach my goal weight. I sure hope I end up like you, your gorgeous!!!! Thanks for this inspiring post 🙂

Sarah, you are a true inspiration! Paleo has definitely changed my life, too! Will be sharing your story with my fellow mom friends 🙂

Please keep the fantastic posts, coming. Your write-ups on Leaky Gut are my go-to references 😉

All the best!

Hej Sarah, i’m the one from Denmark that needed help with the daycare and diet issue on FB ;o). Just read your amazing story and got all teared up in the end looking at your last pics. You are beautiful! I am very happy that you have found yourself and the lifestyle that suits you best and makes you happy and alive, all the best to you and keep up your fantastic blog!!!!
Hugs from DK, Michelle

You look absolutely radiant in your after pictures-beautiful and radiant! What a fantastic role model you are for your two girls. Thank you for sharing your story. I am sure you have touched and helped more than you will know by doing so! I am happy to follow you 🙂

Thank you for sharing this – I know that this was hard – but you have already inspired so many, and this putting your face with your name? It does make it more personal – and helps me think I can really do this.

Thank you!!!

Very nice to “meet” you, Sarah. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this blog. It is very encouraging. BTW, you look radiant in your after pics. You can tell a lot about how you felt, simply from your eyes.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished and please keep up the good work. It is truly inspiring.

wow. u look wonderful . And im glad to meet u. U r a great inspiration to all. I have been an so many diets yo -yo ing back in forth . Now im try the paleo have been on it for a week. And doing good lost 5 lbs so far. My problem is just sticking to it . Do u have any pointers on how to stay on track? Thanks im glad to know im not the only one out there going thru this.

Wow Sarah! I just had to add my thoughts along with the other ladies and gents, you truly are an inspiration! Your physical transformation is incredible although you are beautiful both ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ but the radiance and joy are clear to see on your ‘after’ pictures.

I have been paleo since January this year after being diagnosed as gluten/lactose intolerant and discovered Paleo (after 7 years of being a vegetarian!!). Like you I have had issues with food all my life and was diagnosed with binge eating disorder last year but becoming Paelo has done more than help me loose weight and improve my health it has turned that ‘binge switch’ off for me. This has only further increased my belief that processed food, sugar and high carb foods are addictive and do something to the brain. I no longer have the intense cravings I used to have.

I love the scientific slant to your posts combined with your personal and funny observations. It is lovely to put a face to the name and look forward to reading more of your blogs.

My final comment is to say that your are beautiful, worthy and enough as you are NOW, extra folds of skin or not (although not that I could see any). I would highly recommend reading some of Brene Browns work as her philiopsphy along with a paleo lifestyle is what has finally brought peace to my life.

I wish you continued success in your journey.

With deepest admiration
Danielle xx

Thanks for sharing your inspirational and motivational story. You look vibrant with glowing good health.

Sarah, When I first met you (before paleo) I thought you were beautiful because you’ve always had an inner spark that I liked so much and appreciated in our friendship. Now, I can see that you are owning your spark because your health is a priority. You look radiantly happy in your after photos and I can’t wait to do yoga together with you some day (soon, I hope)! Way to be brave and reveal your journey so that others can find the strength to follow in your footsteps! I’m so proud of you!

Hi Sarah! I saw that you have Lichen Planus. I have Lichen Sclerosis which is very similar. I noticed that it went into remission after going paleo. In fact, all my skin ailments disappeared. What a relief!

Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing your journey and pictures with us. We are always our hardest critics, but when I look at your ‘now’ pictures, all I see is a beautiful, happy, energetic person. You are beautiful! Congratulations on all your hard work paying off. You are an inspiration.

Found your blog via Stacy at PaleoParents. Thank you for sharing your story! I can identify with it in so many ways. My husband and children have been calling me “Paleo Mama” lately. I suffered from a host of auto-immune, inflammatory conditions, with debilitating asthma and allergies. I had managed to pile on a few pounds through the years. We moved out family to the country, began eating a locavore diet, and growing as much of our own food as possible. I started doing a C25K program, which left me exhausted. I did not experience the health benefits I had hoped for, that is until I stumbled across the movie “Fathead” and did further reading, before discovering “paleo”. Over the past 6 months, I have lost 20 lbs, with about 20 more to lose. I haven’t had this much energy since I was a teen. I find my thoughts are clear, my memory is improving. And my asthma has improved. I still suffer from some allergies, but I am hoping that in time that will improve. Adopting this lifestyles was amazingly simple for me to do. What has been more difficult has been trying to feed 8 of us a paleo diet without breaking the bank. At this point, they are not eating 100% paleo, and I often find myself trying to choose the lesser of evils for them. I am confident that we will find this easier in time and I greatly appreciate blogs like yours and Paleo Parents, which help inspire me to share what I have learned with my children and husband.

Hi Sarah,
You really are incredibly beautiful. It’s amazing– reading through the comments. They all get it, and you get it, and it’s empowering and heart-lightening and it just makes me want to leap out of my skin for being so happy for you.
That being said, I scanned through the photos before I read the text of your article. And I thought: “Yes yes yes! I can use Sarah as an example!” because I write a lot about self-love and weight loss and the paleo movement. And then I saw that you were talking about not being right “where you’d like to be” and having extra skin, fat, etc, around your abdomen… but the thing is I didn’t see it AT ALL. All I saw was a radiant woman with a sexy, flexible, powerful and shapely body… I swear, I didn’t see it AT ALL, and even if I had, I would still think you were a woman with a sexy, flexible, powerful, and shapely body. Perhaps you may not be where you want to be, but I can’t think of that at all. You’ve become healthy and radiant as is, and if your weight has “plateaud” here then perhaps this is a healthy sitting place for your body. Perhaps it’s where your body wants to be. I don’t really think weight loss plateaus should ever be attacked. Maybe nibbled at, if you really need to lose weight, but never attacked. You are amazing at this plateau, and an inspiration, and I think owning, embracing, and not apologizing for your body at this point would be a powerful and beautiful example of natural womanhood. That isn’t to say that you don’t. I KNOW that you do, and that you love your body. I just want to throw out there into the huge foray of love on these comments that there is nothing that is not powerful and sexy about you, your journey, and your new body, and I want you to feel that way 1500 percent.

What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. I may have missed it, but are you doing Chris Kresser’s autoimmune protocol, where eggs and nightshades are eliminated as well as the foods Robb Wolf recommends eliminating? I’m starting it tomorrow and am looking to find blogs/recipes that follow that stricter protocol. Do you have any recommendations?


I am so happy for you Sarah (you know who I am — hint hint — the person who wrote two papers with you in Toronto 🙂 You look amazing and just want to congrats on your success!!!


I’ve been following your blog for some time – love the scientific information you add to your posts. Thank you for sharing your photos – and your story. You look amazing!

Dear Sarah,
This blog is one I’ve added recently to my reader. The Paleo lifestyle is new to me and I’m partway through The Paleo Solution. It is astonishing how many things are directly effected by what we eat… Maybe we really ARE what we eat.. although as my little sister says, “I don’t remember eating a bowl of awesomness!”

Anyway, your story is so inspiring and breathtaking. It is always hard to come out from behind your screen… but thank you! It is so much easier to relate to a human face.

Paleo Preemie in NE

Thank you so much for sharing your story and being so vulnerable. I am grateful for your well written, informative posts. Congratulations on feeling better!

I also wanted to say that you look absolutely beautiful and happy in your yoga poses. I don’t see that extra skin and “stubborn fat” you’re talking about! I’m a yoga teacher and in your photos, I see a woman completely enjoying her body. Being happy seems way more important that being perfect (but I’m sure you already agree with that;)….

You look amazing, Sarah! You are such an inspiration, and I appreciate what you do here, so very much. Thank you for sharing your journey and your expertise with us. You have helped me so much!

You are nothing short of amazing!! I am so inspired after reading your story and seeing the remarkable pictures of your transformation. I have asthma, allergies AND an underactive thyroid, so losing weight and keeping it off has always been a struggle. I had been trying to “eat healthy”; lost 10 pounds in 2.5 months. Started a paleo eating plan about 10 days ago after two of my husband’s colleagues had lost a ton of weight; they inspired him to bring the idea home, so we’ve decided to do this together. Went to the doctor for a checkup yesterday – another 6 pounds down since starting to eat paleo!!! We both have remarked how much better we feel, as well. I will continue to follow you, your progress and your recipes. Can’t wait to try the cupcake recipe next week when I am on vacation. Keep up the great work!

Thank you for your wonderful site, and sharing your story. I’m only 2 days into Paleo (at my doctor’s suggestion). I know it will be a long road ahead to lose the 40lbs. to my goal, but I’m a patient girl. *grin* I LOVE your recipe section! Thanks so much for sharing them. 😀

I feel so optimistic after reading this post! You are absolutely an inspiration. I lost 90 lbs myself last year and have plateaud at 170 lbs since January. I’ve recently transitioned from being a distance runner to be a casual runner and weight lifter. After a ton of reseach including reading your blogs I’ve begun following the Paleo lifestyle very strictly. I already feel the ever-present bloating beginning to subside. I know how you feel about the extra skin–I have the same! My belly looks like a popped balloon! We are much harder on ourselves than others, though. You look simply radiant! Congratulations!

I just heard your interview on the Jimmy Moore podcast, and came to your site to learn more. You are absolutely stunning — intelligent and gorgeous! Wow. And the previous commenters are right: you look so happy and healthy. I fail to see the flaws you speak of, but rather a woman looking as a woman should — a warrior. Thank you for your story.

Wow! Congratulations! I would like to post a paragraph from “My Transformation” and the after picture on PaleoTerran. Please let me know if I can use your after picture. Thanks.


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You are drop dead gorgeous! What an amazing accomplishment you have to be proud of! Question for you–you said you were doing low carb but still having a lot of the healthy issues…so what changed between low-carb and Paleo that you can attribute feeling healthier?


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I just discovered the blog by chance and I’m not disappointed at all.
I have carefully read your story, I have a somewhat similar course outside of pregnancy and I started eating paleo 2 months ago.
It is so encouraging to me and certainly for others to see the way that you went through and it’s inspiring.
I am very motivated and I can already see changes in health point of view but stories like yours really reinforce the idea that I’m going in the right direction.
Thank you very much.

I just came upon your website by searching for paleo recipes. My name is Sarah as well and after reading your fabulous and inspiring story, it is unbelievable how similar our life stories are. I have struggled with my weight for many many years now. Last year I was diagnosed with food allergies so after Christmas I decided to take drastic action! I began an elimination diet. I eliminated processed and junk food first then grains and most sugars. I didn’t know about the paleo diet at the time. I had lost about 40 lbs in 4 to 5 months and then I plateaued. I had about 100 lbs in total that I needed to lose. It was becoming very frustrating. To make matters worse, I went through some stressful things in the summer of 2012, which led me to begin eating some inflammatory foods again and I had gained some weight back. I found out about the paleo diet around the end of the summer 2012 and about a month later began eliminating inflammatory foods again. After about a month I was beginning to feel so wonderful! I was down 73 lbs! Well needless to say the holidays have come and gone and I have now gained a few lbs back yet again after eating inflammatory foods for the last week now. I vowed to begin the new year of 2013 right by beginning the whole30 paleo lifestyle again but I have been lacking the motivation to do so until I came across your blog! Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story and some awesome recipes! I am motivated now to get back on track and get down to the size my body is supposed to be at. I look forward to reading more of your blog! Thanks again 🙂

I am starting my journey with the paleo lifestyle. After learning that I am prediabetic and almost 300 lbs I am focused on my health. So far I have lost 15 lbs and started working out. I am so happy I found your blog! Thank you for sharing!!!! 🙂

Your story is very inspiring. I have been heavy since I was 15 and have hated living in my body. I have tried everything. Found out I have Celiac’s about 7 years ago and lost a huge amount of weight, but they I got pregnant with my youngest and gain what I lost back plus more. I have been Gluten free for 3 plus years now and can’t lose any weight at all. I have been looking at going Paleo now for about a year, but after reading your story it has pushed me to really make the steps in the Paleo direction. Thank you.

I find it absolutely wonderful that you addressed the AutoImmune Alterations that need to be made to the Paleo diet. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last year at 21 years old, and I almost immediately started changing my diet. I am still slightly heavier than I should be but I have taken a lot of weight off in an effort to defend my body against itself as best as I can. I live in Arizona as well, which is good and bad, given my heat sensitivity and need to be active as often as possible. Keep up the good work! You are very inspiring :).

I’m so happy to have found your blog. I have a background in holistic nutrition and was looking at medical biophysics as a career (it sounds so neat to study). Thanks for sharing your story with us <3

I want to say thank you for sharing your journey and your photos. They are very inspiring.
I have been struggling with my weight and health most of my life. Last year I switched from doing Weight Watchers to living a very basic Paleo lifestyle. I lost between 30 and 40 pounds that year and felt a LOT better. Since then I have been struggling and dealing with what I guess is called “Paleo Faleo”. I have gained back between 5 and 10 of those pounds and have 40 still to lose before I am at healthy weight I would like to reach.
I have all sorts of excuses and reasons why I am failing at it. I do have adrenal fatigue which makes it difficult but, mostly it is my family only being partially on board (and that it is only some of the time). Also we keep a very busy calendar between the 4 of us and finding the time to prep meals is very hard at best some days.
I get so down on myself because although I know Paleo works and I know I feel better I just can’t stay on track. I see your (and others) success and how strong you are in your choices. How do you find the strength and fortitude to stick with it in today’s commercially strong society?

It can be really tough to make healthy choices when you’re family is not on board. I’m helped by the fact that my family is paleo, I do all of the shopping and the cooking. I’m also helped by the fact that my body is completely non-forgiving when it comes to non-paleo foods. Feeling so horrible if I stray helps me stay on track. That doesn’t mean that I always make the best decisions, but when I do eat sub-optimal foods, it’s usually nuts or chocolate, which cause me problems but take time to build up an effect. I do find it much easier to make good choices when I’ve had enough sleep and am being proactive about managing stress.

Thanks for sharing your story Sarah. I have recently started on Paleo for weightloss, but have gained more than that, my sleeping is better, my migraines have disappeared, I generally feel better. Living in Australia there is not a lot of products to enable an allround Paleo life and so I’m in the midst of researching what I’ll have to do to make my own products like coconut flour etc. I’m also trying to slowly transfer the kids and hubby over, which I believe my eldest child will benefit from as he has aspergers.
Thanks for all your knowledge

I am not a person who is easily “moved” by other people’s stories, but i find my self in tears after reading this. In your “before” pictures I see my self. In your “after” pictures I see a beautiful, amazing, happy, healthy woman! All of the things I want to be for myself and, like you, for my daughters. I plan to begin a paleo diet and lifestyle in hopes of becoming healthier and one day seeing that same light in my own eyes. Thank you for sharing your journey!

Can I ask what info did you follow to start this way of eating please ? Iv been looking n Iv looked at that much my heads little confused with wat to eat n snacks etc

You just told my life story :/ I literally just did the wedding thing… Dress 2 weeks before… & I am starting to get healthy “again”…Thanks for telling your story. At least I know I’m not the only one that feels that way & that goes from one extreme to the other. Wishing you all the best & continued success!

Do you have more info on the diet? I have yo yo’d my entire life. Tragedy after tragedy and just life has been tough. I need to do this.

Actually scrolled back up and found the answer to my question. This is very inspiring. Trusting the Lord to help me do this.

I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I really love your recipes but I didn’t know your story and I’m so impressed.
I’ve been carrying 40 extra pounds since having my daughter and I’ve been having a hard time getting back on the paleo wagon. You have just inspired me to try harder. Thank you!

Thanks for your inspiration Sarah! My mom had lichen planus for years, including in her mouth. Sadly she ended up with tongue cancer and passed away last summer. We cannot help but wonder if that nasty lichen planus promoted the tongue cancer. I am so thankful that your lichen planus is gone!!!!!!! It is a big deal….thanks for sharing your story and recipes!

You look so beautiful. So bright and healthy. Please don’t say bad things about yourself-that there is extra and skin. Enjoy the body gave has given you and remember where you came from!

Aloha Sarah, Thank you for your inspiring story. I have been following you for a month now and finding great differences. I am 71 years and have had autoimmune problems most(all) of my life. I have been able to stop taking arthuritis medication already. Both my husband and I are carefully following Paleo and you make it fun as well as IT WORKS!!!!
You look so happy and wonderful.

Thank you thank you and Mahalo

You are so inspiring! I am 22 years old, and I have always lived an active lifestyle. However, I have noticed in the recent year that weight has been creeping up on me, and I became very depressed because I was exercising everyday, but I kept gaining weight. I realized that it was my diet. I used to be able to eat anything and everything, exercise, and not gain a pound! I realized I had to change my bad eating habits- I had carbs with every meal and barely any veggie. I started a paleo diet and was noticeably less bloated and puffy in a week, but then I slipped up and went back to eating my old ways. It has been an up and down rollercoaster, but I am more motivated now to stick to it because of my upcoming wedding. Thanks for the support and ideas!

[…] My Transformation » The Paleo Mom – So, now you have seen my before, during and after photos. You have seen my journey. … You can read more about Sarah’s personal journey to Paleo here and see more before and after photos here. […] Reply. Stephanie … I started a paleo diet and was noticeably less bloated and puffy … […]

So inspiring. Thank you for posting. I needed this tonight! I’ve just been diagnosed with PCOS this last week and my doctor has recommended a paleo diet. I needed this tonight, thank you.

Sarah–your story is my story–if only I had found a way to transform EARLIER!!! I have tears in my eyes reading this!! I am also 5’6″ I also plateaued at around 276 pounds (but maybe more. I have a picture too where I don’t look a lick under 300). I gained and lost 60 of it twice, but for the majority of my adult life from age 18 to age 43, I was in the mid-200’s.

Like you, I was active even though I was fat, and successful in other areas of my life, but unlike you I let my fat keep me from dating. I never found anyone. My autoimmune condition (which I just found out WAS autoimmune LAST WEEK! Tara Grant wrote the book on it, literally, which I just read!) is Hidradenitis Suppurativa, and it was humiliatingly devastating to my body image self-esteem.

Like you, I got into shape by becoming fit and active and cutting out the sugar and the wheat. Like you, I lost 120 pounds (or more–who knows!?). For me, though, it happened two years ago, at age 43!!!! And by the way my HS went away. I never understood exactly why but I was soooooo grateful. I almost didn’t want to think about why–I didn’t want to “jinx” it. Now with Tara’s book The Hidden Plague I know EXACTLY why!

Like you, I got into running (L.A. Marathon, 2013!) and like you I plateaued at 165 pounds for over a year. Seriously, this is getting creepy, isn’t it! In fact, I’m still plateaued there. I had skin removal surgery and a breast lift (and the results were LIFE-CHANGINGLY AWESOME!!!).

I have been trying a ketogenic diet to try to get these last 28 pounds off (I have actually GAINED twelve pounds from my lowest weight of 156 right before surgery last November) and reach my FOREVER GOAL of 140.

I’ve bought your autoimmune book and am just about to read it. I’ve heard your podcasts not recommending keto. So far I the program seems to suit me well EXCEPT for a very very big problem: it has given me INSOMNIA!!!! I’ve never dealt with insomnia before in my entire life and it is rather devastating. So I’ve been considering going paleo instead of keto. Something in me just won’t let me give the idea up for good, though. My instincts seems to be running in two separate directions.

I’m in your boat. We two have come SOOO far–but these elusive last pounds to true athletic slimness are rather maddening. Like yours, my body seems to be sticking to this 160’s set-point with eager desperation (last October when I hit the mid-50’s I had just trained for a triathlon and was doing heavy weights. Now my weights are limited a bit because after my surgery I’m not allowed to work the chest. Events conspire against my slim-muscular dream, but I shall persevere!).

I just felt drawn to share my story with you because it is AMAZING to me to find my success-story-doppelganger. And thank GOD you figured yourself out earlier than I did. I LOVE my life today. My only regret is that I waited so long. But I don’t dwell on that often. Mostly I am filled with passionate GRATITUDE for the second chance to live. I intend to do it.

Cheers to you, Sarah!!! 🙂

Michelle G.

This story made me cry. I am, right now, at the largest I’ve ever been. I’m 15 lbs heavier than the day I checked into the hospital to give birth to my 3rd child. It’s heartbreaking and depressing. I am attempting to do Paleo but I’m struggling. I work full time, go to school full time, and have 3 children. Reading this story gave me hope. I’m glad I found your site and I’m glad you have shared your success.

Kateri, I know this is late, and hopefully you have been able to make things work, but just looking at what you have on your plate makes me wince. Each one of the things you mention — work, school, and three children — demands a full-time commitment. I know some people manage — somehow — to juggle all of that, but for those of us with health issues, including being over-weight, stress is a huge factor. You can’t give up your children, but is there any way to cut back on one or both of the others? Maybe work part time and go to school part time? Or post-pone going back to school until you have your health in better condition? Or something?

Hi Sarah,

I’ve been looking over your site for a few days. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was 19 (um, well OVER a decade ago). I also developed severe migraines around that time.

A few years later, I was informed my “specific” kind of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s. The doctor was emotionally upset (more so than I!) when she told me I’d need to take my meds for the rest of my life. I had already assumed this when my original diagnosing doctor said my thyroid was basically “not working at all”.

Having always been overweight (I was 180 lbs. at 11 years old!) and fighting to lose weight — or even stop gaining it — I’m no stranger to meal programs and calorie-restriction. I’ve done everything from NoDiet, to Weight Watchers (unofficially), LA Weight Loss, modified Atkins (the egg/bacon/grapefruit diet — which, now, I’m seeming to understand why I could never do it for more than 2 weeks at a time), to exclusion diets (i.e. no red meat for a year, no meat for a month, no chocolate for a year) to starvation. Nothing works for longer than 30 lbs. Yes, that’s right….I can lose about 30 lbs. and then I plateau….and become intolerably ill of whatever I’m doing (light bulbs are going off now, thanks to your information).

Skip ahead to now, and my health is deteriorating at a rate that even an 80-year-old would be in shock of. I have numerous autoimmune disorders: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, PCOS w/metabolic syndrome and Type II diabetes, fibromyalgia, IBS. Plus, I’m also iron and vitamin-D deficient (controlled through supplements, but without them I’d be in trouble). I also have such severe widespread pain, somewhat caused by a back injury I had many years ago that most likely enabled me to get where I am now — so completely unhealthy.

When I look around me, I see people larger than me (I’m overweight – okay, obese – but I’m not a gigantic person) living happy, healthy lifestyles. Doctors tell me, “Just lose weight, and all your health problems will go away.” But NOBODY ever gives me a way HOW to make it work. They automatically assume I’m out at McDonald’s and KFC every day, when the reality is I’m eating half as much as other people (and usually not terribly unhealthy food) in an effort to reduce my size.

After the last round at the doctors, I decided there had to be another way. I gave up fried foods completely a few months ago and noticed an improvement somewhat. My glasses just changed prescriptions in the fall, and I already can’t see again. Sleeping is a challenge as I wake up every hour or two, struggling to find a comfortable position. Eating is a joke, literally. If I eat healthy, it kills my stomach just as badly as if I’d eaten fried junk. Where I am now, I’m halfway convinced I’m on the road to developing MS if I don’t find a solution.

Then I came across a post on friend’s Facebook feed. It was a recipe for nightshade-free enchiladas. What caught my attention was the word “nightshade”. I’d never heard it before, and I connected it to “lampshade”. I clicked on the recipe to see what it was talking about.

Since that article – about four days ago – I have been pouring over your site and other information about nightshades and the AIP. I’ve read about “leaky gut syndrome”, and I don’t need a test to tell me I have this. In fact, I’ve noticed on two recent cultures that I’ve had candida infections.

My only issue at this point is my location. I live in Oman, and it’s hard to find a doctor that will understand all of these issues and know what to do. Furthermore, the protocol is difficult due to the unavailability of many of the items I need to incorporate (i.e. grass-fed meats, healthy organic fruits and veggies that aren’t ASTRONOMICALLY expensive, etc.).

But, I am now positive this is the direction I need to go. I will do the best with the meats I can find (ironically, my body craves meat to a fault – when I was pregnant, I could’ve eaten an entire cow, alive) and work with the foods I CAN and SHOULD eat.

I only wish SOMEBODY…ONE DOCTOR….over the course of 20+ years would have told me, “Hey, it’s not just about eating healthy. We think you may need to focus on THIS.”

I know the Paleo diet is rather new (well, to me, anyway). I know research is still happening. But I also know my body. And I’m tired of “weight” being the answer.

While I’m very sad legumes are not allowed (I love beans as a meat replacement), I will gladly give them up to feel healthy and be alive.

I see your picture at the end of this post. I see the light shining in your eyes and radiating from your face. I want that for myself. I want to be that person again.

Hi there, thanks for sharing your history and the pictures. I really love them…because they show me how you have been before Paleo and that it CAN be possible! There are so many good looking women on the internet who praise the Paleo Diet but noone dares to show pictures from before. I am so glad that you had the strength to do so! Thank you! I will try out my very best to go for it..and I am really looking forward to do it!

I am at work and I just weighed myself. I am 197 pounds, 5’2, a mom of a 10, 2, and, 1 year old whom I am still breastfeeding. After I weighed myself today, I did a wiki search on how to lose ten pounds in a month as we are going on vacation. It lead me to a link on how to lose 20 lbs in a month, which lead me to the Paleo diet. I began researching because I wasn’t familiar with this. I found ur blog and now I am convinced. I need to try this! I want to be healthy! Thank you for tour blog. O am in school and we are learning about the body in anatomy. The more we get into the class the more I realize how I am destroying my body. I want a passion for healthy, pure living not just spiritually bit physically. I am lacking on the latter. I will try this lifestyle for the sake of my heart and my health. I have hypertension controlled by medication which I don’t want to take. I am also prediabetic and have bad acne. I know that these things are hereditary but are exasperated by the way that I eat. I am convinced from ur blog that this is worth a try. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you so much for all the information on your site, and for sharing your story. It’s been 17 years since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism after the birth of my daughter. My health and self esteem has been mostly down, with a few ups here and there. Last year I began the GAPS diet, and started to feel better. But I fell back into eating popcorn, gluten free bakery items and sugar and gained back the weight I lost. Now my teenage daughter is starting to gain weight, and it is literally breaking my heart. I am determined not to let her life be ruined as mine was. We are starting the Paleo for Autoimmune diseases TODAY, and this time when I start to feel better I am going to remind myself that this is forever, like my love for my daughter is forever.

Does Sarah consult? I read through the Bios of the consultants, but due to Sarah’s very rigorous scientific, health research background, I would love to have a consult with her. Is that possible? Thank you

Thank you for sharing your story. I started AIP last September, 2014, and quickly dropped 33 pounds and have been stuck there ever since. Lately I have been completely off the program and feeling terrible. I know the program works I was able to dop seveal medications by following AIP then Paleo and was feeling so much better. Then my Dr lowered my Thyroid med and everything started to spiral out of control. Depression set in and I went to food for comfort. I havent gaind the weigt back yet but I feel terrible. So I logged into your blog to get a renewed insperation and I found it!!! Thank you so much!

Thank you for sharing. I look like your heaviest “before” picture. I, too, suffer from a laundry list of health problems. Right now, my whole body hurts from inflammation. Thank you for reminding me it’s never too late to start again.

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