I Am Strong

Warning: gratuitous fitness photos, videos and soap box rants ahead.

It all started with a declaration.

I want to be strong.

On July 22, 2013 – 7 months ago – I made a commitment to myself that I would stop worrying about losing weight and start worrying about gaining strength.  I realized that my body wasn’t made for running, it was made for lifting. As Matt so eloquently helped me understand, “Some people are built to go fast. Some people are built to go far. And some people are built to pick those other people up.”  (t-shirts now available)

What changes when every goal you set out for yourself is achieved

Remember my 45 Day Update and my 100 Day Update? I stuck to my goals: less treats, more super foods, listening to my body and eating when hungry, sleeping more and began adding in StrongMan training. I hoped that I would be able to dead lift 300lbs, farmer’s carry 200lb per hand (400 total) and back squat 250lbs. And I’ve achieved every single one of the fitness goals I set out for myself!

An axle bar is much more difficult to use than a barbell because the hand cannot fully grasp the circumference.

Something happened along the way. I started loving StrongMan. And that goal of wanting to compete in 2014 become wanting to win a competition in 2014. My new goals revolve less around barbells and more around “implements”.

Farmer's Carry at 400lbs by Stacy on PaleoParents

Ironically enough, the barbell stuff I thought I was good with when Crossfitting (clean, press, deadlift) are my weakest movements now that I’m StrongMan training. I excel at tire flips, car deadlifts, farmer’s carry, yoke and atlas stones.

I carried this 460lb yoke 60 feet without any drops on my very first try!

I’ve been training for NOVA’s Strongest Woman competition in March with much gusto; how much weight I can lift became much more of a priority for me than how much my body weighed or what other people thought my body looked like.

Stacy Lifts a Car on PaleoParents

What you do when underwear pictures of yourself are seen by 1/4 million people

Honestly, I’d completely forgotten about ever having body composition goals because the true goal of getting fit and healthy through strength training became my focus. Until a post I wrote in 2012 ended up on the front page of imgur.com earlier this week… and then it became glaringly obvious it was time for an update.

PaleoParents on IMGUR

The interesting thing for me is that with enough focus on finding joy and fat acceptance, I am finally finding it for myself. It’s been nearly 4 years since I started my paleo journey and lost 135lbs (of which I’ve maintained a 100lb+ loss for 3 years). It has taken that long to accept my body, to love my body for what it can do instead of what it looks like. Finding myself, my “old self”, be shared, viewed and read by hundreds of thousands of people on the internet made me really think about how very much I’ve changed since that original post in 2012.

And honestly, over the last year as I focused on doing things like this…

I AM STRONG on PaleoParentsStacy flipped a 625lb tire at Brute Strength Gym in Norfolk, VA

I completely forgot about things like this.

Stacy in 2012 with lots of extra skin after losing and maintaining the loss of over 100lbs

Thankfully, the comments and support from everyone has been overwhelmingly positive. However, the recent comments from these photos going viral surfaced the same ridiculous comments I got the first time. Because, you know… quite a few people think I need to take collagen supplements and just lift weights and the skin will snap back. Or something. Here’s the thing, people. After a lifetime of obesity and 3 c-section babies, the “elastic” is worn out in my skin… collagen can’t undo a lifetime of damage. I drink bone broth EVERY DAY which is an incredibly rich whole foods source of collagen and I lift (very heavy) weights 5 times a week.

And guess what?

My saggy skin is just the same as it was in 2012! You know what has changed?


I now have an epic amount of muscles… under saggy skin.

Womanly Body by StrongMan on PaleoParentsStacy, 2014 after strength training for about a year. And Spanx. At the same weight as 2012 above.

Whatever it is you think I should do, I don’t care. I’m happy with what I’m doing and the results I’m getting. I’ve put an autoimmune disease into remission. I’ve gained health that I wouldn’t have thought possible. My sleep apnea, heartburn, IBS, and incredible joint pain couldn’t have allowed me to walk up the stairs without exhaustion and fatigue years ago. And now look at how far I’ve come! I do not give a sh*t what anyone else thinks about my body, my health or my fitness. I dare the next person who says something negative or derogatory to say it to my face… because those bullies exert their power the only way they are able, hiding behind the safety of their computer.

OK, who am I kidding? I can’t pretend to be tough and threatening. I can’t even flex without giggling to Matt ♥

Self Sacrifice, Self Love & Self Acceptance

Let’s be real for a minute, mmk. Those quads busting out of my leggings? That booty growing daily? Those defined shoulders in the video? I love them. I work hard for them and I’m proud when I see them in the mirror. And despite the recommendation of some internet trolls, I didn’t change my body by supplementing with collagen pills, drinking protein smoothies or bicep curling 10lbs.  I made a commitment to train strong and every day I keep that goal in my mind.

But none of this comes without a cost. There is sacrifice that is constantly made in order for me to achieve my goals. Not the least of which is pain. My bruises, like the remaining skin from drastic weight loss, are my badges of honor from my strength training. Fortunately I don’t usually feel them happening and they often don’t hurt after. But StrongMan is not for the faint of heart. Often I’ll tease the male coaches that “I’m a fragile flower, I can’t do that!” and I can see the look in their eye that says, “You’re going to lift this stone and I don’t wanna ever hear can’t ever again.” In fact… I’ve even heard them tell me that directly.

Strong Woman Problems by PaleoParents

They also told me to stop feeling frustrated when I don’t have my best day ever in the gym, because not every day can be the best ever and some days are made to rest more so that you can push for that PR the next time. This sport has taught me much about balance in my own life and learning to have patience, as well as emotional strength. Some days when training I have to take a moment to step outside and cry. Or I’ll sob in my car after training, in complete amazement at my own abilities and strength. The day I broke the gym record of lifting the 174lb atlas stone (which was 1 time by a female) and I did it 10 times within 3 1-minute windows I couldn’t drive my car I was crying so much. I realized something powerful that day.

The reason I love lifting heavy so much is that it’s the first time in my life my body has been good at doing something productive and positive, rather than being an uncomfortable, embarrassing burden (other than making babies). I’m sure that’s hard to understand if you haven’t been obese your whole life. But I grew up afraid I’d be destined to knee surgeries and be home bound or in a wheelchair, like my grandmother. Instead, I now see a future in front of me filled with strength and power. That’s why I love it. That’s why I talk about it. That’s why it makes me more happy than I know how to express and sometimes end up a blubbering mess.

Stacy lifts over 450lbs worth of stones (130, 155, 174lbs) in under 30 seconds.

MY self love has nothing to do with you, your body and your abilities. My willingness to endure suffering is not a judgement on your willingness to make the same choices. Please don’t perceive my happiness as a judgement on your own. We each have the things we care about and prioritize. And for the first time in nearly a decade, 2013 was the first year I had my body to myself. No tiny humans to grow or nourish. Me. Just me. For the first time since adulthood. The thing I realized I wanted for me: fitness.

No matter what, however, I’m not “perfect”. No one will ever be perfect… EVER. Because there is no such thing as perfect. Everyone has different perceptions of what perfection is, and the only thing you can control is what you perceive and judge. For me, I’ve come to love and accept my body for what it can do. It’s an incredibly powerful and empowering choice. I see pictures and videos of myself working out and the old fleeting thoughts of not liking the way my body looks is quickly reframed to thing, “Wow, look at what I DID. I broke the gym record for women lifting stones. I am powerful. I am woman. Hear me ROAR.”  I’d like to think all those Women’s Studies classes and feminist culture groups in college would be behind me on this one.

Putting on your oxygen mask

You’ll notice this post is all about me. Because that’s what I’ve learned I had to put first. Before I could be any good to anyone else, I needed to be good to myself. In order to not judge or perceive people based on their food consumption or weight, I needed to stop doing that to myself. No more self-hate and guilt. When I make a choice to eat a gluten-free treat, I savor it. I thank myself for the hard work I put in to eat nutrient-dense foods all the rest of the time in order for my body to tolerate occasional treats.

Then I’m able to work on doing the same for others. When I notice people’s bodies changing in the gym and I hear them talk about losing weight or inches I try to go out of my way to compliment their ability to be more agile, to lift heavier things, being flexible or even just noticing that they look healthier in general. Because THAT is the indicator of fitness.

Life is not just about me, me, me though. I have three little ones of my own, a husband I adore spending time with and even currently I am lucky to have my sister, nephew and mother staying with us to keep me busy! But that’s not an excuse for me to justify not taking care of myself, finding my joy and taking time to take care of me. What you’ll notice in a lot of my videos and pictures are little ones in the background. Friends cheering me on. Heck, the boys even love to come and hang out with me in the hopes we’ll let them “get strong” too!

Strong is a Family Affair on PaleoParents

That’s because they are part of my journey. They are my “village” to finding joy, self-love and happiness. Without them I couldn’t live the life I love. And with them I get to love the life I live. The boys understand how important getting strong is to my health, both mental and physical. They beam with pride when they tell people how strong I am. They beg to come with me to the gym, to play on the equipment, to “refuel after” with me, and to watch videos of training days they missed.

The Boys Join In on PaleoParents

As a result, they reap the rewards of my boundless energy, enthusiasm and physical abilities to play with them. Despite the handful of comments I’ve gotten about people’s perception of me being a “bad mother” and spending too much time at the gym instead of with my children, I can guarantee you the boys don’t feel that way. I’m the luckiest lady in the world to have a patient, understanding husband who takes care of himself during the day when the children are in school and as a result doesn’t mind taking care of the boys on the days I workout after work, sometimes barely making it home in time to tuck the boys in to bed. But I’m there for them every morning with conversation and snuggles, so that when I am present I am fully present.

My Personal Paleo Code

Life has changed a lot for me since I started training hard a few months ago. I wrote extensively about the healing I underwent before I allowed myself to take on this physical stress on my review of The Paleo Approach. I also talked about my new found love of “safe starches” as recovery food on The Paleo View with Russ Crandall (The Domestic Man). But I think it’s important to note exactly what’s changed about my diet change, since completely changing my lifestyle. Like Chris Kresser says in Personal Paleo Code, every single person has a different definition of paleo that works for them, and even that varies based on the moment of time in their life.

When I started paleo I did low carb, low fat, high protein. I intermittent fasted. After a year I weighed the least I ever have since fat camp in middle school, but my hair was falling out from nutrient malabsorption. I had an autoimmune flare coupled with adrenal fatigue as I launched our first book and my youngest son weaned. Recovering my health from that has been nothing short of an exhaustive, extensive effort. But in 2013 I did it! I healed myself and began reintroducing foods and even weaned myself off of some supplements with large success.

Then when I introduced heavy training (moving from CrossFit 3 days a week to add in StrongMan and then later move entirely to StrongMan training 5 days a week) my body started having issues again. I was fatiguing easily and felt weak. My muscles weren’t recovering after workouts the way I was used to and overall I could tell something wasn’t right.

Safe Starches for Training on PaleoParents-001

After spending time with Russ and thinking a bit about how to solve my problems I introduced white rice (with the Omega-3 benefits of sushi) or white potatoes on the days I worked out. Holy moly, my improvement in recovery and energy was almost immediate! Despite my body rejecting refined carbohydrates (sweets) with bloating and uncomfortableness before I was actively training, the results of introducing “safe starches” when physically active was drastically different.

Further, both white rice and white potatoes are not autoimmune-friendly, but my body has no problem processing them after all the healing I’ve done. My blood sugar is regulated, able to go 6+ hours between meals, I do not bloat, I perform better in the gym and my body recovers better after I work out.  I’d call that SUCCESS.

Know what else is awesome about eating carbs? It’s helped reduce my sugar cravings! I would’ve thought the opposite, but I feel like my body must be getting the glucose conversion it wanted from a “safe” source so it’s no longer sending signals to my brain to eat sweets & treats. Hence, our fruit-sweetened cookie recipe. It’s more than sweet enough for me!

I’ve found the other biggest influences for me when fueling training sessions are to get broth at least 5 times a week, high Omega 3 (from fish, grass-fed beef and Fermented Cod Liver Oil), increase gelatin consumption as a recovery and easily digestible protein source, and completely stop drinking. Even one drink of alcohol causes performance issues for me up to a week after!

I Am Strong.

I know this post is all over the place, but that only further affirms my point: the journey to achieve and maintain health is not linear. There are many factors that contribute and they change regularly for me.  I’m grateful to have found something I am passionate about, that my family encourages and that makes me feel really great. I’m thankful to have the opportunity, both with time and finances, to commit to this sport and prioritize making time in my life for it and myself. I cannot encourage you all enough to do the same, because there is infinite joy in finding what you love and making time for yourself to enjoy it. Bonus points if it contributes to a healthy lifestyle!

I know this post was long and most of you read like 10% just skimming through the parts I bolded and looking at pictures of me being a beast. But I don’t want you to miss all the important stuff… so here it is in summary:

  1. Find something you love and DO IT.
  2. Set goals and stick with them.
  3. Don’t read the comments when vulnerable pictures of you are posted on imgur.
  4. There is no pill, exercise or magic trick to ever get you “perfect”.
  5. Comparison is the thief of joy.
  6. Learn to love yourself, not just accept yourself.
  7. Don’t be afraid to love yourself more than you love other people.
  8. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to achieve your goals.
  9. Let friends & family join in to support you.
  10. You workout? Don’t be afraid of carbs.


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  • Linda1957

    great post, keep up the great work. Ignore the negative, you’ve come a long way and you have generously shared your life with the rest of us. 🙂

  • Brandy

    Beautiful. I am referring specifically to your words and journey, but also to you as a person and yes, even your looks. I know the purpose of this post is to focus on abilities, goals, etc. rather than looks…but, for real, strong and confident and healthy look absolutely beautiful on you. <3

  • Ashley S.


  • Chelsea Driskell

    You are an amazing woman and so inspiring!! I dig your videos, just fantastic the way sometimes you can catch a glimpse of one of your kids cheering you on. Thanks for all you have done to inspire me!

  • Audrey V

    You are an inspiration! Sending lots of love and admiration to you! I usually read internet posts by skimming through, I read every. single. word. of this one, it’s that good! I totally agree with your summary, especially # 4-8 and 10. You’re my hero, but more importantly, I’m sure your boys think that you are their hero. Way to go mom! I’m doing paleo AIP and your comments about what you need to add rather than eliminate, like bone broth, has been very helpful.

  • Michaela Ahern

    I love you guys – I learn new things from you all the time. You are inspiring!

  • Joshua

    Yes!!! I love this post Stacy, incredibly well done. I totally agree with you on all of this including the safe starches like white rice and white potatoes on training days. <3

  • brittany

    You are so awesome!!! Thank you for your bravery by sharing your story so honestly. And also THANK YOU for making the “pick people up” t-shirt. I LOVE that quote so much — it completely changed the way I thought about my body, which made me stop thinking of my body as the enemy.

  • Alexa- Kitchenspired

    “Learn to love yourself, not just accept yourself.” WHOA…powerful! Thanks for opening up to us and sharing your journey and insight. It really is inspiring!

  • kimberlyoakes

    The honesty in this post… thank you! Thank you for all of it. You are such an inspiration. I’d love to do a study about body acceptance and online social media.

    It’s funny that you mention rice.. my trainer this morning actually suggested I start eating it again. I think my carb intake is too low, and I’m not making gains like I should be.

    Anyway… thank you again for sharing this. Your journey is incredible. You are so strong inside and out!

  • Brittany Bach

    Way to go Stacy! So proud of you for finding what is best for you AND grateful to you are sharing your journey with all of us. Your healthy perspective and kind understanding make you such a positive influence. Thanks for being a great role model for women (and men and kids!) <3

  • SFSpotless

    Awesome! So glad for the update. And I have the “strong is beautiful” shirt! I wear it to school and have conversations with my eighth grade students about body image. Keep it up, can’t wait for the next update!

  • becky

    Stacy, you are my hero xx

  • fanette

    I do not know if being strong is for me but you make me want to be strong ! Those last shots with your kids are beautiful. You truly are inspiring! Lots of love from France <3

  • Brooke

    I used to follow your blog and haven’t for about a year but recently began to again. It’s been fun for me to watch your strength training in “fast forward”, as I’ve been able to read it all at once rather than as you lived it. I just want to thank you, as always, for your honesty with us, your readers. I have been overly inspired by this post in particular and have started making steps to make changes in my life that are similar to the changes you have made. I hope you know that your willingness to share inspires others.

  • This was a great post, Stacy! Thank you for sharing it with us. It definitely helps the rest of us Moms who are trying to do it all (and perfectly). It was a great reminder to me, and at a time when I’m reevaluating what I consider to be healthy. Thank you again!

  • leslie

    I always want to stand up and cheer when you write posts like this. Your journey has inspired me in so many ways, both in my health but in other areas of my life where I’ve learned that I need to do what’s best for me and love who I am (and it’s leading to some exciting and drastic life changes. yay!). Taking control of what we can, and owning it, is so important. Thanks for showing us the way! Plus, those pics with your kids are so awesome!

  • Chelle

    It’s hard not to think of your body as the enemy. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2004 and ended up on disability in 2010. Before that, I was freaky strong. I kinda still am, but I’m plagued with the pain and the absolutely crushing fatigue. I want to start some kind of exercise plan… and boy, does this appeal to me! But my hands are my weak link in any weight lifting exercise.
    Do you have an outline for how you got started? I’m 5’2 and weigh 250– the most I’ve ever weighted. Granted I’m still packing a lot of muscle, but this is just too much fat. I really could use some advice, and guidance. How did you make the first

    • I started by getting healthy and healing through the autoimmune protocol (the paleo approach review link is in the blog post) and started in crossfit, working with coaches that tailored activities to my abilities. I had been couch-bound for a LONG time and ramping up took time and effort, but I’ve come VERY far with good coaching over a year!

  • Kate @eatrecyclerepeat

    Go stacy! You’re my inspiration

  • Tanya Morales

    YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!! Wow, this is so inspiring. What a blessing you are.

  • Sandi

    Love this! We have similar body types and I too spent my whole life until 2 years ago over weight. By most standards I still fall in that category for my height. That blob on the front of my body feels like an appendage. Yet, I have found something I love and my kids and I all train together (taekwondo). It really is the key to find something you love that makes you strong and fit. So encouraged by your goal of being strong and fit. I can get discouraged because this ole 44 yr old body will never be trim. There are bits and pieces that will alway sag and wobble…..some of them big pieces 🙂 It is a choice every single day as I look in the mirror to be okay with how far I have come and let that be enough. So thank you for this…..It helps so much and in so many ways.
    I also am finding I deal with insomnia if I don’t eat enough carbs. Still trying to find the balance. When I eat to many carbs I get the cravings but to little and I feel weak and don’t sleep. I find to little fat makes me gain weight no matter what I eat. keep writing! keep living well!!

  • Rachel C

    My eyes are tearing up with excitement and gratitude…what a lovely story to share. What amazing accomplishments! We all are built differently and need to celebrate our own personal strengths, so this is especially helpful for those who haven’t found their groove with physical activity. Maybe we need to switch to a more compatible platform. Thanks for sharing.

    As an aside, I also liked hearing about adding the white rice and potatoes…we all need to find what works for our individual bodies, and to know that it’s okay to utilize “non-paleo” or “non-AIP” foods if they are helping our bodies reach our goals.

  • Jenn

    I read this post yesterday, and I was having an off day. For better than two weeks now I’ve struggled with my self image, and with my failure to beat the fat monster. I’ve been back to the gym for 6 entire weeks now, why aren’t I thin already??? It must be a fault in me, somehow I’m broken. After two kids and a positive test for thyroid antibodies, it’s not as easy as it use to be, and those extra 100 lbs seem to want to stay. So, low and depressed, I read your words and I was inspired. I’ve always loved to lift heavy, I love the looks from people as I load up weight and they think I’ll fail, and I love the amazement when I actually lift it. Today I vowed to go to the gym with a totally different outlook. I’ve been doing the “standard” boring lifting and I wasn’t happy. Not only is my body not changing, but I’m not happy. Today I loaded that deadlift bar and went to town. I practically floated out of the gym at the end. I didn’t lift what I use to be able to, but it’s a start, and I had forgotten the euphoria post heavy lift. I know that putting yourself out there can be so scary, but thank you Stacy for doing it. You helped me remember who I am, and what I really love.

  • Emily

    A client of mine sent your article to me. YOU are amazing. 😉 I read your blog post word for word (I am a horrible reader and tend to skim!) and I loved every word of it. 😉 I am a former dancer, trained in ballet and modern and I danced with different companies for over 15 years. I am 39 years old now and the owner of a strength and conditioning gym in Baltimore called Fivex3 Training. I focus of strength and performance with my members, who are primarily women. It’s like a dream come true to me. For someone who has struggled with eating disorders for almost 20 years, I have finally found peace with myself. And my women know the purpose of strength training. To build STRENGTH. For the past two years, I have hosted a Strongwoman contest to benefit the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation here in Baltimore. My sister has stage 4 colon cancer. At age 37. In 2012 we had 20 women. In 2013 we had 43. Strength is addictive.

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you for finding peace within yourself. A new client walked in my door the other day and my husband who also coaches with me saw her and commented on how alike she and I looked. “She looks just like you…when you were smaller.” And he is right. Four years ago, I was smaller. I was also weak and in pain and unhappy. Now I am stronger, bigger, my glutes are busting out of my pants and I have broken my PR with farmers walks from 230 to 260 (130 per hand). My goal is 300. As someone who spent her life trying to be smaller, now my goal is to be stronger. 😉

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 😉


    • Emily, I have a good friend in Baltimore and live very close by. Would love to hear more about your gym and the event you hold. Please e-mail paleoparentsteam@gmail.com so we can perhaps set something up!

  • Carlaccini

    Thank you Stacy for writing this. I’ve been needing to hear this for a very long time. I switched to Paleo roughly a year and a half ago. I had initially much success with weight loss but it stalled about a year ago. (I am 5’9″ and 225lbs) I have been coming to terms with this fact for a while now. That this maybe is as good as it’s going to get. After all this is me perfectly healthy and happy. And the number on the scale is after all just a number on a scale.
    Roughly 2 months ago I decided I was going to get strong. I didn’t care how I was going to do it, I just was. (this is much like my journey of getting healthy via Paleo – I promised myself I was going to “get healthy”) I am still lifting relatively light weights but this is just the start point of my journey. But reading about you and the Strongman training? Truely Inspiring
    I too needed to understand that I wasn’t built for hours of cardio. I was crazy strong as a teenager and I think I can be that way again twenty years later. I have short legs and arms (long torso) so to me that means I was built to be strong…. not to run marathons!
    Keep on doing the good work that you are doing!

  • Sara

    I am so proud of you Stacy! This post makes my heart smile!

  • Mandy

    I really needed to hear this. Thank you.

  • Zoë


    Just want to say congratulations on your journey (and on making it YOUR journey not trying to follow someone else), and to share this link just in case you haven’t seen it. Trolls are horrible on line and apparently they are in real life too! Worth ignoring!


  • Olga

    Stacy I want to be like you when I grow up!
    You are amazing and YOUR OWN journey is amazing!

  • Laura rockow

    Love every word. No skimming!