PhD Med School Biology Researcher Goes Paleo: Racks up 70 Pound Weight Loss; Gets Hot

Mel, a PhD Biologist, emails in from her med school research lab at a major university.

Dear Mr. Nikoley,

I know you are a busy guy, so I will keep this e-mail to the point and try not to waste your time. I am another reader of your blog that appreciates your unorthodox approach to sharing insight about the paleo lifestyle. About six months ago I was first introduced to the low carb/paleo movement while reading Amy Alkon’s blog. For most of my life I was never overweight, although I always had to closely watch how much I ate. However, after turning thirty and going through two pregnancies (I have a 9 month old and a 4 year old) I was seriously overweight and struggling with losing the excess pounds. It was getting to a point that I thought I might just be fat for the rest of my life — very depressing. However after reading Amy’s posts on how eating meat and fat can actually help you lose weight, I immersed myself in the work of Gary Taubes and Dr. Eades. In addition, I started doing my own literature searches about the effects of modern diet on metabolism. Much to my surprise (since this is not my field of research) these studies were more scientifically sound and made much more rational sense than any of the nutritional studies that we are normally told about through the media.

After this research, it was not a hard decision to cut out all sugar, grains, and processed food from my diet. The results were spectacular. In a period of a little over six months, with very little effort (for example, I never went to the gym during this time — just hiked and played around with my kids), I was able to lose roughly 70 pounds and am now actually the weight that I was when playing competitive volleyball in college 15 years ago. Of course, this was all without ever going hungry and being able to eat delicious meals filled with lots of meat and buttered vegetables. In addition, this lifestyle is a great example for my kids since we all eat the same meals (versus mom eating a Lean Cuisine) and I now take them for a hike or we go to the park instead of me going to the gym to work out on the elliptical machine for hours at a time. I feel like I am setting them up to have a great relationship with food and their bodies for the rest of their lives.

During this time I also started reading many of the paleo blogs. Your blog is one of my favorites because my goal is not to live a "pure" paleo life full of "rules" that suck the fun out of everything. I was already fat for 4 years and that was enough of a downer. I enjoy your blog because it is a breath of fresh air and full of vitality. I don’t want to be part of a cult — I just want to be as healthy as I can possibly be and not be told that I should feel guilty because I sometimes eat (or feed my child) a potato! I get great ideas from your posts and enjoy your rants. You are not boring and you are not dogmatic. In my opinion, this is what makes your blog such a great read and source of information for people just starting to adopt this lifestyle.

I am sure that you get tons of people thanking you for your blog, but I also wanted to add my thanks. I realize you don’t get paid for doing this — so maybe knowing how much people appreciate your effort provides some reward. I have attached two pictures. The before picture is from June 2010 about a month after giving birth to my daughter. The second picture is from this morning. [emphasis added]

Sincerely, Mel

So you want to see the dramatic before & after transformation?

The Before Mel
The Before Mel

Ready? Six to seven months later:

The After and Hotter Mel
The After and Hotter Mel

Yea, wow, huh? And take a look at the dramatic face and neck transformation.

Facial Drama
Facial Drama

Well, what is there left to say? Isn’t it sad that so many — men and women included; the highly scientifically educated included; 20 and 30-somethings included — seem to feel as though they are, as Mel puts it: "…getting to a point that I thought I might just be fat for the rest of my life — very depressing."

So sad and depressing. Yet still, every single day in this country and around the world, these same people are perpetually subjected the same conventional "wisdom" and advice from the likes of Oprah, Dr. Oz, the medical and drug company establishment, the government-institution establishment, the industrial-agriculture food establishment, the talking heads in the media establishment, and the list goes on and on. What kind of advice? Advice that, even in their 20s and 30s, now keeps them fat, sexually less attractive or wholly unattractive, depressed and…drum roll…DEPENDENT FOR LIFE!

And isn’t that what it’s really all about, at the end of the day? They don’t want you using your own mind. They want nothing to do with your reasonable and rational self-experimentation on your own body. No; what they want is for you to recognize their "superior" intelligence and privileged access to information only they know how to properly interpret. They want you to need them — to always look to them for your answers. They want you to be skeptical — but only towards information that contradicts their diktats, and more importantly: all conflicts are to be resolved under their exclusive authority.

They want to be the authority, the last and final word, always and forever — and they aren’t going to give that up without a fight.

Well, they’ve got themselves a fight.

Are you tired of seeing the lives of younger and younger people being wrecked by unnecessary obesity and depression at what ought to be the time of their lives? Then stand up and shout that you’re mad as hell, and you’re not gonna take it anymore. You can start by Tweeting this post to your followers and sharing it with your Facebook friends using the helpful buttons up top.

Richard Nikoley

I started writing Free The Animal in late 2003 as just a little thing to try. 20 years later, turns out I've written over 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from diet, health, philosophy, politics, social antagonism, adventure travel, expat living, location and time independent—while you sleep— income by geoarbitrage, and food pics. I intended to travel the world "homeless," but the Covidiocy Panicdemic squashed that. I became an American expat living in Thailand. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. ... I leave the toilet seat up. Read More


  1. Hungarian Guy on March 21, 2011 at 04:51

    Nice to see someone get better. Well done!

  2. rob on March 21, 2011 at 05:11

    Great job! I lost 50 myself.

  3. Rob Beyerlein on March 21, 2011 at 05:56

    Awesome story, not only did she probably save her own life, but her kids have an example of what health actually looks like.

  4. Amy Alkon on March 21, 2011 at 06:47

    Beautiful post. All I do is recognize and write about those who put out science-based dietary advice (as opposed to the “science” so many doctors and the government put out)…until I annoy the hell out of my readers to the point where they cut carbs…all the way to results like these above.

    I feel so sad for all these women, especially, that I see, who are fat and angry, and don’t have access to the men they would otherwise…simply because they’re following the government’s and the AMA’s dietary advice. And they’re hungry all the time, to boot, while I eat bacon and steak and buttered green beans all day, and I’m effortlessly thin without exercise. (Body By Gary Taubes, I like to say: )

    By the way, my boyfriend just laughed at me when we were coming home from the Tucson Festival of Books and he caught a whisp of what I was saying to two TSA screeners at the end of the belt at the Tucson Airport: “carbohydrates…” and “…” Same thing happened in a bathroom recently when we were having dinner at a Birmingham, Michigan, restaurant. Results like this (in your blog item) won’t help shut me up!

    • Richard Nikoley on March 21, 2011 at 07:51

      Hey Amy:

      If you started telling folks “carbohydrates…” and “…” they’ll probably bite, thinking it a HC, LF, animal right’s veg*n diet.


    • Kelly A on March 23, 2011 at 06:15

      Birmingham- did you have a chance to try the tasty charcuterie at Forest Grill? Mmmm…

    • Dana on April 24, 2011 at 10:02

      I’m working on weight loss, but not to get a man. In the past 5 years I have witnessed two fat men criticizing women for their weight. Over the years with my contact with the military (first brat then soldier then wife) I have also heard lots of stories about men injured or traumatized in combat who come home and are dumped by their wives for not being perfect anymore. So if someone is going to judge me for my weight, I don’t want him. That goes for chubby chasers as well as the ones who want “height/weight proportionate.” Especially the ones who will insult fat women but date smokers, although I acknowledge the latter are at least in decline.

      The truth is that anything can happen to you at any time. One of my favorite blogs is about a woman who was in a plane crash and critically burned. Somehow she survived, but her face is a mess. Her husband stayed by her side anyway and they’re still madly in love and raising their kids together. That’s what you want in a man. Someone who will love you even if you turn ugly. Not this nonsense of shopping for the prettiest product so you can prove what a savvy consumer you are.

      And frankly I wasn’t that great-looking when I was slender. Thanks to my mom eating wrong when she was pregnant with me, I required extensive orthodontic intervention when I was growing up and my face still doesn’t look right. I was already getting turned down or taken for granted *before* my weight gain happened. So maybe I’m just used to it, I don’t know. But you find out how shallow people really are when you’re not the prettiest girl in the room.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 24, 2011 at 10:18

        Amy’s most salient point:

        “…and don’t have access to the men they would OTHERWISE.” [emphasis added]

  5. PrimalProfessor on March 21, 2011 at 07:28

    Hey, funny that: I get the same sorts of stories when I Google “raw vegan success”.

    Maybe they’re N=1 too?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 21, 2011 at 07:49

      Of course it’s N=1

      It’s always N=1 and ultimately, there’s no other way. I currently have 48 success stories published, the best among those I get all the time via email and comments.

      That’s not N=48, that N=1, 48 times.

      Same thing with Sisson’s Success stories. The implicit fallacy is that either there is some magic formula that will work for everyone or, it’s somehow shady to post others’ success as motivation to still others.

      The only point to these is simple: It worked here and maybe it will work for you. Toss in a little science via evolutionary logic and thinking and if one is not ignorant of such things, well, there’s a confidence factor added on. It’s reasonable to expect that some version of a paleo-ish diet will produce good results over the long term. As for vegans, the problem is that there’s no reason to expect good compliance on the diet since they can simply eat animal products in private. Eating fruit and vegetables is fair game for paleos.

      • gallier2 on March 21, 2011 at 09:30

        And there is also the fact that vegan diets sort of works, short and middle term as long as there is fat tissue to live on.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 21, 2011 at 09:33

        Yep, Vegans are cannibals (as is all weight loss, but I’d rather lose mostly fat).

      • J. Stanton - on March 21, 2011 at 15:34

        It’s the same reason so many health-food types get such a high from “juice fasts” (and fasting in general)…they’re eating a paleo diet for the first time!

        Unfortunately, “not eating toxins” is only half the battle. Eventually you have to eat something…and that’s where all the other diets start to fail, because whatever else you eat isn’t nearly as nutritious and delicious as self-cannibalism.

    • pecanmike on March 21, 2011 at 08:03

      The only N=1 that matters is where N=me. Year and a half primal/paleo down 40 lbs. and feel fantastic. As far as I’m concerned vegans can knock themselves out but the vegs I know are a sickly lot but good on them. Mel summed up the reasons I read Richard nicely. Although he irritates me from time to time his edge keeps me motivated and a little pissed off at what society tries to cram down my throat.

      • Aaron Blaisdell on March 22, 2011 at 15:49

        I tell others the same thing. I’m not preaching utopia. I’m showing people the way to discover their own “me-topia”.

    • EdwinB on March 21, 2011 at 14:14

      Should try to make some wine with all those sour grapes, might make a good vinegar.

  6. Chris on March 21, 2011 at 08:51

    Mel has figured out what many don’t. Paleo isn’t a diet.

    It isn’t a thing you do to lose weight for six months before moving on to other things. Paleo — whether that’s Richard’s form, or Mark Sisson’s 80/20 primal or Robb Wolf’s plan or the rather draconian Whole30 — isn’t a diet, it isn’t a “do this for a while to get better” thing, it’s a change in the way you live your life.

    Many people look at paleo as a short time diet fix, when it’s actually a lifestyle choice, and if you can grasp that you can’t fail.

    • Hungarian Guy on March 21, 2011 at 09:03

      Exactly. When people ask me what type of diet I am on by not eating grains, diary and such, I always aks them what type of diet THEY are on by eating those things.

      ‘What r u eating there?’
      ‘Pasta. Some bread on the side.’
      ‘Pasta? Bread? Are you on some kind of diet?’ LOL

    • Jeanie on March 21, 2011 at 09:06

      Well put, Chris. I like that a lot.

    • Dana on April 24, 2011 at 10:07

      People make the same mistake about Atkins–I don’t mean to push anybody here to go on it, but I get tired of people talking smack about it who haven’t even read the book (any of the ones Dr. Atkins wrote–I’ve seen the new book and I’m not real impressed). Number one, it’s meant to immediately halt the ravages of refined carb intake. Number two, if you really want to keep eating carbs (and most people do) it’s meant to show you what your body can tolerate. It’s easy for people to go all OCD about it but is that OCD really? I view it more as self-experimentation. I don’t think people realize how OCD you really have to get to perform a valid scientific experiment. In fact many studies are done or interpreted *sloppily* now because people believe sorta-kinda-in-the-ballpark is a valid scientific method. Sigh.

      Anyway I got real sidetracked. It’s called a “diet” but there’s a maintenance phase. That means “this is how you eat now for the rest of your life.” So you start out with intervention and you transition into way of life. And anyone with deranged blood sugar or signs of metabolic syndrome NEEDS that intervention even if they’re not fat. But you don’t need to intervene forever. Figure out what works for you and then stick with it.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 24, 2011 at 10:36

        I read Atkins the first time in 1990 or 91, and a couple of times since. While I always dropped a few pounds when I tried it out a half dozen times between then and around 2001 or 02 or so, I never stuck with it and I absolutely attribute that to a focus on carbohydrate rather than real food.

        On Atkins, I could eat all the soy-oil mayonnaise, salad dressing and other linoleic acid laden crap I wanted cause it was “low carb. I could eat anything with wheat in it, so long as I kept the carbs low. I could even eat refined sugar so long as the total carb count stayed reasonable. And, of course, unlimited amounts of artificially sweetened crap.

        Come to think of it, I’ve yet to see a true super success story on Atkins as I do all the time with Paleo, i.e., people really getting lean and staying there. People seem to be able to get to about 20% BF on Atkins, then stall permanently. That’s still OK, but it’s not phenomenal and I think it’s because of the Kurt Harris’ chief neolithic agents of disease: wheat, sugar, linoleic acid.

  7. Martin on March 21, 2011 at 08:56

    Yet again, another truly inspirational story. Nice to see Paleo principles making their way through the professional market.

    …I admit I jumped into this post after reading the line “and gets hot”. Oh, the shame.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 21, 2011 at 09:13

      “and gets hot”

      Hey, I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m pretty gawd awful at marketing but some principles are as timeless as they are obvious.

      • Nathaniel on March 21, 2011 at 10:10

        Well said!

        I would say that if you understand the appeal of hot chicks, then how bad at marketing can you be?

  8. Rafael on March 21, 2011 at 11:29

    WOW this a great transformation. I have a PhD and getting into primal. Hope to get the same results. You can follow them here (however, I just started)

  9. Janey on March 21, 2011 at 12:05

    Great story. Mel looks fabulous!

    Love the pic of her son, Darth O’Vader.

  10. 03/22/11 – Jump Swing Push on March 21, 2011 at 19:02

    […] PhD Med School Biology Researcher Goes Paleo: Racks up 70lb weight loss; Gets Hot – Free The Animal […]

  11. Rob on March 21, 2011 at 19:12

    Awesome! I love these stories and pics.

    Kind of pisses me off when I think about it; the conventional wisdom of low-fat/high-carb; grueling exercise “40-60 minutes most days of the week”, “portion control”, etc. Its almost criminal the suffering some people go through because of this.

    • Dimitris on March 22, 2011 at 00:35

      Congrats Mel!
      It is about 9 months since I started living the primal-paleo-free my animal thing. Went from 120kg (1,87 cm tall) to about 90 kg in the first six months. I have “0nly” lost an additional 3 kg in the last 3 months. In terms of body weight things seem to have stalled, but that is not the whole picture. Fat is still melting, body weight remains stable ( or going down maybe 50gr per week, who knows-I rarely weigh myself anymore) so what is happening? I am just getting more muscular and stronger every single fucking day. That wasn’t the case in the past trying the CW caloric restricted bullshit.
      I always try to be as informative as I can be to people asking me how I did it. But the high-fat thing seems to be really mind-boggling for them. It seems most people I know think that I am starving myself and wait for me to become an near-diabetic fat ass again anytime soon. But I am not going to do them the “favor” since I am not on a diet…………………….

  12. HeMan on March 22, 2011 at 07:19

    Type 2 Diabetes Surges in People Younger than 20:

    Wonder when people will start to clue in. Anyways, a motivational link for everyone.

  13. Paul C on March 22, 2011 at 08:47

    Congrats on the great self-improvement. Even taking breastfeeding into account, that weight loss is tremendous and unexplainable by conventional wisdom. Clearly you are a great example of hormones being the primary decision maker over body composition, not the establishment’s calories-in/calories-out model.

    • Dana on April 24, 2011 at 10:09

      Breastfeeding is no guarantee of weight loss. It depends on what your hormones are doing. Weight loss isn’t a good reason to do it–it should be done to nourish the child. (So don’t restrict your nutrient intake while you are doing it!)

  14. Splint on March 22, 2011 at 09:04

    I agree with her take on the “pure” paleo ideals. I made a soup from some chuck roast and soup bones I got from a small local farm and I got criticism for the potatoes and carrots and peas and corn I put in with it. First, this soup is so gelatinous, it look slike someone dumped packets of gelatin in it, second, it’s loaded with pieces of chuck. If this homemade soup isn’t paleo enough for you, I don’t care, it’s delivious and no vegetarian soup has ever been this good.

  15. […] and if you wanna get hot: go Paleo – or so says Free The Animal. […]

  16. Judge Dredge on March 23, 2011 at 15:06

    HAHAHA. Oh my, did I just read “me-topia”? Yes, yes I did. Epic Win! I am soo going to overuse this to the great annoyance of others and great satisfaction of myself. After all, nothing else matters in “Me-Topia”. Population? ME.

  17. Katie on March 23, 2011 at 18:08

    Congrats to Mel. Good for her for discovering a proper diet while she is young and her children are little. I wasn’t so fortunate. Better late than never. But I’m still seething. I’m pissed as hell about the misinformation I’ve been fed for years. I’m pissed as hell about all those times I dropped out of WW and blamed myself. I’m pissed as hell about the money spent on nutri-systems and jenny craig and how in the end I thought it was all my fault I’m fat. I’m pissed as hell about those bastard doctors that blamed me for not being able to control my weight. I’m pissed as hell when my own sister tells me, “Well the experts disagree.” Those experts can go eff themselves. Bastards. Thank you. I feel better now!

    • Annlee on March 23, 2011 at 19:42

      Good for you, Katie! You needed that – we all do. It’s part of taking control of your own life; I really think it starts with realizing you’ve been had all that time, and being mad enough to change it. The change isn’t easy, and it takes grit to make it through the hard spots. A good mad helps.

      Knock ’em dead, girl.

  18. David on March 28, 2011 at 19:14

    I just started going out with someone and she took me over to where her 300-pound, 22-year-old daughter lives. The daughter was talking about how she decided to start eating healthy, and showed me the stuff in the pantry. Heart-healthy whole-wheat pancakes, granola, and concentrated juices by the gallon. It made me sad because she was really sincere and put a lot of hope into that stuff making her thin. In addition to sad, I was angry because it was hope based on the government and medical society endorsements.

    • Dana on April 24, 2011 at 10:11

      I will have to intervene with my son being in a similar situation. Thanks to his grandparents dicking me around I didn’t get to raise him, and as soon as they had him he started getting fat. He has now had to struggle with his weight for his entire childhood. He’s fifteen this year. In three years I’m finding him, getting re-acquainted with him (he lives in another state and they have, as I said, really dicked me around), and when we’ve had time for all that I’ll ask him if he wants real help that doesn’t involve feeding him cardboard rabbit food and making him run all day. Poor kid does not need to have to struggle with this crap for the rest of his life.

  19. In the Gym April 5th « CrossFit West Seattle Blog on April 4, 2011 at 19:31

    […] common story, well told, from Free the Animal. BLUF:  PHD candidate discovers Paleo at Free the Animal, researchs Taubes and Eades, and loses 70 […]

  20. […] finally, one of the most recent, Mel, a PhD biology researcher. All of the resources at her disposal and yet, she had to come to some guy's blog to find a sound […]

  21. […] in Singapore turned his life around? And how about Michelle and Timothy? And then there's Mel, a PhD biology researcher. All of the resources at her disposal and yet, she had to come to some guy's blog to find a sound […]

  22. Lard of the Dance | on March 6, 2012 at 18:01

    […] that puts on fat. So, if you want to drop pounds — and not just one a week but like they’re stones falling off a truck — eat low-carb/high-fat foods like cheeseburgers. Even bacon […]

  23. Lard of the Dance | Online Latest News on March 7, 2012 at 07:23

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  24. Lard of the Dance on March 7, 2012 at 08:56

    […] that puts on fat. So, if you want to drop pounds — and not just one a week but like they’re stones falling off a truck — eat low-carb/high-fat foods like cheeseburgers. Even bacon […]

  25. Ask Amy: Lard Of The Dance | Online Latest News on March 12, 2012 at 10:25

    […] n&#959t &#1112&#965&#1109t one a week b&#965t b&#1077 lustful &#959f th&#1077&#1091′re pebbles abating &#959ff a lorry – eat low-carb/distinguished-&#1109t&#959&#965t dishes b&#1077 […]

  26. Ask Amy: Lard Of The Dance on March 12, 2012 at 11:40

    […] puts on fat. So, if you want to drop pounds – and not just one a week but like they’re stones falling off a truck – eat low-carb/high-fat foods like cheeseburgers. Even bacon […]

  27. Oxidation on January 11, 2017 at 19:42

    If you trust science, you will lose weight in a healthy way and extra fat never bounce back.

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