Paleo Success Story: 120 lbs lost, body fat reduction from 49% to 23%, and paying it forward

So today’s Paleo success story is all about 36 year old Kristy Griner and her incredible transformation from a women who weighed 284lbs and was comprised of 49% body fat to someone who now weights 163lbs, is 23% body fat and can dead-lift something that weighs more than your refrigerator.

She was very forthcoming with her story and answered EVERY question I asked.  I have included all the questions and answers below so you can get the most bang for your buck (being that this blog is free that really makes no sense does it?).

I would suggest you read this post with the goal of STEALING IDEAS. Be sure you have a pen and paper handy and write down those things that really strike you. There is a lot you can take and apply RIGHT NOW!

As a SPECIAL BONUS, Kristy will be checking in regularly over the weekend to answer any questions you may have for her. So be sure to leave a comment below.

Alright, I will zip it so you can dig into her wonderful story. Enjoy!


Talk to us about when your weight became an issue for you and some of the details as to why that was?

Weight has been an issue you with me on and off my whole life.  I was overweight in high school and gained more weight afterwards.  It wasn’t easy having skinny, beautiful friends who had boyfriends, while I only got attention from guys so they could get to my friends.

In 1999, I told my dad I wanted to be a police officer.  He took that to heart and dragged my a$$ out of bed one morning to being my training.  I lost 80 pounds and got into the Police Academy.  I was 185lbs and still in crappy shape compared to everyone else, but I passed the academy.

In 2001, I got hired with the San Diego Sheriffs Department (Detentions) and porked out again.  Night shifts were brutal and taco shop runs became the norm.

In March 2007, my husband and I moved to Nashville.  That is where my REAL struggles began. I left my entire life behind (San Deigo) to move here (Henderson, Tennessee) and start a family. At that time I was about 205 pounds.

Things did not turn out like I thought they would. I got pregnant with my son Danny and porked out. Then I lost my job.

I guess it was safe to say I hit ROCK BOTTOM.

What was your peak weight? Did you have any health problems. 

Before I had my baby, I was 285 pounds. I lost 20 after having him, but I was suffering. I had back pain, postpartum depression, fibromyalgia, plantar fasciitis and I was lonely.

I was taking Soma (Muscle Relaxers) for pain and Sevella (pain and depression) on a regular basis.

I was sleeping all day long, crying all the time, and in pain.

What was your breaking point?

My breaking point was when I became a new mom. My body was in such pain that I had no desire to do anything. I felt like my husband didn’t love me anymore. He wasn’t paying any attention to me. I know now, that he was suffering too. I had all the classic signs of depression.

It was not until January 2009 when I finally decided to go to the doctor about all this.  She put me on some anti-depressants.  I was reluctant to take them, but I was desperate at that point.

After a few weeks, my mood started improving. That is when I went searching for a gym and found a diamond in the rough.

Diamond you say? Do tell.

After seeing my doctor, I  joined a weight loss support group called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).  I set a goal weight with a doctor and did mild exercise, but the pounds were not coming off.

Then I got wind of Hendersonville First Baptist having a gym which cost $25 a month. I signed up.  I got a free 30 minute session with a trainer and I followed his plan, but I wanted more.  Out of work, I would somehow scrape $20 up and ask the trainer for more.

One day he said, “I can’t help you anymore, but I know who can.”  He introduced me to my angel…Lindsey McDuffie, who was the owner of Crossfit Hendersonville.  There was no way I could afford her services, but I did one free WOD (workout of the day) and I was hooked.

I remember that WOD.  It SUCKED.  I was in pain, I felt like a LOSER, but I wanted more. So I went to my friends and asked if I could clean their houses and wash their cars to pay for my membership so I could continue.

How did you discover the Paleo Diet?

Lindsey slowly started talking to me about my nutrition.  I have lost weight before so I thought I knew it all.   I kept thinking, “What does this 25 year old know about food?” I was reluctant to try Paleo because at the time I thought, “I ain’t gonna eat like a damn Hippy.”

Whoa! Was I wrong.  She convinced me to do an 8 week “Eat your Best” challenge . The goal was to eat my best and she would grade my food journal and tell me what changes to make.

The hardest for me was getting off dairy. Lindsey posed a challenge to get me off all dairy for 2 weeks. I did that and WOW! She was right…my joints hurt less (good for my Fibromyalgia) and the weight was coming off.

I tested it one day by having a milkshake . The next morning my knees hurt like crazy. That’s when I learned that what you eat today, dictates how you feel tomorrow.

I am not strict Paleo and I probably never will be, but I have learned that everything in moderation.

So explain what these gradual changes looked like for you?

Some people can do the 30 day strict Paleo kickoff, but that was not for me so I opted to make gradual changes.

I ate a ton of pasta, bread, and rice. So for week 1, I decided I was going to reduce my bread intake by 50%.

For week 2, I continued with my 50% bread reduction, but I also had a vegetable with one meal. Then it was veggies with 2 meals. Then I followed that by cutting my bread back by 75%.

Then I had to learn to love salads. I had to lose the ranch dressing, so I swapped it out for Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing.

I think you get the point. I made small changes until I discovered what felt good.

I also started finding things that could mimic the foods I loved. For instance I started using cauliflower rice vs rice. I could still eat it like a stir fry. The only difference was that I had swapped out the grain for something that fit into the Paleo template.

My weight loss took 22 months, but it was worth it!

Talk about the first month or two? What where some of biggest obstacles and how did you address them?

I’m not going to lie.  The first several months SUCKED.  I never allowed myself to eat CLEAN for longer than a few days before I fell off the wagon.  But I finally understood how crappy I felt when I ate crappy foods.

My biggest obstacle the first few months was WAITING FOR RESULTS. I wanted an instant fix.

I also had trouble getting my routine down mostly because I had no ME time.

I knew I had to make ME a priority, but I struggled with that. I finally had to tell my husband that I was going to be selfish for a while, so that I could get back on track. I mean how could I possibly take care of my family if I was miserable?

What are some strategies you used to make the transition sustainable? 

During the 8-week “Eat your Best Challenge” Lindsay had me take my measurements, weigh myself, take before photos, and I was required to keep and submit a weekly food journal. These little challenges helped me transition into this lifestyle.

How long did it take before you noticed positive results?

Physically, it took a few months to see any results, but after 3 weeks, I was ready to lift heavier, walk faster, and go harder. I was motivated, because I was feeling good about me. I still hated who I saw in the mirror, but knew if I kept doing what I was doing, I would someday love ME. I was right.

Talk about your family and friends? Were they supportive?

Words can’t describe how supportive my friends and family have been. I moved 2000 miles away. We didn’t know anyone in Hendersonville, but the people at TOPS and Crossfit were so supportive.

I also used Facebook as a tool to announce my successes and failures. That was VERY instrumental in my success because I learned I was not the only one who felt the way I did. I got support when I failed and cheers when I succeeded.

I soon started hearing that I was inspiring others. That motivated me even more. I was even able to get others to join me on my journey. How awesome is that?

My daddy even started working out. He followed in my footsteps. He started eating Paleo-Esque and exercising and has lost 70+ pounds. He is 63 and in better shape than when he was in his 50’s.

Talk about your triggers.

ICE CREAM is my trigger food. I ate it when I was sad and I ate it when I was happy. I love ice cream. To avoid binges, I have what I call “Milkshake Monday.” Every Monday, I treat myself to an ice cream.

CHIPS and SALSA are another treat. When I go out to a Mexican restaurant, my rule is that I only eat the chips till the food gets there.  I know my meal will be healthy, so I don’t feel as guilty.

Give us a sample of a typical eating day for you?

  • Pre WOD: Lunch Meat and handful of Almonds (Protein/Fat) or a protein bar (if I’m lazy)
  • Post WOD: hard boiled egg and 1/2 a sweet potato (Protein/Carb)
  • Breakfast: 3 eggs (cooked in coconut oil), 3 slices of turkey bacon (I love me some bacon), some sort of fruit (seasonal/depending on my mood)
  • Snack: Apples and Peanut Butter (I should be using Almond butter, but I am only human)
  • Lunch: Romaine Salad with cranberries, almonds, and chicken (or what ever meat I have available)
  • Snack: Greek Yogurt with Almonds
  • Dinner: Chicken, Veggies, Avocados (Protein, Carb, Fat)
  • Snack: Lunch meat

I also belong to a dinner club.  Two of my friends and myself prepare 3 meals each and leave it at the gym every Monday.  The meals have to be Paleo.  This ensures we have a minimum of 3 Paleo dinners a week plus leftovers.

How do you deal with treats? What is your philosophy?

I say I am Paleo-esque because there are some things I never took out of my diet.

For example, I  eat Greek yogurt (dairy) and I occasionally have cheese with my omelet in the mornings.  I generally follow the rules of no grains, bread, pasta, rice, or sugar (I do have sugar, but really watch my intake).

If I want to eat a piece of bread I do.  I refuse to be on a diet. I choose to eat healthy instead.

What are 3 habits that you do consistently regardless of the chaos that may be going on in other areas of your life?

  • Workouts: They are an important part of my life now. In order for me to maintain my happiness and to have my family life continue to flow as well as it now does, I have to have my ME time. My husband now has his time too (I am SO excited he is finally on board with fitness and healthy eating. He is on his own journey right now.)

  • Breakfast: This is a MUST for me. I am always hungry and this really get’s my body going and ready for the day.

  • Have food with me: I can’t allow my body to hit “Starvation” mode. I strive to keep my body in a “Zone.” I feel crappy when I am not fueled properly. I always have food on me. They make lunch bags now that look like purses. If I get stuck somewhere, I can simply grab my snacks.

Talk about community and how you use it to build accountability into your program.

Having a community of people is the key to success. I not only benefited from having the Crossfit and TOPS community, but I got involved as well. I am a Chapter Leader at TOPS and I am now Level 1 Crossfit Certified.

I can now pay it forward. I have made healthy living WHO I AM.

Our Crossfit Family does activities all the time. We go white water rafting, hiking, participate in fitness events, organize fitness fundraisers, have girls/guys night outs, etc. I have 125 or more people that hold me accountable. I have 16 WONDERFUL ladies that hold me accountable at TOPS. Then I get blessed with situations like this, that allow me to share my story. How can I ever go back?

What indicators do you use to measure your progress? 

I still use the scale once a week, but mostly I gauge my progress by how my clothes fit. If my pants are tight, it’s time to change the diet and activity again.

What does a typical week of workouts look like?

  • Monday: Crossfit WOD in AM then Endurance WOD PM
  • Tuesday: Crossfit WOD
  • Wednesday: Crossfit WOD
  • Thursday: Crossfit WOD maybe PM Endurance WOD (depending on how body feels. Got to listen to her)
  • Friday: Crossfit WOD
  • Saturday: Long Distance Run or Crossfit WOD
  • Sunday: Rest

Some weeks I take one day of rest and some I take 2. I listen to my body. This week I rested 3 days in a row. I was beat.

How Paleo do you need to be to make this work?

I am not sure if you are familiar with the “Zone” concept. I try to stick to “Blocks.” So if I am a 13 block person it would be broken down like this.

  • 3 Blocks of Protein/Fat/Carb for breakfast
  • 3 Blocks of Protein/Fat/Carb for lunch
  • 3 Blocks of Protein/Fat/Carb for dinner
  • 1 block each snack (total 2 a day)

[Note: A block=1 macro-nutrient. So in the omelet picture above, she has two blocks covered; protein (eggs) and fat (avocado)]

How do you motivate yourself on days when you are just not into it?

My Dad taught me the 5 minute rule. Give it 5 minutes. If you still don’t want to, then stop. To be honest, I look forward to my WODs. That means I have an opportunity to get better. Plus I look forward to coaching or socializing with my Crossfit family. It’s not just a gym, it’s a fellowship.

What blogs have been big influencers?

My biggest personal influences are Lindsey McDuffie (Coach/Owner of Crossfit Hendersonville), Billy and Jessica Shelton (Coaches/Spiritual Mentors), and my family.

[Dean-o-rant: No Being Primal!! This is an outrage!! I’m taking my blog and I’m going home.] :-)

Kristy and the Family

Talk about your struggles now as compared to when you first started.

My struggle now is maintaining. I have gained 3 pounds over the past few weeks and I have to analyze where I am going wrong. I discovered that I was eating a lot of fruit (sugars) and not as much protein. I am going to fine tune that and see if I can get some changes.

I am also beefing up my water intake again. I got a little lax. This is something I have to do for the rest of my life. It stinks sometimes, but considering the alternative, it’s well worth it.

What are some of the misconceptions people have in this space?

There is a misconception that there is a quick fix. There is NOT. I put in 22 months and my blood, sweat, and tears and I will have to continue to do this for the rest of my life.

What are 5 uncommon lessons you would want people to walk away with that they could apply to their journey right now?

1. Love (your) GOD:  This was not my first rule in the beginning, but when I allowed Jesus back in my heart, I started loving myself and the rest fell into place.

2. Love yourself: If you don’t love and take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of your family.  Once I started doing this and believing it, things started to fall into place.

3. Don’t diet:  I don’t diet. I instead choose to live a healthy eating lifestyle. Diets are a temporary solution to a permanent problem.  I have slowly changed my “diet” over the past few years.  I am still a work in progress.   For me to say I am “strict” Paleo only sets me up for failure.  I choose to do the best I can by living healthy.

4. Accountability, Accountability, Accountability:  Surround yourself with like-minded people. When I discovered Crossfit Hendersonville, that was my answer.  There are over 150 members who are 110% into being healthy.

They have watched me transform and there is NO WAY I CAN QUIT.  If I miss a workout, I get 100 phone calls or texts.

When we socialize, we go to places that serve healthy food, share recipes, etc.  When we food share, it’s healthy.  There is no way for me to fail with my Crossfit Family.

5. Share your story: If you share your story, you can inspire others. Many tell me that I have inspired them.  I feel blessed to know that.

My Dad, who is 62, has been following in my footsteps and has lost 70 pounds and is in the best shape of his life.  He eats a Zoleo (Zone/Paleo) type diet.  He shares his story, and he has inspired many.

Kristy and her dad

What are your goals moving forward?

My goal is to get stronger and leaner. I want to be in the “Lean” category on the body fat charts. I have 3% to go. I have to decide when I want to get strict and just do it.

I also want to share my story and help others succeed and reach their goals. I love being a coach at Crossfit because it has blessed me with so many wonderful people that I get to see as they move forward on their journey.

We all have a journey. What’s yours?


PS…Don’t forget Kristy will be responding to all comments and questions so give the gurl some love and pick her brain if you think she can help.

PSS…BONUS: I did a great interview (shameless self promotion) with Abel James of Fat Burning Man yesterday. Very cool dude. Here is what we covered in our talk…

  • Why I fired the health and fitness “experts” and went on to lose 40 pounds
  • Advice and tips for Paleo beginners
  • How both Abel and I are secretly embarrassed to have cheesy, half-naked pictures of ourselves all over the internet
  • How to get zero-pack abs (that’s a joke, but that is what I started with)
  • Mark Sisson’s carbohydrate curve
  • How Tim Ferris screwed everything up
  • And why I would make a terrible Batman

You can find the interview at the link below. BE PREPARED TO BE ENTERTAINED! :-)

Click that link—>My awesome interview