In Nutrition, Success Stories

Meet Ellen and Nick Hahn! Nick is one of the original members of CFO…he left the island after serving in the Navy, married beautiful Ellen, welcomed “mancub” baby Lucien and recently moved back to the island! I hope their stories will inspire you. 🙂


Ellen H

 My paleo challenge testimonial is going to sound a lot different than most, because I came into this challenge with different goals and motivations than most. I came into this challenge weighing 111 pounds at 5’10″, too skinny by most anybody’s standards. I ended this challenge with no significant change in weight or body composition, but with a changed, much healthier outlook on food and nutrition. And that, for me, is the most important, and most difficult, change to effect in my life.

I spent years battling anorexia. I still battle disordered eating, even now. At my lightest, I weighed 103 pounds. I weighed myself multiple times per day and kept Excel spreadsheets of those numbers, which is why I can still quote the exact figures. It is a long story, how I got that low, and how I started to pull myself out, so I suppose I will start at the beginning with a brief recap.

I grew up in a home with two wonderful, loving, overweight, unhealthy, and sugar-addicted parents. My diet mirrored theirs – lots of Mac and cheese, sugary cereals, and PB&J’s at mealtimes, and lots of candy, chocolate, and homemade cookies in between. When I was a teenager I was slightly pudgy, sugar-addicted, and scared to death of becoming as overweight and unhealthy as my parents. 

The loss of control I felt was terrifying; I couldn’t stop eating the crack, I couldn’t get myself healthy. So I seized control. I started my first diet when I was 16. Eventually I progressed to chronic cardio, along with fat and calorie restriction. During my college days I ran 10 miles on the treadmill. Every. Single. Morning. And I limited my calories to 1750 per day. Believe me, I know. I counted every bite that went into my mouth. When I was at social events that required me to eat more, I would purge. That’s how I succeeded in getting down to 103. I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t feel healthy – I barely had the energy for my everyday activities – but I felt in control.

My views began to change in January of 2009, when my soon-to-be husband introduced me to the wonderful community of CrossFit Oahu and to the paleo lifestyle. I started to think more about being healthy, fit, and strong, and not so much about being skinny.

Another turning point for me was learning that I was pregnant with my son. If anything ever lit a fire under me to be as healthy as possible, it was knowing that every single food, exercise, and lifestyle choice I made would affect his health. That same motivation to health has continued as I am breastfeeding him. And being a healthy example for him as he eats more and more (nutrient-dense, toxin-poor, paleo) solid foods.

So that is where I was at the beginning of the challenge: paleo, but still somewhat neurotic about food, still checking the scale every morning, still unable to stop that running calorie count in the back of my head. But I was committed to change. And I have changed.
I am now focusing on the nutrient-density of my foods like never before: grass-fed beef, wild-caught fatty fish, veggies drenched in grass-fed tallow, some fruit, an occasional sweet potato after a hard workout. I was pretty darn strict even before the challenge, but now I can see that even my occasional “treats,” like a trip to Starbucks or some dark chocolate, were crowding out some of those more nutrient-dense, nourishing foods. And not doing any favors for my digestion, or mood, or mental health.

Now, with my more nutrient-dense, cheat-free paleo lifestyle, I am feeling healthier, stronger, more vibrant, less neurotic, and more in control of my self and my health. I find it a wonderfully ironic twist. That sense of control I had been seeking for so many years in my calorie-restricted disordered eating – I never found it there, but I found it in a strict paleo challenge. 

I am totally in control of what I eat and how I feel! I have spent the past 45 days taking control.  I am not a slave to sugar cravings. I don’t need that mocha in the morning and I don’t need that chocolate after dinner. I can turn them down. I have been turning them down for over a month. Every morning when I wake up I can make the choice to eat nutrient-dense foods that nourish my body and my son’s. I eat as much of the good stuff as I need to feel sated, I avoid the junk, and I feel great.

And this sense of control that I have is no longer neurotic, or based on fear. It is, rather, proactive. I am making a conscious decision every morning to take care of my body and mind, to nurture them with proper nutrition and movement and rest.
I do not feel like I have “arrived,” by any stretch of the imagination. I still have lots of work to do. I do not know if I will ever be able to totally stop the calorie counts in my head or throw out the bathroom scale. But paleo has been *the* way I have found to gain positive, healthy control over my emotional and physical well-being. And every day of the past 45 I have been getting healthier.




 This Paleo Challenge has primarily helped me to gain habits in what I call “second order paleo.”  The term “second order” refers to a higher level of complexity than simply eating cleanly.  By contrast to simple dietary changes, which I think of as “first order changes,” these second order paleo lifestyle habits have eluded me for the 6 years I have been eating paleo.  In fact, I think I was one of the earliest of adopters of paleo eating on the island, yet I never saw all of the benefits I could have.   For me, not eating crap-in-a-bag was comparatively easy.  Fixing my addictions to caffeine, work, screens, and stress were much more complex.

I started eating paleo while I was still in the Navy.  I have continued eating paleo after my discharge and during law school.  Throughout my entire time eating paleo until I did the Paleo Challenge, I did not practice any lifestyle changes that generally compliment a paleo diet. These include:  Sleeping at least 8 hours, limiting screen time before bed, reducing stress, getting sunlight during the day, moving throughout the day, and reducing caffeine.  It is fair to say that I did not do any of these things.  During law school, my physical condition greatly deteriorated.  I enjoyed staying up late, and reading case law and other law-related things online.  I drank copious amounts of coffee–up to 10 cups per day–to stay awake.  And I went to school in Wisconsin, so getting sunlight and going outside in -10 degree weather did not happen often.   I often had to take NyQuil to get some sleep, given the stress I was under.

Studying for the Hawaii Bar exam this summer turned out to be law school on steroids.  By the time the Paleo Challege started, I realized I needed to tweak my lifestyle habits, if I would ever feel better and stop feeling so beat up.

The Paleo Challenge was an opportunity to instill better habits.  I can gladly report that the Paleo Challenge has been a resounding success!  

In addition to commuting on my bicycle (about 4 or 5 miles per day), I have been able to incorporate more movement into my daily routine.  Instead of slouching in my Henry Miller Aeron Chair for 4 hour stretches, I now get up and move.  I work on the “chinks” in my fitness armor:  mainly handstand push-ups, pistols, and push-ups.  Every 30-45 minutes I get up, and grease the grove on different movements.  This allows me to do, for instance, around 200 push-ups per day, or 30 strict handstand push-ups.  My co-workers think I’m nuts.  But I’m the one who can do handstand push-ups.  I’ll continue to fly the freak flag at work.

My mood has improved during the day, and I can attack complex legal problems much more effectively after a short, brisk session of greasing the groove.  Better yet, I’ve gotten better at these movements.  During lunch, I walk for about 45 minutes in the sun, so I get the slow movement Mark Sisson recommends and a good dose of vitamin D.  

Even more important than moving, I think, is the reduction in stress and increase in sleep I’ve experienced.  I am in bed every day at or before 8:30.  In order to do this, I have to limit my screen time.  I used to be an information addict right before bed, reading legal and news blogs.  Now, I have been forced to cut this time short.  The reduced screen time has given me more time to read books.  It has also made my nights much more restful.  I wake up much more rested, and less stressed.  I have found that I do not wake up grinding my teeth any more.  Best of all, I no longer feel the need to rely on any sleep aids, no matter how stressful my day was:  no NyQuil or melatonin.  

In a related vein, I have limited to the amount of coffee I drink to one cup before workouts, and one cup before 10 am at work.  This has also helped reduce my stress.  Paradoxically, by reducing caffeine, I feel less beat-up at the end of the day.  I also think I’ve been sleeping better.

In sum, the second order effects of a more primal/ancestral/paleo lifestyle have eluded me for years, in spite of eating fairly cleanly for 8 years.  After the Navy and law school, I was a wreck:  stiff, stressed, anxious, and edgy.   After almost 45 days of conscientiously incorporating second order lifestyle tweaks, I feel like a new person.  Judging by Robb Wolf’s “how do you look/feel/perform test,” incorporating the second order prescriptions has been nothing short of life changing.  


Just like them, you too can have a story to tell, a story in which you tell us how you got overweight and are now a healthy person. In observer you will get a good training plan and many nutrition plans according to your needs. There is always a first time for everything, go for it and create a new and improved version of yourself.

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