Cognitive Dissonance

My name is Go Kaleo and I’m about to turn 40 years old. I’ve given birth to two babies. From the age of 8 until I was 35, I struggled with my weight, yo-yoing up and down between obesity and ‘merely overweight’. Here’s what I looked like a decade ago, and what I look like today.

I have been on many diets and tried many weight loss techniques. Some worked better than others at taking OFF the weight, but none of them resulted in permanent weight loss; I always regained the weight.

That was until 5 years ago when I decided to stop dieting and instead take responsibility for my behavior, the behavior that had made me fat, and was keeping me fat.Over the course of the next 18 months I lost 80 pounds, and I have maintained a healthy, stable weight ever since.

According to any of the various and sundry fad diets I tried, I am doing EVERYTHING wrong.

-I eat carbs. Lots of them. I have averaged 350-450 grams of carbs a day for the last 5 years.
-I eat fat. Avocados, peanut butter, full fat dairy, full fat salad dressing, etc. Fat typically makes up 30-35% of my daily calories.
-I eat grains. I enjoy oats, rice, corn and more. I even eat…
-WHEAT. I bake my own bread and partake liberally of the handmade scones from my local baking co-op. I eat pancakes and waffles and sourdough.
-I eat sugar. I have a serving or two of ice cream almost daily. I eat chocolate, and again with those scones.
-I eat soy. Tofu and Tempeh are some of my favorite foods They are not my primary source of protein, but I do eat them regularly.
-I also eat lots and lots of legumes. Legumes ARE my primary source of protein. Peanuts, lentils, beans, yum.
-I eat epic amounts of fruit. During the summer it’s not uncommon for me to make an entire meal of fruit.
-I don’t take supplements or rely on meal replacement powders or bars. I haven’t found any that rival real food for taste and nutrition.

Is your head spinning yet? So there are all the things I do WRONG, according to the gurus. Here’s the factors that I attribute my success to:

-I stay aware of my calorie intake, because calories matter. They are not the ONLY thing that matters, but they certainly do matter. My intake has averaged 2800 calories a day for the last 5 years. I eat far too many calories to qualify as a calorie restricted diet. Too many carbs to qualify as low carb. Too much fat to qualify as low fat. Too little protein to qualify as high protein. My diet is, by any standard, moderate and balanced. No restrictions. Calorically balanced to my weight and activity level. Yes, calories matter. Anyone who tells you they don’t is selling you a magic pill.
-I exercise regularly. The kind of exercise I do doesn’t really matter. I’ve done lots of different things over the last five years, and I’ve made progress with them all. The form the exercise takes is not important, the consistency of exercise is. There’s no optimal workout, no ‘right’ way to exercise. Do something, preferably something you enjoy. Do it regularly. Keep doing it.

Some of you (those who are not regular followers of my blog) may be experiencing an uncomfortable sensation right now. You feel a little anxious, maybe even angry. You have a suspicion that I am lying. You believe firmly that there is a magic macronutrient, or magic food or food group that is the source of your problems, or you believe that there is a magic diet or workout or supplement that will make your problems go away. What you are experiencing is called Cognitive Dissonance. Don’t worry, it’s pretty normal, and others have experienced it when confronted with my story. Cognitive Dissonance arises when a person is confronted with evidence that conflicts with their beliefs. People who believe deeply that there is a ‘right’ way of eating or exercising frequently react to hearing my story with dismissal, excuses and even anger.

One typical reaction people have is to ridicule my appearance. I hear ‘you look like a man’ a lot, and ‘you turned into a dyke’ which I don’t consider an insult but the deliverer clearly does. People have insulted my hair, my tattoo, my breasts, my face, and my body in general. I’ve been compared to an Auschwitz survivor and called a whale. It is a way of dismissing me and my story, attacking the messenger so to speak.

Another common reaction is to try to rationalize away my success, and/or make up excuses as to why my method wouldn’t work for them. I’ve had people say I am a genetic anomaly more than once (I’m not). One person said she can’t do a power clean due to an injury so my methods would never work for her because I do power cleans. Someone else speculated that I get all my protein from soy, and since that person didn’t eat soy my methods clearly weren’t relevant to her situation. These are fairly minor excuses, but there have been far bolder accusations flung at me. One blogger dedicated an entire post to speculations that I use steroids (I don’t) and have an eating disorder and exercise addiction (I have neither). Others have accused me of lying about how much I eat (I don’t).

Cognitive Dissonance is a very uncomfortable state to exist in, and people have all sorts of ways of rationalizing it away. When one is deep, deep in the dogma of a dietary philosophy, evidence that someone has succeeded by doing things they have been indoctrinated to believe are ‘unhealthy’ or ‘make you fat’ can cause agonizing dissonance and confusion. If you are having that experience right now, I invite you to spend a little time in those feelings. Really explore them with a critical, rational mind. Maybe it’s worth questioning your dogma, especially if you’re frustrated or feeling like you’re not having the results you’ve been promised.

I am here to tell you that there is no magic anything. There is taking responsibility for the behavior that has created your problems, and there is doing the work necessary to change that behavior and create new habits. No ridicule or excuse will take away the cognitive dissonance. No amount of ridiculing me or making excuses for my success will take away the fact that I succeeded by creating new, healthier habits and practicing them consistently. I do not need to be perfect or eliminate foods I enjoy or buy into a dietary dogma to maintain my success, because I have learned that (mostly) good habits, practiced consistently is more important than ALL those things.

111 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance

  1. Amber you are an amazing inspirational person. Finding you has been an eye-opener for sure. I am completely on your wavelength with your outlook on eating, health and fitness. I completely reject fad diets. At my heaviest I was approx 20kg overweight. I started to lose weight five years ago but I wasn’t that consistent so weight loss has been a very slow progress. Only recently I fully committed to strength training. I use kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells. I find that high intensity exercise coupled with strength training is having the best impact, much more effective that hours of running on the treadmill, which is what I used to do. It’s such a revelation!! I eat very well I would say my diet is pretty balanced. I certainly avoid packaged foods and processed foods. Keep up the good work, I think you look awesome and I admire your muscles and look forward for mine to develop in time…. thank you xx

  2. I believe you, because I lost 35kg almost 5 years ago while also eating plenty of carbs, fats, as well as *gasp* gluten, ice cream, chocolate, etc. And I have maintained it perfectly fine. The only thing that has changed within those five years is my exercise regime. Having pretty much never moved from the couch in the many years prior to my weight loss, I’m constantly changing it up and trying new things I was too scared to try before. I was severely overweight as a teenager and constantly yo-yo dieting, and if someone had told me back then that I would lose weight while eating all the things I ate when I did lose it, I would have laughed at them. So I do have some sympathy for those in denial, or in cognitive dissonance as it were :) I know when you’re desperate any lifeline will do!

  3. I have followed you for awhile and I agree with what you say.For sure you don’t look like a man or any of the others things you said you’ve heard.Some people are just strange and are probably are just jealous. I read your Facebook page, not everyday but every once in awhile and every time you speak of eating what you want, I know it is in moderation. Eating good but not fanatical. I look forward to reading your book soon and just wanted you to hear what a guy has to say about you. New to your blog but will follow you more. My page is Health Wealth Life 101 and my goal is to inspire and motivate. I am disabled and can’t really exercise but try to eat right. Keep up the great work!! Jim

  4. I’ve been reading your site/FB for a while and I like pretty much everything you say. Long story short, I’ve been focusing on losing some fat and gaining muscle for a couple years now but only recently have I really put a serious focus on it. I still put far more weight (ha ha) on what my scale reads, but I’m getting there. I am a solidly built 5’5 woman who is getting excited about seeing my new stronger body emerging.

    I’d like to thank you for your story and for continually emphasizing that this is a journey; that this kind of stuff takes time to do right. It’s a simple process, but it takes some attention.

  5. I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and am quite intrigued:) I have struggled with my weight since the birth of my 1st(of four) baby… I’ve lost 35 + pounds and then gained back and then some! I’m 5’8″ and weigh about 180lbs… I don’t really care so much what the scale says and have gotten over needing to be at my wedding weight of 120, but I do need to lose weight. How do I correctly calculate what my body needs for calories?

  6. Thank you for sharing your insights; it was a really enjoyable read. I believe in what you have said 100%. Not every body type is the same and reacts to things the same. Diets are not a solution, they are a temporary action, but they don’t get to the root of the problem. I’ve tried diets myself and have had no luck. Last year I tried out Weight Watchers and found that it was the only “diet” that actually resonated with me. Their philosophy is that you can eat whatever you like. It doesn’t cut out wheat or dairy or sugars. However, they do practice control. Control of how much you eat and, in watching your calories/points, the things you eat. I found that I was working toward solving the problem. Not making bad food decisions and, instead, opting for a healthier choice so I would stay within my calories/points for the day. I since have gone off weight watchers, but I still practice what it taught me: make better decisions about what I put in my body.

  7. I just moved to the bay area a month ago, and stumbled upon your blog while I was looking for local trainers etc. It was complete serendipity, because I have never read any story more inspiring. And when I say “inspiring,” I don’t mean it just gives me the feels…I mean, your story has had a direct impact on my attitude and my behavior.
    I’ve been so much more active and, perhaps more importantly, accepting of my body since I discovered you. I don’t feel like my body is the enemy any more. It’s part of who I am, and I am responsible for caring for it and treating it with dignity and respect. And, of course, pushing it to be better than it was yesterday!
    So, thank you, Amber, for sharing your story and braving the criticism and shutting down the nay-sayers. You’re an inspiration.
    And now I’m going to go hike the hills of SF.

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  10. I can relate to this post 100%. Although my current way of eating is different than what you describe I, too, have experienced the push back from people when I tell them how I lost 135lbs. I was 41 years old when I decided to take responsibility for myself and my choices and make real change happen for myself. The truth is that I chose not to make my health a priority for all of my adult life until one day I decided that I didn’t want to do that anymore. So I changed. Just like that.

  11. I am pro-intuitive eating and eating all things in moderation. But this idea that losing weight is just a matter of “taking responsibility for the behavior that has created your problems” really rubs me the wrong way. It implies that fat people are fat because of their behavior, and that fatness is caused by a failure to take responsibility. Doesn’t that contradict the idea that there is no one formula for weight loss that will work for every body?

      • Ok, can you explain to me how you think that to be the case? Because it doesn’t make sense to me. The attitude that fat people are fat because they don’t “take responsibility”, or because they engage in or do not engage in certain behaviors, is not supported by science. It is a unilateral comment on other people’s bodies, for which you have no basis.

        There are plenty of fat people who are active and do not have disordered eating. Yet it seems that you think that if people are active and don’t have disordered eating, they won’t be fat.

        • You’re really reading a lot into my post that isn’t there. You should take a minute to check out some of my other posts, I’m very much about health, not weight. Lifestyle is far more relevant to health outcomes than weight is.

        • Go, you are on point! Healthy does not equal skinny. The word “fat” is implied, and equivocal; it is all relative. I am defined by a Physician’s medical standard as obese. I eat great portions, eat whatever I want-healthy and not, and exercise VERY LITTLE. As a result of my choices, I have room to excel in the area of health, especially by standards of the medical field. Society has it’s grips on the ideals of our weight, and it’s idea of health. Skinny equals healthy and that trickles down to each and every one of us by societal standards. It is up to the individual to decide to take responsibility for their own inept choice in regard to their own health and make the necessary choices to become HEALTHY, not skinny, if they so CHOOSE. There seem to be some deep rooted feelings of judgment coming through your posts; whether you are “the judge” or “the judged”, you can only determine.

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  13. Hey there! I roundaboutly found your blog post via Hunt Gather Love, which linked to Cheeseslave, which linked to you.

    I’m really curious to learn how your current “everything wrong” diet (which is obviously working great for you) differs from the food choices you were making in your “before” pictures.

    Is the food the same, but your behavior different? Or did you change both your food and your behaviors?

    Really excited to have found your blog, I’m looking forward to going through the archives and becoming a regular reader.

    • I eat more whole foods and less packaged food (but I’m not an absolutist, I still eat convenience foods too), but I eat in balance with my needs now, neither under or over my energy requirements. I also am physically active every day, which has helped my metabolism heal from years of inactivity. I have healthy insulin sensitivity and blood glucose regulation now. Those things had started to deteriorate and negatively impact my health before. Those are the two major changes I’ve made that I attribute my success to.

      • I have been reading your blog for awhile now. I am wondering, while you were losing and now that you are maintaining, do you weigh and measure everything you eat to be sure that you are getting the right amount of calories? or do you eye ball everything? or do you go by how you feel and when you r body is telling you to eat?

        • I weighed and measured for a while, to get a sense of proper portion size and to learn what foods provided what nutrients. I mostly go on habit now. HTH!

  14. I *LOVE* this!!!!!!! A friend just shared this link to your blog with me, so it’s the first time to read you. This is WONDERFUL. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation!!! I am not overweight, but I work out pretty hard 5 days a week and try to eat naturally and healthy. I would LIKE to weigh less than I do but not only have I not LOST any weight, I’ve been gaining it!?? I’m sure it can’t be all muscle weight. My only thought is perhaps I have not consistently been eating ENOUGH calories so my body is hanging onto everything. (Btw, I’m 37, 5’6″, size 8/10, 160lbs.)

    Anyway. I’m on a constant journey with this. I can’t wait to explore your blog and read more! Thank you for sharing your life here! :)

  15. Thank you for this. I once tried those awful fad diets, and I only got healthier and happier when I realized that exercise was key! Once I got the exercise component, I also eventually realized that stressing about eating a diet consisting of some ridiculous and questionable ratio of carbs to protein to fat was pointless! Once I let that go, I immediately felt better (and dropped a few more pounds, who would’ve thunk). It’s taken about 9 years, but I’ve dropped 8 sizes.

    These days, I pretty much subsist on a diet of lentils, fruit, nuts, home-baked bread, rice, soy, and yogurt. I also get 1300 calories a day and exercise about 3 times a week. I would probably eat more and exercise more, but when you work about 45 hours a week and have to commute, it’s not easy.

    Interestingly, eating excessive amounts of fat and sugar from processed sources (e.g. baked goods and ice cream) makes me feel a little depressed, but I can’t tell if this is my body genuinely sending me messages, or if I’ve just internalized some message from society telling me that I shouldn’t be eating so poorly because it’ll make me undesirably fat. Most of the time, though, I find myself craving stewed lentils with wilted greens when I’m hungry!

    My coworkers may turn their noses up at me, but they can take their ridiculous chlorophyll juice detoxes, fat-free salads, and their dry, tasteless chicken breast. I’ve never been this healthy, this happy, or had this much energy.

  16. How lucky that I came across your website yesterday, when I was just making my mind up to stop getting sidetracked with systems of dressing or personality or whatever other external nonsense I was using to try to “find” or “validate” or “honor” myself. And it is all nonsense. I know perfectly well what colours I like best and what types of clothes I enjoy wearing and who cares if they don’t even out my complexion or if they make my waist or hips or whatever appear more prominent than they are. The purpose of my existance is not to conform to and/or please anyone else’s sense of aesthetics.

    Instead I am going to take responsibility for my life by doing what I want to do, doing what makes me happy and healthy and strong which includes creating a healther lifestyle. The first step will be creating habits to move my body a lot more than I have been doing for the past 15 years. I started today with a very basic set of exercises at home which I plan on sticking with until I can no longer improve at home, adjusting as necessary of course.

    Reading through these posts I finally understood why I put on so much weight 10 years ago in a very short period of time. I had been undereating for about two years in my early 20s and when I started eating normally again my body reacted by storing everything it could get in case of another famine. After I stopped gaining I was carrying around about 55kg of extra weight. I’ve lost about half of it in the years since, very slowly and in spurts when my activity levels have increased but always slowing down or plateauing after I get used to the activity. I have a way to go clearly and I do want to get lighter, if only to move around more easily and be lighter on my feet but as I’ve not been at a good weight for my body as an adult I have no way of knowing where that will end up being.

    Now I am a bit (or more than a bit) afraid of the weightloss comments. I strongly dislike any uninvited comments about my person and weightloss is such a common topic that it’s hard to deflect comments. For that purpose I will not weigh myself to be able to honestly answer that I do not know if I’ve lost weight or how much and that my purpose is not weightloss but strenght. I want to be strong. That should be enough.

    That was very long comment but what I meant to say was thank you so much for taking the time to put this site online and for being a voice of reason in a world trying to sell us magic pills.

  17. So you are mindful of how many calories you eat and get them from predominantly unprocessed food? Did you ever have acne? Did you ever temporarily restrict some foods to lose fat? Glad that you have become so happy and healthy :-)

  18. First of all, let me say that I’m not angry at you. You seem like a powerful, positive, amazing woman. I’m intrigued by what you have to say.
    However, I am so so so so frustrated. I cannot figure out how to eat to be healthy. I am almost 42, and I have come to a place in my life where I am restricting food to a level that I know is unhealthy (two meals a day, no snacks, no wheat or sugar, no more than 1200 calories a day), but if I eat any more, I gain. I already have 25 pounds above my ideal weight, which my doctor thinks is about 15 pounds too high (she’s wrong. I’m a rock star at that weight). I have made gains in my health over the past year, but the weight…ugh. I battle self-loathing like it’s a rabid animal that follows me from room to room. When I ask doctors for help, they tell me to cut carbs or remind me that I’m not 20 anymore.
    I would LOVE to take responsibility for my eating. I just don’t know what to eat anymore.
    Sorry to rant. I just…am frustrated.

    • I am frustrated too. I’ve been stuck in a weird rut of reading a lot (A LOT) in the past year re fitness diet etc and can’t really get myself actually ACTING consistently, IE beyond a random 3 week exercise binge, or random 10 day diet experiments. Part of the problem is too much conflicting info overload, but the other is simply the ‘cognitive dissonance’ that little ole stupid me is actually going to be That Person, the Fit Person, we’re talking about the child who used to run away from PE class LOL! and who spent a whole summer consuming nothing but coffee & Cherry Coke WOW! It becomes this existential thing almost of HOW the hell do you become sthg different/better? Forever? So… also feeling crappy – about fitness fail and about bothering to ‘waste time’ reading about this since I’m ‘obviously not gonna do anything’. BARF!!! Go Kaleo, if you read this, when and HOW EXACTLY did it come, did your moment of truth come? Something obviously tipped the balance for you permanently it would be great to read a blog article about that! (P.S.IMO anyone who says “you are no longer 20 anymore” or any other ageist bull just needs to be eliminated, or at least prevented from reproducing their kind.)

    • Kira, have you seen an endocrinologist? I ask because this sounds a lot like hypothyroid disease. It is important to see an endocrinologist, not just a GP or internist, to have thyroid tests evaluated properly

    • Are you exercising? more importantly are you lifting heavy weight of any kind. You NEED to be eating more, your body is broken!!! Get the book Starve Mode and read it cover to cover. It will open your eyes.

    • It’s actually normal to gain a little when you stop restricting calories. You’re not doing anything wrong. Just stick it out and throw in some exercise that you know you’ll stick to, and make sure you measure body fat and not weight. Get your TDEE measured (google it and you’ll find a calculator) to get an estimate of calories your body needs.

      I’m sure Go has mentioned this in a post or perhaps in her book. I haven’t read it yet.

  19. This post is amazing… I found your blog through The Love Vitamin… instead of cringing at the truth, I feel like everything I have ever read about restricting my diet and doing things that I will never enjoy has made me cringe permanently for the last 5-6 years… And reading this just undid a world of pain!!
    Inspiring.

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  21. You are AWESOME. As a fellow dieter, history of EDNOS and obsessive exerciser, now being somewhat recovered (though still have ED driven thoughts and anxieties) I just want to say, YAY for your story and sharing it with us!

    I am 5’6 22 y/o and fluctuate between 112-117 and am maintaining on 2800-3200 per day and 380-450 carbs per day as well, so it is sooooo sooo inspiring to see that another woman does this too- people think I am crazy! So- it is so comforting to know that you do this too.

    I am pretty muscular I like to think, and enjoy working out but I no longer work out every day, or every other even (as during my ED) I have an active job most of the time (4 days a week standing on my feet for 4-5 hours ) but other than that, sometimes I work out and sometimes I dont. Thank you for sharing again. Glad to hear that others eat 3000 calories per day and upwards of 400 carbs and are healthy :)

  22. Love this post. I just tried to explain why and it was turning into a novel. Keep it up, it’s lovely to see logical thinking on the net! Thank you.

  23. Kaleo,

    YOU do not look likea man!!!!!!!! You are such a gorgeous woman. When you were heavy, you were, and still are, a WOMAN. The ONLY difference here is, YOU MAY HAVE ADDED many more years to your life. You look every part a princess – STRONG princess. I have been teased about my BIG BUTT – and i counter back by saying (“OH, IT’S BECAUSE I HAVE SUCH A SMALL WAIST THAT YOU THINK I HAVE A BIG BUTT, THANK YOU”)…..and if you had a chance to see the expression on those women’s faces,…!!!! – PRICELESS…

    While i have never been teased about my weight – ever, i have always been MY BIGGEST enemy, or critique. I relocated to the USA in 2004 and i quickly gained so much weight – that all the clothes i had brought with me to this country, were SMALL – all of a sudden!!! But then, in 2005, i decided i had to CHANGE – i had to want to cange, and there was NOTHING that was going to stop me. THAT YEAR, within the first three months, i lost so much weight – that it shocked so many people (from my country) who actually accused me of having contacted HIV – AIDS… Can you even believe that???

    Needless to say that i actually gained most of it back by the end of 2006 – and i have been on the YO-YO DIETING ROLLER COASTER ever since, until this year, when i decided, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I have been waking up at 5:00am everyday – come rain, come snow, come sunshine, and i go to the gym – and i have seen some improvement so far…. Out of the 20+ lbs i gained over the past year, i have lost 5of those and i have quite a ways to go (AND I DECIDED TO DO IT SLOWLY THIS TIME AROUND), and NOTHING IS GOING TO TAKE MY EYES AWAY FROM MY PRICE.

    I just wanted to post on here and SAY THANK YOU, from the very bottom of my heart, because it’s people like you – that encourage us and definitely participate in restoring the belief that we had fro the “GET GO” – EVERTHING IS POSSIBLE AND CAN BE DONE, AS LONG AS WE PUT OUR MINDS TO IT AND DO THE WORK…

    Again, THANK YOU. GOD BLESS YOU.

  24. I’ve looked all over, and can’t seem to find a way to just go to your first blog post and read them in order, rather than going backwards page by page. Is there a way to do this that I’m just not seeing?

  25. Thank you so much for putting yourself out there and telling your story. I have been reading your blog off and on for about a month and while I loved your message I wasn’t sure it applied to me. It planted some seeds of thought though.

    Last week I downloaded the Lose It app. I entered my information and chose the lose 1 lb a week goal. When I saw the proposed number of calories I thought it looked reasonable, but when I put it into practice I was SHOCKED to find out how many more calories a day it was then I had previously been eating. There was a complete disconnect between how much I thought I ate and how much I did eat. You hear over and over that obese people eat far more calories than they realize. Not true for this girl. I was chronically undereating. It was really uncomfortable eating that much food the first few days, but already I have more energy and feel better than I have in a long time. If I hadn’t been reading your blog, I would have thought the program was completely crazy or some sort of sick joke on fat people. I guess really the extremely restrictive programs I had been doing were the sick joke all along.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  26. I don’t know why people in your examoles even exist – critiquing you in derogatory manners, very sad- but all I’m saying is I like you. I like your execution of thoughts and opinion and everything you have said makes perfect sense to me. In my experience my dad and grandad both slim (my dad) thin (my grandad) all throughout life- and buy do they pack the calories, but all the “right” things either. Seeing is believing and I gave watched my dad trough away as much ad 3,600 calories in a day on a consistent basis, with a few midweek dips to 3,000 (sparked my interest Fter seeing him consume a 1,200 calorie pasta meal with bread and a dessert and piquing my interest as to how many calories a day for a week he consumes! ) he’s always got warm body temperature and bags if energy, looks youthish for his 52 years also!

  27. This kind of message needs to be heard. I personally didn’t have problems with weight, but still tried some magic diets for performance etc.
    I left the diet game some time ago, so now I just eat as I ate before I knew so much. Lot of gurus say diet is 70% and exercise 30% etc. Maybe, but it doesn’t really take that much to consume decent diet. Just common sense really.

    But there are some lessons I took from excessive blog and book reading.

    I optimized my training and learned how to do it myself now, without help of gurus, and found which training modalities suit me. I am still a bit OCD about it, though, but that’s because it’s not simple enough yet:-) Options I’d consider for the majority of population include daily walking, HIT and HIIT.

    I also learned which supplements are effective. There are some, but most of them are rather distraction than anything else. Creatine is the only one I take because of my body composition goals.

    I also re-learned the importance of sleep which is HUGE.

    And thats about it. I eat the food, sleep, walk daily for 40 minutes, do 20-30 minute HIT twice a week and take creatine monohydrate 5g/day.

  28. This kind of message needs to be heard. I personally didn’t have problems with weight, but still tried some magic diets for performance etc.
    I left the diet game some time ago, so now I just eat as I ate before I knew so much. Lot of gurus say diet is 70% and exercise 30% etc. Maybe, but it doesn’t really take that much to consume decent diet. Just common sense really.

    But there are some lessons I took from excessive blog and book reading.

    I optimized my training and learned how to do it myself now, without help of gurus, and which training modalities suit me. I am still a bit OCD about it, though, but that’s because it’s not simple enough yet:-) Options I’d consider for the majority of population include daily walking, HIT and HIIT.

    I also learned which supplements are effective. There are some, but most of them are rather distraction than anything else. Creatine is the only one I take because of my body composition goals.

    I also re-learned the importance of sleep which is HUGE.

    And thats about it. I eat the food, sleep, walk daily for 40 minutes, do 20-30 minute HIT twice a week and take creatine monohydrate 5g/day.

  29. You’re such an inspiration!! :)

    P.s. I booked a conversation with you, but did not receive any confirmation. Is there a way to know if it went through alright?

  30. You said – My protein averages anywhere between 100 and 150 grams a day AND Legumes ARE my primary source of protein. Peanuts, lentils, beans, yum.

    SO – are you a vegetarian??

    • No Charles, I’m not. I’m not ‘a’ anything. I do understand the compulsion to put me in a dietary category though, it’s a form of rationalization.

      I realized somewhere along my journey that it is limiting and divisive to base my identity, even in part, on what I eat. It is why my tagline up there says ‘You are not your diet’. I am a person, not a diet.

      • This is a gorgeous reply. This is why I regard myself as ‘Raw with Benefits’. If I want a dirty gin martini (which is often), then I shall have my dirty gin even though it’s not formally regarded as ‘raw’. ;)

      • I just asked because you said that legumes were your “primary” source of protein. So – do you eat meat, eggs, seafood?

  31. So, I’ve been watching your updates for a few months now. I don’t want to say you’ve singlehandedly been the catalyst for me taking responsibility for the relationship I have with my body, food and exercise (previously represented by the words, ‘ew’, ‘careful’, and ‘punishment’ respectively), but I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said you were the primary factor in my decision to start thinking rationally, and not emotionally, about those three things. I’ve always been the biggest one of my friends, though I’ve been lucky to never get into the obese range. Until late 2012, I had always hated at least one part of my body, usually multiple parts simulataneously. When I discoverd your blog, I was definitely experiencing some cognitive dissonance. “yeah, she can eat ice cream because she works out 3 hours a day” was something that went through my head at the beginning. But I definitely bought into your idea of not following any dogma and finding out what works for me, not what makes people money or provides a magic solution. I’ve tried a bunch of diets, but nothing ever stuck and eventually I’d see my weight creep up and the self-esteem creep down. It’s taken me a few months but I am finally starting to eat healthy, whole foods most of the time because I’m attaching more value to health overall, instead of just “being skinny”. I am revelling in the fact that I CAN eat more than 1200 calories a day (I know) and still be cognizant of my health. In fact, I should eat about 2300 a day – a fact that I couldn’t accept for a long time under the assumption that I would get fat. I have also started lifting weights because, surprise, I LIKE it. I hated spending even 30 straight minutes on the cardio machines, so I tried and found I like HIIT training. I exercise, eat healthy food and am able to enjoy myself because my body, mind and soul needs all three things to survive. Thank you for being so awesome and reminding me every day that health is a process, diet and exercise go hand-in-hand but are not a rigorous pass/fail test, and that it’s ok to find what works for me and reject the kool-aid! YOU ROCK!!

    • Oh my gosh, thank you so much for taking the time to write this out! I’m SO glad for you that you’re on a saner, healthier path! :)

  32. Amber hits another home run!! Love this. You’ve had a powerful influence on me. I will be sharing…

  33. I agree, I have the same experience on line in diabetes forums, 9 years ago I weighed 323 lbs, was on medication for hypertension, had high cholesterol, then I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I changed my diet to the dash diet, started to exercise, lost 150 lbs in 1 1/2 years and have maintained that weight loss. My A1C has been 4.1 or 4.2 yearly for the last 8 years. I’m not on any medications for hypertension and my total cholesterol is 163. (69 hdl, 85 ldl, 59 trig). I stopped counting calories on a daily basis after losing weight but I occasionally count maybe 2 or 3 times a month to give an idea of how much calories I’m consuming. It is usually 2400 to 2600 per day, carbs can be anywhere from 50% to 65%, protein : 15% to 20%, fat 15% to 30% depending what I’m eating on a particular day.
    I exercise 30 min a day 3 to 5 times a week alternating between aerobics and resistance. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and Vegetables including legumes , whole grains, including whole wheat, some fat free dairy. I do eat lean meat and wild seafood but in limited amounts. Most of the fats are from avocados, nuts and nut butters. About a 1 1/2 years I started to post on several diabetes forum because I was curious to see if any other type 2 diabetics were using the same way of eating as I was to control their diabetes. What I found was a majority of posters using lc/hf to control their diabetes. Their responses to my eating plan ranged from surprise to disbelief. One poster even commented that my initial high glucose level when I was first diagnosed (an A1C of 10.5) might have been caused by something other than diabetes, because no diabetic could eat 350 to 400 grams of carbs a day and have a current A1c as low as 4.2. I have never said or believed that my way of eating is the only way to control diabetes but this what works for me and I respect another person’s way of dealing with this disease. I don’t comment on any diabetes forums anymore because I don’t need to or have defend my way of controlling this disease. I don’t classify my way of eating as real food, ancestral or traditional, certainly not paleo or lowcarb. I try to stay away from labels when it comes personal lifestyles, I just try to stay healthy
    and do what works for me.

  34. I understand. Since I had to go dairy free, everybody I work with can’t believe I’m losing weight just by eating real food. Granted all the weight loss was inflammation. They are so entrenched in the fallacy that you have to eat dairy because that is the magic food now. Every time I bring in my lunch they always comment on how good it smells but they could never eat that because it must have fat in it. I always tell them to try it, you just might like it.

    • Is dairy the magic food now? I thought it was coconut oil, lol! Keep showing them the way, they’ll hear you eventually!

  35. But … but … I need a HACK! What is the SECRET HACK that you have discovered? Butter in your coffee?

    Just kidding, I’m 50 and in the best shape since my late 20′s, doing pretty much the same thing as you. I lost 60 pounds of fat. The secret to my success is patience and dedication and lots of effort. People are looking for an effortless solution but nothing worthwhile in life is effortless, except maybe tooling around the Walmart on a scooter, that doesn’t require much effort.

    • Ha! Butter in my coffee, lol. Good work, man! People REALLY really want me to be wrong, because if I’m right, they have to take responsibility for their behavior. That is a hard (non-magic) pill to swallow.

  36. Lucky for some! I suppose that if I could still digest some of those foods (wheat, corn, soy, icecream), I would still be eating them. And if they didn’t make me ill in other ways, that wouldn’t matter. Obviously some people can safely eat them, or they wouldn’t exist!

      • Yeah, the interesting part of this is that many, many people ARE intolerant to many of those foods, but have no idea because they’ve never given them up – and then reintroduced them. A lot of people find when they do that with dairy or gluten that they get serious bloating, intestinal issues, or just feel really bad – and that’s the way they’ve been living this whole time and never knew it! It’s good that you are one of the few that can manage to eat ALL of that. :)

        • I’d like to think&hope that’s the interesting part,regarding WAPF…..I think if one slowly starts to soak grains,begin with yeastfree baking you might be able to reverse a lot as you enhance digestivity with it and reduce harmful substances……at least according to Sarah of TheHealthyHomeEconomist videos about soaking grains/flours.

          We probably develop these issues caused by leaky gut&bacterial overgrowth from living on processed storefoods…..

        • Yeah, and the fact that they gave them up may have made them intolerant. If you sensitize your body by withholding certain things, and then try to reintroduce them, you may have a problem. I’m a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat in 10 years. I had a stuffed baked potato that unbeknownst to me, had bacon in it. My body rebelled and I got violently ill. So you can create your own intolerance, just sayin’ …

  37. Thank you for always being so real. Thank you for assuring me that its ok to eat fruit and gluten and I won’t turn into a cow like my low carber friends say I will. I just can’t make it through a tough workout without those carbs!

  38. Good for you! :)
    I was in a fast food joint yesterday and I ordered what’s called here in Qu├ębec a “poutine”. It’s typically a big plate of french fries covered in curd cheese with brown gravy poured over the whole thing to melt the cheese. I ordered one with a big dollop of sour cream and guacamole. It was huge.
    I was there with my wife and baby, we decided we’d go out somewhere we never go… half way through the thing, having given most of the sour cream to my baby daughter (11months) I had to stop.
    The reason I’m telling you this story is because I grew up with good eating habits, and a healthy relationship with food. I get no satisfaction from eating huge plates and I know when I’m full. I learnt that when I was young, and when I was young, I ate everything on your list there along with a lot of meat and fish. I’ve gone through all the different fad diets, and true, a change in the way I ate from time to time felt good, but I see no real difference in the way I feel now when I eat more like the way I did as child (minus the legumes, I’ve come to realize we don’t get along…).
    What I did notice, was that when I stress about what I can and cannot eat, I feel worse.
    Your message is perfect. Keep going!

    • In my old age, I’ve become pretty convinced that obsessing about food is worse for your health than eating ‘unhealthy’ food.

  39. I truly enjoy your posts….packed with common sense and practical advice……thanks for sharing.

  40. I agree completely. I love carbs (particularly GLUTEN), ice cream and everything else people tell us we should avoid. Rock on.

  41. I do agree with all of the ideas you promote, and I’ve been following along since you had the couch to 5k blog.

    However, I have an issue with your numbers. You say you eat around 2800 calories a day. 400 grams of carbs a day (1600 calories) with 35% fat (980, lets round to 1000) leaves you with only 200 calories for protein–50 grams. Even if you actually average the bare minimum of the range you posted (350 grams–in which case it wouldn’t be an average), that gives you 1400 + 1000 calories, with 400 calories (100 grams) left for protein. I’m fairly certain that at some point you mentioned eating around your body weight in protein (say 160 grams) which is a good 640 calories…which doesn’t fit with your other numbers.

    I’m all about science, and I think you are too, so I was hoping you could clean up the accuracy a bit.

    • Carmen, is that you?

      My protein averages anywhere between 100 and 150 grams a day. I tell people to aim for 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, because anything within a stone’s throw of that is going to be enough. I edited the post because you’re right about the fat, I changed it to 30-35% of calories which is more accurate.
      :)

  42. I love your intelligent, well thought posts. Keep spreading the word. You are a beautiful person inside and out!

  43. This is a great read. I’m trying to get back on track after regaining the 50+ pounds I lost following a low calorie diet and exercising. I want to do it right this time (turning 45 this year) and I don’t want to starve myself again. I love lifting weights, cardio, not so much but I’ll do it. I’m just worried if I have too many calories I won’t see the weight change I desire. I’m 5’4, a solid frame and I’m figuring around 1900 calories is the way to go. Can I ask your thoughts on this number? Did you eat the amount of calories you mentioned in your article and still lose weight or were you eating less to lose?
    I think you’re beautiful and really enjoy following you on Facebook.

    • 1900 sounds pretty reasonable! Depending on your activity level, I’m sure it will allow for gradual, healthy weight loss. That intake will support a weight of 130-140 pounds, depending on how active you are outside of dedicated exercise and your body composition, etc.

      I did eat about 2800 to lose weight to where I am now. 2800 supports the activity level and weight I am at now, so when I was heavier 2800 worked out to a small calorie deficit. To get lower than I am now I would have to cut back a little or increase my exercise, but I’m happy where I am, even if the scale says I’m almost overweight. Scales don’t tell the whole story. :)

  44. This is awesome, girl. Thank you! Like you say: consistency is key. So is taking responsibility and making positive changes.

  45. THIS is why I think you are a whole gang of awesomesauce. Full fat awesomesauce of course! Thank you for being you and sharing your story and all you share. Rock on!

  46. I love your blog. I love that you share the truth. So many people want a quick fix…pills, starvation diets…that they literally cringe from the truth of what you are saying. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yep, some people are really resistant to my message. Most people come around eventually, once they get tired of the diet merry-go-round.

  47. Go Kaleo,
    You are so RIGHT ON. I have done pretty much the same as you and I have gotten nearly the same reactions from people. I eat carbs, fat, and I happen to love protein but I am not a high protein diet. I eat enough protein for me. I eat enough food for me. I eat less calories than you mainly because I am much shorter and smaller. I have been accused of taking steroids, and told by other women that I look manly and have lost my curves. I assure you that is not the case. I work for a Sheriff’s dept and the other day when I was done with my shift I walked by the briefing room in jeans and a T-shirt and got what my husband calls “The Scan” from the guys, briefly, respectfully, and just for a second before they resumed normal facial expressions. I just turned 52 and these are young men. I am not manly in the slightest, but I am a tough girl and I’m proud of it. I love all sorts of exercise.

    When it comes to exercise and diet, all that is required is awareness, effort, patience, and most of all consistency. You don’t even have to be perfect, just consistent.

    I have done all the yo-yo diets and got bigger and bigger. The only thing that worked was responsible balanced eating of mostly healthy foods that I enjoy. Find foods you enjoy within balance, the right amount for you (a little less if you have extra fat to lose), in a healthy sustainable manner and anyone can do it.

    • Awesome, Roberta! I get ‘the scan’ too, most guys are pretty respectful about it!
      Thanks for being another voice of reason in the wilderness!

  48. Thank you! This is just what I needed to hear to get me on the right path. Thank you. First thing that came to mind was “Amen Sista!”

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