Next Habit Project On-Ramp is Gearing Up!

In July, Sean and I launched our first 12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp.  The Habit Project is a community and coaching program for people who want to be strong, confident, and healthy without fads or deprivation.  In the On-Ramp, we introduce to you to and guide you through our 6 biggest habits for laying the foundation for sustainable fitness and fat loss.

It’s been really cool watching dozens of people over the last 12 weeks start to build major momentum creating one habit at a time and moving away from the traps of fad dieting.  Now we’re getting ready to enroll for the next On-Ramp.  And this time…you’re going to have more options than just the iPhone/iPad.

The coaching app we use is not yet on other devices, so we’ll also be enrolling for a Facebook-based On-Ramp as well.  But fair warning… there will be fewer spots available in the Facebook-based group than the app group.

The exact date we open the doors for registration for the October group has not yet been determined, but it will definitely be in the next few weeks.  And by being on the On-Ramp Presale list, you’ll be one of the first people to know when we’re enrolling and have your pick of which group to join.

You can go here to get on the presale list:

I’m looking forward to getting to know a new group of you guys!

We Need to Talk About Mental Illness

Depressed woman in front of a benchLet me tell you a story.

I wasn’t a happy child. I was awkward and overweight, and was teased mercilessly all through elementary and middle school. I had trouble making friends and had very few, all the way through high school. As a teen, I engaged in self-destructive behaviors like extreme dieting and drinking and smoking. The crowd I was drawn to was anti-social and dark. While they tolerated my presence, they didn’t treat me with respect or as a friend, in fact they were quite mean, and made jokes at my expense. I thought I deserved it. My old journals are filled with self-flagellation, loneliness and morbid thoughts.

I think these things were chalked up to ‘normal’ teen angst. At church, I was told to pray harder, because Jesus was the Way and the Truth and the Light, and he would fill the emptiness I felt, which was clearly the absence of God. So I did pray harder, and wondered what was wrong with me when God didn’t answer and make me feel better, as the youth leaders told me He would.

As a young adult I began having vague physical symptoms like fatigue, various gastrointestinal issues, frequent headaches, and insomnia. My mom gave me a book of natural health and alternative medicine, it was quite large and covered a multitude of ailments, giving creative and often very expensive treatment recommendations. I self-diagnosed myself with systemic candida and began treating myself with all sorts of interesting folk remedies.

Because putting a clove of raw garlic in your vagina will totally cure your headaches. The book made it seem very rational and reasonable. To my muddled thinking, at least.

A lot of my meager wages went to natural cures, supplements, and exotic foods that supposedly had curative powers.

Somehow, my ‘systemic candida’ didn’t go away, and my symptoms persisted.

I resisted going to the doctor though, because the book (this was before the internet, so I got my information primarily from the book) made it clear that doctors would treat my symptoms by forcing pills on me and dismissing my concerns, not caring to look for the underlying cause. Which of course I had determined, through my ‘research’, to be systemic candida. It was no accident that the book had a supplement catalog at the end and a telephone number through which I could order the author’s own brand of supplements.

Sometime in my 26th or 27th year, I did go to the doctor. I explained my symptoms. My doctor suggested I may have depression and referred me to a psychiatrist for an evaluation.

Depression? No way, I thought. No way, said the church. No way, said friends and family members, who cautioned that a psychiatrist would just ‘throw pills at me’, that “Psychiatrists say EVERYONE is depressed and needs to be medicated, but the medications are horrible things that will just make you a zombie”, they said. “Pills are the coward’s way out. Pills are for the weak.”

In what was probably the bravest decision I’d made in my young life, I decided to go against the Church and my friends and family, and follow my doctor’s advice, and go to the Psychiatrist and be evaluated.

And, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.

“SEE?” said everyone. “Now they’ll just want to put you on medication. Don’t listen! Meds mean giving up! Meds mean you are weak! Don’t listen to the doctors!”

But, I took the pills anyway.

And I slowly started to feel better. Less hopeless. Less empty. Less lonely.

And the symptoms I’d self-diagnosed as systemic candida? Those started to go away too. I slept better. I had fewer headaches. The rumblings and pain in my belly receded.

And the pills? Were EXPONENTIALLY less expensive than all the natural ‘cures’ I’d been treating myself with. The dozens of supplement pills I’d been taking daily made way for one medicine pill a day. Who is the pill pusher, again?

But I certainly wasn’t about to go around TELLING people about this. Because I’d internalized the message that taking pills (medicine pills at least, apparently supplement pills are ok) was weak. I was ashamed. I’ve given up, sold out, taken the easy path. I kept the fact that I was taking anti-depressants a secret lest I hear from my friends and family how weak medicine is, and how fake depression is, and how shameful mental illness is.

Family and church members who would have leapt to get me medicine for physical illness had made it clear that taking medicine for mental illness is something to be ashamed of. And as a result, I had suffered for YEARS. How different might my life have been if I’d been diagnosed and treated when I first started showing symptoms (late childhood, I believe)? My symptoms were significant, and destructive. And they were not my own fault.

I’ve talked about my struggles with anxiety and depression frequently here on my blog, because I know that talking about it is the only way to remove the stigma. Over the years, my depression has taken different forms – PPD after my babies were born, panic attacks at some points, physical pain at others. Sometimes it is manageable with exercise, other times it isn’t, and I need meds.I haven’t always recognized it until it reached crisis point (because it has rarely manifested as ‘feeling sad’), but I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve gotten good with it. I’m not ashamed any more. I’m angry that people who claimed to love me would let me suffer so profoundly, for so long, and would still, to this day, shame me for being weak and taking meds.

And I’m angry that it is happening to people all around me.

My story isn’t unique. I hear it from other people every day. Every day.

You know it’s true, and you know it’s common. You may even have said and thought some of the things that were said to me. You may have said them to yourself. You may have said them to others. You may not have said them or thought them, but you know you’ve heard them.

Because these attitudes pervade our society. Depression and other mental illnesses are whispered about, and joked about, and spoken of in shameful terms. When diet gurus say that mental illness can be treated by the ‘right’ diet, they are doing exactly what the church did to me – victim blaming. The church told me I was unhappy because I wasn’t praying hard enough. Diet gurus tell you you’re unhappy, or experiencing vague physical symptoms, because you’re not eating clean enough or paleoing hard enough or eating too much sugar. You weakling! It’s all your own fault!

People self-diagnose themselves with thyroid disorder, or adrenal fatigue, or leaky gut, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or GMO allergies, or (like me) systemic candida (all conditions, most of which don’t actually exist, that have the same symptoms as depression), or any number of other conditions to avoid having to confront the possibility that there might be something wrong with their head. ANYTHING is preferable to mental illness, right? Even a fake disease made up by scam artists to sell you magical supplements and diets.

Any illness, real or fake, is on the table, except mental illness. I can understand. I had it done to me for a long time, and I did it to myself for a long time after that. My early conditioning primed me to accept magical thinking and distrust science and doctors. It took me a long time to break free, and I had to make the same mistakes over and over before I really learned. But if and when I see signs of depression in my daughters (because depression has a large genetic component) I won’t hesitate to get them the treatment that their doctors recommend, though I don’t doubt I will hear echoes of that shame in my head if that treatment involves medication. I will not let my daughters hear it, though.

Roughly 7% of US adults will experience one or more episodes of depression this year. That is millions and millions of people. More women than men are affected. Symptoms can be vague and diverse, and frequently mistaken for other conditions. The danger in self-diagnosing with something you’ve read about on the internet is that you may have a very serious illness that will go unrecognized and untreated. Getting professional diagnosis and proper treatment is so important.

And TALKING about it is important. There are SO many of us dealing with depression and other mental illnesses. Most of us struggle in silence, because of shame. The way to change that is to talk about it. The more of us who talk about it, the more people will get the help they need. And the less shame there will be.

Talking about it in the fitness industry is especially important, because a lot of people fall into the trap of believing that losing weight will solve their problems. But if the problem is depression, losing weight (or trying to lose weight) won’t help, and could even make it worse.

If you’re experiencing the symptoms below, you may have depression. You could also have any of several different illnesses and conditions with similar symptoms, so getting evaluated by the proper professional (starting with your medical doctor) is vital.

Symptoms of depression (source: WebMD)

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

The first person to talk to is your doctor, the sooner the better. Your doctor will know if and who to refer you to.

You can search for depression resources by city here on also has provided a list of depression resources.

NAMI also has a straight-to-the-point page on how to find help.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately.

Have something to say about this? Join the conversation on Facebook.


Registration is Closing Soon (tonight in fact…12 hours)

The response to our upcoming 12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp has been awesome!  Sean and I are looking forward to working with all of you who signed up already.

You can join an existing Habit Project Facebook group at nearly any time – but for the On-Ramp, there’s a concrete start date and we can’t let new people just jump in at any time.

Our First On-Ramp group starts on July 13th (and I’ll be joining this group as both participant and coach!), and registration ends tonight at 8pm Pacific/11pm Eastern.

If you have an iPhone or iPad and want to get started with our community and coaching program for people who want to be strong, confident, and healthy without fads or deprivation, click the link below:

The Habit Project On-Ramp

And, if you don’t have in i-device, check out our ‘regular’ Habit Project groups, which have rolling admissions, on Facebook here.

What Happens When the Coach Turns Out to Be Human After All?

10984616_10103728889677041_7584110485221997944_nYou guys know I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for a WHILE. Seven or eight years, actually. It started with an injury in ’07, I slipped on a wet sidewalk and dislocated my kneecap. It healed, but a level of pain remained, and it was actually one of the reasons I started exercising. Exercise was my primary (and only) pain management tool for several years, until I needed to add pain medication to the mix as well. Over the last year, the pain has worsened to the point that I’ve had to gradually cut back on the amount, kind, and intensity of exercise I’ve been able to do. It ultimately got so bad that a month ago I had surgery, to remove some bone fragments that had dislodged when I dislocated it and have been floating around causing trouble all this time, as well as some bone spurs and scar tissue. And so, for the last month, I’ve basically been sitting or lying down most of the day as I recover from surgery.

The result? I’m not in the kind of shape I was in even a year ago. One of the pain meds I have been using produced a 10 pound weight gain, and I went into the surgery a little worried that the complete inactivity required for recovery would cause even more weight gain. When I expressed my relief on my Facebook wall that the eating habits I’ve established over the last 8 years helped me maintain my weight in spite of not being able to exercise (whew!), a couple people got mad at me for it. I’m supposed to be body positive, they said, I shouldn’t worry about my weight! One person crowed happily that I’d probably gained fat and lost muscle. I responded that I’m sure I have. I can see in the mirror that I’m softer and curvier, and I know I’m not as strong. This I am actually ok with, I like my body this way, and I like my body when it’s more muscular. Turns out I just like my body. Go figure!

But I do worry about my weight. I have a history of obesity, and health problems stemming from it. I also worry about not being active. Inactivity isn’t good for me. My blood sugar gets wonky, I get anxious and depressed, my migraines might come back, I’m just not as happy when I’m not getting my exercise.

So, while I’m relieved the eating habits I’ve built have kept me from gaining weight, I know that it’s important that I get active as quickly as possible (mindfully of my recovery from surgery, of course). My exercise habits have suffered, due to circumstances beyond my control. It’s time for me to start rebuilding those habits. And those habits may look different post-surgery than they did before.

So, it turns out I am human. It turns out life happens, and I have to be flexible. It turns out that sometimes, circumstances beyond our control can require us to change our behavior and build new habits.

And so, I’ll be participating in the new Habit Project On-Ramp program not just as a coach, but as a team-mate. I’ll be working on the habits right along with everyone else. I’ll be checking in daily with encouragement as a team mate, but also with support as a coach. I’ll be getting to know this group in ways I haven’t had the chance to get to know our other groups. I’ll be challenged, and struggle, and succeed right along with you guys. AND IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME.

Want to start this crazy journey with me? Or heck, just watch me flail a little and be human? Check out the program. I think it’s gonna be pretty powerful.



How To Use Habits for Weight Loss (WITHOUT counting calories)

Guest post by Sean Flanagan

Often when Amber or I talk about how a calorie deficit is what produces weight loss and how a calorie surplus causes weight gain, people assume that this has to be achieved via calorie counting.

Being aware of calories is great and there can totally be value there, however 1) you’re not going to count calories forever (we hope), and 2) unless you’re in a tightly controlled scientific laboratory, your estimates for your calorie intake are always going to be exactly that – estimates.

So how can we create a calorie deficit without aiming for a specific number?  There are four different broad brush categories of habits that we use in the Habit Project to accomplish this – each category complimenting the other.

Category 1: Satiety and Eating Pattern Awareness 

I’m kind of cheating here since becoming more aware of your current patterns is essentially a built in “meta habit” that ALWAYS happens when focusing on changing your habits one at a time.  But specifically, we also have the “record what you eat” habit which is 100 percent focused on becoming aware of current eating patterns.

In addition to the increasing awareness of what you eat, there is also increasing awareness for your body’s satiety and hunger signals.  Learning how to identify true hunger from hunger resulting from boredom, as well as what “satisfied” feels like compared to “stuffed”, is critical for creating a calorie deficit without counting calories.  If you’re always eating when not hungry and eating until stuffed, your chances of creating a calorie deficit are not very high.

I put these in the same category as there is a lot of overlap – often when people record what they eat, they start becoming aware of times where they eat mindlessly and then start the practice of checking in with their hunger/satiety.  When we transition to habits on satiety awareness, we take this eating pattern awareness and we bring it to the next level.

Category 2: Food Habits That Maximize Satiety

Being aware of your satiety signals is awesome!  What happens though if you’re paying attention to your satiety signals but the foods you’re eating add a lot of calories without adding a lot of satiety?  This is where playing with the dietary variables that support satiety come into play.  It’s even possible that your time practicing your satiety awareness has taught you a few things about what types of foods make you fuller than others.

We have a few different food habits that we use to support satiety – but the big two are really our protein and veggie habits.  Most people can benefit from eating more protein, more veggies, or both.  And they make a huge impact on how full we get.

Some meal time variables that impact satiety are; 1)Fiber content, 2) water content, 3) protein content, and 4) slowness of eating.

Category 3: Physical Activity Habits

The benefit of physical activity for creating a calorie deficit is of course that moving more means burning more calories per day.  There are a few different ways we like approaching movement habits – mainly we like to create habits that help people find enjoyment in walking and their preferred methods of resistance training.

The important thing to emphasize here is that the physical activity habits on their own are ALWAYS still good for health, but it’s the appetite awareness and the maximizing of the satiety value of meals that enables the increases in movement to lead to a calorie deficit.  If increased exercise leads to increased hunger and increased hunger means more meals where you’re eating until you’re too full with mostly foods that don’t contribute much to your satiety, you could end up accidentally creating a calorie SURPLUS rather than a deficit.

Category 4: Habits That Maximize Your Chances for Success

The 4th category is essentially all of the behaviors that contribute to a calorie deficit in a less direct way, but are still powerful for creating the health and fitness that you are aiming for.  Our habit focused on self-compassion is the example we’re the most proud of from this category – as many Habit Project members have reported this habit had a strong impact on how they performed on every other habit.  Apparently self-compassion doesn’t burn many calories, but does impact a bunch of different components of your life to make the entire process less bumpy and more direct.

Other habits from this category would be sleep-related habits, as sleep helps to enable you to be more active AND become more aware of your satiety.  Food and lifestyle skills habits like planning and prepping can also fit into this category.

Want Help Making These Habits Actually STICK?

While of course coaching is helpful for making changes, the combination of coaching AND community is super powerful.  The more you support your team, the more they’ll support you, and the more you support each other the more you’ll feel accountable TO your team.  In other words, the amount of energy you put into your community will help determine the power of the community in helping you create change.

We’re incredibly proud of the communities we create in the Habit Project, and we hope you’ll be a part of our newest one.  On July 13th, we start our 12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp (exclusively on iPhone/iPad) and enrollment is now open.

Over the 12 weeks, we’ll be focusing on all 4 of the habit categories talked about in this article – spread over 6 different habits – to help you build a strong foundation in your habit-based approach towards fat loss success.

Registration closes Wednesday at 6:30pm pacific time/9:30 eastern – you can grab your spot here:

And we do have something for those without an iPhone! Our Facebook-based Habit Project has rolling admissions, check it out, and sign up for the next admission day here:
Facebook Habit Project

Talk soon,

Sean Flanagan

How the Habit Project Gave Me Freedom and Sustainable Weight Loss

Guest Post by Habit Project alum Meredith Gafill

“The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.”  From the book Habit, by William James

This sums up my experience with the Habit Project better than I ever could.  Simple to the point of boring but so spot on.


I came to be a part of the Habit Project by accident.  I had signed up with Amber Rogers and Sean Flanagan to participate in their Body Recomp Program late last year.  I had been working out pretty religiously but wasn’t seeing the results that I wanted.  Not quite enough muscle definition, a bit too much flab.

I was convinced that if I could just push myself a little harder that these goals would be mine.  Push, push, push.  If I could just do more and eat less, I would be better.  Push, push, push.  Work harder.  Eat some magical combination of foods invented by someone smarter than myself.  Push, push, push.

As it turns out, a week or so after I started the Recomp program, I found out that all that push, push, pushing had left me with a torn labrum in my left shoulder.  Surgery would be in a few weeks and there would be no way to continue my kettlebell training.  Benched!  Even worse I wouldn’t be able to do all the house and gardening chores that helped me burn so many, many calories.  I felt totally bereft.  Everything was going to fall apart.

Suddenly, the Recomp program seemed silly.  If I couldn’t lift then what was the point?  Lucky for me, as I was checking in on the Recomp Group Facebook page, one of the other members of the group posted about the Habit Project.  She asked Sean if she could switch out of the Recomp Program and try the Project instead.  I was intrigued and asked for the same favor and was quickly welcomed into Group Panther, a division of the Habit Project.  I had no idea about what I was doing there but things started rolling and I was learning as I went.

I had my surgery right after the switch and was pretty out of it for a few days but continued to check in with my team and read what others were experiencing with their habit work.  As the days went on and I was finally able to live without handfuls of painkillers, I started to engage and participate in the first activity habit.  Movement, exercise, some kind of workout.  Could I do something every day?  What would I like to do?  Was I sure that I could do it daily?  Once a week?  Twice?  Thrice?  I settled on a morning walk, five days a week.  You create your own goals in the Habit Project and walking was all I could really do.  Nothing epic, but it was a start.  Seemed a bit too easy but what the heck?  I’d just try it.  That morning walk has been with me ever since and I continue to absolutely love it.  I can count the days that I have missed and they have only been because I was sick as a dog or had an unusually early appointment, which is rare.

Success!  Right out the gate!  I was reporting to my group daily and even participating as a group leader at times.  We worked on one habit every two weeks and that we had to check in was what kept me REMEMBERING to do my new habit.  Kept me on track, working towards bettering myself and creating a healthier lifestyle.  The successes kept me engaged with the program.

I was patting myself on the back instead of always judging that I was doing too little.  That little thing?  Walking daily? It kept me from gaining weight during my long recovery (in fact, I lost weight) and I found that starting my day with a nice easy walk put me in a better frame of mind than my previous habit of grueling  5 to 8 mile runs.  And I did it while eating very well as the next few habits were all based on taking in the proper amount of protein and vegetables.

I won’t take you through every habit in the Project but I will tell you a few things you can expect.  No one will ever tell you what you may or may not eat.  You will not be given a strict plan to follow.  You will not have any activity taken away, nor will you be required to use equipment or follow a particular exercise regimen or plan.  You will be given a habit and then Sean, Amber and the rest of your group will be there to help you scale it to your lifestyle and needs at the time.  I know, that sounds like work.  You were hoping for a magical recipe to perfection….  Really, this is so much better because you invent your new life the way you want it, which is easier to maintain for life.  These little changes?  They lead to the freedom William James was referring to in the quote at the beginning of this post.

Freedom.  I now have a handful of habits that streamline my days and make things so much easier.  I eat 3 solid meals and have at least 5 servings of veggies on most days (I used to be a vicious meal skipper- I thought it was a good thing to fast) and my energy level is much higher than when I was skipping meals right and left.  I take a good protein powder and probiotic daily.  I walk 5 days a week and lift 3 days with pull up training in between.  I go to bed and rise around the same time daily and I shut off the computer about an hour before bed and don’t look again until I rise- this helps my mind calm so that I can rest better.  I am nicer to myself (Self-compassion habit!) and have found that I am generally more relaxed and have a more positive outlook these days.  I am done push, push pushing all the time.

In the end, I lost 8 lbs without ever giving up a food group or a meal.  My weight hasn’t fluctuated more than 3 pounds in the last 8 months and I now enjoy knowing that my clothes fit all the time.  I feel better and I am rarely ‘hangry’.  I am a lot more accepting of myself as I feel really good about the changes that I’ve made.  I am 100% positive that my changes are sustainable and quite honestly now that I have practiced these habits for such a long time I find it hard NOT to do them.  Plenty of days I have rationalized why I don’t have time to do my workout only to find myself on the mats getting in sets between loads of laundry and stripping sheets off beds.

 I just started my own new habit upon returning from vacation and I have a recipe for success.  I created the habit and have a way of checking in with that habit daily.  In two or three weeks, that habit will be mine and I will hardly have to think about it again.  I’ll just do it.  Freedom is what the Habit Project is all about.  You learn the recipe, the procedure and then you practice it until you own it.

Note from Amber: for a limited time, Sean and I are enrolling for our 12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp exclusively on iPhone/iPad via an app designed for programs like ours.  To learn more and claim your spot, go here:  Habit Project On-Ramp

Want to Become Strong, Confident and Healthy without Fads or Deprivation? Got an iPhone?

For the past 8 months, Sean Flanagan and I have been running our latest community and coaching program the Habit Project. The results have been really cool – people who felt like they were previously spinning their wheels or backsliding in their health and fitness journey have been steadily moving forward creating the habits that support their goals.

The approach is super simple… and that’s why it works so well. We harness the power of community and coaching support to maximize success with the small, day to day habits that impact our bodies and our health… one habit at a time.

Within the Habit Project, each small team supports one another in the systematic implementation of new behaviors, focusing on one habit for two weeks, before moving onto the next.

I’m really excited, because today I get to announce a new way to get started with the program. It’s called the 12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp and it’s our first group that will take place exclusively on an app for programs like ours. For now, this app is exclusively available on iPhones (and iPads).

Here are some reasons why you may want to check this out:

1) Sean and I mapped out the habits that we think are the most foundational. We’ve found some habits work great for newer people and some habits work better if you have some more time in the program first. So after observing how different habits have worked with our groups in the last 8 months, we outlined the 6 habit sequence that we think will have the greatest impact for helping you create a strong habit foundation and seeing the most immediate changes in your health and fitness.

2) You don’t need to be on Facebook. Oh believe me, I know how distracting Facebook can be. With the app, the only things to do and the only notifications you’ll receive will be related to your participation in the program. This will allow you to participate more in the program – on your terms – without getting sucked into the usual Facebook nonsense and distractions.

3) You start with other Habit Project newbies. The experience and support of our Habit Project members is invaluable, but it can be scary for some new people to join an established group as one of the few new people. With this program, you’ll know you’re starting off on the same foot as everyone else.

If the 12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp sounds interesting to you, check it out here:

12 Week Habit Project On-Ramp

This is our first ever group on the app so I have no idea how long spaces will remain. Technically, enrollment is open through July 8th. But if this group sells out, enrollment will be closed until we decide on the start date for the next on-ramp.

How To Be Beautiful

Ok, ok, sorry for the cheesy title.

Several years ago, before I started Go Kaleo, I entered a contest run by Women’s Health Magazine called ‘Fittest Friends’. I submitted a picture (along with a couple hundred other women) and there was a public vote on the pictures. I actually won the public vote, kind of by a landslide. But when the celebrity panel of judges decided on a Grand Prize winner from among the top ten vote-getters, they actually chose another entrant. It was an interesting experience (you can read my blog post about it here). Very shortly after, I started my Go Kaleo blog and facebook page. The Fittest Friends contest was actually one of the impetuses for creating this movement. It was pretty obvious to me that the public was hungry for a different “face of fitness”, and I wasn’t seeing it provided by the fitness industry monoliths, so I decided to start it myself.

In the years since, I’ve seen some amazing shifts in the industry. I like to think that I, and others like me (like James Fell, Disrupt Your Diet, Sean Flanagan and others) had a hand in bringing about that change. While shame-based advertising is still the ‘normal’, there’s a powerful groundswell happening, and more and more fitness and health professionals are calling out that shaming and creating a new standard, of self-compassion, compassion for others, and joyful self care.

It Cosmetics is running a video contest with the theme ‘Your Most Beautiful You’. With the memory of the Fittest Friends competition, I see an opportunity to bring this message of self compassion to the beauty industry. Help me do it. Please ‘like’ and share this video! Lets shift the thinking. Makeup not as disguise to blend in, but as self-expression to stand out. And on a deeper level, a message that who you are as a unique individual is important and worthy of expression, and when you value the qualities that make you YOU, people who are looking for those qualities will be drawn to you. It can start with something simple like the way you do your eyeshadow, but the more you honor and express your authentic self, the easier it will get. And over time, you will find yourself growing and thriving, speaking out in ways you never thought you could, recognizing how valuable your time and passions are, and you will begin to effect those around you – and the world.

This video is about makeup, yes. But it’s about so much more as well. People thought I was crazy when I started my blog, but look what happened. So, you may think this video is crazy, but lets see what we can DO. Please like and share. Join the revolution. Take up space. Be #partofthesolution #VoteItGirl

Click here to see (and like, and share) my video.

Thank you friends!

5 Things I Stopped Being Afraid of When I Learned How to Science

Yes, I used science as a verb there. And when I say I ‘learned to science’, what I mean is I learned to read and understand a scientific study, I learned to think critically and apply the rules of critical thinking to the information I was consuming, and I learned how to tell a credible source from a thinly veiled sales pitch disguised as ‘news’.

critical thinking in wood type

We are creatures driven by fear. Marketers take advantage of that and make us fear…well, anything and everything. And then when we’re nice and afraid, they handily provide a solution to those fears, a product you can buy that will protect you. The ‘Organic and Natural’ guru scares the bejeezus out of you with gruesome tales of rats with tumors from GMOs (and the subsequent green juice detox sales pitch), while the conservative talk radio host fills you with dread at the looming fiscal Armageddon (and then offers you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in gold! Gold!).  Like pretty much everyone else, I’ve fallen victim to this form of stealth marketing, in fact I probably still do now and then, even though I’ve gotten MUCH much better at recognizing it.

So, without further ado, here are 5 things I used to be afraid of, until I learned how to science.

1. The Government

Have you heard the rumors that ebola was invented by the Government as a population control device with the ultimate goal of rounding us all up into FEMA camps? Yeah, I never got quite THAT deep, but there have been times in my life where I’ve gotten a little paranoid and conspiracy minded. It was actually kind of gratifying thinking that the government cared enough about me that it wanted to destroy my health and livelihood and be all up in my business.

I imagined I was much more important than I really am, and that made me feel good about myself. It also gave me the (false) sense that I had Special Knowledge that not everyone was privy to. Turns out, though, that The Government has bigger things to worry about, and actually would prefer I be a healthy and functional member of society, because then I can pay taxes. And really, The Government could give a rats ass about what I text to my husband to bring home from the grocery store. For real, yo.

2. Big Pharma

The Pharmaceutical industry is certainly powerful and profitable. But it’s not trying to make/keep me sick. Big Pharma has never forced a pill down my throat. It HAS, however, produced medicines that have improved my quality of life, and actually SAVED my life a couple times over. Could there be better oversight? Sure. Is there a seamy underbelly of the industry? I imagine so. Is Big Pharma a monster waiting to snare me and force me to become addicted to a hundred different pills? Uh…no.

Nowadays, I’m actually much more concerned by the far less regulated supplement and ‘natural health’ industries, which are free to sell any number of untested, unproven magic concoctions at rather extraordinary prices, unburdened by the kind of regulation and oversight that the pharmaceutical industry is subject to. “Don’t buy the medicine pill, buy my snake oil pill instead” the supplement marketers bark at me from the internet. As if.

3. GMOs

Oh, the fearmongering about GMOs abounds! And I found myself ensnared in it. But the more I learned about the science of biotechnology, and more importantly the potential benefits, the less worried I became, until one day I found myself wistfully hoping that Big GMO would hurry up and invent a drought-resistant mango tree that I could grow in my Northern California back yard. Wouldn’t that just be the bee’s knees?

Oh yeah, and that ‘study’ with the terrible images of rats riddled with tumors supposedly from GMOs? It was retracted. It was later republished, but the (well earned) damage to Seralini’s credibility had been done. And then I fell in with a crowd that reads science journals and websites like and (neither of which sell essential oils on their sites – in fact they don’t sell anything) and after that I just couldn’t bring myself to live in terror any more.

4. Skyrocketing Cancer Rates

Who WOULDN’T be terrified at the ever increasing rates of cancer we’re constantly hearing about? Is it our food? Something in our environment? Is The Government running secret population control experiments on us? Best to eliminate every chemical from our lives and spend all our money on pure clean chemical free food and personal-care products, right? I mean people are dropping like flies over here!

Except when I learned how to find and read actual studies, imagine my surprise at learning that cancer rates aren’t skyrocketing. They’re not even increasing. In fact, they’ve declined slightly. What? But all the websites/magazines/diet gurus/essential oil marketers led me to believe cancer was skyrocketing. If they were wrong about that, I wonder what else they were wrong about.

5. Chemicals

“OMG did you know [insert food producer] puts [insert scary-sounding chemical] into their [insert food product]?? They’re pumping us full of chemicals and we wonder why cancer rates are increasing!” I admit, this line reeled me in more than a little. I filled my shopping cart, both in the grocery store and online, with ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘this-free’ and ‘that-free’ products, and emptied my wallet into the pockets of Big Organic and Big Placebo. I was a Natural Mom, dammit, and that made me safe. And better than everyone else. Right? All in an effort to protect my family from the deadly chemikills. Except that I learned how to science, and began to realize that everything is chemicals, and that a lot of those scary sounding chemicals the marketers were telling me were dangerous were actually things like salt. And vitamins. And vinegar.

Every substance on earth has a chemical name, including the air we breath and the water we drink and the compounds that form the tissues of our bodies. Being a chemical doesn’t make something bad. Everything is chemicals. And being natural doesn’t make a chemical safe. Arsenic is natural. Snake venom is natural. Diptheria and measles and tetanus are natural. Oh yeah, and being man-made doesn’t make something dangerous. Science takes the active compound from a natural substance, isolates and refines and standardizes it, tests it and regulates it and makes it safer and more effective, and turns it into a medicine that can save or improve lives. This is not a bad thing, yo.

Science is a good thing. And learning how to critically evaluate the information you consume can be one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. You don’t have to actually be a scientist to be able to recognize a credible source of information. You just need to know how to evaluate an argument and determine if it is strong and based on verifiable evidence, or if it is weak and based on flawed logic. This skill can be applied to all sorts of information, not just science – it can be applied to political rhetoric and cultural establishments and religious dogma.

Want a reader friendly place to start? Check out the Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.

And there’s also some of my other posts on this topic:

Cognitive Dissonance
The Straw Man



Disorder in Diet Culture, Habits for Fat Loss, and DEADLIFTING

I sat down for and interview with Coach Cox on Saturday, and we had a GREAT discussion. We covered quite a bit including strength training, recognizing disorder in Diet Culture, and establishing new habits to support fat loss. Be sure to check out Coach Cox’s website here, and you can watch the video below.