NEW ADVICE COLUMN: Ask Kayla | #1 "Unhappy in Overweight Purgatory"

Kayla Butts, MS, RD, LD


Dear Kayla,

I'm a 35 year old woman in good health. I think that I am a healthy eater, moderate exerciser, but consistently carry around about 20-30 extra pounds. When I try and lose weight, and really (really) reduce the amount of food I eat, I see results, but can never keep it going long term, and often suffer from low energy. Do you have any tips for losing weight, but feeling full?

Thank you, 

Unhappy in Overweight Purgatory

Kayla's Answer:

Dearest Unhappy,

You, my friend, are like most of the rest of us. You feel like you’re making good choices, eating right, exercising,…you know the drill…but unless you go on an unrealistic starvation diet, you just don’t get the results you want. (And who can stand to eat that much cabbage anyway?!). You’re not just imagining it. It is “a thing." And my heart aches for you because it was my thing for years. So, I’m going to give you the typical “I am a dietitian and required by law to provide you with peer-reviewed, research-based information that you probably already know and isn’t working” and then I’m going to tell you what actually worked for me.

Advice from the dietitian:

First off, stop trying to starve yourself. No one can maintain it for very long without getting extremely ill, unhappy, and eventually being hospitalized.  You might be thin, but won't be very cute. To stay satisfied when cutting down portions you need three things: 1) protein, 2) fat (yes, I just said fat), and 3) fiber. These three nutritional powerhouses are more difficult for your body to digest, which keeps you feeling fuller longer, and can even burn more calories in the process.

Protein - Food sources of protein include meat, eggs, beans, milk and milk-products, nuts and seeds, and tofu (and other soybean-based meat substitutes).

Fat - You’re going to want to avoid those nasty trans fats, which are the real villains of the fat world.  Stick with fatty foods from natural sources, such as olives, avocados, nuts, and to an extent, pastured animals. If you know anything about nutrition you probably noticed that I mentioned "saturated" fat. Cue the red flag. “Who is this lady?! Saturated fats are supposed to be bad!” Well, actually, the scientific evidence out there is conflicting. We’re eating more polyunsaturated fats (read soybean, canola, and “vegetable” oils) than ever, but heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. Pastured meats, such as grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, pork, and so forth, are arguably better for your heart than soybean oil. They have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally raised meat.

Fiber – Foods high in fiber include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and beans.

If a diet is telling you to omit any of these foods, ditch the diet. After all, the first three letters in diet spell D-I-E. And dieting is not a fun way to go.

Advice from the Farmer:
When I met my husband five years ago I was doing everything "right", or by the book. I was eating low-fat, no-fat, whole grain, lean protein, high-fiber foods. I was exercising (and this is no exaggeration) at least 60 minutes 5-6 times per week, biking, jogging, weight-lifting with a personal trainer, the whole bit. I was also 25 lbs heavier than I am now. I was doing everything I knew as a dietitian to do and it wasn’t working.

photo credit: Rachel Durrent
I had acne. I had oily skin. My hair was, well, not great. I was lethargic and hungry, and frankly ticked off most of the time because “WHY ISN’T THIS WORKING?!!”. Then, I met my husband, the farmer. He invited me over for dinner where he made me a bacon cheese burger. A BACON. CHEESE. BURGER.

Y’all, I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely petrified I was to eat that saturated-fat-filled meat sandwich that contained all the things I never let myself eat. But I didn’t want to be rude. To my amazement, this was no ordinary bacon cheese burger. Every ingredient was grown or raised on his farm.  The beef was grass-fed; the bacon was from pastured porkers. The bread was homemade, baked that morning. The tomatoes were vine-ripened. The pickles were cucumbers soaked in vinegar and canned from last year's harvest. All of this food was grown without any chemicals whatsoever. It was completely wholesome, and it was one of the best things I had ever tasted.

That, friends, was the first step on my evolving journey with food. I began to value food not for a lack of calories or fat, but for the wholesome goodness it contains. The kind of goodness that can only be brought forth from the earth, the way God intends it (no labs or chemicals needed).

Now, as a wife and mom, I make homemade bread with butter and wheat flour. I eat pastured pork, beef, chicken, and eggs. I avoid pesticides and herbicides like the plague.  I drink raw milk from cows that aren’t given hormones. I stop putting good-smelling crap in my hair and started cleaning my house with vinegar and baking soda. And I lost 10…15…20 lbs. Twenty pounds. I finally hit my target, my dream weight, and I was eating all the bread, meat, eggs, whole milk and (yes, even bacon) I would never let myself eat way back when my jeans were three sizes larger. 

Ask Kayla an Anonymous Question
about Healthy Living!

I’m sharing my story because I want you to know that I believe there is something in our food that is keeping us from feeling good and reaching our health and fitness goals. For the past three years, I have been researching how the pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics in our food system are keeping us overweight.  These chemicals force us to retain fat, overwork our endocrine system resulting in diabetes and thyroid disease, cause cancer, and kill the good guys in our guts that help us metabolize food and stay fit.

I'm rooting for you Unhappy. Limiting the chemical footprint of your foods is a huge commitment and a lot of work. It eliminates most of the convenient, ready made, pop in the microwave foods many people survive on today. It requires thought, preparation, and getting back in the kitchen and back to local food. It also really works. I know you can do it and I'm here to help.

Happy, healthy eating,
Kayla Butts, MS, RD, LD

Kayla Butts is a dietitian, farmer, and mom living on a 25-acre homestead with her husband and daughters in Rockport, Texas. Look for Kayla's recipes in The Bend Magazine, or at her blog:

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