Weight Loss Secret Found on Ozark Gravel Road

My Arkansas story is filled with unexpected connections and even the discovery of a lost piece of important folk art (read it here), but all of those unexpected twists and turns may not ever rival a key thing I learned when I returned to Arkansas.

In fact, I’ve thought for a few months about how I would even tell this story, and I wonder if it would have the same meaning to people reading it as it has for me.

The story ends on this exact gravel road in the Ozarks, but I need to take you back to September 2016, when my kids and I were on a week-long trip in Utah, on a day near Bryce Canyon in a place called Mossy Cave.

That week in 2016 was an important week in my life — it was a deeply impactful trip for us as a family. We left our home in the Sierra, in a forest looking apocalyptic, filled with dead and dying pine trees. Nearly 80% of our pine trees were dying due to the infestation of the bark beetle. The death of our pine forest weighed on our hearts. We sought greener forests in Utah.

We had no real plan for that trip and did not appreciate that the Dixie National Forest was a decade ahead of us in bark beetle devastation. Escaping the devastation of our own forest, we found examples of forest regeneration throughout the Dixie National Forest — perhaps our own future in ten years.

We stayed near Cedar Breaks and made extensive use of the rangers at the Cedar Breaks Visitor Center, who generously gave us a positive view of the future and an in-depth education on forest regeneration after the bark beetle and after the Utah wildfires.

The Dixie National Forest was filled with examples of the progression of conifer tree regeneration. We found areas recently burned with little vegetation. We found areas several years out with young aspen trees, and other patches a decade out with conifers growing amidst the aspen. It was an educational dream for a mom with two kids in tow, and it provided us with direct evidence that there is life after the bark beetle and after massive wildfires. (Our own wildfire devastation would come five years later.)

On my mind that same trip was an important personal question. Back in July, as I started another weight loss diet, I had started to ponder why I had not been able to maintain my weight loss over my 47 years. In July I committed to spend six months seeking a solution to weight loss maintenance. My thought was that once I had a maintenance plan, I would then do the work of losing weight but with more mindfulness of how I would maintain the weight loss.

That question was heavy on my mind for weeks, ever present as my kids and I drove through those regenerating forests with my kids.

Amanda Rose, near Cedar Breaks, Utah, September 2016

My older son, Frederick, was 14 and was becoming an avid hiker. I had never been a hiker but was pleased to support his interest and goals. As we drove through the Utah forests, Frederick insisted that we stop at every trailhead and encouraged us along, despite my physical limitations.

Frederick researched all of the shorter trails that we could manage and directed us to one called Mossy Cave, near the entrance of Bryce Canyon.

The Mossy Cave hike is a short mile round trip and is a charming little stop. A small creek runs through the area with a striking base of red rock.

As we took in the natural wonders at Mossy Cave, we learned an unexpected detail: That little red creek was not a natural creek at all.

Settlers in the late 1800s used picks and shovels to build a 10-mile canal, Tropic Ditch, to redirect water into a valley they would use for farming if it had more water. That little red creek was part of their canal system.

I gathered the kids around the educational sign at Mossy Cave, describing the hand-dug canal. We reflected together on the spirit and determination it would take to spend over two years hand-digging a 10-mile canal, and marveling at the vision those settlers had for improving their ability to farm their land.

Educational Sign at Mossy Cave describing the canal

I remember exclaiming: “What a legacy those families have! I would be PROUD to have such a family legacy!”

I found myself welling up with pride for the descendants of that Tropic Ditch project and wondered what the descendants were doing today.

Is that spirit of hard work and determination etched in their DNA somehow?

Are they out and about these days with the 2016 equivalent of a shovel and pick, changing their own lives one shovelful at a time?

Somewhere in all of those little hikes and all of that inspiration I found in regenerating forests and in Mormon pioneers digging a 10-mile canal with shovels, I landed on something that would change my life: I decided that a key to my own weight maintenance was in hiking.

I didn’t have a plan, no specific blueprint or direction, but I sensed I would arrive at a solution to my lifelong problem. I simply needed to follow the feet I saw in front of me: the trail shoes of a budding 14-year-old hiker.

We took this photo together as we hiked through Yellowstone National Park in August of 2017.

Yellowstone Before

We returned one year later for another photo.

Yellowstone After

Big Goal Beginnings in Utah, 2016

That Utah trip in 2016 was the beginning of what we call “The Big Goal” at Eat Like a Bear these days, a distinctive way our community thinks about goal-setting.

I exclaim to the Eat Like a Bear community regularly: “Make your goal BIG! Picture what you will be doing a year from now, not what you’ll look like, but what you will be doing in your most vibrant life. That is your BIG GOAL. Now go out today and engage in your BIG GOAL the best you can!”

My own pursuit of my BIG GOAL would take its own twists and turns, landing me with a knee injury on a family hiking trip. That injury would make me so desperate to lose weight that I would end up being approved for bariatric surgery, a surgery I would never have due to other twists and turns in this story. All of those twists and turns would drive unexpected and completely unpredictable success in weight loss and the viral emergence of the Eat Like a Bear community.

Looking back some years later, it is clear that the BIG GOAL drives a whole lot of success at Eat Like a Bear, and that the seeds of all of it were planted in Utah, in those regenerating forests and in the stories of shovels and picks.

It seems obvious to me now.

Losing life-changing amounts of weight takes the same consistency and commitment it took to build a 10-mile canal with nothing but shovels and picks.

The main difference was that those pioneers knew that consistent shoveling would get them to their goal.

Weight loss is filled with self-doubt and uncertainty, on the other hand. I know that well. It is why a big part of what we do in the community is provide evidence for others who are just starting on the path.

Our primary job is to build the social proof that we can get where we need to be, one shovelful at a time.

For me, all of this started with my BIG GOAL.

My BIG GOAL was to hike and I took my first steps in September in 2016 on those Utah trails.

The stop at Mossy Cave and its pioneering inspiration stands out among the many places we visited, so much so that in 2021 on a cross-country road trip, I made sure to stop at Mossy Cave again. I wanted my husband to see that little creek with its red creek bed. I directed him to the educational sign about the canal-digging settlers and I gave the same speech:

“What a legacy those families have! I would be PROUD to have such a family legacy!”

I was proud of those Utah families all over again in 2021, wondering what they were all doing these days with a distinct family history.

I reflected on this entire story, on all of the Utah shovels and picks, in October 2022 on a gravel road in a remote part of the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.

(You might recall that this is a story about Arkansas…)

The Ozark Gravel Road

In October of 2022, I toured an area in the Ozarks called Meadowcreek, where my great-great grandpa John Morrison and grandma Nellie Maynes Morrison raised their family in the late 1800s. My tour guide was Morrison family historian and my own grandpa’s first cousin, Glenn Morrison.

My family had lost contact with our Ozark family decades ago. I last visited in 1970 at age 18 months. I knew very little about my family’s history in the Ozarks.

On that fall day, Glenn drove me around the hundreds of acres of Meadowcreek in his Jeep, on the dirt and gravel roads. We visited an historic graveyard, the sites of the family homes long since gone, rock walls and fences. He drove me on a back route out of Meadowcreek, up to the larger community of Fox, and then descended the main gravel road to Meadowcreek.

As we descended the steep rocky road, Glenn stopped on the road, at its steepest part. He put the Jeep in park in the middle of the road.

He sat up tall with authority and turned to look directly at me:

“Your great-great grandma Nellie Morrison built this road by hand.”


  1. I worked at Bryce Canyon the Summer of 81. I was 21 110 lbs and just graduated from college. I am now 63 , 170 lbs and an empty nester. Can’t get the wt off that stupid Menopause and under active Thyroid put on. I long to return to Bryce but it’s been 1 trial after another. So discouraged.

  2. You have inspired me ovet the last three years to not only lose weight but be a better and more productive person. At75 I now work three days a week instead of retiring which gets me out meeting people and stop me being bored and hopefully being boring. Thank you. X

  3. Oh my what a legacy you have in your family too. Thank you for sharing things story. It was very interesting to read.

  4. I have had weight loss through the years, through different avenues, but in reading about intermittent fasting, I have come to the conclusion that that’s how I took weight off and maintained it up to my 40’s. I have continually gained weight the last 20 years and am now 60lbs overweight. I am determined to find a way to lose the weight and keep it off for the rest of my life. I plan to give your program my best and have a success story to add to your group.

  5. I’ve been lurking half heartedly for two years. Now I’ve started. The big goal seems overwhelming because it’s difficult from other weight loss goals. Reading about “hiking” seems small but to those of us who struggle it means something is possible. Thank you

  6. Two years ago during Covid isolation I lost 30 lbs. on the ELB program. Once restaurants opened and social eating with friends having people over and vacations, the weight crept back on. I can’t believe I let that happen. Hoping to get back in the program and set gists. I turn 70 in October and wouldn’t that be wonderful to see 30 lbs off by then? I’m only 4’11” so 30 lbs. is a lot for a short person.

  7. Your story is inspiring! I haven’t come up with a Big Goal, yet. Mostly because there isn’t a physical activity that is enjoyable enough or exciting enough to be a reason to lose weight. I will keep thinking as I am grinding on.

  8. What an AWESOME STORY Amanda! I choked up reading the ending!! Yay for Grandma Nellie! No wonder you’re leaping on the gravel road in your photo!
    I have decided on my BIG GOAL! I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I’m coming to the eclipse to FIND YOU!!! YOU ARE MY GOAL!!…& To be physically fit at my best to be Nanny-Grandma to my 3rd Grandbaby starting in November. I just told her Momma, (my DIL) this am, that I’m going to need about a week off starting April 6, 2024!!

    It’s over 13hrs South, 1way. (I live on the West Coast of Wisconsin along the Mississippi RIVER! Minnesota is just 5 minutes away, across an Interstate Bridge above the Mississippi.)
    I’ve NEVER done anything or been so excited about something like this FOR MYSELF FOR LIKE, WELL…EVER!! I can’t stop thinking about it, which is AWESOME, because it’s better than thinking about food!! Haha!
    I’m going to send a note to your Hub Sander in support. Oh BTW another little goal is to be a Century Bear by December & ANOTHER goal is to be a 1/2 my size bear by my 1yr back Anniversary in February ’24 or at least by Eclipse day, April 8th when I come to meet YOU!!
    Also, this is my 2nd time back to ELAB! I dropped 65+ #’s from 10/12/19 to 7/12/20.
    I was so PO’d at myself for not keeping on my health wagon to be one of your 1st Century Bears, or the 100th!! So that’ll be another AWESOME GOAL to be a “ROUND NUMBER, NOT A ROUND BODY!” 200TH? 205TH CENTURY BEAR?? I’m pulling on my bootstraps!
    Hammer Hammer HAMMER!!
    You were “In my head” on my 5 mile UP HILL (called a “Dugway” in WI almost a mountain! Lol) walk on Thursday.
    I go back in, & re-watch all your U-tube videos! I’ve decorated for Christmas for the past 3 years listening to you on U-tube!
    I’m SO GLAD I found your “Post Card From Yellowstone!!” I CAN do this! THIS Mama Bear CAN DO THIS! I’VE DONE A GOOD CHUNK OF IT BEFORE!
    Love, Lana Bear Boynton
    Thank you for being such an AWESOME INFLUENCER!!
    *I restarted & got my mind back in the right mindset. Feb 28, 23. I have shed 26# so far. Today 4/15/23.
    Go be AWESOME!

    1. LANA!!! You’ve made my whole day, maybe my whole year! What a GREAT year we are about to have!!!

  9. I started losing weight with KETO a few years ago. My starting weight then was 385 lbs. I lost 125 lbs over a two year period. But, then I plateaued for a year. I could not lose a thing. I struggled and then lucky me I came down with COVID twice. As a result, I quit my walking etc. and gained 20 lbs back. I have been very frustrated and my family has told me (bless their hearts) that maybe I have hit the weight that my body thinks it should be. Huh? I don’t believe that. I believe that I can do anything I set my mind to. However, sometimes in life its hard to get into the right mindset. I have been struggling to get back with the program. I found your Eat Like A Bear program on Facebook the other night. It is right up my alley! Its exactly what I have been looking for. It is simple and that is just what I need in my busy life style. It is how I WILL get rid of this last 120lbs! Thank you for sharing your program and your success. I look forward to hitting my goal with your program!!!!

  10. I broke my ankle three years ago and will finally give in and have ankle replacement surgery on May 30. I was overweight, but pretty fit, walking miles each day, climbing hills, and slowly losing weight.

    Since then I’ve gained a more and become, because of the severity of the ankle injury, far too sedentary. But I have new hope with the ankle surgery, I will have a lot of pain, and most of the summer in a wheelchair. But intend to get more serious about fasting regularly.

    I’ve been pretty consistent and good with intermediate fasting, mostly 18-20 hour fast, often going 21-22 hours. I recently did a 60+ hour water fast.

    Looking forward to learning from all of you here as I work to get my life back!

    Thanks Amanda. I’ve enjoyed your videos, and will keep watching.

  11. Heart-warming, powerful, magical, magnificent and heavenly revealing with a wondrous result!
    Well done, dear Amanda and God Bless you for inspiring and empowering soooo many others with both your story and the fruits of your labor of love since then! May the goodness of life pour through you in an avalanche of abundance on all levels. With love, Jack Miller xo…

  12. Aww! Thank you AWESOME AMANDA!! I can’t wait for that adventurous journey! You know, I have done the WW, the Slimfast Shakes, the blender smoothy/vegan. There was No Face, No contact, No Support System…& Thank my lucky Yellowstone search! I found YOU!! Even better, I came back, because I know ELAB & EF works for ME & MANY MANY gals over 50!
    It’s very doable & costs a whole lot less than going to the Dr after a lifetime of eating “the junk!” Many of the Bears have turned around their Diabetes II diagnosis, & HBP & weaned off their meds! Thanks so very much!!

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