low carb transformation : maggie

Being the fat kid is hard.

And trust me, I was always the fat kid. So, I know. I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t bigger than all my friends. No matter what school I was at, what dance class my parents signed me up for, or who I hung out with - I was almost always the biggest one around. People always saw me as this over-zealous, happy, headstrong girl. Which, to be fair, I was most of the time. Being fat didn’t necessarily negate that. But, not having control over, and confidence in my body and myself, definitely did suppress a lot of what could’ve been.

I can remember walking into rooms where I knew I didn’t know anyone and immediately scanning the crowd of strangers to see their body types to gauge how uncomfortable I should feel in my own skin that day. Then, like clockwork, I would lift my eyes up to their faces to check and see if any of them were also scanning MY body. Sometimes they were, sometimes they weren’t. That didn’t stop me from pushing my shoulders back and sucking in my tummy for as long as I could; hoping that the skinniest I could possibly make myself look would be their first impression of me. I guess that was my way of trying to trick people into thinking I was fit. This secret obsession with how others viewed me only encouraged more weight gain. The stress of caring so much about how people saw me, physically, led me to binge eat ANY chance I got. The food didn’t even have to be that good. If it was there, I would eat it. Because just the physical act of eating is what would calm me. But, the over-eating just made the pants sizes keep going up, and my self-esteem continue to drop.

Finally, I was tired of being the “fat kid.” Unfortunately, this was only because I was becoming the “fat adult.” And if being the fat kid was hard, being the fat adult was not going to be any easier. I made my way through college by periodically deciding to “get fit” and losing 20 pounds, and then getting sucked right back into my binge eating tendencies and gaining 30 back. This happened over and over for the entirety of my college career. I would lose weight by restricting my calories like crazy, and working out everyday. Then, once school work got overwhelming and my workouts went from everyday to every once in awhile, I would get upset with myself and retreat to eating plates upon plates of crappy dining hall food. I always told myself it was okay, because “I deserved it”. I convinced myself that my binge eating was acceptable because of the hard work I was putting into my academics. I would lie to myself over and over and over about how I wasn’t getting fatter, the scale was going up because I was clearly gaining more muscle. And science says an inch of muscle weighs more than an inch of fat. Yeah, well, being 288 pounds, when you are 5’6”, is not from too much muscle. It was from being unhealthy, and continuing unhealthy habits.

I graduated college (early) in December, 2016. And my childhood dream came true: I was no longer the fat kid! I was officially a degree waving, unemployed, city living, fat… adult. It was time to change, and change for good. I did what I always had done when trying to lose weight (because that’s all I knew); I restricted my calories and kept track of what I ate and I started going to the gym consistently again. Shocker! It was working! I lost a little over 30 pounds and I was so excited. But, I didn’t feel that great. I was always exhausted and had to drag myself to the gym everyday (and it was literally inside my apartment building at the time - so, it shouldn’t have been that hard to convince myself to go). Then, like always, I hit a plateau. It lasted for weeks. I cut my calories more, but it didn’t seem to help that much. I was getting frustrated and all I wanted to do was eat. I wanted to binge so bad. Because, when I was sad, or frustrated, or angry, food was always there to “comfort” me (temporarily). But, this time was different. I was so sick of ending up back in my old ways with the weight creeping on top of me again. I didn’t want to fail again this time. Because now that I didn’t have the stress of school, or the excuse of being a child to hide behind I could see how this weight was really going to affect my future.

I already told you that being the fat kid is hard. But, I think being the fat adult is harder. All of a sudden my eyes opened to what medical bills and expenses really looked like; and the fear of them skyrocketing if I developed diabetes or heart problems from my obesity terrified me. I could feel how my joints and my knees were aching from carrying around so much extra weight, and I realized that the habits and behaviors I embraced now were going to be the ones that impacted the future family I had always hoped to have. So, I sat down on the couch, with my “healthy” dinner (it was a bowl filled with white rice, some green beans, and a scrambled egg - which makes me laugh now). And did what most 21 year olds do when they are looking for inspiration - I pulled up my instagram and scrolled through all the fitness pages I followed. So many women my age, and older, had lost 100-200 pounds (or more)! What were they doing that I wasn’t? I immediately ignored any page that said they had a weight loss surgery. Not because it was a bad option for them. I think that it’s a completely valid decision that they made for their health. They clearly did what they needed to do to take control of their life and I will always be impressed with that. But, I knew there was no way I could afford any sort of surgery at this point in my life (I had already had my fair share of medical bills and surgeries from getting very sick when I was younger). So, what about the other people who had lost so much weight? What were they doing? I noticed one similar thing in the bios: Keto. What was Keto? I did some googling (as everyone does when they don’t know something), and found lots of testimonials about how a higher fat, and low carb diet was helping people lose weight. That made me so confused. I wanted to say, “NO! Aren’t you listening? Fat is what I am trying to get rid of! Not put more inside of me!”. Also, I knew from years of periodically counting calories that higher fat foods meant higher calorie count. So, shouldn’t we be avoiding those? It made no sense. But, I was so desperate to feel better, and get healthier that I decided to go for it (without really doing too much more research into it). I told myself I would do “keto” for a week, and see how I felt after my little trial run, to decide if it was something for me or not. I thought, worse case scenario, I gain a pound or two back and then I will know for sure that fat is not good and I should stick to focusing on calorie restricting and “normal” macronutrient percentages. The sites I was looking at said to aim for 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs. That seemed impossible to me, but, I figured I could make it 7 days. That first couple days were fine. But, the third and fourth were hard. I didn’t really know why at the time, because I didn’t really understand what the “keto flu” was, but basically my body was so confused to not have a high carb intake that it was making me feel like I had a touch of the flu. I mean, after all, I went from years of a mainly carb diet to cutting off sugar and carbs, cold turkey. The body naturally would need a few days to adjust. After the “flu” subsided, and my body adjusted to it’s sugar withdraws, the last couple days went smoothly. I probably hit about 8-12% carbs everyday instead of 5%, but I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I didn’t beat myself up over it. First week was done, and it was time to collect my final thoughts on my experiment. I was feeling pretty good, but what I was really curious about was the scale.

Five pounds. Five pounds were gone off of my body in one week; after sitting at a plateau for nearly a month. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. I decided this is it! This is the meal plan for me. As I continued to the keto diet, I started to do more research to understand what exactly is “keto/ketogenic” and what is the process of ketosis. I figured I should probably know what it was that I was trying so desperately to put my body into. I began to understand how in most american diets carbs are usually the main point of energy we provide our bodies; and a ketogenic lifestyle is encouraging you and your body to use fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates. When you have a lack of carbohydrates your body produces ketones, which in turn puts you in ketosis and you become a fat burning machine (both the fat you are consuming, and the extra fat on your body). I also learned that, probably, much of the 5 pounds I lost that first week was the release of the extra water weight held by the carbohydrates in my body. But, at that point it didn’t matter, because as I acknowledged this, I was also still watching the number on the scale continue to drop, and my body change, while I continued eating keto.

My research led me to learning about net carbs as well; and how to still get fiber into my diet without feeling like I am going overboard with carbohydrates. This made life a little easier; paying attention to 20 or less net carbs a day (and about 35 total carbs), rather than 5% carbohydrate intake. It started to make me really pay attention to nutrition labels and to see what was in some of the foods I was eating. That’s when my whole world turned upside down.

I discovered that everything I had been eating throughout my failed attempts to lose weight in the past were PACKED with sugar. PACKED. Skim milk- basically just meant that they took the fat content out and added sugar back in, to make it still taste okay. Low fat yogurts- between 18-39 grams of sugar per serving. I was disgusted! No wonder I always hit a plateau. (Yes, cutting calories when you are 280+ pounds will help you to lose weight- but, all that sugar I was consuming only kept me feeling hungry, exhausted, and with intense cravings because it is so highly addictive - clearly why it always led me back to binging). I felt so lied to by the food industry- teaching me that fat is the problem, and that sugar was the (secret) solution. Taking sugar out of my diet really made a huge change to the way I felt. Now that I had been doing a ketogenic diet for a couple months, I noticed that the intense migraines (that I used to have to take a very high dose prescription for) were gone and I no longer needed any medication. My sensitivity to light started to lessen, and my energy was up ten fold. I stayed full and satisfied much longer because of high fat food’s ability to break down slower, giving me a more steady amount of energy to burn throughout the day. I also found that I was sleeping better. Not less, because I love to sleep- and I will always sleep as much as I have time allotted for, but definitely better. I wasn’t as restless during the night and I could fall asleep faster, and get out of bed in the mornings much easier.

Since I started my ketogenic lifestyle in May of 2017, I finally feel like I have control over myself, mentally and physically. The weight loss has made my confidence skyrocket. But, not for the reason that you may think. Yes, it’s awesome to be able to shop in the regular sizes in the stores, and to know that when I walk into a room full of strangers they are less likely to judge my figure. Yes, it’s great, and natural, that after losing 95 pounds I feel sexier and more attractive in my own skin. But, that’s not where this confidence has come from. My confidence, my fierceness, and my motivation has come from the knowledge that I haven’t just changed my body, but that I have changed my life. It’s helped me learn that working out shouldn’t be used as a punishment for your body. But, it should be something you do daily because you LOVE yourself. Exercise makes me feel better, and keeps my body healthy. And with keto, I have so much more energy to really discover what my body is capable. I have learned to love going to the gym, and enjoy it; rather than using it as a slap on the wrist for what I ate that day. I sweat at the gym, because my body loves to sweat. I eat fat, because my body loves fat! I avoid sugar and carbs, because when I eat them - I feel like crap. It’s that simple. I know what my body wants and needs, and I can give it just that. I finally have control over myself, and my body. I am living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle that is going to keep me, not only healthy, but also happy. Because I don’t feel like I’m starving anymore. I don’t feel unsatisfied, with sad meal choices. I don’t feel like I am “dieting”. I feel like I am finally living the way I was always supposed to: with confidence in the fact that I finally understand how my body works, how nutrition works, and how I can intuitively listen to my body and fuel it with the right food choices. That kind of confidence cannot simply come from the way you look on the outside. It must derive from how you feel on the inside. I found it by embracing the ketogenic lifestyle and I can’t imagine ever going back. I was glad to say goodbye to that 95 pounds, but I’m more excited that I have now said hello to new, happier, healthier, Maggie.

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