keto : transformation tuesday - manuela

On May 19, 2017 I had a physical at my doctor’s office. I learned I was the heaviest of my life weighing in at 228.8 pounds, (obese), high LDL cholesterol, elevated liver enzymes and was a few points away from being pre diabetic. His next words stunned me the most “Are you aware that you may have a heart murmur? You should have a cardiologist check it out to make sure,”. To say I was stunned was an understatement. I’m not sure when cardiologist was in my life plan, but I can say it wasn’t at 38. I am a mom to 3 small children and was nursing my then, 10 month old baby. This was far worse than I could’ve anticipated and I left the doctors office with a new found motivation. I vowed the next time I return, I’d be a new person and my Keto journey began out of utter desperation.

I had a long history of trying all sorts of diets and fads from calorie counting, weight watchers, personal training sessions, junky low carb and even took a shot at being vegan for about 2 years. If I was going to be successful I need accountability. I informed my mom and sister of my doctors visit. It hurt to share but I knew I needed to speak my truth for accountability. They were so supportive and my sister suggested I take another shot at Keto. With my new found motivation, I decided to really give it my all and see if it could work. This time, I didn’t want to cut corners and I wanted to prove I could slay my eating game. I vowed to not workout and to see if I could lose the weight by addressing food and face a lifetime of food addictions.

When I returned 6 weeks later, my doctor he was utterly astounded at my success and told me to not change a thing.

I knew little about Keto, but immediately started while my motivation was at its highest. I worried if I tried to “learn it all” my motivation would likely wane. I started and immersed myself in all things Keto reading articles, watching youtube. Macros confused me and I grew overwhelmed until I stumbled upon Keto with Case, a You-tuber, who simply tracked carbs. She followed Dr. Eric Westman’s approach to Keto by consuming less than 20 grams of carbs, moderate protein, moderate fat and only eating when physically hungry. Don’t worry about being perfect. Simply start and little by little tighten up your game and get a little better each day.

When consuming carbs I found my body constantly hungry. I ate all day long, was never hungry or felt full for very long. The feeling of hunger scared me and always snacked to ensure I was never hungry. Once fat adapted, I was rarely hungry and ate 1-2 meals per day. When the body’s fuel source is glucose (carbs), it’s like keeping a fire going with leaves. Many leaves are needed and require to be constantly added. Whereas, a fat adapted body is like using an oak log to the burn the fire. In this case, much less food is required along with meal frequency.

I tracked fervently and I ate only the food mandated by Dr. Westman. This meant eliminating grains, beans, sugar, starchy veggies, nuts, and most fruit with the exception of berries. In the first week I lost 11 pounds along with my carb cravings. After 3 weeks I was down 21 pounds. Hope ignited as I enjoyed the wonderful food and I quickly began addicted to the results.

The most difficult part of the journey is the first 2 weeks with physical withdrawals from the absence of carbs, the worry of failing yet again, and the pressure to learn everything. It feels like so much to learn and can feel restrictive with tracking. It won’t feel that way forever. Pay your dues and it will get easier with time. Take one small step at a time, be patient and don’t try to master everything at once. It’s a journey so the best way to attack is through small steps. Start with simply tracking everything you eat to see where you are. Then eat only Keto foods. Then keep your carbs under 20 grams. The more you master, the more momentum you gain. Soon you will be trailblazing your weigh loss game.

The second hardest thing is social gatherings. But be determined to succeed. Make no excuses and don’t cheat. If you cheat cravings come back to haunt you and you need to kick the cravings all over again, not to mention KETO FLU! Keto flu is an imbalance of electrolytes with a slew of unpleasant side effects (nausea, head ache, chills, etc). This can be managed through potassium, magnesium and salt (buillion is a favorite choice). A cheat can kick you out of ketosis for 7-10 days. That scared me straight. Simply make the tough choice to succeed and it’s all down hill from there. My hunger for results outweighs my desire for food. You need to be creative and choose to keep it Keto. Never arrive at an event hungry or bring something you can eat and/or drink. Now I find social gatherings and even the holidays are easy and enjoyable. They are no longer food focused but about enjoying the company. I could not care less about the “treats” around me.

Keto is amazing because it’s easy to make it happen in almost any situation.

You can Ketofy almost any recipe, most parties have some kind of a protein you can enjoy or if there is absolutely nothing to eat, I no longer fear being hungry. If there is nothing to eat I always carry snacks in my purse. I’m addicted to Chomps, a grass fed meat stick, to hold me over and hitting up a Wing Stop for chicken wings or devouring a protein style 4x4 from In-N-Out.

Keeping fat moderate was a game changer. I am far from fat phobic, as I regularly enjoy chicken with the skin or a fatty piece of protein. The weight really started coming off when I transitioned my consumption from high fat to moderate fat. This allowed my body to use the fat reserves on my body as fuel and not the solely the food I was consuming. After 5 months I achieved my dream goal of 149 pounds. I wasn’t sure I would ever achieve, and even more thrilled with the fact I accomplished it in such a short period of time. One thing that surprised me the most is the maintenance lacks the excitement of the weight loss journey. Enjoy the experience as the chase of getting closer to joy is thrilling. Once you hit maintenance the excitement is gone.

I enjoyed the weight loss, but the greatest benefit is the emotional healing. I realized that my overeating was due to unhealthy boundaries and fear of honesty. I was afraid to be vulnerable and honest so I ate my feelings. I started taking risks of sharing my truth on my Instagram page. I was surprised at how well received this vulnerability was and it gave me the confidence to continue speaking the truth in personal areas of my life. I peeled away many layers of my past as I faced them head on. I also found love in who I was and what I had accomplished. Don’t wait for you to reach goal to love on yourself. Find gratefulness in your current circumstances. Previously in my “thin” times, I didn’t appreciate and love on myself. You can make all your goals and still lack joy. Choose joy and take in the positive, it will automatically help you filter the negative.For the first time, I was enjoying life through new eyes. I was free of so much baggage I once carried both literally and metaphorically. I felt like a child living life for the very first time. Each day more thrilling than the next, but not all was roses.

I always anticipated when I lost my weight there would be rainbows and all my dreams would come true. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Losing weight is great but it doesn’t solve all your problems. You will still have insecurities, so be realistic in expectations. You need work on all avenues. Life happens and challenges any aspect of our life be it diet, working out, anything that doesn’t come naturally and takes effort. Those wins will be tested and may not “stick”. If I’m being honest I would wonder if I could maintain Keto long term. I’d allow my mind to wander there and quickly push those thoughts to the wayside. Well, life happened to me this year and it rattled my Keto lifestyle, but I still remained on my eating plan. While I had an increase of less healthy choices but I still remained Keto. It’s a greater win to be grasping at a string then a flawless eating plan. I take this as a major win as I’ve always been derailed in my past. I confidently and proudly truly turned a new page. It’s never too late. Keep at it. It will stick one of these days. Those past failures are not failures but building blocks to give you a variety of experience and ultimately allow success.

I am 15 months into my Keto journey and 9 months into maintenance. I’ve lost 89 pounds and my 5’9” frame is 139.8 pounds and a size 2. While all of those things are wonderful what is even better is knowing I’m the healthiest of my life and I feel amazing. My blood work is all great and I have no markers of my previous health issues. I no longer weigh myself daily and am less militant with my eating. Celebrate and find joy in your non scale victories. Free yourself from the scale.

The food in Keto makes this lifestyle utter joy. The fact that chicken thighs, ribeyes, bacon, eggs, heavy cream are all regular staples. My favorite recipe is Nom Nom Paleo’s Instant Pot Kahlua Pig - it’s simple, delicious and a snap to throw together. It’s versatile and can be made in carnitas, even crisped up for breakfast with eggs over easy. It yields many leftovers and is even loved by non-Keto diners. I intermittent fast most days consuming coffee, heavy cream and collagen in the mornings, breaking my fast after 16 hours. I did an extended fast for 43 hours and I really struggled with it. I’m not sure when I’d do another as it was difficult.

I workout 4-5 times per week and keep my workouts from 45 mins to 90 mins. I started working out 4 months into my journey and do it for fine tuning. When I started I couldn’t do a pushup and forget about a pull up (I can do 1). When I first started I couldn’t workout for 7 mins straight with taking multiple breaks. But now I’m much stronger. Another time in life when I was fit was when I was vegan, I ran a lot. I got to the point I was running 100 miles a month. I was vegan and consuming approx 425 g carbs a day. I diligently trained and was thrilled to run a half marathon and break a 9 min mile. As a fat adapted athlete, I’ve completed a 5K and a 10K. The 5K was completed with 8:35 average miles and in my 10K I broke a 7 minute mile. I’m completing my gym sessions with ease by working smarter, not harder. I’m astounded by the results in a fat adapted state. I train 4-5 times a week doing mostly body weights with minimal cardio and yet I’m significantly faster than my carb days.

For those aching to lose weight you need to decide that you are going to succeed. A few tough choices are the difference between success and mediocrity. Cheats lead to days, weeks, months and even years of bad choices. Don’t allow it. Simply be addicted to success under all circumstances. Be obsessed with success, learn all you can and don’t get stagnant in your walk. It is possible and doable. Soon you’ll be at a point in your walk where you don’t recognize the person you were and blown away by who you’ve become! Remember it isn’t a straight path. There are bumps in the roads and setbacks but those set backs give you the opportunity to learn and broaden your horizon. It’s okay to take the wrong path, but look at it as the scenic route and an essential path on your journey. Enjoy that journey, I wish I would’ve been more mindful to enjoy the process as I miss it. I also wish I would’ve taken more pictures in the beginning. You will love to look at them and compare as you progress. Even you never share them with the outside world but to enjoy them on your own.

One of the greatest compliments is someone who tells me they are inspired by my story. I failed so many times and so much of my life was littered with being unsuccessful. The feeling of finally reaching this goal, maintaining, thriving and being free still chokes me up. I’m not special or a freak of nature. I simply kept trying and refused to give up. My failed moments did not go to waste they’ve helped me arrive to a place I’m very grateful to be enjoying. Do this for yourself. It’s not about how you start but how you finished. Have the bravery to take even one small step! You got this!!!

Follow Manuela on Instagram: @manuelafung