How I Ultimately Lost 45 Pounds (and Counting) in Just Five Months
I’m a firm believer that wellness is not a destination that we ultimately reach. Instead, it is a life-long collection of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, the actions we perform, the foods we eat, the company we keep, the music we listen to, the media we consume, and how present we are for it all. Several years ago I underwent a mental shift. One day I woke up and knew that I wanted to take a holistic approach to my well-being, but had no clue where to start. The first change that I made was with my hair; I transitioned into being natural and never looked back. I stopped using relaxers and other harsh chemicals, and really embraced self-care and exploration. I felt great. Or so I thought.
About a year into that transition, I came across a post that a friend published on Facebook that stated something to the effect of “what good is it for me to provide natural self-care externally, if I’m not doing the same internally?” That dagger hit me straight in the heart (as I slowly released my bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos). Here I was on a high-horse about my natural hair, when I was still eating everything under the sun, my weight was steadily increasing, and I was all over the place spiritually.
The next day I decided to become a vegetarian.
I thought that if I stopped eating meat I would open a new portal to my self-discovery, lose weight, and become healthier overall. This was partially true. I learned a lot about my self during my two-year run as a vegetarian. I found creativity, strength, determination, and the satisfaction of living a lifestyle that many would find very difficult. The thing is, I didn’t feel much healthier and I lost almost no weight. This was because although I gave up meat, I replaced it with unhealthy substitutes to fill the void.
“Oh pancakes aren’t meat! I’ll take 5, extra syrup.”
As a result of this I began to harbor feelings of guilt, shame, and an overall unhealthy relationship with food. Everyone knew that I was a vegetarian, so I’d feel especially embarrassed when I’d bump into someone who I hadn’t seen in a while, yet I was heavier than I was the last time we saw one another. I’d go for runs and do other forms on exercise trying to combat my weight gain to no avail. When you hear the phrase “you can’t out-train a bad diet” please know that it is the truth! During this time I also began meditating and reading spiritual materials in hopes of improving my mood, my thoughts, and my feelings. These were things that I shared with no one, not even my very best of friends and family. Externally I smiled and laughed, but I was drowning in negative thoughts which clouded my judgement and told me that I didn’t need the help that they could provide.
I was an overall mess.
I felt anxious, depressed, and couldn’t find my inner-calm or contentedness. I felt as though I was at spiritual-war with myself.
I moved to a new city with the man who would eventually become my husband. I genuinely thought that this decision would save the day, and all would be well.
My feelings of euphoria quickly dissolved, and I found myself thinking the same thoughts as before. “I am in a new city,” I thought. “I have a great partner, a new job, and we live in a nice place.” So why was I just as unhappy as I was back at home? Why was I crying myself to sleep at night? Why was I rejecting the love and support that my partner was trying to provide me with? He would continuously ask me what he could do to ensure my happiness, but I could never think of an answer.
I then realized that my unhappiness had absolutely nothing to do with my surroundings.
I needed a change, and a big one. It was also around this time that I stopped my vegetarian way of eating. I was overwhelmed with change and on a very tight budget so it seemed like too much energy to exert to continue that lifestyle. I basically spent a year eating whatever I wanted with absolutely no dietary restrictions. It didn’t help that I moved to a city where breakfast tacos, churros, corn-in-a-cup, Big Red soda, and tortillas with everything is the norm (think: South Texas).
Needless to say I gained even more weight.
During that year, we also discovered that my boyfriend (it’s so weird calling him that now) had a serious illness, and was also pre-diabetic. He was hospitalized, and upon his return home we made heathy changes but ultimately went back to eating whatever was convenient.
He proposed to me on January 1, 2015. To say that I was overjoyed would be an extreme understatement. Through my weight gain, mood swings, and general unpleasantness, my best friend still wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I can only thank God for that. In addition to wedding-planning with my ever loving, generous, and kind parents, I began a very serious attempt to lose weight again. I don’t know how, but I one day stumbled upon a wealth of information regarding a ketogenic diet, and its health benefits. Thinking back on it, it was definitely a gentle nudge from the universe. I decided to go for it. I quickly dropped about 10-12 pounds, but ultimately gave up. The year quickly passed, and before I knew it I was walking down the aisle at my original weight, if not heavier. Don’t get me wrong, it was the most perfect day of my life. I was surrounded by family, friends, and the love of my life. In the following months, my happiness seemed to return. My marriage seemed to rejuvenate my well-being and I felt completely centered. I was mediating and praying, doing yoga, finally being my old social self, and enjoying day-to-day life more, but I knew that I couldn’t get too comfortable. He was still pre-diabetic and we both still carried a lot of excess weight.
I recalled the information that I learned about ketosis, and thought that it was worth exploring again. So, on January 1, 2016 my husband and I decided to jump into the low-carb/ketogenic lifestyle completely with no cheats, no excuses, and no complaints, just determination. If you’re not familiar, following a ketogenic (low carb, low carb/high fat) diet means that you consume no more than 20 grams of net carbohydrates per day. Some will tell you to stay below 50 grams. I feel that both variants are beneficial. This diet removes most bread, pasta, soda, sugar, cookies, cakes, chips, potatoes, rice, and other processed or starchy foods from your diet. Instead you eat more healthy fats, nuts, protein, low-sugar fruit, and non-starchy vegetables. It is a very clean diet, depending on the foods you choose. You experience less blood sugar spikes and the host of metabolic issues that result. Your body stops using sugar as fuel, and taps into your fat stores. And let me tell you; I lost weight fast. In the first month alone I dropped about 15 pounds. The initial loss will undoubtedly be water weight, as your body is depleted of glycogen stores.
It was difficult at first. Sugar has been proven to be as addictive as most other drugs and we experienced withdrawals like crazy. I’m talking about headaches, mental-fog, moodiness, and dizziness. Luckily this only last about three days for me and about a week for my husband.
In addition to eating less than 20 grams (some days 50 grams) of carbohydrates daily, we also made sure that we were in a caloric deficit (or energy deficit). This simply means that on a daily basis we burned more calories than we consumed. To ensure that we were in a caloric deficit, we bought a food scale, and logged every calorie that we consumed using the MyFitnessPal app. This app is free and a great tool to have in your weight-loss arsenal. Through consistency and discipline we were eventually able to stop counting calories and eat more intuitively while still losing weight. I lost about 25 pounds without even stepping foot into a gym. I’ll say it again for the folks in the cheap seats; I lost 25 pounds in two months without working out. At this point I’m like, “Wow, if I lost this much just sitting on the couch watching Scandal, what would happen if I actually utilized the gym membership that I waste money paying for monthly?” Great question Adri, I’m so glad you asked. I began to see a major transformation take place in my mind and body. I started doing fasted cardio at 5:00am daily, and saw even faster results.
I started this process January 1, 2016 and by May 30, 2016 I had lost 45 pounds. I learned so much about how the foods we consume can alter our moods and cause hormonal imbalance. This is why I was constantly moody and unhappy for what seemed like no reason at all. I should say that I also did intermittent fasting for two months. I only ate between the hours of 12:00pm and 8:00pm. So I fasted 16 hours with an 8 hour meal window. This allowed my digestive system to rest and reboot. This is not necessary, but definitely worth looking into.
You can of course lose weight without going keto. People do it every day. Again, all it takes to lose weight is for you to be in a caloric deficit. But keto is not just about the number on the scale. It’s about how the foods you eat affect your body. I can consume 1200 calories worth of chips and cookies and lose weight, but what would that do for me physically? Cause diabetes, high blood pressure, and sugar crashes? A diet where you ONLY count calories, but continue to consume loads of sugar is bound to fail. You’ll be very hungry and very unhappy. The lean protein and healthy fats that you consume on a ketogenic diet keep you full and energized. With my husband and myself both being former vegetarians, almost all of our meals are still plant-based, and some days we forego meat completely and opt for other protein options.
Here’s where it gets good though. We returned to the doctor, and the physician told my once-pre-diabetic husband that his sugar levels were completely normal. Did I mention that he was NOT taking medication for this? I could’ve kissed his doctor right on the lips, but he’s 40 years my senior and I don’t think my husband wants me to have a sugar da- never mind, gross.
Ok, so here’s a list, right? This is a list of the exact steps I took to become happier, lose weight, and all that jazz. This may not work for you or your lifestyle, but never say I didn’t tell you how I did it.
- Eat less than 20 (may fluctuate up to 50) grams of NET carbohydrates daily. When you read a nutrition label, and you look at the carb content, you’ll notice beneath that it lists how much fiber, sugar, etc. make up the carb content. When you subtract the fiber, you’re left with the net carbs. This is because fiber minimally affects your blood sugar.
- Maintain a caloric deficit. Find an online calculator to find out how many calories you should be eating for weight loss, and then use a free app such as MyFitnessPal to help you stay within that caloric goal.
- Count your macros! Google “keto calculator” to determine how much fat and protein you should be consuming. This will vary depending on your goals.
- Be prepared. Once you’ve assembled an arsenal of snacks and meals that fit your macros and also suit your taste buds, make sure you stay stocked up to prevent the risk of falling off the wagon during a moment of hunger.
- Don’t look at food as your enemy. Food has so many healing properties; you just have to find the combination that works for you.
- Exercise! Not just for weight loss, but for overall well-being. Do 30 minutes of cardio 3-4 times a week. Start lifting weights. Take a stroll around your neighborhood. Start slow and figure out what your body responds well to.
- Get a partner. Having my husband’s support and participation has made all of the difference. We keep one another accountable and on-track. Your partner can be a friend, significant other, family-member, or even someone you meet online. Reddit has an amazing community of keto women who are encouraging and supportive.
- Research, research, research. Enough said.
- Don’t think that giving up processed and starchy foods has to mean eating carrots and celery sticks for dinner every night. There are TONS of keto, paleo, and low-carb recipes online. (Hint: my blog)
- Don’t give up! We’ve gone five full months with no cheat day. Did I say cheat day? I meant cheat meal. We have not had one single cheat meal since we started. No regrets.
- Focus on how you feel. You may be inclined to return to sugary foods and beverages, but this is often an emotional response. Think about how those foods make your body feel.
- Know that people will look at you like you’re crazy. They’ll ask why you turned down their birthday cake or won’t eat the dish they brought to the potluck. This is completely normal. So much of our social lives revolve around food. But once they see your results, they’ll undoubtedly have questions about how you achieved them.
- Drink tons of water! This should go without saying or explanation. Stay hydrated folks.
There you have my success story. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. I still desire to lose about 35 more pounds to be at my goal weight. I am not stressed or pressed about that number though. I just want to be at a place where I feel my personal best internally, and my outer appearance reflects that. I hate that I have to say this, but please know that I am not a doctor or nutritionist. I’m simply outlining what has worked for me. The information that I’ve provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness that you may suffer from. That should be done by a medical professional.
All of that being said; if you need someone I am here. I will listen to you, give advice, give support, provide recipes, and pick your kids up from daycare. Wait, scratch that. Ugh. If this information helps or has helped you, or you know someone who needs a little push or boost in motivation please send them my way! Even if this type of diet isn’t for you, we can still encourage and uplift one another to aid in achieving our goals. Here are the deets:
Website: http://www.agirlcalledadri.com (But you know that, because duh you’re here)
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/agirlcalledadri_ (There is an underscore at the end)
If I do not reply immediately, it’s because I’m asleep, at work, working on a recipe, on the phone with my mama, eating keto snacks, or wallowing on the couch because my husband won’t watch Girlfriends reruns with me. I love you all.