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'My Hair Started Falling Out At 402 Lbs.—So I Joined A Keto Facebook Group And Dropped 150 Lbs. Naturally'

Kay H. as told to Alexis Jones
Photo credit: Instagram

From Women's Health

I'm Kay H. (@ketokalamazoo). I'm a 39-year-old teacher from Kalamazoo, Michigan. At 402 pounds, I decided enough was enough, and I started the keto diet and intermittent fasting. I lost 150 pounds in the process.

I remember thinking in my teens that I'd never let myself get above 200 pounds. I did. Then, when I entered my 20s, I decided 300 was my new cap that I would never let myself surpass. Again, I did.

I tried many diets but nothing helped. I even dealt with eating disorders along the way, both under-eating and purging at points. I would have transient weight loss, but I would always gain the weight back and then some. I joined so many gyms hoping to find support and a fitness family but never succeeded.

I discovered keto in grad school, thanks to a couple of classmates.

When I saw the success my classmates had after starting a ketogenic diet, I eagerly gathered all information I could from them. By this time, I was in my 30s and feeling awful. I'd gotten up to 350 pounds, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and despite anti-inflammatory prescriptions, I had a great deal of chronic pain that I'd resigned to live with for the rest of my life.

I was *shocked* by how well the keto lifestyle worked for me. I had a few stops and starts, but for the most part, I kept some weight off easily at all times while following keto. But before my wedding in December 2015, I wanted to look my best for the milestone moment and really committed to the diet hardcore, getting down to 290 for my big day. I felt happy, beautiful, and successful in my giant, soft pink ballgown.

After my wedding and when I left for my honeymoon, I was down to 278 pounds and felt great. I vowed never to get above 300 pounds again. But I'd be lying if I said my weight-loss journey was without a few roadblocks, and it's important to be honest about those, too. So here I go.

To my absolute horror, I gained over 100 pounds back in six months due to some health issues.

I had slews of appointments with my general practitioner and an endocrinologist. Both doctor did copious blood work trying to figure out how and why I was gaining so much weight. In one year, I gained 120 pounds. That's everything I'd lost, plus an additional 70ish pounds.

I felt utterly hopeless, depressed, stressed and scattered, all while trying to finish up my research and a doctorate degree. Between my autoimmune disease, stress, and depression, my hair was falling out in clumps and I stopped caring about many things in my life. I hid from my friends because I was constantly worried about being judged. I stayed in the house to avoid anyone who would see how bad my weight gain had gotten.

In May of 2018, I hit 402 pounds and decided enough was enough. So, I joined a ketogenic support group on Facebook. I needed this structure and support. The group I joined only stayed active for three months, but I was determined to keep plugging away even after it concluded—and I did. (If you think a group could work for you, there are tons on Facebook and Instagram to check out!)

Unfortunately, I also encountered a bump in the road that July when I contracted a virus that destroyed nerves in my body. But I refused to let it ruin my progress. Between having to learn how to walk again (I could barely make it to the bathroom—so I did zero exercise), and multiple hospital stays, I still managed to maintain a low-carb diet. One year later? I'd lost a total of 150 pounds, no exercise involved.

Today, I can confidently say that I'm never giving up on myself again. My newfound quality of life is too important to me. I am free of chronic pain and living a life dependent on medication. There are other benefits, too, like not having to worry if I'll fit in a seat. I've found so much freedom, health, and happiness.

When it comes to healthy eating, I prefer to stick to the basics.

I try to practice intermittent fasting—eating within a six-hour window—daily. This typically results in me eating one large meal and then one smaller meal or snack per day. But I'll point out that I don't restrict myself in an unhealthy way. If I'm hungry, I eat.

I do not track macros (carbs, proteins, or fat) or calories daily. I tracked in the beginning to get a feel on how many carbs and calories are in the foods I eat, but nowadays I simply try to have as few carbs as possible and eat intuitively. A day of eating might look like this:

  • Breakfast: I skip it.
  • Lunch: Four slices of black forrest ham fried in a tablespoon of olive oil with sharp cheddar cheese drizzled with a few tablespoons of C8 oil (I use C8 Keto MCT Oil by Keto Bay on Amazon) and a few tablespoons of chipotle mayo as a dip. I'll also have a few Tasso’s garlic and jalapeño double stuffed mammoth olives and a few Meats pork rinds.
  • Snack/dinner: A cup of coffee made with one serving NeuRoast Instant Americano coffee and one serving of Lion’s Mane extract and/or a keto bar.
  • Dessert: I'll usually have a Complete Wellness shake, which is like a keto meal replacement drink, with two scoops of unflavored collagen and a scoop of unflavored MCT oil powder.

When it came to working out, I relied on running—an exercise I already loved.

Even when my diet was much heavier in carbs, I worked out quite a bit. While this might be surprising, I'd knock out four to six miles (sometimes eight when I was feeling sassy!) on the elliptical a few times a week, even at 350 pounds.

But, truth be told, I haven't worked out in years. The 150 pounds I lost in a year I achieved without ever stepping foot in a gym—it was entirely nutrition-related. Now that I'm able to walk again without a slew of orthotic braces and crutches, I'm so eager to return to running.

Working out isn't necessary to be successful on the keto diet. However, aerobic activity and weight lifting are both so great for many other reasons, like cardiovascular health, building muscle, and maintaining a strong core throughout life.

Weight loss requires some serious perseverance.

If you have a lot of weight to lose, don't be discouraged. I was there once, too. You have one shot at this life—so think about what you want out of it. No more "I'll start Monday" or "I'll start after the holidays" or "I ate this bad thing, I'll take the rest of the day off." Instead, keep pushing on.

Also, it's totally okay to find motivation in places other than the gym. I asked friends for advice about keto, read diet books that were based in science and interested me, and more.

But ultimately, the best piece of advice I can give you is to find support. Weight loss is difficult for a variety of factors. For me, my Facebook support group was key to keep me accountable and motivated. For you, it might be something else. And hey, if you need someone, I'm always happy to cheer you on.

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