He gave me this look as if he felt my pain of being one of the heaviest kids in the class. Another student started laughing and making fun of the fact that I weighed more than the heaviest boy in the class.
My parents divorced when I was in the fourth grade and I never had a stable home, as I was tossed back and forth between them. I didn’t know what healthy eating was. We ate a lot of junk food and fast food because that’s what we could afford. Sodas, chips, and pastries were staples in my diet.
Going into middle school, I was around 86, but I didn’t think of myself as having a weight issue. That being said, I knew I had an emotional-eating problem that wouldn't seem to go away. Every time there was an argument in the house, I would bury myself in my bedroom and stuff my face with whatever unhealthy things I could find in the house, like giant Costco muffins or chips. Or, I'd walk to the corner store and load up on brownies, chips, and a large raspberry iced tea.
In high school, I took a job at the local Wendy’s. Even though I joined the athletics team and lost some weight, my diet consisted of whatever was on the cafeteria menu for breakfast and lunch—chicken nuggets, tacos, or turkey and gravy—because I was part of the low-income family program and ate those meals for free. Plus, I also ate for free working at the fast-food chain.
After graduating from high school in 2008, I started working in a career in television, bounced around jobs, and eventually went to college to get my two-year associate's degree. I tried losing weight throughout this time period, but I was super busy, stressed, and saw my weight fluctuate over the years.
Then, in 2017, I got a phone call that changed my life.
My dad was in the hospital, brain dead, and he wasn’t going to wake up. After my dad passed, all I wanted to do was eat the fattening foods that I used to eat with him as a kid. I wanted to cook and eat everything he ever taught me to make. I ballooned from 108kg to almost 136kg in less than six months—and seeing that number on the scale was my turning point.
That fall, I made a pact with my cousins to start losing weight. Ultimately, I wanted to get the weight off once and for all because I didn’t want to end up sick like my dad. He started out with high blood pressure and diabetes that evolved into coronary heart disease. Then, it was a stroke that took his life. He was only 55.
I decided to go vegan and stay off the scale. I felt great, had tons of energy, and my skin was glowing. But my craving for meat never truly disappeared.
On June 28th, 2018, I started the keto diet after I stumbled across information about it online.
Like others struggling with their weight, I was always online researching different weight-loss programs, and one eating plan that kept popping up was the keto diet. I was so desperate that I decided to try the diet right then and there.
I paired the keto diet with intermittent fasting at the beginning. Over time, I kept decreasing my feeding window (meaning I was eating less often and fasting for longer periods of time), and the weight kept shedding off even faster. Although it might not be right for everyone, intermittent fasting and keto helped me develop a healthier relationship with food because the habits forced me to really get in tune with my body's hunger cues. I constantly asked myself if I was seriously hungry or just bored and wanted to snack.
Right now, I follow a 16:8 intermittent-fasting plan. I’m happy where I’m at in my journey and have decided to just enjoy the keto lifestyle that I’ve chosen to adapt and continue to shape up my body over time. The macros I follow for the ketogenic diet are: 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs.
Another tip: The one tool that I’ve found to be absolutely essential in my weight-loss journey is my food diary.
Here’s what I eat in a day now:
- Breakfast: Bulletproof coffee with ghee and coconut oil
- Post-workout snack: Protein shake with two scoops of chocolate protein, avocado, almond milk, and ice
- Lunch: Two eggs, two slices of bacon, and avocado
- Snacks: Olives and nuts (macadamia or pecans) with tea or keto coffee
- Dinner: Salmon cooked in olive oil with sautéed or steamed broccoli
- Dessert: Chocolate with berries or peanut butter with celery and some blueberries
I kept my exercise light when I started keto.
I stuck to 30 minutes on the elliptical and 30 minutes lifting light weights with high repetitions. On days I had more energy, I took advantage of that and lifted heavier. As the months went by I started doing harder cardio machines, like the treadmill, and eventually the StairMaster. I usually do the StairMaster every day now because my goal is to develop a strong booty. I work out five to six times a week these days.
Exercise has become my biggest form of stress relief. My career has been amazing and rewarding (I am now an 11-time Emmy award winner!), but also one of the main sources of stress in my life, as it's an intense industry. For many years, I used to give into the stress by eating, but now I let it all out via my workouts instead.
I want other women who may be on a similar weight-loss journey to not sweat the little things like working out in a gym among super fit girls. That feeling of embarrassment held me back for a long time.
I’ve lost 40kg to date on keto.
When I started I only expected to lose 14-20kg. 25kg was unimaginable for me. So to be down 40? It feels unreal.
I lost my twenties to obesity and depression and I promised myself that I wasn’t going to lose my thirties too. The seriousness of this weight-loss journey hit me at the age of 29 after everything else I had tried didn’t work. It sparked a fire in me to push as hard as possible to come into my thirties feeling my absolute best.
Michelle Garcia as told to Emily Shiffer. This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.