I was always overweight growing up. My family was extremely poor, so we ate lots of carbs: toast with cinnamon sugar, buttered spaghetti noodles, and so on. When we had extra money, we'd go to a local restaurant, Hometown Buffet, and binge.
By the time I graduated high school, I was nearly 90kgs. I felt uncomfortable in my prom dress. I tried every fad diet out there (even the cabbage soup diet, where you literally only eat cabbage soup), but everything failed. At best, I'd lose some weight initially then gain it all back.
I reached my heaviest weight after having my twins in 2014: 145kgs (I was 163kgs when I gave birth). That's when I started following a low-carb diet on and off, without any luck. I felt heavy and uncomfortable, and I knew I needed to change.
I felt self-conscious and trapped in my body. That's when I came across the keto diet.
I stumbled across the keto diet in 2016. I was suspicious at first because it felt like a fad diet, but I soon found out that a low-carb, high-fat keto diet was sustainable for me. I didn't miss carbs that much, and I found that I enjoyed focusing on meat, cheese, and other keto-friendly foods.
When I first started the keto diet, I was following what's called a "dirty" keto diet, which meant I was still eating fast food three or more meals a day: just burgers without the buns, and no fries. Sure, it wasn't the healthiest option, but it started my transition into ketosis, which actually helped change my outlook on cooking at home.
At first, I continued to eat fast food because it seemed like too much of a chore to start cooking my own meals at first, but as I got into ketosis, I started to actually want to cook at home. My energy levels were rising and I wasn't living for my next cheat meal. I was living my life without depriving myself.
My first year on keto was a huge learning curve.
In just a few months, I lost 14kgs. I felt so much better and proud of myself, but then the holidays rolled around and I found myself back to my old habits, celebrating with food and eating out often.
I tried to keep in my mind that this was a bump in the road and that it didn't mean my journey was over. I was one good choice away from being back on track, so my New Year's resolution for 2017 was, again, to lose weight.
This time, I wrote down why I wanted to lose weight: to love myself and feel good about my life. It didn't have anything to do with fitting into a cute dress or what the scale said. I started to speak to myself in a gentler tone and showed myself more empathy in my dieting.
I decided to recommit to my keto diet—but a "lazy" version. That meant not tracking everything and letting myself keep a less-strict keto diet (so, I'd have pork rinds or keto-friendly fast food occasionally still).
Overall, I try to keep my net carbs under 20 grams. I aim to eat lots of fat and not overdo it on the protein, but I don't count my calories—I just eat intuitively. Here's what a typical day of eating looks like for me:
- Breakfast: Denver omelette (ham, peppers, onions and cheese)
- Lunch: Taco salad (no shell or beans), with extra guacamole
- Snacks: Hard boiled eggs, cheese cubes or almonds
- Dinner: Keto meatloaf (made with crushed pork rinds and shredded cheese instead of breadcrumbs) and a side of cheesy green beans.
- Dessert: Know Foods keto-friendly peanut butter cookie topped with peanut butter
The keto diet gave me more energy to work out.
When I first started, I had a ton of anxiety because going to the gym had never worked for me in the past. I'm a mom and my family comes first, so I had to make my workout routine life-proof. Instead, I worked out at home, committing to 15 minutes four days a week on an exercise bike I bought. Now, it's a consistent habit.
I also love to hike in the mountains. When I was 91kgs in September 2017, I only made it a quarter of the way up a 4km trail and had to go back to car. Now, I hike that entire mountain trail two to three times a week (in a 28-minute round-trip hike).
I've lost 65kgs so far, and while I still track my weight loss, I'm in more of a maintenance phase. I'm experimenting more with foods to eat on the keto diet, and I've started using dumbbells and adding in a little more weight training. I want to explore more, to hike some more mountains, maybe even out of the country.
Yes, losing weight has made it easier to exercise and run around with my kids, but even more, it's allowed me to feel more comfortable with my body, and that's made this whole journey worth it.
Kimberly Powell as told to Emily Shiffer. This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.