The Ketogenic Lifestyle Gave Me My Life Back

stephanie de montigny ottawa blogger keto weight loss success storyThose of you who know me personally are likely aware of my struggles for the last few years with fluctuating weight. Going from starvingly sick student, to depressingly-eating-everything-fat, and going from one to the other without much of a transition. But hey, “that’s how it is through university”, “that’s normal”, they said. No. It is not. Bouncing back and forth from plus-size to skin&bones is NOT healthy. It’s time it stops.

Over the course of a year, I begrudgingly left a very emotionally tolling relationship, which forced me to move to a different city, I ended up unemployed for many months, so I took the leap to officially open a studio for my photography business and blew entirely through my savings, and I was essentially starving myself (not necessarily on purpose, but from being busy or stressed out of hunger). I dropped over half my body mass, which was a scary thing to imagine considering my initial size. Being a size 3 for me was unbelievable; I have never ever even thought about trying to get to that size, even in high school when we are brainwashed into thinking we have to be super skinny to be beautiful, because it essentially meant that I would have to cut out bones (or so I thought) to be that small and umm, no thanks! It was bad.

ottawa fall couple photos vintage tree farm newsboy hat vest blonde hair gold dress scarfThen I met Alex. He was sweet, a little weird (perfect match for mine!), and I really enjoyed spending time with him. We starting eating out together more, and within a few months we were hanging out at each other’s places and making our own food. Over the next 6 months, he moved in and we soon discovered the lure of cheap groceries resulting in good food & good company. Lots of food. I began overindulging as if I had never known food. Of course I didn’t realize this at the time and just thought I was being healthy by eating. I mean, I finally felt good, I felt pretty; I felt happy. And people noticed! So how could that be bad?

Fast forward to almost a year later when he proposed. I was super excited, and immediately began planning. A few weeks later, after several dozen attempts, I finally picked out my dress. Best part? It only needed to be hemmed at the bottom because of how short I am. Fantastic! But you see, I hadn’t stopped eating like we were. Lots of pasta, junk food, sometimes just huge portions. Then our dishwasher broke. In hindsight, that was the beginning of the end. Until we could afford a new one, we ate out for everything or ate no-dishes-required meals. Within a month, I outgrew my wedding dress. Heck, by then I had outgrown most of my clothes anyway. I had grown to a size 12. Twelve! That means that not only had I gained back my healthy weight, but I far surpassed it and ended up shopping in the plus-size section of my usual stores. And let me tell you, that was awful in itself; when did size 12 become a plus size!?

Enough was enough. I needed to take control. I tried the “planking challenge” but with a pot the size of mine, that 30 days of strength training was useless (at the time–I definitely plan on doing it again this winter!). I tried curbing my portions, eating less junk, and snacking on better foods. Not only did I not loose weight, but I gained an extra pant size! I tucked my pride between my legs and approached my local business group for help and to ask if they had any recommendations. Of course I got a ton of needless personal trainer plugs, silly gimmick product pushes, and various drink cleanses, even though I specified that I didn’t want to go on a diet–I wanted a change. Then I found Holly, a Board Certified Holistic Practitioner, who aims to heal from within and not just introduce a bunch of chemicals or medications or whatever. Holly introduced me to the Ketogenic Diet, and while it might be technically called a ‘diet’, it refers to the technical definition of ‘what you are eating’, not a temporary food fad, which is why it is commonly referred to the Keto Lifestyle.

The Lifestyle That Gave Me My Life Back – Eating Keto

operation fit back into the dress instagram photo keto before photo

Let’s call this the ‘before photo’ as this dress was representative of my goal.

At first, this way of eating (WOE) was an immediate red flag to me. You want over 75% of my food intake to be FAT!? I thought it was a cruel joke, but as I got to reading the documentation and medical research behind it, I was ready to listen. The dessert queen (aka ME) was not however ready to give up all sugar, including fruit. But I decided to give it a try since clearly nothing else had worked before, and I wasn’t about to take pills for weight loss. The ketogenic lifestyle is about giving up all carbs (no pasta, no rice, no bread, no starches, no sugars, etc.) so I knew this was going to be a hard sell. I decided to post something on Instagram about my goal to hold myself accountable (pictured dress is a size 8–September 22nd 2016, Day 5).  I was given a list of acceptable foods, and what not to eat, and I tracked everything in MyFitnessPal so I could refer back to good meals, and figure out what was and wasn’t working for me (tracks macros & nutrients). The one good thing at this point that made it even possible to stick with was that I did not have to count my consumed calories; I was to eat when I was hungry. I could get used to that! Although in the begging I did try to stick to the advised amount recommended, it was to get a good idea of how much food I was eating, rather than for limiting myself.

operation fit back into the dress instagram photo keto after photo

After eating keto for 2 months, my dress fit again! 

Over the next week, I gained another inch, I felt like crap all the time, I had no energy; it was the worst! This was normal, and has been coined the ‘keto flu’ because your body is adapting to not getting its usual fuel from carbs and sugars, and hasn’t quite figured out that you’ve been giving it a ton of new fuel: healthy fats. Even with my supplemental therapeutic ketones, I still wasn’t feeling the greatest. But it was SO MUCH BETTER because I had ditched the horrible headfog, but I was still feeling bogged down. I knew exactly when my body realized it had fat as a fuel source because I all of a sudden felt amazing: I had energy, I had spunk, and I wasn’t hungry anymore (used to be all the time). It was like magic! The fat literally melted off! As a very sedentary being, who literally lives sitting in front of a computer screen most of the time, this felt amazing. Turns out all of the starches and gluten and sugars were the culprit for major inflammation in my gut and causing some serious bloat. No joke, I looked pregnant. I still use my ketones to give me a boost when I need it, and boy does it make a huge difference on stressfull gloomy days!

Fast forward 2 months later, and I not only fit into my dresses again, but I felt like I fit into my life again. I feel like I am a different version of myself, I am a happy person again, and I don’t feel like my mood or worth is attached to the foods I eat. Yes, I still feel tempted by fruit (mostly resentment that I can’t have them), and often take an extra long smell at baked goods as I walk by, but I have taken my health under control and it feels so much better than the guilt & stomach pains after ‘cheating’ and snacking on a muffin because that was the only nut-free option available (now I pack snacks everywhere I go!). Did I mention my plethora of allergies don’t even come into play in this eating style–WIN! Yup, most nuts, soy, and legumes (beans, lentils, etc.) aren’t even permitted in this way of eating so it makes finding recipes much easier!

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These photos were taken 3 months apart.

As of today, December 16th 2016, I have been eating well and following the Ketogenic Lifestyle for exactly 3 months and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. I have lost over 5 inches off my waist, almost 20 pounds from my heaviest, and my negative attitude towards life. I am back to my healthy size & weight, and I feel great! I have learnt that processed sugar really is a poison for my body, and have adapted to eating all things natural. Heck, I even enjoy coffee now! Every once in a while I do indulge in a small handful of berries (permitted in small quantities due to them being low on the glycemic index) as an evening snack, but they are a treat and I don’t crave them as much anymore, which is great. I am taking it one day at a time, and it gets easier every time.

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Here are some of my favourite Keto resources for you to learn more. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about the lifestyle, food choices, etc. My blog also has a handful of keto-friendly recipes, where-to-buy guide, and more to come as I continue through this journey!

UPDATE – January 2018: It’s now been a year since I hit my goal size and I’ve been able to keep to my healthy size by following the keto lifestyle, and upping my net carb count to match my body’s needs.
I happily married the love of my life wearing my original dress, which actually had to be altered to be smaller. I am so happy with this way of living, and I would never look back. And yes, I’ve had a few run ins in the last year, like splurging on some orange juice when I was feeling under the weather, or using light cream in my coffee at networking meetings, or splurging on a few not-so-low-carb meals while on vacation (I did make a huge effort!!). Living life happily sometimes involves a few sacrifices here and there (the tummy aches that followed those run-ins remind me why they don’t happen often), but giving up bread + pasta + potatoes was an easy decision when you think about all the good it brought.