'At 350 Lbs., It Was Physically Painful For Me To Stand For 5 Minutes. Then I Discovered Keto And Lost 220'

Stacy Blair, as told to Emily Shiffer
Photo credit: Stacy Blair

From Women's Health

Hi! My name is Stacy Blair, I’m 30 years old and I work in finance in Minneapolis. I lost 220 pounds naturally (well, with a ton of hard work and determination!)—and I've kept it off. Here's how.

I was stuck in what felt like an endless cycle of disordered eating for years. I would go between binging and heavily restricting my food. Because of this, I went through extreme weight fluctuations for most of my life. If I did try to lose weight, it was never in a healthy way, and I never could maintain it long term. Eventually, I always gained the weight back, along with some extra pounds.

On September 14, 2017, I had my “aha” moment.

My health was rapidly declining. At 28, I was taking medication for high blood pressure, my asthma was getting worse, and it was physically painful to walk or stand for more than five minutes. That morning I stepped on the scale to my highest weight ever: 352.4 pounds at only 5’1”. I looked in the mirror and cried.

I was convinced I looked pregnant in the dress I was wearing to work for some events that particular day. I felt miserable, uncomfortable, and humiliated due to my size. All of these things added up to me saying enough was enough. I made the decision to lose weight in order to take back my health before it was too late.

For the first time, my “why” changed. My need to lose weight was no longer based in vanity and looking good or skinny, but instead I was focused on, well, not dying at a young age. I wanted to be able to play an active role in my little brothers’ lives rather than watching from the couch. I wanted to be able to be a mom one day. I wanted to be able to move without being in pain. I wanted to live instead of just exist.

I had no meal plan, surgery, personal trainer, or coach. I just had a determination to save my life, and the courage to start.

I began simply by logging all my food and counting calories. This was essential to understanding the basics of portion control and to get an idea of what foods hold what nutritional value. I eventually transitioned into a strict ketogenic way of eating. It is the first “diet” that has ever truly worked for me. I don’t ever feel hungry or deprived, which makes it easy for me to treat it as a long-term lifestyle versus a short-term diet where I’m just waiting for my next cheat day.

I logged everything I consumed in the app MyFitnessPal. I tracked my calories to stay in a calorie deficit as well as all my macros (protein, fat, carbohydrates). I used a free keto macro calculator online to get calorie and macro goals specific for me and my body. (I highly recommend doing this since everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you.)

Another crucial change that I made during my weight-loss phase was meal prepping all of my lunches and dinners for the week.

One of my usual excuses in the past for grabbing fast food was: Oh, there's nothing in the house to eat and I'm too tired to make anything after work. Meal prepping eliminated this excuse for me by providing good and healthy options at my fingertips that I could just grab and heat up no matter how tired I was feeling. Pinterest and Google are always my go-to places to find free, delicious keto recipes of any kind.

In both my weight-loss and maintenance periods, I try to eat as many whole and minimally processed foods as possible, and I pay special attention to ingredient lists. I personally try to stay away from certain artificial sweeteners, sugar, maltodextrin/dextrose, wheat, and grains when possible. There are a few exceptions (hey, Trader Joe’s Artichoke and Jalapeño dip!), but I’d say I eat real, whole foods at least 90 percent of the time.

I find eating two larger, higher-calorie meals a day plus snacks works better for me than the traditional three meals a day with my work schedule. But, again, you have to figure out what works for you and your lifestyle.

What a typical day of eating looks like for me:

  • Breakfast: I usually have coffee with a splash of heavy cream, Stevia, and collagen peptides and a Two Good yogurt or Costco protein bar.
  • Lunch: A quick and portable go-to of mine is a bowl of homemade crockpot low-carb chili.
  • Snacks: Most often I'll reach for a serving of almonds, pecans, or pumpkin seeds. I also keep these options in my desk at work.
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts is my all-time favorite, and the meal I prep the most.
  • Dessert: A few fresh strawberries with heavy cream, Stevia-sweetened chocolate, or low-carb ice cream does the trick.

An injury sidelined me from working out at the start of my journey.

I hurt my knee at the end of January 2018, which prohibited me from working out for most of my weight-loss experience. But before my injury I discovered bouldering (a form of rock climbing) and really enjoyed it while I could.

I’m on another break from bouldering due to another injury (I'll return to my climbing obsession when I can!), so I am currently just focusing on making sure I move for at least 30 minutes every day, in any shape or form. I love going on walks and hikes with friends and my dog, and I've found that this is my favorite unstructured way to enjoy fitness.

Before you start a weight-loss journey, find a "why" that is bigger and stronger than your favorite excuse.

Once that happens, you’ll be unstoppable. I didn’t get lucky or discover the magic pill to lose weight, I simply found a "why"—a reason that fueled me—that was important enough and outweighed any of the prior excuses I had used constantly to sabotage my efforts.

I also had to find a consistent positive attitude and be nice to myself. I had very few people in my life at the beginning of my journey who truly believed I could conquer losing the weight I needed to; they had watched me try and fail time and time again and were trying to be realistic. Believing in myself and what I was capable of is what made me never give up and keep trying until I was successful.

I also want to stress how helpful tracking your food can be, even if it's not calorie by calorie. Tracking your food helps give you an idea of portion sizes and keeps you accountable and gives you even a general idea of whether or not you're habits are in line with your goals, regardless of the eating plan you follow. (Hey, it doesn't have to be keto!)

That brings me to: Figuring out what “diet” you can realistically stick to long term and be happy while doing is what is going to make the biggest difference in your journey. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet, so nutrition does have to be a large focus. I lost the majority of my 220 pounds without any exercise by just focusing on food.

I have lost 220 pounds in 17 months and have been maintaining for the past six months.

I want other women to know that there is no such thing as being too far gone, too big, or too old when it comes to weight loss; it’s never too late to take back your health. Be patient with yourself. Weight loss takes time, and you can’t rush something you want to last forever.

Being able to experience all that life has to offer is the absolute most rewarding thing to come out of my weight loss and what will keep me from gaining the back. At the end of the day when everything is all said and done, it’s not about the weight you lose, it’s about the life you gain.

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