Welcome back! Last week we visited with Sally Mangum, PhD, DO, as she explained to us the benefits of a colorful plate of food. Many of you really enjoyed this blog, as did we. This week, we visit with an Oregon family that decided to take back their health, and boy, have they succeeded! Our community blogger this week, Rachelle Butcher, has added a “before” and “after” picture of herself in the body of her blog so you can see what has changed for her. She is down 80 lbs. and her significant other, Erik Gonterman, is down 60 lbs. That got your attention, didn’t it! Let’s see how they did it, and decide if maybe we could do this too?
Here’s how this family has used food as medicine:
We decided to try Keto, after tons of research. Erik was always wanting to try this or that and at one point we got suckered into buying magic pills featured on TV that kept coming out of our bank account, even though we only wanted the one bottle. This (Keto) was a “you can eat as much as you want, if you eat the right things. No portion control. No magic pills to buy. Just following the basic rules” eating plan.
This way of eating is basic but it can be made very complicated. We chose to keep it simple. Under 20 carbs a day, and those come only from vegetables or cheese. We did change a few thing. Keto promotes huge fat intake, low carb, middle protein and high fat. Some count their macros, or ratio of each. That was overwhelming for us. We don’t worry about our fat but we do not go out of our way to eat huge amounts of it. The fats are to come from your meats, butter, and cocunut oil. Yes we get to eat as much butter and bacon as we want! Erik got sold on the bacon part immediately.
He and I maintained it faithfully, the kids, however, did it by osmosis. They eat what we cook. We make vegetable lasagna a lot and they love it. We make cabbage and chicken a lot and even my daughter who is normally picky, loves that. We in no way expected them to eat our way, but they love fresh food anyway so it’s been natural. My other daughter has become a Keto snob. She started seeing my results and people would comment about my weight loss and she would tell them “it’s Keto”. They would then respond “oh we are doing that too”, and she would come home and tell me how they are doing it wrong, what they eat, and then occasionally they would give her something for me to try, and to buy. The beauty of this is there is nothing to buy except healthy foods! The extra ketone drinks do nothing but put ketones in your person, but if you’re not making them yourself then you’re not doing it right.
The most difficult part for me is giving up every single thing I love. No pasta, no sweets, no chips or pretzels. Yes we substitute spiral zucchini for noodles and yes it’s good, but not the same. Chips, that salty crunch? Sorry, pork rinds taste like sadness and broken dreams. We make vegetable lasagna with layering huge sliced mushrooms and zucchini and it’s delicious, and truth is I prefer it, but there is no garlic bread to go with it. Pizza was salvaged as we use the fat head south. Fat head is just mozzarella cream cheese, eggs and coconut flour, who knew coconuts had no carbs because they are so high in fiber. We knead it, roll it out (you do have to bake it) and flip it before adding toppings and it’s amazing! That was a win. People don’t realize everything you can make with a little imagination! As for spaghetti sauce we don’t ever get to eat it again. It’s full of sugar. Who knew that? That’s been the beauty of this, is becoming aware of what’s going into our bodies, the hidden sugars and toxins.
I can honestly say the inflammation around our bodies organs caused our puffy stomachs, and caused us to look so much heavier than we are, and yes, that’s a real thing. I can now see my toes, it’s very real. The most difficult part is staying under the 20 carbs a day. That is a very minor amount and we were going crazy trying to figure out our carbs in vegetables, subtracting fiber from carbs to get your net. We gave that up and we modified it. We no longer count carbs in vegetables. We do not eat any root vegetables though, as those are higher in natural sugars. Seeing people eat cake and chips that’s hard. Being in a hurry, that’s difficult because almost everything has to be cooked. Nuts seem to be the big go to for that and I don’t much like nuts except the ones I can’t have. Sunflower seeds are a staple.
We eat out regularly on this diet, and if in doubt we do meat salad and an extra vegetable as a side. The killer is our favorite places bring you fresh warm bread. That kills me. Carls Jr will wrap any hamburger in lettuce and we have to remember to hold the ketchup, but extra guacamole is amazing.
Neither of us saw a doctor before starting this lifestyle change. I see mine regularly anyway, and seeing the weight on his scale at one of my visits prompted the decision for change. I have seen him since and because of the dramatic weight loss he wanted blood work. My cholesterol came back a little high, which it already was before this, so I was not overly concerned and we are repeating the blood work in 3 months. Erik needs a physical, so we will be checking his. The changes have been immense. Just being able to wear the same size I was in high school is amazing. The Keto libido is very real. Eriks’ shaky leg syndrome has diminished greatly. The energy is awesome. I sleep better than ever. But the getting here has been difficult, and a lot of people give up the first week and truth is that was me in the past.
The Keto flu is very real. It’s your body giving up all the toxins from food, it’s your body learning not to use artificial carbs for energy and turning on the stored fat for energy, this time I powered through as I had a partner that understood what I was going through as he was experiencing it himself. It’s no joke it feels like the flu and can last one day or several. It’s a true test of how bad you want this.
This lifestyle change would help any number of health issues. I know my pain in my legs is better maybe from weight loss but also from less inflammation in my body, and I’ve never once had heart burn since I started. Have not had a cold. It’s improved everything all around. My advice is try just cutting out all the toxic waste we put in our mouths. If food has ingredients you can’t pronounce it may be something you don’t want in your body. A lot of additives are the same as radiator fluids. Sounds like a big nope to me. I also learned low fat is the biggest lie we have swallowed hook line and sinker, low fat does not translate to low carb it’s all got huge amounts of sugar!
This is totally sustainable. Once reaching goal you do not need to be in ketosis, but extra unhealthy carbs will put you back where you were. I think once we hit target we will just stay with fresh and whole foods more of a paleo hunter gather diet, if you can gather or kill it you can eat it.
Here is our Guest DO’s Response:
Rachelle, it is fantastic that you have found a way to eat healthy foods that works for you and your family and that you are experiencing so much benefit from it. It is very important to find a way of healthy eating that is sustainable and it is even better when it can offer disease prevention too. What I gathered from reading your post is that you have worked hard to cut out many unnecessary processed foods and chemicals from your diet, and have gotten back to the basics of eating whole foods. With this type of change in your diet it is expected to have struggles with temptations (especially in the beginning) as well as symptoms of sugar withdrawal but, you have persevered. I do agree with having a physician follow you over time to help track your lipid panel, especially if you have increased your intake of animal protein, and to offer advice should it trend in an undesired direction. Consider fish, organic non-gmo soy products, beans and legumes as alternative protein sources should your cholesterol levels raise with your increased consumption of bacon and other processed red meat. Keep up the good work!
About Sally Mangum
Sally was raised in Alaska and completed her BS in chemistry and PhD in biochemistry at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her doctorate research focused on the nutritional properties of wild berries and their ability to decrease inflammation. She worked for the USDA at the North Carolina Research Campus where she studied the effects of post harvest handling practices on the bioactive compounds in blueberry fruit. Sally was called to medicine and attended the Pacific Northwest University of Health sciences for her medical training. She is currently a second year Internal Medicine resident in Corvallis, Oregon, and has a strong desire to return home to Fairbanks after residency to help fulfill the need for primary care physicians in her home community. Sally continues to be passionate about the healing properties of food and has been known to prescribe fruits and vegetables to her patients. She enjoys yoga, cross country skiing, and spending time with her two toddlers.