Diet

The Cooking Oil Tweak That Helped One Woman Finally Lose Her Belly at 71

She did it with the keto diet.

“Your blood pressure is high, and you’ve become prediabetic,” said Kris Ronchetti’s doctor. Kris clenched her jaw, glancing at her chart in the doctor’s hands. A note caught her eye, and she squinted to read it. It said: “Morbidly obese.” Kris’s breath caught; her mind began to race. I’m so heavy, I could actually die, she thought, shifting her 280-pound body uneasily.

The doctor began asking about her eating habits. “I had some success recently at Weight Watchers,” Kris whispered. The doctor nodded and replied: “It’s a good start. But you might have better luck bringing your sugar down on a low-carb plan.” Kris nodded numbly. Given her track record with diets, she wasn’t optimistic.

Struggling to get in the car after her appointment, Kris stared at her belly grazing the steering wheel. Pretty soon I won’t fit, she realized. But give up carbs? Could she even do it? The truth was she’d been turning to food for comfort ever since her dad died when she was 10. She was the life of the party and successful in business, but during tough times — and she’d had a lot of those lately as her marriage came undone — the cravings for chips, Cheetos, and cookies were relentless.

Kris sat for a long time, sadness settling over her. Finally, she looked at herself in the rearview mirror and said, “You’re unhealthy and unhappy. You’ve blown your 50s and most of your 60s,” she said to herself. “Do you want to hit 70 like this? No way!”

She went home and Googled “low carb” and soon found herself reading about the keto diet. The more she learned about the approach — which would involve trading most of the carbs she ate for fat-rich foods — the more hope she felt. Apparently, all the sweets and starch she’d been eating kept her blood sugar and insulin high, triggering cravings and preventing fat burn. Eating keto meant she wouldn’t give her body foods to make blood sugar, so hunger would dwindle as fat burning soared. I can even make keto bread and cookies, she thought. I can have fun with this.

Better Every Day

Kris got started making meals from keto groceries she already had on hand — a cheesy scramble with bacon, tuna salad, a bun-less burger. Everything was tasty and very filling. As she drifted off that night, she realized she’d been so satisfied, she didn’t even have her usual evening carb cravings.

The next day was much the same — though she did feel a bit sleepy. She’d heard her nephew Brian was also using the keto diet, so she called him. “I read you get tired when your body is first starting to burn more fat,” he said. Kris smiled. “I guess it’s a good kind of tired then,” she said.

And Kris still had enough energy to begin experimenting with new recipes — like a lasagna with zucchini noodles, and crackers made with cheese. Yum, she thought as she sampled them. That first week, she was dropping about a pound a day, feeling better and better all the while. Even her constant lower back pain was fading. My body seems happier than it was on Weight Watchers, she thought.

The Magic Ingredient — Coconut Oil

Kris kept reading more and more about keto as she went along, always on the lookout for new tips or tricks to enhance her results. And that’s how she discovered coconut oil. “There are studies that show it helps burn belly fat faster,” she told Brian. “I thought it might make everything taste like coconut, but the ‘extra virgin’ kind is mild and makes food delicious.” Kris started using it in dressings, sautés, and for baking. She even made keto fudge. After a month, she glanced at her belly under the steering wheel. It was noticeably smaller and flatter!

As months passed, it got smaller and flatter still. Sure, her progress slowed at times. But Kris, once a size 24, was down to a 22, 20, 18. She automatically returned to the plus-size department every time she needed new clothes — until a salesperson finally said, “Sweetie, you have to start shopping the regular-size department.” Kris blinked back tears of disbelief.

At age 71, Kris reached a size 8 and is now 113 pounds lighter. “I have a little loose skin, but it’s not bad — and my belly really flattened out,” she shares. “It’s better than it was decades ago! And I feel so amazing.” Her health problems gone, Kris is bursting with energy. “I used to read about people like me and think, I wish I could do that. Now I can tell everyone the secret. Just take the first step. That’s the most important thing. You don’t even have to rush. I’m living proof it’s never too late to have your best body ever!”

Why Coconut Oil + Keto Melts Fat

Go keto, and you’ll replace most of the calories you’d normally get from carbs with calories from fat. The benefit? It prevents your body from making enough blood sugar to fuel itself. “Your system must then begin converting fat — pulled from fat cells and food you eat — into backup fuel called ketones,” explains University of Pittsburgh nutrition expert Joseph Maroon, M.D. Studies show ketone production makes fat burn about 900 percent faster than normal.

Coconut oil is one of the richest natural sources of medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs. MCTs are absorbed so quickly inside us, “it causes a surge in both ketone production and fat burning,” says Dr. Maroon. While experts aren’t exactly sure why, MCTs seem to selectively target ab flab. A Columbia University study found that women given MCTs lost 600 percent more belly fat than those given olive oil. And keto dieters aiming to consume at least 2 Tbs. of coconut oil a day report dropping up to 12 pounds and 5 inches from their midsection a week!

Incorporating Coconut Oil With Keto

For belly-flattening weight loss like Kris, aim to eat a keto-style diet (with lots of healthy fat, a moderate amount of protein and fewer than 20 grams of carbs a day) while incorporating 2 to 3 Tbs. of coconut oil during the day. Kris loves meals like the samples here. Always get a doctor’s okay to try any new diet.

Breakfast: Eggs, any style, prepared in 1 Tbs. coconut oil with any low-carb extras you like, such as ham, feta, tomato and leftover cooked veggies.

Lunch: Mix ½ lb. ground beef, 1 Tbs. coconut oil and seasoning to taste. Cook to desired doneness. Serve in a low-carb wrap with keto condiments.

Dinner: Pan-fry skin-on chicken or fish in 1 Tbs. coconut oil with seasoning to taste; enjoy over salad with no-sugar-added dressing.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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