“How are your feet, Mom?” asked Char Dickte’s daughter Diane, worry in her voice. Char sighed into her cellphone. Her pre-diabetes had triggered nerve pain that made everything below her ankles feel like it was on fire. “I can’t get my shoes on anymore,” she confessed. “I almost never leave the house.”
Sadness washed over the Arizona retiree. After the call ended, Char shifted and shifted again, unable to get comfortable. When you don’t make time for your health, this is what happens, she snapped at herself. At 71 years old and 279 pounds, it wasn’t just her feet — she’d battled lymphoma and had knee replacements, fibromyalgia, and soaring blood pressure. So instead of enjoying time with her 16 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she was trapped on the couch. Suddenly she wondered: Is it too late for me to change?
Char picked up her laptop and Googled “pre-diabetic neuropathy” — the name for her foot issue. She was stunned to get millions of hits. Reading nonstop for the next couple of hours, she found herself joining Facebook groups that offered support and advice. I didn’t realize changes to the way you eat could help, she thought, scanning posts. One word kept popping up: keto. People were saying it eased or even eliminated neuropathy symptoms, lowered blood sugar, and melted stubborn fat.
Char felt a whisper of hope…until the memories of countless failed diets came flooding back. There’d been coffee fasts, low-fat plans, shakes, fads, groups. Even when she was a young mom, every ounce she shed seemed to come back and then some. Over the years, her belly grew so big, she could no longer cross her arms. How could keto be different? Well, I’ve only ever cut calories, never carbs, she thought. And these sites are saying sugar and starch are the problem. I think there’s a chance this could make me feel better.
What’s the “dirty keto” diet?
As Char did more research on the keto diet, she learned that some folks use a “dirty, lazy” version that requires no counting, tracking, fancy ingredients, or complicated menus. Basically, she’d just cut out sugar and starches and replace them with any low-carb foods she wanted. I can start with groceries already in the house, she realized.
The next morning, she made bacon and eggs for breakfast, had tuna salad for lunch, and snacked on deli meat. Dinner was chicken with broccoli for her and potatoes for her husband, Don. It didn’t feel much different from how she usually ate, except that her hunger seemed to be lower than usual. She kept at it, the days flying by. Her mood and energy were up, and her home monitor showed her sugar was almost normal. When she stepped on the scale after a week, she couldn’t stop smiling. That was the easiest 12 pounds I’ve ever lost!
Encouraged, Char began reading labels at the grocery store. Her usual brands of salad dressing and pasta sauce turned out to be sugar bombs, but she quickly found other options that were just as tasty. And she felt a little thrill as she loaded her cart with once-forbidden butter and cream.
It took a few weeks, but soon shopping became a cinch. And not just because she became familiar with keto-friendly options, either. “My feet hurt so much less!” she triumphantly revealed to Diane.
How does the “dirty keto” diet work?
The no-stress approach allows you to enjoy any low-carb food you like — pork rinds, nut flour, bunless Big Macs, even crazy keto desserts — without guilt or tracking. And it works exactly like a strict keto diet. “You drastically reduce intake of foods that raise blood sugar, so your body starts turning fat into an alternate fuel called ketones,” explains top YouTube keto expert Ken Berry, MD. This means up to 19 pounds a week disappear, along with many health concerns that are driven by blood-sugar issues.
Years of high-carb eating often wear down little mechanisms that allow the hormone insulin to get sugar in cells to burn for energy. Starting around age 50, more and more sugar ends up in abdominal fat cells, which are easy for insulin to “unlock.” The fix: “Stop eating carbs and sugar, and belly fat will melt away effortlessly,” promises Dr. Berry. In fact, studies show that keto dieters shed three times more belly fat than other dieters!
What kind of weight loss results can you expect?
“I kept feeling better and enjoying my meals, so I stuck with it. I tried not to worry about the scale,” shares Char, who allowed herself packaged foods, restaurant meals, even pork rinds and whipped cream without guilt.
Did her progress stall at any point? Nope. “I lost 80 pounds in six months!” It was around then, stepping out of the shower, that she got quite a shock. “I glanced down, and there they were—my toes!” she laughs. “My belly had shrunk enough that I could finally see them.” She was soon taken off her blood pressure medication — the last of her health problems to resolve.
Char, who lost 134 pounds in about a year, is now 74 and has been maintaining for two years, enjoying her retirement to the fullest. “I tell everyone, just try dirty keto today. Jump in with both feet—even if your feet hurt. When you start taking care of yourself, amazing things happen!”
How can you try the “dirty keto” diet?
To follow Char’s lead, skip starch and sugar, aiming for plenty of fat, protein, and nonstarchy veggies instead. If you like, jazz up meals with keto-friendly convenience foods, nut flour, and zero-carb sweeteners. Aim to eat only when hungry and to stop when you begin to feel full. Learn more at DirtyLazyKeto.com. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new diet.
Lunch: Toss shredded rotisserie chicken and any keto toppings you like with your favorite salad veggies and full-fat, low-sugar dressing.
Snack: Season sour cream with a no-sugar-added spice blend (such as Old Bay) and enjoy it as dip with sliced non-starchy veggies.
Dinner: Grill your favorite cut of steak and serve it with olive oil–roasted veggies and a serving of riced cauliflower with butter and lemon.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.