Sherri Shepherd had shed more than 30 pounds on a keto diet when the coronavirus pandemic hit. She was shaken by all that was happening but, “I was like, at least lockdown will give me time to make healthy recipes and exercise my body right,” recalls the former 30 Rock and The View star, who retreated to her LA home with son Jeffrey, 16.
Sherri’s optimism was short-lived. “Pandemics are scary — and literally no human is designed to withstand life with a moody teenager 24/7,” she says with a chuckle. “I started to feel crazy. I was staying up until 5AM, binge-watching Dexter and binging on Cheetos.” Her weight and blood sugar climbed. “I have type 2 diabetes, and when my sugar goes up, I get so tired, it’s like I’m numb. I was basically a zombie.” Months passed in a blur; finally, there came early signs the pandemic might be slowing. “I suddenly realized: The world will open up again, and when it does, I don’t want to feel this bad.”
Soon, Sherri was sitting in her backyard, taking stock of her life. She could see that habits meant to bring her comfort had actually left her in a funk, unable to sleep well, and often impatient with her son. She’d gained back lost weight, her diabetes worsening. Doctors warned that meant higher risk of kidney problems, heart disease, stroke. I could die even if I don’t get COVID, she thought, shaking her head.
Sherri took deep breaths and saw her son in the distance. She instantly smiled. He’s why my health matters. I have to remember that and make sure I’ ll be here as long as he needs me. She vowed to get back on track. Big steps, small steps — it didn’t matter.
“You just need to get going in the right direction again,” she said. That day, she let Jeffrey have his nuggets and fries, but she ate keto-style: nice portions of protein, lots of veggies, dollops of healthy fat, plenty of spices, and none of the carbs that drive up blood sugar. She even got Jeffrey to go on a walk with her around the neighborhood. “Can Mommy get a high five?” she asked him afterward. He gave her a half-hearted one, but that was plenty.
Sherri carried 197 pounds on her 5’1″ frame when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. “It was a wake-up call because my mom died young of diabetes complications,” says the Chicago native, now 54. Yet it took years and a pandemic for Sherri to find the twist on keto that worked magic for her. To maintain her new momentum, she turned to HealthyWage.com. “You bet money on yourself, so it’s fun and keeps you accountable,” she says. “And you’re doing it with a lot of people who are really encouraging. My goal was to lose my last 15 pounds, and I lost 20!”
What results can you see from a keto diet and intermittent fasting?
Sherri found that the more good things she did for her body, the better she felt, so she kept at it. And thanks to the slower pace of pandemic life, she noticed things she’d missed before. For example, dairy and fatty meat seemed to leave her bloated. So she made tasty swaps, going for guacamole instead of sour cream and salmon instead of rib-eye steak. The difference was amazing. Pounds of water weight seemed to disappear overnight. “I wake up in the morning and I actually have energy,” she marveled to friend Kym Whitley, as they taped their Two Funny Mamas podcast.
Around the same time, Sherri stumbled on an article about intermittent fasting. It didn’t sound fun at first, but it grew appealing as she learned more. The basic idea was that she’d finish dinner early, then stop eating for the night, giving her body a longer period to digest and rest before breakfast. On top of that, Sherri read that these daily mini fasts might help her body heal damage caused by high blood sugar. That’s perfect for me, she thought. She started right away. To avoid the temptation to snack while watching TV, she turned in a bit earlier— another trick she’d read that helps the body regulate blood sugar.
Within days, Sherri felt brand-new. She had the stamina to add more fun exercise like online dance classes and roller skating. She got inspired to find a therapist, who helped unload old hurts that could trigger comfort-food cravings. Sherri’s focus sharpened, allowing her to pray and meditate more often. “More than weight, I started focusing on forgiveness and peace,” she says. “That made the weight fall off!”
At her most recent checkup, Sherri recalls, “My doctor said, ‘Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.’ I was feeling tight and light. ‘Your blood sugar is normal, and the rest of your blood work is incredible!’” So when a red catsuit caught her eye on social media, she wondered: Can I pull that off? so I ordered a size large.” When it arrived, Sherri tried it on, sure it would be too snug. “But it was literally hanging off me,” she says with a laugh. “I had to call and beg for a smaller size!”
From her all-time highest weight, Sherri is down 49 pounds, her waist 10 inches smaller. “At 54, this is the best I’ve ever felt!” she says. Her advice to those inspired by her success? “First, talk to yourself the way you would to your best friend. You’ll be surprised what a lift you get,” she says. “Then come up with a few practical little things and do them every single day. When you look up, you got big results!”
Why does a keto diet with intermittent fasting work so well?
Like many women reporting “wow” results, Sherri amped up her keto diet with a form of intermittent fasting. The gist: You set a window of time — like noon to 8PM — during which you eat all your keto fare for the day. Outside the window, it’s zero-carb beverages only. For his book The Switch, scientist James Clement analyzed more than 18,000 studies and determined that keto and intermittent fasting is the most effective way to lose weight and feel great.
It turns out, keto and fasting activates a special chemical pathway inside of us, which scientists call mTOR. “Think of it like a dimmer switch for your lights,” says anti-aging expert Clement. A keto diet plus intermittent fasting constantly turns the switch up and down, and this on-and-off cycle triggers the body to clean out damaged cells, then grow healthy new ones. It’s a process that leaves every organ and system rejuvenated, confirms Obesity Code author Jason Fung, MD.
From hormone levels to metabolism, mood and immunity, it all improves. “You get healthier as you get lean,” notes Dr. Fung. The impact is so powerful, women lose up to 19 pounds in seven days and reverse diabetes in as little as 12 weeks!
What should you eat on this modified keto diet?
To follow Sherri’s fat-burning lead, use a free app like the one at CarbManager.com to keep carbs below 40 grams per day. Also aim to eat a late breakfast and stop eating for the day by 8PM. And to rev results even more, get your heart rate up daily with fun activities like walking, dancing, and roller skating. Always get a doctor’s okay to try a new diet.
BREAKFAST: Top fiber-rich keto cereal, such as Kashi GO, with almond milk and berries.
LUNCH: Grill chicken and enjoy over a large salad with avocado and no-sugar dressing.
DINNER: Sauté shrimp with olive oil, lemon, garlic and herbs; serve with zucchini “noodles.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.