More than 400 pounds crushed Maggy Floeter's joints, and she was in constant agony, yet her heart was too weak for knee and hip-replacement surgery. Doctors also warned that severe “insulin resistance” — a problem with blood-sugar hormones — meant that Maggy’s body hoarded fat as she gained weight. She was getting bigger and sicker by the day, and she knew that. But it wasn't until her son came to her one morning to express his fears that Maggy found a way to turn her life around.
"What’s wrong?” Maggy asked her ashen-faced son, who’d dropped by on his way to work. Michael, 33, stared at the ground. “I don’t know the right way to say this, Mom, but…” he said, hesitating. “You’ve got to do something about your health. You’re my best friend, and I’m afraid you won’t live through the year.” He looked up, tears in his eyes. Maggy felt her throat tighten. “Oh, honey,” she whispered. “I…” But there were no words to comfort him. “Truth is, I don’t see much hope for myself,” she finally said. Michael glanced up with such pain in his face that it took Maggy’s breath away. Her instinct was instant: Make his hurting stop. Suddenly, words were coming out of her mouth she never intended: “I’ll find a way to get better, Michael. I promise.”
After Michael left, Maggy sat with tears streaming down her face. Ever since being called “fat” as a 108-pound bride, she’d been dieting. Over and over, she’d lose 20 pounds then gain 30, struggling to make healthy living a priority. After a tough pregnancy and divorce, she turned to bread and pasta for comfort. It became harder to move around, harder to lose. She sighed, grabbing her walker and struggling to stand. "I’m too broken to fix," Maggy thought, wiping her tears. "But I’ll let Michael see how hard I’m trying, so at least he’ll know I love him."
Later that day, she confided in her co-worker Deanna. “Have you heard of the keto diet?” Deanna asked Maggy if she'd ever heard of the keto diet for women over 50. “People lose a lot. It’s similar to Atkins, but with 75 percent of the calories coming from fat.” Deanna sent Maggy to a Facebook group where she found keto recipes, research, and even information about insulin resistance. To help overcome it, experts suggest keto dieters eat all their calories between noon and 8 p.m. each day. Maggy didn’t fully understand the science, but she had a very good feeling.
Since Maggy never had much hunger in the morning, skipping breakfast was easy. She then filled up on keto-friendly foods like eggs, burgers, and bacon. Maggy smiled when she entered all the food into an app on her phone and saw she’d hit her target of 75 percent of her calories from fat and less than five percent from carbs.
Soon, however, Maggy felt her body fighting the change. She was bone-tired and craving chips. "You’re doing this for Michael," she reminded herself. It became her mantra for two difficult weeks. Then everything changed. Maggy woke with no cravings and more energy than she’d had in years. Within a month, she was down 20 pounds. Would she start regaining? "No," she told herself. "Just keep thinking about Michael."
As Maggy read tips from other keto dieters online, she saw strong warnings that even small cheats made cravings return. So she tried “cheat-proofing” her life. She found fast keto diet recipes and kept frozen leftovers on hand so she was never tempted by the drive-thru. And if you're wondering how fast can a keto diet improve joint health, just ask Maggy. After a year and a half, she was 170 pounds slimmer and felt healthy enough to try exercise. Michael joined her on her walks. “I’m so proud of you, Mom,” he said. “What you’ve done has been amazing.” Maggy’s heart was full.
Within two years, Maggy had shed 251 pounds. “What surprises me most is that I don’t miss my old foods,” she says. “The feeling of needing more, more, more — it’s just gone. Keto does that.” Maggy, now 59, and Michael go on hikes three times a week and are planning a vacation to Disneyland. “When he was a kid, he always wanted to go, but I was too big to get around,” she says. “Now I’m alive, thriving, and making up for lost time.”
The Keto Diet and Insulin Resistance
The blood sugar-regulating hormone “is like the main switch that turns fat storage on and turns fat burning off,” explains John Limansky, M.D., of BiohackMD. He says most Americans eat in a way that keeps blood sugar and insulin chronically high; over time, insulin stops working properly, keeping the body in near constant fat-storage mode.
Keto limits the two nutrients that drive up blood sugar and insulin levels most: carbs and large amounts of protein. Without those foods, blood sugar drops, and the body can no longer rely on sugar as its main fuel. Instead, it starts creating “ketones” from stored fat to burn as fuel, says Dr. Limansky. Ketones also suppress appetite.
“Every time you eat, you release some insulin — so eating less often further suppresses insulin,” Limansky says of “intermittent fasting,” which involves eating all of the day’s calories in an eight-hour window. “A keto diet plus intermittent fasting is the quickest and most effective way to lose fat.” Folks report losing up to 22 pounds in nine days with the help of a few insulin resistance diet recipes.
Keto Diet Menus: A Day in the Life
Here’s a glimpse at the insulin resistance meal plan Maggy ate to lose big. Be sure to get a doctor’s okay before following her lead.
Before Breakfast: Iced green tea. Any zero-calorie liquid is fine, but Maggy finds decaf green tea keeps hunger pangs at bay.
Breakfast: Keto pancakes from a mix, such as Carbquik Baking Mix ($16.99, Amazon) with sugar-free syrup and breakfast sausage.
Lunch: Wedge-style Burger: A juicy patty with bacon, cheese, and mayo on lettuce instead of a bun.
Snacks: Sugar-free gelatin, pecans, strawberries, celery with peanut butter, sugar-free chocolate such as Lily's Dark Chocolate Bar with Coconut Stevia ($4.09, Amazon).
Dinner: Maggy’s Crust-less Pizza: In a baking pan, layer no-sugar-added marinara with lots of mozzarella, sausage, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Bake 25 minutes; 2 cups side salad, zero-carb dressing.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.