Photographer: Erik Revills. Hair, makeup and stylist: Elaine Harrison.
“There wasn’t something wrong with me—I was just eating the wrong foods!”
Woman’s World cover model Kristie Sullivan, Ph.D., of Pinehurst, NC, lost 117 lbs., has kept it off and is now inspiring others to find delicious success too!
“I had convinced myself that my husband and children were better off without me than with the obese, embarrassing, pain-ridden woman they lived with,” Kristie Sullivan tells WomansWorld.com. “Weighing around 270 lbs. at 5-foot-nothing, I had limited mobility, especially in the evenings after work. I couldn’t even walk upstairs at night to tuck my kids in and kiss them goodnight. I was missing their lives, and relied on my husband for help. I wasn’t the mother or the wife I wanted to be, nor did I feel like the mom and wife they deserved. And so one night, for the last time, I vowed: I’ll lose weight or die trying.
“My weight had started ballooning at the age of 3. My parents didn’t know what to do with my enormous appetite when I begged for two pulled-pork BBQ sandwiches. From childhood to middle age, I tried every diet imaginable, losing, gaining, losing and gaining. By the time I was 45, I was heading back toward my record highest weight of 313.
“I had a lot of which to be proud—two fantastic kids after some difficult pregnancy losses, a loving and devoted husband, a nice home, a respected career in higher education, and a Ph.D. I had done everything that I had ever wanted to do… Except, I could not seem to manage my weight.
A lightbulb moment: It isn’t always about the calories!
“Desperate to lose weight or die trying, I just started a 1,200-calorie-a-day, low-fat diet. The first week was miserable, the second week was worse and the scales would not budge. That’s when my friend Maggie told me these magical words: ‘It isn’t always about the calories.’
“What? Most of my life had been about calories. Counting them. Avoiding them. Overeating them. Restricting them. Loving them. Hating them. If calories didn’t matter, what did?
“Maggie told me about a book, Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It by Gary Taubes. Taubes explained the role of insulin in the body and described something called ‘carbohydrate intolerance,’ where certain bodies can’t process carbs efficiently. Instead, they stored the extra glucose as fat. There I was, obese and always hungry because my body couldn’t use the fuel I was giving it. Perhaps if I changed the fuel, I could change the results.
A new way of fueling, a big difference!
“Following the plan laid out in Taubes’ book, and detailed by Dr. Eric Westman of Duke University, I began what I now understand is a ketogenic diet. No sugar and no starch meant no potatoes, no pasta, no bread. ‘Good luck with that!’ my husband told me.
“For me, it didn’t seem all that crazy after trying so many other things over the years. So for two weeks I focused on keeping my carbs fewer than 20 grams per day, roughly 7 grams per meal.
“The difference was dramatic and swift. On day three, in the middle of a hectic project at work, I realized at 3:00 pm that I’d forgotten to eat lunch. I’d heard of people forgetting to eat, but I had never been one of them. It was such a momentous occasion that I stopped to call a friend to tell her the news!
“At the end of those two weeks, I was 10 lbs. lighter. Not once did I torture my body with exercise. And the food was pretty good! I had energy that I didn’t recognize. My back hurt less. My husband even confided that he, too, had lost 10 lbs. just because I had been cooking differently.
Losing pounds, gaining hope!
“More than anything, I had hope again. Within a few months of eating keto, I was off all of my pain medications. The stairs were no longer a barrier to tucking in my babies at night. Eating this way seemed so natural for my body. It confirmed that there wasn’t something wrong with me, there had been something wrong with all the other dietary advice I had tried over the years.
“Using keto, I lost more than 100 lbs. and have kept the weight off for more than five years. Folks ask me ‘Don’t you miss bread and potatoes?’ But I tell them, I’ve gotten back so much more than I have ever given up! Riding bikes with my children and kayaking with my family without having to starve myself.
“Sustaining this way of eating has been easy. I simply eat delicious, real foods that nourish me, like chicken wings and bunless cheeseburgers. I never felt deprived or hungry. It is no exaggeration to say that I eat more delicious foods now than I ever did before.
Helping others thrive!
“Transforming my life and my health have felt fantastic—better than I’d ever imagined it might be! But it’s not just about helping myself anymore. I compare it to escaping any disaster like a burning building or a flood. After I found a way out to safety, I looked back and realized that other people were still stuck. The path out was easy, but they didn’t know. That’s why I keep sharing my experience through books and social media to help them all get to safety!
“That’s why I published Keto Living Day by Day ($23.76, Amazon). I want others to know you don’t have to struggle. There isn’t something wrong with you, but you’re eating the wrong foods! I use that book to explain in simple terms how and why a keto diet works and to provide simple recipes with ingredients that can be found at local grocery stores.
“For my second book, Keto Gatherings ($19.75, Amazon), I wanted to help folks see that keto is sustainable, even around the holidays. Inside, these are delicious recipes that I’ve fed my family through six holiday seasons. Need a recipe for a party? Make a sausage-and-cheese dip or a chocolate chip–skillet cookie that won’t make you gain weight and will leave you feeling energetic instead of sluggish. You can live in the ‘real world’ and still stay on keto, regardless of what you are celebrating! For Christmas we had low-carb White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, Italian Cream Cake, Sausage Balls and even Cheese Straws. All of it was low-carb recipes included in Keto Gatherings.
“The response to the books has been overwhelming. Perhaps because I’m not a professional chef, I often hear that my recipes are easy to follow. When I see folks on social media posting pictures of my recipes they often say, ‘You gave me back my favorite!’ They are elated to have keto-friendly recipes for biscuits or cornbread, strawberry cake, cocktails or even hot fudge cake, just to name a few. This way of eating works wonders for me and it can for others too. I want to shout it from every corner of the universe: ‘This is so easy!’
“After 5.5 years of keto, I’m truly living my best life! I recently retired from my full-time job in higher education. Now I help more than 181,000 people in my closed Facebook group, Low Carb Journey to Health (Cooking Keto with Kristie), I conduct workshops, make cooking videos, write books and work for the Diet Doctor team, which is the number-one low-carb website in the world. My lifetime struggle is now a blessing to others, and that’s the best part of my story!”
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