‘We wish we’d known about keto 30 years ago’

Kristin started the keto diet in January 2019 in the hope it would help her stomach distress. Her husband and son decided to join her in the diet.

Not only did her stomach pain resolve, but the whole family also lost significant amounts of weight. But even more astonishing to Kristin, the symptoms of her life-long rheumatoid arthritis greatly improved.

Kristin first shared her story with Diet Doctor in August 2021. We caught up with her again in September 2022. She and the family continue to do very well. She is now wearing size 4 dresses (down from size 16 in 2018!) Better yet, the inflammatory markers for her rheumatoid arthritis have stayed low, and her symptoms have improved so much, her doctor is reducing her medications yet again. “This is huge!” she says.

“Cutting out carbs and dropping weight was the easiest thing we have ever done. Seriously. We just wish we’d known about keto 30 years ago,” Kristin says.

Here is Kristin’s original August 2021 story, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What’s your name, age, and where do you live?
My name is Kristin. I am a 48-year-old high school science teacher in Wyoming.

When did you start the keto diet?
January 2019.

Did you have any health or weight struggles before going low carb or keto?
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) when I was 5, but I had symptoms as early as 15 months old. As a child, the RA came and went but by age 21, the RA came on with a vengeance and never went into remission.

I had my first son at age 25. His first year of life was rough for me. The RA flared worse than any other time in my life.

Over the next 20 years, I bounced around on a number of different biologic drugs, such as Enbrel, and eventually was also put on methotrexate for immune suppression. I also was on levothyroxine for a low-functioning thyroid. Between the thyroid and RA, I was tired all the time.

My low point came in October 2017. My ankles flared so badly I could barely walk and I was in excruciating pain. Sitting, standing, lying down – everything hurt. In the winter of 2018, I had surgery for a severely prolapsed bladder and rectum. The pain and fatigue put me in a constant fog.

In the fall of 2018, I was doing better with Rituxan infusions and methotrexate but was now suffering from intense stomach issues. It seemed that no matter what I ate, I would bloat horribly even when I thought I was eating healthy (tuna on whole-wheat bread, for example). The pain was incredible!*

January 9, 2019, was the turning point. I’d figured out that flour was one of the culprits causing my stomach pain. That day, I decided: no more grains for me. I had tried the paleo diet several years previously, but my blood sugar got worse and I was borderline type 2 diabetes, so I was hesitant to eat that way again.

I’d heard about the keto diet from some coworkers and I thought they were crazy, but their weight loss was impossible to ignore. I decided to give keto a try even though I was convinced a high-fat diet and low carbs could not possibly be healthy for humans. I never dreamt I would lose weight or improve my RA. I simply wanted my stomach issues to resolve.

What were you eating before making this lifestyle change?
Lots of carbs like cereals, yogurt, bread, chips, granola bars, industrial seed oils, pasta, fruits, vegetables — basically the standard American diet.

What happened when you started eating a keto diet?
Thank God I found Diet Doctor because I had no idea what was allowed. The recipes were delicious. My husband and son decided to do the diet with me.

We went through all the cabinets, refrigerator, and freezers and got rid of everything we shouldn’t eat.

For the first 45 days, we used a free app to help track our macros. The app helped me to realize we were eating too much fat. After some adjusting, I lost a small amount of weight but my stomach issues were so much better.

My husband dropped 50 pounds (23 kilos) practically overnight. My son lost almost 70 pounds (32 kilos)! While the scale didn’t change fast for me, my clothes were certainly getting bigger.

What does a typical day of eating and/or fasting look like for you now?
I typically fast for 18 to 20 hours. During the school year, my feeding window starts after school and goes for about 4 hours or so. I am not super strict on my fasting or my eating window. Some days it is two hours and sometimes six.

We have completely eliminated any food with industrial seed oils. We have discovered which vegetables we can eat and which cause us to bloat or have pain. Some days we eat more of a carnivore diet (meat, eggs, some dairy).

Recently, I realized dairy aggravates my stomach. I only eat small amounts of cheese on occasion but butter doesn’t seem to bother me.

Occasionally, I will eat lunch and dinner. Most days I eat meat, eggs, and maybe olives or pickles. I do like macadamia nuts as a treat. On occasion, I will eat cucumbers, salad, and a few peppers. I cannot eat vegetables too often. Some make me bloat and some cause joint pain.

I have also discovered that too many almonds (nuts, almond flour, almond milk, etc.) cause me joint pain.

In what ways has your health improved?
In so many ways. This journey started as a way for me to fix my stomach issues. It evolved into becoming the healthiest people we can be. When we added in the fasting, my health got even better. Overall, I have now lost about 60 pounds (27 kilos).

Most amazingly, I do believe eating keto/carnivore has made a significant impact on my rheumatoid arthritis. People often told me that diet can affect RA, but I didn’t see how since I got RA as a baby. I am now a believer!

I still take Rituxan infusions every six months and I am on methotrexate, but I take less methotrexate than I used to. My recent CRP level was only 0.4! My vegetarian rheumatologist cannot believe the success I have had. While he may not eat meat, he encourages me to keep doing what I am doing as it is clearly helping me.

Have you made any mistakes on your journey (which you’ve learned from)?
While I never quit this new lifestyle, I would get frustrated when the scale wouldn’t budge — even though my clothes were getting bigger. I had to remind myself that I needed to get healthy on the inside before the weight would come off.

The only other error I initially made was thinking I had to eat at least three meals per day even though the diet left me feeling full until lunch.

Do you think exercise is necessary for success on a keto diet?
No. Most of my weight loss was through diet alone. However, once I started to feel amazing, I wanted to see what I could accomplish at the gym. I started lifting weights about a year ago. For the first time in my life, I can see muscle definition. The added muscle is helping the joints as well.

I aim to work out three or four times per week for about 45 minutes to an hour but some weeks I only make it once or twice.

What are your top three tips for people starting low carb?
People don’t believe that I can look this thin by eating steak and eggs. Many people tell me they can’t give up their pasta, beer, or bread.

But if people are serious about making a change, I tell them to start slowly. Cut out one processed food item (pasta, bread, or cereal). After a while, cut out something else. Try to eat meat, eggs, and vegetables that have fewer carbs. Stay away from most fruits as they have tons of sugar.

My second piece of advice is to use a free app that tracks macros so they can make sure they do not take in too much fat and to ensure they aren’t eating too many carbs.

My last piece of advice is to ignore the scale. It’s evil! Instead, judge your weight loss by how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror. If you lift weights, your muscles will be denser. The scale may go up but you will be leaner and look better.

Final thoughts?
Honestly, changing our diet and getting healthy has been fairly easy. Cutting out carbs and dropping weight was the easiest thing we have ever done. Seriously. We just wish we knew about this 30 years ago.

I will eternally be grateful for websites like Diet Doctor that helped me to focus on what to eat when I did not have a clue.

Congratulations, Kristin, to you and your family. We are so happy to hear that you have not only lost weight but your stomach issues and rheumatoid arthritis are so much better.

Anne Mullens

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