How Melissa lost 100 pounds with a keto diet, and kept it off for 15 years
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Name: Melissa Forehand
Height: 5’4 1/2” (160 cm)
Highest weight: 240 lbs (109 kg)
Current weight: 145 lbs (66 kg)
Lowest weight: 125 lbs (57 kg)
Back in the summer of 2001, Melissa Forehand was miserable and depressed.
She could feel that her clothes were getting tighter but wasn’t even sure how exactly much she weighed.
“I stopped weighing myself at 225 lbs (102 kg),” she admits. “I probably weighed about 240-250 pounds (109-113 kg). I’d had my daughter several months before but was still wearing maternity clothes and stretchy size 20’s.”
Melissa was prediabetic with a strong family history of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In addition to her baby daughter, she had a six-year-old son and a husband in the military.
“I didn’t realize I had gained so much weight until my son took a photo of me and my daughter, and when I looked at it, I just couldn’t believe how big I’d gotten. I didn’t even recognize myself. And my husband never said a word. He’d always tell me I was beautiful. He had recently deployed, and I didn’t want him to come home to me being 300 pounds (136 kg),” she says.
However, she wasn’t sure how to go about losing the weight. In the past, she’d tried portion control, 100-calorie food packs, and focusing on “healthy whole grains” – none of which produced any meaningful weight loss.
Fortunately for Melissa, fate was on her side. Right around that time, she found an old copy of ‘Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution‘ laying on top of a pile of books at a local thrift store.
“I was in the thrift store and just happened to see this diet book laying there. I picked it up, bought it, and began reading it. And I thought, this has to be for me. I think I was just really in the right place at the right time, I think.”
She started the first phase of the diet, also known as Induction, which restricts carbs to 20 grams per day. Immediately, she noticed that she was less hungry.
However, she admits having a few false starts with low carb.
“I would do so well all day, and then the cravings would hit, and I’d give in, and then I’d be so disappointed in myself. But I found that the cravings would pass if I changed my focus,” she remembers. “And that made me feel so proud of myself and gave me self-confidence. It made me realize that I could keep going, and I did.”
Although Induction is meant to last only two weeks before progressing to Phase 2, Melissa decided to stick with it.
“I stayed on induction for the entire 10 months it took to lose 100 pounds (45 kg). Because I did so well with Phase 1 that I just never made it to Phase 2,” she laughs.
She realizes that not everyone loses this amount of weight in such a short period of time and attributes part of her success to walking for an hour every day while losing weight.
Melissa also decided to keep the weight loss a secret from her husband, who returned home almost a year after she’d started the Atkins diet.My own husband didn’t even recognize me!“My own husband didn’t even recognize me!” she recalls. “When we went to pick him up, he walked right past me. I called out, ‘Larry!’ And he turned around, and he literally didn’t recognize me. He was completely shocked, but in a good way. He walked with me all proud, like ‘Yeah, this is my wife,’” she laughs.
At 41, having maintained a 100-pound (45 kg) loss for 15 years, Melissa is frequently mistaken for being much younger.
“People actually sometimes think my son, who’s now 22, is my boyfriend. It embarrasses him, of course. They sometimes ask, ‘Is this your significant other?’ And I say, ‘No, I’m his mother,’” she laughs.
Melissa makes it a point to eat only when she is hungry, which often means skipping meals.
“Back when I was losing weight, there were times where I would just naturally not be hungry, so I’d go take a walk instead. Sometimes when I came back I still wouldn’t be hungry, so I wouldn’t eat until later. This was before I’d ever heard of intermittent fasting, but that’s what I was doing. And I continue doing it, especially skipping breakfast, because I’m never hungry when I wake up.”
Although she now allows herself up to 30 grams of net carbs per day, she usually remains under 20 grams of net carbs most of the time. And unlike some long-term maintainers, she doesn’t track her meals in an online food tracker or app.
“I don’t track my food at all,” she admits. “I did in the beginning, but it really became second nature. I just pretty much know how many carbs are in all the foods I eat, and I eat the same types of food every day.”
A typical day of eating for Melissa
Coffee break (10:00 am):
1-2 cups of coffee with 1-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream and stevia drops.
Lunch (sometime between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm):
Bunless burger, salad with lots of cheese, olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper.
Dinner (6:00 pm):
Meat, chicken or fish, grilled veggies with plenty of butter (if hungry) or a salad.
And low-carb or keto sweets? They’re not part of her diet as a rule.
“I don’t eat low-carb cookies and stuff like that too often because I don’t think I do very well with those. I mean, I do try them here and there because I’m human, and there are so many recipes that look really good,” she says. “But when I start eating goodies made with almond flour and that sort of thing, I’ve noticed that I can’t just eat one, and it brings on more cravings for other sweet foods as well.”
Melissa says the one treat that doesn’t cause cravings for other sweets is dark chocolate, and just a square or two is enough.Keto is like marriage. You can’t cheat on it and expect it to work.Although she admits occasionally eating a few chips with salsa at a Mexican restaurant while waiting for her meal, she doesn’t believe in “cheat days” or “cheat meals.”
In fact, she has an imagine posted to her Instagram account that reads: “Keto is like marriage. You can’t cheat on it and expect it to work.”
Her best tips
Like many successful long-term weight loss maintainers, Melissa exercises regularly.
“I hike as much as possible, and I just love hiking the trails nearby. I’ll even do the nerdy-girl power walk, getting my arms going,” she laughs. “I still walk for about an hour a day. I can’t run because I have knee problems from when I was overweight, but I do walk a lot. And right now I’m not lifting weights at the gym, but once my youngest starts school at the end of the month, I’ll go back to lifting again.”
These are Melissa’s tips for people who want to successfully maintain their weight loss forever:
- Change your focus if you have cravings. “I found that if I picked up a book and started reading, the cravings always passed. Instead of reading, you can knit, take a walk or do something else to change your focus. I promise the craving will go away if you just stay strong,” she says.
- Don’t look at low carb as a short-term solution. It has to become a way of life.
- Keep your meals simple. “I notice a lot of people struggle trying to find replacements for their high-carb foods and treats. I think it’s okay to experiment later on, but when you’re losing, just focus on meat, vegetables and healthy fats. Keep the treats for later on or maybe never, depending how they affect you,” she says. [Note: Check out our super-simple keto meals here]
You can follow Melissa on her Instagram account, @lowcarbkitty.
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