“After struggling with chronic pain and infertility, I started a ketogenic diet combined with fasting and lost 70 pounds in 9 months.”
By Sari Mah, as told to Emily Shiffer
My name is Sari Mah, and I am 36 years old. I live in Hurricane, West Virginia, and I am a Certified Nurse Assistant.
My weight loss journey has not been linear. I had several health issues that had contributed to my weight gain. I was diagnosed with chronic pain when I was 19, as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and diverticulosis. At my highest weight in 2008 (323.7 pounds), I started on my first weight loss journey. Through hoop dance, time, and a calorie deficit, I brought down my weight to 186.2 pounds. It took several years.
However, after back-to-back pregnancy losses, including a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy in 2014, the weight slowly crept back on. Before I knew it, I was hovering again over 230 pounds and was unable to take off the weight, regardless of the work I put in. Type 2 diabetes was pounding at my door, and I was talking about getting a hysterectomy. I felt hopeless and frustrated.
In September 2019, my doctor suggested I try a clean Ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting schedule to do a reset in my body with hopes I may have a viable pregnancy. I started on October 1, 2019, at 230 pounds. My doctor instructed me to do at least two non-consecutive 24-hour fasts in a week, anything else being a bonus. After I downloaded the Zero app, I started tracking and fasting daily. At first, I did my two 24-hour fasts on Monday and Wednesday with 16 hour fasts in between. Now, I do one extended fast in a month (usually 40 hours). I still do my two non-consecutive 24-hour fasts, on top of 18-hour fasts the rest of the week. Generally, my eating period is 11:00 to 17:00 (5PM). On my 24-hour fast I stop and start eating at 16:00 ending at 17:00. With my extended fasts, I start eating once I start feeling hunger. I find I struggle with my first 24 hours, but once I am past that point, everything else seems to be cake!
In 280 days (9 months), I lost 70 pounds. More recently, I have set the goal of reaching a healthy weight for my height/a normal BMI, so, I am still working on losing (a little more) weight. And that is where I am now in my journey, striving for a healthy BMI and weight before my husband and I start trying for a baby. Reminder: at the very beginning of this adventure, I was asking for a hysterectomy—and now we have the goal of having a baby!
My big goal is to live pain free. And part of that has been implementing a workout routine. I have a daily step goal and have been using Skimble’s Workout Trainer (a free app, with in-app purchases, one can get on the App Store, or Google Play). Every week I sit down with my day planner and map out my plans for working out that week. Combined with fasting, I have also gotten better sleep throughout the night. And during the day I have a lot more joyful energy!
When I first started fasting, it felt terrifying and overwhelming. It took a long while for me to enjoy my fasting time because I was in the habit of snacking when bored and turned to food for comfort. Now I look at food as fuel, and it tastes better to me now.
Here’s what I eat in a day now:
Breakfast: Coffee (it’s a girl’s best friend!)
Lunch: Lately, I have been loving making egg salad from hard boiled eggs from my Air Fryer. But, honestly, lettuce wraps of all kinds are my jam! Trader Joe’s Buffalo Chicken Dip in a Romaine Lettuce with a sprinkling of Blue Cheese and dill pickles.
Dinner: Pick a meat (pork, chicken, beef, salmon), pick a vegetable (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, bell peppers, artichokes), and pick your fat (KerryGold butter, olive oil, MCT, coconut oil, a yolk) – keep keto simple, baby! It is the best way to eat.
Snacks: Mac’s Salt-N-Vinegar Pork Rinds with Tostitos Avocado Salsa has been my main go-to.
Dessert: I have a love-affair with ChocZero’s Keto Bark, and a fine appreciation for Evolve Keto Cups and Ghirardelli 95% Dark Chocolate! From time to time I also get myself Quest Peanut Butter Cups.
The most rewarding part about fasting has been seeing relief in my inflammation and pain. I truly am seeing and feeling my pain lessen. After a life-long battle with chronic pain where there have been times I could not ambulate from the bed to the couch, I can now climb hills. Even when I am experiencing pain, I can now move with a lot more ease! And my period also became ‘normal’ for the very first time.
Since I started fasting, I have lost 70 pounds. But I have lost 153.7 pounds during my entire journey.
For any human in a similar situation that may not be seeing results as quickly as they would like, trust the process. Find your ‘why.’ It cannot be something as simple as “I want to be healthy.” I would dare say most people want to be healthy. Your reason why needs to elicit a powerful, emotional response in you. Something that makes you cry when it sits with you. Pain management and being healthy enough to safely have a family are my two big motivators. I hate being in pain all the time, and I cannot wait to make my little family of two into a family of three with my husband. To me, that is worth telling myself I value my health more than I value my excuses! It keeps you motivated on the days you aren’t “feeling it.”