Read the below interview with Toni Kirkner, our 2015 Biggest Blue Loser who earned 1st place for females. She lost 10.5% of her body weight!
What are the most significant changes you have made to your diet and/or exercise habits?
The secret to my success is a way of eating called nutritional ketosis. This calls for: high fat (130-140 grams), moderate protein (60-65 grams) and very low carb (< 25 grams) per day. Through this process, my body switched from using glucose as its primary fuel to using dietary fat as its primary fuel. After my body burns the dietary fat I consume and I am in a caloric deficit, my body burns its stored fat for fuel. Though I don’t normally count calories, I did during the BBL competition and my average daily caloric intake was:
1567 calories, from which
78% of calories were fat (135 grams)
16% of calories were protein (63 grams)
6% of calories were carbohydrate (25 grams)
In researching how to naturally reverse my pre-diabetes and insulin resistance, I discovered this way of eating and have been following it since last summer. In addition to reversing my pre-diabetes and insulin resistance, I have also lost 60 lbs. since mid-June, despite being a 50-year-old post-menopausal woman with low thyroid function and adrenal fatigue. The fat loss is just the most visible of a myriad of other health benefits I have experienced. For all the years I tried to eat a low-fat diet, I consistently battled hunger, deprivation and fatigue — as a result, I gained more and more weight over the years. Though nutritional ketosis is far outside the parameters of the “recommended” way to lose weight, FOR MY PARTICULAR BIOCHEMISTRY, it is what works for me. The only exercise I did during BBL (and, in fact, since I started this way of eating), was that which was required by the BBL challenges. I’m not against exercise; as a former athlete, I know full well the many benefits of it; I simply haven’t been able to fit it into my life and it wasn’t necessary for my fat loss. I do intend, however, to begin more regular exercise once the new fitness center (with extended hours) opens on Export Street!
What strategies have you used to make these changes?
Implementing this way of eating wasn’t difficult. I simply make sure to get enough protein each day (65 g) to maintain my lean body mass, limit carbohydrates (in any form) to below 25 grams, and eat enough fats to maintain energy and satisfy my hunger. When I first began this way of eating (mid-June), I was eating at least (and sometimes well over) 2,000 calories per day, and still consistently losing fat. As my weight dropped, my need for that many calories naturally diminished, and I naturally require less calories now. The only time I experience any actual hunger is when I haven’t eaten for approximately 6 hours. The only time I experience any cravings is after I have eaten about 50 grams of carbohydrates in any given day.
How has your perspective changed? What changes have you made to how you think about diet and/or exercise?
I now believe that my lack of success in losing weight in the past was less about a lack of effort and willpower and more about biochemistry. I haven’t “worked harder” this time… in fact, it has felt relatively effortless compared to everything else I did in the past. I believe that in the same way that medicine can cause different reactions in people, food/macronutrients can cause different responses as well. I believe that weight loss/maintenance is not as simple as “calories in / calories out” (except perhaps for those with perfectly healthy/”normal” metabolism and balanced hormones) and also that not all calories are created equal.
Part of success is anticipating challenges. What challenges do you for see for yourself moving forward? Do you have ideas for how to overcome them?
The challenges I see ahead include, incorporating exercise into my routine; setting and reaching an appropriate weight goal; and transitioning into maintaining both my weight and my health for the long term. I do have strategies for these and fully intend to take advantage of UK Health & Wellness’ staff and fitness resources.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting on their weight loss journey or are struggling to continue it?
I would tell anyone who is trying to lose excess weight to first consider any underlying biochemical issues that may be contributing factors — especially if you are “doing everything right,” and still not having success. Sixteen years ago, after I had a child, I had classic low-thyroid symptoms, but because I was within (albeit at the very lowest part of) the “normal range,” my doctor did not treat it. I now know that “normal” is a mathematical range, and while some people may feel normal at the lower thyroid level I settled in at after childbirth, I do not, and, my body just didn’t function normally for me. Since 2012, I have lost a total of 100 lbs., and I believe the first 40 were simply because I finally started treating my hypothyroidism. Weight loss does take discipline and effort. However, sometimes, if there are “hidden” obstacles sabotaging your success, no amount of hard work or willpower will be enough.