April McIntosh always had a complicated relationship with food. She struggled with her weight growing up and regularly indulged in fatty, sugary meals to deal with her emotions. April always wanted to lose weight, and she made an effort to be active, but she just couldn’t get her diet on track.
That all changed about a year ago, when April and her husband, Chris, discovered the high-fat, low-carb keto diet—and lost a collective 235 pounds.
Last November, the number staring back at April on the scale was 330 pounds, and for Chris it was 316. April tells Health the Virginia couple’s diet consisted of processed, less-than-healthy foods like mac and cheese, frozen chicken nuggets, and instant mashed potatoes. “Stuff that really had no nutritional value,” she says.
Chris is a mechanic, a job that calls for long, stressful hours, he says. His food choices reflected this. If he was making lunch to take to work, he would throw together “whatever was quick,” he tells Health. At the end of the workday, he indulged to take the edge off. “Eating was my coping mechanism,” he says.
Slowly but surely, April began to realize that her weight was holding her back. One moment that stands out to her was when she was at an amusement park with her 8-year-old brother. He was dying to ride a rollercoaster with his big sister, but April was panicked about it, she recalls.
“While we were in line, I was thinking ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to fit or if it’s going to be dangerous because I’m so much larger than him and the bar isn’t going to close properly to keep him safe,’” April says. When it was their turn to get on the ride, April’s fears came true. Her hips couldn’t fit in the seat, and she had to tell her little brother she couldn’t ride with him.
April wishes that would have been the final straw to force her to commit to losing weight. But that breaking-point moment finally happened a few months later, when she and Chris were at an awards dinner. She dressed up for it, and she felt like she looked incredible. But when she saw the photos from the night, the woman she saw on the screen didn’t look anything like the way she felt. “It was mind-blowing to me that I got to a point where I didn’t even recognize myself,” she says.
At that moment, April was done sitting back and watching her health spiral out of control. She had been following keto success stories on social media, and though she was skeptical about giving up foods like pasta, she knew something had to change.
So on the last day of November 2017, April made the switch to keto. She admits the first few days were hard, especially because of the hunger. But after about a week, she noticed healthy changes. “I had more energy, I didn’t feel bloated all the time, and I was really excited,” she says.
Chris, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced keto was for him. He stuck to his usual meal choices while he watched April give the high-fat, low-carb keto lifestyle a go. Chris didn’t think he could give up foods like bread and potatoes, which had been staples of his diet for his entire life.
It took him about a month of watching April’s progress to join her on her weight-loss journey. As soon as he got on board, he knew he made the right choice. “You won’t believe the places you lose weight,” he says—explaining that he wears rubber gloves to work, and in a short period of time, he dropped a glove size.
April and Chris agree that those early signs of success motivated them to stick to it. They replaced their usual frozen chicken nuggets with steak, cheese, broccoli, and bacon, and they made sure they were getting exercise in ways that worked for them. April says she likes to walk a mile or two on her lunch break to get her body moving, and Chris works on his feet all day and does active house chores like splitting wood.
Now, a year later, April has lost 135 pounds and weighs in at 195. Chris has lost 100 pounds and clocks in at 216.
Both are more confident about the way they look, and they love that they no longer worry that their weight is holding them back from pursuing activities and hobbies. But April believes that the most rewarding part for her is her newfound freedom from food.
“I don’t feel like food controls me anymore,” she says. “When I put something in my mouth, it’s because I know what I’m doing, it’s intentional. I’m not just eating to eat.”