Let me just get something out of the way, right up front.
These are two of my favorite people in the world!
This in no way diminishes my feelings for other people I care about- but let me ask you- are there a couple of people in your life that are really and truly riding the same wave length as you? Can you talk to them for hours and feel like no time has passed? Can you engage with them on matters of significance or meaninglessness alike and it all feels like it’s contributing to your bond? That’s how I feel about these folks.
Kevin is my husband’s cousin and Amy is his wife. Kevin’s mom and my husband’s mom were sisters and best friends so they raised their children together in Hawaii, as sisters and best friends do.
We don’t get to see these cousins very often anymore, as Kevin and Amy live on Oahu, while we’re across the Pacific in Washington state. But they came for a visit last fall and during that visit they got an inside view of the positive impact the Ketogenic dietary model has had on my health. After a few nights of talking story and sharing good meals, the visit ended and they flew back home to paradise with a little seed of an idea planted in their noggins, mostly due to one statement I’d made,
“Hawaiian food is totally Keto! Lau lau, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, poke!”
As they settled back into post vacation life, rejoining their colleagues at work and sitting in rush hour traffic, they stopped thinking so much about potential big life changes and just kind of got on with business as usual. Then, at the beginning of 2020, things started to get more complicated for my favorite couple.
But before all that, a bit of history.
Kevin and Amy fell in love in 2001, at the ages of 34 and 28 and were married in 2002. Amy says that one of the first things Kevin told her was that if she was going to date him, she was going to gain weight. Kevin and Amy are both self described “foodies”, although I think it’s safe to say that Kevin leads the charge on that one. Like any good couple with Hawaiian and Midwestern roots, food was for celebration and meals were a way to express their love for each other and those around them. The thing is, Kevin and Amy aren’t short on love and for these exuberant, active humans, every day is a happy celebration. As it happens, Kevin and Amy experienced incremental weight gain over their (almost) 18 years of marriage- a few pound last year, a few pounds this. Then, when Amy suffered a severe foot injury that limited her physical activity for a prolonged period, she gained 30 pounds in one year. This prohibited her from being able to have a much desired breast reduction surgery, shook her confidence and threatened her ability to experience life as joyfully as she always had.
In both Kevin and Amy’s family lines, metabolic illness and obesity ran strong. Kevin lost his dad to heart failure and Amy her mom to colon cancer. Kevin also lost his mom, my husband’s aunty to a rare disorder not related to metabolic health or diet.
Back to January
After Kevin returned from his annual physical, he received the lab results from his doctor with a message that his A1C was 6.5. He’d need to return at a given time to be retested, but should that number still be as high, he would be given a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. Kevin immediately began searching for a way to reverse this condition and was reminded that a Ketogenic diet was being used to treat metabolic illnesses such as insulin resistance and T2D. He also recalled my story and how I’d explained that not only were some of his favorite foods included, but that I’d said it was a totally sustainable, satisfying way to live the rest of a life. He walked into the room where Amy was and exclaimed,
“I’m going on the Keto diet, right now!”
Amy was a little dumbfounded, having just returned from a $700 grocery shopping trip (groceries are expensive in Hawaii). Never the less, she dug right in to supporting her husband in making this change and began researching and learning everything she could about the Keto diet. With Amy’s support and a really positive attitude, Kevin embarked on his adventure and immediately began dropping weight. When Kevin returned to the doctor for his follow up testing, his A1C had dropped and he avoided that diagnosis! He also began experiencing better sleep with reduced symptoms of sleep apnea and brought his blood pressure back to normal levels. He’s been unable to track his A1C further or have a sleep study, as Covid prevents unnecessary doctor’s visits, but he says he feels better and is able to track his blood pressure at home. And by the end of July, Kevin had lost 67 pounds!
While Amy began January helping Kevin with a smooth dietary transition, she was also busy trying to eat through those unhealthy groceries she’d brought home previously. Waste not, want not, right? But she had also become ill at the end of the year with an “unidentified lung infection” that was really hanging on. She was getting sicker and more run down, not to mention the fact that she was effectively picking up the weight Kevin was dropping. At a pivotal moment for Amy, enough was enough. She and Kevin cleared their home of any remaining unhealthy foods, restocked their kitchen with a couple of thousand dollars in groceries (I wasn’t kidding- Hawaii is expensive), stopped eating out almost completely and went to work together to get healthy. Amy has been teaching herself to cook differently and is finding it to be a labor of love. Where once she found little joy in cooking, now the opposite is proving true.
And what about that mystery illness? Well, in December Amy had close contact with an individual who’d recently returned from China and was sick. Amy will never KNOW that she had Covid19, but Amy knows she had Covid19. When Amy got sick nobody knew to look for the then yet to be identified illness. It just wasn’t on any radars. And so she got sicker and sicker for months with fevers, a painful cough, fatigue and restricted breathing. Her doctors were increasingly alarmed, running any tests they could think of and prescribing a steroid. Amy and Kevin both say they were extremely scared. When Covid19 was identified in Hawaii, Amy’s doctors suspected the virus could be the culprit, but many of her critical symptoms had begun to improve, if not go away completely. She does however have bronchial scarring that will likely not repair itself. She was finally administered an antibody test in July, since she is due to return to her classroom in a couple of weeks (Amy is a high school history teacher). The test was inconclusive. I guess we’ll never know.
The bright side of this story however is that Amy credits the Ketogenic diet with her ability to recover from her mysterious lung infection. She is confident that had she continued to fuel her body with glucose and her insulin remained high, her ability to survive the virus would have been lessoned dramatically. She lost weight, although at first quite slowly in comparison with Kevin. But hey- have you ever met someone who didn’t gain weight while being pumped full of steroids? I haven’t. Amy didn’t just maintain her weight, she began losing. After six months on a Ketogenic diet, while being sick, Amy has begun to reverse an unhealthy metabolic condition and has lost 50 pounds! She says that the most significant change for her however is the ability to move well. Amy is a world traveler, having visited all 50 states and 34 countries. Those weight gains over the years were bogging her down. She’s relieved and overjoyed that she can be comfortable moving around in the world again.
So, what happens next for Kevin and Amy?
Well, Kevin just took a promoted position as a civilian Environmental Protection Specialist for the US military. He’s still Insta-ing his “Keto Kanak Attacks” (look it up if you don’t know), although now they’re usually photos of Amy’s home prepared meals instead of local grinds (look that up too) from area restaurants. He’s on his way to his goal weight with only 33 more pounds to lose.
Amy is preparing to head back to work, although she does worry a lot about how Covid19 will play out within her school district. Amy really is more historian who teaches than history teacher, although she has a deep and abiding love for her students. And they love her back. Many of Amy’s students keep in touch with her for years after they graduate. With so many emotional threads being pulled because of this pandemic, Amy is keeping her mental health and stress levels in mind, not just her physical health. She’s keeping calm and Keto-ing on and at half way to her goal inside six months, she’ll be there before she knows it.
Kevin and Amy credit one another completely for their own success. They give their total support to one another selflessly, in any ways that the other might need and therefor are never left feeling alone and isolated in their endeavors.
Family and friends are beginning to recognize the changes in Kevin and Amy. People are cheering them on and have started to inquire about how they can adopt healthier eating habits. They’re happy to help of course. That’s what this movement is all about- learning about dietary misconceptions, eliminating processed foods, feeling our way through, then paying it forward to the next guy.
Kevin and Amy both say they can’t imagine ever reverting back to their previous way of eating. They report feeling good physically, mentally and emotionally and Kevin reports happily that he,
“loves keto food”!
Who doesn’t Kevin? Who doesn’t?