What’s wrong?” Maggy Floeter asked her ashen-faced son, who’d dropped by on his way to work. Michael, 33, stared at the ground. “I don’t know the right way to say this, Mom, but…” he said, hesitating. “You’ve got to do something about your health. You’re my best friend, and I’m afraid you won’t live through the year.”
He looked up, tears in his eyes. Maggy felt her throat tighten. “Oh, honey,” she whispered. “I…” But there were no words to comfort him. “Truth is, I don’t see much hope for myself,” she finally said. Michael glanced up with such pain in his face that it took Maggy’s breath away.
Her instinct was immediate: Make his hurting stop! Suddenly, words were coming out of her mouth that she never intended: “I’ll find a way to get better, Michael. I promise.”
After Michael left, Maggy sat with tears streaming down her face. Ever since being called “fat” as a 108-pound bride, she’d been dieting. Over and over, she’d lost 20 pounds, then gained 30. After a tough pregnancy and divorce, she turned to bread and pasta for comfort. It became harder to move around, harder to lose.
She sighed, grabbing her walker and struggling to stand. I’m too broken to fix, Maggy thought, wiping her tears. But I’ ll let Michael see how hard I’m trying, so at least he’ ll know I love him.
Later that day, she confided in her co-worker Deanna. “Have you heard of the keto diet?” Deanna asked. “People lose a lot. It’s similar to Atkins but with 75 percent of the calories coming from fat.” Deanna sent Maggy to a Facebook group, where she found recipes, research and even information about insulin resistance — a condition she’d developed many years before.
To help overcome it, experts suggest keto dieters eat all their calories between noon and 8 p.m. each day. Maggy didn’t fully understand the science, but she had a good feeling. Since Maggy never had much hunger in the morning, skipping breakfast was easy. She then filled up on keto-friendly foods like eggs, burgers, and bacon.
Maggy smiled when she entered all the food into an app on her phone and saw she’d hit her target of 75 percent of her calories from fat and less than 5 percent from carbs. But soon, she felt her body fighting the change. She was bone-tired and craving chips. You’re doing this for Michael, she reminded herself. That became her mantra for two difficult weeks. Then everything changed.
One day, Maggy woke up with no cravings and more energy than she’d had in years. Within a month, she was down 20 pounds. Would she start regaining? No, she told herself. Just keep thinking about Michael.
As Maggy read tips from other keto dieters online, she saw strong warnings that even small cheats made cravings return. So she tried “cheat-proofing” her life. She found quick-fix meals and kept frozen leftovers on hand so she was never tempted by the drive-thru.
After a year and a half, she was 170 pounds slimmer and felt good enough to start exercising. Michael joined her on her walks. “I’m so proud of you, Mom,” he said. “What you’ve done has been amazing.” Maggy’s heart was full.
Within two years, Maggy had shed 252 pounds. “What surprises me most is that I don’t miss my old foods,” she says. “The feeling of needing more, more, more — it’s just gone. Keto does that.”
Maggy, now 60, and Michael go on hikes three times a week and are planning a vacation to Disneyland. “When he was a kid, he always wanted to go, but I was too big to get around,” she says. “Now I’m alive, thriving and making up for lost time!”
Why Maggy’s Plan Worked
“A keto diet plus intermittent fasting is the quickest and most effective way to lose fat,” says John Limansky, M.D., of BiohackMD.com. Why? It all comes down to the blood sugar–regulating hormone insulin.
“Insulin is like the main switch that turns fat storage on and turns fat burning off,” he explains. Most Americans eat in a way that keeps blood sugar and insulin high. Over time, insulin stops working properly, keeping the body in fat-storage mode. But a keto diet limits the foods that drive up blood sugar and insulin levels: carbs and large amounts of protein.
As a result, blood sugar drops, and the body can no longer rely on sugar as its main fuel. Instead, it creates ketones from stored fat to burn as fuel, he explains. And ketones suppress appetite, making it easier to practice intermittent fasting, or eating all of the day’s calories in an eight-hour window, like Maggy did. It’s a smart strategy, says Dr. Limansky.“Every time you eat, you release some insulin, so eating less often further suppresses insulin.”
This article originally appeared in our special print edition, Keto Over 50. You can purchase the magazine in full on Amazon, $12.87.