WHY have I become so obsessed with losing weight? Well, while I have always preferred not being obese, I never really cared to learn the grave dangers of obesity until my mother was admitted to the University Teaching Hospital – until then, I only vaguely understood the correlation between being fat and poor health. What struck me about Mother’s medical charts was that each time a doctor came for rounds, they would ALWAYS, without fail, write down that she was visibly obese. Was it that all these doctors were just rude? Surely, there must be a reason why obesity was an important aspect to consider in patient care, I thought.

At the time, I myself was obese. But this wasn’t new, I have been over weight my whole life. I have always been one of the biggest kids in the room, if not the biggest. I have successfully lost weight in the past but ended up gaining all of it back, plus its cousins and nieces. I don’t want that any more, I want to lose the weight and keep it off, naturally. I think I have found a way to achieve this. And it is definitely not the “eat less, move more” advice which most doctors give.

If you were here last week, I am sure you remember that I started my weight loss journey by implementing a 16:8 intermittent fasting regimen, without changing up my diet. I eliminated breakfast from my life because it was easier for me to stick with the programme, and I kept eating my nshima and indulged in my obsession – chocolate cake, more times than I can admit. I lost only 3kgs in the first month and never lost any more weight until June, when I changed up my diet. I reverted to the keto diet. And yes, in the past, I have proclaimed that I would NEVER do the keto diet again because the implications of stopping the diet were dire. That reasoning changed when I came across Dr Ken Berry.

Dr Berry is a family physician who has been practicing medicine for the past 20 years now. At first, he used to advise his patients to “eat less and move more”, as he was taught in med school, until he got older and fat and tried that same advice to no avail. He then started interrogating why this was so. Why was he overweight and prediabetic despite “eating less and moving more”? Eventually, he came across the ketogenic diet. It helped him lose weight, reverse his pre-diabetes and feel much younger. After a few years, he graduated to eating only meat, yep, he is a full-blown carnivore as we speak! He also wrote a book titled “Lies my Doctor Told Me”, which I am currently reading and from the title, you can tell that he doesn’t believe in most things he learnt in school, at all!

His story made me introspect about my own journey, specifically regarding the keto diet. You see, when you suddenly stop eating nshima and other high carb foods which constitute the ‘typical Zambian diet’, people tend to look at you sideways and judge you for doing something “unhealthy”. They literally make you feel like you’re going to drop dead from being malnourished if you don’t eat your nshima. Such judgements had always made me feel like the keto diet was just a temporal ‘fix’. That I could do it for a few months and then go back to eating what most of us believe is the healthiest way of eating. So, I would benefit from keto, but quit the moment I realised I was pregnant because I thought “my baby needs all the things contained in the carbs I have cut out”. After watching so many of Dr Berry’s videos, I have now realised that my reasoning was very dumb!

Why would my baby need the stuff which I don’t need? Why would my baby need the stuff which makes me fat, inflamed and miserable? Why would my baby need those foods which put me at risk of developing type two diabetes, hypertension or heart disease among others? Anyway, Dr Berry convinced me that humans do not need carbs, at all.

“How many carbohydrates should you eat in a day in order to not die? Let’s see what the National Academy of Science and the Institute of medicine have to say about this. ‘The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fats are consumed. There are traditional populations that ingested the high fat, high protein diet containing only a minimal amount of carbohydrates for extended periods of time, and in some cases, for a lifetime after infancy, there was no apparent effect on health or longevity.’ So, the next time a Dr or a dietician tells you ‘you need to eat a 120 grams of carbohydrates a day to feed your brain, you can tell them they’re full of sh*t,” Dr Berry said, in a short YouTube video titled “How Many Carbs You Need to Not Die”.

Dr Berry has termed low carb, keto or carnivore diets as the Proper Human Diet and he gives four simple steps to getting started in eating this way.

“Step 1, remove all sugar from your diet, both added sugar, definitely added sugar and also naturally occurring sugar, step 2, stop eating any grains, stop the grains! Step three, remove any vegetable seed oils from your diet like soy bean and canola oil, these are very inflammatory and bad for you. Step four, start eating lots of fatty meats and eggs, that’s it, you’re well on your way to eating a proper human diet,” said Dr Berry, in another short video titled “4 Simple Steps to a Proper Human Diet”.

Now, while this sounds simple, it is definitely not easy to do. When you starve your body of carbohydrates and sugar, it has no option but to switch to using another energy source, fat. But make no mistake, that transition is usually brutal! I like warning people about this rather than walking into this way of eating blindly because that’s a recipe for quitting. I remember the first time I tried keto, I felt so sick as though I was going to die and I quit! I thought to myself, it wasn’t worth, but oh, it is so worth it! I began my keto journey mid-June, weighing 110 kgs. I suffered a very brutal keto flu but I stuck with it because this time, I am doing it for much more than weight loss, I am doing it to restore my health. By the end of the first month, I lost 10 whole kgs!!! And no, I never worked out, I had a recurring flu which kept me too weak to exercise, but I still lost all that weight. This is why I believe if you want to lose weight, your focus should be in the kitchen, not the gym. As we speak, I am dancing comfortably in the double digits, and still pushing to achieve an optimal BMI, for the first time in my life – that’s the dream.

I know the fact that I paired this new way of eating with intermittent fasting made the weight loss quicker, and I appreciate that. In that first month, I ate mostly fatty meat and occasionally ate some roasted corn. Now, you must be wondering whether I was starving and the answer is no! You see, carbohydrates tend to be very addictive and make you eat more than you actually need. They mess up with your hormones such that your brain stops being able to give you a signal that you have ingested enough, so you keep eating until you are too stuffed to do anything. But when you eat a proper human diet, you get to eat until you are comfortably stuffed, as Dr Berry loves to say, and you don’t feel hungry for so many hours, some people even eat just one meal a day! Personally, I do two meals a day because I am still breastfeeding and that keeps my milk supply up.

Apart from ditching my maternity dresses for more form fitting clothing because my body is more organised now, I have noticed so many other benefits of cutting out carbs. My focus is better, I have laser sharp focus, I feel excited to take on the world when I wake up in the morning, unlike before when I would feel sluggish and uninspired. I have more energy to play with my kids and although I haven’t yet done any tests, I know my fasting insulin levels have gone down because last time I had them tested, the doctor told me I was heading the type two diabetes direction. One other key benefit I have noted is that I am no longer a slave to food! I am no longer a slave to chocolate cake, brownies, cookies or pastry in general. I no longer have insatiable cravings – and that is the purest form of freedom for me. Of course, over the past two months I have had some cheat days but when I do cheat, I feel like I am in control and I want this feeling for everyone, special mention to my sister Kalunga. Hi Kalu, yes, I will use every available platform to tell you to start eating a proper human diet, today!