“I thought, what more do I have to lose? Even if I put on like 5kg, what’s the biggie?” recalls Shirley Angela D’Souza, recounting her first encounter with the ketogenic diet.
D’Souza, who is in her 30s, was struggling with dysmenorrhea - a hormonal issue that kept sending her to the hospital for morphine shots. This combined with a lot of travel for work meant her system was sluggish and the kilos kept creeping up. “Name the diet and I’ve done it,” she says pulling out a tall list of options off the top of her head. The aloe vera juice diet, the eating every two hours, the fasting… “I just didn’t feel like it was sustainable lifestyle wise and it wasn’t giving me the results it was giving other people,” she says. This was in spite of her working out. “I was always doing Bikram Yoga or weights or going to the gym. I was not doing so much cardio but I was always trying to be active, otherwise I look disproportionate,” she says. But she was baffled - why were the ‘tried-and-tested methods’ used by others not working for her?
“I understand that [all bodies are different] now, but then I was just like, ‘my body is just failing me, it wasn’t going to let go of this weight’,” she says.
Then, when she hit 74.8kg, the five-foot-one-inch Goan spoke to a friend who was pregnant, had hired a keto coach and was shrinking even as her belly was swelling.
The diet - which forces your body to use fat not carbs for energy - seemed promising. “First I did the Google version and [it was working but] I was losing my hair. I have very long hair. I was still willing to go lose my hair, to be honest. But I was losing my energy, I wasn’t feeling myself,” she says of the experience. So she decided to hire the her friend’s coach. “I wasn’t on a set plan,” she says. It was more a general guideline that meant tweaks to meals she already liked. D’Souza is quick to bring up palette fatigue. “It’s a real condition,” she explains. “So, you know if you’ve been born and brought up with certain tastebuds [it isn’t easy to just give those up]. Like, I love spicy food, so for me eating the standard Pinterest, Instagram pictures of avocado and chicken and steak was so boring.”
The result was a menu that changed lifestyle without putting curbs on the flavours. She wanted to lose weight alright, she explains, but “it’s more about weight-loss being a byproduct of a healthy lifestyle. So everything you are eating has nutritional value.”
Over the next five months, D’Souza lost 33 kilos. “I started keto [in] late 2017. By 2018 March, I lost my weight.” And then in 2019, “I put on 5kg” she says before shedding them again. But that’s what works for her, she says, Every now and then her weight will fluctuate by 3-4kg and “then I get stricter with myself”.
In the meantime, she plans her cheat meals - once every few months. “My last cheat was in Eid. My next is in October,” she explains.
The weight-loss - or her transition to a healthier life - saw many people asking for direction. And that interest coupled with her own fascination transformed her career path - today she guides others wanting to try the keto lifestyle. “It’s not expensive,” she says brushing aside one major concern most have with the diet. It’s just about knowing where to go. And seeing that there’s so much to gain.